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Engagements

Volume 175: debated on Tuesday 26 June 1990

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Q1.

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 June.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
(Sir Geoffrey Howe)

I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is attending the European Council meeting in Dublin.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend care to advise voters at the by-election on Thursday in Acocks Green in my constituency what action they should take in a city where nearly half the population has still to pay its community charge, largely because of the Labour council's shambolic administration and failure to collect, where Labour councillors have openly urged non-payment, where they have threatened to open more council offices and close all grammar schools, and where bankruptcy beckons?

My hon. Friend makes his points very well by way of criticism of Birmingham council. The best advice that I can offer his electors is to vote Conservative because Conservative local government delivers good services and costs less.

Q2.

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 June.

I have been asked to reply.

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

In a recent interview in a women's magazine the Prime Minister advised mothers with young children to take up part-time employment. When do the Government intend to create wealth and jobs in Scotland, in particular in my constituency?

The hon. Gentleman seems to overlook the fact that in his constituency unemployment fell by about 773 last year, and unemployment in Scotland fell by 1·5 per cent. to 8·1 per cent.

Q3.

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 June.

I have been asked to reply.

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

Will my right hon. and learned Friend take this opportunity to condemn the outrage of the bombing at the Carlton club last night, particularly as it appeared to be aimed at civilians and people who are not involved in Northern Ireland in any way? Will he remind the House and the nation that that is what people in Ulster have been suffering for more than 20 years and that one of the best ways to resolve the problem is continued international co-operation?

Of course I join my hon. Friend, as I am sure the whole House will, in condemning the dreadful brutality involved in the bombing in London last night and in expressing sympathy with all those who were injured. The whole House will agree that whoever did that dreadful act can be sure of one thing—we shall not be intimidated by violence. If the IRA was responsible, nobody should doubt the determination of the House to build good relations between the Governments, peoples and the communities that share the British Isles together. To that end, I entirely endorse what my hon. Friend said about the need for improved and steadily improving international co-operation on the widest scale.

Will the deputy Prime Minister accept my warm congratulations and convey them also to the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer on at last overcoming the Prime Minister's prejudices and securing Britain's commitment to economic and political union in Europe? Does he accept, therefore, that many of us hope that last weekend's press reports of his forthcoming exile to South Africa were completely unfounded?

I am content, of course, to accept the right hon. Gentleman's congratulations to the whole Government on the measured progress that we are making towards membership of the exchange rate mechanism. As for the fevered speculation about my possible translation to the South African or any other embassy, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will join me in referring those speculations to the press complaints commission that will be appointed as a result of the Calcutt committee report.

Q4.

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 June.

I have been asked to reply.

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

Will my right hon. and learned Friend assure the House that the Government will not seek to increase public expenditure by £50 billion, and confirm that such a course of action could lead only to higher prices for all, higher interest rates for all and higher taxes for all?

I confirm that no Conservative Government would dream of following the policies that my hon. Friend has described. The policies advocated by the Labour party would require a massive increase in taxation, probably on the scale of 25p in the pound on income tax. In contrast to the Labour party, we shall continue to finance our programmes honestly by taxation, not by ever-mounting borrowing.

While the Lord President is in the mood to speculate about economic matters, will he tell the House whether he believes that the Chancellor's proposals for a hard ecu will lead to a single European currency?

As the Chancellor said, they are perfectly capable of doing so. As the Prime Minister said in Dublin today, that is not inevitable, but they are perfectly consistent with that objective.

I am conscious of what the Prime Minister said in Dublin today; that is why I asked my question. According to the official report of her statement, she said that one day the pound might disappear. As she expressly ruled that out in the House last Thursday, may we be told when she changed her mind?

The points made by the Prime Minister in Dublin today are entirely consistent with those made by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor last week when he said that in the very long run, if peoples and governments so choose, the ecu could develop into a single currency.

The Lord President is right that the points made by the Prime Minister today are entirely consistent with the Chancellor's speech. However, they were not consistent with her answers in the House last Thursday. May I thank the Lord President for at least making it absolutely clear that the Government are in the same sort of divided shambles over monetary union as they are over the poll tax, changes in the health service and the new agenda that the Prime Minister announced on the hoof last Saturday morning?

The right hon. Gentleman should understand that our policies on the European monetary system, including our prospective membership of the exchange rate mechanism, are entirely consistent with the Government's anti-inflationary policies and are a total negation of the inflationary policies of the Labour party.

Q5.

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 June.

I have been asked to reply.

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

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that many people throughout the length and breadth of the land are much heartened by the fact that London is currently hosting the international conference on the ozone layer and CFCs? Will he give the House the commitment that Britain, which has already reduced its CFC production by 50 per cent. in the past five years, will continue to make leading progress in this area, and that we shall try to take as many other countries with us as we can at the conference?

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's tribute to the Government's actions thus far. We are, of course, determined to achieve global agreement on the strengthening of the Montreal convention and are working to that end at the conference. It is crucial to make progress in that direction not only for the sake of achieving a depletion of ozone, but to set an example of the way in which international progress can be made on these matters in other areas.

Is there any truth in the story that the Government are working on a scheme to modify the poll tax before the next general election?

As the hon. Gentleman and the House know every well, the Government are engaged on a review of the operation but not the structure of the community charge.

Q6.

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 June 1990.

I have been asked to reply.

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

With Government spending on the arts up a full third since 1979, in real terms, and with a further 27 per cent. increase planned for the next three years, does my right hon. and learned Friend know why the Conservative party is still regarded as philistine by the Opposition? [Interruption.]

Would it help if our excellent and longest serving Minister for the Arts were given a seat in Cabinet with full responsibility for all arts issues, including the heritage, education, television and broadcasting? That would, incidentally, give him equal status with arts Ministers on the continent, with whom he will have increased contact as 1993 approaches.

I am glad that my hon. Friend was able to complete his question. I join him in paying tribute to the work done by the Government in promoting progress in the arts, ranging from the decisions taken last week on the film industry to the major decisions taken on the national gallery extension and the national library. I join him in paying tribute to my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts, who is a former Parliamentary Private Secretary of mine. It would give me great pleasure to see him join me in the Cabinet, but that is a matter for the Prime Minister, not me.

Is the Leader of the House aware that 35 years ago today—known as South African Freedom Day—at Kliptown, near Johannesburg, the African National Congress adopted its freedom charter which declares, among other things, that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, irrespective of race, creed or colour? Does the Lord President of the Council endorse those statements and can he guarantee that his Government will support all measures to make South African Freedom Day a reality rather than a campaigning objective?

I am grateful for the opportunity to agree with the hon. Gentleman. The entire House shares the objective of bringing apartheid to an end at the quickest possible pace. We believe that the best way to help the African National Congress is by retaining our influence with the South African Government and that that means maintaining a measured relaxation of pressure in response to change. The whole House will be glad that in Dublin today the European Community has endorsed that approach, welcomed the steps taken by President de Klerk and intimated that it is willing to relax pressure in response to change of the kind that we would all welcome.

Q7.

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 June.

I have been asked to reply.

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

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that when it comes to interest rates, inflation rates and exchange rates, membership of the exchange rate mechanism cannot do for the United Kingdom more than we are prepared to do for ourselves?

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that membership of the exchange rate mechanism is very far from being a free ride. It would be a reinforcement of the kind of policies that are natural to a Conservative Government but are wholly anathema to the Labour party.

Is the Lord President of the Council proud of the fact that the Telecommunications Act 1984 has opened the door to sexual pornography and all manner of moral corruption on the telephone, such as that which has been published today in the Daily Mirror?

The hon. Gentleman knows that that is only a very small aspect of what can be said about the Telecommunications Act. The whole House shares his affront at that sort of thing, which is being investigated. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will join us on this side of the House in welcoming the immense liberation of industrial energy as a result of the Telecommunications Act.

Q10.

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 June.

I have been asked to reply.

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

Is the Lord President aware that the first stage of the Delors proceedings come into effect on 1 July, yet we are the only country that will not be participating in the exchange rate mechanism? Is not it a fact that the only consistency about the Government's policy towards Europe is its inconsistency?

I am astonished to hear that proposition being advanced by a spokesman for the Opposition, who for years have twisted and turned their whole attitude towards the European Community. It is the Conservative party, under successive Prime Ministers, which took Britain into Europe and achieved an increasingly important place for us in the Community. We are only glad that the Opposition have finally decided to join us in that endeavour.

Q11.

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 June.

I have been asked to reply.

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

Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that, despite the very welcome establishment of the European bank for reconstruction and development in London, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will be pressing, as she and the Government have been doing, for the completion of the single market on the important issue of establishing a common trade marks regime and the establishment of the trade marks office in Britain, ideally in London, to the benefit of the United Kingdom and Europe?

First, I agree about the importance of the common trade marks regime and, secondly, I confirm that for many years the Government have been supporting the objective of the location of the trade marks office in London.