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1995 - PMQT Written Answers 20th June 1995

Below is the text of the written answers relating to Prime Minister's Question Time from 20th June 1995.


PRIME MINISTER:

Engagements

Mr. Harry Greenway: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 20 June 1995.

Sir Peter Tapsell: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 20 June.

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


President Clinton

Rev. Martin Smyth: To ask the Prime Minister what contact he has had with President Clinton on plans for a visit to the United Kingdom.

The Prime Minister: I would welcome a further visit to the United Kingdom by President Clinton. We are discussing possible dates.


Nuclear Tests

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Prime Minister what steps he has taken to persuade the French Government not to resume nuclear testing and to oppose any proposals taken by them to do so.

The Prime Minister: We are in regular contact with the French Government, who are aware of our views.


BMARC

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Prime Minister if the intelligence sources referred to in the oral statement on BMARC by the President of the Board of Trade of 13 June, Official Report , columns 595 606, and dated at July and September 1988 used material from within the Astra group of companies.

The Prime Minister: It is not the Government's policy to comment on the sources of information contained in intelligence material.


Scott Inquiry

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his answer of 12 June to the hon. Member for Leeds, Central, (Mr. Fatchett) Official Report, column 373, if he will list the external lawyers who have been used to provide advice for witnesses to the Scott inquiry; and if external lawyers have been used at the request of witnesses of Departments or of the Treasury solicitors.

The Prime Minister: The Government will have no objection to publishing the names of external lawyers who have been used to provide advice for witnesses to the Scott inquiry at public expense after Sir Richard Scott's final report has been published and provision of such advice has been concluded. External advice is provided at public expense either where the witness concerned requests it and the departmental legal adviser considers this reasonable or where, after consultation with his departmental legal adviser of the Treasury Solicitor, it is agreed that such advice should be sought.

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his answer of 24 February, to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, Central, (Mr. Cousins) Official Report, column 353, if further evidence has been taken in private by Lord Justice Scott.

The Prime Minister: Sir Richard Scott continues to obtain evidence, both oral and written, as the need arises. I am advised by the inquiry that the last evidence taken at a private hearing was on 4 May 1995.

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Prime Minister if the Cabinet Office has received any information on allegations that British companies had circumvented export control regulations or guidelines covering Iraq or Iran, which have not yet been passed on to Lord Justice Scott.

The Prime Minister: All information received by the Cabinet Office and identified as required by Sir Richard Scott's inquiry has been passed to the inquiry.

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Prime Minister if he has instituted any change in the system of distribution of intelligence reports to Ministers and their appropriate officials as a result of the problems outlined by Baroness Thatcher in her evidence to the Scott inquiry.

The Prime Minister: A number of improvements have been made, of which details have been given to the Scott inquiry.

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his answer of 12 June given to the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett), Official Report , column 373 , how many requests for legal assistance for witnesses to the Scott inquiry have been turned down as unreasonable; and if he will break down the costs to public funds between the costs in respect of (a) external lawyers and (b) the Treasury solicitors.

The Prime Minister: Witnesses to the Scott inquiry who wish to seek legal assistance at public expense must first seek the approval of their departmental legal adviser or the Treasury Solicitor's Department. Where necessary, the nature, scope, source and terms of such legal advice are discussed with the individual concerned. I am not aware of any case in which there was a disagreement over the provision of legal advice following such discussions. The information on legal costs is given in my answer to the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett) today.

Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden), Official Report, column 374, on leaks from the provisional draft report of Lord Justice Scott, who conducted the inquiry; what were the responses of those who were interviewed; and if he will publish the conclusions for the inquiry.

The Prime Minister: I have nothing further to add to my reply to the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) on 12 June, Official Report, column 374.


Security Vetting

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his answer of 24 April, Official Report, column 344, if contractors who carry out basic checks are now obliged to require their employees and potential employees to disclose to them any information concerning any criminal record, including those which are spent and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister: Contractors are obliged only to carry out basic checks on employees or potential employees who will have access to Government assets. As part of a basic check, employees and potential employees are not required to disclose spent convictions. Contractors have a duty to request from their employees and potential employees, a completed criminal record declaration form. However, employees and potential employees do not have to return the form to their employer; if they prefer, they can pass it directly to the contracting Department or agency.

In my answer of 24 April, I also referred to exceptional cases where, in the interests of national security, and with the agreement of the Cabinet Office, Office of Public Service and Science, extra inquiries are necessary in addition to those carried out for a basic check. Where these include a check against the national collection of criminal records, individuals are required to declare spent convictions, as permitted under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975, and the rehabilitation of Offenders Act (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 (Exceptions) Order 1979. This information is available only to the contracting Department or agency and is not accessible by the contractor.


Intergovernmental Conference

Mr. David Porter: To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his answer of 12 June, Official Report, column 374, which treaty gives authority to the common fisheries policy, and which is subject to amendment at the 1996 inter-governmental conference; and if he will make it his policy to seek withdrawal from the common fisheries policy.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 19 June]: Fisheries are part of the common agricultural policy governed by articles 38 47 of the EC treaty which will be reviewed as part of the 1996 intergovernmental conference. The detailed rules of the common fisheries policy are set out in the Council regulation 3760/92 which comes up for formal review in 2002. We have no plans for UK withdrawal from the common fisheries policy, but we are continuing to work for improvements in the appropriate fora.


Overseas Visits (Royal Family)

Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the Prime Minister when the royal household sought the advice of Her Majesty's Government on the appropriateness of a member of the royal family attending the Island games, Gibraltar, to be held in July.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 19 June]: Official visits overseas by members of the royal family are made on the advice of the Government. The Princess Royal had hoped to attend the Island games in Gibraltar in July but, in the event, she was unable to do so.