This morning I attended a presentation about the Government programme for action for jobs. I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be having further meetings later today.
As the First Lord of the Treasury was not on the Treasury Bench when this was raised in Treasury Question Time, may I ask my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister whether she has studied the Official Report of yesterday's debate on the City? If so, is she surprised that in the very week of the umpteenth relaunch of the alliance the SDP leader and the Liberal leader voted against each other? One hears about guarding one's flanks, but this is ridiculous. Is not their claim to be a true alliance as spurious as a 50p note?
I studied both the debate on I.he City and the Division List which followed the debate. I understand that at the very time that the two right hon. Members were appearing together on television last night they were voting differently in the House, one with I he Government and one with the Opposition—walking proof that the so-called alliance is not an alliance.
Can the Prime Minister confirm that, following his speech and interviews yesterday, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is giving serious consideration to enacting extra-statutory powers to replace voluntary compliance with the takeover panel's fair dealing code? Does this proposal by the Secretary of State have her full support?
The Secretary of State made an excellent statement yesterday. He announced a review of the takeover panel—if that is what the right hon. Gentleman is referring to—and we shall wait to see what that produces.
Is the right hon. Lady correcting the quotations in the Daily Telegraph and the Financial Times this morning of the Secretary of State saying that failure to secure compliance would ensure extra-statutory powers? If that is the case—and I quote from c. 372 of yesterday's Official Report—can the Prime Minister tell us why that is the case now and why in June last year the Government voted against exactly that proposal when it came from Opposition Members?
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry yesterday announced a review of the operation of the takeover code. As I understand it, the right hon. Gentleman wants us to prejudge that review. We do not prejudge the outcome of the review, but if practitioners do not respect the system we shall replace it with one making greater use of statutory powers and sanctions.
In that case, how long is the period of proof, given that the review that the Secretary of State set up last June is not, according to his hon. and learned Friend, expected to report before the end of this year, so that we will not be able to consider it this side of the election?
The right hon. Gentleman is aware that this Government have done more that any other to bring in legislation to prevent abuse in the City. Perhaps he might look at what The Guardian said on Tuesday 20 January:
Opposition taunts of too little, too late dissolve when it is remembered that the last Labour administration jettisoned legislation drawn up by the outgoing Heath Government which would have made insider trading a criminal offence in the early seventies.
Any suggestion that political power should be exercised by violence on the streets is the very denigration and opposite of democracy.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that thousands of my constituents who work in local defence industries are obliged, and honour the obligation, to keep details of their work secret? Do they not have a right to be angry and frustrated at the activities of Left-wing activists and journals in publishing information which could damage our national security? As the Government have done all in their power to limit this subversion, will the Prime Minister prevail upon the Leader of the Opposition, on Privy Council terms if necessary, to stop the activities of his so-called supporters, which is so disgraceful?
My hon. Friend is right. The New Statesman deliberately chose to publish information which could be of benefit to our potential enemies. We are still waiting for a clear condemnation from the Labour Benches. With regard to any further showing of that film outside this House, the Leader of the Opposition said, when he spoke last Thursday, that he would uphold the Government's view that the showing of a particular film would prejudice national security. The Leader of the Opposition also agreed that one breach, or threatened breach, does not justify a further breach.
Will the Prime Minister take time to consider the fact that 10 days ago in Warwickshire there was an armed raid on a post office? Following that raid the police requested four emergency lines to the incident room. While members of the National Communications Union were willing to install those lines, on an unpaid basis, they were prevented from doing so by local management, who removed their vans, clearly under the instruction of Mr. Michael Bett, to bring this dispute to a head sooner rather than later. In that regard, is not the lack of emergency cover in the BT dispute clearly down to management?
The trouble is the strike itself, which can only put people out of work and make older people suffer if their telephone communications are not kept working. The trouble is the strike itself.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the package of training and employment measures announced yesterday offers real hope to the unemployed with the prospect—[Interruption]—of jobs today and tomorrow? Does she further agree that attempts by the Labour party to denigrate these measures should be disregarded by us all, but most of all by the unemployed, who stand to benefit most directly from them?
Yes. My hon. Friend is right. No other country in Europe, even though some of them have a bigger proportion of unemployment among youth and a longer or greater proportion of long-term unemployed than we have, has such an excellent package of individual help to each and every unemployed person. That is evidence of the Government's commitment to provide the fullest possible help to all those looking for work.
Can I ask the Prime Minister whether she will reconsider the support that she gave to a highly emotional and not very helpful speech by the chief constable of Greater Manchester, when he said that AIDS victims were whirling about in a cesspit of their own making? Does she not accept that this was an extremely unhelpful speech to make? Will she make sure that she now supports those, both in this House and outside, who are trying to deal with this very difficult problem?
I refer, not to the sentence which the hon. Member quoted, but to what I said. I do not have it with me, but she can find that from the transcript. I said that some people, whether from the Church or elsewhere, had spoken out to the effect that morals do matter in AIDS and that, while Governments cannot prevent people from getting AIDS, people themselves, by their own conduct, can do so. That is correct.
Adverting to the point made by the Leader of the Opposition, may I invite my right hon. Friend to agree, with reference to the takeover panel, and code, that it would have been wholly improper to have imported statutory provision for that into the Financial Services Bill, that it was the Conservative Government who introduced that Bill, which tightened up in an unprecedented manner control and regulation of the supervisory structure of the City, that it was the Conservative party which amended that Bill to tighten up very significantly the powers of the Securities and Investment Board, and that the Conservative Government will not hesitate to take further measures if necessary?
Yes. Mr. Speaker. It was the Labour Government who ran away from introducing legislation to make insider trading a criminal offence. It was this Government who have done so much about it. With regard to the takeover panel, a review has been announced. If hon. Gentlemen wish me to prejudge that review, I will not do so. If practitioners do not respect the system, we shall replace it with one making greater use of statutory powers and sanctions.
Will the Prime Minister find time to take a personal interest in the question of issuing free disposable syringes to diabetics? Does she agree that it would be morally wrong to deny disposable syringes to those who have no choice but to inject themselves daily for the rest of their lives when she is able to find the resources to make disposable syringes available for drug addicts so as to prevent AIDS?