Below is the text of Prime Minister's Question Time from 2nd February 1995.
Q1. Mr. Waterson: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 2 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. Waterson: Does my right hon. Friend accept that the goal of a peaceful settlement in Ulster is worthy of the courage and patience that he has demonstrated? Will he continue to assure the people of the Province that any final decision will always rest with them?
The Prime Minister: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I believe that there is a communal will not to be distracted from the goal of a peaceful, permanent and agreed settlement in Northern Ireland. I am happy to repeat the assurance that I have given in the past-
Mr. Blair: On Northern Ireland, the Prime Minister has our full and continued support. On interest rates, however, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will confirm as a matter of fact that after mortgage rises, the cutting of mortgage tax relief and the imposition of the new home insurance tax, the typical home owner will have been paying an extra £800 a year since last April.
The Prime Minister: As to the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's comments, I appreciate the support of the official Opposition and of other parties as far as Northern Ireland is concerned. It is a strength of the process that there is such widespread support for it.
Of course, I appreciate the impact of interest rates on home owners, but what would be most damaging to home owners would be for inflation to take off in the way that it did on past occasions. Interest rates are there to ensure that we have a recovery that curbs inflation. The policies repeatedly advocated by the shadow Chancellor would lead to inflation taking off-
Mr. Blair: I notice that the right hon. Gentleman does not deny the figures. What type of recovery peaks when for millions it has barely even begun? The right hon. Gentleman and his Ministers will scrabble around in vain for the feel-
The Prime Minister: I have to say to the right hon. Gentleman that he has a cheek to deny history in the way in which he just did. The level of interest rates that we have reached today is the level that was the lowest achieved at any stage under the previous Labour Government in five years of Government. The average was far higher. They also had negative interest rates and were robbing savers of their savings by devaluing the currency. [Interruption.] It is because of that sort of irresponsibility that no one will ever again trust the Labour party to run the economy. It is determined to take the short-
Q2. Mr. Couchman: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 2 February.
The Prime Minister: I refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave some moments ago.
Mr. Couchman: Does my right hon. Friend agree that the 40 per cent. of American and Japanese investment in Europe that comes to the United Kingdom is essentially dependent on our membership of the European Union? Does he further agree that if we cease to be at the heart of Europe those investors will rethink their European operations locations?
The Prime Minister: Yes. It depends on two points: both our membership of the European Union and the conditions of our membership of the European Union. Certainly, the fact that we are members has helped attract a great deal of investment into this country, but it would be lost if the conditions of our membership were to include the social chapter. [Interruption.] If the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) does not agree, perhaps he could ask the chairman of Daimler-
Mr. Ashdown: Does the Prime Minister accept that, for as long as he puts the peace of Ireland first, he will command the overwhelming majority of the House and the country? Does he also agree that those who would put in jeopardy the peace of Ireland in order to pursue either narrow sectarian agendas or internal party power struggles, will meet the opposition of the House and earn the contempt of the country?
The Prime Minister: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his support. There is nothing in the peace process that any party in this House need fear. There can be no slippery slope in any process that first requires the agreement of all the parties and then after the agreement of the parties has been obtained subsequently requires the agreement of the people of Northern Ireland themselves. I think that that is a categorical safeguard for all those who are concerned about the development of this process, and I hope that it will be accepted as such by people across ever strand of opinion in Northern Ireland. I hope that everyone will join actively in the search for a lasting settlement, a better future for the Province and a certainty that never again will we go back to the sort of atrocities and horrors that we have seen in Northern Ireland over much of the last quarter of a century.
Sir Michael Marshall: Does my right hon. Friend accept that, on Britain's role in Europe, much of the debate currently in the media is simply sensationalist and trivial? Does he further accept that the time is right for the House to have a full debate on that particular topic, so that we can steer the country in the direction in which we believe?
Mr. Blair: Which manifesto?
The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman asks which manifesto we will debate. He might well ask whether we will debate the policy on Europe of the Opposition Front Bench or the policy of Labour Members of the European Parliament. He might ask whether we will debate his policy or that of the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East; the policy of the Labour Front Bench or the policy of the Labour Benches below the Gangway. There certainly is ample scope for a debate on Europe, but I say to my hon. Friend that we would need several days to debate the varied policies of the Labour party.
Q3. Mr. Tipping: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 2 February.
The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the reply that I gave some moments ago.
Mr. Tipping: Will the Prime Minister ask his colleagues at the Department of Health why they have not yet resolved the case of Mr. Tony Ruffell, the former chief executive of the Nottinghamshire family health service authority? Following more changes in the health service, Mr. Ruffell has been sitting at home on a salary of £66,000 since last September. Should not there be more focus on patient care and less on bureaucracy?
The Prime Minister: Of course there should, and that is why we are repealing a whole tier of bureaucracy in the health service-
Mrs. Gorman: Has my right hon. Friend seen reports in the newspapers that half the Treasury building is to be rented out to the private sector? Will he confirm, for a suspicious person such as me, that that has nothing to do with Mr. Santer's call for the abolition of our national currency?
The Prime Minister: I can undoubtedly give my hon. Friend that assurance. On the substantive part of her question, I think that the action taken by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor sets an example across Whitehall and beyond.
Q4. Mr. Chisholm: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 2 February.
The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the reply that I gave some moments ago.
Mr. Chisholm: Given that Lord Wakeham privatised electricity and then moved to the board of Rothschild, which had carried through that privatisation, what will the Prime Minister be saying to him following today's news that Rothschild is to be the merchant banker for the sell-
The Prime Minister: I have no doubt that, over time, it will be as effective and popular a privatisation as those that we have had in the past. I know that the hon. Gentleman would still prefer to be subsidising the old industries by £50 million a week rather than taking in £50 million a week to the Exchequer for the good use of the public at large. That undoubtedly is what would have happened had we not privatised those industries in the past. As to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, it does not merit a reply.
Q5. Mr. Garnier: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 2 February.
The Prime Minister: I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.
Mr. Garnier: Will my right hon. Friend confirm his Government's commitment to preserving the front-
The Prime Minister: We are committed to stability for the armed forces. I promised that at Camberley recently and I made it clear that the big upheavals in the armed forces are over. The level of front-
Mr. Home Robertson: What is the Prime Minister's reply to the hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross), who has said that the Prime Minister's Northern Ireland initiative is dead and buried? Would it not be an affront to all the soldiers and civilians who have been killed and buried during the past 25 years if that initiative were to be jeopardised as a result of a malicious partial leak of a draft document? Is the Prime Minister aware that all our constituents are becoming weary of the ancient refrain of "Ulster says no", which is still being parroted by some Unionist members, but, thankfully, only some Unionist members.
The Prime Minister: I believe that there is a wish right across the House-
I have no doubt, from my contact with hon. Members from Northern Ireland-
Mr. Skinner: To what end?
The Prime Minister: The end-