Biography Chronology Home Search Speeches/Statements

1994 - PMQT Written Answers 25th October 1994

Below is the text of the written answers relating to Prime Minister's Question Time from 25th October 1994.


PRIME MINISTER:

Al Yamamah Arms Deal

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his oral answer to the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mrs. Campbell) of 18 October, Official Report, column 138, to what (a) Government Department and (b) other authorities any evidence on impropriety in the Al Yamamah arms deal should be forwarded.

Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Prime Minister who are the appropriate authorities (a) for the receipt and (b) the investigation of complaints made in the case of Mr. Mark Thatcher relating to British defence contracts.

The Prime Minister: Matters within the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government in relation to defence contracts should be addressed, in the first instance, to the Ministry of Defence.

Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Prime Minister to which authority the complaint from the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) to the Prime Minister's Office concerning the role of Mr. Mark Thatcher in relation to defence contracts was referred; and what action was taken.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 21 October 1994]: The complaint was referred to the Cabinet Office, which in turn consulted the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Treasury, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the security service.

The conclusion reached was that the document that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) had sent contained a number of clear errors, which cast doubt on its reliability. No evidence was found to support the allegations made.


Tigris and Euphrates Valleys

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Prime Minister what discussions Her Majesty's Government have had with the United States Government, the United Nations, other EC countries and the Arab League about the shortage of medicine, water pumps and water filters in the valleys of the Tigris and the Euphrates; and which statistics are available to Her Majesty's Government on the incidence of marasmus, kwashiorkor, and other water-related diseases in the Baghdad area over the summer.

The Prime Minister: Except for the Arab League, we meet representatives of these countries and organisations at routine meetings of the United Nations department of humanitarian affairs. Reports indicate that diseases such as cholera, typhoid and malaria are increasing and that there are cases of marasmus and kwashiorkor. We have no information specific to Baghdad.

We condemn the Iraqi regime for continuing to refuse United Nations offers to allow limited oil sales to pay for humanitarian supplies. Iraq's attempts to make political capital out of avoidable suffering are cynical.


Engagements

Sir Peter Tapsell: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 25 October.

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

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


Ministerial Conduct

Mr. Alan Williams: To ask the Prime Minister if he will set out the rules governing the availability of financial support from Government for Ministers in respect of libel actions arising from events which took place before they took office; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister: Public resources may be used to deal only with matters which arise as a direct result of the official duties of Ministers.


Cabinet Secretary's Report

Mr. Dunn: To ask the Prime Minister if he will publish the Cabinet Secretary's report into the allegations made by Mr. Al Fayed.

The Prime Minister: The text of the report is as follows. "On 30 September you asked me to investigate certain allegations of impropriety against members of the Government, which had been brought to you in confidence on the previous evening and which, you were told, derived from Mr. Mohammed Al Fayed.

In reporting these allegations the informant said that Mr. Al Fayed wanted a meeting with the Prime Minister, principally because of Mr. Al Fayed's wish to have the DTI Inspectors Report on the takeover of the House of Fraser revised or withdrawn. He had made a number of allegations against Government Ministers and was contemplating passing them to others.

You replied that it would be impossible for you to see Mr. Al Fayed in these circumstances. You added that, if Ministers had been guilty of wrong doing, you were not going to make any sort of deal, regardless of the cost to the Government's reputation. You said that you would consider how to proceed and suggested that in the meantime your informant should make no response to Mr. Al Fayed.

The following morning you asked me to investigate. I carried out some immediate enquiries and on the evening of 30 September your Private Secretary reported to you that some of the allegations were familiar because they had surfaced before, had been previously investigated and had been strongly denied. However, some allegations were new. You then asked me on 3 October to follow up all the allegations, whether old or new, with the Ministers concerned.

I had conversations with the Ministers named in the allegations in the week before the Conservative Party Conference, and I reported to you the outcome of these conversations, together with the results of other inquiries I had made, on Monday 17 October on your return from Bournemouth. In the light of that report, you asked the Chief Whip and me to clarify some points so that, in the interests of natural justice, there should be no risk of your acting unfairly. On 18 October, you concluded that Mr. Smith's offer of resignation form the Government should be accepted later in the week when the Chief Whip's and my action was complete.

I should make clear that, in view of the circumstances in which the information reached you, I have not felt able to approach or interview Mr. Mohammed Al Fayed himself. I was reinforced in that view by information subsequently received that Mr. Mohammed Al Fayed has made available to others the information which was provided to you. It can therefore be assumed that if there is any further material which Mr. Al Fayed may have to substantiate his allegations it will come to light.

While the Chief Whip and I were taking the further steps agreed at your meeting on 17 October, two of the allegations passed on to you were made public in The Guardian of Thursday 20 October. These were that Mr. Neil Hamilton and Mr. Tim Smith were paid to raise questions on Mr. Al Fayed's behalf in the House of Commons.

I had previously enquired into both these matters and had asked Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Smith about them. Both sets of allegations may be the subject of other enquiries and, in the case of Mr. Hamilton, are the subject of legal proceedings against The Guardian newspaper. In these circumstances I should not deal with them in detail in this report, which I know that you envisage publishing.

Suffice it therefore to say here that Mr. Smith volunteered to me that, as he has subsequently confirmed publicly, he received payments from Mr. Al Fayed between 1987 and 1989, when he ended his activities on behalf of Mr. Al Fayed. He did not declare the necessary information in the Register of Members' Interests until just before the end of this period, and he acknowledged that he should have done so earlier. He offered his resignation from the Government.

Mr. Hamilton has emphatically denied throughout my inquiries, both in writing and subsequently in a public statement, that he received any payments deriving from Mr. Al Fayed. I have found no evidence which controverts Mr. Hamilton's assurances on these matters. He acknowledged that he had received hospitality from Mr. Al Fayed, as a private guest (as he believed), at a time well before he entered the Government. He had not thought it necessary to declare this in the Register of Members' Interests, for reasons which he explained in a letter to the Editor of the Guardian of more than a year ago, a copy of which he gave me. He also gave me an exchange of correspondence dated nearly a year ago in which he had amplified to the Chairman of the Select Committee on Members' Interests what he had said to the Guardian .

When Mr. Hamilton became a Minister in the Department of Trade and Industry, he declared his previous interest in matters concerning Mr. Al Fayed and has stood aside from involvement as a Minister in issues involving the House of Fraser.

There were other allegations passed on to you by your informant. I have looked into all these, so far as I am able, and the Chief Whip and I have put the allegations in detail to the Ministers concerned. In some of them there are patent inaccuracies, and all have been denied explicitly, unequivocally and in writing.

I have found nothing which would cause me to throw any doubt on the validity of those denials. Moreover, the fact that there is reason to think that these allegations too have now been made available to others who have so far chosen not to publish them suggests that they too may have found that there is a lack of evidence to establish their validity.

In those circumstances, while confirming that I am confident that the allegations either are demonstrably false, or, so far as I have been able to establish, are entirely unsubstantiated as well as being denied by the Ministers concerned, I do not think it appropriate to give them further currency by listing them in this Report.


South West Water

Mr. Tyler: To ask the Prime Minister if the statement made by the hon. member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley) during his recent visit to the south-west, on the possibility of making Exchequer funding available to reduce water and sewerage charges in the South West Water company area represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 24 October 1994]: The Director-General of Water Services has recently completed the first periodic review of water company price limits. The new price limits that he announced for South West Water have been referred, at the company's request, to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. In the meantime, we must await the outcome of the commission's review.