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1994 - PMQT 14th April 1994

Below is the text of Prime Minister's Question Time from 14th April 1994.

PRIME MINISTER:

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Duncan Smith : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 14 April.

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. Duncan Smith : Is my right hon. Friend aware that my socialist-controlled council of Waltham Forest, which is now being investigated by the ombudsman for malpractice, set a council tax for band D of £587, supported by the Liberal party, whereas the Conservative group would have set one of more than £100 less? Does not that demonstrate clearly, first, that people pay in bands, not averages, secondly, that Conservative councils would cost people less and...

Madam Speaker : Order. I am determined that this should be Question Time, not speech time. I therefore appeal to all hon. Members for brisk questions and answers.

The Prime Minister : Well, my hon. Friend is quite right. Whatever bands they may be concerned with, council tax payers will pay more under Labour and Liberal authorities than they would under any Conservative authority. I am sure that voters will note that on 5 May.

Mrs. Beckett : Is not it a scandal that, because of the changes that the Government have made in the health service, elderly people are being denied the right to hospital treatment on the ground of their age?

The Prime Minister : The right hon. Lady is either ill-informed or scaremongering. As my right hon. Friend the Minister for Health said this morning, the reports to which the right hon. Lady refers, no doubt from this morning's "Today" programme, are wholly irresponsible. Neither patient in the BBC report had been refused treatment; both had been offered better options. It is utterly wrong of the right hon. Lady to raise the matter in that manner and to continue to cause needless anxiety to millions of people.

Mrs. Beckett : What is scaring people is not what we are saying but what the Government are doing with the health service. The Prime Minister should know that people are being refused treatment because of what the British Medical Association calls the "undeniable fact" that there is now a two-tier health service. The GP of one of the people to whom the Prime Minister referred said :

"Since contracts were introduced, this kind of predicament arises all the time."

What is that but a two-tier health service?

The Prime Minister : Despite the fact that the right hon. Lady has peddled an untruth and continues to do so, there is no policy

Hon. Members : Withdraw.

Madam Speaker : Order. I am sure that the Prime Minister will reflect and I hope that he will withdraw that last remark.

The Prime Minister : Despite the fact-- [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker : Order. I will have order in this House.

The Prime Minister : Despite the fact that what the right hon. Lady says is inaccurate and she has just been told so again-- [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker : Order. I do wish that the House would listen to the comments that are being made and not make such a row. I have asked the Prime Minister politely to reflect and I hope that he will withdraw what he said. [Interruption.] Order. I am sure that if the House were to listen, it would hear him do that.

The Prime Minister : The right hon. Lady is aware, from what I said a few moments ago, that in both cases she has misled the House. [Hon. Members :-- "Withdraw."] In neither instance was treatment withheld from those patients. In both instances, they were offered better treatment. I hope that the right hon. Lady will now withdraw the imputation of a few moments ago.

Hon. Members : Withdraw.

Mrs. Beckett : I am not aware that I have misled the House. Indeed, there is a letter from one of the hospitals concerned apologising for the way in which the patient in question was treated. That does not sound to me like something which did not happen. I ask the Prime Minister : why will he and his colleagues not recognise reality? Elderly people are being clobbered by VAT on their gas and electricity and when they are ill they are being refused treatment in hospital. What has the Prime Minister got against the elderly?

The Prime Minister : The fact that the right hon. Lady changed tack shows most clearly that she knows that she is wrong. Once again, the Labour party is needlessly alarming people, precisely as it did before the election by claiming that we would privatise the national health service. The Labour party will use any scare, at any time, for any reason, providing it believes that it will help its own party-political ambitions.

Mr. Robathan : What action will my right hon. Friend take to ensure that taxpayers' money is not wasted on ludicrous pay-outs to former service women who joined the armed forces on the understanding that they would be obliged to leave should they become pregnant?

The Prime Minister : I am not aware of the particular case to which my hon. Friend refers, but, as he has raised the matter, I will ask my right and learned hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence to examine it and report to me about it.


Q2. Mr. Turner : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 14 April.

The Prime Minister : I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Turner : Does the Prime Minister have any plans to visit Wolverhampton in the near future? If he has, I am sad to have to tell him that the good folk of Wolverhampton are completely brassed off with his Government's policies and, I am sad to say, with him. I have to ask the Prime Minister whether, if the local elections go badly for him, he will do the noble thing with his Government and resign.

The Prime Minister : I know that the hon. Gentleman would want his constituents to know the truth about matters, so perhaps he might mention to them that, under this Government and the last few years of my predecessor's Government, unemployment in his constituency fell by 23 per cent. Perhaps he could tell his constituents that. Perhaps he could tell them that there is now no one waiting for more than two years for health service treatment as there once was. Perhaps he could tell them about the extra millions of pounds allocated to the health authority to help reduce waiting lists. Perhaps if the hon. Gentleman carried some of those messages to his constituents in Wolverhampton at the next election he would no longer be here.

Mr. Hawkins : Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that the Labour party, where it is in office in local government, is to be judged on its record? Will he also agree with me that Manchester, under socialism, now owes nearly as much as El Salvador--a country which has been ravaged by 10 years of civil war?

The Prime Minister : If the Labour party in local government is judged on its record it will not be in power any longer in local government.


Q3. Mr. Keen : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 14 April.

The Prime Minister : I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Keen : Is the Prime Minister not ashamed to appear to take so lightly the accusations that, in this year when we are specially remembering those who gave so much 50 years ago in the last war, because of the Government health reforms the people who made those sacrifices are now being denied the treatment that they so desperately need?

The Prime Minister : What the hon. Gentleman says is wrong. Perhaps he might reflect that, although the elderly population has risen in numbers in England and Wales by about 9 per cent. since 1979, expenditure on elderly people has risen by approximately 40 per cent. over the same period. That is to accommodate the fact that more treatments are now available, better treatments are now available, waiting times are shorter and no one is denied proper treatment at any stage in the national health service.


Q4. Mr. David Evans : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 14 April.

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

Mr. Evans : Is my right hon. Friend aware that Janice takes quite a lot of interest in this place and she would like to know whether it was a Conservative party that won the last four general elections, with a record 14 million votes in the last election? Could he also tell Janice whether it was a Conservative Government who imposed a higher rate of tax in 1978? Was it 40p? [Hon. Members :-- "No."] Was it 60p ? [Hon. Members :-- "No."] Was it 70p ? [Hon. Members :-- "No."] Was it 90p ? [Hon. Members :-- "No."] Was it 98p? [Hon. Members :-- "Yes."] And if it was not a Conservative Government, was it that lot opposite ?

Hon. Members : Yes.

The Prime Minister : I believe that the answer is yes, and I think that my hon. Friend can safely tell Janice that.

Ms Glenda Jackson : Is the Prime Minister aware that the chief executive of the Royal Free hospital trust in my constituency today issued a statement apologising for the fact that, as a result of the Government's obscene internal market policies, a 70-year-old man was denied treatment at that hospital? Is he inferring that the chief executive of the Royal Free is attempting to mislead the House and the country and is scaremongering?

The Prime Minister : Perhaps the hon. Lady would like to tell the House how many more patients the Royal Free has treated since the health service reforms. Perhaps she would like to do that and stop mis-stating matters.


Q5. Mr. Gallie : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 14 April.

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

Mr. Gallie : Does my right hon. Friend recall the words of doom, gloom and condemnation--the words of the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith)--at the time of the Leyland DAF collapse a year or two ago? Is my right hon. Friend aware of the successful rebirth of the activities previously undertaken by that company? Is he aware of the considerable increase in axle sales from Scottish Stampings in my constituency of Ayr as a consequence?

The Prime Minister : I am aware of that and I think that it is extremely encouraging. It is part of what I believe to be a bright future for the Scottish economy. Equally, it shows how right we were to resist the demands from all the Opposition parties to spend extra money on Leyland DAF. They still have the same old interventionist, corporatist, 1960s policies. Leyland DAF has done far better without the sort of help that they would have forced down its throat.

Mr. Mullin : Has the Prime Minister had a chance to read yesterday's report of the Select Committee on Home Affairs on the funding of political parties, particularly the minority report that starts on page 38? Is No. 10 Downing street still being used for Tory party fund-raising dinners? If so, is not that a misuse of public property?

The Prime Minister : I use Downing street to meet business men in the same way as the Labour party used Downing street to meet the trade unions.


Ministerial Visits

Q6. Mr. Heald : To ask the Prime Minister what plans he has to visit north Hertfordshire.

The Prime Minister : I have no immediate plans to do so.

Mr. Heald : Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating Letchworth Garden City on its 90th anniversary, which is currently being celebrated with a musical extravaganza called "Why Aren't We All Dancing?"? Does he agree that, with unemployment down by 13 per cent. in the last year, with house prices up by 4 per cent. and with a council tax half that of the neighbouring Labour-controlled Stevenage borough council, people in Letchworth and north Hertfordshire have every reason to be dancing--dancing on the Labour party in May and June?

The Prime Minister : My hon. Friend makes a compelling case, and I have no doubt that that is what local people will do on 5 May.