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1991 - PMQT Written Answers 5th December 1991

Below is the text of the written answers relating to Prime Minister's Question Time from 5th December 1991.


PRIME MINISTER:

Dalai Lama

Mr. Foulkes : To ask the Prime Minister what subjects were discussed at his meeting with the Dalai Lama; what was the outcome of the discussions; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister : I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) on 3 December at column 141.


Engagements

Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 5 December.

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.


Maastricht Conference

Mr. Favell : To ask the Prime Minister what consideration he has given to his policies on the United Kingdom's position in the European Community in the event of the United Kingdom not signing any treaty agreed upon at Maastricht by other European Community member states.

The Prime Minister : The Government's objective is to reach an agreement at Maastricht on terms that I can commend to the House. Amendment of the treaty of Rome requires the approval of all the member states and all Twelve would have to consider the implications if no agreement were reached at Maastricht.

Mr. Allen : To ask the Prime Minister what is Her Majesty's Government's policy on extending the level of involvement of Parliament in the decision-making process running up to Maastricht.

The Prime Minister : Parliament has been kept fully informed of the progress in the intergovernmental conferences. A statement is made following every ministerial session. Parliament has also had the fullest possible opportunity to debate all the issues for discussion at Maastricht. Any agreement reached at Maastricht will be put to the House for approval.


Civil Servants

Mr. Allen : To ask the Prime Minister, (1) if he will include in the definition of civil servants he is prepared to authorise to meet Opposition parties, six months prior to an election, the chief executives and senior officers of the agencies;

(2) if he will list the grades of civil servant which he will agree to authorise to consult Opposition parties on policy matters six months prior to an election.

The Prime Minister : I do not intend to specify grades or positions.

Mr. Allen : To ask the Prime Minister, further to his reply of 27 November, Official Report, column 527, on Opposition parties consulting civil servants on organisational changes resulting from Opposition policies, if he is now prepared to supply information on the current organisation of Departments.

The Prime Minister : Such information is already in the public domain.

Mr. Allen : To ask the Prime Minister on what basis Her Majesty's Government's Cabinet Secretary met the shadow Cabinet last week; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister : The meeting was held in confidence and with my authority to provide a briefing on civil service matters.

Mr. Allen : To ask the Prime Minister what are the conventions and guidance whereby civil service departments brief and induct Ministers on their first day in office.

The Prime Minister : There are no specific conventions or guidance.

Mr. Allen : To ask the Prime Minister if, pursuant to his answer of 27 November, Official Report, column 527-28, to the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris), he will give the dates prior to the 1983 and 1987 general elections when Opposition parties were authorised to have contacts with senior civil servants; when the convention on Opposition parties consulting the civil service six months prior to an election was last used; and if he will make a statement on the procedure.

The Prime Minister : As these elections were called more than six months before the five-year term of Parliament would have expired, no question of authorisation before the election period arose. A statement on the procedure was made to the House by the then Prime Minister on 21 April 1970. The statement referred to meetings in July 1964. The convention has been operated only in or immediately before subsequent election periods.


Operation Scotcheck

Mr. McLeish : To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on Operation Scotcheck on 13 November; and if he will give details of the involvement of each of the Scottish police forces, the Health and Safety Executive, Her Majesty's Custom and Excise, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Transport and the Department of Social Security.

The Prime Minister : Operation Scotcheck was a joint police and Health and Safety Executive initiative mirroring similar operations previously held in England. The purpose was to check that vehicles carrying hazardous substances were doing so in accordance with the relevant regulations. All eight police forces in Scotland took part in the operation. In addition a number of Government Departments were invited by the police to take part in the exercise for their particular interests and to be present at the various checkpoints. This is a cost-effective way of checking compliance with the law in a range of different areas.


Benefit Fraud

Mr. McLeish : To ask the Prime Minister how many joint initiatives have been mounted by the Department of Employment and the Benefits Agency on benefit fraud protection under the terms of the liaison agreement; and if he will make a statement concerning the exchange of any information between Departments obtained from such initiatives.

The Prime Minister : Questions on operational matters in the Employment Service executive agency are the responsibility of Mr. Mike Fogden, the agency's chief executive, to whom I have referred this question for reply.