Mr John Smith: Is not the cry for a referendum on Europe further and compelling evidence that the Prime Minister's Cabinet and party are hopelessly divided? Is not it astonishing that battle is permitted to rage even within the Treasury? Does the Prime Minister support his Chancellor or his Chief Secretary?
Mr John Smith: On the question of referendums, does the Prime Minister recall saying something to the House on 6 May last year? His exact words were: We are a parliamentary democracy, and I am not in favour of referendums."—[Official Report, 6 May 1993; Vol. 224, c. 284.] Today he expressed scepticism. Is the movement from opposition to scepticism because he is running in front of the anti-Europeans?
Mr John Smith: If that answer by the Prime Minister is to be construed as ruling out a referendum in the future, can we be assured that every member of his Government will be asked to support it or will be asked to resign?
Mr John Smith: Can the Prime Minister tell us why changes in gas pricing are being planned which will put substantial increases on the gas bills of 12 million ordinary people—the very same people who will have to pay 8 per cent. VAT this year and 17.5 per cent. next year? Does not he think that they are paying enough already?
Mr John Smith: If the Prime Minister is so confident about that, can he specifically deny that pensioners on a basic rate pension will face a 21 per cent. increase in their gas bills? Can he give them that guarantee today?
Mr John Smith: Does not the Prime Minister recognise that the Gas Consumers Council has not only complained; it has pointed out that the consultative document was agreed last month but is being delayed because of today's elections? Does not the Prime Minister understand that delaying bad news until after elections is the sort of behaviour that is bringing the Conservative party into the disrepute for which...
Mr John Smith: Does not the Prime Minister think that it is a quite extraordinary situation that, even before the local government election campaign is over, a senior member of the 1922 Committee should demand, on grounds of incompetence, the resignation of the chairman of the Conservative party and the Secretary of State responsible for local government?
Mr John Smith: Does the Prime Minister—[Interruption.]
Mr John Smith: But can the Prime Minister tell us why he presides over a Government in which one Cabinet Minister, the Minister of Agriculture, openly condemns Cabinet colleagues for plotting against his leadership? Was she right to do so?
Mr John Smith: If the whole Cabinet is united, does not the Prime Minister think that he should remind some members occasionally to demonstrate that fact in their public utterances? While Ministers are permitted by the Prime Minister to squabble and plot as they please, is he surprised that public confidence in his Government has almost completely broken down? If he cannot control his own Cabinet, is it any...
Mr John Smith: Now that the Prime Minister has overruled his Health Secretary on the question of media access to Bart's, will he now overrule her on the far more important issue of her disgraceful decision to order the closure of the accident and emergency unit at Bart's?
Mr John Smith: If there was never any question about myself or other Opposition spokespeople being allowed to visit Bart's—[Interruption.]
Mr John Smith: If there never was any problem, why was I telephoned by the.Department of Health to tell me that media access was not to be permitted, although the Prime Minister went to Basildon with precisely those facilities? Furthermore, can the right hon. Gentleman tell us why the Government rely, for their policy on London, on the Tomlinson report, which is now fully discredited by nearly everyone in...
Mr John Smith: Does the Prime Minister not appreciate that the reality of the Government's plans for London is that 19 hospitals will be either closed or merged and that 2,500 desperately needed hospital beds are to be lost? Why does the right hon. Gentleman not halt this disaster for health care in London and order an immediate moratorium and the review that all of London wants?
Mr John Smith: How can the Prime Minister justify his Government's spending £500 million of taxpayers' money in fees to private consultants when, as is revealed in today's Financial Times, only £10 million was gained as a result?
Mr John Smith: In other words, it is true: another grotesque waste of taxpayers' money has occurred. Is not the Prime Minister's game to delay this and any other bad news until after the local and European elections are over? Why not tell the truth for once before an election?
Mr John Smith: What I suggested to the Prime Minister was that for once he should tell the truth before an election.
Mr John Smith: Does not the Prime Minister realize that families all over Britain—the real quiet majority—who are now paying huge tax increases imposed by his Government will bitterly resent this further example of the Government's now legendary incompetence?
Mr John Smith: Would it not have been much better if the Government had properly consulted the D-day veterans in the first place instead of paying £62,000 to a public relations company for what turned out to be very bad advice?
Mr John Smith: Does the Prime Minister not appreciate that the difficulties have arisen about the so-called civilian side of this anniversary? Does he accept that one way in which the Government could avoid constantly getting things so badly wrong is to consult more widely? In the case of genuinely national events, ought that not be on a cross-party basis? Will that be the approach to the VE-day anniversary...