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1991 - PMQT Written Answers 31st January 1991

Below is the text of the written answers relating to Prime Minister's Question Time from 31st January 1991.


PRIME MINISTER:

Engagements

Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 31 January.

The Prime Minister : This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later today.


The Gulf

Mr. Teddy Taylor : To ask the Prime Minister if he will raise at the next meeting of the European Council the contribution made by EC members to the Gulf crisis in terms of cash and resources ; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister : The majority of the European Community member states have already contributed to the multinational force in the Gulf, whether with military forces, logistical, medical, financial or other forms of assistance. We are seeking additional contributions to our costs from a number of countries, including EC members. The Community and its member states are also providing economic assistance to those countries most directly affected economically by the crisis, as well as providing substantial humanitarian assistance to alleviate the refugee problem in the region.

Mr. Simon Hughes : To ask the Prime Minister what (a) governmental and (b) international activity, involving Her Majesty's Government, took place before 28 January to prepare the specialist method of responding to any environmental crisis in the Gulf ; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister : The Government have responded promptly and positively to requests from the Saudi Arabian Government for expert advice and assistance following the deliberate pollution of the Gulf by Saddam Hussein. We are also in touch with other states in the region. Since the risk of conflict arose, the Government have been fully conscious of a number of possible environmental risks arising from it and has maintained close contact with the allies on all matters connected with it. It is for the Gulf states affected, drawing on the expertise on offer from the United Kingdom and the international community, to lead the response to the environmental damage that Iraq is inflicting on the region.


Gas Masks (Palestinians)

Mr. Wray : To ask the Prime Minister what representations he has made to the Israeli Prime Minister concerning the provision of gas masks to the Palestinian population in the occupied territories.

The Prime Minister : None. On 14 January the Israeli High Court ordered the army to distribute its stock of masks to Palestinians along the green line between Israel and the occupied territories immediately, and to obtain more for the remaining residents of the west bank and Gaza. The distribution has begun. We welcome this decision.


Pay Review Bodies

Mr. Madel : To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the latest reports of the pay review bodies.

The Prime Minister : The 1991 reports of the review bodies on the pay of the armed forces, the doctors and dentists, the professions allied to medicine, nursing staff, midwives and health visitors, and of the Top Salaries Review Body have been published today. Copies are available in the Vote Office. The Government are grateful to the members of the review bodies for the time and care which they have put into the preparation of the reports. The table shows the increases recommended by the review bodies for each group, and their cost.

The Government accept the recommendations of the review bodies and will be implementing them in full. All the proposed improvements in pay structures, designed to assist in recruiting, retaining and motivating staff, are accepted, indeed welcomed. But the overall cost of the pay packages proposed by the review bodies is high. The cost exceeds the provision available in Departments' spending plans for next year at a time when public expenditure is under pressure as a result of events in the Gulf.

Accordingly, given the size of the recommended increases as well as wider economic considerations, it will be necessary to stage payment of the review bodies' awards, except to the armed forces. When many of our armed forces are on active service, we have concluded it would not be appropriate to ask them to wait for their full pay award. For all other groups the staging will involve an increase of at least 7.5 per cent. from 1 April with the balance paid from 1 December. In consequence the full awards for all groups will be in payment before the end of this year.

The cost of implementing the recommendations on this basis will be met from within the public expenditure planning totals published in the autumn statement. The Government recognise that the cost of the health service awards could not be met in full from present health service provision without adversely affecting services to patients. The Government will therefore provide an extra £250 million from the reserve for next year, bringing the total increase in the resources available for the national health services between 1990-91 and 1991-92 to £3.4 billion. The full increase in costs for the armed forces over the provision previously made in the defence budget will also be met from the reserve : an allocation of £70 million will be made from the reserve for this purpose.

The specific application of this approach to the respective groups will be as follows.

The increases recommended by the review body on the armed forces will be paid in full from 1 April 1991. The increase in the x' factor, which reflects the special demands of service life, will be larger for women than for men and will remove all pay distinctions between them.

The Government have decided to accept the recommendations of the review body on doctors and dentists, but to stage their implementation so that 7.5 per cent. is paid in all cases from 1 April and the remainder of the increases, ranging from 2 per cent. to 5.2 per cent. for different categories, from 1 December. Increased expenses for general medical practitioners, which are a necessary part of the cost of running a practice, will be paid in full from 1 April.

Similarly, for nursing staff, midwives and health visitors, the Government accept the recommendations of the review body, but their implementation will be staged so that all staff will receive at least 7.5 per cent. from 1 April and the remaining 2 per cent. from 1 December. Lower-paid nursing staff, for whom the review body has recommended higher increases, will receive all but 2 per cent. from 1 April with the balance paid from 1 December.

The Government have also decided to accept the recommendations of the review body on professions allied to medicine, but to stage their implementation so that 7.5 per cent. is paid to all from 1 April and the remaining pay increases and other additional payments are paid from 1 December.

Groups covered by the Top Salaries Review Body will receive 7.5 per cent. from 1 April, with the remainder from 1 December. However, two-star military officers, for whom higher increases were recommended, will receive all but 2 per cent. from 1 April with the balance paid from 1 December. The new system of performance-related pay for civil servants, which the Top Salaries Review Body recommended in their report last year, will be implemented from 1 April 1991.

The pay rates and scales resulting from the decisions will be promulgated as soon as possible for the groups concerned. Pensions will follow the rates of salary in payment.