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1995 - PMQT Written Answers 23rd October 1995

Below is the text of the written answers relating to Prime Minister's Question Time from 23rd October 1995.


PRIME MINISTER:

Mr. David Hart

Dr. David Clark: To ask the Prime Minister if he was informed by the Secretary of State for Defence that he was appointing Mr. David Hart as his independent adviser.

The Prime Minister: Yes.

Dr. Clark: To ask the Prime Minister what representations he has received from the British defence industry concerning the advice of Mr. David Hart within the Ministry of Defence on procurement contracts.

The Prime Minister: As far as I am aware, none.


Independent Advisers

Mr. David Clark: To ask the Prime Minister if his agreement is required for the appointment of independent advisers to the Secretary of State for Defence.

The Prime Minister: My agreement is not required for the appointment of unpaid independent advisers to Ministers.


National Crime Squad

Mr. Beith: To ask the Prime Minister whether the national police squad announced in his speech in Blackpool on 13 October will operate in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

The Prime Minister: My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary is consulting the police and others on the establishment of a national crime squad. An announcement will be made in due course.


Seal Pup Slaughter

Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Prime Minister when Her Majesty's Government last authorised the British embassy in Moscow to raise the issue of seal pup slaughter.

The Prime Minister: The embassy in Moscow was instructed to raise the question of seal culling on receipt of the 1995 seal cull figures. These arrived on 3 October and the embassy is now seeking a meeting with the relevant authorities to reiterate the British public's opposition to seal culling and to ask the Russians to reconsider their position.


Intergovernmental Conference

Sir Thomas Arnold: To ask the Prime Minister what is his policy towards the IGC; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister: I refer my hon. Friend to my speech on Europe on 1 March, Official Report, columns 1060-74. We will continue to seek a European Union that is open, flexible, free-trading, efficient and responsive to people's concerns.


Information Technology

Mr. McAllion: To ask the Prime Minister how much was spent or allowed for the hire of consultants in each Government Department during the process of assessing bids for IT-related contracts; and if he will list the consultants used and the amounts spent in each case.

The Prime Minister: The information is not held centrally.

Mr. McAllion: To ask the Prime Minister what safeguards exist to prevent individual firms from establishing monopoly positions during the award of contracts for services that are carried out in all or most Government Departments, with particular reference to those for information technology.

The Prime Minister: All contracts are awarded on the basis of best value for money after a fair and open competition unless there are convincing reasons to the contrary. Departments will have regard to market conditions when considering bids. The procedure is no different in the case of information technology contracts.


Market Testing

Mr. McAllion: To ask the Prime Minister what steps have been put in place in each Government Department to avoid corruption or conflict of interest during the market testing process.

The Prime Minister: The principles to be followed are laid out clearly in "The Government's Guide to Market Testing" and the "Civil Service Management Code". The recent White Paper on procurement, "Setting New Standards", re-emphasised the Government's commitment to maintaining the highest ethical standards in procurement. All these documents are available in the Library of the House.

Mr. McAllion: To ask the Prime Minister what mechanisms exist in each Government Department during the market testing process to test bids for risk assessment and value for money and, following the award of contracts, to monitor the performance of those contracts.

The Prime Minister: The principles to be followed are laid out clearly in "The Government's Guide to Market Testing", which is available in the Library of the House.