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1992 - PMQT 9th June 1992

Below is the text of Prime Minister's Question Time from 9th June 1992. Tony Newton responded on behalf of John Major.

PRIME MINISTER:

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Campbell-Savours : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 9 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 visiting Colombia to have discussions with President Gaviria on a wide range of issues. He will carry out other official duties including an inspection of an anti-narcotics police training school.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : Is the Leader of the House aware of the major argument that broke out in Rio de Janeiro last night at the Earth summit between my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd), Labour's spokeswoman for overseas development, and Baroness Chalker, the Minister, on the £10 billion decline in the Government's aid programme over the past 13 years? Will he confirm that when the Prime Minister told the House last week that over the past 13 years since the fall of the Labour Government, there has been a real increase in overseas aid as a proportion of gross domestic product, he was wrong, he was in error, and had not done his homework?

Mr. Newton : I cannot say that I have had a detailed blow-by-blow account of the conversation in Rio last night. What I do know is that underlying my right hon. Friend's statement last week is the fact that we spent more than £1.8 billion in the past financial year--an increase of 4.7 per cent. in real terms over the previous year. Our aid is planned to continue to grow in real terms to almost £2 billion in 1994-95. I also hope that the hon. Gentleman will point out to his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, who claimed that we had cut by half our aid to third-world countries, that our aid has gone up from £727 million to more than £1.8 billion in the past financial year.

Mrs. Lait : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the new common agricultural policy agreement led by the British Government is advantageous to the British consumer, fair to the British farmer and is likely to break the deadlock at the general agreement on tariffs and trade talks?

Mr. Newton : I very much agree with my hon. Friend that the agreement is not only very advantageous to this country and to the sensible development of agricultural policies in Europe, since it reduces the burden of the CAP on consumers by £8 billion for the Community as a whole, but it will help to restore the credibility of the Community in the GATT negotiations and will make a settlement of those negotiations, devoutly desired by hon. Members of all parties, more likely.


Q2. Mr. Hanson : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 9 June.

Mr. Newton : I have been asked to reply.

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Hanson : Is the Leader of the House aware that since privatisation the number of water cut-offs has trebled, and that in Wales it has increased even further? Is he further aware that since privatisation the salaries and bonuses of water company chairmen have risen by 290 per cent., and that in Wales they have risen by 211 per cent? Is that not a case of Tory policy making the rich richer and the poor poorer? Will the right hon. Gentleman today take the opportunity to condemn the water companies for their actions, and will he put pressure on the authorities to take steps in this regard?

Mr. Newton : What I am aware of is that, largely as a result of the inaction of the previous Labour Government-- [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker : Order. This is a waste of precious time.

Mr. Newton : And-- [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker : Order. The House must come to order and hear what the Leader of the House has to say.

Mr. Newton : And the-- [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker : Order. It is now my turn. Will the House please come to order, so that at least I can hear what the Leader of the House has to say?

Mr. Newton : What I am aware of is that, as a result of long neglect of water investment under the previous Administration, there has been a considerable need to improve investment in supply and water quality. Since privatisation, the level of water investment has doubled, and it has more than doubled since five years before privatisation.


Q3. Dr. Goodson-Wickes : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 9 June.

Mr. Newton : I have been asked to reply.

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

Dr. Goodson-Wickes : Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming the first-ever visit by a serving Prime Minister of this country to any country in South America? Does not our right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's choice of Colombia for his first port of call give us an opportunity to endorse our historical, if somewhat neglected, links with that country ; to thank it for its support during the Falklands war ; and to promote further co-operation in our joint efforts to fight the menace of drug trafficking?

Mr. Newton : I agree with my hon. Friend. This first-ever visit by a serving British Prime Minister to a South American country is indeed very welcome : it reflects the factors mentioned by my hon. Friend, and provides a further opportunity to enhance the already close co-operation that exists between this country and Colombia in combating the drugs menace.

Mr. Hattersley : Can the Leader of the House confirm that information given to newspapers yesterday by the Foreign Office that Britain is attempting to negotiate a protocol to the Maastricht treaty, to prepare the House for a resubmission of the Maastricht Bill?

Mr. Newton : What I can tell the right hon. Gentleman is that the possibility to which he has referred is clearly one among a range of others that can sensibly be considered in the uncertain circumstances that have followed the Danish referendum. [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker : Order.

Mr. Newton : I was giving the right hon. Gentleman, I hope, a straightforward and clear-cut answer-- [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker : Order.

Mr. Newton : As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made clear in his statement yesterday, it is obviously necessary, following the Danish referendum last week--this is acknowledged on all sides--to look at all possible ways of moving forward in the wake of the Danish decision. What I indicated in the early part of my remarks does no more than confirm that one of the possibilities which can clearly be considered, but without commitment at this stage, is that to which the right hon. Gentleman referred.

Mr. Hattersley : It is indeed a strange Government who are categorical to newspapers on one day and evasive to the House of Commons on the next. Does the Leader of the House understand that the time has gone when progress can be made on the Maastricht Bill by contrivance and manipulation? There are many of us on both sides of the House, long- standing enthusiasts for European unity-- [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker : Order.

Mr. Hattersley : There are many of us on both sides of sides of the House, long-standing enthusiasts for European unity, who will support progress only of a Bill that is clear, honest and comprehensive and which includes those parts of the treaty most of benefit to the British people, and that specifically includes the social chapter.

Mr. Newton : There is a slight contrast, I think, between what the right hon. Gentleman is telling us this afternoon and what his right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) appeared to tell us yesterday afternoon, which was that he was both for and against the treaty, depending upon what happened in other quarters. The British Government's position is absolutely clear and entirely in line with what I said a few moments ago ; that is, that it is necessary, not simply for one country--this one--but for 12, including not least the Danes, to consider the position created by the events of last week and to look at various ways forward from there. That is a sensible policy and it is absurd for the right hon. Gentleman to pretend that there is a simple, neat and immediate answer.

Mr. Cormack : Does my right hon. Friend agree that there are few less agreeable sights than that of a pack of greedy voyeurs on the make? Will he please convey the good wishes of the House to the Prince and Princess of Wales, our thanks for their past services and hopes for their future happiness?

Mr. Newton : My hon. Friend will understand that I would not wish to be drawn into comment on the stories that have been appearing in the press, but there will be very widespread support in all parts of the House for the comments made by the Press Complaints Commission yesterday. As my hon. Friend knows, our right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage will take into account the views of the Press Complaints Commission in his forthcoming review of press self-regulation, which is due to start in July. He will have the support of the whole House in doing precisely that.


North Atlantic Treaty

Q4. Dr. Godman : To ask the Prime Minister if it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to initiate discussions at the forthcoming NATO ministerial meeting in Oslo on matters relating to article 4 and article 12 of the North Atlantic treaty ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Newton : I have been asked to reply.

Articles 4 and 12 of the North Atlantic treaty were not discussed. But the North Atlantic Council communique, copies of which have been placed in the Library, made it clear that NATO was prepared to support peacekeeping activities on a case-by-case basis under the auspices of the conference on security and co-operation in Europe.

Dr. Godman : With reference to article 4 of the treaty, and more specifically paragraph 17 of United Nations resolution 757, will the Leader of the House confirm that NATO forces will not be employed in a peacekeeping role in the former republic of Yugoslavia except with the unanimous agreement of the 16 nations which comprise NATO and under the specific command of the United Nations? If such a role is even to be considered, will Her Majesty's Government press the case for the command structure to be European, rather than American-led?

Mr. Newton : The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that work is in progress within the alliance to establish precisely how and under what conditions NATO might undertake peacekeeping activity on behalf of or under CSCE auspices. Clearly, the expectation is that such activity would be conducted in consultation with our European partners in that organisation.