May I first congratulate you, Madam Speaker, on joining Her Majesty's Privy Council this morning. As you did so, I was presiding over a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later today.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the smaller countries have a vital part to play in the life of the European Community? Does he further agree that Denmark should not be sidelined or pressurised, merely because its people expressed their views in a democratic way about the Maastricht treaty?
I emphatically agree with my hon. Friend about that. The work of the Community will go on, and Denmark and all the other small member states will play their full part in it. We have no wish whatsoever to slam the doors in the face of Denmark or to rule out any procedures whatsoever that will help Denmark in her present difficulties and enable her to join the Maastricht treaty. But it is unrealistic to think that everything has been changed by the Danish vote, just as it is unrealistic to think that nothing has been changed by it.
But does not the Prime Minister accept, in the wake of the mess that the Common Market is happily in now, as a result of the Danish referendum, that if he brings back a renegotiated treaty and some sort of deal with the Danish Government, there will be a great deal of pressure in this country to require the Government to hold a referendum here over any constitutional alterations which might be involved in that new treaty?
The hon. Gentleman knows that I made the Government's position about a referendum entirely clear yesterday, and I have nothing whatsoever to add to that today. On the subject of the treaty itself, there is a great deal in it that represents concessions by our partners to what we have long sought in this country. That would also be open to renegotiation, if any renegotiations were to take place. I hope that today in Oslo, where my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is attending a meeting, they will begin to examine in detail the way to deal with the particular difficulties, following the referendum in Denmark.
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the growing unease of both listeners and viewers about the coverage of live sport? Irrespective of the long-term implications of the deal over the premier league football coverage, is my right hon. Friend aware that there was genuine resentment, among my constituents at least, during the recent world cup coverage from Australia? There is uncertainty over the future of the ball-by-ball cricket commentaries. Is it not a fact that the arrangements that were designed to give greater opportunities to listen or to watch seem, in practice, to be having the reverse effect?
As my hon. Friend knows—I am pleased about this, as he is—ball-by-ball cricket commentaries are now continuing, albeit on a different wavelength. I know that some people have been and are concerned whenever areas of activity are opened up by market forces—that has often been the case in the past—but in time many of those anxieties have disappeared and the beneficial effects have found their way through. The net effect of new television channels is that there is more and better coverage of sport on a wider number of channels.
I am intrigued at the right hon. Gentleman's sudden enthusiasm for the Bill. I can put his mind at rest. The Government are committed to reintroducing the asylum Bill at an early opportunity and we propose to do so.
Nobody should be surprised that the Prime Minister is ashamed to give the real answer. The Asylum Bill was introduced in an attempt to legitimise many of the scare stories about immigration put about by the Tory party. It is to the Prime Minister's shame that he is not prepared to denounce that policy and attitude now.
The right hon. Gentleman should know better than to make remarks such as that. As we have said in the past, it was the first Bill that we decided to reintroduce and put into the Queen's Speech. It remains essential now, as it was then, to streamline the decision-making process. We intend to resist the misuse of asylum procedures and to ensure that genuine refugees are properly protected. That is the position of the Bill, and it will be introduced shortly.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the overwhelming case for the enlargement of the European Community has been in no way diminished by the result of the Danish referendum? Can he assure my constituents in Swindon and the entire country that he will use the opportunity presented by the United Kingdom's presidency of the Community in the next six months to press the case as vigorously as he can for the enlargement of the Community to include the countries of the European Free Trade Association and the countries of central and eastern Europe when they are ready to join?
No one in this country or within the Community can be in any doubt about my total commitment to opening up the Community to the EFTAns and, in due course, to those from eastern Europe. Nothing that has happened in recent days changes my belief that that is necessary and urgent, and we will continue with it. I do not accept that anything has put enlargement at risk. I can assure my hon. Friend that this will have a high priority during our presidency.
Is the Prime Minister aware of the dismay felt by a number of hon. Members and many historians at the fact that the papers relating to Rudolf Hess are still not being fully disclosed? Is he aware that it is the view of many people that there is a continuing Establishment cover-up which should now be revealed and that the undisclosed papers reveal matters relating to the non-royal status of the Duchess of Windsor?
My right hon. Friend will have noted early-day motion 174, which has been signed by a substantial number of Conservative Members. Is he aware of their deep desire that the British presidency should promote the Conservative principles of free trade and intergovernmental co-operation and not the socialist diktats of Jacques Delors?
I assure my hon. Friend that we shall certainly use the presidency to pursue issues that are in our interests and those of the whole Community: the introduction of the single market, reform of the CAP, developing relations with the EFTA and eastern countries, future financing and deregulation—matters for which this party and this country have stood for so long. We shall pursue all of them during our presidency.
Does the Prime Minister accept that, in the face of the Danish announcement today that they will not attempt to renegotiate, to reintroduce the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, which we would have discussed yesterday and today, would be like reintroducing a Bill for the resurrection of Shergar?
I do not accept that premise and the hon. Gentleman would be rather surprised if I did. The Maastricht treaty was the result of a lot of difficult negotiations that were conducted over some time. If we went back to square one, I do not think that we could assume that our partners would agree all the matters that are of interest to this country. We must wait and see how events fall out.
Following the collapse of socialism in Basildon, does my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister agree that last month's local election results in Basildon, which ensured the success of every Conservative candidate, showed that residents were fed up with an inefficient, high-spending socialist council and believed that only Conservatives could provide good services at a low cost? Does the Prime Minister have any advice for the new council on where it might stick the nuclear-free-zone signs? That was another daft socialist idea.
I feel sure that my hon. Friend will already have passed any advice that is necessary to the new Basildon council. I very much doubt whether I would dissent from what he said. The electors in Basildon made an extremely wise choice in the local elections and in the general election, and I am sure that it is a choice which they will repeat many times in the future.
I have made no representations, as the hon. Gentleman puts it, on this matter, but we shall certainly do what we can to ensure that, whenever possible, Community institutions, including the bank, are situated in the right place in the United Kingdom.
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the recent launch of the campaign for physics and of a survey of sixth-formers which showed that 90 per cent. of them believe that physics is essential to solve the world's environmental problems? Does he agree that good science is preferable to slick pressure group campaigning, to ensure that the Earth summit at Rio leads to a good future for our planet?
I certainly agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of understanding physics, although I must confess that I cannot claim to be among those who understand it very well at all. However, environmental education is an important theme of education these days and I hope that it will be a growing theme. It will certainly enable people to understand the deeply important issues to be discussed at Rio.
When the Prime Minister took his present post, he described the notion of a society at ease with itself. Does he feel that when he goes to the Earth summit next week, against a background of a dismal record on the environment in Britain and development aid having been cut from 0·51 per cent. of gross domestic product to 0·27 per cent. during his years in the House, he will be representing a society at ease with itself?
I think that the hon. Gentleman, perhaps uncharacteristically, runs down what this nation has done and is doing to assist with aid. He conveniently ignores the fact that we have the sixth largest aid budget in the world, that it is one of the most effective programmes that the OECD recognises—[HON. MEMBERS: "It has been cut in half."] It most certainly has not been cut in half as was inaccurately stated earlier this week. He ignores the fact that there are other forms of aid that we can and do give, that the Toronto terms originated with my former right hon. Friend, Nigel Lawson, that the Trinidad terms originated under this Government and that they are two of the biggest debt write-offs that there have ever been, and that there is no other country with a comparable record and no previous Government with a comparable record to that of this Government.