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1995 - PMQT 27th June 1995

Below is the text of Prime Minister's Question Time from 27th June 1995. Tony Newton responded on behalf of John Major.

PRIME MINISTER:

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Keith Hill: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 27 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 is currently in Cannes attending the European Council.

Madam Speaker: Order. The Leader of the House rather anticipated me. I had not called Mr. Keith Hill. However, we shall take his question as read, and I now call Mr. Hill to put his supplementary question.

Mr. Hill: I am grateful to you, Madam Speaker, for sorting out the confusion that seems to overwhelm the Conservative party. Does the Leader of the House agree that if anyone other than the Prime Minister wins the current leadership election contest on Tuesday, he will have no democratic legitimacy to govern because he will not have the consent of the people for the policies that he pursues?

Mr. Newton: Those of us on the Government Benches have the democratic legitimacy of the fact that we achieved more votes in the last election than any party had ever achieved in a British election. In any case, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will win.


Q2. Mr. Brandreth: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 27 June.

Mr. Newton: I have been asked to reply.

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

Mr. Brandreth: Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the matchless city of Chester, crime continues to fall and detection rates continue to improve? Is he further aware that in Chester, since 1979, the number of policemen has increased by 38 per cent. and that the only time that police numbers in Chester have fallen was under the last Labour Government? Is he also aware that, this year, Cheshire is to get an additional 195 police officers and special constables for policing on the beat? Does my right hon. Friend share Chester's and Cheshire's commitment to front-line policing?

Mr. Newton: I warmly congratulate my hon. Friend on making those points and, indeed, Cheshire police on their achievements. I understand that recorded crime in the county fell by some 7 per cent. in 1994 and I know that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary was able to visit the force recently and to congratulate it personally on its policy of front-line policing. Her Majesty's Government are supporting the force with a funding increase of £9 million and are making funds available for closed circuit television in Chester.

Mr. Blair: Has the Leader of the House any awareness not just of the despair, but of the disgust that most people feel about the spectacle that the Conservative party has become? Is not the real choice that the British people want not one between the warring factions of that party, but one between a Conservative party that is disintegrating and a Labour party that is in touch with the people and ready to serve?

Mr. Newton: Well, it certainly seems to be in touch with the lot of people in Monklands. [Interruption.] I shall not regret it. The people of Monklands may regret it and I suspect that the right hon. Gentleman may regret the thrust of his question because, if and when he gets the chance, he will have to stop fudging and come clean on his spending and taxing policies, on his minimum wage and creating unemployment policies, and on his European policies, not for an opt-out, but for a sell- out. [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker: Order.

Miss Emma Nicholson: Is my right hon. Friend aware that the constituency of Torridge and Devon, West has the highest proportion of older people in the United Kingdom and that, two weeks ago, Mrs. Cleverdon celebrated her 105th birthday? Would he like to consider the wisdom of the Tories in west Devon, especially their Conservative association, which promotes the Prime Minister's cause and has asked me to vote in his favour, which I shall do?

Mr. Newton: I think that I should do three things. I should congratulate my hon. Friend's centenarian constituent, the association, and my hon. Friend on her intention.

Sir David Steel: Could the Leader of the House explain to innocent bystanders such as myself how it is that a party which is proving by the hour that it is incapable of governing itself can have any lingering claim to govern the country?

Mr. Newton: Well, what a typical Liberal question. I am not sure about innocence, but the right hon. Gentleman is certainly a bystander.

Dr. Spink: Does my right hon. Friend agree that this Government's policies of choice and diversity, of testing and reporting to parents, have driven up standards in education? [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker: Order.

Dr. Spink: Does he also agree that the Labour party's recently announced policy would drive down standards in education?

Mr. Newton: I certainly agree with my hon. Friend that the policies of the Government have increased parental choice, raised educational standards and given schools greater freedom, and I equally agree with him that the policies of the Labour party would threaten all those objectives.


Ministerial Visits

Q3. Mr. Madden: To ask the Prime Minister when he next intends to visit Bradford.

Mr. Newton: I have been asked to reply.

I refer the hon. Gentleman-- [Interruption.] --partly to the reply I gave some moments ago and partly to the fact that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has no current plans to visit Bradford.

Mr. Madden: If the Prime Minister cannot visit Bradford, will the Leader of the House urge him to meet a deputation from Bradford as soon as possible so that there can be discussions about how the city can be helped to overcome the poverty and deprivation that we suffer? If the Bradford congress is successful in devising an inquiry form which is acceptable to the local community, will the Leader of the House urge the Prime Minister to adopt the proposal and fund it from central Government so that the inquiry can be conducted as a matter of urgency, and so that it can be professionally administered?

Mr. Newton: I will, of course, ensure that the hon. Gentleman's request is drawn to my right hon. Friend's attention, but I do not think that I can add very much to what I said to the hon. Gentleman when he last questioned me about this. He will know that the Police Complaints Authority is supervising an investigation into complaints made about the police in the course of the riots and I think that the hon. Gentleman also agreed on a previous occasion that that is an independent inquiry and can be expected to do a thorough job. As I said before, I think that the right course of action is to allow that investigation to proceed and for discussion between the police and members of the Asian community to continue with the aim of restoring trust. I do not, at the moment, see any need for other inquiries.


Engagements

Q4. Mr. Garnier: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 27 June.

Mr. Newton: I have been asked to reply.

I refer my hon. and learned Friend to the reply I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Garnier: Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in my constituency of Harborough, unemployment is down yet again and that confidence in every sector of the economy is up and continues to grow week on week? Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is all due to the policies of the Prime Minister?

Mr. Newton: The experience reported by my hon. and learned Friend of what is happening in his part of the country reflects what has been happening in our economy as a whole. In the past two years, we have experienced the fastest growth of any major European economy, we have the best record of low inflation for some 30 years, we have unemployment that is well below the European average and continuing to fall and we have a recovery that is export and investment led and that is the most soundly based this country has seen for a generation.

Mr. Hoon: Does the Leader of the House agree with the Foreign Secretary that the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) has damaged the effectiveness of Britain?

Mr. Newton: It is absolutely clear from the work that my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary and my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer have been able to conduct in Cannes that they are acting effectively and continuing to bat for Britain's interests.


Q5. Mr. Heald: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 27 June.

Mr. Newton: I have been asked to reply.

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

Mr. Heald: Is my right hon. Friend aware that crime levels in north Hertfordshire have also been falling recently? However, does he agree that there is more to be done and that one way of dealing with it is closed circuit television? I thank my right hon. Friend and the Government for the £100,000 grant that has been given for closed circuit television for Hitchin town centre. Is it not astonishing that the new Labour administration on North Hertfordshire district council is now reconsidering closed circuit television and talking about big brother? Is that not more like old Labour than new Labour?

Mr. Newton: I have already made some reference to these matters in response to my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Mr. Brandreth). As my hon. Friend said, recorded crime fell by 5 per cent. nationally in 1994. Together with a 1 per cent. fall in 1993, those two years show the biggest fall in recorded crime for some 40 years. I believe that that reflects the efforts that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has made to get more police on the beat, to strengthen the law through the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 and, not least, through his very imaginative scheme for CCTV. I am appalled to learn what my hon. Friend said about CCTV being reviewed by his district council.


Q6. Mr. Denham: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 27 June.

Mr. Newton: I have been asked to reply.

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

Mr. Denham: In the light of the statement by one of the Prime Minister's leading supporters, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the programme of the former Secretary of State for Wales is ultra-right wing and likely to keep the Conservatives out of power for 1,000 years, does the Leader of the House believe that the Cabinet is well rid of him?

Mr. Newton: My right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) has always made a positive contribution to the development of Government policies. My only puzzlement is why he should not have stayed to continue to make that contribution.


Q7. Dr. Goodson-Wickes: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 27 June.

Mr. Newton: I have been asked to reply.

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

Dr. Goodson-Wickes: Does my right hon. Friend agree that yesterday's celebration of 50 years of achievement by the United Nations was wholly appropriate? Does he also agree, however, that it is unacceptable that this country is expected to bear a disproportionate burden of United Nations military activities when many countries are not even paying their dues? Will my right hon. Friend put pressure on those countries to remedy an unacceptable situation? [Interruption.]

Mr. Newton: My hon. Friend, like me, was present at the excellent ceremony held in Westminster Hall yesterday, which undermined-- [Interruption.] --underlined our continuing commitment to the United Nations organisation. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister reminded that gathering--it is an important point, to which my hon. Friend has adverted-- that we have put forward proposals not only to strengthen UN peacekeeping and preventive diplomacy, but to reform its financial mechanisms. We shall continue to press that case.