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 this afternoon. This evening I am speaking at the Britain-Australia Society's bicentennial celebration at the Guildhall.
Will my right hon. Friend find time today to consider the many opportunities that could exist, but which are not being made available to volunteers of all ages, to assist the public services? Will she ask her Ministers to reconsider the work of their Departments to make available more opportunities to the many thousands who would like to contribute on an organised basis?
I agree with my hon. Friend that voluntary work has a great deal to contribute to our community life, and I think that the number of voluntary organisations is one of the characteristics of life in this country. I know how much voluntary work contributed to the clearance after the recent hurricane in my hon. Friend's part of the world. I shall, of course, ask Ministers to consider the matter again to see if they can do more.
If, as we are told, the Government have the money to cut taxes, why do they not the money to cut the waiting time for those children now in urgent need of vital operations?
The number of children being treated now, particularly for cardiac surgery, has increased enormously. Indeed — [Interruption.] — for every five cardiac operations that were carried out up to 1979, about eight or nine are carried out now.
May I say to the Prime Minister, in the words of Mr. Steve McCallum, a member of the west midlands "Young at Heart Campaign" yesterday that
We are not political."—[Interruption.] The parents of children needing cardiac operations will have heard Conservative Members laughing at those words. They continue:
We are fighting for the lives of children. Children's lives are more important than party politics. We don't want to hear figures and statistics quoted for this year and that year. What we want is a National Health Service, a Birmingham Children's Hospital and the best service they can get.
Did the Prime Minister refuse to see Mr. McCallum and other parents and their children yesterday because she knew that if she did she would hear home truths like that?
I shall give the right hon. Gentleman the figures that he does not want to hear. He does not want to hear them because they are so good. Cardiac operations at the Birmingham children's hospital are up by 86 per cent. since 1978. In 1978 there were 155. In 1987 there were 288. The right hon. Gentleman says that he does not wish to use these matters party politically. That is the record. May I point out that one of the cases that were prominent in the House last week—that of Matthew Mulhall—was also mentioned again on Friday and it was pointed out that Matthew had a leaking heart valve and that his consultant advised his parents that it would be
best to allow him to grow so that the largest possible replacement heart valve can be used.
It was envisaged that his operation would take place in four to six months' time. Finding the facts did not stop people falsely raising that case in the House.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the £10·5 million of taxpayers' money being spent on the Commission for Racial Equality, the £3·4 million being spent on the Equal Opportunities Commission and the £2 million being spent on courses for trade unionists at our colleges would be better spent on the nation's health?
It has been our policy to do as much as we can to see that there is equality of opportunity in Britain, but I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary will have heard my hon. Friend's very effective question.
As tourism is the fastest growing industry in the world, will the Prime Minister confirm that funds will be available for the British tourist industry, and, indeed for the north-west of England, which is the most beautiful part of Britain? When the Prime Minister replies, will she smile? I have been here seven months and I have never seen her smile yet.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that tourism is an important and growing industry. Last year it helped to create 44,000 new jobs. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment has announced that support for tourism will increase next year by 9 per cent., bringing the total up to nearly £50 million. Allocations to the regional boards, including the northwest, are now being considered.
Has my right hon. Friend noticed the report in The Times today about an unemployed man who started out with the enterprise allowance with a zero turnover, but who, in the space of nine months, has increased that to £560,000 a year? Does that not prove that under her Government enterprise is thriving in Britain and will continue to do so?
I am aware of that case. The enterprise allowance has been an enormous success and has enabled many young people to start up in business on their own, creating not only jobs for themselves but for many others, showing that enterprise and vitality are still very much present in Britain's young people.
We do not normally receive petitions. There are quite a large number. As the hon. Gentleman is aware, we usually carry out between eight to 11 engagements in one day. There was a most excellent debate late on Friday afternoon on the Birmingham children's hospital, which met most of the points that were raised by the parents.
If I were to ask my right hon. Friend to give the House the recipe for the splendid performance of the British economy, what main essential ingredient would she list?
If he will allow me three and not one, I suggest: sound financial policies each and every year, the right legal framework, and incentives to enterprise.
Will the Prime Minister take time today to study the representations made to the Government by the Irish Government and the European Commission about a proposal by the CEGB to undertake a test in Trawsfynydd power station in my constituency on 12 February, which will include operating the reactor without the normal cooling procedures? Will she respond to those representations and clearly tell the Secretary of State for Energy and the CEGB that such a test does not pass the test of community acceptability in the community that surrounds the power station? If she or the Government allow that test to go ahead, would she, because of her great commitment to nuclear power, like to attend the test and supervise it in person?
Much better than that, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree, the test will take place only with the full approval of the independent Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, and will be monitored by it. It will be carried out only after the reactor has been fully shut down for its statutory inspection. All automatic safety systems will be operating normally. No safety systems will be cut off. I understand that there have been two similar tests in the past.
I am aware of my hon. Friend's strong views. I think we all feel strongly about this, but the American Administration and President have been forthright in condemning anyone who pursues violence as a way of achieving a political objective. The President has done everything possible to make it clear that that is wholly unacceptable.
It is—[Interruption.] It is always good to see enthusiasm. Is the Prime Minister aware that tomorrow a delegation of Scottish local authorities is coming to the House to protest at the sheer cost of introducing the poll tax north of the border? Is she aware that the £12 million that the Government have given in no way meets the £25 million of the cost of the administration? Would not that money be better spent on the Health Service in Scotland?
The community charge is a way of paying for local government which properly distributes the payment over a wider number of people. In fact, it meets only about a quarter of local expenditure. As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, the other three quarters is met by industry and the taxpayer.
The enthusiasm that the right hon. Gentleman heard expressed was because we thought he might be asking, or telling us, about his policy.
When my right hon. Friend considers the Government's much-awaited reform of section 2 of the Official Secrets Act, will she give serious consideration to formalising the role of the D-Notice committee and, in particular, consider introducing a publications review board along the lines of the one that has worked so well in America?
Is the Prime Minister aware of early-day motion 310, bearing 142 signatures, in which it is claimed that 25,000 signatures have been collected to fight to keep open the Nether Edge maternity unit in Sheffield? How can she justify her statement that the Health Service is safe in her hands when, in spite of all the pressures and arguments, the unit will still be closed? Will she personally meet a delegation from Sheffield and deal with the situation?
This is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister for Health and for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services, who deal with such matters. However, the hon. Gentleman will he pleased because I understand that a new children's hospital will he opening in Sheffield next year.
Unlike the leader of the Labour party, Conservative Members are not worried about elections, but supposing that at the next general election the electorate should make a slight mistake and not give us a overall majority, what lessons would my right hon. Friend learn from last week about trying to form a coalition with the Social and Liberal Democrats?
Is the Prime Minister aware that only six out of 12 intensive care beds are in use for heart operations in the Yorkshire regional cardiothoracic centre at Killingbeck hospital in Leeds? Will she join the vast majority of senior medical staff at that hospital in requesting from the regional health authority three extra intensive care units, or will she tell the staff at that hospital who, in the vast and lengthening queue of patients, young and old, will have to wait for surgery?
The number of cardiac operations, the amount of resources and the number of doctors and nurses have greatly increased. We are looking carefully at why some regional and district health authorities are able to manage much better than others on their allocations of money, and why in some surgery wards in some hospitals the beds are left empty between patient treatment for one day while in others they are left for up to three days. We are now getting a great deal of interesting information, trying to make the best use of the facilities available and taking lessons from those who have been most successful in that.