Biography Chronology Home Search Speeches/Statements

1991 - PMQT 18th June 1991

Below is the text of Prime Minister's Question Time from 18th June 1991.

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Pike : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 18 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. Pike : Can the Prime Minister define the term "Majorism"? Does it mean reducing inflation from the level that the Government have created? Does it mean increasing unemployment to more than 2.5 million? Or does it mean failing to invest in our manufacturing industry? What is Majorism?

The Prime Minister : The hon. Gentleman would be well advised to read the speeches that I made at Scarborough, Southport, Swansea and elsewhere. It involves extending choice and opportunity more widely, bringing quality to our public services, a strong economy with low or nil inflation, letting people spend more of their own money in their own way, maintaining firm defences and giving choice back to people, which is where it should be.

Sir Giles Shaw : Does my right hon. Friend agree that negotiating vigorously and directly with our European partners is the best way to arrive at a common approach to those political and economic issues that are in the best interests of Britain? Does he further agree that such an approach should be based on what is practical, realistic and evolutionary rather than engaging in rhetoric or working on a blueprint for federalism?

The Prime Minister : I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. A European super-state would not be acceptable to me or to the House--and in my judgment it would not be acceptable to the country.

Mr. Kinnock : Would the Prime Minister say that the large fall in manufacturing output over the past 12 months was evidence that his policies are working?

The Prime Minister : As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, the best possible future for manufacturing industry is to ensure that the economy has the lowest possible inflation and the prospect of growth again. That is where the prospects for manufacturing industry come from ; without that secure base, manufacturing industry would face problems for a long time.

Mr. Kinnock : Does the Prime Minister not yet realise that by keeping on with his high interest rate policies he is making his recession deeper and longer, and causing a permanent loss of capacity in British industry? What sort of preparation does he think that that affords for the completion of the single market next year?

The Prime Minister : The single market would not have come about but for the efforts of this Government, and there has not been a great deal of support from the Opposition. There are no good prospects for any part of the economy without low inflation. We are now delivering low inflation in a way that the right hon. Gentleman's policies never could.

Mr. Kinnock : At what point, then, will unemployment have increased enough, investment have fallen enough, enough companies have been closed and manufacturing output have fallen low enough to justify the Government cutting interest rates, which are the cause of the loss of capacity that threatens British industry?

The Prime Minister : The right hon. Gentleman's prescription is wrong. He will recall that on many occasions in recent months Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen have suggested that 1 per cent. off interest rates would make a material difference. We have had 3.5 per cent. off interest rates in the past few months--and inflation has moved towards half what it was some months ago--and the figures are still coming down.

Mr. Hayes : As this Government are the first in history to spend more on health than on defence, does not my right hon. Friend find it deplorable that the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook), in his keynote speech to the Confederation of Health Service Employees, personally attacked--

Mr. Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman has been here long enough to know that he must ask a question that falls within the Prime Minister's responsibility.

Mr. Hayes : Should not the country know that the national health service trust in Bradford means an additional £1 million in health care for patients, and that at Guy's hospital the trust means more patients treated? The minimum wage that the Labour party offers would starve the health service of £500 million.

The Prime Minister : I believe that my hon. Friend's strictures are all correct. There is an increasing wealth of good news about the activities of national health service trusts, and the second wave of trusts in due course will bring even more good news and better service for the patients in the national health service, which is our intention.


Q2. Mr. Maclennan : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 18 June.

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

Mr. Maclennan : Does the Prime Minister agree with the view of the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), propounded in Chicago yesterday, that a single European currency would take the heart out of the purpose of this Parliament?

The Prime Minister : If this Parliament believed that, it would not vote for it and it would not happen.


Q3. Mr. Quentin Davies : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 18 June.

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

Mr. Davies : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the example of Liverpool provides in microcosm the most salutary lesson of the consequences of a Labour Government?

The Prime Minister : I would most certainly agree. It is an illustration of Labour government in practice which I believe the country will observe and not like.

Sir Patrick Duffy : Is the Prime Minister aware that whatever pillars may be involved in the construction of the European temple, a defence pillar is not yet considered practical and workable within western alliance parliamentary circles and nor is it considered desirable in eastern Europe? Does he agree that nothing which might cut across NATO's rule or duplicate its military structure is desirable?

The Prime Minister : First, I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his well-deserved honour in the Queen's birthday honours list. I entirely agree that our defence interests are such that they must be based on NATO in the future, as they have been in the past. NATO has served us outstandingly well over the past 40 years and it will, I trust, serve us equally well in the future.


Q4. Mr. John Marshall : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 18 June.

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

Mr. Marshall : In the course of his busy day, will my right hon. Friend consider the consequences of the abolition of the dock labour scheme, which will lead to much greater activity in scheme ports such as Liverpool, giving them the chance to prosper again ? Is it not significant that those who were loudest in their objections to the abolition of the scheme are now silent in its defence ?

The Prime Minister : I will certainly consider the consequences of the abolition of the dock labour scheme, and I believe that they are very attractive. The House will recall that the abolition of that scheme was passed through the House in the teeth of opposition from the Labour party. Yet in Liverpool productivity has improved by at least 20 per cent. since the abolition of the scheme and will improve similarly elsewhere in the country. What we have seen in Liverpool, not only in the dock labour scheme but elsewhere, is the clearest possible illustration that the Labour party is locked in the past and has no place in the future.

Mr. Anderson : What is the Prime Minister's reply to those who argue that the Government's current troubles are due to indecisiveness at the very top ?

The Prime Minister : I can be wholly decisive and tell them that they are wrong.


Q5. Mr. Robert B. Jones : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 18 June.

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

Mr. Jones : Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Government will resist every attempt, whether from Europe or from the Labour party, to pressurise us to have a minimum wage ? Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in addition to the extra unemployment that it would create, it would particularly hit those who find it difficult to find jobs now, such as the disabled, women and ethnic minorities--a lesson which is understood by Mr. Eric Hammond, even if it is not understood by the leader of the Labour party.

The Prime Minister : I can give my hon. Friend a categoric assurance on that. The Labour party may continue with its policy of a minimum wage, but it has few friends left for it. As Mr. Hammond said just the other day :

"It would damage workers desperately and unless Labour can win the votes of such people, they will not win and will not deserve to." He is right on both counts. They will not win and they certainly do not deserve to.


Q6. Miss Lestor : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 18 June.

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

Miss Lestor : Bearing in mind the previous Prime Minister's commitment to give the highest priority to children's rights, as agreed at the summit last year, the Government's failure as yet to ratify the convention on the rights of the child and the almost daily reporting of the violation of children's rights in some form or another in Britain, will the right hon. Gentleman now give a pledge to implement the Gulbenkian recommendations to appoint a commissioner for children as the Labour party has pledged?

The Prime Minister : The hon. Lady should recognise that the Children Act 1989 is the best Act for the future of children that this Parliament has ever passed.

Mr. Tim Smith : In the light of a possible rail dispute, will my right hon. Friend have another look at employment legislation and, in particular, the possible introduction of measures designed to protect the consumer and the general public against strikes called overnight and at very short notice?

The Prime Minister : I shall be happy to do so.


Q7. Mr. Wallace : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 18 June.

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

Mr. Wallace : Has the Prime Minister yet had time to consider the letter sent to him last week by the chief executive of the Scottish Salmon Growers Association describing the present plight of the industry due to the dumping on the European market of Norwegian salmon? In the past, the European Community has been slow to deal with these matters. As the future of many businesses are at stake, what steps do the Government intend to take to inject some urgency into dealing with the crisis?

The Prime Minister : I understand the problem of the Scottish salmon industry, which we are examining at the moment in the light of the letter that we have received. I propose to discuss that matter with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and then I will reply fully.

Sir Robert Rhodes James : My right hon. Friend commanded great support and confidence for his policy for safe havens for the Kurds. Is he aware that some of us are becoming deeply concerned about the possibility of the abandonment of the Kurds? Would not it be a good idea if British politicians speaking to American audiences reminded them of their responsibilities rather than talking drivel about Europe?

The Prime Minister : First, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Sir R. Rhodes James) on his well-deserved honour bestowed in the Queen's birthday honours list. As my hon. Friend will know, our purpose in creating safe havens in northern Iraq was to provide immediate humanitarian relief in conditions of safety, and to create the confidence for the Kurds to return safely to their homes. I believe that had we not done so, many thousands and perhaps many hundreds of thousands of Kurds would have died. Happily, many of them have now returned safely home and the safe havens continue in being, for the purpose for which they were originally set up.


Q8. Mr. Alton : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 18 June.

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

Mr. Alton : In the absence of refuse collection services in some parts of Liverpool for the past three months, does the Prime Minister agree that it is scandalous that Liverpool residents have been sent bills for £70.99 for poll tax unpaid by other people in that city? Does he agree that that offends against every principle of natural justice and that, in connection with the new local tax, there ought to be a provision in law to ensure a right to redress in such circumstances for citizens hit in that way?

The Prime Minister : The hon. Gentleman points out yet another example of the sheer inefficiency of the present Liverpool council, and the way in which the people of Liverpool have been extremely badly treated as a result of its activities. Residents' bills in Liverpool are undoubtedly a good deal higher than they need to be because, as the Labour leader in Liverpool has admitted, it costs four times as much to pick up litter in Liverpool as it does elsewhere. The conclusion for the people of Liverpool must be obvious--no Labour Members and no Labour council.