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Volume 175: debated on Thursday 28 June 1990

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To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 28 June.

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later today, including one with the Governor of Hong Kong.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that properly enforced tough controls on dangerous dogs and their owners offer far greater security and reassurance to the public, and particularly to children, than a bureaucratic dog registration scheme of the kind currently obsessing the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the upshot of which would be that responsible owners would register and irresponsible owners would not?

Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend. It is not the identification of the owner which has been the problem, but to make certain that owners control their dogs properly. Yesterday further significant proposals were announced to toughen the law. Our proposals will strengthen the powers for dangerous dogs to be seized and, if necessary, destroyed. They will create new powers to allow courts to have dogs muzzled. We are also looking at the possibility of banning certain dog breeds all together.

Since the Prime Minister has publicly admitted that she was, in her own words,

"aware of the … terms and conditions of the arrangements reached with British Aerospace"
in relation to the sale of Rover, will she confirm that her knowledge of those arrangements included details of the £44 million sweeteners of which Parliament was never to be told?

As I indicated on 14 December 1989

"I was kept aware throughout of the progress of the negotiations with British Aerospace and … of the basic terms and conditions of the agreements reached".—[Official Report, 14 December 1989; Vol. 163, c. 770.]
Our priority at the time was to safeguard the interests of the company, the employees and the taxpayer. That objective was secured and billions of pounds of future state aids and taxpayers' money was thus saved.

On 30 November last year I asked the Prime Minister twice if she knew of all the arrangements about the sweeteners. She dodged the question then, and she is trying to dodge it now. Will she give a straight answer to a straight question? When she says that she knew of the arrangements, did her knowledge include, or did it not include, knowledge of the sweeteners of which this Parliament, the European Community and the British people were never to be told?

I answered the question on 14 December 1989. I was kept aware throughout of the progress of the negotiations at British Aerospace under the basic terms and conditions of the agreements reached. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes or no?"] Our main objective was to secure the privatisation of this company which was utterly bankrupt and broke and on which the taxpayers—[HON. MEMBERS: "Yes or no?"]—had already spent £3·5 billion in aids and a further £1·6 billion in contingent liabilities. We successfully privatised the company and it is profitable, but that means nothing to the right hon. Gentleman. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes or no?"] The right hon. Gentleman would probably have preferred to have the company nationalised so that taxpayers could continue to be fleeced.

What does mean something to me, and should mean something to the Prime Minister, is the integrity of the right hon. Lady herself. Did she know, or did she not know, that £44 million of illegal sweeteners was part of the deal?

I answered the hon. Gentleman in the reply that I gave on 14 December 1989. May I say how very much the Opposition have changed their tune—[interruption.]

Order. The Prime Minister has been asked a series of questions and she wishes to reply.

The Opposition have changed their tune from the line which they took on 14 July 1988 when—

Order. It is intolerable that when the Prime Minister has been asked a qustion she is not given an opportunity to reply. [HON. MEMBERS: "She will not answer."] Order. I call the Prime Minister.

On 14 July 1988 my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, as he then was, informed the House of the results of the negotiations and what had taken place. The hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould), replying to my right hon. and learned Friend—

Order. This is the House of Commons and we listen to the answers given to questions.

The hon. Member for Dagenham, replying to my right hon. and learned Friend and referring to my right hon. and learned Friend's latest visit to the Commission as going cap in hand to Brussels to beg for concessions said, if the House is quiet enough or interested enough to hear—

Order. If the hon. Gentleman continues to shout, of course it will take time.

When my right hon. and learned Friend the then Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was announcing the result, the hon. Member for Dagenham said of the Commission:

"How is it that an unelected official can tell the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry that his terms are non-negotiable?"—[Official Report, 14 July 1988; Vol. 137, c. 613.]
That is what the hon. Gentleman said, but the Opposition have changed their tune.

On the occasion of the most welcome visit of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association delegates from India, led by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, will my right hon. Friend confirm the Government's policy as being to continue to uphold Britain's excellent relations with India?

Yes. I was not aware of that visit, but we have excellent relations with India. We give it priority with our aid, and have recently agreed to help it each year to enable it to keep its rain forests.

Now that we know that nuclear power is twice as expensive for the consumer as any other form of power, and that it is less cost effective than energy conservation in protecting the environment, why does the Prime Minister insist that every electricity consumer should pay a special nuclear tax amounting to £25 on the average electricity bill to meet the cost of her obsession and her Government's bungling over nuclear power? Have not Sizewell B and the right hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Parkinson) already cost the nation too much, and should not the right hon. Lady pull the plug on both of them?

I will take the question on Sizewell B first. Sizewell B will cost more than originally expected because the original order was for four nuclear power stations of a particular design. However, now that only one is definitely to be built—Sizewell B—all the original design and development costs will have to be added to the cost of that one station, instead of being spread over four. It is not unusual for the costs to increase. If we had four nuclear power stations, the cost of Sizewell B would not be great.

In the right hon. Gentleman's second question, he said that nuclear power cost more. We know the costs for the disposal of the fission products of nuclear power. When that is compared with the cost of obtaining electricity from coal or oil, the problem is that we do not know the costs of dumping carbon dioxide in outer space, which could be much worse in the long run than those of nuclear power. The right hon. Gentleman may remember that France has a good record on reducing carbon dioxide emissions because the majority of her electricity is generated from nuclear power.