Below is the text of Prime Minister's Question Time from 13th June 1996.
Q1. Mr. Jacques Arnold: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 13 June.
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. Arnold: Is it not increasingly clear that the Government's firm and resolute management of the British economy has created the best performing economy in Europe? Would it not be a crying tragedy if that were thrown away by tying up British industry in red tape and by transferring our monetary policy-
The Prime Minister: The economy is doing very well. I agree entirely with my hon. Friend's analysis of the impact of the Labour party's alternative policies. In the past few days, we have had two separate illustrations of how well the economy is doing: first, the excellent news about jobs; secondly, the excellent news about inflation. We are now in the fifth year of steady growth, and that is what will deliver continuing prosperity.
Mr. Blair: Will the Prime Minister confirm the following? Is it true that two of his Back Benchers gave the Government an ultimatum on Monday that, unless they received firm assurances that the accident and emergency department at Edgware hospital would be replaced by a full emergency unit, they would withdraw support from the Government; secondly, that the ultimatum was to expire last night; thirdly, that they then met the Health Secretary; and, fourthly, that they now say that they have been given those assurances and have withdrawn the ultimatum? Is that substantially true? If it is, is it not a disreputable way in which to run a Government?
The Prime Minister: No, it is not substantially true, and I have to say that there is no possibility of the Government responding to approaches of that sort from any hon. Member. We do not respond to such activities and we will not respond to such activities. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is reassured.
Mr. Blair: No, Madam Speaker, I am not reassured. Which of the facts that I have just listed does the right hon. Gentleman dispute? We know that the ultimatum was given. That is a matter of record. We know that the ultimatum was withdrawn, and the two Conservative Members concerned say that they have been given the assurance that the full emergency unit will now be given. What are we to make of this? Was it one of life's happy coincidences?
I would like to ask the Prime Minister, specifically, were those Conservative Members given the assurance that they say they were given by the Secretary of State for Health-
The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman is distorting and misunderstanding, and I shall try to explain it to him. A lot of people have made representations about Edgware-
Mr. Mackinlay: Closing hospitals.
The Prime Minister: Not closing hospitals; providing better facilities-
Madam Speaker: Order. The hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay) must come to order.
The Prime Minister: -
Mr. Blair: The Prime Minister has not answered the question about whether such an assurance has been given. [Interruption.] He has not answered it. When he gets to his feet again, let him say, yes or no, whether such an assurance was given. [Interruption.] Have Conservative Members any idea of the anger that people feel at the way in which decisions are taken when such closures are happening all round the country? [Interruption.]
Madam Speaker: Order. The hon. Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold), along with other hon. Members, must come to order. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) must also come to order.
Mr. Harry Greenway: What about the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay)?
Madam Speaker: Order. I have just called the hon. Member for Thurrock to order.
Mr. Blair: I think that most people know that the way to save the health service is not to have Back-
I repeat: will the Prime Minister answer that question? Is he aware of the contempt that people feel for a Government whose policies now seem to be determined solely by the imprint of the last person who sat on him? Will not they conclude that this is a Government with no thought for the national interest and no purpose but survival?
The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman's cheap insults do not provide arguments or enlightenment. I answered the question earlier. The problem for the right hon. Gentleman is that he did not get the answer that he wanted.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health announced as long ago as last December that he was discussing the nature of the casualty service. He has not given an assurance to retain the accident and emergency department at Edgware and the right hon. Gentleman knows that.
The Government's spending on the national health service is at a record level-
Q2. Mrs. Peacock: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 13 June.
The Prime Minister: I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.
Mrs. Peacock: In view of the disturbing and increasing number of child abuse cases, will my right hon. Friend assure the House that he will do all within his power to get to the root of the problem, thereby to prevent such tragedies from happening in future?
The Prime Minister: I can give that assurance. I am personally horrified by some of the events that have been reported. Children in residential care are self-
Mr. Ashdown: That answer, at least, will be very welcome.
In what way is what the hon. Members for Hendon, North (Sir J. Gorst) and for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) tried to do any different from what the Euro-
The Prime Minister: It would be a lengthy business to refute all the nonsense that the right hon. Gentleman just uttered. I shall use just one illustration. If the Referendum Bill was designed solely as the right hon. Gentleman suggested, why did one of his hon. Friends vote for it-
The tactic, by anyone, of threatening to withhold support generally in response to a specific demand will not work. It is not acceptable. It has not worked, and it will not work now or at any stage in future. No Minister would respond to such an approach.
Sir John Gorst: Will my right hon. Friend allow me to support what he said in answer to the Leader of the Opposition? Will he confirm that the agreement that the Secretary of State for Health made between me and my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) was not the retention of an accident and emergency department in its fullest extent, but an alternative that the Secretary of State has been discussing with us for the past six months with regard to a casualty unit, which instead of having nurses would have qualified doctors 24 hours a day, and that when patients were in a stable condition they might have to be moved?
The Prime Minister rose-
Hon. Members: More.
Madam Speaker: Order.
The Prime Minister: What my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health has said is that the matter has been discussed with him-
Q3. Mr. MacShane: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 13 June.
The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave some moments ago.
Mr. MacShane: Does the Prime Minister recall that, on Tuesday, he saw no problem with the financing of the anti-
The Prime Minister: I think that the hon. Gentleman should see exactly what was said. It was clearly unacceptable for my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) to accept funds from the principal figure behind a list of candidates likely to stand against the Conservative party in the general election. My hon. Friend has made it clear that he will not receive any funding from that source, and I congratulate him on his decision.
Mr. King: Is my right hon. Friend aware that, last month, the British-
Does this not underline the fact that violence is an evil that threatens everyone throughout the island of Ireland and throughout these islands? Should not we reaffirm our support for all who are now bravely seeking to resolve difficult issues by democratic and peaceful means?
The Prime Minister: I am sure that the whole House will wish to echo my right hon. Friend's words about Mr. McCabe and his brutal murder. That murder, and the murder of another Garda officer-