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Volume 115: debated on Thursday 30 April 1987

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asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 30 April.

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

In view of Government policy on local government expenditure, will my right hon. Friend reflect on the fact that Derbyshire county council recently announced a programme of massive spending increases in line with Labour pledges, but has suddently and without explanation withdrawn the programme that it had submitted? Can my right hon. Friend think of any possible reason or any event in the near future, that might have influenced the county council's decision?

I understand that Derbyshire is the highest-rated county in England. This is very damaging to business in an area that needs more jobs, and it is highly damaging to domestic ratepayers. The county council may have had that in mind in considering future matters and events which will come about in the next 15 or so months.

In view of the overwhelming evidence that unemployment affects the health of those without a job, confirmed in yet another medical report issued last week, will the Prime Minister say whether she feels any personal responsibility for the ill-health, some of it very serious, of thousands of people in this country, arising directly from her economic policies?

Overall, health in the United Kingdom has been improving steadily. Life expectancy continues to rise. Infant mortality has fallen by one third since 1979. When we came to power in 1979, only £7¾ billion was spent on the National Health Service. This financial year we shall spend about £20 billion, which shows the priority that we have given to the health of the people.


asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 30 April.

With regard to disarmament negotiations, is it not clear that this hopeful situation which we now have has come about because of my right hon. Friend's robust attitude and her refusal unilaterally to throw away our armaments before negotiations begin? Are there not hopeful attitudes in this negotiation which we are about to start?

Yes. I do not believe that the Soviet Union would be thinking of taking out the majority of her SS20s unless we had stood firm and deployed the cruise missiles and Pershings, something that the Labour, Liberal and Social Democratic parties voted against in this House when the decision was made. We would prefer the Soviet Union to agree to a global zero-zero on intermediate nuclear weapons. So far it has been unwilling to do that, but that is what we shall continue to ask for.

Before repeating her usual assertion that there is no connection between the 20 per cent. increase in youth unemployment in Merseyside since 1979 and the 40 per cent. increase in crime on Merseyside over which her Government has ministered since 1979, will the Prime Minister tell the House what she thinks about that well-known Victorian saying, oft repeated in Finchley, that the Devil finds work for idle hands?

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has heard references several times to studies which show that there is no direct relationship between unemployment and crime. I am sure that he is very much aware that there are countries which have lower unemployment than we have but which have higher rates of crime. I further refer him to an article in the Daily Mail on Wednesday 22 April by Dr. Alice Coleman, who said:

"Historically, there is no evidence that joblessness is the major stimulus to crime."
She went on to say:
"The runaway growth in offences began in the post-war period of full employment, and it was then often suggested that young delinquents were the spoilt products of affluence."
The hon. Gentleman is aware that the peak age for crime is 15. That is not related to unemployment.


asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 30 April.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of my constituents in the west midlands are trade unionists, many of whom are supporters of mine? Is she aware of the tremendous change in attitude that has taken place on the shop floor in recent months as a result of Government legislation, with such things as no strike agreements, the end of the closed shop and a generally much healthier and more realistic attitude among the workers? Is she aware that many of them are now capitalists, owning their houses, and shares too?

I agree with my hon. Friend. Our trade union reforms have helped to transform the climate for business. We now have the lowest number of days lost through disputes for 20 years. It is our reforms, and the way in which trade unions have responded, that are in part responsible for the excellent optimistic business survey that we have seen this week. I am delighted that under this Government far more trade unionists own their own homes and shares and have more savings than ever would have happened under Labour.