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1993 - PMQT 21st October 1993

Below is the text of Prime Minister's Question Time from 21st October 1993. Tony Newton responded on behalf of John Major.

PRIME MINISTER:

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 21 October.

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 is attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Cyprus.

Mr. Hinchliffe : Bearing in mind that deregulation will be the central plank of Government policy in the new Session of Parliament, will the Leader of the House comment on the case of my constituent Mr. Raymond Townend, who was killed while working on a resurfacing project on the M62 when he was knocked over by a lorry earlier this year? Is the Leader of the House as surprised as I was to learn that the lorry which reversed over Mr. Townend was not required by law to have reversing lights, to have a reversing alarm or to have the manoeuvre supervised by a person other than the driver? Can the Leader of the House understand why Mr. Townend's widow and four children are less than impressed by the Government's theme of deregulation and want more regulation to avoid such tragedies in future?

Mr. Newton : I am sure, first of all, that the whole House will recognise the seriousness with which the hon. Gentleman has made that point, and will understand why he felt it right to raise it, in view of what happened to his constituent, and we extend our sympathy. While he is right to say--and I believe that the Government are right--that the Government are to make deregulation a central plank of their policies for the period ahead, there is no question whatever of that policy extending to the removal or reversal of necessary protection for the safety of people.

Mrs. Angela Knight : Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that, if young thugs are old enough to break into homes and punch pensioners, they are old enough to be locked up?

Mr. Newton : I very much agree with my hon. Friend. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary's proposals in that respect have drawn support from all round the country. As the House will be aware, he has announced plans for secure units for 12 to 14-year-old persistent offenders and to increase the possible maximum sentence for 15-year-old offenders. I repeat, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has repeated, that we put the protection of the public first.

Mrs. Beckett : Does the Lord President accept that national insurance contributions are a tax on income--yes or no?

Mr. Newton : National insurance contributions, as the right hon. Lady, who is a former social security spokesman, knows perfectly well, are part of the national insurance scheme which relates to the entitlement of benefits established by the Labour Government in 1948.

Mrs. Beckett : Is the Lord President denying that national insurance contributions are a tax on income, yes or no?

Mr. Newton : National insurance contributions are the means by which people obtain entitlement to certain benefits, including, most notably, retirement pensions. The level of contributions is related to the demands on the fund, and the demands on the fund include the Government's policies to increase pensions in the way that we have over the past few years.

Mrs. Beckett : Is not it a fact that there is no effective difference between a 1p in the pound increase in income tax and a 1p in the pound increase in national insurance contributions when it comes to the effect on the pay packet? Next April, the Government, and all those now making a noise from the Government Back Benches who voted for it, are putting up both taxes on income and spending and do not have the guts to admit it.

Mr. Newton : There is a clear difference, which the right hon. Lady has obviously missed in what I have already said : national insurance contributions are related to the provision of an entitlement at a later stage. I shall say to her--and she knows it very well--that there would have been a whole lot less difference if the policies advocated by the Opposition Front Bench at the last election had been put into force and the upper earnings limit had been scrapped, because then it would have been the same as income tax.

Mr. Shersby : Will my right hon. Friend join me in extending the sympathy of the whole House to the family of police constable Patrick Dunne, who lost his life last night defending the lives of the people of London? Will he discuss with my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary ways in which the Metropolitan police, and indeed every other police force in this country, can be made more secure in carrying out their difficult and dangerous job? Does he agree that every police officer in this country does not have a job for life, but they frequently give their life for the job?

Mr. Newton : The reaction of the whole House will show that everybody heard with deep regret of the death of police constable Dunne in south London last night. Everybody will share my hon. Friend's outrage that a community constable should be shot dead in that fashion while going about his duty in a way that we take for granted. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, who, happily, is close to me at this moment, will have heard what my hon. Friend said and will wish to respond appropriately.

As my hon. Friend knows, a large number of measures have already been set out by my right hon. and learned Friend, which have been warmly welcomed by the chairman of the Police Federation as being exactly on the right lines to improve the fight against crime. The House will also be pleased to know that I understand that three arrests have been made in connection with that crime.


Q2. Mr. Martyn Jones : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 21 October.

Mr. Newton : I have been asked to reply.

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Jones : The Lord President will recall the answer that the Prime Minister gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Warley, West (Mr. Spellar) on Tuesday. Therefore, will he tell the House what particular cheese and wine party it was at which Asil Nadir gave £440,000 to the Tory party, and will he explain how much cheese and wine it will take to account for the £70 million missing from Tory party funds?

Mr. Newton : I do not know that I am expert on all the guest lists for wine and cheese parties. It may be that, at this very moment, in Cyprus, Mr. Nadir is having lunch with Mr. Costa, the benefactor of the previous leader of the Labour party.


Q3. Mr. Evennett : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 21 October.

Mr. Newton : I have been asked to reply.

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Evennett : Will my right hon. Friend condemn those who were responsible for the violence in south-east London last Saturday at the anti -British National party march, and express sympathy to those who were injured and those who had property damaged as a result of that violence? Will he join me in congratulating the police on the magnificent job that they did on that occasion, and urge my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary to consider the whole issue of the BNP in Welling and see what can be done about it?

Mr. Newton : Again, the House will understand why my hon. Friend raises a point of such concern in his constituency and I have a great deal of sympathy with what he said. All of us would want to deplore the violence that marred the march last Saturday just as much as we would want to deplore the policies of the British National party. With regard to the BNP headquarters, I know that my hon. Friend is well aware of the difficulties in relation to planning law. I cannot say much more about that except that I understand that Bexley council is meeting to consider the matter further tonight.

Dr. Wright : Has the Leader of the House seen the statement this week from the heads of all the royal medical colleges in which they say that, because of the Government's market reforms to the health service, urgent cases are being denied treatment and that the patients of fund holders are being given priority over those with clinical need? Does he understand that my constituents are being denied treatment at the Good Hope hospital because all routine admissions have been stopped except for those from GP fund holders? Is not that a disgrace? Is not that a two-tier health service? What will the Government do about it?

Mr. Newton : I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's suggestions. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health, in conjunction with the Joint Consultants Committee, has issued advice about the way in which emergency cases should be given priority, which does not fit with what the hon. Gentleman has said. The NHS reforms are producing a large and substantial increase in activity in the health service and in the number of patients treated, and are reducing the number of those waiting a long time for treatment. They are successful and they will be made more successful.


Q4. Mr. Jenkin : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 21 October.

Mr. Newton : I have been asked to reply.

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Jenkin : Can my right hon. Friend explain why some people seem to see a lurch to the right? Could it be that they keep hearing good news about the economy, such as car production up 15 per cent. in September, retail sales up in September, unemployment down in September, rising confidence in manufacturing industry and, if I may say so, 60 new jobs at Trebor Bassett in my constituency?

Mr. Newton : As my hon. Friend's constituency is next to mine and I live only about half a mile away from it, I welcome his last point. I hope that some of the jobs may spread across the border. I also agree entirely that the House will be pleased at the increasing flow of good economic news, particularly that to which he referred--the rise in car production, the rise in retail sales and the fact that unemployment has once again fallen.


Q5. Mr. Cohen : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 21 October.

Mr. Newton : I have been asked to reply.

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave some moments ago. Several hon. Members Is it Harry? [Interruption.]

Mr. Cohen : Thank you for that warm welcome.

Madam Speaker : Order. I certainly recognise the hon. Gentleman and so does the entire House.

Mr. Cohen : Thank you for those kind words, Madam Speaker. Are the Government again to cut the money for London Underground? They have already killed the management's 10-year decently modern metro plan. Why are Londoners expected to pay more for a declining third-rate service? Under the Tories, is not the London underground going down the tube?

Mr. Newton : As I think those on both sides of the House know very well, the amount of investment in the public transport infrastructure, rail and other, that has been advanced in recent years under what the hon. Gentleman chooses to call this Tory Government, has been at high, indeed record, levels. I am sure that we shall continue to maintain all possible investment, while taking account, obviously, of other requirements as well.


Q6. Mr. David Shaw : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 21 October.

Mr. Newton : I have been asked to reply.

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Shaw : My right hon. Friend will recall that four years ago the IRA carried out a terrible crime in my constituency, at the Royal Marines school of music in Deal. Eleven people were killed and many more were seriously injured. I met some of them, and saw in my constituency on Saturday someone who is still suffering seriously from his injuries. The people of Deal dearly love the Royal Marines school of music and hope that it will stay there for many years to come. Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that in any review of marine and military bands, every effort will be made to create a combined military services school of music at Deal, so that we may demonstrate to the world that the IRA will never succeed in its dastardly crimes?

Mr. Newton : I am sure that the House will understand if once again- -and this has happened several times this afternoon--I simply acknowledge why my hon. Friend felt it necessary to make that important point on behalf of his constituents and, almost as if I were answering business questions, to undertake to draw his remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.