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1994 - PMQT Written Answers 1st November 1994

Below is the text of the written answers relating to Prime Minister's Question Time from 1st November 1994.


PRIME MINISTER:

Labour Statistics

Mr. Worthington: To ask the Prime Minister how many people there were in employment (a) in the United Kingdom, (b) in Scotland and (c) in the Clydebank and Milngavie constituency in September in each year since 1979; how many of these jobs were (i) full-time or (ii) part-time; and how many were filled by (1) men and (2) women.

The Prime Minister: The information requested at (a) and (b) is available for all years since 1979 and can be obtained from the Library of the House. Constituency information is available only for September of 1984, 1987, 1989 and 1991.


Iraq

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Prime Minister what is the latest information available to him about health and malnutrition conditions at the present time in the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates.

The Prime Minister: In addition to information from non-governmental organisations we receive reports from United Nations agencies. Copies of the most recent report from the office of the United Nations co-ordinator in Baghdad have been placed in both Libraries of the House.


Engagements

Sir Peter Tapsell: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 1 November.

Mr. Harry Greenway: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 1 November.

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.


Wheelchairs

Mr. Alfred Morris: To ask the Prime Minister what response he is making to the petition he received from Lord Attenborough and others on 19 October urging the provision of powered indoor/outdoor wheelchairs for severely disabled people who cannot be independently mobile without them; what action he is taking; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister: A reply has been sent to the Muscular Dystrophy Group to acknowledge the petition and explain our policy on the provision of wheelchairs for disabled people. I have passed the petition itself to the Department of Health. Health Ministers are, of course, aware of the "batteries not included" campaign.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis), is currently studying the feasibility and affordability of a wheelchair voucher scheme and will announce his conclusions in due course.


Documents for Signature

Mr. Ron Davies: To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his answer of 26 October, Official Report , column 619 , if he will list the official documents, letters or accords that he has allowed photographic reproduction of his signature to appear on; and if he will list the official documents, letters or accords that he has signed which are written in a language that he does not understand.

The Prime Minister: I have nothing further to add to the reply I gave to the hon. Member on 26 October, Official Report , column 619 .


Mohamed Al Fayed

Mr. Madden: To ask the Prime Minister when Mr. Mohamed Al Fayed requested a meeting with him; for what reasons he declined the request; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister: I have nothing further to add to the statement I made to the House on standards of conduct in public life, on 25 October, Official Report, columns 775 70.

Mr. Byers: To ask the Prime Minister on how many occasions since 1 January 1985 Mr. Mohamed Al Fayed has visited 10 Downing street; and on what dates.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 28 October 1994]: Mr. Al Fayed visited No. 10 Downing street on the following occasions:

25 January 1985 (for the then Prime Minister's meeting with the Sulton of Brunei)

14 March 1985 (for the then Prime Minister's lunch for President Mubarak)

3 April 1985 (for a meeting with officials)

7 January 1986 (for a meeting with officials)


Correspondence

Mrs. Roche: To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his answer of 14 June, Official Report, column 370, if his Office will now seek to obtain the full text of the letter from the Ritz hotel referred to in the correspondence between the Prime Minister and Mr. Peter Preston, editor of The Guardian.

The Prime Minister: I have nothing further to add to my previous answers on this subject.


Council of Europe

Sir Anthony Durant: To ask the Prime Minister, if he will place in the Library a copy of the information bulletin on the activities of the Council of Europe.

The Prime Minister: I have done so today.


Open Government and Accountability

Mr. Duncan: To ask the Prime Minister what initiatives the Government has taken since November 1990 on open government and accountability.

The Prime Minister: The Government launched the citizens charter in July 1991. Information and openness are among its central principles.

The membership and terms of reference of ministerial Cabinet committees were published in May 1992, along with "Questions of Procedure for Ministers".

In May 1992, I avowed for the first time the continuing existence of the secret intelligence service and named its chief. The Intelligence Services Act, which received royal assent in May 1994, puts both Government communications headquarters and the secret intelligence service on a statutory footing. A statutory oversight committee of parliamentarians for the security and intelligence services was also provided for.

The White paper on open government, published in July 1993, proposed the following measures:

A code of practice on access to government information.

Statutory access rights to personal records and health and safety information.

Greater openness in access to public records.

The code of practice came into force in April 1994, providing for:

Information to be volunteered by Government, such as facts and analysis with the policy decisions, and internal guidelines on dealing with the public.

Government information to be released in response to specific requests.

Reasons to be provided for administrative decisions.

Enforcement by the Parliamentary Ombudsman, at no cost to the applicant.

A similar code of practice, covering the national health service, is currently the subject of consultation.

Over 24,000 records have been released since the open government initiatives began. These include almost 4,000 pieces of the intelligence material shown to Winston Churchill during the war--the so-called "Dir C Archive"; 840 pieces from the Special Operations Executive archive relating to SOE activities in the far east, Scandinavia, the middle east and Africa; previously withheld wartime Cabinet minutes; Admiralty intelligence papers; and War Office papers relating to the interrogation of prisoners-of-war.

A code of conduct has been issued to national health service boards, emphasising that high standards of corporate conduct and probity are at the heart of the NHS. Public registers of interests have been established.

A similar Treasury code of best practice for board members of other public bodies has also been promulgated. It recommends that all boards should establish a register of board members' interests. As I announced to the House on 20 October, Official Report, column 421, a review of the system of appointments to public bodies is currently being carried out. The conclusions of the review will be made public, and will also be made available to the Nolan committee.


Cash and Running Costs Limits

Mr. Streeter: To ask the Prime Minister what proposals there are to change the 1994 95 cash limit or running costs limit in respect of security and intelligence services.

The Prime Minister: Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary token supplementary estimate, the cash limit for security and intelligence services, class XIX, vote 2 will be increased by £1,000 from £881,486,000 to £881,487,000 and the gross running cost limit will be reduced by £2,361,000 from £449,850,000 to £447,489,000. This takes account of increased capital spending arising from the slippage of a building project and unforeseen capital and other purchases. These increases are being offset by increased receipts and reductions in both running costs and other current expenditure.

Mr. Dunn: To ask the Prime Minister what proposals there are to change the 1994 95 cash limit or running costs limit for the Cabinet Office: other services vote.

The Prime Minister: Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary supplementary estimate, the cash limit for the Cabinet Office: other services, class XIX, vote 1, will be increased by £1,452,000 from £43,381,000 to £44,833,000. At the same time, the running costs limit will be increased by £1,452,000 from £41,762,000 to £43,214,000.

The increase reflects the transfer of certain administrative functions and the move to repayment for some common service support as follows:

(a) transfer of running costs provision for certain Ministry of Defence property charges (Class 1 Vote 1) (£494,000);

(b) transfer of running costs provision for support to former Prime Ministers (Class VIII, Vote 3) (£163,000);

(c) transfer of running costs provision for central services (Class XVII, Vote 1) (£80,000); and

(d) transfer of provision for the calculation of the average property price list (£3,000).

In addition, as announced by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury on 14 July 1994, Official Report , columns 729 734 , this vote is eligible for a cash limit increase of £721,000 in respect of end year flexibility arrangements for running costs expenditure. This supplementary estimate gives effect to the increase. All the increases are either offset by inter-departmental transfers or have been charged to the reverse and will not therefore add to the planned total of public expenditure.