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1992 - PMQT Written Answers 25th February 1992

Below is the text of the written answers relating to Prime Minister's Question Time from 25th February 1992.


PRIME MINISTER:

Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scanners

Rev. Martin Smyth : To ask the Prime Minister what discussions have been held to seek joint purchases of MRI scanners by the Northern Ireland health authorities with the Departments of Health in Scotland and England.

The Prime Minister : No approaches have been made to health authorities in England about the purchase of MRI scanners. However, the Northern Ireland health and personal social services management executive is shortly to establish a new regionally managed supplies organisation which will be expected to seek opportunities for greater savings by co-operating with other supplies agencies in the United Kingdom.

The Scottish Health Common Services Agency has already placed an order for a number of MRIs--and it is therefore not possible for the Northern Ireland authorities to join with Scotland at this stage.


Exchange Rate Policy

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Prime Minister, further to his letter dated 13 February to the hon. Member for Great Grimsby on the effect of exchange rate policy, what assessment has been made of the effect on pricing out of overseas markets of United Kingdom exports, and the pricing into domestic markets of imports, of increases in the real value of the pound sterling; and if he will publish a table showing the changes in the indices of import and export values of manufactures as a consequence of each quinquennial change in the statistical base.

The Prime Minister : The Government cannot determine the real exchange rate over the medium term. The crucial factor determining competitiveness is the effectiveness of United Kingdom producers in controlling their costs. Value indices of trade in manufacturing are not published.

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Prime Minister (1) further to his letter dated 13 February to the hon. Member for Great Grimsby, whether he will distinguish those periods in the last 25 years in which Her Majesty's Government assess the pound sterling to have been (a) overvalued and (b) undervalued;

(2) if he will give the figures underlying the statement in his letter to the hon. Member for Great Grimsby of 13 February that the central rate at which the pound sterling entered the ERM was close to the pound sterling's average real rate over the previous 25 years.

The Prime Minister : I refer the hon. Gentleman to the Treasury bulletin for winter 1990-91 volume 2, issue 1, pages 25-32 which analyses

"measures of real exchange rates and competitiveness",

in particular chart 4 on page 31 shows the real sterling exchange rate against other ERM countries and the long run average 1966 to 1990.


Exports

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Prime Minister if he will publish a table showing, for each of the years 1965 to 1991, the Department of Trade and Industry and the International Monetary Fund indices of trade-weighted relative export unit values base on the second half of 1973=100, estimated where necessary on the basis of movements in the rate of exchange since the quarter in which the figures for other countries were last made available.

The Prime Minister : The Department of Trade and Industry does not produce a relative export unit value series. The information from the International Monetary Fund series is in the table. Data for 1991 are not available.

United Kingdom    relative<1>       export unit value index-UVI- for manufactured goods            

      |Value     

------------------

1979  |119.9     

1980  |134.0     

1981  |131.5     

1982  |123.7     

1983  |120.4     

1984  |117.6     

1985  |119.7     

1986  |116.9     

1987  |121.5     

1988  |131.8     

1989  |124.6     

1990  |129.1     

<1>United Kingdom's UVI of manufactured goods compared with an export-weighted average of 16 major competitors, in common currency.


Manufactures

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Prime Minister, further to his letter dated 13 February to the hon. Member for Great Grimsby, what criteria he uses in judging whether United Kingdom manufactures are fully competitive at home and overseas.

The Prime Minister : A number of indicators of competitiveness are readily available in, for example, the "Monthly Review of External Trade Statistics". But the underlying competitiveness of United Kingdom manufacturers is best demonstrated by the United Kingdom's rising share of world trade over the last three years, as shown by the chart on page 62 of the Autumn Statement.


Pelagic Fish

Mr. Salmond : To ask the Prime Minister (1) if he will make an assessment of the implications for the pelagic fishing industry of the collapse of markets in eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States; and if he will make a statement;

(2) if he will make a statement on the discussions held with President Yeltsin concerning supplies of pelagic fish to Russian and other Commonwealth of Independent States markets;

(3) what progress he has made following his discussions with President Yeltsin in establishing pelagic fish as part of the European Community food aid programme to eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister : Disruption of the long-established trade with Russia and other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States could have serious implications for the Scottish pelagic fishing industry, even though they have been making commendable efforts to find other market outlets. The possibility that pelagic fish might be included in the EC's food aid programme or credit guarantee scheme is being explored by Departments, including in contacts with the Russian authorities. So far, no request for assistance of this type has been received from Russia.


Low-Energy Lighting

Mr. Corbett : To ask the Prime Minister whether he will make it his policy progressively to introduce low-energy lighting in all the offices used in connection with his offices of state.

The Prime Minister : Following an energy audit of 10 to 12 Downing street, high-efficiency, low-energy lamps have been installed where appropriate. Low-energy luminaires and krypton tubes have also been installed.


Engagements

Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 25 February.

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