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1991 - PMQT 26th February 1991

Below is the text of Prime Minister's Question Time from 26th February 1991.

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Andrew MacKay : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 26 February.

The Prime Minister (Mr. John Major) : This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall have further meetings later today. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty the Queen.

Mr. MacKay : Will my right hon. Friend confirm that there can be no ceasefire in the Gulf war until all relevant United Nations resolutions have been fully implemented, prisoners of war and Kuwaiti hostages held in Iraq have been released and all Iraqi troops have laid down their arms?

The Prime Minister : I entirely agree with my hon. Friend, but unfortunately the conditions that he so succinctly set out have not yet been met. As my hon. Friend will know, Saddam Hussein spoke again this morning, but without giving any indication whatsoever that Iraq will comply with all the Security Council resolutions. Instead, this morning Saddam Hussein reiterated his untrue claim that Kuwait was part of Iraq and threatened implicitly to return. He must know that meeting the Security Council resolutions is an essential step, and he must publicly and explicitly do so.

I believe that we are now in a new situation with the beginning of the ground war. Our first concern has to be with the safety and security of our forces--[Hon. Members :-- "Hear, hear."] That means that we require all Iraqi forces in the theatre of operations--those occupying and those supporting the occupation of Kuwait--to abandon their weapons and equipment, and withdraw. Until they do so, they will be treated as hostile.

Saddam Hussein started this war on his terms. He must end it on the terms set out by the United Nations.

Mr. Kinnock : May I take this opportunity strongly to commend our forces for the bravery and professionalism that they are showing in the liberation of Kuwait? Does the Prime Minister share my view that Saddam Hussein could halt the war instantly if he were personally to announce his complete compliance with all relevant United Nations resolutions and, in addition, immediately release all the prisoners of war and civilians he is holding against their will in both Kuwait and Iraq?

Finally, is it not clear that if Iraqi forces leave their military vehicles and lay down their arms, they will be safe from attack, our forces will know that they are also safe from attack, and all hostilities can end?

The Prime Minister : The right hon. Gentleman is entirely right and I agree with him without reservation. He will know that, even this morning, Saddam Hussein said--I shall quote him because there was an implicit threat in what he said :

"the Gates of Constantinople were not opened before the Muslims in the first struggling attempt."

That is the clearest threat that he will yet again return. We have a duty and an obligation to remove that threat using all necessary means.

Dame Janet Fookes : As Saddam Hussein, like the devil, is the father of lies, would my right hon. Friend ensure that all in authority take not the slightest notice of what he says, but only of what he does?

The Prime Minister : I can certainly give my hon. Friend that assurance. There have been many occasions in recent months when Saddam Hussein expressly told untruths. At one stage, his Foreign Minister was negotiating on one tack while he was speaking and acting on another. We simply cannot and do not trust him.

Mr. Ashdown : Does the Prime Minister agree that, despite today's welcome news, there is still much hard and potentially costly work to be done before Kuwait is made secure? He is entirely right to say that the safety of our troops and the long-term security of Kuwait mean that any Iraqi troops who wish to return home may do so, but only after they have surrendered their weapons. If they do so, will he say that, once Kuwait is at last liberated, secure and free from threat, Desert Storm will end?

The Prime Minister : The right hon. Gentleman is quite right. Those are the circumstances in which Desert Storm can end. He is right to emphasise yet again the safety and security of our troops. Frankly, I do not believe that either they or world opinion would forgive us if, at this stage of the conflict, we permitted the Iraqis to withdraw with their weapons, perhaps with risk to our troops and the risk that they would return later.


Q2. Mr. Robert G. Hughes : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 26 February.

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

Mr. Hughes : Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the Government have established 12 regional technology centres to aid technology transfer? Can he also confirm that under this Government, the number of science parks has increased from two to 39 with 22 more planned and that spending on civil research and development is higher, as a percentage of the gross national product, in this country than in Japan or in the United States? Does he agree that calls for the establishment of such policies, when they are already in train, merely demonstrates that those who call for them show muddle and ignorance, which dominate Labour party thinking?

The Prime Minister : I cannot immediately imagine to what document my hon. Friend is referring. If, perchance, he is referring to the document on industrial and manufacturing matters that was released yesterday by the Labour party, he is a little unkind. There were some good ideas in that document. Unfortunately, the good ideas are already being implemented and the bad ideas are being recycled.

Mr. Allen McKay : Does the Prime Minister agree with the Secretary of State for the Environment who wants to do away with the poll tax or with the Minister of State for the Environment who has gone on record in the Ribble Valley by-election as saying that he wishes to keep it?

The Prime Minister : The next Member of Parliament for Ribble Valley, who I hope will soon be on the Conservative Benches, will be here in time to hear the result of our review of the community charge.


Q3. Mr. French : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 26 February.

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

Mr. French : Does my right hon. Friend agree that an industrial policy that is based on the creation of quangos, subsidies and inadequately costed tax breaks is, as the Financial Times called it this morning, a "recipe for economic distortion"?

The Prime Minister : I agree with my hon. Friend, but, again, I fear that he is being too charitable. He has forgotten the reinvention of the son of National Enterprise Board, an enterprise which took money away from viable businesses to pick winners which, alas, went bust.

Mr. Alfred Morris : What emphasis will the Government put on reparations from Iraq and to what extent will they be demanded? Moreover, what is the attitude of other Governments in the coalition?

The Prime Minister : The attitude is set out in the Security Council's resolutions. All Governments in the coalition subscribe to them and that remains the position.


Q4. Mr. Ian Taylor : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 26 February.

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

Mr. Taylor : This House has been powerfully united against the terrorism practised by Saddam Hussein in Kuwait. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is important that the House is also united against the evil acts of terrorism in this country and that it supports all measures, including the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989? Will he have a word with the Leader of the Opposition to encourage him to be more robust on the issue?

The Prime Minister : No one doubts the commitment of the whole House to deal effectively with terrorism and not to give way to it. In my judgment, the widest possible support for the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act would be a welcome event and would help to that end.


Q5. Mr. Ron Brown : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 26 February.

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

Mr. Brown : I know that the Prime Minister is involved in many important duties. However, will he understand one thing? The real enemy is at home ; the enemy is the capitalist system and the Tory Government. They are responsible for the problems of the British people.

We have an example of a state-owned British company wishing to take over the fertiliser business, presently owned by ICI. That is blocked because of the Government's blind party dogma. If we want investment in this country, is not that unfair to workers who may lose their jobs, especially in Leith, where there is a subsidiary owned by ICI called Scottish Agricultural Industries? Is not that wrong?

The Prime Minister : It is a rum occasion when I have to take lessons in dogma from the hon. Gentleman.


Q7. Sir Hugh Rossi : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 26 February.

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

Sir Hugh Rossi : As a successful end to the hostilities in the Gulf is happily within reach, will my right hon. Friend now ensure that the allies will combat, with the same vigour and single-mindedness of purpose, the premeditated ecological vandalism perpetrated by Saddam Hussein? It places at risk the worldwide environment from acid deposition, from accelerated global warming and from desertification, and it also pollutes and poisons the waters of the Gulf.

The Prime Minister : My hon. Friend is right and he touches on an important point. The United Kingdom has already made a substantial contribution to help to deal with the pollution caused by the Iraqis in recent weeks. I am sure that my hon. Friend is right. An international effort will be needed and we will be part of that.


Q8. Mr. Battle : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 26 February.

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

Mr. Battle : As it is clear that some of the right hon. Gentleman's Social Security Ministers want to continue the freeze on child benefit and that some do not, will he tell us which ones he will back? Will he pledge now to make good the four-year cut in child benefit or will people have to rely on his one-off, occasional piecemeal statements at the Dispatch Box for their basic benefits?

The Prime Minister : The hon. Gentleman knows very well that there are occasions when we make statements on public expenditure matters such as child benefit. This is not one of them.

Mr. Dunn : When accounts are rendered for the Gulf war, will the Prime Minister seek to obtain an explanation of the extraordinary behaviour of the Soviet Union in recent days? Will he make it plain to the Soviet Government that they can play ball either with the west or with Iraq, but not with both?

The Prime Minister : I shall have the opportunity to discuss all those matters with Mr. Gorbachev early next week.


Q9. Mr. McAllion : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 26 February.

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

Mr. McAllion : Is the Prime Minister aware that hundreds of young Scots, half of them aged under 18, pass through London's night shelters every year and that research has shown that on average each of those youngsters has less than £2? Why does the Prime Minister continue to deny to the 16 and 17-year-olds among them the right to benefit? Is the fate of those youngsters who have been thrown on to the streets and are vulnerable to drugs and prostitution a matter of complete indifference to the Prime Minister and his Government?

The Prime Minister : The hon. Gentleman is entirely wrong, as he knows. We have provided unprecedented training opportunities for young people of that age. There is no necessity whatsoever for any of them to be sleeping rough on the streets of London.


Q10. Mr. Thurnham : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 26 February.

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

Mr. Thurnham : Does my right hon. Friend agree that just as the world recognises the strength and discipline of our armed forces, so it should recognise the strength and discipline of our economy? Is not our pound sterling as strong as Chobham armour?

The Prime Minister : I agree. My hon. Friend will know that there has been a remarkable series of events in recent months and he will also know that sterling has remained remarkably stable despite those events.

Mr. Hume : During his visit to Northern Ireland last week, did anyone raise with the Prime Minister the security value of fixed military checkpoints? Did anyone point out that over the past 20 years nothing of security value has been found at such checkpoints, and that they have become security risks providing targets in the form of the young soldiers and policemen who man them? Is the Prime Minister considering reviewing the use of such checkpoints?

The Prime Minister : I discussed a raft of security matters during my meetings in Northern Ireland last week. However, the hon. Gentleman is aware that it would be unwise to discuss them.