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1991 - PMQT 16th April 1991

Below is the text of Prime Minister's Question Time from 16th April 1991.

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Sir Anthony Durant : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 16 April.

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 be having further meetings later today.

Sir Anthony Durant : May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his four-point initiative to deal with the Kurds and Shi'ites, especially the safe haven proposals, which are important? Will he work hard with the agencies to improve aid to the Shi'ites and Kurds and push the United Nations to implement resolutions 678 and 688 so that the Kurds and Shi'ites can return in confidence to their towns and villages and thereby stop this appalling situation?

The Prime Minister : I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Hundreds of tonnes of aid have already been delivered, of which 220 tonnes have come from the United Kingdom. In addition to the three C130s already there, nine Chinook helicopters operating from Turkey will be fully operational by the end of the week. The two special representatives of the secretary-general are in Iraq and by the end of the week 150 United Nations personnel will be in Iraq to oversee the relief effort. Urgent and intensive international discussions are continuing on a safe haven plan, which I and others believe is the only way forward. Indeed, I believe that it is rapidly gaining ground. Later today, I shall chair a further meeting of Ministers to take stock of aid needs.

Mr. Kinnock : May I strongly support the Prime Minister in the efforts being made to get aid to the wretched people who are fleeing from Saddam Hussein's forces? As the agonies of the Kurdish people continue, will the right hon. Gentleman tell me whether he shares my view that the atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein against the Kurdish people mean that the Iraqi dictator has a case to answer under articles 2 and 3 of the genocide convention of 1948? Will the Prime Minister refer the issue of genocide to the United Nations Security Council as a matter of urgency?

The Prime Minister : I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his first words. I have asked for legal advice on the subject of genocide.

Mr. Teddy Taylor : As the strict budgetary controls of agricultural spending were effectively blow sky high last Monday when the Council of Ministers voted by 10 to two to go through the ceiling, will my right hon. Friend say what on earth we can do, or is agriculture entirely out of control? In congratulating him on Britain's being one of the two who voted against, may I ask whether he will tell the consumers and taxpayers of Britain whether we can take any action to hold on to the strict budgetary controls for which we fought so hard?

The Prime Minister : I agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of keeping strict budgetary control on agriculture and on other items of the European Community budget. We have consistently stuck to that position and we shall continue to argue for it in the Agriculture Council and the other Councils of the Community.

Mr. Ashdown : Notwithstanding the Prime Minister's welcome but long- term plans for Kurdish sanctuary in Iraq, does not our present air superiority provide a means and United Nations resolution 688 provide the authority for action now to prevent continuing genocide against the Kurds in Iraq? Is not the only thing lacking for action the political will and international leadership? Why does he still seem reluctant to provide either?

The Prime Minister : As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, the only comprehensive international plan before the international community is the one that I announced to the European Community on Monday this week. As I said to the House a few moments ago, urgent and intensive international discussions on the plan are continuing at this moment.

Mr. Churchill : I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his safe haven policies. Will he build on them as soon as possible with our colleagues and partners in the Security Council to ensure that, under United Nations auspices, forces are sent to both the north and south of Iraq to establish at the earliest possible opportunity safe havens into which Saddam Hussein's armies will not be permitted to go?

The Prime Minister : I have made it clear to our colleagues in the United Nations and elsewhere that, if the relief effort is harassed or frustrated, in my judgment, under Security Council resolution 688, it is clearly the responsibility of the United Nations to protect both helpers and helped. If necessary, the United Nations would have to act on that responsibility and seek from its members whatever assistance, including military assistance, it might need.


Q2. Mr. Wray : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 16 April.

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

Mr. Wray : The Prime Minister will be in no doubt that the question on everybody's lips is about the disgraceful "Panorama" programme which made allegations that the Prime Minister used an accommodation address in Templar street in Lambeth to gain access to the electoral register, a seat on Lambeth council and thus win a seat at Westminster. Will he give an assurance that that accusation is untrue and what action is he about to take?

The Prime Minister : The qualification for standing for Lambeth council was to be resident within the area. "Panorama" was told on more than one occasion by the lady whose address they gave that I was living in the area, directly opposite her house, at the time and that that fully met the qualification requirements. I cannot explain to the hon. Gentleman why "Panorama" chose not to broadcast that fact.


Q3. Mr. Bowis : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 16 April.

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

Mr. Bowis : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the success of his policies in bringing down inflation, interest rates and mortgage rates shows that the better way for Britain is the Conservative way to opportunity and that it is getting better and better as the months go by? Does he agree that that is why there is such disappointment on the Opposition Benches and such desperate calls for an early election?

The Prime Minister : My hon. Friend is right. It is precisely because we were prepared to take tough action on inflation that it is now coming down fast and, as I forecast, interest rates are following it down. The economy will continue to improve in the months ahead and we will continue to extend opportunities by spreading wealth, ownership and choice. No other party in the country can offer that to the British people.


Q4. Mr. Pike : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 16 April.

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

Mr. Pike : Is not the Prime Minister concerned about the many thousands of struggling pensioners who get a pension increase and immediately lose income support and other transitional arrangements? Is not it time that he ended the practice of giving with one hand and immediately taking back with the other and started to give all pensioners a fair deal?

The Prime Minister : If that were the policy of the Opposition, any pretence that they might have had of public expenditure control would have gone.

Mr. John Greenway : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the next decade will be the decade of opportunity for young people, but that one opportunity that the House and the country would rather they did not take is the opportunity to commit crime? Does he agree that in national Crime Prevention Week the one major objective that we should seek is for young people to be deterred from criminal activity?

The Prime Minister : I certainly agree with my hon. Friend. He will have noticed in particular the initiative on truancy taken this week.


Q5. Mr. Patchett : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 16 April.

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

Mr. Patchett : Does the Prime Minister feel comfortable with his policies, given the criticism from within his party, both inside and outside the House, or is he merely a victim of an enemy within?

The Prime Minister : The hon. Gentleman will find that there are millions and millions of people outside the House who support our policies and who will vote for them.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop : Will my right hon. Friend make an important and clear statement today that the British Government's policy in support of the safety and security of Iraqi Kurds in Iraq is not support for Kurdish insurrection against successive Governments of Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran to form a separate state and that activity of that kind gives a spurious strength to the present Government of Iraq to take military action of a genocidal kind against Iraqi Kurds in Iraq?

The Prime Minister : I have made it clear in the House on previous occasions that our concern in Iraq is to ensure that the Kurds are well treated, safe and protected from repression. That remains our policy.


Cyprus

Q6. Mr. Corbyn : To ask the Prime Minister, what discussions he has held with the Government of Turkey concerning their occupation of part of Cyprus.

The Prime Minister : I met the Turkish Prime Minister yesterday and the President of Cyprus last week. My discussion yesterday with the Turkish Prime Minister concentrated on the plight of the Kurds. I urged him to help the international efforts to get the Kurds down from the mountains into areas of Turkey and Iraq where they can receive food and medicine. The Turkish Prime Minister and I spoke briefly about Cyprus later in the day.

Mr. Corbyn : Perhaps the Prime Minister can tell us what discussions he had with the Prime Minister of Turkey. He must be aware that the British Government are a guarantor of Cypriot independence and that the 1974 invasion of Cyprus by Turkey was condemned by the United Nations. Does not he think that the aim should be the withdrawal of foreign troops from Cyprus and the reunification of the island, with guarantees from all communities to end the terrible time suffered by so many people through the division of the island by military intervention?

The Prime Minister : I made it entirely clear to the Turkish Prime Minister that we supported the efforts being made by the secretary-general and we hoped that he would make progress speedily towards a satisfactory solution.

Mr. Anthony Coombs : Will the Prime Minister confirm that Cyprus, a democratic member of the Commonwealth, is the only European country at present forcibly occupied by a foreign power? Does he agree that positive action is necessary to persuade Turkey that it is in its interest and in the interest of the regional stability of the eastern Mediterranean that the reunification of Cyprus as a stable and democratic country is implemented as soon as possible?

The Prime Minister : I agree with my hon. Friend and the Turkish Government are aware that that is our policy.


Engagements

Q7. Mr. Wareing : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 16 April.

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

Mr. Wareing : Is the Prime Minister aware that the answer that he gave to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon will have appalled the whole nation? If a Prime Minister, above anyone, has not yet taken legal advice about the genocide convention, when Kurds are being murdered and tortured every day, it is a disgrace. Indeed, it is a sin that this matter has been allowed to go as far as it has. Will the Prime Minister take action today to instruct our representatives at the United Nations to raise the matter of genocide so that action--even military action--is taken against the butcher of Baghdad?

The Prime Minister : I note the hon. Gentleman's remarks with care. It is wise to seek and await proper legal advice on such measures. If the matter is so self-evident, why did not the Leader of the Opposition raise it until yesterday and where has the shadow Foreign Secretary been for the past fortnight?