Below is the text of Prime Minister's Question Time from 9th July 1996.
Q1. Mr. Donald Anderson: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 9 July.
The Prime Minister (Mr. John Major): 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.
Mr. Anderson: Does the Prime Minister agree that one part of the historic greatness of President Mandela is that he is prepared to forgive and forget the collusion of the Tory Government at the time of apartheid because he knew that, in his struggle against an evil system, he had the overwhelming support of the British people?
The Prime Minister: President Mandela is a very welcome guest to the United Kingdom as President of the Republic of South Africa and I look forward to my talks with him tomorrow. I enjoyed my visit to South Africa and our discussions then, and I have no doubt that the President will be given a warm and friendly reception in this country by everyone he meets.
Mr. Bellingham: Is the Prime Minister aware that the headmaster of the London Oratory school in Fulham-
The Prime Minister: All parents at every school will be concerned about the quality of education in their school, and I am sure that that also applies to the London Oratory.
Mr. Blair: Given the Chancellor's admission today that there will be an extra £12 billion of borrowing this year and next-
The Prime Minister: I find the right hon. Gentleman's question astonishing. If he had read the economic forecasts this morning, he would have read of better economic prospects in this country than in any country across the European Union, and better economic prospects than we have known for many years. Those prospects could not have been obtained other than by following the policies that we have followed in recent years.
Mr. Blair: When the Prime Minister reads out his list of statistics, perhaps he will also confirm that Britain has a higher inflation rate than many of its main competitors-
The Prime Minister: I think that everyone in the House will wonder why, on every conceivable occasion, the right hon. Gentleman wants to run down the country's performance. I shall tell him what is happening: we have the lowest levels of inflation for 50 years-
Mr. Blair: Madam Speaker, he does not deny a single fact that was put to him: that his forecasts have been wrong or that job creation and employment growth over the past 10 years have been lower in Britain than in any of the 10 main world economies. No Government-
The Prime Minister: I note-
As for forecasts, the right hon. Gentleman sits next to the shadow Chancellor: the man who cannot say whether interest rates are too high or too low, or whether inflation is too high or too low, and who famously predicted in 1992 that unemployment would go up month after month after month. Since that time, unemployment has fallen month after month after month. The right hon. Gentleman should stop living in a world of his own and see that this country is leading Europe economically and regaining its place among the strong economic and industrial nations of the world.
Sir Irvine Patnick: As my right hon. Friend will be aware, in Sheffield yesterday a Yorkshire and Humberside regional assembly was set up. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the role of councils is to look after local interests and not to set up offices in Brussels or create regional assemblies?
The Prime Minister: I see no justification for regional assemblies and more bureaucracy. That may be the policy of the Labour party, but it is neither the wish of the electorate nor the policy of the Government.
Mr. Ashdown: The day after it appears that ethnic cleansing has come once again to Northern Ireland, will the Prime Minister emphasise to all he sees that those who wish to widen conflict only serve the purposes of the IRA and help those who wish to revert to violence rather than peace?
The Prime Minister: I hope that the whole House will join me in condemning the scenes of violence that we have observed across Northern Ireland in the past couple of days. They are indefensible. The search for peace in Northern Ireland will not be assisted by such behaviour, but it could well be put back. In my judgment, that is emphatically not the wish of the people of Northern Ireland. At the moment, we need dialogue to ensure that we can move forward from the present situation, which is doing nothing but causing misery, hardship and damage. We need that dialogue speedily so that a resolution can be reached without delay.
Dame Elaine Kellett-
The Prime Minister: I willingly congratulate those involved in that development. Perhaps I might add the name of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security, who has put in place the most comprehensive anti-
Q2. Mr. McKelvey: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 9 July.
The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave some moments ago.
Mr. McKelvey: Can the Prime Minister explain to the House why this country is up to its neck in debt? The national debt is £320 billion and the public sector borrowing requirement is £30 million, yet the same team can turn the Tory party debt of £17 million two years ago into a £20 million profit this year. Where did they get the money, and will they publish their accounts?
The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman talks about the same team. Since I became Prime Minister, the national debt has averaged 44 per cent. of gross domestic product. Under the previous Labour Government, it was 62 per cent. of GDP.
Q3. Sir Teddy Taylor: To ask the Prime Minister if he will raise at the next meeting of the European Council the Union's relations with those west European states which decided not to join the Union.
The Prime Minister: I have no plans to do so.
Sir Teddy Taylor: As the remaining three nations outside the EU have very low unemployment-
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is right about unemployment across the European Union, which is more than 18 million. There is no doubt that the primary responsibility of Governments across Europe is to try to create the conditions in which unemployment can fall and new jobs can be created. As my hon. Friend knows, I have always argued that the way in which to reduce unemployment in Europe is through the supply-
Figures that will be published later today will show comprehensively that Britain is continuing to attract record inward investment. I very much welcome that, and it has helped to create many jobs. As my hon. Friend says, it would be utterly wrong to attempt to impose any kind of European social model, adding extra costs to employers and, as a direct result of that, condemning more people in Europe to remain unemployed. That is the wrong way in which to get people back to work.
Several hon. Members rose-
Madam Speaker: Order. I remind hon. Members that this is a closed question. I call Mr. Stott.
Mr. Stott: Will the Prime Minister tell the House whether he believes that one of Her Majesty's loyal chief constables had the right-
Madam Speaker: Order. I warned the hon. Gentleman, who should have read the Order Paper, that this was a closed question.
Mr. Spearing: Norway was one of the countries that recently chose not to join the European Union. Is the Prime Minister aware that most of the top politicians, financiers and industrialists said that there would be dire consequences for Norway if it did not join? Does he agree that most of the indicators have shown that, far from being disadvantageous, it has been in Norway's interest not to join? In view of that fact, what credit can we give most of the top politicians, financiers and industrialists in this country who are urging us to join economic and monetary union?
The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman is comparing two separate things: first, whether Norway should join the European Union and, secondly, a particular subsequent development that may or may not take place in the European Union. If he sought the views of those in the United Kingdom who trade with Europe, he would find that surveys of leading business men have consistently shown that more than 90 per cent. favour membership of the European Union and do not see the European Union simply as a trading area. Each country must make its own judgments. Norway made its judgment, and we must respect that judgment, but it would be intolerable for the United Kingdom to be outside the European Union, in practice affected by its legislation but unable to have any say in framing it.
Q4. Mr. Nigel Evans: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 9 July.
The Prime Minister: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave some moments ago.
Mr. Evans: My right hon. Friend will know of the importance of defence manufacturing in the north-
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend makes his case very persuasively. Another £4.5 billion off defence-
Q5. Mr. Bill Michie: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 9 July.
The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave some moments ago.
Mr. Michie: Will the Prime Minister join me-
The Prime Minister: The whole House will have been appalled by the incident at St. Luke's school, and I have no doubt that everyone in the House and beyond will wish to send sympathy to the victims of that attack and hopes for their speedy recovery. The hon. Gentleman's sentiments will be shared not only by the Government but by everyone in the House, and I shall ensure that they are carried into effect.