Engagements

Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th November 1990.

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Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East 12:00 am, 20th November 1990

Questions to the Prime Minister—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear".]—Order. No. 1, Mr. McAvoy.

Photo of Thomas McAvoy Thomas McAvoy , Glasgow Rutherglen

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 20 November.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. I understand that the Lord President has been asked to reply.

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Chair, Privileges Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House Lords (Privy Council Office)

I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is attending the conference on security and co-operation in Europe, in Paris.

Photo of Thomas McAvoy Thomas McAvoy , Glasgow Rutherglen

Does the Leader of the House accept that with the Tory party split from top to bottom in an orgy of bitterness, animosity and hatred, it is proving that it is patently unfit to govern? Bearing in mind the present Prime Minister's new-found enthusiasm for referendums, will the Leader of the House urge him to resign and call the only referendum that matters—a general election—to give the people an opportunity to elect a Labour Prime Minister?

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Chair, Privileges Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House Lords (Privy Council Office)

We have just had the debate on the Address and the legislative programme in which the Government secured a very large majority of 108. That is a firm rebuttal of the hon. Gentleman's point. We have a full and important legislative programme and we shall be getting on with it, as the House wants us to do. I do not know why the hon. Gentleman raised that point, because when the general election comes and the focus turns to his leader and the Labour party's policies, I have no doubt that the Conservative party will have a fourth considerable victory.

Photo of Michael Jack Michael Jack , Fylde

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 20 November.

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Chair, Privileges Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House Lords (Privy Council Office)

I have been asked to reply.

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Photo of Michael Jack Michael Jack , Fylde

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the excellent European arms reduction treaty could not have been achieved under the weak, indecisive and divided policies advocated by the Opposition? Can he further confirm that the defence of the realm remains a key objective of the Government and that the aerospace workers in Lancashire will have a full part to play in that?

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Chair, Privileges Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House Lords (Privy Council Office)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right in what he says. It was because the Government—under the leadership of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister—and other Governments in the west were resolute about defence and maintained an effective nuclear deterrent that the Soviet Union realised that it could not win militarily. When a Soviet leader arose with the courage and vision of Mr. Gorbachev, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was the first to recognise that and to encourage him in the process of reform and disarmament, which was so triumphantly sealed yesterday. That treaty is of major significance for the future of Europe. My hon. Friend is also right to stress the role of British Aerospace. I am sure that it will continue to have an important role.

Hon. Members:

What is your leader doing?

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I can tell hon. Members exactly what my right hon. Friend is doing—he is enjoying the undivided support of his party.

Will the Leader of the House accept our congratulations on the Government's refusal to provide £10 million to fund the city technology college in the Prime Minister's borough? When shall we have a statement on the Government's general climbdown on CTCs?

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Chair, Privileges Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House Lords (Privy Council Office)

There is no climbdown on city technology colleges. We have a clear programme—15 have been either announced or are well in the pipeline. What is more, the CTCs already in existence are proving not only extremely effective in raising standards in inner-urban areas, but extremely popular with parents. They all have very large waiting lists.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

If there is no general climbdown on CTCs, what significance should we read into the Prime Minister having been picked out for special punishment in that particular? Is not it true that the Government's policy is in shambles in yet another area and that the country now faces all the problems of a lame duck Prime Minister leading a lame duck Government?

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Chair, Privileges Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House Lords (Privy Council Office)

That was a shambles of an attack. Our CTC policy is continuing and the CTCs are proving very popular. As the former Secretary of State for Education and Science, I recently announced consultations on a new CTC—which I believe will be very good—in the Bristol area. In each case, we must consider the obtaining of sufficient funds from sponsors and the matching of sponsors with sites in appropriate inner-urban areas. It is not true that the CTC programme is crumbling.

Photo of Mr David Ashby Mr David Ashby , North West Leicestershire

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 20 November.

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Chair, Privileges Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House Lords (Privy Council Office)

I have been asked to reply.

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Photo of Mr David Ashby Mr David Ashby , North West Leicestershire

Has my right hon. Friend noticed the absence of the Leader of the Opposition? Could he possibly be attending any summit meeting and, if so, would he be advocating his policies of 1983 or his policies of 1990?

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Chair, Privileges Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House Lords (Privy Council Office)

Not the least of the achievements of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is that the Opposition have changed so many of their policies—for example, on Europe, on the economy and in many other respects. That is a clear sign of the Government's success with our policies during recent years.

Photo of Mr Martin Flannery Mr Martin Flannery , Sheffield, Hillsborough

I know that the Leader of the House must be worried about matters other than Question Time, but will he address himself to the position from which he was recently removed, that of Secretary of State for Education and Science? Does he realise that the CTCs, which were mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), together with the assisted places scheme, are costing more than the £500 million that he recently wrung from the Treasury? Does he accept that both those schemes are an insult to British education? Only a few parents are lucky enough to feel able to support them, while the remainder of education suffers from the siphoning off of public money into private education.

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Chair, Privileges Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House Lords (Privy Council Office)

For a start, the hon. Gentleman's figures are completely wrong. The two programmes to which he referred cost a good deal less than £500 million. I know that he will have noticed the proposals in the autumn statement to increase spending on education next year by more than £3,000 million. That is a clear sign of the priority that we give to education. The CTC programme and the assisted places programme are two of the many means by which we are raising standards and extending parental choice.

Photo of Mr Michael Stern Mr Michael Stern , Bristol North West

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 20 November.

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Chair, Privileges Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House Lords (Privy Council Office)

I have been asked to reply.

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Photo of Mr Michael Stern Mr Michael Stern , Bristol North West

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Government's policy towards Europe has been vindicated by the success of the conference on security and co-operation in Europe, held in Paris? Does he further agree that the direction of future policy must lead to greater co-operation across the entire continent of Europe rather than to a retreat into a tight economic unit covering less than half of it?

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Chair, Privileges Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House Lords (Privy Council Office)

I very much agree with my hon. Friend. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said in Paris yesterday We would hope to see east and central European countries join the Council of Europe. And in the slightly longer term we would also hope to see them join the European Community when they are ready and want to do so". My hon. Friend is also right to talk about a wider, open Europe. As a former Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, I believe that the lead that my right hon. Friend gave—[Interruption.] I was pleased to play my part in the reform of the common agricultural policy. The lead that my right hon. Friend gave in trying to get a united European position on the GATT Uruguay round has been most important.

Photo of Mr Dave Nellist Mr Dave Nellist , Coventry South East

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 20 November.

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Chair, Privileges Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House Lords (Privy Council Office)

I have been asked to reply.

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Photo of Mr Dave Nellist Mr Dave Nellist , Coventry South East

Is the Lord President of the Council aware that my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) was outside Committee Room 12 this morning at 10 o'clock when he conducted a most authoritative exit poll of a certain contest? Among the first—[Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. The hon. Gentleman may well have been there, but the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) should relate his question to Government responsibilities.

Photo of Mr Dave Nellist Mr Dave Nellist , Coventry South East

Among the first 200 Tory MPs who emerged, 200 admitted to voting for the Prime Minister and 200 admitted to voting for the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine). With all the duplicity and general savagery of the past few days, does the Lord President agree that it would be better to follow the advice of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Rutherglen (Mr. McAvoy) and call a general election? Instead of 350 Tory Members of Parliament deciding a political talent contest, 40 million people could pass verdict on the past 11 years of Thatcherism.

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Chair, Privileges Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House Lords (Privy Council Office)

I have already dealt with the general election point. The hon. Gentleman has highlighted the fact that, as ever, the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) not only gets his facts and dates wrong, but has an extremely vivid imagination.

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Chair, Privileges Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House Lords (Privy Council Office)

We shall see.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist), as he has reminded me that I have still to vote, which I hope to do in about five minutes.

Photo of Gerald Howarth Gerald Howarth , Cannock and Burntwood

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 20 November.

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Chair, Privileges Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House Lords (Privy Council Office)

I have been asked to reply.

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Photo of Gerald Howarth Gerald Howarth , Cannock and Burntwood

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the fact that in excess of 7 million people have already registered to buy electricity shares demonstrates the continuing and overwhelming public interest in popular capitalism, as espoused by the Conservative party alone under the leadership of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister? Does he also agree that today's 11 million popular capitalists have everything to fear from the return of an expropriating Labour party?

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Chair, Privileges Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House Lords (Privy Council Office)

I agree with my hon. Friend. There is no doubt that one of the many successes of the past 11 years of Conservative rule has been the wider spread not only of share ownership but of property ownership. It has been clear for many years that the wider spread of ownership is not a concept in which the Opposition believe.

Photo of David Clelland David Clelland , Tyne Bridge

Following the earlier remarks of the Leader of the House about Labour party policy, may I ask whether he is aware that at the weekend the Prime Minister accused the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) of pursuing Labour party policy? Could that be why the right hon. Gentleman is so much further ahead in public opinion than the right hon. Lady?

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Chair, Privileges Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House Lords (Privy Council Office)

That was a reference—[Interruption.] If one reads what the Prime Minister said one sees that it was a reference to one or two aspects of economic policy in relation to intervention in industry. If one examines the totality of our policies on the economy, one sees that my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) in his remarks was totally in support of the Prime Minister and that in a wide range of other policies there is a great deal of unity on Conservative Benches and a great deal of opposition to the policies being pursued by the Labour party.

Photo of Mr Peter Thurnham Mr Peter Thurnham , Bolton North East

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 20 November.

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Chair, Privileges Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House Lords (Privy Council Office)

I have been asked to reply.

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Photo of Mr Peter Thurnham Mr Peter Thurnham , Bolton North East

Does the Leader of the House agree that one of the many achievements of the Prime Minister has been to set up the Audit Commission? Does he further agree that it is extraordinary that the Opposition want to abolish it simply because it is exposing massive waste and inefficiency in town halls, with over £1·3 billion of savings already identified?

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Chair, Privileges Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House Lords (Privy Council Office)

I wish that I could agree with my hon. Friend that it was extraordinary behaviour on the part of the Labour party. Sadly, it is all too typical, and I was horrified by the reputed remarks of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett), that the Audit Commission's unhelpful undermining of local authority initiatives undoubtedly mean its days are numbered". The Audit Commission has shown how local authority services can be improved, with the charge payer being saved about £1·3 billion, and has shown how waiting lists in hospitals can be cut by a third at no extra cost. So Labour's action over the Audit Commission carries this single message for charge payers and taxpayers everywhere, "It has money to burn—yours."