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1992 - PMQT 24th November 1992

Below is the text of Prime Minister's Question Time from 24th November 1992. Tony Newton deputised for John Major.

PRIME MINISTER:

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Amess : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 24 November.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Tony Newton) : I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is attending a lunch-- [Interruption.] given by the Lord Mayor and the Corporation of the City of London to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the accession to the throne of Her Majesty the Queen-- [Interruption.] I understand that the Leader of the Opposition is also there.

Mr. Amess : Basildon now being regarded as the barometer for national and international opinion, is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a most favourable reading following the excellent autumn statement and the outcome of the settlement of the GATT round? Will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity to appeal to politicians of all parties to talk up this wonderful country of ours rather than so treacherously talking it down, safe in the knowledge that he bats for Braintree as I bat for Basildon?

Mr. Newton : I agree that, throughout the county that my hon. Friend and I have in common, the measures announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor and the achievement of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in relation to GATT have received a great welcome. I am tempted to extend my hon. Friend's alliteration by saying that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is batting for Britain, but in fact he is batting for the whole world economic community and it is time he was given credit for his success.

Mrs. Beckett : Is the Lord President aware that while the Prime Minister, desperate to have something to show for a lacklustre British presidency, has been scurrying around Europe talking up the prospects of a European growth package, in Brussels today the Chancellor has been steadily talking it down? Which of them speaks for the Government?

Mr. Newton : My right hon. Friend the Chancellor has been doing no such thing. ECOFIN, in which he participated, had a very important discussion yesterday directed to the growing concern about the recession in the Community and considered how, individually and collectively, the countries of the Community could work to improve the prospects of recovery on lines very similar to those adopted for this country in the autumn statement.

Mrs. Beckett : But are not the chaos and confusion arising because, even though 1,000 British jobs have been lost in every day of the United Kingdom presidency, the growth package, instead of being at the top of the presidency agenda where it should have been, is a half-hearted afterthought?

Mr. Newton : If there is any chaos and confusion, it is with Her Majesty's Opposition, who fought the election campaign on a programme which they have since acknowledged would have made the recession significantly worse, and who continue to advance measures- -a minimum wage, a payroll tax, the social charter--which would end all prospects of recovery.

Mr. Bates : Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating the employees of Nissan UK, who have achieved the European car of the year award for the British-built Micra? Does he also agree that that further demonstrates a transformation of the British car industry from one renowned for poor quality and militancy under a Labour Government to one renowned for high quality and high achievement, of which we can all be proud, under this Government?

Mr. Newton : Yes, indeed, and it is an achievement that I view with particular pleasure in view of the connection that I had with the economic problems in and around Sunderland some years ago. It is a major achievement for the new industries that we have brought to that area that Nissan has won the award for its car. It will form part of an achievement to which I look forward--that of this country becoming a net exporter of cars for the first time in many years.


Q2. Mr. Raynsford : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 24 November.

Mr. Newton : I have been asked to reply.

I refer the hon. Member to the answer that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Raynsford : Is the Minister aware of the report published yesterday by the Engineering Employers Federation, which highlights the urgent need for a strategy to regenerate Britain's industrial and manufacturing base, and its conclusion that the Department of Trade and Industry lacks both the competence and the commitment to achieve that? If the President of the Board of Trade is not going to intervene before breakfast, before lunch and before tea, will the Leader of the House urge the Prime Minister to do so when he gets back from lunch?

Mr. Newton : I have just referred to the achievements of an important part of British manufacturing industry, which is significantly more successful than it has been for many years and certainly more than it was under the administration of Opposition Members. If I ask anyone to read anything, I shall invite them to read the hon. Gentleman's recent article, in this month's Fabian Review about the Opposition, entitled, "Sleepwalking Into Oblivion?"

Dr. Liam Fox : Does my right hon. Friend welcome reports that the Germans will, after all, play a full role in the European fighter aircraft project, with all the implications that that has for British jobs? Does not that and the GATT round negotiations imply a triumph for the Prime Minister's quiet style of international diplomacy?

Mr. Newton : I believe that it does and, referring back to a previous question, it shows the efforts made by my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the President of the Board of Trade and my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence to advance the interests of British manufacturing industry.


Q3. Mr. Winnick : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 24 November.

Mr. Newton : I have been asked to reply.

I refer the hon. Member to the answer that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Winnick : Does the Leader of the House accept that it shows no lack of respect to the Queen to suggest that the full cost of restoring Windsor castle should not fall entirely on public funds? Will that be considered by the Cabinet, and can the Leader of the House tell us whether the Cabinet have ruled out entirely the possibility of the Queen paying at least some income tax on her vast investment income?

Mr. Newton : On the latter part of the question, I have nothing to add to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Cunningham) on 3 November. On the first part of the question, the position is well known. The fabric of Windsor castle is state property and has long been recognised as such. All that my right hon. Friend the Heritage Secretary said yesterday was in acknowledgement of that simple fact.


Q4. Mr. Riddick : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 24 November.

Mr. Newton : I have been asked to reply.

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Riddick : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the measures contained in the autumn statement to help industry, along with the recent reductions in interest rates, are beginning to provide that vital ingredient--confidence--among industrialists? Does he share my pleasure at the somewhat unexpected support for the autumn statement last Thursday evening--either out of incompetence, which seems likely, or out of conviction, which seems less likely--from Her Majesty's loyal Opposition?

Mr. Newton : I share my hon. Friend's view of the autumn statement's reception--not least its emphasis on capital programmes and the measures directed towards the housing market, to the release of local authority receipts, to capital allowances and to export credits. There is a long list of comments from people in British industry supporting those measures. I am bound to wonder whether the occupants of the Opposition Front Bench could produce a list of any length in support of what they have put forward.


Sheffield

Q5. Mr. Michie : To ask the Prime Minister when he next plans to visit Sheffield.

Mr. Newton : I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is making plans for a series of visits to all parts of the country-- [Interruption.] Wait for it! He hopes to include Sheffield among them.

Mr. Michie : I am sure that we can cope with that threat. Indeed, we look forward to the right hon. Gentleman's visit. Is the Leader of the House aware that we hope that, during that visit, the Prime Minister will go around Sheffield's housing stock in the public sector, which is in need of repair, rebuilding and refurbishment? Is the right hon. Gentleman further aware that it is to be hoped that, during that visit, the Prime Minister will display the same generosity in the provision of money to pay for repairing those houses as he has displayed towards Windsor castle, bearing in mind the fact that the tenants of those houses actually pay rent and taxes and that everyone's home is their castle?

Mr. Newton : I have already commented on the indirect thrust of the hon. Gentleman's question. With regard to help for Sheffield, the Government provided £26 million of assistance for projects associated with the student games.


Engagements

Q6. Mr. David Evans : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 24 November.

Mr. Newton : I have been asked to reply.

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Evans : Will my right hon. Friend send a message to the Prime Minister saying that we on the Conservative Benches have total loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen-- [Intervention.] and her Prime Minister?

When will the Asylum Bill become law? Is my right hon. Friend aware that 28 people were arrested for having 70 false identity cards? We know that the lot opposite could not care less whether the number was 700, 7,000 or 70,000--"Let them all in," they say--but the British people and I want to know when the Bill will be on the statute book.

Mr. Newton : The answer to the first part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question is that I shall take the greatest possible pleasure in communicating to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister my hon. Friend's great declaration of loyalty and the support that it drew, I judged, from both sides of the House.

The answer to the second part is that while I cannot give my hon. Friend an exact date, his question contained a message that I can also communicate to the Home Secretary, to urge him on in his efforts, and perhaps a message for Her Majesty's Opposition in terms of the importance that is attached to the passage of that measure.

Ms. Corston : Why has the Prime Minister, as President of the European Community, put Tory party unity before the needs of the EC in such a way that it has caused the French Trade Minister to describe the British presidency as the "most calamitous" that he had ever seen?

Mr. Newton : It is clear that, as a result of his presidency of the European Community in the past few months, my right hon. Friend has played a crucial part in achieving the GATT settlement that is now in prospect.


Q7. Sir Anthony Durant : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 24 November.

Mr. Newton : I have been asked to reply.

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Sir Anthony Durant : Does my right hon. Friend agree that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister deserves our support and congratulations for what he has done on the GATT round and that that has been an important achievement for most of the world, including the underdeveloped territories? Does he further agree that it would be wrong for a small group of French farmers to hold up that vital agreement?

Mr. Newton : My hon. Friend makes an important point. In congratulating my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, perhaps we should also recognise the contribution made by Mr. Andriessen, Mr. MacSharry from the Community, Mrs. Hills-- [Interruption.] It is right that we should recognise that the part played by my right hon. Friend has contributed to the efforts of others in an important way, including those whom I mentioned and Mr. Madigan from the United States. We have ensured that that negotiation now has a chance to reach a conclusion. I share the hope that my hon. Friend has expressed that it will not be frustrated by people in whose overall interests that agreement is.


Q8. Mr. Michael : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 24 November.

Mr. Newton : I have been asked to reply.

I refer the hon. Member to the answer that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Michael : Is the Lord President aware that the reply given to me yesterday shows that the level of aid to Somalia was less than during the years of bloody dictatorship under Siad Barre ? Will he undertake that the Government will at least restore total aid to the level of 1987 and meet Britain's historical responsibility to the people of Somaliland in the north?

Mr. Newton : I understand that the principal problem in Somalia is not the shortage of funds but the difficulty in distributing the aid that we are keen to provide. As the hon. Gentleman well knows, the aid budget for next year was effectively projected in the autumn statement.