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1993 - PMQT 22nd June 1993

Below is the text of Prime Minister's Question Time from 22nd June 1993. Tony Newton responded on behalf of John Major.

PRIME MINISTER:

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Orme : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 22 June.

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 has been attending a European Council meeting in Copenhagen.

Mr. Orme : Will the Leader of the House explain why many people on invalidity benefit who have been assisting the very sick, poor and disabled and withdrawing from that voluntary work because of the fear that the Government will attack their benefits? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the most vulnerable in our society should not be made to pay for the failure of the Government's economic policy?

Mr. Newton : I know of no basis for the fear that the right hon. Gentleman describes. When I was Secretary of State for Social Security we went to some lengths to try to prevent that difficulty arising and we improved the therapeutic earnings rule, with which the right hon. Gentleman will be familiar. I am sure that my right hon. and hon. Friends at the Department of Social Security will be concerned to ensure that people on invalidity benefit who can do voluntary work while nevertheless fulfilling the legal requirements of the benefit are able and encouraged to do so.

Mr. Butcher : Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to congratulate my constituents and all employees of the Jaguar car company, in particular the highly skilled development engineers who so out-performed their foreign counterparts that they won the Le Mans 24-hour race? Will my right hon. Friend go further and tell people at large that there has been an improvement out of all recognition at Rover, Jaguar and all the other British car assemblers, and that there is now little excuse for buying a foreign car?

Mr. Newton : I very much agree with all my hon. Friend's points and I join him in paying tribute to Jaguar's achievement and the achievement of many other British car manufacturers in recent months in bringing about the large increase in car production which, had it gone the other way, we would have been hearing much about from the Opposition ; we hear nothing when it goes up. With the British car market now growing, while continental markets are plunging into recession, our industry has revitalised itself and is set to win.

Mr. John Smith : In view of the increasing and widespread public concern about large financial donations-- [Interruption.] --about large financial donations from foreign sources to the Conservative party, will the Government now introduce legislation to make such foreign donations illegal?

Mr. Newton : On the assumption that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is riding on the back of the absurd story in The Guardian today, perhaps I should tell him that, within the past hour or so, the Saudi ambassador to the United States of America, whose name was mentioned in that story, has issued a statement to the effect that all the allegations in the article are untrue and totally without foundation, that the meeting that is referred to did not take place, and that neither he nor anyone else connected with the Saudi Arabian Government has made donations to the Conservative party or been asked for such donations. Indeed, he is taking legal advice about obtaining a full retraction. [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker : Order. The House must come to order.

Mr. John Smith : Does not the Leader of the House understand that the Conservative party's difficulties arise because the party will not declare the sums that it receives from other people? As we are seeing what money the Conservative party has received, may I take this opportunity to ask whether it received funds from Mr. John Latsis and Mr. Li Ka-Shing?

Mr. Newton : In the right hon. and learned Gentleman's immortal words, he has put something else aside, as I understand it. [Interruption.] Let me tell the right hon. and learned Gentleman what I shall do : I shall start listening to his lectures on this subject when he tells me that he will bring to an end the position in the Labour party in which votes at party conferences can be bought, in which votes in the selection of candidates can be bought, and in which votes even in his election as leader of the party can be bought. [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker : Order. The House is in a very bad mood. [Interruption.] Order--all of you.

Mr. John Smith : Does not the Leader of the House understand-- [Interruption.] I know that the Conservative party wants to drown this issue out, but it will not succeed. Does not the Leader of the House understand that the public will have noticed that there has been no denial that Mr. John Latsis, Greek millionaire and supporter of the fascist military junta in Greece, gave money to the Conservative party? Does not he understand the simple and clear principle that it is wrong, and should be illegal, for a British political party to accept large sums of money from people who are not British citizens, do not live here, do not vote here, and are not part of our democracy? Why cannot the right hon. Gentleman understand that simple point?

Mr. Newton : What I understand-- [Hon. Members :-- "Answer."] --and believe-- [Interruption.] --to be a scandal is that a major financer of the Labour party can utter phrases like "No say, no pay." [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker : Order. I expect better behaviour, especially from the Front Benches.

Mr. Newton : The right hon. and learned Gentleman's dealings with the trade unions makes "Jurassic Park" look like a tea party.

Mrs. Browning : Is my right hon. Friend aware that, with the coming of the summer solstice, the west country is bracing itself for an invasion of new age travellers? Will he ensure that the Conservative party puts on the statute book whatever measures are necessary to ensure that those who opt for an alternative life style do so at their own expense, and not at the expense of the hard-working taxpayer?

Mr. Newton : My hon. Friend will know of the plans that the Government have set out, and of our determination to implement them. She may be relieved to note that, at present, most of the new age travellers seem to be on the Opposition Benches.

Madam Speaker : Mr. Seamus Mallon. [Interruption.] If the House were a little quieter, hon. Members could hear when I called them.

Mr. Mallon : Notwithstanding the importance of Volvo cars and inscribed watches, does the Leader of the House agree that the real moral test of any Government is their care for those in the dawn of life--the young ; those in the twilight of life--the aged ; and those in the shadows of life--the sick, the poor and the handicapped? Given the Government's predeliction for testing, would the right hon. Gentleman care to subject them to that test? Does he believe that it will show the abysmal failure that most people in the country perceive?

Mr. Newton : Given the improvements that have been made in the health service, in benefits for disabled people and in educational opportunities for young people, I think that the hon. Gentleman has a nerve to ask that question.

Mr. Pickles : Has my right hon. Friend's busy schedule allowed him an opportunity to consider the announcement

Mr. Skinner : The Leader of the House is on crack. Get another bed ready.

Madam Speaker : Order.

Mr. Pickles : Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Has my right hon. Friend had an opportunity to consider our right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary's recent announcement about trials of a side-handled baton for police officers? Does he agree that if the trials are successful, those who daily risk their lives on our streets will deserve our support? If the equipment proves good for the police, will the Government supply it?

Mr. Newton : I agree very strongly. As has been all too evident on some recent occasions, we ask our police to risk their lives for us every day, and they deserve the protection with which we can provide them. There is no doubt that the standard truncheon does not meet all the needs of modern times, and it is well known to us that police officers have been pressing for more effective alternatives. I know that they, like my hon. Friend, will welcome my right hon. and learned Friend's announcement that a scientific evaluation of the expandable side-handled baton will be undertaken to test its suitability for trials on the streets.


Q2. Mr. Vaz : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 22 June.

Mr. Newton : I have been asked to reply.

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

Mr. Vaz : During his busy day, has the Lord President of the Council had an opportunity to purchase an early retirement present for the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, the hon. Member for East Hampshire (Mr. Mates) ? [Interruption.] If so, will he reveal the words that he has had inscribed on the back of it ?

Mr. Newton : I am afraid that, because of the noise--I am not sure from which side of the House it came--I did not hear the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's question. Given the reaction, however, I doubt whether I need bother to ask him to repeat it. As for the first part, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made his views on the matter clear some weeks ago, and I see no reason to depart from them this afternoon.

Mr. Duncan Smith : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the successful management buy-out at Leyland DAF demonstrates that the Government--and, in particular, our right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade--were quite right to back a private solution to what was a problem ? Does it not also illustrate good, common-sense Conservative policies, as opposed to socialist dogma ?

Mr. Newton : Yes. The management buy-outs, first of the vans business in Birmingham and now of the truck business at Leyland, are very good news. They show what can be achieved by working for sound commercial solutions, rather than the preferred solution of Labour Members--offering open-ended subsidies. I believe that hon. Members on both sides of the House, whatever their political views, wish the management buy-out people well for the future success of those companies.


Q3. Mr. Jim Marshall : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 22 June.

Mr. Newton : I have been asked to reply.

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

Mr. Marshall : I half expected to receive a note this morning from the Leader of the House saying that he would link questions 2 and 3. I assume that before he did that, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) would also have to be in the frame.

Will the Leader of the House accept that although all hon. Members welcome the recent reduction in the unemployment figures, that should not hide from us the very high figures associated with structural unemployment in this country? Does he further agree that that high level of structural unemployment represents -- [Hon. Members :-- "Give way."]-- represents a reservoir of economic resources that this country should be using? If he does agree-- [Hon. Members :-- "Too long."] If he does agree, will he accept that the Government should be introducing an economic and industrial strategy to create jobs, not instigating a further attack on the residual welfare state?

Mr. Newton : May I observe in passing that I am not aware of any practice of linking questions simply because the hon. Members asking them come from different bits of the same city?

Somewhat to my surprise, I found myself agreeing with much of what the hon. Gentleman started with, although not with his conclusions. The Government's view is that the right way forward to tackle that important problem is to put in place the proper training schemes, which we believe we have done, and to create the conditions in which British industry can compete and sell its goods, as we manifestly have with the motor industry, which is very important in the hon. Gentleman's part of the country.