Below is the text of the written answers relating to Prime Minister’s Question Time from 20th January 1993.
Mr. Winnick : To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to the oral answer of 14 January by the Secretary of State for National Heritage to the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), Official Report, columns 1075-76, to what categories of questions regarding the security service Ministers are now willing to provide substantive replies.
The Prime Minister : As I said in my statement to the House on 6 May last year, at column 65, successive Governments have not commented on matters relating to security and intelligence. The reason for that is clear : it is difficult to comment without revealing, by what is said or not said, information that can have a bearing on the effectiveness of these services and the safety of their staff.
Nevertheless, from time to time there will be matters of public concern on which it is desirable and possible to make a considered statement. There are precedents under successive Administrations when such statements have been made without prejudice to the general convention. An example is the assurance which I gave hon. Members on 29 June 1992, Official Report, column 37, about postal and telephone interception.
UN Aims Register
Mr. Alton : To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on progress with setting up a United Nations arms register.
The Prime Minister [holding answer 19 January 1993] : The register was established by a UN general assembly resolution in December 1991. In December 1992 the general assembly approved by consensus a report by technical experts on the register’s implementation. Participating countries are required to provide their first returns of information by 30 April 1993 covering arms imports and exports in the calendar year 1992. The Secretary-General will produce an annual report containing the information registered which will be available for consultation by member states.
Royal Family (Telephone Tapping)
Mr. Alton : To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement concerning Her Majesty’s Government’s policy regarding the tapping of telephones of members of the royal family or their personal friends.
The Prime Minister [holding answer 19 January 1993] : The interception of communications during their transmission by means of a public telephone system is subject to the provisions of the Interception of Communications Act 1985. The Government have accepted Sir David Calcutt’s recommendation to consider whether the legislation adequately protects private telephone calls. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage assured the House in his statement on 14 January, there is no substance to rumours about the involvement of the security and intelligence agencies in interception of the communications of the royal family.
Intergovernmental Binding Decisions
Mr. Spearing : To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his oral answer of 14 December 1992, Official Report, column 37, what are the criteria distinguishing an intergovernmental binding decision and treaty if both are justiciable in the International Court of Justice.
The Prime Minister [holding answer 19 January 1993] : I refer the hon. Member to my answer of 15 January, at column 822.