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1993 - PMQT Written Answers 16th December 1993

Below is the text of the written answers relating to Prime Minister's Question Time from 16th December 1993.


PRIME MINISTER:

Homeless People

Q10. Mr. Corbyn : To ask the Prime Minister when he next expects to meet representatives of London's homeless people.

The Prime Minister : I have no plans to do so at present. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Housing, Inner Cities and Construction frequently meets staff of voluntary sector bodies working with homeless people in central London; and he regularly visits projects managed by these agencies.


Special Advisers

Mr. Matthew Taylor : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list the names and job descriptions of each special ministerial adviser employed in his Department showing any particular outputs for which each adviser is responsible.

The Prime Minister : My special advisers are Sir Rodric Braithwaite KCMG, Mrs. Sarah Hogg, Mr. Nicholas True CBE, Mr. Damian Green, Lord Poole and Mrs. Katherine Ramsay. Their duties vary.


Norwegian and German Prime Ministers

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his answer of 2 December, Official Report, column 687, if he will give more specific details on the range of issues he discussed with his Norwegian and German counterparts.

The Prime Minister : My discussions with Prime Minister Brundtland of Norway on 16 November covered the European Community, Norwegian accession and Norway's whaling policy. In my talks with Chancellor Kohl on 25 November, we discussed problems of unemployment; growth and competitiveness within the EC; enlargement; subsidiarity and the fight against terrorism; drug trafficking and organised crime; GATT; the forthcoming NATO summit and other foreign policy issues, including Bosnia.


Engagements

Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 16 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.


Chemical Weapons

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Prime Minister if it is Her Majesty's Government's policy to ratify the chemical weapons convention before the convention enters into force.

The Prime Minister : The United Kingdom played an active role in the negotiations leading to the opening for signature of the chemical weapons convention and continues to play an active role in the preparatory commission in The Hague, which is working towards the establishment of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The United Kingdom signed the Convention in January 1993 and we intend to ratify the chemical weapons convention at the earliest possible opportunity.

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Prime Minister if he intends to put in place the necessary legislation to enable the United Kingdom to fulfil its obligation under the chemical weapons convention in time for Her Majesty's Government to ratify the convention by 18 July 1994.

The Prime Minister : We intend to introduce implementing legislation for the convention as soon as parliamentary time permits.


Press Releases

Mr. Matthew Taylor : To ask the Prime Minister how many press releases his office has issued in each year since 1979.

The Prime Minister : Since I took office in 1990, some 200 press releases have been issued each year. Figures for previous years would be obtainable only at disproportionate costs.


EC Infrastructure Programmes

Mr. Marlow : To ask the Prime Minister if he will set out (a) the treaty powers and (b) other powers granted to the European Commission with regard to infrastructure programmes.

The Prime Minister : Titles XII--trans-European networks--and XIV-- economic and social cohesion--of part 3 of the EC treaty, as amended by the treaty on European Union, are those principally concerned with infrastructure. The regulations governing the structural and cohesion funds --EC2080-2085/93 and EC792/93--set out the role of the Commission in this field. Articles 198d-e of the treaty refer to the European investment bank which lends to investment projects, the greater proportion of which are infrastructure improvements.


EC Official Languages

Mr. Marlow : To ask the Prime Minister if he will make it his policy to seek a reduction in the number of official languages in the European Community.

The Prime Minister : We have no plans to seek a reduction in the number of official languages of the European Community. It is right that legislation and judgments which apply in each member state should be officially available in the language of the citizens of that country.


European Commission

Mr. Marlow : To ask the Prime Minister what is his policy regarding the number of Commissioners appropriate to an EC expanded by the four applicant countries; and by what measures he seeks to achieve such a quantity.

The Prime Minister : At the Brussels European Council on 10 and 11 December, all member states agreed that the EFTA applicants should be given one Commissioner each, with the question of the number of Commissioners to be reviewed at the 1996 intergovernmental conference. We have made clear our view that it would not be in the best interests, either of the Commission or of the Community as a whole, to maintain the present arrangements governing the number of Commissioners as the European Union continues to enlarge.


Capital Markets

Mr. Marlow : To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the Presidency conclusions as to how the capital markets can be made more efficient in order to encourage a flow of savings into productive job-creating investments.

The Prime Minister : Implementation of a number of directives relating to banking and financial services should facilitate the development of efficient capital markets within the Community. Member states also need to ensure that domestic capital markets encourage the flow of savings into productive job-creating investments. My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, recently announced that the Treasury is currently reviewing this area. The Economic Secretary is examining the role of banks and other financial institutions in channelling finance to industry. The Financial Secretary is examining the impact of tax and other Government policies on savings and the flow of funds through the economy. These reviews will make an important contribution to ensuring that policies in this area enhance our economic performance.


Subsidiarity

Mr. Dobson : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list the EC directives which the Government have proposed so far should be abolished, modified or replaced on the ground of subsidiarity, setting out what has happened so far in each case.

The Prime Minister : In Community discussions about putting the principle of subsidiarity into effect, the Government have put forward a large number of suggestions for the amendment, repeal or withdrawal of existing or proposed legislation. The Commission's report to the European Council last week reflected many of our suggestions and, following the European Council's endorsement, action will now begin in Brussels to put the report's recommendations into effect. A copy of the Commission's report has been made available to the House.


New Jobs

Mr. Marlow : To ask the Prime Minister what opportunities are available to the European Commission for the discovery of a source of new jobs which are not also available to national Governments.

The Prime Minister : As the Government stated in their contribution to the Commission's white paper, the Community's central aim must be the creation of conditions for enterprise, innovation and investment to generate wealth and employment. To achieve this the Government recommended that the Commission should ensure that the single market works effectively, that the principle of subsidiarity is put into effect and that it should undertake an audit of community legislation to remove barriers to employment. All these proposals were reflected in the conclusions of the European Council.


National Regulations

Mr. Marlow : To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the conclusions of the European Council on the request to the European Commission to audit national regulations.

The Prime Minister : The European Council in Brussels on 10 and 11 December adopted a short-to-medium-term action plan to reinforce the competitiveness of the European economy, which the Council will monitor. The Council recognised the importance of a large European export-oriented market and proposed a number of measures to exploit this major asset.

The Council recognised that legislation must be simplified and reduced in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, and that consistency between national and Community legislation must be ensured. The Council requested the Commission to examine ways of creating a more favourable business environment for small and medium-sized enterprises for example, by providing for an audit of Community and national regulations in terms of their consequences for employment. Any review of national regulation will respect the competences of Community and member states and the principle of subsidiarity.

The Government have nearly completed a comprehensive review of 3,500 regulations which impact on United Kingdom business to ensure that they do not impede our potential for wealth and job creation. We welcome similar efforts at the Community level and at member state level systematically to review legislation which impairs the competitiveness of European industries and Europe's potential for economic growth and employment.


EC Voting Procedures

Mr. Marlow : To ask the Prime Minister what powers he has to prevent any dilution of the blocking minority under qualified majority voting procedures; and to what extent such powers are constrained by the presidency conclusions.

The Prime Minister : Any change to the qualified majority voting procedures must be agreed by all member states. The question of the blocking minority threshold in an enlarged Community was not resolved at the European Council held in Brussels on 10 and 11 December.


European Investment Bank

Mr. Marlow : To ask the Prime Minister to what extent additional loans from the European investment bank will be underwritten by other EC institutions.

The Prime Minister : The European investment bank is required by its statute to lend only if it has a guarantee from a member state or other adequate guarantees, such as from a commercial bank. It is not the practice, nor is it intended, for Community institutions to guarantee EIB loans within the European Community.