Biography Chronology Home Search Speeches/Statements

1991 - PMQT 11th June 1991

Below is the text of Prime Minister's Question Time from 11th June 1991.

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. John Greenway : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 11 June.

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.

Mr. Greenway : Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating the England cricket team on the marvellous win in Yorkshire yesterday ? Does he equally welcome the sharp fall in wage increases announced yesterday and in producer prices announced today ? Does not that demonstrate that his Government's policies against inflation have what it takes to build a long and successful innings while the whole country knows that under Labour the economy would be for ever trapped leg before wicket ?

The Prime Minister : There are some dangerous metaphors there. I certainly welcome the producer price figures. They are extremely good. The fall in the underlying, as well as the headline, rate of inflation is very welcome news indeed. It shows clearly that we are now well on target for the Budget forecast of a 4 per cent. inflation rate this autumn. It is also encouraging that wage bargaining is beginning to reflect falling inflation and the realities of exchange rate mechanism membership. That is very good indeed for industries' competitiveness. On the first part of my hon. Friend's question, I am happy to congratulate the England team, but, in doing so, I remind him and everyone that the West Indies is a formidable side and there is a long way to go yet.

Mr. Kinnock : Will the Prime Minister now be asking his right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) to step down as President of the Bruges group?

The Prime Minister : That is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher).

Mr. Kinnock : Is it not apparent from today's events and yesterday's events that what we are seeing is not Britain at the heart of Europe but deep division at the heart of the Conservative party? [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker : Order.

Mr. Kinnock : Is it not the Prime Minister's duty to clear up the confusion in the ranks of his own Government, which can do nothing but damage Britain's interests?

The Prime Minister : I am not quite sure what the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) might think about the degree of unity that the right hon. Gentleman suggests is on his Benches. We are negotiating in the intergovernmental conferences on exactly the same basis as that on which we first started. The position on economic and monetary union has not changed in any way. I have set out repeatedly the circumstances and conditions under which we are negotiating.

Mr. Kinnock : Can the Prime Minister tell us why 11 finance Ministers and a couple of Commissioners in a meeting yesterday with the Chancellor got entirely the wrong end of the stick?

The Prime Minister : I can say categorically to the right hon. Gentleman, as I did a moment ago, that there is no change whatever in our negotiating position on Europe. I have repeatedly set that out over recent months.


Q2. Mr. Adley : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 11 June.

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

Mr. Adley : In welcoming the current ministerial visit to the Lebanon and in recognising the help that the Syrian and Iranian Governments are providing on the hostage problem, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he recognises an additional ingredient in the conundrum, namely, the holding by the Israeli Government of Sheikh Obeid and other Lebanese hostages? Will he please make known on behalf of his Government to Mr. Shamir that that ingredient is a problem, and that we expect the Israelis to be as helpful as possible in resolving it?

The Prime Minister : I agree with my hon. Friend, and can tell him that the Prime Minister of Israel is aware of my views on that matter. It is wrong for any country to take and hold hostages, and I have communicated that view to Israel on more than one occasion. Our objective is to see the release as soon as possible of all hostages, and we count on any Government with influence to use it for the return of hostages. They should be back with their families where they belong.


Q3. Mr. Beith : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 11 June.

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

Mr. Beith : How will the Prime Minister respond to the demand from those of his supporters who say that he should veto a single currency here and now? Will he back a single currency when it comes before this Parliament for decision, or is he scared to say?

The Prime Minister : There is no veto as such. There is a requirement that treaty changes can come into effect only if agreed by all member states and by their Parliaments. I have repeatedly said that we will not agree to any treaty on EMU which does not safeguard the interests of this country. I am happy to reiterate that.

Sir Michael Marshall : Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to welcome the visit to the House of Britain's first astronaut, Helen Sharman? Does he agree that her courage and professionalism is a matter of national pride? Will he take this opportunity to urge British industry and science to join with the Government in the careful and continued look at further opportunities for international space collaboration?

The Prime Minister : I look forward to meeting Miss Sharman shortly and to congratulating her on her courage and on her remarkable achievement. I happily agree with my hon. Friend's other comments.


Q4. Sir David Steel : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 11 June.

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

Sir David Steel : Is the Prime Minister aware that there are some creatures who, when removed from their settled natural habitat, can turn dangerously unpredictable in their behaviour [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker : Order.

Sir David Steel : Since allowing them to wander freely abroad has caused some difficulty-- [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker : Order. Interruptions take up a great deal of time.

Sir David Steel : --has the right hon. Gentleman any proposals to extend the requirements for muzzles and leashes to the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher)?

The Prime Minister : As the right hon. Gentleman knows, every hon. Member has the right and the duty to speak their mind, and that is entirely proper.

Mr. Tony Banks : She never said that.

The Prime Minister : That is entirely proper, and it is a freedom which I propose to exercise myself.


Q5. Mr. Cyril D. Townsend : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 11 June.

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

Mr. Townsend : Now that Mr. James Baker's middle east peace mission has fallen into serious trouble, and given that the United Kingdom was the first sponsor of United Nations' resolution 242, would not this be a good moment for the United Kingdom and its European Community partners to start playing a far more positive role in the search for a lasting peace settlement to the Arab-Israeli dispute?

The Prime Minister : My hon. Friend makes an important point. We have played an important role in that process for many years, and it is right that, in the forthcoming peace conference, the European Community should play a leading role. I welcome the recent Israeli agreement that the European Community presidency should participate in the conference that will be held soon. That is a welcome advance.


Q6. Mr. George Howarth : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 11 June.

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

Mr. Howarth : If the Prime Minister is so confident about the Government's proposal on health service trusts, why is it that the Mersey regional health authority is keeping its expensively produced business plans for the second wave of opt-outs a secret? It will not even release them to Members of Parliament. Why can we not have all this information out in the open, have a proper debate on the subject and then a ballot? Let us find out what the people of Merseyside think.

The Prime Minister : I believe that there will be many opportunities for Mersey debates in the weeks to come and I look forward to those with great relish. Every reform of the health service has been controversial, but, in due course, each has proved to be irreversible and in the interests of the health service. Our recently introduced changes will follow the same course.

Mr. Norris : Will my right hon. Friend intervene in the local government review to look at a local authority in Britain where people wait eight weeks to have their bins emptied, where thousands of council houses lie empty and where kids have to run the gauntlet of a picket line to get to school? My right hon. Friend will know that this is not fiction ; it is Labour Liverpool under so-called moderate Labour control. If this is how the Labour party runs a city, how will it run a country?

The Prime Minister : I strongly suspect that the whole country will have observed how Liverpool has been run and drawn appropriate conclusions from that about how a Labour Government would work on a larger scale. Whether the Labour council is far left or moderate, it has done that great city no favours, just as a Labour Government would do this country no favours.


Q7. Mr. McKelvey : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 11 June.

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

Mr. McKelvey : Will the Prime Minister give some serious consideration to the plight of two brave but unfortunate young men in my constituency, Walter and Ian Baird, of the same family, who are 21 and 16- years-old and who have contracted AIDS through blood transfusion? Although a settlement of over £45,000 for the pair of them was agreed over two months ago, they have yet to be paid. Why is it that 10 per cent. of the payment seems to be held up in Scotland?

The Prime Minister : If the hon. Gentleman will give me precise details of the cases that he has in mind, I shall be happy to examine them and respond to them.


Q8. Mr. David Evans : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 11 June.

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

Mr. Evans : Will my right hon. Friend make sure that there are enough funds in the English Heritage budget to ensure that a certain building in the Walworth road is preserved, so that my children and grandchildren can not only read about the demise of socialism but can go and see where the last of the Bolsheviks are working, led by a leader who was a co-producer and director of a play called "Promises, promises"?

The Prime Minister : My hon. Friend makes his point as only he can.

Dr. Owen : Will the Prime Minister confirm that he is as determined to strengthen and enlarge the European Community as he is to prevent the emergence of a united states of Europe? Will he tell the European Community that positively negotiating and participating in those negotiations does not in any way surrender a final decision on the overall package to protect the best interests of this country, and that while the devil, as always, is in the detail, so can be the benefits, and that it will probably be December before we can make an overall decision on the package that is negotiated?

The Prime Minister : The right hon. Gentleman is entirely correct in his latter point and I strongly support his remarks about a wider Europe, which I believe should involve not only the EFTA states but, in due course, the eastern European states. I agree with him that negotiations on the two conferences are of vital importance to the future of this country. Whatever decisions are made may have a profound effect on our trade and well-being. I have set out often enough to the House that the economic case for monetary union has not been made, that we cannot accept the imposition of a single currency and that any proposed changes to the treaty of Rome--a move to a single currency--would require a separate decision by the United Kingdom Government and Parliament-- [Interruption.] If Opposition Members do not wish to hear about the important negotiating position of the Government, that is a matter for them. Against that background, I shall negotiate with our European partners for what I believe to be right for this country. It will then be for this House to decide at the conclusion of those negotiations whether it is content to accept them.