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 today, including one with the Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. Mulroney.
Yes, Sir. The agreement that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development signed is the first of its kind with Brazil to seek to preserve the tropical rain forest—the largest block of tropical rain forest in the world. It involves research projects in conjunction with us—with the Royal Geographical Society—on the sustainable development of the forest and on climatic change. As The Times said,
It was a triumph for—[Interruption.]
Is the Prime Minister aware that she was absolutely right to say last December that energy efficiency is crucial in combating the greenhouse effect? So why, according to the Government's own figures, has expenditure on energy efficiency been cut by 15 per cent. since 1987 and is to be cut in half again by 1991? Is not that the record of a Government who talk green but act dirty?
No, Sir. The part of the energy efficiency budget that is being cut was the part heavily devoted to advertising. In fact, the energy efficiency record of this country is excellent. We use less energy now to produce 25 per cent. more goods than was the case in 1973. It is a very good record on energy efficiency.
If the Prime Minister is proud of her record and is seriously concerned about energy efficiency, which she says is crucial, will she overrule her Secretary of State for Energy and accept the Lords amendment to the Electricity Bill which had all-party support and which will penalise suppliers if they fail to give proper attention to energy efficiency?
No, Sir. They will give proper attention to energy efficiency—and so will consumers, most of whom wish to use energy efficiently to keep down their bills. That is a very important incentive to energy efficiency.
Can the Prime Minister tell us in straightforward terms, and within the terms of the Electricity Bill, how she knows that private suppliers will take care of energy efficiency?
Usually when we privatise things, they have to be run very much more efficiently. [Interruption.] For example, when I first came to the Dispatch Box British Steel required £1 billion per year subsidy from the taxpayer. Now it is making £500 million per year profit. That is an excellent example of the greater efficiency of privatisation.
When my right hon. Friend visits France in the next few days for the European economic summit, will she urge her colleagues to continue the sustained and steady policies that have produced growth for all countries in the Community? Will she further urge the summit to support her Government's policies, which are tackling the problems of the global environment?
Yes. I believe that it was the experience of the economic summit—particularly during its second cycle, which has just been completed—that sound economic policies have produced faster growth than we have ever had before, a higher standard of living, and a better standard of social services. We shall be looking very much at the economics of better environment. We notice that it is the countries which are more prosperous and have more growth that now have the resources to devote to better environmental conditions, unlike some of the Third world and some eastern European countries. We shall be paying great attention to that factor.
If the Government's policy on the environment is so good, how is it that the latest figures show that Britain's production of the primary greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, is increasing at twice the world average rate? How will the Prime Minister explain that at the Paris summit next week while opposing further measures for energy conservation?
I think that the right hon. Gentleman must be referring to some figures that were compounded by the Oakridge laboratory in 1986. Our published figures do not agree with its comparison between 1986 and 1987. However, as the right hon. Gentleman has asked me about the fundamental carbon dioxide gas, from the figures published from the Oakridge laboratory, which we have not yet seen in detail, the Daily Telegraph gave these figures:
Per capita figures from the Oakridge laboratory for the production of fossil fuels in tonnes of carbon per man or woman"—
the higher the figure, the worse it is—
United States five tonnes of carbon dioxide for each person, Czechoslovakia 4·2, Bulgaria 3·6, Soviet Union 3·6, West Germany 3·06, United Kingdom 2·9.
Yes, I believe that it will come about at the next Commonwealth conference, and it will be very warmly welcomed. I am glad that we are among the first to suggest and to approve that Pakistan return to the Commonwealth. Of course, it could not be done without the co-operation of India, through Mr. Rajiv Gandhi. We had a successful visit here last week by the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto. We were very pleased that we were able to help her with some aid for rural development and extra help for the Afghan refugees, which brings our help for the Afghan refugees up to £15 million in the past 18 months.
I should have thought that an Opposition party with massive investment from the trade unions was not well equipped to ask that question. With regard to the decisions of my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, within two years all brewers with more than 2,000 pubs will have to have untied 50 per cent. of the number in excess of 2,000. That will add 11,000 free houses, which is equivalent to serving some 3 million customers a year. As the House knows, tenants will be able to purchase, free of ties, soft drinks, non-alcoholic ciders, wines and spirits. In addition, many of the other recommendations of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission were implemented in full.
When my right hon. Friend crosses the England channel to visit Paris later this week, will she recall that last year we celebrated the tercentenary of our own glorious revolution which, as revolutions go, was virtually bloodless—certainly much less so than the reign of terror being celebrated in Paris?
I hope that in 1993 I shall be able to go across by the Channel tunnel as Prime Minister—[Interruption.] Yes, we managed our revolutions much more quietly in this country in 1688 and 1689 when Parliament took over the authority for the country from the monarch. Our revolutions have certainly been quieter. Our revolution during the past 10 years—a revolution of high living standards and high social services—has also been managed quietly and very well.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that if there is one worse danger than that, it is the danger of inflationary pay demands which threaten competitiveness and put jobs at risk?
Let us hope that the negotiations now taking place will result in a successful conclusion so that British Rail can work fully again, serving both the public and freight, and justify the great investment that this country has put into the railways, especially in the past two or three years, including the great investment in electrification. We have now the greatest investment since changing from steam to the modern railway.
Given the welcome reduction in tension between East and West, and the reduction in regional conflict, does the Prime Minister agree that the potential for arms sales has reduced in the world? What initiatives is she taking to encourage British industry involved in the arms trade to find peaceful alternative products?
Of course we welcome the reduction in tension between East and West—we were among the first to do so—but that does not mean that the reductions in arms now being negotiated will come about quickly. For several years the Soviet Union will have a great superiority over us in conventional, nuclear and chemical weapons. The only safe course for all who believe in freedom and justice is to ensure that we, with NATO, have a proper and full defence.
The Soviet Union is not reducing its arms sales capability in any way. It is increasing its arms sales to the middle east.
Will my right hon. Friend take time this afternoon to condemn the fact that physically and mentally handicapped people are being deprived of essential services as an inevitable result of the callous withdrawal of labour by the National and Local Government Officers Association?
Yes, I most certainly condemn it. I noticed that it was reported this morning that some nurseries and other services might not be running today. Once again, that is the fault of some people of the extreme Left wing in the trade unions who never think of serving the public or of their duty to the public. I am happy to say, however, that many people in NALGO went to work as usual to carry out their duties in the best possible way and in the best possible traditions of local government.