Below is the text of Mr Major’s statement to the House of Commons on 6th May 1992 on the Loyal Address.
The Prime Minister (Mr. John Major) : I join the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) in congratulating my right hon. and hon. Friends on their excellent speeches this afternoon. My right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker) has, of course, starred in this debate before. In 1979, seconding the motion, he called for three things-
My right hon. Friend must be the only Education Secretary to have served in the artillery as an instructor to the Royal Libyan army. [Interruption.] It was in the early 1950s. Perhaps that experience was a good preparation for his later years. It certainly taught him over many years where to direct his political shot and shell, as we saw again this afternoon.
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) : Will the Prime Minister give way?
The Prime Minister : Among all his duties, as the right hon. Member for Islwyn said, my right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley has since 1980 found time to publish four anthologies. In view of the publicity given to those volumes this afternoon, I invite hon. Members to buy now while the stocks last. So good are they that I was tempted to make them part of the national curriculum. But my right hon. Friend's modesty in not doing so himself dissuaded me. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Mr. Mitchell) reads my right hon. Friend's books with as much pleasure as I do. There may perhaps be just one poem in them which he does not much care for. In "Unauthorised versions : Poems and their Parodies", my right hon. Friend included Chesterton's "Cider Song". This may well awaken unhappy memories for my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling. I understand that when he was at school he lost a mock election to the SDCP. It was not a forerunner of the party of the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown)-
Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley, my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling has experience of the armed forces, having served in the United Nations peacekeeping force in Cyprus. No doubt that will be invaluable experience if my hon. Friend ever joins my right hon. Friend's Whips Office. But I suspect that he may well be wary of such a posting after an early experience when he should have been in the House for a vote, was in the House for a vote, but could not be found by the Whips. A phone call from the Whips Office was made to my hon. Friend's home. My hon. Friend's wife was out. The babysitter answered and, as she told my hon. Friend on his return, "This strange man rang for you, but I had to put the phone down when he began to talk about whipping." I share with the right hon. Member for Islwyn congratulations for both my right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley and my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling on their speeches this afternoon.
For the first time since 1826, Madam Speaker, a Government have been returned to office for a fourth successive term. In the next five years we plan a reforming programme : a programme to return to people more control over their own lives; a programme to encourage and build up the private sector; a programme to improve public services. The Gracious Speech is but the first instalment of that programme in this Parliament.
Our programme is about trusting people and encouraging them to rise as fast and as far as they can to create, through their enterprise, the prosperity that enables us to take care of others. And we believe in empowering people : in giving individuals more power over their own lives, and the Government less power over people's lives. The power to choose-
Mr. Simon Hughes : Will the Prime Minister give way?
The Prime Minister : Later.
So we will widen choice and extend opportunity in education; in the workplace; in housing ; in transport. We will continue to reform all our public services, to make them more responsive to the citizen-
Before I turn to the legislative programme, let me mention other matters high on our agenda. I propose to make reforms at the very heart of government. We will sweep away many of the cobwebs of secrecy which needlessly veil too much of Government business. We shall shortly publish for the first time the full list of ministerial Cabinet Committees, with their terms of reference and membership. We shall make available to the House the guidance on procedure and the conduct of business that has long been sought by many right hon. and hon. Members.
I have also asked my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to identify other areas where there may be excessive secrecy and to carry forward the moves already under way, across Government, towards greater openness.
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) : Will the Prime Minister give way?
The Prime Minister : In a moment.
As part of this open government initiative the Government have concluded that the time has come to acknowledge publicly the continuing existence of the secret intelligence service. SIS is a service distinct and separate from the security service. It provides foreign intelligence and overseas support in furtherance of the Government's foreign, defence, security and economic policies. The chief of the SIS is appointed by the Foreign Secretary, in consultation with the Prime Minister, to whom he has direct access upon demand. He is responsible for the effectiveness, efficiency and security of the SIS and, in particular, for ensuring that information is obtained and disseminated only for the purposes that I mentioned earlier. The present chief of the SIS, the man colloquially known as "C", is Sir Colin McColl. We intend to introduce legislation to place the secret intelligence service on a statutory basis.
Successive Governments have not commented on matters relating to security and intelligence. The reason for that is clear to the House : it is difficult to comment without revealing, by what is or is not said, information that can have a bearing on the effectiveness and safety of the staff of these services. Therefore, I have deliberately distinguished today between acknowledging the existence of the SIS and commenting on operational information. That is a distinction which the Government will continue to maintain.
Mr. Simon Hughes : The Prime Minister has talked about the necessary accountability and openness of government-
Madam Speaker : Order. If the House comes to order, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will conclude his sentence.
Mr. Hughes : When will we have not only a classless society, but a properly democratic society as well?
Mr. Skinner : Some 82 per cent. voted against PR and the Liberal Democrats.
The Prime Minister : For once I can share common cause with the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). It may not happen all that often, which may be a comfort to both of us, but on this occasion I can share common cause with the hon. Gentleman. Perhaps I will leave it at that.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley set out clearly the difficulties that many countries in Europe are experiencing with proportional representation. Although I understand the concerns and feelings of grievance of the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), it is not in the interests of this country to have weak government and a Government unable to command a majority in this House.
Mr. Winnick : While I welcome what the Prime Minister has just said-
Madam Speaker : Order. Let us begin as we mean to continue. Interventions must be interventions. The hon. Gentleman realises they they must not be long speeches.
Mr. Winnick : I shall conclude my intervention, Madam Speaker. I am pleased to be able to raise this point.
Will the Prime Minister ask the West German authorities whether that person, who was undoubtedly involved in Nazi killings, can be extradited? If not-
Madam Speaker : Order. The Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister : I cannot comment in detail on the hon. Gentleman's point. He knows that that is the position. As I said a moment ago, I have asked my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to examine areas where we may be able to relax the present levels of secrecy. That examination should precede an announcement, but I thought it right to tell the House at an early stage that we intend to conduct that examination, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman is prepared to leave the matter there for the moment. I have already put in place reforms to the structure of Government. I have set up two new Departments that will affect the whole fabric of our national life. The citizens charter will be at the centre of the Government's decision-
Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-
The Prime Minister : If that is a job application from the hon. Gentleman, may I say that he lacks some of the necessary qualifications. However, I shall bear him in mind when we next have the occasion to meet at Stamford Bridge.
In gathering those responsibilities together in one Department under a Cabinet Minister, I wanted to demonstrate the importance which the Government attach to them and to provide a strong voice at the centre of Government to speak for the needs of our national culture and heritage. That heritage is woven from distinctive strands from all four corners of the United Kingdom. Union is not uniformity. So we will ensure that the individuality of all parts of the United Kingdom is respected. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales will, for example, be introducing a Welsh Language Bill this Session to strengthen the position of the language in Wales.
As I made clear during the election, the paramount importance of the unity of the United Kingdom and the union between Scotland and England is clear. I make no bones about repeating that. This Government stand firmly and four square for the Union. We want to see the ties between the two countries strengthened, not weakened, throughout this Parliament.
A great strength of our constitution has been its capacity to accommodate change-
Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West) : Just before the recent general election, when questioned in Scotland about the Scottish constitutional question, the Prime Minister said that he would take stock of the Scottish election result. At the general election, the Conservative party was rejected by three quarters of Scottish voters, who voted for parties committed to the setting up of a Scottish Parliament. If the Prime Minister refuses to accept that interpretation of the Scottish election result, will he do the decent, democratic thing and hold a multi-
The Prime Minister : The hon. Gentleman glosses over the fact that 62 per cent. of the electorate voted against the Labour party. We entered the last general election with the hon. Gentleman and many other Opposition Members suggesting that the Conservative party would lose seats in Scotland, would have no seats left in Scotland and would dramatically lose votes in Scotland. It increased votes, it increased seats and it increased influence, which is what it will continue to do in the months and years ahead. I undertook to take stock and see what we could do to make the Government more responsive to the needs of Scotland-
Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray) : I am grateful to the Prime Minister. He says that he believes that there should be changes at the heart of Government and that there should be increased accountability. Surely that should be reflected in his enabling and empowering the people of Scotland to express clearly their views on constitutional change. Why does he not envisage in the Gracious Speech and in the Government's programme such a democratic facility?
The Prime Minister : I think that, from every part of this country, the constituents send Members of Parliament here to this place to express their constituents' views on all matters. The voice of Scotland is represented on the Opposition Benches and on the Government Benches. In my experience in the House, the voice of Scotland has always spoken up forcefully in all parts of the House for Scotland's interests, which is the way that it should be. We will take stock of the present position in Scotland and then report back to the House. It is a matter of some importance and we will proceed with it. We are proceeding with it now, and when we have concluded, we shall report back to the House. We shall also continue our determined assault on the problems of Northern Ireland. The courage of the people of Northern Ireland is undoubted. They have the assurance that we shall not turn our back on their needs. Our overriding aim is to eliminate the evil of terrorism, and to do that we shall make progress on security, and in the social, political and economic spheres.
A further institutional reform is important to the whole House. I refer to the recommendations of the Committee chaired by my right hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling) into the procedures debated by the previous Parliament. But I believe that the present Parliament must also discuss them before decisions can be taken. Therefore, we shall make time available for debate and undertake further consultations. I believe, personally, that the time has come for some of our procedures to be reformed, although that is essentially a matter for the House.
Mr. Skinner : We are not going to give the right hon. Gentleman an easy time.
The Prime Minister : I would never expect an easy time from the hon. Member for Bolsover. Indeed, it would be very boring if he were to give anybody an easy time. I strongly suspect that the hon. Gentleman does not give his own Labour party Front Bench team an easy time.
Mr. Michael Jopling (Westmorland and Lonsdale) : Does the Prime Minister understand that his comments on the recent report on the sittings of the House by the Select Committee are most helpful and welcome? Does he recall that previous proposals for change, particularly the Crossman proposal 25 years ago, failed largely because they did not have the support of a broad band across the House? Does he remember that the recent all-
The Prime Minister : I believe that my right hon. Friend's points are well made. As I said, we shall consult interested parties on the matter and lay a debate before the House to take the collective view of hon. Members.
Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South) : May we take it for granted that the reforms that the Prime Minister has in mind in the light of the report of the Procedure Committee and of the idea of giving power back to the people will include scrutiny of the Government by a Select Committee on Northern Ireland, to be set up at the earliest possible opportunity?
The Prime Minister : That is one of the matters that we will consider, but I can give the hon. Gentleman no assurance this afternoon.
The Government were returned at this election because we spoke for certain great truths. George Bernard Shaw-
Mr. D. N. Campbell-
The Prime Minister : If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I have given way generously and I would like to make a little progress. I was referring to the freedom of people to keep more of their own money, to freedom from the fear of inflation and to freedom from state interference and the excessive influence of trade unions-
The Prime Minister : Some unions may not even bother to ballot their members. The right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) has recognised that inequity-
Now that the general election is over we see signs of renewed confidence. Business surveys have immediately reflected stronger prospects. The stock market has risen by over 10 per cent., and sterling has risen to DM 2.92. This week we made the ninth successive reduction in British interest rates since we joined the exchange rate mechanism. The latest cut in bank base rates has already led to a further cut in mortgage rates.
This renewed confidence in Britain flows from the economic policies that we laid before the British people, policies designed to encourage the creation of wealth in Britain and for Britain. We understand that without wealth there can be no welfare and without welfare we cannot discharge our responsibilities.
Later this month we will introduce the Finance Bill to enact outstanding measures from the Budget-
Mr. Canavan : Not again. The last one was rubbish.
The Prime Minister : It is worth having another. Like so many Conservative Budgets, this one once more delivered cuts in income tax. Every taxpayer will benefit, while nearly 4 million taxpayers on low incomes will pay tax at the new 20p rate-
The Prime Minister : I have given way generously-
Madam Speaker : Order. The Prime Minister has made it clear that he is not giving way.
The Prime Minister : The 20p band shows the way ahead to further tax reductions. We can steadily extend it up the income scale, so that, as and when prudent, more and more people pay income tax only at this lower rate.
Both the Budget and the manifesto made clear our determination to pursue the fight against inflation. Within the framework of the exchange rate mechanism and with the support of sound monetary and fiscal policies we have the opportunity to do as well as and better than our European competitors. Our aim is to restore to this country the security of stable prices, and our plans on fiscal matters are clearly set out in the Red Book.
The Prime Minister : I am surprised by the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question because he knows as well as any hon. Member that the plans about the change in the fiscal deficit are clearly set out in the Red Book. They are there for the House to examine. They were there before the election and they are there now, and we shall seek to stick to them until we have a balanced budget. The direction is clear. We saw the cyclical rise of the fiscal deficit during the recession, and as we come out of recession that deficit will begin to fall. We have made that entirely clear to hon. Members time and again.
Mr. Skinner : When will the books be balanced?
The Prime Minister : I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman. I have already dealt with that question but the hon. Gentleman clearly does not understand it.
We shall take forward the crusade against over-
We shall continue to encourage opportunity in a labour market, free of unnecessary restrictions, and we shall develop the reforms of industrial relations that have brought peace to the workplace. As set out in our manifesto, we propose to introduce legislation to increase the rights of ordinary trade union members, to require proper notice to be given of an intention to strike, and to give every user of public services the right to restrain the disruption of those services by unlawful industrial action. Never again should the people who depend on our public services be held to ransom by illegal strikes.
We shall also extend the benefits of privatisation. It has extended share ownership to millions who would never have dreamed of owning shares before. Millions of workers now own shares in their own industries, and all over the world other countries are now following our lead with those policies. Even the Labour party paid a grudging tribute to our success. Of course, that tribute was the dog that did not bark-
Privatisation is a great aid to efficiency. It has transformed many loss leaders into world leaders-
We now propose to return British Coal to the private sector, and we shall introduce legislation to enable the private sector to operate rail services and to encourage competition. At the same time, we shall safeguard the national network of services, and provide subsidy where necessary. We want to recover a sense of pride in our railways and recapture the spirit of the old regional companies.
Industrial relations and privatisation are crucial to our continued economic success. Equally, so is the quality of education. For too long, education reflected the views of professionals to the virtual exclusion of parents. For too long parents found the education establishment more difficult to break into than Fort Knox. In the last Session we changed that. Parents will now receive clear, consistent information about their child's education. Many people regarded that as outrageous ; astounding. The truly astounding thing is that it has not always been normal practice. Schools will be inspected once every four years and, under the national curriculum, children will learn a core of essential knowledge to meet the demands of adult life and the modern world.
In just over two years grant-
Mr. Bruce Grocott (The Wrekin) : Will the Prime Minister give way? My point is on education.
The Prime Minister : Our target is to raise standards, widen choice and open up opportunity for hundreds of thousands of children. We shall have a lengthy debate over many days. My right hon. Friend will be returning to this issue.
We also want more choice for local authority tenants and leaseholders. Under a new housing and urban development Bill, local authority tenants will be able to join a rent-
The Bill will also implement our manifesto commitment to create a new urban regeneration agency. Too much land still lies idle, especially in our inner cities. Idle land means lost hopes, lost opportunities and lost chances for people living there. The agency will bring vacant and derelict property back into use. It will bring more jobs, more wealth and more hope to our urban areas.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage will introduce legislation to create a single national lottery. Hundreds of millions of pounds will be raised to foster the arts, to encourage sport and to sustain our voluntary bodies. It will provide funding on a hitherto unprecedented scale. It will improve massively our arts and sports facilities. It will help to preserve our heritage and perhaps create new buildings for us to hand on to our children. It will help support the network of voluntary bodies of which this country can be so proud, and with which it is uniquely blessed.
During the next few weeks the House will debate the legislation that is needed to implement the agreement that we reached at Maastricht. At Maastricht, my right hon. Friends and I argued successfully for policies debated and agreed by the House. The House endorsed the results on our return.
Shortly after the debate on the Maastricht Bill we shall take on the presidency of the European Community. We face issues that are vital to the health of the Community and the interests of this country : completion of the single market, continued reform of the common agricultural policy, negotiation of the Community's future finances and the first steps towards the Community's enlargement. These are far-
It will fall to the United Kingdom also to manage the Community's relations with the rest of the world. No task is more important than developing our relationship with the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe. The west is now helping them on an unprecedented scale. Britain has led in successfully promoting Russian membership of the International Monetary Fund. We have won support for a stabilisation fund. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has played a crucial role in negotiating these measures to help the Russian reforms succeed.
The survival of fledgling democracy in the east must be the top foreign affairs priority of those of us in the west. It is partly for that reason that Britain has championed the enlargement of the Community. Austria, Finland and Sweden have already applied. I hope that they will join by 1995, and Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia by the year 2000.
One crucial element over the coming year will be European security. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence will enlarge on that issue later in the debate. We start with a system of defence that is built upon the continuing American presence in Europe. The Gulf war showed how crucial that presence is to the defence of our common interests.
Mr. Dalyell : Will the Prime Minister give way?
The Prime Minister : I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, but I wish to make some progress. Many other hon. Members are waiting to speak.
Increasingly, countries that join the European Community will also join the Western European Union, as the European pillar of a common defence effort; but, if the need ever again arose, it would be through NATO that the members of the WEU would defend themselves. Any European country joining the WEU will still look to NATO-
I was the first Head of Government of the Group of Seven to undertake to attend the Rio summit. I shall go backed by our commitment to the target of returning carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000, provided that others will do the same. We hope to sign global conventions on biological diversity and climate change.
We are continuing to work for agreement in the GATT trade talks. Too much progress has been made to allow the remaining gap to lead to a breakdown. These issues require constant management, constant vigilance and constant diplomatic effort. We shall need all the means at our disposal.
Mr. Dalyell : Is there not enough environmental destruction in the world already, without the possibility of yet more? Will the Prime Minister rule out any military attack on Libya-
The Prime Minister : No, I am afraid that I cannot accommodate the hon. Gentleman's wishes and rule that out.
Within the time available today, I have not been able to deal with all the plans that we have set out for this Session, but I have sketched in the majority of the most important. All those plans are geared to maintain a country that is respected abroad and has self-