Below is the text of the written answers relating to Prime Minister’s Question Time from 25th November 1992.
Mr. Alan Williams : To ask the Prime Minister if briefing material for the Ministry’s folder for Question Time while he was (a) Chief Secretary to the Treasury, (b) Foreign Secretary, (c) Chancellor of the Exchequer and (d) Prime Minister still exists; and if he will make it available to the Scott committee of inquiry.
The Prime Minister : The briefing material prepared for my use at Question Time while I was Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer and since I have been Prime Minister is still in existence. Not all the briefing material prepared for me for Question Time while I was Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has been retained, although that which relates to Iraq still exists. Material which is asked for by Lord Justice Scott’s inquiry will be made available to him.
Mr. Hain : To ask the Prime Minister how the Iraqi defence procurement network’s activities in relation to United Kingdom-based companies were monitored by the Government in the period (a) 1985 to December 1988 and (b) since December 1988.
The Prime Minister [holding answer 24 November 1992] : It is not the Government’s practice to comment on intelligence matters.
Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Prime Minister what assessment he has made of (a) the degree to which the sterling price of imports has been maintained and (b) the change in demand for imported manufactures, following the fall in the value of sterling.
The Prime Minister : It is not possible to separate the impact of the recent fall in the value of sterling from other factors influencing the sterling price of United Kingdom imports. Nevertheless, improved competitiveness is expected to restrain the growth of manufactured import volumes in 1993.
Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Prime Minister what assessment he has made of the benefits of devaluation to the financing needs of the coal industry.
The Prime Minister : The new external financing limits for British Coal announced last week, which are provisional pending decisions on the coal review, already take account of recent changes in exchange rates.
Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Prime Minister (1) what account he took in agreeing to the pit closures of the expenditure implications as regarding unemployment benefit; if he will publish a table showing for each mine in the current year and for each of the next five years (a) the estimated direct and indirect costs to the Exchequer of those made unemployed, (b) the estimated operational loss at each mine in 1991 and in the current year to date and (c) the estimated loss in 1993 of disposing of surplus production on the international market at the world price.
The Prime Minister [holding answer 23 October 1992] : I had regard to the likelihood that, in the light of market assessments, continuing to mine coal for which there was no economic market would involve a substantial ongoing cost to public expenditure and that we were proposing a wide range of measures to help those made redundant secure new jobs and to enhance job prospects in the areas affected. I have asked the chairman of British Coal to write to the hon. Member about the information at (b). On (c), this too would be an operational matter for British Coal but even in the event that a suitable contractual arrangement could be established on commercial grounds there would also be the matter of compliance with the United Kingdom’s GATT and other international trade obligations.
Public Interest Immunity Certificates
Mr. Oppenheim : To ask the Prime Minister how many public interest immunity certificates were signed by Ministers (a) from 1974 to 1979 and (b) since 1979.
The Prime Minister [holding answer 24 November 1992] : Public interest immunity certificates were signed by Ministers periodically throughout the period in question, but no central record is held of the number involved.