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1990 - PMQT 4th December 1990

Below is the text of Prime Minister's Question Time from 4th December 1990.

PRIME MINISTER:

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Archer : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 4 December.

The Prime Minister (Mr. John Major) : This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others, including one with the Prime Minister of New Zealand. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later today.

Mr. Archer : Has the right hon. Gentleman found time to consider which of the policies in which he participated over the past 11 years he now regrets and proposes to change? If the answer is that the Major revolution amounts to no more than requiring back-seat drivers to belt up, what benefits have the public received in exchange for the expensive telephone bills incurred by Government Departments in the course of the past month's plotting?

The Prime Minister : I can tell the right hon. and learned Gentleman one thing. There is one back-seat injunction that I shall not follow--I shall not turn left.


Q2. Mr. Paice : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 4 December.

The Prime Minister : I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Paice : Has my right hon. Friend seen this morning's press tribute to his and my county of Cambridgeshire for the way it has given as much management control to schools as if those schools had adopted grant- maintained status? Will he compare that with the proposal to introduce new, politically appointed bureaucracies, which may aim high but will inevitably lower standards to that of the lowest standard achievable, as one would expect of Labour party policies?

The Prime Minister : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that information. I saw this morning's papers and I know that Cambridgeshire county council has been innovative in education for a long time. I am delighted to see what it is now doing. I agree that expensive bureaucratic control of education will only withdraw resources from the classroom, whereas our policy is to ensure that resources remain in the classroom.

Mr. Kinnock : The right hon. Gentleman has been good enough to refer to the personal debt of gratitude that he owes to the national health service. Does he think that it would be right to discharge that debt by getting rid of hospital opt-out?

The Prime Minister : Self-government within the NHS will improve management. That is why so many hospitals are seeking to opt out. In the past 10 years, more resources have been added to the NHS than anyone could have imagined. There is no doubt that in future the NHS will be at the centre of our concerns.

Mr. Kinnock : It is clear that the Prime Minister intends to make no change for the better in the NHS. Is he not aware that whenever a ballot has been held, consultants, hospital doctors, nurses, general practitioners and the general public have all voted by huge majorities against opting out? Does he realise that opt-out will intensify the crisis in the NHS? As the NHS has never done anything but good by him, why is he doing it so much harm?

The Prime Minister : Unlike some Opposition Members, I unfailingly use the NHS. Its future is entirely secure, with increased funding, as it has been for the past 10 years.

Mr. Kinnock : If the right hon. Gentleman believes that to be the case, should not he make a start by trying to convince his constituents about the Hinchingbrooke hospital in his constituency, where waiting lists have doubled in the past two years? The local press has referred to a wall of opposition against opting out. Will the right hon. Gentleman support his constituents?

The Prime Minister : Self-government is being proposed by the consultants and the staff at the Hinchingbrooke hospital, which holds the enormous affection of people in the area. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman something else about that hospital : it was not available under the Labour Government--it was this Government who provided it.

Mr. Higgins : I congratulate my right hon. Friend on becoming Prime Minister and also on the speech that he made earlier today, which I thought embodied the spirit of the late Iain Macleod. In that context, and in that spirit, may I ask him to give urgent consideration to two particular injustices--first, the position of those haemophiliacs suffering from AIDS as a result of blood products provided by the national health service and, secondly, the position of those who suffered as a result of being exposed to radiation from the atomic tests carried out immediately after world war 2? I do not expect him to give an answer off the top of his head--that would be unfashionable--but would he give those matters urgent consideration?

The Prime Minister : As my right hon. Friend knows, I like to consider matters before reaching a conclusion. However, I shall certainly accept his injunction and do so.

Mr. Ashdown : When the Prime Minister gave his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment what we now understand to be carte blanche for a fundamental review of the poll tax, did he rule out the option of abolishing it?

The Prime Minister : My right hon. Friend and I will be discussing later today the precise remit for consideration.

Mr. Nicholls : Has my right hon. Friend had the opportunity to consider the latest computer analysis from the Institute of Directors on the top-performing companies in Europe? Has he noted that there are more United Kingdom companies than German or French companies in the top 100 and does not that say far more about the underlying strength of the British economy than the economic illiteracy that we hear from the Leader of the Opposition?

The Prime Minister : My hon. Friend is right. There is absolutely no doubt about the revolution in the prospects for this country over the past decade.


Henley-on-Thames

Q3. Mr. Skinner : To ask the Prime Minister if he will pay an official visit to Henley-on-Thames.

The Prime Minister : I have no present plans to do so.

Mr. Skinner : When the Prime Minister finally gets round to going to Henley and perhaps having a rubber chicken dinner with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, will he tell the voters of Henley why he has managed to offend the Welsh, the blacks and others-- [Interruption] including women, in his first seven days in office? Is that how he intends to start building his classless society?

The Prime Minister : I think that the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) was writing down the question that he intended his hon. Friend to ask and not the one that his hon. Friend did ask. In so far as the question presumably relates to Mr. Taylor, the prospective Conservative candidate in Cheltenham, the reported remarks--which I understand have been denied--are not sentiments that have any place in our party.

Mr. Adley : Is my right hon. Friend aware that the branch line to Henley-on-Thames remains intact? Does he recognise that if more decisions of that nature had been taken by British Rail in the past few years, and fewer decisions of the kind taken following the disastrous Beeching report, many more of our fellow citizens would today have the opportunity to travel by train which has been denied them by the closures of recent years?

The Prime Minister : I was aware of the excellent service from Henley. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment reports to me regularly on it.


Engagements

Q4. Mr. Illsley : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 4 December.

The Prime Minister : I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Illsley : Is the Prime Minister aware that in some areas, particularly Sheffield, general practitioners have been prevented from prescribing certain drugs to patients, in particular young children? Without rattling out the old figures about how many patients are being treated under the NHS, will the Prime Minister tell the House whether under his Government patients and, in particular, young children will be denied the medication and treatment that they need?

The Prime Minister : I will tell the hon. Gentleman that the district health authority in his area has substantially more cash than in previous years, that the treatment of in-patients and out-patients has risen and that the quantum and quality of health treatment rises yearly.

Mr. John Browne : Does my right hon. Friend accept that one group of our citizens who should not be subjected to the community charge are British hostages in the Gulf?

Will he agree to issue an advice to that effect, or even a directive under primary legislation, so that uncertainty, anxiety and anger can be removed?

The Prime Minister : I think that my hon. Friend will find that we have already sent such advice to local authorities.


Q6. Mr. Vaz: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 4 December.

The Prime Minister : I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Vaz : Will the Prime Minister reflect on the case of my constituent, John Hall, who is dying of leukaemia, which he contracted while working on Christmas Island? Will the right hon. Gentleman, as one of the first acts of his new Administration, reverse the Government's policy and in compassion, humanity and justice, provide John Hall and the other nuclear test veterans with the compensation that the House and the country believe that they so richly deserve?

The Prime Minister : I will examine the particular case to which the hon. Gentleman refers. I am not familiar with the details of his constituent. I will discuss it and examine it.

Mrs. Currie : Does my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister agree that today's performance has demonstrated that the two main parties have both the leaders and the policies for the next general election--for us to win, and for them to lose?

The Prime Minister : I am grateful to my hon. Friend It is not for me to reply for the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock), but if he ever needs a campaign team, I will lend him mine.

Mr. Rees : The Prime Minister will recall that the Queen's Speech promised that a Bill would be introduced to give our courts jurisdiction to try alleged war criminals. Does that promise still stand?

The Prime Minister : That Bill is in the Government's programme and it will be presented to the House. There will be suggested amendments that the House will want to examine.

Mr. Rhodes James : Those of us of a particular generation well remember when the Russian and British people were together, when Mrs. Churchill led the campaign to support the Russian people. In the present circumstances, will not only the British Government but the British people respond as they did during the last war?

The Prime Minister : There is considerable concern in this country about the difficulties faced by the Russian people and by President Gorbachev. There is also great warmth in this country for the changes brought about in the Soviet Union under Mr. Gorbachev's presidency. That feeling exists not only in the House but throughout the European Community and I have no doubt that the situation in Russia will be one of many matters discussed at forthcoming Community meetings.