Following her visit to the site of the east midlands air crash, does the Prime Minister agree that the widespread speculation—some of which apparently was fuelled by United States' Government officials—attributing pilot error to Captain Hunt the day after he was so widely acclaimed as a hero, was utterly deplorable? Does she further agree that what is needed is not deeply hurtful speculation but the most thorough investigation of the causes of this dreadful crash?
I agree with the hon. Gentleman. It would be far better if everyone accepted that the best course after a tradegy of this kind is for those charged with the duty of investigating to get on with that task. Nothing should be said until it is properly and truly completed, with the one exception that if any technical problems are found during the course of the investigation information should be given so that they can be put right. Otherwise, there should be no speculation and we should wait until the facts are found.
I agree with my hon. Friend that there is widespread concern about the plant, which I believe is there to produce chemical weapons. We have the powers to stop exports that could be used for that purpose, which have been used, but usually persuasion has been enough. When people have told us that they have received certain orders and we have asked them not to proceed with them, they have agreed not to do so.
Will the Prime Minister accept a timely warning that if she continues to ignore the wishes of the majority of Scottish people for constitutional reform and the right to look after their own affairs through their own Scottish Parliament, she, the Government and the Tory party could be responsible for the break-up of the United Kingdom?
Many of us have been through these arguments before on Bills and the referendum, and know full well that the House was split, not always on party-political grounds, although we accept that we are the party that believes in the Union of the United Kingdom and will continue to do so. I would find it strange if the Labour party believed in separatism for Scotland.
I welcome my right hon. Friend's continuing active interest in environmental issues and a cleaner atmosphere. In the run-up to the Budget, will she consider the wisdom of widening the tax differential between leaded and unleaded petrol to promote greater use of unleaded petrol?
My right hon. Friend the Chancellor introduced a large differential in cost between leaded and unleaded petrol in favour of unleaded petrol, which was designed to encourage more people to use unleaded petrol. It is not possible for everyone to use it because it depends, obviously, on the kind of engine that one has in one's car. I believe that there will be progressively more use of unleaded petrol as new car engines come into use.
The main priority of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor is the same as mine—to get inflation down. As my right hon. Friend says, one cannot have two priorities and that is—and will remain—his main priority.
Is the Prime Minister saying in her response to this House, importers and competitors that, in her view, it does not matter how high the pound goes?
I am saying that when one considers these many matters, the task and priority of getting inflation down takes precedence over other things and that one cannot have two priorities. The priority is getting inflation down.
Is it, then, the Prime Minister's view that in pursuit of that objective, British industry should be crushed between a high pound and high interest rates?
It will not have escaped the right hon. Gentleman's attention that the country that has had the sharpest increase in the value of its currency—Japan —is the country that has the highest balance of payments surplus.
I wonder whether my right hon. Friend can tell the House whether the ground crew working on aircraft flying in and out of Northern Ireland—the engine mechanics and airframe mechanics—are positively vetted?
That is not a matter to which we would refer, but I do not think that it is wise to speculate in any way on the cause of that very tragic crash.
With regard to bed-and-breakfast accommodation, as the hon. Gentleman is aware, it varies very much between local authority and local authority as to how they make use of that provision—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer the question."] I am sorry, did I mishear the question? That is not unusual in this House.
More and more people are having their dreams of home ownership realised—opportunities they would never had had before. As far as repossession is concerned, the latest figures show that it is less than one third of 1 per cent.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that tomorrow the city of Birmingham celebrates its 100th anniversary of being created a city and that celebrations will take place that will reflect the city's noble past and look forward to opportunities for the future? Has my right hon. Friend a message for the people of the city of Birmingham as they celebrate on that centenary?
I congratulate Birmingham. The city has played a tremendous part in our industrial and political history. I wish it well, and I hope and believe that it is well on the way to regaining its former industrial and commercial pre-eminence in our country.
Has the Prime Minister seen or heard of the report—[HON. MEMBERS: "Reading."] I know; I have to get it right. Has the Prime Minister seen or heard of a report suggesting that cook-chill causes a disease called listeria which is as dangerous as salmonella—perhaps more so? In view of the scare caused by one of her ex-Ministers over the Christmas period and by the fact that amended guidelines have been drawn up by the Ministry, what do the Government propose to do about the problem?
I have not seen the report, although I have read reports about the report. As the hon. Gentleman knows there is as yet far too little information about the problem, and my right hon. Friends are looking into the matter very carefully because they, too, are concerned about the facts and figures given in the new report.
Will my right hon. Friend congratulate the work force of Amber Valley district council on winning the lion's share of recently tendered contracts, and will she congratulate and commend the leadership of that council on having made Amber Valley the first local authority to put all its services out to tender in accordance with the Local Government Act 1988, thus saving ratepayers more than £2 million?
I shall certainly congratulate Amber Valley district council on the most excellent way in which it has tackled the problems and I congratulate its leadership on having saved the ratepayer something like £2 million. I think that that example could be followed by many other councils. I understand that an Audit Commission report published today suggests that savings of 20 per cent. or more can be gained in contract prices, irrespective of whether the work has been won by the private sector or by the authority's own work force. May many others follow the lead given by Amber Valley district council.