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1996 - PMQT Written Answers 11th March 1996

Below is the text of the written answers relating to Prime Minister's Question Time from 11th March 1996.


PRIME MINISTER:

Plutonium

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Prime Minister what plans he has to take up the recent suggestion by the United States Government regarding the declassification of hitherto secret data on plutonium to encourage other nations with military plutonium stocks to declassify and release similar data.

The Prime Minister: It has been the practice of successive Governments not to reveal details of the United Kingdom's stocks of fissile materials held for defence purposes.


Hong Kong (Visit)

Mr. Parry: To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his recent visit to Hong Kong.

The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the reply that I gave to the hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) on 7 March, Official Report, columns 315-16.


Royal Residences

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list those members of the royal family living in accommodation a contribution to the upkeep of which is made from public funds.

The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of National Heritage to the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) on 13 February, Official Report, column 547.


Weapons Licensing

Mrs. Clwyd: To ask the Prime Minister what plans he has to make the Ministry of Defence the licensing authority in respect of weapons and goods licensable under the military list.

The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the speech made by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade on 26 February, Official Report, columns 589-604. The Department of Trade and Industry is to undertake a review of the current export control powers and procedures, following which a consultation paper will be produced.


Special Advisers

Mr. Hall: To ask the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a list of Ministers who have requested prior assent from the Prime Minister, under "Questions of Procedure for Ministers", paragraph 75, for payment from public funds to meet the expenses of special advisers whose salary is not met from public funds accompanying Ministers on overseas visits; and if he will indicate which requests were granted and which were refused for each year since 1990.

The Prime Minister: None.


Deregulation

Mr. Steen: To ask the Prime Minister what percentage of European Community legislation has been simplified or repealed in the past year, as referred to in his oral answer of 12 April 1994, Official Report, column 18.

The Prime Minister: The answer that I gave on 12 April 1994 refers to the Commission estimate of the reduction in the volume of EC legislation arising from recommendations in the report on subsidiarity which was presented to the European Council meeting in Brussels in December 1993. In its "Better Law Making" report to the Madrid European Council in December 1995, the Commission reported on progress in implementing the Brussels programme. A copy of the report is in the Library of the House. Although the number of new Commission legislative proposals continues to decline, down from 48 in 1993 to a forecast of 19 in the 1996 work programme, the Government want the Commission to do more. I therefore welcome the remit given to the Commission by the Madrid European Council to bring forward further proposals to repeal and simplify both existing and proposed legislation.


Ex-service Men and Women

Mr. Alfred Morris: To ask the Prime Minister what recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of interdepartmental co-operation in relation to ex-service affairs; and if he will meet the chairman of the Royal British Legion to discuss his views on this matter.

The Prime Minister: I have no plans to do so. My noble Friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish has regular meetings with ex-services organisations, including the Royal British Legion. In addition, my noble Friends Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish and Lord Henley met the Royal British Legion on 23 November 1994 to discuss the provision of Government services to ex-service men and women.

The Government's continuing commitment is to ensure that all Departments provide an effective service for every citizen.


Biodiversity Steering Group

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Prime Minister which Departments are involved in the cross-sectional steering group on the United Kingdom biodiversity action plan; and what assistance they are giving the Department of the Environment.

The Prime Minister: The United Kingdom biodiversity steering group included officials from the Department of the Environment, the Scottish Office, the Welsh Office, the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Forestry Commission.

The steering group published its report containing advice on the Government on 13 December 1995. Departments throughout Whitehall, including those involved in the steering group, are assisting the Department of the Environment in preparing the Government's response to the report. We expect to publish this in the spring of 1996.


Welsh Office (Permanent Secretary)

Mr. Morgan: To ask the Prime Minister when he plans to announce the appointment of the new permanent secretary of the Welsh Office.

The Prime Minister: The next permanent secretary of the Welsh Office will be selected following an open competition and the appointment will then be announced in the normal way.