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1992 - PMQT 4th February 1992

Below is the text of Prime Minister's Question Time from 4th February 1992.

PRIME MINISTER:

Engagements

Q1. Sir George Gardiner : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 4 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 be having further meetings later today.

Sir George Gardiner : Does my right hon. Friend agree that to suggest that there is one kind of school that can cater for the needs of all kinds of pupils is an example of the naive theorising that has caused so many problems in education, which we are seeking to address today? Will he continue to press for diversity in education through grant-maintained schools, through city technology colleges and through local management of schools responsive to parents' wishes?

The Prime Minister : I agree with the premise underlying my hon. Friend's question. We will certainly continue to encourage diversity through grant-maintained schools, CTCs and locally managed schools, all of which give greater opportunity and choice to parents and pupils. We will continue to offer that choice.

Mr. Kinnock : At the time when the Prime Minister said that if his policies

"were not hurting, they were not working,"

did he realise that those policies would cause the longest recession since the 1930s?

The Prime Minister : We have taken action to ensure that we come out of this recession in a way that will ensure sustained recovery. As the Governor of the Bank of England said only yesterday, "the conditions are now in place to underpin a sustained recovery."

Mr. Kinnock : Having caused the longest recession since the 1930s, does the Prime Minister agree with the words of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who said last month : "the policy would not have been different even if we had known the outcome."?

The Prime Minister : Caused the recession?--Did we cause it in the United States, in Sweden, in Japan, in Australia, in New Zealand ? If the right hon. Gentleman believes all that, he is certainly not capable of leading his party, let alone this country.

Mr. Kinnock : There is no question of doubt that this Government caused the recession in this country. Since the Prime Minister made the statement that I quoted, nearly 1 million jobs have been lost, there have been over 100,000 repossessions and 80,000 businesses have been lost, in those two years. This Government caused the recession, they continued the recession, and now they have not got a clue how to get out of the recession.

The Prime Minister : What the right hon. Gentleman has to say-- [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker : Order.

The Prime Minister : What the right hon. Gentleman has to say is economic illiteracy. If the right hon. Gentleman is genuinely concerned about recovery, what does he think that higher taxes would do to it ? What does he think that his jobs tax would do to it ? What does he think that his investment tax would do to it ? What does he think that his minimum wage would do to it ? The policies which the right hon. Gentleman pursues would mean perpetual recession for this country.-- [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker : Order. Will hon. Members please settle down ?


Chancellor Kohl

Q2. Mr. Hunter : To ask the Prime Minister when he will next meet the Chancellor of Germany ; and what issues he intends to discuss with him.

The Prime Minister : Chancellor Kohl and I are in frequent contact by telephone to discuss matters of mutual interest. I expect to meet him again soon, but I have no immediate plans to do so.

Mr. Hunter : Has my right hon. Friend noticed the extent to which the German economy has suffered from the worldwide slowdown and the fact that German output has decreased during the past two months for which figures are available? Does not that conclusively show that economic difficulties are not confined to the United Kingdom, as the Opposition try to claim?

The Prime Minister : My hon. Friend's question is more apposite than he might have imagined. He is entirely right. I have noticed that fact, even if the Opposition have not. Again, the Governor of the Bank of England noted yesterday that the recession has proved unexpectedly persistent in north America and that in continental Europe, Japan and elsewhere economic activity has slowed and unemployment has begun to rise. Only the Opposition adopt their typical stance. They ignore other countries' difficulties and concentrate solely on those in this country, to the damage of our interests.

Mr. Radice : After the two opt-outs negotiated by the Prime Minister at Maastricht, does Chancellor Kohl still think that the Prime Minister is a good European?

The Prime Minister : The hon. Gentleman had better ask Chancellor Kohl that question. I have enjoyed the closest possible co-operation with Chancellor Kohl in the past year and I intend to continue to do so in the same capacity in years to come.


Engagements

Q3. Mr. Lee : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 4 February.

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

Mr. Lee : The massive growth at Manchester airport since the Government have come to power--a 1,100 per cent. increase in fixed assets-- has given a tremendous boost to the economy and pride of the north-west. Indeed, the north-south divide has now ceased to exist as an issue. When my right hon. Friend next has a free Saturday, will he fly up to Manchester, look at what has been achieved by the airport, and then pop over to Old Trafford to watch a first-class football side in action? It will win the first division championship, just as my right hon. Friend will certainly win the next general election.

The Prime Minister : My hon. Friend will forgive me if I do not respond to one part of his question. Manchester airport, however, is a success story. It has benefited especially from the growth in the liberalisation of air services and, as a result, three times as many passengers now use the airport as when the Government came to office. That is a direct result of liberalisation introduced by the Government. The concept of a north-south divide was always too simplistic and sweeping. Many areas of prosperity and some of difficulty exist in each and every part of this country-- [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker : Order. Let us have less barracking.


Q4. Mr. Cohen : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 4 February.

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

Mr. Cohen : Is the Prime Minister aware that, in my constituency of Leyton, unemployment has risen by 84 per cent. in the past 18 months? As last night the Governor of the Bank of England backtracked over the duration of the slump, will the Prime Minister now institute an urgent programme of recovery? Failing that, will he explain to my unemployed constituents why the Government consider them a "price worth paying"?

The Prime Minister : Clearly, the hon. Gentleman was not listening a few moments ago when I quoted directly the Governor of the Bank of England saying that the conditions necessary to underpin a sustained recovery are now in place.

Mr. Allason : Will my right hon. Friend confirm that a review is to be undertaken of the use by the security and intelligence agencies of informants and other sources? When he receives that final report, will he bear in mind the fact that the security intelligence agencies rely on the use of informants, and the intelligence that they receive will never be any good unless a measure of protection can be granted to those sources?

The Prime Minister : We do, of course, constantly keep these matters under review and I believe that it is important that we continue to do so.


Q5. Mr. Winnick : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 4 February.

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

Mr. Winnick : Is the Prime Minister proud of the fact that since the Government came into office in 1979 nearly 2.5 million full-time jobs in manufacturing have been lost, 34 jobs for every hour this wretched Government have been in office? In view of the devastation, the unemployment and the misery caused to our people, is it any wonder that the Prime Minister is so reluctant to hold the general election?

The Prime Minister : The hon. Gentleman is joining the Opposition trend of seeking to talk down what manufacturing and other industries are doing. He should remember that export volumes of manufactured goods grew faster than in the United States throughout the 1980s, that manufacturing grew faster than in France or Italy during the 1980s, and that Britain exports a larger proportion of its national product than Japan, a point recognised by even the Scottish National party.

Mrs. Peacock : Will my right hon. Friend join me in sending congratulations to a Yorkshire manufacturing company, Spring Ram plc, which at the end of the month will open two new factories in my constituency, creating 400 new jobs, which is at present building two new factories in Barnsley which will create 400 new jobs, and which has a plan to create 1,100 new jobs in Bradford over the next four years?

The Prime Minister : I am delighted to send my congratulations to my hon. Friend's constituents. There are, of course, many other companies up and down the country which are similarly investing and growing, and laying the foundation for prosperity in the 1990s.


Q6. Mr. Carr : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 4 February.

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

Mr. Carr : Can the Prime Minister tell the House how he squares his vision of a classless Britain with the experience of a constituent of mine from Fulwood, who was told last May that she needed a hip replacement but that she would have to wait 14 months for the operation under the national health service, and who was told that she could have had the operation immediately had she been able to cough up £4,300?

The Prime Minister : There were no hip replacements available just a few years ago. It is now a relatively routine operation available in the national health service. Hip replacements are becoming more widely available month after month. That is the direction in which we must go to provide the best health service, the best opportunities and the best element of the classless society that I have talked about.

Mr. Norris : Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the last thing that business needs is for business rates to be brought back under the control of uncapped, loony Labour authorities who will send rates sky rocketing, as they did during the early 1980s? Will he give the House a pledge that such a crazy proposal will never be included in a manifesto issued by the Conservative party?

The Prime Minister : I can give my hon. Friend that undertaking. It is well known to every hon. Member that under the old system, councils could put up rates by more than the rate of inflation. They did and, among other evils, they forced many jobs out of inner city areas by doing so. Those who doubt that might remember the rate rise of Labour-controlled Ealing council of 57 per cent. in 1987. They might also recollect the wriggling of the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) on television the other day on precisely that problem. It would be a problem, he said. It would be a problem not just for the Labour party but for business men up and down the country.


Q7. Mr. Andrew Welsh : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 4 February.

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

Mr. Welsh : Since the Government have supported independence in Russia, Lithuania and other parts of the world, when the people of Scotland democratically and peacefully vote for independence, what will the Government say to them?

The Prime Minister : This Union has served both Scotland and England well, and I would not wish to see it undermined. The proposals of the Labour party, the Liberal Democratic party and the Scottish National party would undermine that relationship that has served us so well in the Union. Devolution is not just a matter for Scotland ; it is a matter for the whole United Kingdom. If an Assembly were given tax-raising powers, how would that fit in with the other fiscal arrangements? What would the increased taxation do to prosperity in Scotland? The hon. Gentleman should put a fair proposal before the Scottish people, not the half-baked one that he has made.

Mr. Gregory : Will my right hon. Friend-- [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman has not yet asked a question of the Prime Minister.

Mr. Gregory : Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Government will continue as the party of denationalisation, and confirm to the electorate of York that the Conservative party will not take away the shares of those who have invested in Northern Electric, British Telecom and other such denationalised companies?

The Prime Minister : I can give that assurance to my hon. Friend. The denationalisation programme has been good not only for the consumer, but for share owning and the improvement of both investment and wealth in this country. We believe in those propositions and we shall continue to support them.


Q8. Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 4 January.

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

Mr. Jones : I am sure that the Prime Minister will have enjoyed reading the Western Mail last Saturday, where he will have seen the results of a telephone survey showing that the people of Wales now support the setting up of a Welsh Parliament by a margin of four to one. When will the Prime Minister acknowledge that the aspirations of the Welsh and Scottish people cannot be sidelined for ever, and when will Parliament act?

The Prime Minister : I seem to recall that there was a referendum once before on devolution in Wales when there appeared to be a majority in favour. But the reality was that the referendum showed that there was no majority, and the people of Wales recognised that it would be in the best interests of their country and the United Kingdom to sustain the present arrangements.