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Environmental Appraisal

Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Prime Minister what guidance is issued to Government departments on the need to conduct an environmental appraisal in respect of proposed legislation. [35641]

The Prime Minister: Details of current and proposed guidance to Government Departments on environmental appraisal are set out in the answer which my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment gave to the hon. Member on 16 February 1998, Official Report, columns 459-60. This guidance applies to proposed legislation as it does to other proposals for policies or programmes.


Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Prime Minister what initiatives he proposes to develop relations with Iran during the British Presidency of the EU; and if he proposes a Presidency visit to Tehran at political director level. [35852]

The Prime Minister [holding answer 23 March 1998]: We, and our EU partners, are encouraged by positive political developments in Iran. As holders of the EU Presidency, we have initiated a review of EU policy towards Iran. At the 23 February General Affairs Council, EU Foreign Ministers agreed that the EU should increase the level of political contact with Iran and, as a first step, decided to lift the ban on official bilateral Ministerial visits which had been agreed by the April 1997 General Affairs Council. The Council also affirmed the importance of maintaining vigilance in the EU's longstanding areas of concern.

The EU is currently discussing how and at what level to enhance its political contacts with Iran, which may lead to some form of Presidency contact at senior official level.

Policing (Northern Ireland)

Mr. Maginnis: To ask the Prime Minister if discussions with the Irish Republic's Taioseach and officials from both the Northern Ireland Office and Dublin's Department of Foreign Affairs and Justice have taken place concerning the establishment of an international commission on policing in Northern Ireland. [35656]

The Prime Minister [holding answer 23 March 1998]: No such discussions have taken place. The Government are looking forward to further discussion of policing issues, including the option of establishing an independent Commission, with the Northern Ireland parties in Strand One of the Talks.

Strategic Communications Unit

Mr. Baker: To ask the Prime Minister what are the specific functions of (a) Mr. Philip Bassett and (b) Mr. David Bradshaw within the Strategic Communications Unit. [35935]

The Prime Minister [holding answer 24 March 1998]: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) on 14 January 1998, Official Report, columns 233-34.

30 Mar 1998 : Column: 378

British Beef

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Prime Minister if he will ensure that British beef is offered at all meals served in connection with meetings of the Council of Ministers during the remainder of the UK Presidency. [36319]

The Prime Minister: Menus for official functions hosted by Ministers are based on seasonal foods from the UK including beef. The final choice of a menu depends on the dietary requirements of the guests, the nature of the occasion, the preference of the host and on other menus being used during a particular visit.

Beef was served most recently at the buffet supper given at York on 20 March by the Chancellor of the Exchequer for visiting EU Finance Ministers.

Bloody Sunday

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his answer of 12 March 1998, Official Report, columns 279-80, if he will instruct those Government departments which may still have papers relating to the events of Bloody Sunday to make them available to the Saville Inquiry and the representatives of the relatives of those killed and injured on that date. [36501]

The Prime Minister [holding answer 27 March 1998]: The Government will give the Inquiry the fullest possible co-operation in carrying out its work and wherever possible will make available to the Inquiry all relevant material. It will be for the Inquiry to decide whether or not material should be published or made available to the representatives of the relatives of those killed or injured on Bloody Sunday.


Mr. Baker: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list the newspaper proprietors who have received Government hospitality since 1 May 1997. [37038]

The Prime Minister: Such records are not held centrally and this information could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Rupert Murdoch

Mr. Baker: To ask the Prime Minister how many representations he has received from Labour Members expressing concern about the extent of media ownership by Mr. Rupert Murdoch. [37047]

The Prime Minister: None.

Mr. Baker: To ask the Prime Minister who initiated the recent telephone conversation between him and the Italian Premier, Romano Prodi; and what factors led him to discuss the proposed takeover of Mediaset by Rupert Murdoch. [36500]

The Prime Minister [holding answer 27 March 1998]: I refer the hon. Member to the oral answer I gave to the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Collins) on 25 March 1998, Official Report, column 494.

Press Briefings (Anthrax)

Mr. Baker: To ask the Prime Minister what (a) press briefings and (b) other dissemination of information in respect of the threat of Iraqi use of anthrax originated

30 Mar 1998 : Column: 379

from his office; at what time and on what day this occurred; which newspapers were briefed; and if he will make a statement. [37019]

The Prime Minister: My official spokesman gave some comments to The Sun newspaper during the afternoon on Monday 23 March after they had approached my office with their story. After publication of The Sun, all media who inquired were given comments by the duty press officer. In addition, my official spokesman replied to questions at the 11 am briefing for Lobby journalists on Tuesday 24 March.


Green Transport

Mr. Baker: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (1) on what date he plans to introduce a green commuting plan; [36670]

Dr. David Clark [holding answer 27 March 1998]: The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions circulated to all departments in December last year a "Guide to Green Transport Plans". My Department has started to consider how to respond to its recommendations.



Mr. Baker: To ask the Minister without Portfolio, pursuant to his answer of 24 March 1998, Official Report, column 119, for what reason it is not his policy to say whether he has met (a) Mr. Rupert Murdoch and (b) representatives of News International since 1 January. [37033]

Mr. Mandelson: It is not a matter of policy, but of practicality. I meet representatives of broadcasters and other media organisations very regularly in the course of my ministerial duties. I have not met Rupert Murdoch in the course of those duties.

Open Government

Mr. Baker: To ask the Minister without Portfolio what open Government measures he has taken. [37034]

Mr. Mandelson: In common with my Ministerial colleagues I carry out all my duties in accordance with the principles of openness with Parliament and the public that are laid down by the Prime Minister in the Ministerial Code.

Strategic Communications Unit

Mr. Baker: To ask the Minister without Portfolio if he will list his responsibilities in respect of the Strategic Communications Unit. [37039]

30 Mar 1998 : Column: 380

Mr. Mandelson: The Strategic Communications Unit is based in Number 10 and answers to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, working through the Prime Minister's Chief Press Secretary. I have regular contact with the Unit in view of my responsibilities for the strategic implementation and presentation of Government policy.


Millennium Dome

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Minister without Portfolio if he will estimate the cost of the giant sculptures that will appear in the Millennium Dome. [31969]

Mr. Mandelson: The costs of individual zones within the Dome are still being finalised within the total budget for the Millennium Experience. The Corporate Plan of the New Millennium Experience Company, which is now being finalised, will contain budgets for the component parts of the Millennium Experience project covering the years 1997-98 (actual) and 1998-99 to 2000-01 (forecast).

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