Below is the text of Prime Minister's Question Time from 12th November 1996.
Q1. Mr. Janner: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 12 November.
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. Janner: Why is the Prime Minister so determined that people who work in this country should have no statutory minimum holiday rights, while also having no statutory maximum working hours, meaning that they can be forced to work more than 48 hours a week contrary to their wishes? Is not that an unjust, unreasonable and typically Tory policy, going against even their own alleged policy of supporting family rights?
The Prime Minister: I shall tell the hon. and learned Gentleman crisply; Britain wants good jobs, not worthless directives.
Q2. Mr. Hawkins: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 12 November.
The Prime Minister: I refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave some moments ago.
Mr. Hawkins: Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is a huge contrast between yesterday's excellent news of British Aerospace's success in winning the large Hawk order from Australia, which will guarantee British jobs, and the dismay felt by many British businesses at today's news of the adverse European ruling on the 48-
The Prime Minister: Australia's selection of British Aerospace to supply Hawks is the latest illustration of the keen competitiveness of British industry generally and the British aerospace industry in particular.
I think that not only will today's European Court of Justice ruling damage the prospects of job creation, should it not be reversed; it has disappointed British business men, as they have made clear repeatedly this morning at the Confederation of British Industry. The position is unacceptable. We cannot agree that our competitiveness should be undermined in this way. Were we to do so, it would clearly be the thin end of the wedge-
Mr. Blair: Will the Prime Minister now answer the question asked by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner)? Quite apart from Europe, why is he so opposed to a law that says that people are perfectly free to work more than 48 hours a week, but cannot be compelled to, and gives them minimum holiday entitlements? Is he going to fight the next election on the basis of, "vote Tory for no right to a holiday"?
The Prime Minister: Yet again, the right hon. Gentleman is in danger of missing the point. Unemployment is falling as we become more competitive. The directive could reverse that trend and similar directives could push unemployment up, instead of it continuing to fall. I am not prepared to accept that. I want jobs, not directives. I want Britain to continue to create jobs and unemployment to continue to fall. I do not want to place more burdens on business so that unemployment either remains stuck at a very high level or rises from that very high level as it has in other European countries. Competitiveness will create jobs. I want people to be in work. Presumably, the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to keep them out of work.
Mr. Blair: Perhaps the Prime Minister can tell us of a successful company in Britain that does not give its work force a holiday.
Hon. Members: Exactly.
Madam Speaker: Order. Stop shouting and barracking, for goodness' sake. I want to hear the questions and the answers.
Mr. Blair: If the directive is so dreadful, why did the Minister not vote against it when he had the chance to do so? May we be clear about the Government's position at the intergovernmental conference? Will the Prime Minister confirm that his position is this: all member states must agree at the outset of the conference that no progress will be made on any change proposed by any country in respect of any issue until the directive is reversed? Is that his position?
The Prime Minister: If the right hon. Gentleman's first point was correct, why do we need the directive? He made precisely the Government's point. Such directives pile burdens on business and they are bound to undermine our economic success. Their damage to the fruits of our economic success will affect the extra resources that we are providing to the health service, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health will set out in a White Paper tomorrow. They will damage the provision of opportunity for all four-
Mr. Blair: So it will be at the end of the intergovernmental conference-
The Prime Minister: Saving British jobs is the issue upon which to draw the line. The right hon. Gentleman may be prepared to live in an area of high unemployment. Unemployment in Britain is falling-
Q3. Mr. Luff: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 12 November.
The Prime Minister: I refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave some moments ago.
Mr. Luff: In the light of the demolition by the Confederation of British Industry of the case for a so-
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is of course right. A windfall tax would hit consumers; it would hit shareholders; it would hit employees. It is a tax not on utilities but on jobs, pensions and people's utility bills. The shadow Chancellor either cannot or still will not tell the House which privatised companies would pay, how much they would pay and how he would stop investment and customers being hit. If he wants professional advice as to what such a tax might mean, perhaps he might go home and seek it. He ought to tell the House exactly what he proposes. His silence means that the only thing that we know for sure is that Labour would put up taxes and is keeping quiet about just how much the increase would be.
Q4. Sir David Steel: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 12 November.
The Prime Minister: I refer the right hon. Gentleman to the reply I gave some moments ago.
Sir David Steel: May I refer the right hon. Gentleman back to the negotiations that took place over the European directive? If he looks at Hansard, he will find that, on 7 July 1992, the Secretary of State for Education and Employment boasted to the House that
"the United Kingdom secured all its key objectives, in particular the right for employees to work for more than 48 hours a week if they choose to do so."-
In a word, she said, "We have won." Was she not right? If they won, why are they going to war over something that they did not even vote against?
The Prime Minister: My right hon. Friend did get significant exclusions-
Mr. Lamont: Surely the real issue is not whether what the Leader of the Opposition says is right or wrong or whether the working time directive is right or wrong, but whether the matter ought to be decided in Brussels or by the elected Government of this country. What is the point in holding elections if the elected Government cannot carry out the policies on which they were elected?
The Prime Minister: I have no objection at all to businesses and their employees reaching whatever agreement they wish on working hours. That is entirely right in a properly functioning competitive economy. Like my right hon. Friend, what I object to in principle is working conditions being dictated from Brussels when they should be determined here, in this House. Other European countries can accept that if they wish, but they cannot then complain if businesses relocate from the rest of Europe to here as a result-
"Why stay in France if conditions for entrepreneurs are better in Britain?"
I do not want that said of Britain. That is why we are determined to keep the right measures to create jobs for our citizens in the future.
Q5. Mr. Rooney: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 12 November.
The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply I gave some moments ago.
Mr. Rooney: Will the Prime Minister tell the House why he favours a free vote on caning but not on gun control?
The Prime Minister: If the hon. Gentleman thinks the question of gun control is appropriate for a free vote, I do not agree with him. [Hon. Members: "Why?"] The Government considered the Cullen report, we made a judgment on the right way to implement it and we propose to stand by that judgment, lay it before the House of Commons and invite it to support us.
Q6. Mr. Alexander: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 12 November.
The Prime Minister: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave some moments ago.
Mr. Alexander: May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the by-
The Prime Minister: I congratulate Mr. Richardson on his win, although I am assured by the Under-