Submitted by the Wales Office
Thank you for your letter of 9 June, containing details
of Parliamentary Questions which the Table Office has "blocked"
in the previous Parliamentary session because of Minister's refusal
to reply, and asking for a fuller explanation of why it was necessary
to withhold information. A copy of each question and answer is
attached for ease of reference.
7 July 2000
The second question concerned spending provisions for forthcoming
legislation. Any announcement of costs assigned to legislation
that was not already before Parliament would pre-empt the Queen's
Speech at the opening of a session. Paragraph 2 of Part I of the
Code ensures that reasons are given for administrative decisions
except where there is established convention to the contrary.
The answer given to this question points to a long-standing convention.
The third question is about deep mined coal. Such information
is based on returns submitted to the Coal Authority. The forms
used for these returns state that the information provided will
be treated on a commercially confidential basis. Paragraph 14
of Part II of the Code exempts disclosure of information where
it has been supplied in confidence.
Additionally, a number of small mines in Wales are not required
to submit these returns, so it is not possible to provide an accurate
estimate to the question asked. The response does given an estimate,
which is sufficiently broad to cover the potential inaccuracy
resulting from incomplete knowledge.
Welsh Assembly (CADW)
The fourth question relates to the division of responsibilities
among committees of the National Assembly for Wales. The White
Paper, 'A Voice for Wales' makes clear in paragraph 3.45 that
the Secretary of State will not be accountable for the activities
of the Assembly.
Responsibilities of the Assembly Committees mirror those of the
Assembly Secretaries and allocation of those responsibilities
is a matter for the First Secretary. The question was therefore
appropriate for an Assembly Member to the First Secretary but
not for a Member of Parliament to the Secretary of State for Wales.
At the time the question was tabled and answered, Mr Michael was
both First Secretary and Secretary of State and Mr Wigley was
- and still is - an Assembly Member and Member of Parliament.
There may have been some confusion in the period after the Assembly
election but before the Transfer of Functions on 1 July 1999 about
how such questions should be put to Mr Michael.