Will the Prime Minister come out of his ivory tower across the road, put his photo calls on hold and face up to his responsibility for the past 13 years of Government mismanagement, which has culminated in the worst economic crisis since the 1930s? How long must we go on, how many more jobs are to be lost and how many more families are to be dispossessed of their homes? Will the Prime Minister now put it to the test through the ballot box and let the people decide on his record?
It is the hon. Member who is wrong. We grew throughout the 1980s better than any other major European country except Spain: we received the highest growth in manufacturing productivity of any Group of Seven country and faster growth in business investment than any other G7 country except Japan. By contrast, the hon. Gentleman might bear it in mind that Labour's plans for an extra £37 billion a year and policies of higher taxation, higher inflation and higher interest rates would drive this country into perpetual slump.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that higher taxes and minimum wages would put up the costs of British businesses, making them uncompetitive and costing them jobs? Does he agree that such twin torture is the very last thing that British business needs at the moment?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Only the Labour party could plan to cripple industry with both a national minimum wage and substantial tax increases when trading conditions are so difficult. Let me give my hon. Friend a quote:
If our costs rise more rapidly than others' costs, particularly German costs, then British producers lose markets at home and abroad.
Those are not my words—they were the words of the Leader of the Opposition. If that is what he thinks, he should withdraw his tax plans and withdraw his minimum wage plans and do so today.
It is quite staggering to everyone who listens to the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) how terrified he and his party are of tax cuts. He still thinks that tax cuts are immoral. The Labour party has opposed every tax cut that we have introduced and now it threatens to raise taxes if we cut them. The right hon. Gentleman wants people to let him spend their money rather than spending it themselves. Labour opposes tax cuts when the economy is growing and when it is not.
The Prime Minister heads the Government who have imposed the biggest tax burden in British history. Perhaps he will now try answering the question. The Government have promised to increase public expenditure and are promising to cut income taxes. Is that not, in the Prime Minister's own words, truly a "dishonest and absurd" promise?
If the tax burden is so high, why does the right hon. Gentleman propose to increase it still further? When it was pointed out to the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) that his taxes would rise, the right hon. and learned Gentleman seemed surprised: what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, in effect, was that taxes under Labour would "only" rise higher than those in any other G7 country—lower, perhaps, than taxes in Albania, but higher than those of all our competitors.
Will the Prime Minister, in the last couple of weeks left to him in that office, try answering the question? Does he not recall that he has promised to increase public expenditure, to cut taxes and to balance the budget? His promises do not add up. He was right—[Interruption.]
Even deliberate disruption will not stop the country hearing this. The Prime Minister has described promises to cut taxes and raise public expenditure as "dishonest and absurd". He was at least right about that —and right about the Government who are making such promises.
In the 1980s we did cut taxation and raise public expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman makes an absurd point. Under the Labour Government, borrowing averaged more than 6 per cent. of national product; since 1979, it has averaged not 6 per cent. but less than 2 per cent. Before the right hon. Gentleman starts to give lectures on borrowing, he should get his facts right. In one year under Labour, borrowing reached a crippling 9½ per cent.—the equivalent of £55 billion today. That was the Labour party's half decade of debt and now they plan another £37 billion worth of expenditure. Which would it be: £37 billion of extra taxes or £37 billion of extra expenditure?
On the eve of the first anniversary of the Gulf war, will my right hon. Friend join me in expressing our gratitude to our armed forces, our commitment to the independence of Kuwait and our determination to ensure that Saddam Hussein and his generals comply with all international sanctions or suffer the consequences?
My hon. Friend is quite right. The whole country is proud of the role that our armed forces played in the liberation of Kuwait. The way in which Saddam Hussein still behaves is unacceptable to us, to the United Nations and to the international community, and we shall continue to keep pressure on him.
Is the Prime Minister aware that something far more valuable than the woolly citizens charter was brought before this House recently—a Bill to improve the rights of disabled people—but was talked out by Conservative Members? Will he now undertake to rescue the Bill? Or is this yet another example of the Government and their supporters talking up human rights in theory and knocking them down in practice?
The right hon. Gentleman has done a great deal during his period in the House for disabled people and everyone in the House admires him for what he has done, but he must know that there have been dramatic improvements in recent years in the scope, range and value of benefits and in the number of disabled people who receive them. No doubt there is still more to do, and it will be done in due course, but the right hon. Gentleman ought not to deny what has been done.
Does the Prime Minister recognise that, because of privatisation, the water companies are spending £28 billion on improving water quality, including schemes in west Norfolk to upgrade drinking water and clean up our beaches? Is he aware that renationalising water would cost the taxpayer £8 billion and that the whole of this investment programme would be put at risk? Is that really what the Labour party wants?
I suspect that it is. My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. Yesterday, Labour's spokesman made the point that nationalising water was a priority—yet another priority—which would cost £8 billion. There was no sign of where the money will come from, and no sign of any advantage from the policy just sheer blind dogma.
With British industry burdened by record debt and Britain's trade deficit at its highest for a year, will the Prime Minister explain why tax cuts which will suck in more imports are right while public investment in the kind of things that Britain needs for the future is wrong?
There was a time in the history of the Liberal party when it trusted people with their own money and believed that they could make their own decisions. I note that, yet again, the Liberal party is aligning itself with the Labour party on social and taxation matters. The whole country will note that, too.
I am sure that the Prime Minister will join me in expressing the utmost admiration for the Australian people and the great commonwealth of Australia. Will he therefore do his best to defuse the present unhappy situation and assure the people of that great continent that, although they may be on the other side of the world, they are close to the hearts of the people of the United Kingdom?