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1995 - PMQT Written Answers 12th June 1995

Below is the text of the written answers relating to Prime Minister's Question Time from 12th June 1995.


PRIME MINISTER:

Competitiveness

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Prime Minister whether the proposals put forward by the President of the Board of Trade of intervention by Her Majesty's Government to improve the non-price competitiveness of British industry at home and overseas are intended to restore the balance between price and non-price competitiveness; and if he will publish his assessment of the likely cost of such intervention on (a) output and (b) employment in (i) 1996 and (ii) 1997.

The Prime Minister: The measures brought forward in the Government's recent White Paper on competitiveness are designed to improve the overall competitiveness of United Kingdom business and so help raise output and employment.


Bosnia

Mr. Gapes: To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his speech on 31 May, Official Report, column 1001, how many Ukrainian United Nations peacekeeping soldiers were taken hostage by the Bosnian Government forces on 28 May; how long they were held; when and where they were released; what sanctions or threats were made against the Bosnian Government to secure their release; and on how many other occasions since 1992 UN forces have been taken hostage by the Bosnian Government side.

The Prime Minister: We understand that six Ukrainian UN personnel were detained by Bosnian Government forces in Gorazde on 28 May. They were released later the same day and returned to their camp. We are not aware of any other occasion when the Bosnian Government took UN peacekeepers hostage.

We condemn unreservedly all acts of hostage taking by all parties. The Serbs must release the hostages that they hold immediately and unconditionally co-operate with the UN in carrying out its mandate.


Scott Inquiry

Mr. Byers: To ask the Prime Minister on what dates he received extracts for comment from Sir Richard Scott's draft report; on what date comments were submitted to Sir Richard; and what requests have been made by his Department for an extension of the period within which comments should have been made.

Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the Prime Minister which Ministers have received a draft, or draft extract, of Lord Justice Scott's inquiry report into the sale of arms to Iraq affair.

The Prime Minister: The Government do not disclose details of correspondence between the inquiry and individual witnesses. In the case of draft extracts in particular, the inquiry has asked that these be treated in the strictest confidence.

Mr. Fatchett: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list the criteria for determining whether the legal costs arising from the Scott inquiry of (a) Ministers, (b) ex-Ministers and (c) senior civil servants, should be covered by the Government; and if he will list all possible costs incurred or committed; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister: Legal advice is available to witnesses to Sir Richard Scott's inquiry in each of the three categories listed where it is requested by the individual concerned and where their departmental legal adviser or the Treasury solicitor's department agrees that the request for the provision of such advice is reasonable. The total cost to public funds of providing legal services to witnesses to date is approximately £568,000. This figure includes the costs of legal services provided by the Treasury solicitor's department and by external lawyers. Some legal advice has also been provided by departmental lawyers as part of their normal duties. The cost of this advice is not quantifiable.

Mr. Bermingham: To ask the Prime Minister(1) which civil servants, Government advisers or ministerial advisers, past or present, have sought legal advice from solicitors or barristers in respect of draft conclusions reached by the Scott inquiry; what is the estimated cost of such legal expenses to public funds; and if he will make a statement;

(2) which Ministers, past or present, have sought legal advice from solicitors or barristers in respect of draft conclusions reached by the Scott inquiry; what is the estimate cost of such legal expenses to public funds; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister [holding answers 9 June 1995]: Details of the costs of legal advice to witnesses to the Scott inquiry are not held centrally nor is the cost of advice in respect of draft conclusions identified separately from the cost of other advice. This information could be provided only at disproportionate cost. It would not right to identify the nature of the advice given to particular individuals. This is a matter of confidence between them and their legal advisers.

Mr. Madden: To ask the Prime Minister if he intends to establish an inquiry into the leak to the BBC of a provisional draft of the report by Mr. Justice Scott.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 9 June 1995]: Extracts of the draft report were sent by Sir Richard Scott to a number of people, some of whom are outside Government. Inquiries have been undertaken to establish whether there is any prima facie evidence that there has been an unauthorised disclosure of the information concerned from within Government. On the basis of these inquiries, there is no reason to suppose that the leak came from within Government.


Intergovernmental Conference

Mr. David Porter: To ask the Prime Minister if he will make it his policy to include the future of British fishing stocks in the agenda for the intergovernmental conference in 1996; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister: Intergovernmental conferences deal with treaty change rather than adjustment of the content of individual policies. We will of course continue to work for improvements in the operation of the appropriate fora.