The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1991Prime Minister (1990-1997)

PMQT Written Answers – 27 November 1991

Below is the text of the written answers relating to Prime Minister’s Question Time from 27th November 1991.



European Summit

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Prime Minister what progress has been made in implementing the recommendations in annex 7 of the Presidency report of the current year’s European summit.

The Prime Minister : Following the Government’s initiative at the Luxembourg European Council in April, the Twelve have tabled a resolution at the UN General Assembly aimed at the early establishment of a register of conventional arms transfers under UN auspices. The resolution was approved by a large majority in the first committee of the General Assembly on 15 November. We expect that the General Assembly as a whole will soon agree the establishment of such a register.

The Twelve continue to discuss the application of the common criteria identified by the European Council as guidelines for their national policies on conventional arms exports. Similar guidelines were agreed by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, at a meeting in London on 17-18 October. United Kingdom arms exports are wholly consistent with these guidelines.


Debt Relief

Mr. Campbell-Savours : To ask the Prime Minister how much will be written off the outstanding debts owed by the poorest and most indebted countries under the plan announced by him at the Commonwealth Heads of Government summit.

The Prime Minister : Debt relief of around two thirds will be granted to the poorest and most heavily indebted countries, subject to satisfactory performance under an IMF programme.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : To ask the Prime Minister what progress he has made in persuading other creditor nations to offer debt relief under the plans announced at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.

The Prime Minister : Discussions continue in the Paris Club on the implementation of the Trinidad terms proposals for providing greater debt relief to the poorest and most heavily indebted countries. Our objective remains to secure maximum participation in a multilateral agreement to provide greater debt relief. However, as I made clear at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, the United Kingdom, acting in concert with as many creditors as possible, will implement Trinidad terms in the very near future if the Paris Club is unable to reach agreement.


Environmental Assessments

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Prime Minister when Her Majesty’s Government first received notification from the EC Environment Commissioner of the dissatisfaction of the European Commission with the implementation by the United Kingdom, following transposition into United Kingdom law, of the 1985 EEC directive on environmental assessment of major projects; what responses have been made to the Commission by Her Majesty’s Government to date; and if he will place copies of correspondence on the matter in the Library.

The Prime Minister : The Commission’s article 169 letter of 22 March 1990 alleged infraction of directive 85/337/EEC in connection with a proposed waste disposal installation at Outlands Head quarry, Derbyshire. Following the United Kingdom’s reply of 21 May 1990, the Commission sent a reasoned opinion about that case on 28 February 1991, to which the United Kingdom replied on 30 April 1991. The only other formal complaint by the Commission about our application of this directive has been Commissioner Ripa di Meana’s well-publicised article 169 letter of 17 October 1991. The Commission has asked for a reply by 17 December.

Correspondence between the Commission and member states about alleged infractions of European law is generally conducted in confidence.


Civil Service

Mr. Alfred Morris : To ask the Prime Minister what are the conventions whereby civil service departments take steps to consult the opposition about their policies towards the end of a Parliament; and when such steps are planned to be taken before the end of the current Parliament.

The Prime Minister : The convention is that, by authority of the Prime Minister, in the last six months of a Parliament of when a general election has been called, Opposition parties may arrange, with the authority of their party leaders and through the head of the civil service, contacts with senior civil servants. These arrangements are designed to allow briefing on factual questions on departmental organisational changes which Opposition parties have in mind or which may result from Opposition party policies. Any exchanges would be confidential. I will be prepared to authorise such arrangements from the end of this year.