Biography Chronology Home Search Speeches/Statements

1996 - PMQT Written Answers 22nd February 1996

Below is the text of the written answers relating to Prime Minister's Question Time from 22nd February 1996.


PRIME MINISTER:

Engagements

Mr. Harry Greenway: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 22 February.

Sir Peter Tapsell: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 22 February.

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.


Deregulation

Mr. Steen: To ask the Prime Minister what action he is taking to ensure that each Government Department lists in its annual report (a) what action it has taken in the past 12 months and (b) what it plans to do in the next 12 months to reduce the regulatory burdens on businesses.

The Prime Minister: The Government have agreed as part of their response to the deregulation task force's 1995 annual report, published in September 1995, that all governmental Departments will provide this information in their annual reports. It is for each Secretary of State to ensure that this happens.

Mr. Steen: To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his written answer of 14 February, Official Report, column 592, from what sources of information he assesses the record of Government against their targets for repealing or amending regulations.

The Prime Minister: I receive regular reports from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on progress under the deregulation initiative. These incorporate information from individual Departments on their progress in repealing and amending regulations.


Scott Inquiry

Mr. Janner: To ask the Prime Minister how he responded to communications received from Mr. Christopher Muttukumaru; what were the dates of letters; and if he will deposit copies in the Library.

The Prime Minister: I and my officials have responded to a number of letters from Mr. Muttukumaru, for example, about my evidence to the inquiry in January 1994. Sir Richard Scott is free to publish any document he considers relevant to his report, consistent with his procedures. I understand that he proposes to do this as soon as possible.

Mrs. Golding: To ask the Prime Minister if he will make changes in the personnel of his Department following criticisms contained in the report of the Scott inquiry.

The Prime Minister: I do not envisage making such changes. Where officials criticised in the Scott report had acted conscientiously, in good faith and in accordance with Government policy, it would not normally be appropriate to take disciplinary action against them. If there are cases where disciplinary action is considered appropriate this would be carried out under normal departmental disciplinary procedure.

Mrs. Jane Kennedy: To ask the Prime Minister how many persons and at what level in his Department were involved in considering the Government's response to the report of the Scott inquiry.

The Prime Minister: Access to the report itself prior to publication was restricted to a very small number of officials in the main Departments concerned in accordance with the procedures agreed with the Scott inquiry. However, the Scott report covered a wide range of policy issues and a number of other officials will have contributed to preparation of the Government's response without sight of the report. It is not therefore possible to give their number or grades.

Mr. Hain: To ask the Prime Minister what consultations he had with non-ministerial right hon. and hon. Members before the publication of the Scott inquiry.

The Prime Minister: I had no such consultations on the contents of the Scott report or on the Government's response to it.

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Prime Minister if he will revise "Questions of Procedure for Ministers" following the report of the Scott inquiry.

The Prime Minister: "Questions of Procedure for Ministers" is updated from time to time as the need arises. That will continue to be the case.

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Prime Minister from which civil servants he took advice before making his decision not to permit members of opposition parties to see the report of the Scott inquiry until three hours before it was presented to the House.

The Prime Minister: Successive Governments have not disclosed the nature or the specific sources of the advice they receive from the civil service.

Mr. Kaufman: To ask the Prime Minister when the Scott report was made available to the head of research at Conservative central office.

The Prime Minister: At 15.30 pm on 15 February 1996.

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Prime Minister when he first saw the report of the Scott inquiry.

The Prime Minister: Wednesday 7 February 1996.

Mr. Allen: To ask the Prime Minister what consultation he had with the Secretary to the Cabinet concerning the Government's response to the Scott inquiry; and where and when such consultations took place.

The Prime Minister: I have regular consultations with the Secretary of the Cabinet on current issues affecting the Government. These generally take place in 10 Downing Street. Details of these consultations are private.

Mr. Winnick: To ask the Prime Minister when he first consulted other Cabinet Ministers about the contents of the report of the Scott inquiry; and where and when such discussions took place and with whom.

The Prime Minister: I have frequent meetings with Ministers at which we discuss Government business. These meetings usually take place in No. 10 Downing Street. The details of such meetings are private.

Mr. Hain: To ask the Prime Minister what was the cost of the allocation of persons in his Department to the consideration of the Government's response to the Scott inquiry.

The Prime Minister: Access to the report itself prior to publication was restricted to a very small number of officials in the main Departments concerned in accordance with the procedure agreed with the Scott inquiry. However, the Scott report covered a wide range of policy issues and a number of other officials will have contributed to preparation of the Government's response without sight of the report. It is not therefore possible to give the cost of the work.

Mr. Janner: To ask the Prime Minister what communication he received from the secretary of the Scott inquiry, concerning the time needed by the opposition parties to scrutinise the Scott report; on what date he received such communications; what was the nature of the contents of letters; and if he will deposit copies of those letters in the Library.

The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. and learned Member to the answer given to him by the President of the Board of Trade today.

Mr. Madden: To ask the Prime Minister at what hour and minute of what day the report of the Scott inquiry was delivered to his office.

The Prime Minister: During the afternoon of Wednesday 7 February 1996.

Mr. Tony Banks: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list the members of his Department who saw the report of the Scott inquiry before it was presented to the House; and when each saw the report.

The Prime Minister: A small number of civil servants in each of the main Departments concerned had access to the report prior to publication for the purpose of preparing the Government's response. Such access was in accordance with the conditions laid down by the Scott inquiry.

Mr. Banks: To ask the Prime Minister on whose authority it was decided not to permit members of opposition parties to see the report of the Scott inquiry until three hours before the report was presented to the House.

The Prime Minister: The Government decided, in the light of precedents, that it was appropriate to allow access to Opposition spokesmen three and a half hours before the publication of the report.

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list all locations where a full set of the transcripts from the Scott inquiry are lodged.

The Prime Minister: Transcripts of oral evidence to the Scott inquiry are publicly available from Smith Bernal, Official Court Reports, 167 Fleet Street, London EC4A 2EA, tel. 0171 939 2266. I understand that copies are also available for public consultation in Westminster public libraries. Since transcripts of oral evidence were available to the general public I have no means of identifying the locations of all such transcripts.

Mr. Hall: To ask the Prime Minister how many photocopies the Government have made of the Scott report as of 13 February.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 16 February 1996]: No photocopies were made of the report as a whole prior to publication. Photocopies of some sections of the report were made, in accordance with agreements reached with the inquiry.


Press Gallery Writing Rooms

Mrs. Jane Kennedy: To ask the Prime Minister which Ministers in his Department entered the writing rooms of the Press Gallery on 15 February.

The Prime Minister: If any Ministers did so, that is a matter for them.