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1993 - PMQT 2nd February 1993

Below is the text of Prime Minister's Question Time from 2nd February 1993.

PRIME MINISTER:

Engagements

Q1. Ms. Lynne : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 2 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.

Ms. Lynne : Will the Prime Minister confirm that he is aware of the case of my constituent Stefan Kiszko, who was wrongfully imprisoned for 16 years for the murder of Lesley Molseed? An inquiry is being conducted by the Lancashire police into the investigation of the case by the West Yorkshire police. Will the right hon. Gentleman give a personal commitment that when that inquiry is completed, the full facts will be made known to Stefan Kiszko and his mother and to the relatives of Lesley Molseed so that they will at long last know why there was a miscarriage of justice?

The Prime Minister : I am aware of that distressing case and I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving me notice that she would raise that specific point. As she will know, the then Home Secretary acted to refer the case to the Court of Appeal as soon as he had received and considered the results of the police inquiry that he had ordered. As a result of that, Mr. Kiszko's conviction was quashed. The Home Secretary has agreed that compensation should be paid to Mr. Kiszko. I shall ask my right hon. and learned Friend to pursue with the police--whose responsibility it is--the question of publishing information about the case with the objective of publishing as much information as possible, subject of course to the need to avoid prejudicing criminal proceedings.


Q2. Dr. Liam Fox : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 2 February.

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

Dr. Fox : Is my right hon. Friend aware that the news that Oman has ordered 36 Challenger tanks and Saudi Arabia 48 Tornado jets is extremely welcome, especially in the west country, where many jobs rely on the defence industry? Is he further aware that the chairman of British Aerospace has said that those deals would not have been concluded had it not been for the direct intervention of my right hon. Friend?

The Prime Minister : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for those comments. Those successes by British companies show precisely what British exporters can achieve and underline the importance of the partnership between the Government and business and industry. The orders and other business concluded during my visit to India are worth literally billions of pounds and will sustain about 20,000 jobs in this country. They also reflect the close relationship between this country and the other countries concerned. But one of the most important aspects of such visits is not necessarily the business gained on that occasion but the opportunity for business that may result in the future.

Mr. John Smith : Does the Prime Minister consider it to be satisfactory that many economic commentators regard the Sunday Times as a more credible guide to Government economic policy than his Chancellor of the Exchequer?

The Prime Minister : Unlike the right hon. and learned Gentleman, I shall deal with realities-- [Interruption.] It may be that many people would like to find divisions between my right hon. Friend and me, but there are none.

Mr. John Smith : Does the Prime Minister read the newspapers in which city commentators say, and I quote one :

"It comes down to a question of whether people believe the Government or the Sunday Times. Frankly, they believe the Sunday Times."?

How can people be expected to comprehend Government intentions when the Government and No. 10 deliberately brief the press to undermine the Chancellor on Saturday and then on other days go into reverse because of the damage done to the economy? Is it not the case that the right hon. Gentleman supports his Chancellor in public while undermining him in private, just as his predecessor did?

The Prime Minister : The right hon. and learned Gentleman is clearly in the business of mischief-making, but he is wasting his time. My right hon. Friend and I are not going to be pushed around by that sort of remark. My right hon. Friend has cut inflation to 2 per cent ; has continued our tax reforms ; has introduced an autumn budget which was widely welcomed by business and industry ; and has cut interest rates to 6 per cent. That is a record which he can be proud of and which I fully support. It is the essential prerequisite for growth, and the fact that it has been achieved is largely due to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor.

Mr. John Smith : Despite the Prime Minister's bluster, is it not clear that the events of last weekend show once again that we have a Chancellor with no credibility and a Government with no economic policy? Does the Prime Minister not appreciate that the people of this country, who face increasing recession and rising unemployment, are appalled to see the Prime Minister and the Chancellor behaving like two ends of a pantomime horse?

The Prime Minister : I am astonished that the right hon and learned Gentleman should say that, in view of what his hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould), said only yesterday about Labour's recent budget for jobs. He said that it is

"already sinking without trace as virtually all of Labour's economic policies have sunk without trace in recent years" When the right hon. and learned Gentleman was shadow Chancellor he said :

"The Opposition will not be satisfied until interest rates in this country are roughly equivalent to interest rates in other competitor countries in the European Community".

Now our interest rates are below those of other countries and the credit for that goes to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor.


Q3. Mr. Carrington : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 2 February.

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

Mr. Carrington : Does my right hon. Friend recall that when he kept Britain out of the social chapter President Jacques Delors accused him of having made our country a paradise for foreign investment? Has the decision by Hoover to move its factory from France to Britain proved that Jacques Delors was right in what he said and that my right hon. Friend was quite right in what he did?

The Prime Minister : I do agree with that reported quote by Mr. Delors. I also agree with the union leader, Mr. Airley, who in a newspaper article in the last few days said :

"We have secured one of the best pieces of news we have heard on the Scottish industrial front for many years."

I agree with him about that. The fact is that industry will locate where it can be most efficient and most competitive. No one compelled our partners to sign up for the social chapter and they were amply warned by me and by others of the consequences if they did so. The social chapter adds to costs, destroys jobs and destroys competitiveness. That is what the Labour party would sign up to. It was vital that we stayed out of the social chapter. We did. We have done. We shall continue to do so.


Q4. Mrs. Anne Campbell : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 2 February.

The Prime Minister : I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave some moments ago.

Mrs. Campbell : Will the Prime Minister tell the House what advice he will give to the 1,200 small businesses that went bust last week, including that of his constituents Doug and Eileen Belcher who run the post office in Great Stukeley and delivered the Prime Minister's newspapers until they went bust?

The Prime Minister : As the hon. Lady would know if she had her facts straight-- [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker : Order. Will hon. Gentlemen resume their seats.

The Prime Minister : I would say to the hon. Lady that what is needed to make those small businesses grow is precisely the economic ingredients of low inflation and low interest rates which we have now produced in this economy. What would destroy those jobs is the social chapter and the additional imposts that the Labour party would place on small, medium and large businesses.

Mr. Willetts : There are more than 7,000 regulations affecting businesses in this country. Is my right hon. Friend aware of the widespread support for his initiative to cut back on red tape which is essential for small businesses and consumers, and can he assure the House that progress was made on that subject at his meeting this morning ?

The Prime Minister : Yes, I can assure my hon. Friend that progress was made on that this morning. I met colleagues from every Government Department, and we have agreed a way in which to examine each and every one of 7,000 individual Government regulations. We agreed that in future any proposal for new regulations will have specifically to spell out the cost to British companies. It is a huge task to review the regulations, but it is necessary and it is very much in the interests of British business and the creation of jobs that we do so.


Q6. Mr. Bayley : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 2 February.

The Prime Minister : I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Bayley : Three weeks ago when the pound stood at 2.51 deutschmarks, the Prime Minister said, and I recall his exact words, that Britain had the right exchange rate for recovery. Now that the exchange rate is 2.38 deutschmarks, will the Prime Minister tell us what has gone wrong ?

The Prime Minister : The hon. Gentleman clearly fails to notice what has been happening. He failed to notice the CBI survey that showed business confidence at its highest level for five years, he overlooked the 3i survey that showed a big increase in optimism in small and medium-sized firms, and he failed to notice also the change in the inflation rate and interest rate that are the essential prerequisite for sustained growth with low inflation in this country.


Q7. Mr. Hague : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 2 February.

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

Mr. Hague : Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the greatest contributions that the House can make to the success and enterprising spirit of British industry is to do away with as large a number of petty restraints and regulations as possible ? Will he reaffirm that objective, notwithstanding the preference for still more obstacles to business shown by the Opposition ?

The Prime Minister : My hon. Friend is entirely right and he implicitly spells out one of the differences between the two sides of the House. This side believes in cutting burdens on business and the Opposition side believes in adding burdens to business.


London Transport

Q8. Mr. Corbyn : To ask the Prime Minister what further plans he has to meet any representatives of users of London underground trains and London buses.

The Prime Minister : Ministers in the Department of Transport and their officials frequently meet representatives of users of public transport in London.

Mr. Corbyn : Will the Prime Minister take this opportunity to look at the problems of London's transport and recognise that the people of London do not want to see their bus service deregulated? They want investment in the underground service rather than the cancellation of the capital programme. They want cheaper fares so that less pollution should occur in the air of London and much less congestion on its roads. Will he now intervene to restore a decent public transport system to our capital city?

The Prime Minister : As the hon. Gentleman will know, the Government are providing finance of close on £1 billion a year for London transport over the next three years--more than in any recent year. As far as London buses are concerned, we are fully committed to the privatisation of London bus subsidiaries, starting later this year, followed by deregulation as soon as legislation permits. We propose to do so because it will provide bus users with the benefits of competition from private operators keen to serve the market more efficiently than nationalised industries have done.

Mr. Budgen : While my right hon. Friend is identifying the reasons for the better prospects for the British economy--

Madam Speaker : Order. The question is a closed question. It has to relate to London transport.

Mr. Budgen : --in particular, the prospects for the buses in London, could he not also find time to say a kind word for the speculators and all those who took us out of the exchange rate mechanism on 16 September?

The Prime Minister : I am not sure that many of those speculators would have used London transport.


Engagements

Q9. Mr. Gunnell : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 2 February.

The Prime Minister : I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Gunnell : The Prime Minister will have noted that each time that his Chancellor lowers interest rates, the banks and building societies pass on a lower percentage to their customers and, therefore, increase their margins. What does the Prime Minister plan to do about that? Is it that his relationship with the banks is not cosy enough, or is it too cosy?

The Prime Minister : As far as the building societies and many of the banks are concerned, the hon. Gentleman is not accurate about the reduction in interest rates during the past few months. There has been concern about whether sufficient of the interest rate reductions have been passed on and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has been in touch with the Governor of the Bank of England and with the chairmen of the main banks in the United Kingdom. I think that the hon. Gentleman is aware of that dialogue.