Engagements

Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th June 1991.

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Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West 12:00 am, 6th June 1991

To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 6 June.

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall have further meetings later today.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

Will the Prime Minister join me in sending best wishes to Prince William for a complete recovery — [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] That is the nice bit—

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

And it is just about in order.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

Did the Prime Minister see the article in yesterday's Daily Mirror

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

Order. One question is the ration.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

Did the Prime Minister see the article in yesterday's Daily Mirror stating that the scanner used on the prince at the Royal Berkshire hospital was bought from the proceeds of jumble sales and sponsored walks? Is the Prime Minister aware that the ambulance which brought the prince to London was from a service that is actually breaking down in Greater London and that Great Ormond Street hospital, which looked after the prince so well, is turning away sick children because of the pressures on its services and has been kept open only by public begging? What sort of society is it that can find all the money in the world for weapons of death and destruction, but when it comes to keeping hospital wards open and buying vital medical equipment, has to use sponsored runs, flag days and jumble sales?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I am sure that the whole House and the country will join the hon. Gentleman in sending best wishes to Prince William. We all hope that he will make a full recovery as speedily as possible.

The Government found £33,000 million for the national health service, which is four times as much in cash terms as any previous Government have ever found. The private collections and private donations which go towards providing equipment such as scanners show, above all that the people of this country, including the Conservative party—in fact, often led by those in the Conservative party—care sufficiently for the national health service to cherish it and provide extra resources for it.

Photo of Mr Christopher Gill Mr Christopher Gill , Ludlow

To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 6 June.

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

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

Photo of Mr Christopher Gill Mr Christopher Gill , Ludlow

My right hon. Friend is aware of the tremendous support among Conservative Members for his views on economic and monetary union—[Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Christopher Gill Mr Christopher Gill , Ludlow

Is my right hon. Friend aware that those same views, clearly articulated by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor last week and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on the "Today" programme this week, command the support of the majority of British voters, as evidenced by a recent opinion poll showing that 63 per cent. oppose the single currency?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I am sure that my hon. Friend is right about that. It is becoming increasingly recognised in this country and the Community that moves towards economic and monetary union which did not reflect proper convergence would be damaging, not only for this country, but for the whole of the Economic Community. That has been our position since the beginning of the negotiations and it remains our position, together with our constant intention to preserve the prerogatives of this House.

Photo of Mr Neil Kinnock Mr Neil Kinnock Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Will the Prime Minister tell us what in concrete terms he intends to do to ensure that further harm does not come to small businesses as a result of the high interest rates being imposed upon them?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

The principal damage and difficulty that small firms have faced in recent years has been the collapse of demand not only in Britain but abroad as a result of a general downturn in trade and inflationary problems. Inflation is now falling rapidly, and that is a matter of the greatest concrete concern to small businesses, as they have repeatedly testified.

Photo of Mr Neil Kinnock Mr Neil Kinnock Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

It is obvious from that answer that the Prime Minister is not going to do anything in concrete terms. Is it not obvious that high interest rates are the policy of the Government and that the banks' behaviour is the result of financial deregulation, also the policy of the Government? Why does not the Prime Minister change the policies, as he should, or will he remain the betrayer of small businesses?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

The right hon. Gentleman, having other things on his mind, has clearly not noticed that inflation is falling rapidly and that interest rates have fallen by 3·5 per cent. in recent months. That will make a dramatic difference to individuals' prospects and, most particularly, to prospects for small and large firms.

Photo of Mr Neil Kinnock Mr Neil Kinnock Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Small businesses which used to have arrangements to pay 3 per cent. above base rate on their overdraft facilities are now paying as much as 17 per cent. —[Interruption.] Oh yes, they are. Conservative Members should talk to some of the people who run the businesses which are paying that kind of money. How can such huge charges contribute to fighting inflation or to sustaining the small business sector?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

The right hon. Gentleman will have heard the gasp of frank disbelief at what he said a few moments ago. I hope that he will provide clear illustrations, not an isolated example, of what he has just said. What is necessary for the future health of Britain is, first, to ensure that we bring inflation down to a low level; secondly, to keep it there; and, thirdly, so as to ensure that that happens, never again to have a Labour Government.

Photo of Mr John Wheeler Mr John Wheeler , Westminster North

Has my right hon. Friend had time today to read about the dreadful events taking place in Labour-controlled Hackney—[Interruption.]—where council officials have been racketeering on the backs of the homeless and illegally renting out properties? [Interruption.] Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is a scandal, and will he condemn the empty properties that Hackney, Lambeth, Islington and Liverpool have that could be brought into use?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

In so far as I could hear the question over the chanting from Opposition Members, I believe that it concerned Hackney borough council. Anyone who wanted an example of the Labour party in power could only have seen it in recent years in local government in places such as Hackney, and I do not believe that they will have liked what they have seen. Labour repeatedly feigns concern for the homeless, but Hackney has more than 2,000 properties empty.

Photo of Mr Archy Kirkwood Mr Archy Kirkwood , Roxburgh and Berwickshire

To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 6 June.

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

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

Photo of Mr Archy Kirkwood Mr Archy Kirkwood , Roxburgh and Berwickshire

Reverting to the important question of a single European currency, has the Prime Minister yet had a chance to study the important speech made by his right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) last night? Am I right in thinking that the Prime Minister's personal opinion is that a single currency may be a good thing eventually, but not yet and not for the foreseeable future? Does he not think that that "yes-maybe" approach to the question is now so hedged about and qualified as to be almost devoid of any meaning? When will he come to the House and tell the country what he thinks is the right course of action for Britain to take in this fundamentally important economic issue?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

The hon. Gentleman clearly has not been listening over the past two years, because we have done it repeatedly. We have made it plain to the House and to our European partners that we cannot accept any changes to the treaty of Rome which would bind us to a single currency or a single monetary policy without a separate decision by this party, by this Government and by this Parliament.

Photo of Mr David Nicholson Mr David Nicholson , Taunton

To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 6 June.

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

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

Photo of Mr David Nicholson Mr David Nicholson , Taunton

Will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity to congratulate the hon. Member who represents the constituency where I was educated—the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw)—on exercising his right of parental choice under the Education Reform Act 1988

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

Order. The question must relate to the Prime Minister's responsibility. He has no responsibility for that.

Photo of Mr David Nicholson Mr David Nicholson , Taunton

Does my right hon. Friend agree that parental choice in schools is a major Conservative policy, and would it not help if more senior members of the Opposition parties joined Conservatives in supporting parental freedom of choice?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I am always pleased to see support for Conservative reforms, especially from Labour Front Benchers. I wish that they would not say one thing in opposition and practise something else in there own lives.

Photo of Mrs Irene Adams Mrs Irene Adams , Paisley North

To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 6 June.

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

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

Photo of Mrs Irene Adams Mrs Irene Adams , Paisley North

The question that I am going to put to the Prime Minister is a simple one and it has been put to him twice at Prime Minister's questions in the past few weeks, but he has refused to answer it. Following his last refusal, my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Rutherglen (Mr. McAvoy)—

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

Order. May I say to the hon. Lady, who is new to us, that preambles take up much time? Will she ask a question, please?

Photo of Mrs Irene Adams Mrs Irene Adams , Paisley North

Is the Prime Minister aware that my hon. Friend the Member for Rutherglen wrote to him putting that question yet again? He is still awaiting a reply. Will the Prime Minister answer today, because the question deserves a serious answer—[Interruption.]

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

Order. I ask the House to give the hon. Lady a chance to ask her question—please.

Photo of Mrs Irene Adams Mrs Irene Adams , Paisley North

If the Conservatives should win the next general election, will the Prime Minister give an absolute guarantee that he will not raise value added tax—yes or no?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

When the Conservative party has won the next general election, the hon. Lady will see, and will perhaps have learnt by then, that no Government at any stage give categorical assurances—none have, and none will. But I can say to the hon. Lady that we have no present plans whatsoever to increase value added tax.

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss , North East Cambridgeshire

Has my right hon. Friend had time to read a report published yesterday by the respected City firm, Goldman Sachs, which concludes that a minimum wage policy would destroy jobs, increase inflation and lead to a reduction in output? Does he agree that it is totally irresponsible of the Labour party to continue peddling that policy?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

Yes, I have seen that report and it shares the views of the Government, the Fabian Society and many others. A minimum wage would have devastating effects for people. It would encourage others to seek to raise the general level of wages. It would raise inflation and unemployment, and a National Institute estimate—[Interruption.] Hon. Members should listen, because this would affect people and their jobs, about whom they claim to care. The institute estimates that a statutory minimum wage would raise price levels by 3·5 per cent. at the end of three years, and would reduce the level of gross domestic product by 0·5 per cent. That is the likely cost of a Labour Government.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish

To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 6 June.

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

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

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish

Why have not the problems of a minimum wage that the Prime Minister just outlined caused difficulties in West Germany?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

rose—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] I was unable to hear the hon. Gentleman's question over the noise being made by Opposition Members. If you, Mr. Speaker, will allow the hon. Gentleman to repeat his question, I shall endeavour to respond to it.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish

I asked why the problems of a minimum wage that the Prime Minister outlined have not been evident in West Germany.

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

West Germany has in no sense in recent years had many of the attendant difficulties created by trade unions and others—[Interruption.]

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

As the hon. Gentleman knows, there is now a stack of people, the Fabian Society[Interruption.]

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

We have seen the way the Opposition behave and it is not unlike Hackney borough council writ large.