Engagements

Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 10th November 1992.

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Photo of Mr Roy Hughes Mr Roy Hughes , Newport East 12:00 am, 10th November 1992

To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 10 November.

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 Roy Hughes Mr Roy Hughes , Newport East

Does the Prime Minister recall black Wednesday when the sharks and speculators made a real killing? Now we are approaching black Thursday with the autumn statement, when it will be the poor and needy in Wales and elsewhere who are likely to be affected as a result of cuts in public expenditure. When will the Government realise that those cuts in public expenditure will only hinder Britain's long-term recovery, or is this yet another example of a "Major" vision of a nation at ease with itself?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I suggest that the hon. Gentleman waits until Thursday.

Photo of Mr George Gardiner Mr George Gardiner , Reigate

Will my right hon. Friend acknowledge that the House hardly needs lectures from President Mitterrand on how to organise its own business? Does he accept that when he gives his word to this House that we will not consider the Third Reading of the Maastricht Bill until after the Danish referendum, we know full well that he will keep it?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I have expressed my views on President Mitterrand's reported remarks in a private letter to the President, but I am quite prepared to state publicly that the passage of the Maastricht Bill is a matter for the British Parliament and the British Government. The crucial immediate issue before Europe is achieving a GATT settlement and avoiding a trade war. I note that in the same interview President Mitterrand described a global settlement as not only useful but necessary. I agree with that; a delay on GATT really would be unacceptable. I set out the answer on Third Reading in reply to the House earlier last week.

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. This is very time consuming..

Photo of Mr Paddy Ashdown Mr Paddy Ashdown Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Leader of the Liberal Democrats

Is the Prime Minister aware that there are at this moment more than 6,500 refugees who could be free but remain trapped in Serbian prison camps, living in the most indescribable conditions and without any kind of adequate shelter, because no third country can be found for them to go to? Does he not realise that temperatures will drop to minus 17 deg C in that area during this month? Does he not realise that the consequence of his Government's disgraceful decision to limit refugee entry from that area, together with his failure to put together an adequate programme of co-ordinated action by the European countries, will soon mean that some of those people risk paying for his failures with their lives?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

The right hon. Gentleman really should get his facts straight on what the European Community has done and on what the British Government have done. The United Kingdom has received more than 30,000 visitors this year from the former Yugoslavia. More than 3,000 have applied for refugee status and no one will be forced to return to the conflict zone. We fully support the view expressed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees that the best solution is for the displaced to remain close to their homes, making eventual repatriation a much more possible proposition. The visa regime, which has clearly activated the right hon. Gentleman, needs to be seen in the context of overall asylum applications, and that point has been made clear by my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary.

Photo of Mr Michael Brown Mr Michael Brown , Brigg and Cleethorpes

Will my right hon. Friend congratulate the British Airports Authority on its outstanding results, just announced? Will he take the opportunity to remind it that it has an obligation to ensure that regional airports, such as Humberside airport, have the opportunity of flying regional flights into Heathrow? Is he aware that failure to enable that to happen leads to business men in Humberside having to fly to Holland—to Schipol—thereby depriving British Airways of good business?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

My hon. Friend is right to offer congratulations to BAA, which has had an outstandingly successful period, and I am happy to add my congratulations to his. I agree unreservedly with the balance of his remarks.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 10 November.

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

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

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

In relation to the Matrix Churchill trial, will the Prime Minister be a little less economical with the actualite and say whether he thinks it is proper that three innocent men might have been imprisoned because Ministers tried to suppress the evidence? Has it not clearly emerged from that trial that the former Foreign Minister, now the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, knew that the sales breached the arms embargo but agreed to the deception? Should he not be considering his position in the Government, or the Prime Minister be considering it for him?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I advise Opposition Members not to go down the route that so many of them took with BCCI just a year or so ago. They would be wise to await the Attorney-General's statement. I have already said that there will be a full, independent judicial inquiry, and I repeat that to the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Mr Jerry Hayes Mr Jerry Hayes , Harlow

Does my right hon. Friend agree that public interest immunity must be claimed, that it is at the sole discretion of the judge and that it cannot be waived by Ministers? Hence, all the talk in the tabloid press about a cover-up is nothing more than arrant nonsense.

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

Ministers have a duty to claim public interest immunity where appropriate and that duty cannot be waived. It is then for the courts to consider where the balance of interest lies, and successive Governments have acted in that way.

Photo of Mr Max Madden Mr Max Madden , Bradford West

To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 10 November.

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 Max Madden Mr Max Madden , Bradford West

What action does the right hon. Gentleman propose, through the United Nations, to stop the partition of Bosnia? Why were Her Majesty's Government prepared to breach the arms embargo to allow Iraq to wage war, but now refuse to lift the arms embargo to give the Government Bosnian forces the means with which to defend their independent country, to stop genocide, to stop ethnic cleansing and to stop the displacement of thousands of men, women and children who face death?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

The hon. Gentleman would be wise not to tie his questions to allegations that are as yet uninvestigated. A few moments before I came into the Chamber, I was advised—as yet, it is not confirmed—that there is said to be a cease fire in Bosnia from midnight tomorrow. We have heard that before. If it is sustained it will be extremely welcome news, but we must wait and see whether it is sustained. The hon. Gentleman should not seek to misrepresent the Government's position.

Photo of Ann Winterton Ann Winterton , Congleton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the House and British industry fully support his efforts to force Mr. Jacques Delors and the bureaucrats of Brussels to pull their bootstraps up and get cracking to find an urgent and equitable solution to the stalled GATT round? Although the cricket season is now over, will my right hon. Friend promise the House that he will not put his bat away until that matter is sorted?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I am happy to say that I share my hon. Friend's view entirely about the imperative need to get an early GATT settlement. There is no doubt that there is no longer a great distance between the United States and the Community on the substantive issues that need to be determined. I, myself, cannot accept that it is impossible to reach an agreement that will be acceptable to both the Community and the United States. At the moment that agreement is reached, the GATT round can he concluded in Geneva without further delay. The damage of there not being a GATT round is too profound to contemplate. I assure my hon. Friend that that is a matter of primary importance to the Government and we will pursue it in each and every forum until there is an agreement.