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1993 - PMQT 9th March 1993

Below is the text of Prime Minister's Question Time from 9th March 1993.

PRIME MINISTER:

Engagements

Q1. Sir Roger Moate : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 9 March.

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 Roger Moate : Does my right hon. Friend agree that to sign up to the social chapter would inflict incalculable damage on British business and hold back economic recovery? Will he confirm that he will continue to resist the social chapter and can I tell him that in doing so he certainly has my support and should have the support of everyone on this side of the House?

The Prime Minister : I agree with my hon. Friend about that. The social chapter would be bad for Britain. It would damage British industry, choke off foreign investment and destroy jobs. I have to say to the House that delay in ratifying the Maastricht treaty would do exactly the same thing. The treaty is in the national interest and we shall pursue it. We want to be inside Europe and outside the social charter.

Mr. John Smith : Bearing in mind the widespread support for the Committee of the Regions to be composed of elected representatives, including support for that proposition from the Tory-controlled local authority associations, what on earth did the Prime Minister think he was doing in opposing an amendment that any real democrat should have supported?

The Prime Minister : It was a very bad amendment and it was a very bad amendment for this reason : we made it perfectly clear in the debate that we are not against the inclusion of elected local government representatives, but there are others, including business men, who could add value to its work. That would add an element of flexibility and other partners in Europe have come to similar conclusions. Only Holland and Greece have so far made their nominations to the committee and neither of those countries has confined its membership to elected representatives.

Mr. John Smith : Does not the Prime Minister understand that it was his own foolishness and obstinacy which led him to oppose an amendment which, if he had an ounce of judgment, he could have accepted months ago?

The Prime Minister : The reason why the right hon. and learned Gentleman this afternoon takes that view is quite clear. He is embarrassed that he has neglected his principles yet again on this Bill. I will tell the right hon. and learned Gentleman what this country cannot afford : the lost jobs, the lost investment and the lost influence that would be put at risk if we were seen to turn our backs on this treaty and our place in Europe, as he and his vote last night indicate that he would do.

Mr. John Smith : Is not the right hon. Gentleman a fine one to talk about delay, when he promised the hon. Member for Great Yarmouth (Mr. Carttiss) that Third Reading would be delayed until the Danish referendum? Is not the painful truth for the Prime Minister that far from being stabbed in the back, as he complains he has been, he has shot himself in the foot?

The Prime Minister : The right hon. and learned Gentleman has said one thing and done another on Europe time after time and in this country and, in Europe, no one will ever trust him again on this issue.

Mr. Quentin Davies : Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to congratulate the police on their superb achievement in finding a major hoard of Semtex and in making a number of connected arrests? Does he agree that the defence of society against murder by terrorists is a responsibility of every man and woman and every citizen--including Labour party Members, who until now have continually refused to support the prevention of terrorism Act?

The Prime Minister : As my hon. Friend knows, the Labour party will soon have the opportunity to improve on that record. The Opposition have now voted against the prevention of terrorism Act on 11 occasions. Unless they vote with us tomorrow on that Act they should pipe down on crime for good.


Q2. Mr. Welsh : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 9 March.

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

Mr. Welsh : Is the Prime Minister aware of the devastation caused by water cut-offs to tens of thousands of individuals and families in England and Wales? Will he guarantee that there will be no change in Scots law to allow any such domestic cut-offs in Scotland, particularly as part of any Tory plans to steal, privatise or franchise Scottish water? [Interruption.] It is obvious that this lot do not care, judging by the noise that they make, but we do.

The Prime Minister : I can give the hon. Gentleman no comfort on that point. Privatisation means a better, more efficient service for the consumer and no more subsidies from the taxpayer. I have no reason to doubt that water privatisation in Scotland will be effective and efficient, as elsewhere.

Mrs. Peacock : Is my right hon. Friend aware that in 1992 the United Kingdom clothing industry exported goods worth £2.25 billion, an increase of 8.5 per cent? Is not that a fine example of our first quality manufacturing industry?

The Prime Minister : I agree with my hon. Friend about that. There is no doubt that the clothing industry and many other manufacturing industries have dramatically increased their exports, not least as a result of the changed economic climate and the changed management structures in so many companies.


Q3. Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 9 March.

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

Mr. Hinchliffe : Does the Prime Minister consider that there is any connection between the prevailing values of the nation and the prevailing values of the Government? Is not there a clear connection between record levels of crime and social breakdown and this Government, who have consistently, in every policy since 1979, appealed to personal selfishness, personal greed and looking after number one?

The Home Secretary talks about dealing with nasty pieces of work. Is not it true that this country has been run by some nasty pieces of work for the past 14 years and that we are now having to deal with the social consequences?

The Prime Minister : In the 1980s the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends blamed affluence for crime. These days they tend to blame unemployment for crime. When, if ever, will they blame the criminal, who is truly responsible?

Sir George Gardiner : Is my right hon. Friend aware that, apart from Maastricht, he enjoys the united support of this party for the Asylum Bill ; the Education Bill ; the Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights Bill ; the National Lottery etc. Bill ; with one exception, the Railways Bill ; the Chancellor's autumn statement ; and his leadership?

The Prime Minister : My hon. Friend is right to point to huge areas of agreement and to the enormous extent to which this year's parliamentary programme has already passed through this House and is in another place. I look forward to completing the rest of our programme, including the European [small section missing].


Communities (Amendment) Bill.

Q4. Mr. Chisholm : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 9 March.

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

Mr. Chisholm : Will the Prime Minister give a categorical assurance that, whatever else he may try to impose on the Scottish people, he will never seek to change the law which makes the obscenity of water privatisation illegal in Scotland? Will he also give an assurance that he will do not deals on that or any other issue with the Scottish National party? If he does, may we have a copy of the letter, as happened last night?

The Prime Minister : I must say that when a really substantial deal was done between the Labour party and minority parties, it was in 1970 and it was done by the right hon. and learned Gentleman who is now the Leader of the Opposition.

As far as water privatisation is concerned, I made my view clear a few moments ago and it will remain as I stated it.


Q5. Mr. Faber : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 9 March.

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

Mr. Faber : Has my right hon. Friend seen the latest Institute of Directors survey, which shows that optimism among business directors about the future of their companies is now at an all-time high since August 1988? Does he agree that that is encouraging news for economic recovery and shows that confidence is returning to businesses, despite the best efforts of Opposition Members to talk Britain down?

The Prime Minister : My hon. Friend is right and the number of Opposition Members who were scoffing at the good news he just set out illustrates his point more clearly than anything else. The Institute of Directors survey comes on top of an optimistic survey by the CBI-- [Interruption.] Opposition Members may not like that, but it is true. They do not want to know that retail sales rose 1.4 per cent. in January, that car registrations were up 16 per cent. in February and that housing starts and completions are up. They know that good news for the country is bad news for them.

Mr. Garrett : Is not it the hallmark of a discredited Prime Minister always to say that anybody who criticises him or his policies is unpatriotic?

The Prime Minister : Only when it is untrue.


Q6. Mr. Jacques Arnold : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 9 March.

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

Mr. Arnold : Is not the decision of the Home Secretary to publish league tables of the relative performances of our police forces welcome, not least at a time when the Government are spending more than ever on the police and when there are more policemen on the streets? Surely the ordinary citizen is entitled to know the relative performance of his local police force.

The Prime Minister : I believe that he is so entitled and we intend to ensure that he can. I hope that hon. Members in all parts of the House will support that and I hope that Opposition Members will not fight the right to give more information to the public in the way they have fought every other right to give more information to the public. They are in favour of freedom of information only in the abstract, not in the reality.


Q7. Mr. Rooney : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 9 March.

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

Mr. Rooney : Is the Prime Minister aware that tomorrow it will be 22 weeks since the President of the Board of Trade promised to intervene before breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner? In view of his absolute lack of intervention in those 22 weeks, are we to assume that he has been on hunger strike, or has there been a military coup?

The Prime Minister : I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has been asleep for 22 weeks. Let me remind him of some of the things that have happened. There has been the autumn statement, increased capital allowances, the abolition of car tax, maintained capital expenditure, a low inflation rate, low interest rates, competitive exchange rates, pushing towards an agreement on GATT and a large number of tours abroad to sell British business. Where has the hon. Gentleman been that he has missed every one of those things?


Q8. Mr. Duncan-Smith : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 9 March.

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

Mr. Duncan-Smith : Has my right hon. Friend noticed the reports that the Holland Park school, one-time flagship of trendy 1960s educational teaching, has now started to change tack? Will he contrast that with the support it is now giving to the excellent educational reforms which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education is pushing through against the rubbishy education policies coming from the Opposition?

The Prime Minister : I have not seen that report, but I certainly very much welcome it. There is growing recognition that the damaging and discreditable theories of the 1960s so admired by the Opposition belong in the history books, but certainly no longer belong in the classrooms. Even the pioneers of those theories recognise that and I hope that soon everyone will acknowledge it.