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1993 - PMQT 11th February 1993

Below is the text of Prime Minister's Question Time from 11th February 1993.

PRIME MINISTER:

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Heppell : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 11 February.

The Prime Minister (Mr. John Major) : This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later today.

Mr. Heppell : Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the impartiality of Independent Television News is threatened by the appointment as its next chairman of Mr. Michael Green, a known Conservative supporter and Conservative donor? Or does the Prime Minister share the views of his predecessor and ask himself, as she did, "Is he one of us?"

The Prime Minister : No, I do not think that the impartiality of ITN is at all threatened by the appointment of Mr. Green, any more than I would question the impartiality of many programmes whose presenters may have one or other political opinion.


Q2. Mr. Pawsey : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 11 February.

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

Mr. Pawsey : Will my right hon. Friend join me in condemning the actions of one single militant teacher trade union which proposes to ballot its membership to boycott all tests [Interruption.] --Yes, all tests associated with the national curriculum? Will he also join me in saying just how damaging that would be to the education of the nation's children?

The Prime Minister : I agree with my hon. Friend about that point, and I thoroughly condemn the union concerned. I believe that it will be seen by parents as a concerted attack on the rights of pupils and their parents to know what progress the pupils are making in their education at their individual schools. I very much hope that the teachers of that union will reject the proposition put before them.

Mr. John Smith : Is it not a deplorable indictment of Conservative government that during the Conservative years crime has more than doubled? What action does the Prime Minister propose to take to protect our citizens from the crime wave that is sweeping the nation?

The Prime Minister : The right hon. and learned Gentleman seems to want to put the blame for everything on the shoulders of the Government-- quite apart from the view expressed by his shadow home affairs spokesman this morning. Let me illustrate for the right hon. and learned Gentleman some of the things that we have done. There has been the passage of the Public Order Act, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, both Criminal Justice Acts, the Prison Security Act and the Act to ban joy riding, every one of which was opposed by the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his party.

Mr. Smith : Has the Prime Minister noticed that, whatever he claims to do or to have done, the crime rate rises consistently year after year? Does he think it remotely tolerable that, according to the Government's crime survey, there are about 25,000 break-ins in this country every week? When will he do something about protecting our citizens from that?

The Prime Minister : I note that there was no pledge from the right hon. and learned Gentleman to support legislation that we brought forward in previous years or to support us in the future in dealing with crime. Crime has increased ever since the second world war, under all Governments. Our record in combating crime is comparable with that of other countries in western Europe. This trend has been seen year after year, but it is not a matter which can be dealt with just by legislation. I doubt whether any other Government would have provided for the police the resources that the present Government have provided. Certainly, no other Government would have sided with the victim against the villain in the way that the present Government have.

Mr. Marland : Is my right hon. Friend aware that last night Gloucestershire county council set a budget £10 million over its standard spending assessment? Does he know that Gloucestershire county council has debts of £25 million but has no plans substantially to reduce that figure? Does my right hon. Friend agree that plans should be made immediately to see that Gloucestershire county council seeks to reduce its debts so that money can be spent on education rather than on debt servicing?

The Prime Minister : I think that it is regrettable that any authority should set an excessive budget. We have made it clear that we shall not hesitate in any way to cap such budgets. It is open to local authorities to set new, lower budgets, and I very much hope that Gloucestershire county council will do so.


Q3. Mr. Barnes : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 11 February.

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

Mr. Barnes : I was interested in the Prime Minister's initial reply about his engagements for today, but what about his engagements for tomorrow? My Representation of the People (Amendment ) Bill seeks to put the missing millions back on the electoral register and to secure access to polling stations for disabled people. Will the Prime Minister be around tomorrow to vote in support of that measure, and will he bring his friends with him? I know that he needs all the friends that he can get nowadays?

The Prime Minister : I shall, in fact, be in my constituency meeting those friends.

Mr. Elletson : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the conviction of the IRA terrorist Jimmy Canning represents a real success for the security services? Will he join me in congratulating those services in putting that murderous thug behind bars?

The Prime Minister : I believe that that will be the wish of the overwhelming majority of people in this country. I am happy to congratulate both the Crown prosecution service and the Metropolitan police.

Mr. Ashdown : While the Vance-Owen plan extracts the very best out of the terrible opportunities left open to us in Bosnia, does the Prime Minister realise that this is not a peace of which either he or other western leaders can be proud? It is their failure which has resulted in a price being paid in the dismemberment of the Muslim community, the disintegration of a state which was recognised by the United Nations, and reward for the aggressors. Does the Prime Minister understand that while we must all hope for peace in Bosnia, our hopes for peace in Europe will depend on our learning the lessons of this miserable affair?

The Prime Minister : I regret that the right hon. Gentleman continues to take a wholly negative view of the enormous amount that has been done to seek a satisfactory peace in Yugoslavia. What is significant is the remarkable co-operation between the United States, the European Community and the United Nations in seeking to bring that conflict to an end. The best way forward, and the only credible way forward that has yet been found, is the Vance-Owen plan, which we strongly support. I very much welcome the policy statement from the United States Government earlier this week.

Mr. Moss : Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating the three councils in Cambridgeshire--East Cambridgeshire, South Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire--which recently announced a zero component for the district council portion of the new council tax? How is it that some councils can deliver a highly effective service to their taxpayers while others, such as Harlow, are gross overspenders? Could it be because the Cambridgeshire councils are not controlled by Labour?

The Prime Minister : I think that there are two answers. First, the councils are efficient ; secondly, they are not run by the Socialist party.


Q4. Mr. Illsley : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 11 February.

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

Mr. Illsley : Does the Prime Minister not think it scandalous that at a time when the Health Department budget has been put into the public sector spending review and when prescription charges are about to be increased by 10 per cent., the West Midlands and Wessex health authorities have been allowed to squander £67 million on renting luxury homes in London, on air travel, on entertainment and on corrupt computer deals involving former Cabinet Ministers?

The Prime Minister : I have no intention of commenting on the detailed points made by the hon. Gentleman. There are adequate ways of making sure that they are examined. As to the health budget and all other budgets, one reason for undertaking a fundamental review is to make sure that taxpayers' money is well spent and that it is spent first on those areas that most require the expenditure.

Mr. Allason : When my right hon. Friend undertakes his review of European regulations that are handicapping British industry, will he turn his attention to the tourist industry and consult the Torbay environmental health officer who requires every hotelier in Torbay to check, monitor and register the temperature of every deep freeze in every premises three times a day on penalty of prosecution? Is that not exactly the kind of daft regulation that we should get rid of?

The Prime Minister : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing that regulation to my attention. I will ensure that it is examined. There are many regulations that we could usefully manage without. The intention of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade is to identify them so that we can remove them.


Q5. Mr. Hutton : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 11 February.

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

Mr. Hutton : Is the Prime Minister aware that many health authorities and national health service trusts are currently being forced to cancel operations and close wards because of the inadequacies, and in some cases the mismanagement, of NHS resources? Is he aware, in particular, that in my constituency Roose hospital, which provides excellent geriatric care for elderly people, is being forced to close? Will he tell the House what measures will be taken to ensure that such hospitals stay open? How does he believe it helps health care for hospitals such as Roose to close?

The Prime Minister : The hon. Gentleman should bear in mind the increased resources for health authorities--spending of £36 billion this year and planned spending of more than £37 billion next year ; an increase in national health service expenditure by up to 57 per cent. ; and an increase in the number of people treated. The hon. Gentleman should be congratulating the health authorities and the health service on that remarkable record.


Q6. Mr. Raymond S. Robertson : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 11 February.

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

Mr. Robertson : Does my right hon. Friend agreed that it is the job of Government to attack cartels, cliques and vested interests--cartels in trade unions, cliques in Labour-controlled local authorities and vested interests that support the vast majority of Labour Members?

The Prime Minister : I strongly suspect that my hon. Friend has struck a sore spot. Every member of the shadow Cabinet is sponsored by a trade union, two thirds of the votes at the Labour conference are still wielded by trade unions ; they will not support our tests in the schools because that is what the National Union of Teachers wants, they oppose our reforms on health because that is what the Council of Health Services Employees wants, and they fight competitive tendering because that is what the National Union of Public Employees wants. There is no doubt whose pockets they are in.

Mr. Faulds : Has no one-- [Interruption.] Cheeky little pup.

Madam Speaker : Order. I recollect that "Erskine May" does not allow that sort of language.

Mr. Faulds : "Cheeky little pup" is a term of endearment, Madam Speaker. Has no one in government the simple intelligence to understand that the Cyprus-- [Interruption.] --rather, the Vance-Owen plan-- [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker : Order. The House must settle down.

Mr. Faulds : Bosnia is not a laughing matter-- [Interruption.] Those idiots on the Government Benches. Has no one in government the simple intelligence to understand that the Vance-Owen plan as now drawn up is unacceptable because it rewards Serbian ethnic cleansing and is in danger of creating a Palestinian-type situation within a quarter of a century? Will the Prime Minister for once listen to reasonable advice from America, and will he understand that that plan can become acceptable only if the Serbian aggression is held, if the danger to the Bosnian Muslims and their territory is removed, and if war criminals in Yugoslavia are brought to proper trial?

The Prime Minister : The hon. Gentleman has set out many of the matters which have been our policy for some time and were reiterated earlier this week by the American Administration--in particular, the point about war crimes. We have also supported--and others are now joining us in doing so--increased and hardened sanctions, particularly along the Danube, to put further pressure on the Serbs. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that the map is not yet a settled matter. Nevertheless, there have been very dramatic improvements towards peace as a result of the Owen-Vance proposals. We need to continue to pursue those, and to continue to put pressure on each of the combatants until they reach a conclusion which will be satisfactory, which can be policed properly and which can bring the dreadful conflict to an end.