The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1996Prime Minister (1990-1997)

PMQT Written Answers – 7 March 1996

Below is the text of the written answers relating to Prime Minister’s Question Time from 7th March 1996.




Sir Peter Tapsell: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 7 March.

Mr. Harry Greenway: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 7 March.

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.


Far East (Visit)

Mr. John Townend: To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his recent visit to the far east.

The Prime Minister: I attended the inaugural Asia-Europe summit meeting in Bangkok on 29 February to 2 March together with my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office. This summit, for the first time, brought together the leaders of Thailand, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, China, the 15 member states of the European Union and the President of the European Commission. I warmly welcomed the opportunity it offered to reinforce the relations between Europe and East Asia, politically and economically two of the world’s three most important regions.

The informal discussions covered a wide range of political and economic issues. The participants agreed on the need to deepen the political dialogue between Asia and Europe, to increase co-operation over arms control, human resource development, environmental protection and the fight against poverty, drugs terrorism and other international crime.

On economic matters, there was common ground over the benefits of strengthening trade and investment flows between Asia and Europe in both direction. The meeting agreed to work for the further liberalisation of trade and for the success of the World Trade Organisation. It also recognised that intensified exchanges of science and technology, especially in sectors such as agriculture, information and technology, energy and transport, were important for extending the economic links between the two regions. Finally, there was agreement on the value of closer people-to-people contacts, especially among younger generations.

The meeting set in hand an ambitious programme of follow-up work, including preparations for the first ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation in Singapore in December, work on improving conditions for the flow of investment between the two regions, the establishment of a business forum and promotion of reform of the United Nations including the EU initiative on financial reform.

The meeting accepted the United Kingdom’s offer to host the second summit which will be held during our presidency of the EU in the first half of 1998. This is a clear signal of our commitment to developing relations with Asia and our determination to play a leading role in the evolving relationship between the two regions. Hong Kong During my visit to Hong Kong between 2 and 4 March, I had the opportunity to hear the concerns of a wide range of the Hong Kong community about their future. I was able to reassure them that:

(i) Britain has a long-term commitment to Hong Kong which will last well beyond the transfer of sovereignty on 1 July 1997;

(ii) in the event of a breach of the Sino-British joint declaration, we would pursue every avenue open to us and mobilise the international community;

(iii) holders of the Hong Kong special administrative region passport would not be required to obtain visas for visits to Britain after 30 June 1997;

(iv) we would guarantee admission to Britain for any member of the non-Chinese ethnic minority community with solely British nationality who came under pressure to leave Hong Kong after the transfer of sovereignty; and

(v) we would support a private Member’s Bill to grant British citizenship to the wives and widows of the ex-service men from Hong Kong who fought for Britain in the war.

I also had the opportunity to visit several parts of the territory, including the new airport and the extension to the convention and exhibition centre, where development is being pursued to ensure Hong Kong’s continuing success. Korea is an important trading partner: our exports increased by 44 per cent. in 1995 to more than £1.5 billion, and we have attracted more than 40 per cent. of all Korean inward investment in Europe. The prospects for further growth in these areas are good.

I had a meeting with President Kim Young Sam, our third in 12 months, at which we discussed ways to increase the co-operation between our countries, particularly in trade and investment. I also met the leaders of the major Korean conglomerates. I encouraged them to consider further inward investment here by assuring them of the major benefits of doing so. During my visit, three new Korean investments worth £2.5 million were announced, bringing the number of Korean companies in the UK to 19. Four contracts were signed by British companies for joint ventures valued at £90 million, including a co-operation agreement between British

Nuclear Fuels Ltd. and Hanjung for the building of spent fuel storage casks in a market expected to grow from £35 million to £2 billion.


Princess of Wales

Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the Prime Minister what discussions or communications Her Majesty’s Government have had since the beginning of the current year with the Governments of those other Commonwealth countries whose Head of State is Her Majesty the Queen, about the constitutional future and status of Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 4 March 1996]: None.


Duchy of Cornwall (Profits)

Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the Prime Minister if the income and profits of the Duchy of Cornwall are private and personal to the Prince of Wales.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 4 March 1996]: The capital assets of the Duchy of Cornwall are inalienable, and the income from capital disposals must be reinvested in new capital assets. The Prince of Wales is personally entitled to the net income from the revenue account of the Duchy of Cornwall, from which he meets both public and private expenditure for himself, the Princess and their family.

Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the Prime Minister at what time or stage on 28 February he was advised that Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales was issuing a statement announcing her intention to divorce His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 4 March 1996]: I was informed of the statement after it was issued.

Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the Prime Minister what provisions exist for the Princess of Wales to renounce the rank and the title of Her Royal Highness.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 4 March 1996]: The use of the style lies ultimately in the Queen’s gift, although the wishes of the princess would be taken into consideration.

Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the Prime Minister what future funding arrangements from public funds are being made to facilitate HRH the Princess of Wales continuing her public duties subsequent to divorce.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 4 March 1996]: Matters relating to the divorce of the Prince and Princess of Wales and the princess’s future role are under discussion.


Civil Servants (Conduct)

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Prime Minister if it is his policy that civil servants criticised in the Scott report shall be disciplined.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 6 March 1996]: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, on 6 March, Official Report, column 252.


EU Directives

Mr. Steen: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list the EU directives which have been gold plated when transcribed into United Kingdom law in the past five years.

The Prime Minister: The Government’s policy is not to add unnecessary burdens on business when implementing EC directives in the UK. Departments keep existing legislation under review in the light of this policy.


“Questions of Procedure for Ministers”

Dr. Wright: To ask the Prime Minister when he expects to issue a revised version of “Questions of Procedure for Ministers”.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 4 March 1996]: I will revise and reissue “Questions of Procedure for Ministers” as and when appropriate.


Civil Servants (Company Directors)

Mr. Byers: To ask the Prime Minister which serving civil servants in his Department are presently directors of companies; and if he will indicate for each (a) the name of the company concerned and (b) if annual remuneration was (i) £1 to £5,000, (ii) £5,000 to £10,000 and (c) above £10,000.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 1 March 1996]: For these purposes, my office forms part of the Cabinet Office. I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on 6 March, Official Report, columns 250-51.