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1991 - PMQT Written Answers 4th March 1991

Below is the text of the written answers relating to Prime Minister's Question Time from 4th March 1991.


PRIME MINISTER:

IRA Terrorism

Mr. Latham : To ask the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on the Government's programme to combat IRA terrorism in Northern Ireland and mainland Britain.

The Prime Minister : The Government remain totally committed to defeating terrorism, whether it emanates from the Provisional IRA, or from other Northern Irish terrorist groups.

In Northern Ireland, we will continue with the security policy described by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in his statement of 8 November 1990.

In order to ensure that anti-terrorist legislation is appropriate to the current security threat, the Government have laid before Parliament the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill. In addition to re-enacting virtually all the provisions of the existing emergency law this Bill would provide the police and armed forces with the legal means to protect the community effectively, and at the same time provide appropriate safeguards for individuals. The specific proposals before Parliament include new powers to examine documents; a new criminal offence of possession of items intended for terrorist purposes; new powers in relation to closed crossings on the Anglo-Irish land border; a new offence of directing the activities of an organisation concerned in terrorism; new powers to enable the Secretary of State to make statutory codes of practice in connection with the exercise of emergency powers; and new powers to facilitate the investigation of terrorist financing and to confiscate the assets of those who have gained personally from their involvement in this.

In Great Britain, responsibility for protecting the public from the threat of attack from the Provisional IRA rests primarily with the police. The Government welcomed the appointment last year by the Association of Chief Police Officers of the head of the Metropolitan police anti-terrorist branch as national co-ordinator of PIRA investigations. The Government will seek to ensure that the police have the right structure for combating terrorism; that they have sufficient resources; and that they have sufficient powers. To this end it is in the Government's view essential that the House should approve the continuation of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989. The Act contains special provisions for the proscription of Irish terrorist organisations; for the exclusion of suspected terrorists from Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom as a whole ; for the restraint and confiscation of terrorist funds; for the arrest and detention without charge of suspected terrorists for a maximum period of seven days on the authority of the Secretary of State; and for the system of police controls at ports and airports throughout the United Kingdom.


Equal Opportunities

Mr. Janner : To ask the Prime Minister how many and what percentage of officers in each grade (1-7) and overall in the Cabinet Office are (a) women and (b) from ethnic minorities, respectively.

The Prime Minister : The number of women and ethnic minorities in each grade (1-7) and overall serving in the Cabinet Office is :

Grade                |Women               |Percentage       |Members of ethnic minorities <1>          |Percentage                               

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1                    |0                   |0                   |0                   |0

2                    |1                   |6                   |0                   |0

3                    |2                   |11                  |0                   |0

4                    |0                   |0                   |0                   |0

5                    |9                   |18                  |1                   |2

6                    |15                  |35                  |0                   |0

7                    |36                  |21                  |0                   |0

                      -------

Overall in the Cabinet Office 839          56                   51                   3.5

<1>These figures are based on a voluntary questionnaire.                                                                      


The Gulf

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Prime Minister when Her Majesty's Government first learned of the announcement made on Baghdad radio on 25 February that Iraqi forces were withdrawing from Kuwait; at what time an authoritative English translation of the announcement was made; and whether he made any contact with allied partners in Operation Granby as a result of the radio statement.

The Prime Minister : The substance of the Baghdad radio broadcast, made at 2230 hours GMT on 25 February, became known to us at 2245 hours GMT. A full English translation became available to us at 2324 hours GMT. We are in constant touch with our coalition partners over many aspects of the Gulf crisis.

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Prime Minister what assessment was made of the applicability of Geneva convention article 23 before allied airforces in Operation Granby were given orders to bomb convoys of Iraqi military forces withdrawing from Kuwait.

The Prime Minister : Article 23 of the regulations attached to Hague convention IV of 1907 states that it is especially forbidden to kill or wound an enemy who, having laid down his arms, or having no longer means of defence, has surrendered at discretion. The coalition made it clear that it would not attack unarmed Iraqi soldiers, but that retreating formed combat units continued to pose a threat and would therefore be treated as hostile.


International Agreements

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Prime Minister if he will now make it his policy for Ministers of Her Majesty's Government to answer questions from Members that seek clarification of Her Majesty's Government's interpretation of international treaties, agreements and United Nations resolutions to which the United Kingdom is a party and affect policy decisions of the Government.

The Prime Minister : It has always been our policy to answer hon. Members' questions as well as we can.