As the right hon. Lady has drawn a distinction between using public money for propaganda, which is done by those who disagree with her, and using it to inform the public, which is what her Government do, will she seize the opportunity to indicate whether, for that purpose, informing the public includes misinforming them? Will she consider into which category she would place the approach to sixth-form teachers to distribute to their classes recruiting propaganda from Conservative Central Office?
I believe that we have adhered absolutely to the Widdicombe rules—[HON. MEMBERS: "We?"] Government Departments have adhered absolutely to the Widdicombe rules, which the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows have been published, and copies of which are in the Library. As to the case that was heard yesterday, we shall uphold whatever the courts ultimately decide. That is what the rule of law is.
With regard to the leaflet and information that went to schools, I see nothing wrong in sending information to school careers officers, so that they can say what jobs are available. I do not know what the right hon. and learned Gentleman's experience is at election time, but we find that we are inundated with requests for information. I expect that he is too.
As I indicated in my reply to the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer), whatever the courts ultimately decide will, of course, be upheld. That is the precise point at issue. As to information, Departments have adhered strictly to the Widdicombe rules and will continue to do so. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman is proud of some of the Labour local
government leaflets that have been distributed. That issued by Lambeth and Norwood Labour party, dealing with registration, states:
If canvassers come round to question you, say you are the baby-sitter or looking after the premises…Wait a week or two, then write back saying your dog ate the form, it fell in the washing up, or you never received a form.
That is Labour for you.
Is it not very obvious that we now have a Government who impose injunctions against others for telling the truth and break injunctions when they are caught telling lies?
That is nonsense and the right hon. Gentleman knows it. He knows that there was an ex-parte application, that that ex-parte application was granted and that the substantive hearing has still to take place. Is his idea of justice that he should decide before both sides of the story are heard?
Will the Prime Minister agree that the experiment last year trying to keep the pound in line with the deutschemark led to a very dramatic credit boom and that it would still be impossible both to be members of the exchange rate mechanism and to run a successful monetary policy in the best interests of the country?
As my hon. Friend is aware, our top priority is to keep monetary policies that will keep downward pressure on inflation, that we will not hesitate to take whatever action is necessary and that interest rates will remain as high as is necessary for that purpose for as long as is necessary.
Is not the real reason for the Government's panic in issuing millions of misleading poll tax leaflets, including one this morning to my right hon. Friend the Opposition Chief Whip, the overwhelming hatred of people in this country for the poll tax? How will the Prime Minister tomorrow in Perth explain away the report from Lothian council that by the end of this month 500,000 out of 680,000 people will still not have paid a penny of the poll tax? Is not the poll tax, instead of being the flagship of her third term of Government, fast developing into her Titanic?
No, and the hon. Gentleman would not be half as worried about it if he genuinely thought that. He knows full well that the community charge is a way of paying for local government and of showing up the extravagance of Labour local authorities. Will he please look at some of the totally, utterly misleading and disgraceful leaflets about the community charge that have been put out at ratepayers' expense?
I think that we should get the same things as happened last time the Labour Government put the whole country under the authority of trade union bosses. They seem to be wanting a mask of respectability, but the people behind the mask are still the same. We should get massive strikes in hospitals and schools, rubbish not collected on the streets, the gravediggers not able to bury bodies, and all the other terrible things that we had in the winter of discontent. They would put the country under the trade union bosses once again.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that in his letter of resignation to the BMA one of my local GPs pointed out that it is totally unacceptable for a professional organisation to issue political leaflets to patients? He added that the error was further compounded by the inclusion in that leaflet of misleading statements, half-truths and lies. Will she agree with me that many elderly people were frightened by that pamphlet when, in fact, they will benefit substantially from the proposals?
I agree that many people were frightened by that leaflet, and that a number of doctors have been gravely concerned that the BMA has put out such a leaflet in their name. Nevertheless, we are very pleased that we have now reached agreement with the BMA in a contract for the doctors, which I hope will be fully accepted. We shall then be able to go ahead in a much better spirit, and put in place the improvements proposed in the National Health Service White Paper.
The rules to which we adhere are those set out in the Widdicombe report. Those rules are in the Library and, if anything, they have been slightly tightened up.
Let me point out to the hon. Gentleman that a final decision is not usually arrived at when only one side has put its case to a judge. That is why a substantive hearing must take place before the judge in a few days. I note that the Labour party likes to have only one side of the story when it makes its judgments.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that this week's announcement of a 42 per cent. increase in the suckler cow premium for beef farmers is a major boost for British beef production? Does she also agree that it demonstrates both the achievement of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in the negotiations in the European Agriculture Council and the Government's renewed commitment to supporting British farmers to ensure that they can compete on fair and equal terms in Europe? Is not the announcement good for the farmer, for the housewife and for exports?
I agree that the announcement made by my right hon. Friend the Minister in May about the suckler cow premium has been welcomed by industry as a whole. As my hon. Friend has said, it encourages the production of high-quality beef, for which there is a continuing demand at home and an increasing demand in export markets. I also agree that the announcement was accompanied by a very good negotiation with the Common Market on agricultural policy, and that the revaluation of the green pound is also greatly to the benefit of our farmers.
Will the Prime Minister join me in rejoicing at the discovery on Bankside in Southwark, in my constituency, of the ruins of the Rose theatre, the great mediaeval theatre of England? Will she also join me in applauding the collaboration between the developers Imry, English Heritage and the Museum of London, which have allowed us to discover this great treasure? Given the risk that on Monday the site will be filled in and pile-driven and the stage destroyed, will she now add her support to discussions that are taking place between English Heritage and the developers so that we may preserve for ever the greatest of the Roses of England?
I agree that the discovery of the remains of the Elizabethan Rose theatre is a historic event, and that everything possible must be done to preserve those remains so that one day they may be on public display. I understand that there have been very constructive discussions—as the hon. Gentleman has said—between the developers, English Heritage and the Museum of London, and that as a result the remains are to be preserved with minimal damage. I welcome that; and it does not rule out the possibility of a scheme for public display one day. In the meantime, constructive discussions continue.
My right hon. Friend makes his point very effectively. In that case the deterrent is not a deterrent because it does not deter and the policy is the old one of unilateralism in a different package.
Can the Prime Minister explain why the dreaded words "poll tax" appear on an official Government publication on the community charge? Surely there must be some mistake?