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1994 - PMQT Written Answers 28th April 1994

Below is the text of the written answers relating to Prime Minister's Question Time from 28th April 1994.


PRIME MINISTER:

Community Health Councils

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Prime Minister on what dates, and where, in the last five years he has held discussions with officers of community health councils.

The Prime Minister : I frequently meet a wide range of people involved in the national health service.

My right hon. Friend the Minister for Health, and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Health, spoke at the Association of Community Health Councils for England and for Wales at their annual conferences in 1992 and 1993 respectively. Ministers in both Scotland and Northern Ireland have also made keynote speeches at equivalent conferences.


Lockerbie Disaster

Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Prime Minister what representations Her Majesty's Government have received concerning the extradition of the persons alleged to have committed the murders of the passengers and crew of Pan Am 103 and residents of Lockerbie in December 1988; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister : We have received no recent representations concerning the extradition of the two accused, who are Libyan nationals. It is now well over two years since warrants were issued for their arrest.

We have given comprehensive assurances as to the fairness of a trial in Scotland and the pre-trial conditions for the accused. We and our Security Council partners have made it clear that the Libyan Government should comply with the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions and hand the two accused over for trial without further delay.


Engagements

Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 28 April.

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.


VJ-day

Mr. Austin-Walker : To ask the Prime Minister what consultations he has had or proposes to have regarding proposals to commemorate the 50th anniversary of VJ-day.

The Prime Minister : The Ministry of Defence will consult the principal veterans' associations about the nature of commemorative events to mark the end of the second world war. Consultation will also be appropriate with other nations and other voluntary or charitable organisations who may wish to be involved.


Sir Robin Butler

Mr. Mackinlay : To ask the Prime Minister what advice Sir Robin Butler has furnished to Government Departments when issuing decisions relating to local or European dimensions.

The Prime Minister : Sir Robin Butler's office recently reminded departments of the standing guidance to civil servants relating to the period preceding local and European elections. The guidance emphasises the political neutrality of the civil service and is as follows :

"Local and European election campaigns differ from general elections in that there is no prospect of a change of government consequent upon the elections, and the business of government continues as usual. However, there is an increasing tendency by all political parties to approach local and European elections from a national point of view, with nationally produced material, and departments will wish to follow consistent principles when responding to requests for information in connection with election campaigns. They should also exercise particular care in issuing decisions with a local or European dimension, and in undertaking new paid publicity campaigns during the period of a local or European election. The following general principles should be observed during the period of a local or European election :

(a) as at other times, civil servants should not be asked to engage in activities which call into question their political impartiality, or to give rise to the criticism that people paid from public funds are being used for party political purposes; special advisers should be asked to avoid circulating material on party paper within departments;

(b) there should be even-handedness in meeting information requests from candidates from different political parties ; such requests and responses should be channelled through the appropriate Minister's private office;

(c) organisations and members of the public (including election candidates) should be provided, on request, with factual information which is unclassified and does not require disproportionate time or effort to produce. As from 4 April 1994, such requests should be handled in accordance with the principles laid down in the Code of Practice on Government Information;

(d) particular care should be taken on the timing and announcement of sensitive decisions which have a bearing on local or European matters. It may be better in some cases to defer announcements until after the election, but each case should be considered on its merits ; the key point is to avoid criticism that action by officials might influence the political outcome;

(e) special care should be taken in respect of proposals for new paid publicity campaigns, which should not invite criticism that they are being undertaken for party political purposes."


Blaby (Visit)

Mr. Robathan : To ask the Prime Minister when he is next intending to pay an official visit to Blaby.

The Prime Minister : I have no immediate plans to do so.


War Medals

Mr. Hardy : To ask the Prime Minister if he will now reconsider the question of the award of campaign medals for those involved in the invasion of Europe in 1944 and for those involved in the bombing campaign over mainland Europe in the period from 1940.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 27 April 1994] : His Majesty King George VI approved the following awards. All personnel who took part in the invasion and subsequent operations in north-west Europe, between 6 June 1944 and 8 May 1945, are eligible for the France and Germany Star. British aircrew who undertook operations over the continent of Europe between 3 September 1939 and 5 June 1944 are eligible for the Air Crew Europe Star, provided they have qualified for the 1939-45 star.


Public Appointments

Mr. Byers : To ask the Prime Minister which organisations have recently been contacted by the public appointments unit asking it to consider nominations for public appointments.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 27 April 1994] : To increase the supply of names of people who might be willing to serve on public bodies, and to supplement those already on its database, the public appointments unit within the Cabinet Office began, in September 1993, a three-year programme of actively seeking more names. Letters from the director of the unit are being sent to universities, professional and voluntary bodies, companies, trade unions, women's groups and organisations representing the ethnic minority communities and disabled people.

As has been made clear on previous occasions, nominations are welcome from hon. Members and from any other appropriate quarter at any time.