Engagements

Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th May 1994.

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Photo of Mr Jimmy Dunnachie Mr Jimmy Dunnachie , Glasgow Pollok 12:00 am, 17th May 1994

To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 17 May.

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

This morning, I 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 Jimmy Dunnachie Mr Jimmy Dunnachie , Glasgow Pollok

Will the Prime Minister agree to scrap the Child Support Agency in its present form and go back to the drawing board to produce a more efficient and fair method of supporting children of lone parents?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I think that children are entitled to be supported by their own parents and that taxpayers should help only to the extent that parents do not have the means to do so. As the hon. Gentleman knows, in February we made some changes to the Child Support Agency and I repeat what I have said to the House on previous occasions: we shall continue to keep it under review and, if further changes are necessary, we shall make them.

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington , Aylesbury

To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 17 May.

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 David Lidington David Lidington , Aylesbury

Is my right hon. Friend aware that last week's decision by the Select Committee on the Crossrail Bill has caused immense dismay among my constituents in Aylesbury and among many other people in London and south-east England? Will he assure the House that the Government will look urgently at other ways in which that project might be taken forward?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I share the disappointment that the Select Committee has rejected the Crossrail Bill. We have consistently made clear our commitment to the project and I am pleased to tell the House that that commitment remains. The promoters are now urgently considering the position and we are in discussion with them on how to proceed.

Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party

When does the Prime Minister expect to publish the Department of Transport's report on the technical and legal aspects of fitting seat belts in minibuses and coaches, especially in view of the fact that the Government have been saying since January that that research would be published "in a few weeks' time"?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I hope that it will not be very long before we are able to publish it. The report has now been delivered to Ministers and I hope that they will be able to announce their conclusions shortly.

Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party

Could I urge the Prime Minister to make that very shortly indeed, as the report has been in preparation for some time and safety organisations, coach operators and the general public have been calling for a measure along those lines for a considerable time?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

We are looking at a range of things. The Department of Transport has been conducting a full review of the technical and cost implications of fitting seat belts to both minibuses and coaches. We also wish to take into account the circumstances of the minibus accident last Sunday and the vehicles in that respect are still being examined by the Vehicle Inspectorate. It is right that we examine all the circumstances. As soon as we are ready, we shall bring forward our conclusions.

Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party

Can the Prime Minister give us an assurance that when the Government have looked at this report they will be prepared to introduce legislation as a matter of urgency? I believe that the amendment paper contains an amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Clydesdale (Mr. Hood) which might make possible the adoption of a decision in principle as early as tomorrow night. I repeat the offer of all-party talks which was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) as long ago as December, with a view to ironing out the difficulties regarding such legislation. I assure the Prime Minister that, subject to proper scrutiny, the Opposition would certainly give any legislation a speedy passage.

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

We wish to conclude our examination of this matter before deciding what is the right way to proceed. Increasingly a number of minibus manufacturers are fitting seat belts as a matter of course. That is a decision for them. It is also open to potential customers, when making coach or minibus bookings, to ask whether belts are fitted. I do not wish to give any indication of the outcome of the review until we have had time to study the conclusions and to reach a decision based on all the evidence that is available.

Photo of Mr James Couchman Mr James Couchman , Gillingham

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, while regretting the need for such a course, the House will back the decision of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis to increase the number of armed response units?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

There is a feeling—in the House and across the country, I suspect—that people certainly do not wish the police to be armed as a matter of course. This is a very limited measure and I believe that it is justifiable. Of course, the number of armed policemen will be very small—about 50. These officers are highly trained in the use of firearms and they will be called only to incidents where firearms might be needed.