Below is the text of Prime Minister's Question Time from 23rd April 1996.
Q1. Mr. Madden: To ask the Prime Minister when he intends next to meet the Prime Minister of India to discuss Kashmir.
The Prime Minister (Mr. John Major): I have no plans at present to meet the Indian Prime Minister. I look forward to an early opportunity to do so following the Indian elections, which begin later this month.
Mr. Madden: Does the Prime Minister share the growing international view that the conflict over Kashmir presents the gravest threat to international peace today, given that India and Pakistan have gone to war over Kashmir previously, and that both countries now have a nuclear capability? Against that background, will the Prime Minister and Her Majesty's Government do everything possible to persuade the next Government of India to enter into serious and urgent negotiations with the Government of Pakistan on the basis of UN resolutions, to find an acceptable settlement on the basis of the right of the people of Kashmir to decide their own future?
The Prime Minister: That is an important matter, as the hon. Gentleman says. We are in touch with our friends and colleagues in India and in Pakistan. We have said consistently to those friends and colleagues that we are prepared to help in the search for a solution, either at the UN or in any other forum, provided that the parties concerned wish us to do so. That remains our position, but there must be simultaneous progress on several fronts-
Mr. Whitney: Does my right hon. Friend agree that recent developments in Kashmir have caused many UK citizens of Kashmiri origin much anxiety? His statement that the British Government will continue to press for a stable democratic solution of the Kashmir problem will therefore be most welcome.
The Prime Minister: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and I know from my experience that what he says about citizens here in the United Kingdom is true. Our policy is to advocate the development of a genuine political process in Kashmir.
Q2. Ms Armstrong: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 23 April.
The Prime Minister: This morning, I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later today.
Ms Armstrong: As we once again see Tory Members of Parliament queuing up to express their differences-
The Prime Minister: I can think of some prominent politicians who, in the past two years, have made it their life's work to deny everything that they stood for previously. So far as I recall, those politicians enjoy the strong support of the hon. Lady.
As to Europe, the hon. Lady might care to look at the comments of some of her hon. Friends in response to recent statements that I have made about Europe which expose clear differences on the Opposition Benches. She might also care to look at some of the pamphlets that have been produced, in which many tens of Labour Members demonstrate their sharp differences with the Labour Front-
Q3. Mr. Jacques Arnold: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 23 April.
The Prime Minister: I refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave some moments ago.
Mr. Arnold: Will my right hon. Friend reaffirm that British beef is best and that that remains the case despite the scaremongering by the hon. Member for Peckham (Ms Harman) which has done so much damage? Will he tell our European colleagues that, until the ban is lifted, there will be no more co-
The Prime Minister: I am happy to confirm to my hon. Friend that British beef is best. I am also happy to confirm to him and to others that it is entirely safe, and that has been verified by British scientists, by the World Health Organisation and by Commissioner Fischler. There is no justification whatever for the European ban, but I believe that my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has made some progress this morning and I am delighted with that. We are seeking to get the ban lifted as soon as possible, and I hope and expect that that will happen.
As to withholding resources, I must tell my hon. Friend that that would be illegal under United Kingdom law, quite apart from European law. I am not sure that either the House or my hon. Friend would wish the Government to behave illegally.
Mr. Blair: I suspect that the hon. Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold) speaks for many tens on the Conservative side. Will the Prime Minister clarify whether it is the Government's policy to threaten retaliation against Europe over beef, so that the confusion and incompetence at the heart of Government policy may be removed once and for all?
The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman once threatened to leave Europe, as I recall-
Our policy is as I described it a moment ago: to try to seek, by agreement, the lifting of the ban. I hope that the ban will be lifted but, if that is unreasonably withheld, our position is-
Mr. Blair: What does that mean? I suggest to the Prime Minister that a strategy based on the Grand Old Duke of York is not a very good one. The Foreign Secretary is hinting at retaliation, the Deputy Prime Minister contradicts him and he calls his European partners a bunch of something-
Will the Prime Minister kindly take a grip on the situation? If he does not, he will find that his Government are taken seriously neither at home nor abroad.
The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman and some of his hon. Friends played a part in creating this problem. There is not a beef farmer in this country who does not know that the problem has been worsened by the way in which the Labour party has behaved. I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman has the gall to continue to behave in that way. I set the matter out perfectly clearly for the right hon. Gentleman a moment ago and I am sorry that he was unable to understand it. We are discussing the lifting of the ban, and we are making progress on that. That is the right way to proceed but, at the end of the discussions, if the lifting of the ban is unreasonably withheld, we shall consider other options for action. I hope that is clear enough for the right hon. Gentleman this time.
Mr. Blair: If the Prime Minister is to threaten retaliation, he should be clear about what he is saying. At some point, the Prime Minister will have to admit the brutal truth to himself-
The Prime Minister: If the right hon. Gentleman is so keen on being clear, perhaps he will be clear about his tax plans. Perhaps he will be clear about why, if children stay on to do A-
Q4. Sir Wyn Roberts: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 23 April.
The Prime Minister: I refer my right hon. Friend to the reply I gave some moments ago.
Sir Wyn Roberts: Will my right hon. Friend confirm that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of young people staying on in full-
The Prime Minister: My right hon. Friend is entirely right. Even among the children of unskilled parents, more than half now stay on in education beyond their 16th birthdays. The claim by the shadow Chancellor, who is probably absent because he is checking his figures, that only 20 per cent. of children stay on at school is years and years out of date. It is based on figures from between 1974 and 1978, under the Labour Government. The fact that the figures are so wrong shows the vast increase in educational opportunities since then. The reality for working-
Mr. Ashdown: We can always tell when the Government are in a real mess-
The Prime Minister: I suppose that, one day, it is just possible we might hear something from the right hon. Gentleman about what he would do in any given circumstances. We never hear that: we just get the usual carping criticism. The matter was carried forward in Moscow, when I met Heads of Government on Saturday; my right hon. and learned Friend took it further in the Foreign Affairs Council yesterday; and my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is pursuing it today. Each and every day, there are further meetings and more progress is made towards getting the ban lifted. It would be helpful if, just once, the right hon. Gentleman were to think of the interests of the beef industry and of the country, rather than produce the carping criticism that we usually get from him.
Q5. Mr. Robert G. Hughes: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 23 April.
The Prime Minister: I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.
Mr. Hughes: Does my right hon. Friend agree that Church-
The Prime Minister: I agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of moral and spiritual education, and I share the views of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton). What the Liberal spokesman said was a silly and ill-
Mr. Donald Anderson: What further measures of appeasement do the Prime Minister and the chairman of the Conservative party have in mind to placate the patriot across the water, Sir James Goldsmith?
The Prime Minister: The answer to the hon. Gentleman is quite clear-
Q6. Mr. Congdon: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 23 April.
The Prime Minister: I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.
Mr. Congdon: Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that he will press ahead with the objective of achieving a 20 per cent. rate of basic income tax? Given the reports in the press at the weekend, is it not absolutely clear that, while the Government are rightly moving towards a 20p rate, the Labour party is moving towards a 30p rate?
The Prime Minister: As my hon. Friend will know, one quarter of taxpayers already pay tax at only 20 per cent. and I confirm that, as soon as it is affordable, we shall move further towards a 20 per cent. tax rate for everyone. There is no doubt that taxes go up under Labour Governments. The Labour party does not like to admit that. Today, the shadow Chancellor is trying to gag the City, but the fact is that, because Labour wishes to spend more, it will always tax more at national level, as it is doing today at local level.