Biography Chronology Home Search Speeches/Statements

1991 - PMQT 21st February 1991

Below is the text of Prime Minister's Question Time from 21st February 1991.

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Viggers : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 21 February.

The Prime Minister (Mr. John Major) : 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.

Mr. Viggers : Bearing in mind the horrors that have been perpetrated in Kuwait, where thousands have been murdered and tortured, and bearing in mind also the awful nature of the weapons available to Saddam Hussein, does my right hon. Friend agree that there can be no doubt that the implementation of all the United Nations resolutions is both a just and a necessary cause? Does he also agree that since August Saddam Hussein has had every opportunity to withdraw from Kuwait, and that if a major land offensive should now be necessary our forces will carry with them the gratitude and good will of the entire nation?

The Prime Minister : I very much agree with my hon. Friend. The only message that we wish to hear today is that Iraq is prepared to accept and implement all the Security Council resolutions in full and immediately. That is a message which can be given to us at any time. As I told the House on Tuesday, only when such a message is received and has begun to be implemented can there be an end to the conflict.

Mr. Kinnock : Will the Prime Minister confirm that within the past 48 hours every one of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council has made it crystal clear to Saddam Hussein yet again that if immediate and unconditional removal of all Iraqi forces were to take place the fighting could end? Does the Prime Minister agree that that is what the whole world wants--including, had they but the freedom to say it, the ordinary people of Iraq? Knowing that, is not it obvious that of all the many cruelties committed by Saddam Hussein, the greatest would be his failure to take the opportunity, which has always existed and still exists, to avert a major land battle and the great suffering that it would bring?

The Prime Minister : It has certainly been made clear by the allies that we stand by the Security Council resolutions in full. As the House may know, I understand that, within the past few minutes, Saddam Hussein has begun broadcasting to Iraq. There is no indication yet of what he has said or what he will say, but I am bound to say that he preceded his broadcast with yet another Scud attack.


Q2. Dr. Michael Clark : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 21 February.

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

Dr. Clark : Does my right hon. Friend agree that Britain is an inventive nation and that we maintain a strong science base? Will he, therefore, join me and other hon. Members from both sides of the House in congratulating the Royal Society of Chemistry on celebrating its 150th anniversary this year? Will he also pay tribute to the chemical industry, which contributes a balance of payments surplus of more than £2,000 million per annum to Britain?

The Prime Minister : I am happy to do that. Only last Friday I had the pleasure of opening an innovative ICI factory in Runcorn in the north- west which will manufacture an alternative to CFCs--the first such factory in the world. The chemical industry has an impressive record both in investment in research and development and in the exploitation of that investment by our scientists. That is the basis of industry's necessary recovery.

Mr. Ashdown : Does the Prime Minister agree that no one, but no one, can relish the prospect of having to fight a land war in the Gulf, that even at the 11th hour every realistic avenue for peace ought to be pursued, but that we cannot allow ourselves to be distracted by cul-de-sac designed to delay the freedom of Kuwait? Will he confirm that the aim of the allies is not a temporary peace, leading to conflict later, but a durable, United Nations-based peace, a basic ingredient of which must be recognition of the legitimacy of Kuwait?

The Prime Minister : I very much agree with the right hon. Gentleman, particularly about durability and security. There is no need for particular peace proposals. The peace proposals that we wish to hear are those that we have set out and agreed with our allies and others in the United Nations Security Council resolutions. That has been and remains the position. If Iraq is prepared to accept and implement those, the conditions exist for an end to the conflict. Without that, they do not exist.

Mr. Barry Porter : Will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity today to congratulate the management and work force of the Rover Group on their contribution to the British export drive? Does he agree that the figures recently announced are self-evident proof that it was a very good deal between British Aerospace and Rover for the west midlands, the taxpayer and the country?

The Prime Minister : There has been a remarkable renaissance in the motor car industry generally. That, of course, includes Rover.


Q3. Mr. Lofthouse : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 21 February.

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

Mr. Lofthouse : Is the Prime Minister aware that West and South Yorkshire police and fire authorities are about to set their budgets this weekend for the forthcoming year? Is he also aware that the options before them are to do so in accordance with the Home Secretary's guidelines, and thus maintain their present effective forces, or to set the budget according to the standard spending assessments of the Department of the Environment, which would result in the loss of hundreds of police and firemen's jobs and consequently of services? Considering the increase in the crime rate and the ever-greater demands on the fire service, what advice does the right hon. Gentleman have for them?

The Prime Minister : Like all authorities, this one must select its own priorities.

Mr. William Powell : My right hon. Friend will be aware, not least from his knowledge of his own constituency, of the wonderful work done by many thousands of people working for village hall committees. Is he aware that, notwithstanding the marvellous efforts of our right hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Lilley) two years ago to protect village hall committees from some of the worst trepidations of EEC VAT directives, VAT remains a serious problem for them? Will he have a word with the Chancellor and encourage him to try to find a fiscal device to make life easier for those voluntary fund-raisers?

The Prime Minister : It is not readily apparent what fiscal device my hon. Friend has in mind, but if he cares to suggest something I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor will examine it.


Q4. Miss Hoey : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 21 February.

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

Miss Hoey : Does the Prime Minister recall when he was a young man being a councillor in Ferndale ward in my constituency? Does he realise that this month there is 25 per cent. unemployment in Ferndale ward? Will he have time in the next couple of weeks to come and see the people there, many of whom have been out of work for more than two years, and tell them what more they can do to get jobs under the Conservative Government?

The Prime Minister : While visiting Ferndale ward, which I had the privilege of representing for a period after 1968, I might also discuss with the people why, so many years later, nothing has been done by Lambeth council to improve their environment, their housing, their street cleaning or any of the other matters that concern them.

Mr. Michael Brown : Does my right hon. Friend accept that the answers to any review of the community charge are staring us in the face from Westminster city hall? Would my right hon. Friend note that that council--a single-tier authority--has been able to reduce its community charge as a result of good housekeeping? Will my right hon. Friend ensure that Dame Shirley Porter is made a member of the Government review team immediately?

The Prime Minister : We should be happy to have Dame Shirley's advice on that or on many other matters and I am happy to congratulate Westminster city council on the community charge that it has levied. It is certainly an example to other authorities and I hope that they will follow that example.


Q5. Mr. Bill Michie : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 21 February.

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

Mr. Michie : Does the Prime Minister agree that concern about loss of face, or part face, by any leader leading a nation involved in the Gulf war pales into insignificance when compared with the possible loss of life if a land war is embarked upon?

The Prime Minister : Nobody wishes artificially to bring about a land war if it is avoidable. The hon. Gentleman should bear in mind who began this conflict, what the aims were and what is necessary both to end it and to ensure that there is a secure and durable peace, which means that conflict will not recommence at a later date. The hon. Gentleman should bear that in mind.

Mr. Cash : When my right hon. Friend saw Chancellor Kohl the other day, did he discuss the German proposals for political union, which have now been submitted to the intergovernmental conference? Did he agree that those proposals were completely unworkable and that if they were put into effect they would mean, to all intents and purposes, the end of the Westminster Parliament?

The Prime Minister : I discussed a range of matters with Chancellor Kohl. I did not discuss the letter which the French and the Germans put forward, although we discussed in general terms some of the matters related to both the economic and monetary union IGC and the political union IGC. I set out for Chancellor Kohl our concerns about those matters and the policies that we have set before the House.


Q6. Mr. Michael : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 21 February.

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

Mr. Michael : On a day when the Government's own gross domestic product figures have illustrated the depth of the recession and the frightening drop in production created by his policies as Chancellor and now as Prime Minister, will the right hon. Gentleman reflect on the stupidity of adding 6,000 experts on training the unemployed to the queues of unemployed? Opposition Members have lived with the misery caused by the Government for millions of people during the recession in the early 1980s. How does the right hon. Gentleman intend to prevent a repetition of that misery for millions in the 1990s?

The Prime Minister : We have an excellent record on training, as the hon. Gentleman knows. As for economic circumstances in this country and elsewhere, the hon. Gentleman will know that three of the G7 countries are now officially in recession and two more have had a downturn in output. The hon. Gentleman imputes too much authority to me if he thinks that I am responsible for all that.

Mr. Hill : Does my right hon. Friend agree that probably one of the biggest mistakes that the western alliance has made was to try to treat Saddam Hussein as though he were an honourable man when in fact his words are worthless? When my right hon. Friend next telephones President Bush, he may be able to tell him of some of the evidence that we have heard in the House about the human rights being destroyed in Kuwait and the genocide taking place there which must mean more and more deaths for the Kuwaitis every day.

The Prime Minister : My hon. Friend expresses a view which is held by the vast majority of hon. Members in the House. There is no doubt that since 2 August the Iraqis have broken any number of international obligations and there must be some considerable concern about whether we can trust what is said to us by them.


Q7. Mr. Loyden : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 21 February.

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

Mr. Loyden : Does the Prime Minister recall the statement that he made on 29 November following his election to his present position? He said then that he wanted to see a country at ease with itself. Does he believe that 2 million unemployed, the continuing decimation of our health service, the imposition of the hated poll tax and the current deepening recession represent a climate in which the people of this country can be at ease with themselves? Does he not now recognise that the only way to remove those problems is by the removal of the present Government?

The Prime Minister : The hon. Gentleman is a class warrior who believes in conflict ; I am not. That is the difference between us.


Q8. Mr. John Marshall : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 21 February.

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

Mr. Marshall : Will my right hon. Friend tell the House and the country which five local authorities have the highest community charge, which five have the worst education results and which five have the largest rent arrears?

The Prime Minister : I shall be happy to write to my hon. Friend will a detailed list of those authorities. I think that I can tell him now, however, that he will find no Conservative authorities among them, and an overwhelming predominance of Labour authorities, almost certainly including Brent, Camden and Lambeth.