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Prime Minister

Volume 173: debated on Tuesday 22 May 1990

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To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 22 May 1990.

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. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty the Queen.

Will my right hon. Friend spend a few moments today recalling the material damage done to this nation, and the damage to its reputation and to individual liberties, by the episodes at Saltley, Grunwick, Wapping and during the 1984 miners' strike? Will she give a pledge to the House that, despite certain proposals from certain other sources this week, no Government under her leadership would legalise secondary industrial action or secondary picketing?

I am glad to give my hon. Friend the assurance he seeks. All who remember the scenes of the secondary picketing and the terrible intimidation recall also the admiration we felt for those who were determined to exercise their right to go to their place of work and who had the courage to go through the lines. I heard my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Employment say a few moments ago that since we brought in our revised laws on secondary picketing and trade union reform the number of industrial stoppage last year was the lowest for a very long time.

Will the Prime Minister confirm, as her Chancellor acknowledged earlier today, that under her Government the tax burden on British families is higher than it has ever been under any Government in history?

I confirm that at all levels of income the rates of income tax have been reduced-on earned income, from 83 per cent., when we went into Downing street, to some 40 per cent. at the top rate, and, on the standard rate, from 33p in the pound to 25p in the pound. The people have done very well both as to increased income and reduced tax levels.

Yes, and after that disposable income has been obtained, people are then faced with doubled VAT, higher charges and now the poll tax, which is the reason why, as the Prime Minister should admit, she is charging the highest burden of taxation of any Government in history. Why are the Government and the Prime Minister so reluctant to claim what is truly theirs—the record for being the biggest taxers ever?

The right hon. Gentleman would put up taxes all right. [Interruption.] I doubt very much whether the British people want to go back to 83p in the pound on earned income and 98p in the pound on savings income, or to have their taxes put up, as I understand the right hon. Gentleman would like to do. Their incomes have gone up tremendously and most of them—indeed, all of them—have had a substantial increase in their standard of living.

Does the Prime Minister recall making the promise that the share of the nation's income taken by the state would be steadily reduced under her Government? She ratted on that promise, of course, but will she now admit that, after 11 years, and despite the oil revenues, the asset sales and the fiddle on the pensioners, her Government are still the biggest taxers in history?

We have by far the biggest income in history and the lowest tax rates since before the war. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will remember that under Labour Governments, when the spending went up and up and up, the Chancellor had not the courage to finance it honestly and took a public sector borrowing requirement that was equal to 9 per cent. of GDP, an amount that would now equal a borrowing of £44 billion a year.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that her meeting last Saturday with President de Klerk of South Africa was extremely satisfactory and that she found him to be a man of integrity and courage and a man in a great hurry for reform? In those circumstances, will she continue to relax what few economic sanctions we have against that country, and withdraw from the innocuous Gleneagles agreement and resume sporting links with South Africa?

I think everyone has been impressed with President de Klerk's integrity and courage. He has embarked on a reform that will bring an end—[ Interruption.]

Order. We cannot have conversations across the Chamber. The Prime Minister is answering a question.

I shall start again, Mr. Speaker.

I think everyone who saw or heard him has admired President de Klerk's integrity and courage. He has embarked on reforms which are irreversible, which will bring an end to apartheid and which will, through negotiation, bring about a democratic Government on a non-racial basis. I believe that he deserves to be fully supported for the courageous reforms that he is making. I believe that there is now no place for sanctions and that they are almost irrelevant. Those people who want South Africa to have a prosperous economy should not support sanctions in any way.


To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 22 May.

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

Is the Prime Minister aware that last year 514 fatal accidents were reported to the Health and Safety Executive, reversing the long-term downward trend in deaths at work? Given that background, can the Prime Minister explain why the HSE is seeking to make cuts in its establishment? Will she give the House the guarantee that, if the HSE wants more money to maintain or to improve the level of services that it now provides, that money will be made available?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, we believe that health and safety are of prime importance in the work force. Last year there were one or two terrible accidents that may have added to the total. We shall fully support the Health and Safety Executive in its arduous and very important work.

In view of my right hon. Friend's successful meeting last Saturday and the terrible killings in Palestine during the past few days, does she see any sign of an Israeli equivalent to Mr. de Klerk in Palestine?

As my right hon. Friend is aware, two of the great problems of the Arab-Israel situation at the moment are, first, that there is no Government of Israel with whom to negotiate and, secondly, there are no signs of talks beginning. We have done everything that we can—and will continue to do everything that we can—to try to get those talks started. Events almost every day show the importance of that. We shall pursue the matter through our usual channels.


To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 22 May.

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

Does the Prime Minister agree that the subject of public health is above party politics and that the issue of BSE and beef has been subjected to the antics of politicians? Does she further agree that that issue needs to be tackled more firmly by the Government? Although British beef is indeed safe to eat, does the Prime Minister accept that she needs to consult further with scientists in the Department of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and with independent scientists? Will she please make a statement on that?

I am not certain whether the hon. Gentleman heard or read the debate yesterday. If he did, he will have heard my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture point out that we commissioned the Southwood report some time ago, and took action upon all its recommendations. We could not have used a more distinguished scientist. We then appointed Dr. Tyrrell of the medical research council to advise my right hon. Friend further, and any advice that he has given has been taken by my right hon. Friend. We can do no better than take the best scientific advice available. The chief medical officer has also given his advice. We foresaw some of the problems, we appointed the scientists and we have taken their advice. The hon. Gentleman cannot ask for more.


To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 22 May.

Will my right hon. Friend join me in condemning the disgraceful attack on graves in the Jewish cemetery in Edmonton? Will she send her sympathy to the family and friends of those who are buried there who have suffered?

I gladly respond to my hon. Friend's invitation, as would every hon. Member. Those attacks, wherever they occurred in the world, were appalling and should never have happened. We shall all do all that we can to ensure that they never happen again. We wish to express our sympathy for those who have suffered, and for all Jewish people everywhere who have been reminded again of such terrible events.

Does the Prime Minister agree that she would not be prepared to retain any individual in her Cabinet if it could be demonstrated that that person had been prepared to advocate an armed coup against the last Labour Government? Will she take action in relation to the letter from General Sir Walter Walker, in which he recounts details of a meal at which he was present with several City financiers, along with the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), and had to reprimand the right hon. Gentleman for taking exactly that line?

The hon. Gentleman brings out all kinds of tittle-tattle that is not worthy of reply. The last Labour Prime Minister answered the fundamental part of his question, and I have nothing further to add.


To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 22 May.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that her Government will not increase taxes on people with relatively modest incomes—such as graduate and medium-ranking teachers with responsibility allowance, local government officers or nurses in grades H and I—and then turn around and describe them as high-income earners, as the Leader of the Opposition did in Bootle yesterday? He would skin them alive.

My hon. Friend puts her own view in her own way. I entirely agree that many medium-income people such as some teachers, nurses and policemen would be adversely affected by the increases in taxation proposed by the Labour party. I hope that it will never be put into office to implement those increases.

Was not it very unwise, given the political situation in Northern Ireland, for the right hon. Lady to allow her Ministers in Northern Ireland—who do an excellent job within the community, far better than any other Minister—to campaign for a Conservative candidate who ended up in the last six in the election? That was lower than the Irish Independence party, Sinn Fein and the Workers party. Surely the Prime Minister cannot let that happen again.

In a democratic system, people are not precluded from putting up for a by-election if they wish to do so-unless they have to have a licence to do so in the Labour party.


To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 22 May.

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will agree with me that on this side of the House we have history and tradition on our side. [Laughter.]

Does she think that it would be a good idea if we had a flag day to commemorate a day that is important to the Conservative party, such as the day on which Winston Churchill became Prime Minister—10 May 1940—or perhaps the day on which the task force set off for the Falklands to show the world that sovereignty and freedom came before everything else, or perhaps even the day that my right hon. Friend became Prime Minister? On the other hand, she might agree with me that the most significant day for the Conservative party was 1 October 1983, when the Leader of the Opposition became leader or the Labour party, went to Brighton beach and fell flat on his face. He has done just that every Tuesday and Thursday ever since.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his ingenuity and clarity of expression. I entirely agree with him that we are the party with the longest history behind us and the longest future before us, all in serving the people.

New Member

The following Member took and subscribed the Oath:

William David Trimble, Esq., for Upper Bann.

Ballot For Notices Of Motions For Friday 8 June

Members successful in the ballot were:

  • Mr. Ian McCartney
  • Mr. Doug Hoyle
  • Sir Trevor Skeet.

Statutory Instruments, &C


That the draft Police (Dispensation from Requirement to Investigate Complaints) Regulations 1990 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments,&c—[Mr. Chapman.]