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1996 - PMQT Written Answers 9th January 1996

Below is the text of the written answers relating to Prime Minister's Question Time from 9th January 1996.


PRIME MINISTER:

Engagements

Sir Peter Tapsell: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 9 January.

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.

Mr. Harry Greenway: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 9 January.

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.


Royal Household

Mrs. Fyfe: To ask the Prime Minister how much has been saved in efficiency gains in respect of the grant in aid budget to the royal household since 1991.

The Prime Minister: Grant in aid for the royal household from 1991-92 to 1994-95 has decreased by 14.2 per cent. In cash terms. Details are set out in the royal household's annual report for the year to 31 March 1995, a copy of which is available in the Library.


Monetary Union

Mr. Shore: To ask the Prime Minister further to his oral statement of Monday 18 December, on the Madrid European Council, when and by what means article 3 of the protocol on the convergence criteria referred to in article 109(J) of the treaty on European Union was deleted or amended.

The Prime Minister: Article 3 of the protocol on the convergence criteria has been neither deleted nor amended. It will be for the Council, meeting as Heads of State or Government in early 1998, to decide pursuant to the provisions of the treaty which member states fulfil the necessary conditions to move to stage 3 of economic and monetary union. It is not possible to say now precisely how the exchange rate criterion will be interpreted, given the changes in the way the exchange rate mechanism has operated since the treaty was agreed.

Protocol No. 11, annexed to the EC treaty, means that the United Kingdom shall not be obliged or committed to move to the third stage of economic union without a separate decision to do so by the Government and Parliament. We will agree to take part in a single currency only if it is in our national interest to do so, given the circumstances at the time.

Mr. Spearing: To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his oral statement of 18 December, Official Report, column 1219-35, concerning his intention to initiate a study into the proposals for monetary union within the European Union, by whom the study will be conducted; what the terms of reference of the inquiry will be; if written or oral evidence can be submitted to it; if it will operate in public at any time; and when he expects it to report.

The Prime Minister: The Madrid European Council requested that the Ecofin Council, together with, in their respective fields of competence, the Commission and the European Monetary Institute, should study the range of issues raised by the fact that some countries might not initially participate in the Euro area. In particular, the study should cover those issues related to monetary stability. The Council noted that the future relationships would have to be defined prior to the move to stage 3 and requested that the Ecofin Council should report on these issues as soon as possible.

The United Kingdom's participation in this study in no way prejudges the United Kingdom's decision whether to notify our intention to move to stage 3 of EMU in accordance with the provisions of protocol 11 annexed to the EC treaty.

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Prime Minister which countries declared their intention to participate in monetary union at the Madrid summit.

The Prime Minister: All EU member states except for the United Kingdom and Denmark are committed to participation in the third stage of economic and monetary union in accordance with the EC treaty.

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Prime Minister what system of redistribution and on what scale was proposed at the Madrid summit to compensate (a) nations and (b) regions damaged by monetary union; and if he will make a statement on the United Kingdom role in respect of such compensatory measures.

The Prime Minister: No system of redistribution was proposed at the European Council at Madrid.

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list those countries which he assessed would be able to meet the Maastricht convergence conditions by January 1998 on current trends projected.

The Prime Minister: The question of which countries fulfil the necessary conditions for adoption of the single currency will be decided by the Council of Ministers, meeting in the form of Heads of State or Government. The latest Commission forecasts, released on 22 November 1995, provided information on the projected status of each member state in 1997. The forecast are available in the House of Commons Library.


Mobile Telephones

Mr. William Ross: To ask the Prime Minister how many mobile telephones have been supplied to Departments for which he is immediately responsible in each of the last eight years; and in each of those years how many different suppliers were involved.

The Prime Minister: For these purposes, my office is part of the Cabinet Office (Office of Public Service). I refer the hon. Member to the answer given today by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, Office of Public Service.


The Euro (Information)

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Prime Minister what plans Her Majesty's Government have to provide financial support from public funds to groups and organisations to circulate information on the Euro.

The Prime Minister: The Community budget provides for the Commission to spend 50 million ecu in the 1996 calendar year promoting specific policies, such as citizen first and the single currency, with a view to preparing the intergovernmental conference. Member states voted to strike this expenditure out of the Community budget but it was reinstated by the European Parliament. The Community budget for 1997 has not yet been agreed. Like other member states, the United Kingdom contributes to the EC budget as a whole rather than to the costs of individual spending programmes.

The Government have no plans for direct Government expenditure on circulating information on the Euro in the United Kingdom. Protocol No. 11, annexed to the EC treaty, means that the United Kingdom shall not be obliged or committed to move to the third stage of economic union without a separate decision to do so by the Government and Parliament. We will agree to take part in a single currency only if it is in our national interest to do so, given the circumstances at the time.

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Prime Minister what plans he has to restrict the circulation by the EC of information on the Euro in the United Kingdom.

The Prime Minister: It is not yet clear what kind of information the Commission plans to circulate.

Protocol No. 11, annexed to the EC treaty, means that the United Kingdom shall not be obliged or committed to move to the third stage of economic union without a separate decision to do so by the Government and Parliament. We will agree to take part in a single currency only if it is in our national interest to do so, given the circumstances at the time.

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Prime Minister how much is to be spent by the European Commission in the next two financial years promoting the Euro; how much of that will be spent in the United Kingdom; and what the British contribution will be to the total expenditure.

The Prime Minister: The Community budget provides for the Commission to spend 50 m ecu in the 1996 calendar year promoting specific policies, such as citizen first and the single currency, with a view to preparing the intergovernmental conference. Member states voted to strike this expenditure out of the Community budget but it was reinstated by the European Parliament. The Community budget for 1997 has not yet been agreed. Like other member states, the United Kingdom contributes to the EC budget as a whole rather than to the costs of individual spending programmes.

The Government have no plans for direct Government expenditure on circulating information on the Euro in the United Kingdom. Protocol No. 11, annexed to the EC treaty, means that the United Kingdom shall not be obliged or committed to move to the third stage of economic union without a separate decision to do so by the Government and Parliament. We will agree to take part in a single currency only if it is in our national interest to do so, given the circumstances at the time.

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Prime Minister what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government in respect of access to United Kingdom (a) media and (b) educational institutions for those promoting the Euro as part of the Commission's publicity campaign.

The Prime Minister: It is not yet clear what kind of information the Commission plans to circulate.

Protocol No. 11, annexed to the EC treaty, means that the United Kingdom shall not be obliged or committed to move to the third stage of economic union without a separate decision to do so by the Government and Parliament. We will agree to take part in a single currency only if it is in our national interest to do so, given the circumstances at the time.

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Prime Minister if United Kingdom citizens will be allowed to hold Euro accounts in the United Kingdom if Britain does not join monetary union.

The Prime Minister: United Kingdom citizens are currently able to hold bank accounts denominated in foreign currencies in the United Kingdom. The Government see no reason why that should change in any way if the United Kingdom does not participate in the third stage of economic and monetary union.

Under protocol No. 11 of the EC treaty, the United Kingdom shall not be obliged or committed to move to the third stage economic and monetary union without a separate decision to do so by the Government and Parliament. We will agree to take part in a single currency only if that is in our national interest to do so, given the circumstances of the time.


Nuclear Materials (Exports)

Mr. Simpson: To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his answer of 11 December, Official Report, column 473, if he will list all countries to which nuclear materials, equipment or technology have been exported, under the exception clause of the nuclear suppliers group guidelines, in the last five years.

The Prime Minister: There have been no exports from the United Kingdom of nuclear materials or technology under the exception to the policy, agreed in April 1992.


Princess of Wales

Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the Prime Minister on whose initiative the meeting on 20 December with Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales was arranged.

The Prime Minister: I have meetings with the Princess of Wales at times arranged between us.


Civil Servants

Mr. Allen: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list the exchanges he has authorised between members of Her Majesty's Opposition and senior civil servants since 1 January.

The Prime Minister: As I made clear in my answer to the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) on 30 November 1995, Official Report, column 835, I will be content to authorise confidential exchanges between senior civil servants and Opposition spokesmen from January 1996. As yet, I have not been approached by the leader of the Opposition to authorise such exchanges.


Scott Inquiry

Mr. Wilson: To ask the Prime Minister if he will ask the Scott inquiry to investigate the letter written by the right hon. Member for South Thanet (Mr. Aitken) to Astra Ltd. on 8 March 1985.

The Prime Minister: It is for Sir Richard Scott to decide for himself what to investigate within his terms of reference.


Fouad Makhzoumi

Mr. Wilson: To ask the Prime Minister if he will ban future contact by his Department with Fouad Makhzoumi of FMS in relation to defence sales to Lebanon.

The Prime Minister: There are no plans to ban contact between officials from any Government Department and Mr. Fouad Makhzoumi.


Exchange Rate Mechanism

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Prime Minister (1) if he will make a statement on the prospect for an exchange rate mechanism for those EEC members who do not join the single currency;

(2) what restraints were proposed by the advocates of monetary union at the Madrid summit on the freedom of action of those countries which do not join it.

The Prime Minister: The European Council agreed at Madrid that the Ecofin Council, together with, in their respective fields of competence, the Commission and the European Monetary Institute, will study the range of issues raised by the fact that some countries might not initially participate in the Euro area. In particular, the study should cover those issues related to monetary stability.

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Prime Minister to what extent progress to monetary union requires Britain to rejoin the ERM (a) as a condition for fulfilling the preliminary stages of EMU before giving notice to join or otherwise and (b) as a condition of staying out; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister: Protocol No. 11, annexed to the EC treaty, means that the United Kingdom shall not be obliged or committed to move to the third stage of economic union without a separate decision to do so by the Government and Parliament.

It will be for the Council, meeting as Heads of State or Government in 1998, to decide pursuant to the provisions of the EC treaty which member states fulfil the necessary conditions for the adoption of the single currency. It is not possible to say now precisely how the exchange rate criterion will be interpreted, given the changes in the way the ERM has operated since the treaty was agreed.

The Madrid European Council requested that the Ecofin Council, together with, in their respective fields of competence, the Commission and the European Monetary Institute, will study the range of issues raised by the fact that some countries might not initially participate in the Euro area. In particular, the study should cover those issues related to monetary stability.