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1992 - PMQT Written Answers 17th December 1992

Below is the text of the written answers relating to Prime Minister's Question Time from 17th December 1992.


PRIME MINISTER:

Pit Closures

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Prime Minister when the Government first received the plans for pit closures from British Coal ; and what consideration was given to publishing them immediately.

The Prime Minister : The Government had been aware for some time of British Coal's need to reduce capacity, because of the decline in the market for British coal. In addition, the Department of Trade and Industry and its advisers had made their own assessment of which pits might close, so that it could prepare measures to mitigate the impact, taking into account information from British Coal. British Coal informed my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade on 12 October of the final list of pits which it proposed to close. British Coal announced the names on 13 October.


European Council, Edinburgh

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Prime Minister what is his current estimate of the total cost to the Exchequer of the holding of the Edinburgh summit of the European Council.

The Prime Minister : The cost of the organisation of the European Council is of the order of £6.9 million. The policing costs, 51 per cent. of which are funded by central Government, are expected to amount to a further £2.5 million approximately.


China

Mr. David Atkinson : To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the outcome of the recent visit by Lord Howe to discuss human rights in the People's Republic of China.

The Prime Minister : My right hon. noble and learned Friend Lord Howe led a delegation to China from 1 to 7 December. The delegation had detailed discussions with the Chinese authorities on human rights and related issues, including legal and religious issues, national minorities, and Chinese policies towards Tibet. They also met families of dissidents and visited foreign embassies, courts and places of detention. They were able to convey frankly to the Chinese the concerns of many in the west about China's human rights record. There was little meeting of minds with the Chinese authorities, but the basis has been laid for continuing exchanges on these issues. My right hon. noble and learned Friend Lord Howe will in due course submit a formal report on the visit to me. That report will be placed in the Library of this House.


Constitutional Discussions

Mr. Mackinlay : To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his answer of 24 November 1992, Official Report, column 580, what communications he has had with the heads of Government of other Commonwealth countries of which the Queen is sovereign on matters relating to the common constitutional link of the Crown and his statement to the House of 9 December, since 24 November.

The Prime Minister : I have had no such communications.


Yalta Talks

Mr. Cohen : To ask the Prime Minister how many documents relating to the Yalta talks have not yet been released under the 30-year rule.

The Prime Minister : Such an exercise could be carried out only at disproportionate cost.


Security Personnel

Mr. Cox : To ask the Prime Minister what is the Government's policy as to the cost of funding of security personnel who accompany former senior Government Ministers travelling for private purposes; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister : Decisions on the personal protection provided for former Government Ministers making official or private journeys are operational matters for the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. The cost of providing such protection by police officers is met from the Metropolitan police fund.


Development Aid

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Prime Minister what representations Her Majesty's Government have received calling for increased United Kingdom and European Community development aid during the United Kingdom's presidency of the European Council.

The Prime Minister : The Government have received a number of representations about the future level of overseas aid provided by the United Kingdom and the European Community.


Animal Welfare

Mr. Gale : To ask the Prime Minister what is his policy on whether animal welfare should be a proper subject for European competence; what decisions on this subject were taken at Edinburgh; what effect the European Council conclusions at Edinburgh will have on animal welfare directives currently in force or under consideration throughout the European Community; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister : The Community acts on animal welfare matters that fall within the common agricultural policy or trade policy; it also has discretion to act in other areas. At the Edinburgh European Council, the Commission made clear its intention to review Community legislation on animal welfare during 1993 in the context of subsidiarity. The United Kingdom remains committed to work for improvements in animal welfare throughout the Community, but this does not necessarily include Community legislation.


Homeless People

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Prime Minister what plans he has to visit homeless people in (a) London and (b) Huntingdon during the Christmas period.

The Prime Minister : Ministers and officials in the Department of the Environment make regular visits to homelessness projects in different parts of England and keep me fully informed of the situation.


Security Risks

Mr. Milburn : To ask the Prime Minister on how many occasions in each year since 21 November 1979, and so far in 1992, the Director-General of the Security Service has reported to him information about a present or former Minister or senior public servant indicating that he or she may be or may have been a security risk; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 7 December 1992] : It is not the Government's practice to comment on security matters.


President-elect Clinton

Mr. Winnick : To ask the Prime Minister what discussions he has had with President-elect Clinton about the inquiries made by the Home Office concerning a possible application at some stage for United Kingdom citizenship; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 11 December 1992] : None. I have told the President-elect of my regret at some of the press reports.


Somalia

Mr. Michael : To ask the Prime Minister if he will make it his policy that Britain's efforts to help Somalia, whether through development aid or immediate financial aid and advice, shall be concentrated on the north (Republic of Somaliland).

The Prime Minister [holding answer 15 December 1992] : Britain has pledged more than £31 million of humanitarian aid to Somalia this year, including our share of EC aid. All our assistance is channelled through United Nations agencies and British and international non-governmental organisations. In addition to food, we have funded transport and logistical support to the relief effort, medical supplies, water and sanitation equipment and agricultural supplies--seeds and tools. The EC has responded well and committed 206,000 tonnes of food aid of which two thirds has been shipped and one half delivered.

Aid is allocated where the need is greatest, where mechanisms and agencies are available to deliver it and where it reflects the requests for assistance which we receive from the United Nations agencies and non- governmental organisations who are working on the ground.


Slovenia

Sir Dudley Smith : To ask the Prime Minister if he will make it his policy to continue to promote good relations between the United Kingdom and Slovenia, following the general election which took place there in December.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 15 December 1992] : Following President Kucan's victory in the Slovenian elections on 6 December, we wish him and his Government well as they continue their programme of political and economic reform.

Sir Dudley Smith : To ask the Prime Minister what assessment was made by the Council of Europe observer team of the fairness of the recent general election in Slovenia; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 15 December 1992] : We have yet to receive the Council of Europe's definitive report on the Slovenian presidential and parliamentary elections. Preliminary press reports suggest that the elections were fair and free.