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Government Policy: Announcements

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Prime Minister has recently issued the Ministerial Code to his colleagues. Chapter 3, which gives guidance on Ministers and Parliament, begins by drawing attention to the desire of Parliament that the most important announcements of government policy should be made, in the first instance, in Parliament. Copies of the Ministerial Code are in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament.

Security Memory Chip

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to specify Security Memory as a standard purchase in its procurement of computer hardware.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Security Memory chip is one of a number of security systems currently on the market. It offers no particular advantage over other marking systems that aim to deter rather than prevent theft. Such systems are only of value when stolen property is recovered and rely on the accuracy of the registration and management of the serial numbered items. Security systems are selected according to the particular needs of a department or organisation. Government would not wish to promote specific proprietary branded products but might identify particular strengths or weaknesses in generic security techniques.

Public Bodies: Appointments

Baroness Denton of Wakefield asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which appointments made to public bodies and agencies during the last three months did not result from the response of the appointee to a public advertisement.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Public appointments are the responsibility of individual Ministers and their departments. Information on individual appointments is not held centrally and could only be provided at disproportionate cost. The Commissioner for Public Appointments' guidance on appointments to executive non-departmental public bodies and NHS bodies encourages the use of advertising and other means to obtain a wide field of candidates for such appointments.

Government Survey Material: Availability

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in pursuit of their policy of open government, they will publish all details of questions put to, discussions with and results from opinion and attitude surveys conducted by them at taxpayers' expense.

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The presumption is that, unless there are particular reasons why confidentiality is necessary, the material referred to will be publicly available.

Voluntary Bodies: Withdrawal of Funding

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 30 June (WA 5), in respect of each of the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust, the MAFF nine regional panels, the Citizen's Charter Panel of Advisers, the Northern Ireland Citizen's Charter Advisory Panel and the Agricultural Advisory Panel for Wales, when they were notified of the intention to terminate government grant, when the final grant payments were made, what grant provision was made to help meet their obligations for staff redundancies, and what arrangements Her Majesty's Government have made to avoid staff redundancies.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Scottish Historic Buildings Trust were informed on 29 May 1997 of the decision not to offer grant for 1997-98. I should explain that although the offer of grant made to the trust on 1 March 1996 had offered funding for both 1996-97 and 1997-98, the latter was an indicative sum which was subject to the trust meeting the conditions attached to the award. In the event, the trust failed to meet certain conditions and, in view of there being a history of non-compliance with the rules of the Special (Environmental) Grants Programme (SPEG), Ministers agreed that grant should not be offered for a further year. The decision was not a result of any policy change by the new Government.

With regard to the timing of the final grant payment, grant for the first half of the financial grant 1996-97 had been withdrawn because of the trust's non-compliance with the rules of the SPEG scheme. A restricted payment for the third and fourth quarters was made in March 1997 with the proviso that any additional grant, which might have been due to the trust because of a claimed higher pattern of expenditure in the second half of the year, would be considered when audited accounts were available for 1996-97 and an auditor's certificate had been provided in respect of the expenditure incurred in undertaking SPEG-related activities. A certificate is still awaited. No staff redundancies have been caused by this decision.

The remaining bodies were all advisory non-departmental public bodies consisting of boards of public appointees. They were funded directly from their respective sponsor departments' votes, and did not receive any grant or grant-in-aid. They were supported by civil servants from within their respective sponsor departments, and did not employ their own staff. In each case, board members were informed of the Government's intention to stand them down and wind up the body in advance of any public announcements.

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Government Policy: Presentation Guidance

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What guidance is given to Ministers who wish to publish personal comments on government policy when those comments do not reflect government policy, and how they intend to ensure that the public can know which ministerial views so expressed do reflect government policy and which do not.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The new Ministerial Code, copies of which were placed in the Library of the House today, provides guidance to Ministers on the presentation of government policy.

Parliamentary Costs: Comparisons

Viscount Tenby asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the costs of maintaining the European Parliament, the House of Commons and the House of Lords, including:

    (a) salaries, pensions, travelling allowances, secretarial expenses and other expenses for Members;

    (b) salaries, allowances and pensions, etc. of support staff;

    (c) accommodation, including rent, operating costs and security; and

    (d) all other administrative costs such as stationery, office equipment, publications, payments to parliamentary bodies and any other relevant outgoings, and whether they will indicate the per capita cost per Member as well as the average number of sitting days for each institution over the past five years.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: As Lord Henley made clear in his answer on 19 January 1995 Official Report, (WA 60-62) providing this information for 1990-91 to 1994-95, precise comparisons between the costs of the European Parliament and the Houses of Parliament are difficult. However the updated information is as follows:

£ million

Total costs1994-951995-961996-97
House of Lords37.439.838.5
House of Commons167.6195.6202.3
European Parliament(2) 473.4564.9575.0
of which cost to UK is53.973.865.4


Per capita cost per member1994-951995-961996-97
House of Lords(3)363837
House of Commons257300311
European Parliament(4)835902918

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Number of sitting days1994-951995-961996-97
House of Lords142146145
House of Commons158156152
European Parliament(5)606060

(2) Based on average £/ecu exchange rate for the relevant year.

(3) Per capita costs based on number of peers eligible to sit in the House of Lords at the beginning of each year.

(4) The number of European Parliament seats increased from 518 to 567 on 9 June 1994 and has increased since to its present total of 626.

(5) It is not possible to give an exact figure for the number of European Parliament sittings. The European Parliament generally holds a five-day plenary session every month but there have been occasions when those plenary sessions have been held over of mini-plenary sessions in Brussels, 70 days of committee meetings and 57 days of group meetings, giving an additional 141 days.

Money Laundering

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking regarding the allegations that Turkish banks in England are being used to launder the proceeds of drug smuggling.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Her Majesty's Government take very seriously the whole question of money laundering in the financial sector. Allegations of criminal activity are, however, a matter for the police. It would be inappropriate to comment on the details of any particular case.

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