Engagements

Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th April 1995.

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Photo of Ken Livingstone Ken Livingstone , Brent East 12:00 am, 25th April 1995

To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 25 April. [19198]

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 be having further meetings later today.

Photo of Ken Livingstone Ken Livingstone , Brent East

Will the Prime Minister join, I am sure, all Members in the House in condemning the use of the word "nigger" by the comedian Bernard Manning, and endorse the comments of the local chief constable that that was a vile, racist performance, and that he would rather that no one among his force went to further performances by Bernard Manning? Will the Prime Minister write to Bernard Manning and remind him that such views, in the year in which we commemorate the sacrifice that our parents made to defeat Nazism, are particularly offensive?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I certainly think that everyone should avoid expressions that give offence to those who are on the receiving end of such expressions. That is true of Mr. Manning and everyone else.

Photo of Mr James Spicer Mr James Spicer , West Dorset

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the open recruitment of homosexuals into the armed forces, and the acceptance of homosexuality in the armed forces would devastate morale within our excellent service?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I have sympathy with the point put to me by my hon. Friend. I know that it is a concern shared by the chiefs of staff.

Photo of Tony Blair Tony Blair , Sedgefield

Has the Prime Minister had a chance to see the extraordinary spectacle of the victory parade by his Euro-rebels over the Government on the lunchtime news? Can the Prime Minister therefore tell us whether he has even secured the minimal guarantee from those rebels that, on a future vote of confidence—[Interruption.]

Photo of Tony Blair Tony Blair , Sedgefield

Has the Prime Minister secured even the minimal guarantee from the Euro-rebels that, on a future vote of confidence on Europe, they will support him?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I can sense the concern in the right hon. Gentleman's voice. Perhaps he would like to tell me whether he has received the support of the 50 MPs who defied his Front Bench over Maastricht; of the 40 who defied him over European finance; on a single currency, where the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) was in dispute with the deputy leader of the Labour party; and on clause IV, which half his, I think he called them, infantile MEPs want to keep. He does not, and his deputy leader does one day and does not the next. These are party matters. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what his position is?

Photo of Tony Blair Tony Blair , Sedgefield

There is one very big difference—I lead my party, he follows his. [Interruption.]

Photo of Tony Blair Tony Blair , Sedgefield

rose[Interruption.]

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

Order. This is using up very valuable time.

Photo of Tony Blair Tony Blair , Sedgefield

So the short answer is that the right hon. Gentleman has received no guarantee whatever. So is it not clear therefore that, after all his tough talk at the beginning about no unity through appeasement, he has caved in, his party is still divided and the white flag flies over Downing street?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I look forward to the right hon. Gentleman leading his hon. Friends below the Gangway. I shall give the right hon. Gentleman a real difference. We have been leading in Europe. He will follow in Europe on every issue. He will follow Europe in undermining our veto, in renegotiating our rebate, in surrendering our opt-out, in signing up to the social chapter, in higher taxes, in more spending and in more red tape. His idea of the red flag is the white flag on every conceivable European issue. If he seriously thinks that he leads his party, he should look at the faces of his colleagues below the Gangway.

Photo of Mr Alan Howarth Mr Alan Howarth , Stratford-on-Avon

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Conservative party has traditionally and rightly been loath to allow power to the state that could be used to limit personal freedom unduly, to harass or intrude on privacy? Does he accept that the alleged benefits of introducing identity cards would not justify the risks to civil liberties? Will he dismiss proposals for a national identity card, whether compulsory or so-called voluntary?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I am afraid that on this issue I cannot agree with my hon. Friend. I believe that there are significant advantages which identity cards may offer to prevent crime and to prevent fraud. It is for that reason that my right hon. and learned Friend, the Home Secretary, intends to publish a Green Paper setting out the various options that are available. We believe that on such an issue it is only right that there should be full public consultation. No option at the moment is ruled in or ruled out until we have completed that consultation period. I believe that it is right to consult. When we have consulted, we will make a decision on whether to proceed and what nature of card we may then seek to introduce.

Photo of Mr David Rendel Mr David Rendel , Newbury

To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 25 April. [19199]

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave some moments ago.

Photo of Mr David Rendel Mr David Rendel , Newbury

Given that the level of balances held by county councils is already considerably lower than the level that the Government assume in their calculation of grants to those councils, how does the Prime Minister justify calls by himself and many of his hon. Friends that county councils should further run down their balances to make up for the Government's education cuts?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

As I have indicated to the House before, perhaps when the hon. Gentleman was not here, the levels of expenditure on education have risen, not fallen. Of course, in different counties different priority is given to education. Some education authorities—Conservative Brent, for example—have found it possible to increase their spending on education by 6 per cent. Other councils have done the same. It depends on the choices that councils themselves make. I regret that many Labour councils and many Liberal Democrat councils have chosen not to give the priority to education that I would have preferred.

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin , West Derbyshire

Will my right hon. Friend consider today the many changes that the Conservative party has brought about in education policy in the past 16 years, which have widened and diversified choice? Will my right hon. Friend have a word with the Secretary of State for Education about whether it is time to move one stage further to a national funding formula for education? Is he aware that in Derbyshire the local education authority holds back £720 per pupil compared with £570 in Nottinghamshire, and £550 in Staffordshire? If that money went directly to the schools, there would be no need for any cuts in the number of teachers in our schools. Is it not time that we started to show up the money which LEAs spend in county hall rather than in the schools in our constituencies?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I think that my hon. Friend speaks for many people in what he has just said. Many responsible education authorities are coping with this year's settlement by getting their priorities right and by ensuring that the bulk of resources go to front-line services such as schools. Many Labour education authorities are not doing that. They seem to be in the lead in financing a messy bureaucracy. I do not know the position in Labour-controlled Derbyshire, but no doubt my hon. Friend does and was correct.

Photo of Mr Win Griffiths Mr Win Griffiths , Bridgend

To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 25 April. [19200]

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

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

Photo of Mr Win Griffiths Mr Win Griffiths , Bridgend

Does the Prime Minister recall telling the House on 21 March that there were two administrators for every three teachers across the country? Where did he get those fictional figures, when the Department for Education and the Welsh Office have said that it is impossible to calculate a ratio of administrative staff to teachers? When outside experts have tried to calculate a ratio, they put it at about 1:8 rather than 2:3. Will he now apologise for misleading the House inadvertently with his spurious reference to that ratio, which was a feeble effort to divert attention from his miserly decision not to fund the teachers' pay award?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

The hon. Gentleman took a long time to he wrong. [Interruption]—Yes, I suggest that he has a look at the figures in "Social Trends".

Photo of Mr Stephen Day Mr Stephen Day , Cheadle

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is a new consensus in British politics, which is based very much on Conservative principles? Does not the the Leader of the Opposition pay the Government the greatest compliment by spending most of his time trying to convince the country that when the day comes when he has a policy of his own, it will be a Tory one? Does my right hon. Friend also agree that if the people of this country were to support that new consensus, which was created by the Conservative party, the best thing that they could do is to vote Conservative and not for the vacuous, pale imitation on the Opposition Benches?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

The right hon. Gentleman both criticises our policies and copies our policies whenever he can. I am content for him to do that. I regard imitation as a very sincere form of flattery.

Photo of Dr Jim Marshall Dr Jim Marshall , Leicester South

To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 25 April. [19201]

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

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

Photo of Dr Jim Marshall Dr Jim Marshall , Leicester South

In response to a previous question, the Prime Minister referred to high taxation. In that context, will he inform the House how much extra taxation the average family in this country is paying compared with the amount paid in April 1992?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I can tell the hon. Gentleman, and he will be pleased to know, that even after extra tax and inflation, households on average are expected to be about £250 better off this year. I can also tell him that most of the figures used by the Labour party about tax should be divided by two before one gets remotely near accuracy.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff , Worcester

Whatever the rights and wrongs of teaching children in classes of more than 30, does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be repellent for teachers to pick on some children in such classes and expel them from lessons? Is not that an appalling abdication of responsibility for the education of our children?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I agree with my hon. Friend. I do not think that removing children from classrooms where there are more than 30 pupils will appeal to very many teachers. I know that some people have suggested it. I believe that the common sense of the vast majority of teachers will reject any such notion.

Photo of Roger Berry Roger Berry , Kingswood

To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 25 April. [19202]

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave some moments ago.

Photo of Roger Berry Roger Berry , Kingswood

In recent debates on the Government's Disability Discrimination Bill, they have suggested that citizens advice bureaux will be important in enforcing the Bill's provisions. Is the Prime Minister aware that the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux has just said that it is in no position to do so? How on earth does he expect the provisions of that Bill to be enforced?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

The Bill contains a wide number of provisions. It also contains the provision for the National Disability Council to advise the Government on such issues and we will take whatever advice it chooses to give us on that issue.

Photo of Mr Phil Gallie Mr Phil Gallie , Ayr

Has my right hon. Friend seen the excellent report from Scottish Nuclear today, which shows that the cost of generation has been reduced to 2.2p per kWh—without the nuclear levy enjoyed by Nuclear Electric? Does he feel that that suggests that, if the Government ever picked privatisation for the nuclear industry, Scottish Nuclear could do a magnificent job as a single entity?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

We are very close to the completion of the nuclear review and an announcement about its conclusions will be made and a White Paper published as soon as possible. We will present the conclusions to Parliament at that time. Privatisation of the two nuclear generators before the next election is an option that is actively under consideration and so is the future of the fossil fuel levy.