The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1992Prime Minister (1990-1997)

PMQT – 16 June 1992

Below is the text of Prime Minister’s Question Time from 16th June 1992.




Q1. Mr. Kevin Hughes : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 16 June.

The Prime Minister (Mr. John Major) : 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.

Mr. Hughes : Given the commitment that the Prime Minister gave to the biodiversity treaty in Rio over the weekend and in the House yesterday, while he advises other countries on how to solve their problems, will he try to solve some of the problems that we have in this country? Thorne and Hatfield moors in my constituency have been totally devastated by the peat extraction carried out by the Fisons company. Will the Prime Minister introduce legislation to stop the devastation of sites of special scientific interest, not just at Thorne and Hatfield moors, but throughout the country?

The Prime Minister : The hon. Gentleman knows that there is stringent legislation to deal with sites of special scientific interest. I am not familiar with the case raised by the hon. Gentleman, but if he will let me have the details I undertake to ensure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment examines the matter.


Q2. Mr. Barry Field : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 16 June.

The Prime Minister : I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Field : Is my right hon. Friend aware that during the general election campaign the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food visited the Isle of Wight, where he reacted to the policy of the Liberal Democrats to make the island a trial district for rabies vaccination? Will my right hon. Friend congratulate his Cabinet colleague on defeating the suggestion from Brussels that we should weaken our safeguards against rabies in pets, and for keeping mad dogs out of our country and the even madder leader of the Liberal Democrats out of power? Will my right hon. Friend give the House an assurance that the Government will continue to maintain controls against both those terrible diseases?

The Prime Minister : I think that my hon. Friend strikes a chord both with the House and with the country as a whole. I believe that yesterday’s agreement of the Agriculture Council provides fully effective protection against rabies, and as such I think that it will be widely welcomed throughout the country.

Mr. Hattersley : Now that the Prime Minister has agreed to Mr. Delors’ reappointment, will he describe–principally for the benefit of his Back Benchers–the qualities in the President of the Commission which inspired the Prime Minister’s confidence?

The Prime Minister : As ever, the right hon. Gentleman starts with a misconception. No such agreement has yet been made.

Mr. Hattersley : The Prime Minister must know that as recently as this weekend the Foreign Secretary was telling our European partners–and let Mr. Delors’ office know–that the Government would not stand in the way of Mr. Delors’ reappointment. Since the Prime Minister, or at least the Foreign Secretary, has said in private that the Government support Mr. Delors’ reappointment, is it not deplorable that the Prime Minister does not have the courage to say so in public? Is that not typically second rate?

The Prime Minister : I repeat to the right hon. Gentleman, who has more experience of second-rate matters than most of us in this House, that no firm decision, no Cabinet decision, on the reappointment of Mr. Delors has yet been made. There are many things still to be determined about that appointment.

Indeed, there are two appointments to be considered. I refer, first, to the temporary appointment for two years of the President of the Commission, to be made shortly, and thereafter to the appointment for five years, to run through the full length of the next Parliament. I am concerned to ensure that we get the right appointment for both terms.

Sir Malcolm Thornton rose – [ Hon. Members : — “Hear, hear!”] Has my right hon. Friend appreciated that in August this year the transatlantic tall ships race will arrive in Liverpool? Is he aware that in the eight years since the race’s last visit the port of Liverpool has been transformed, justifying the Government’s decision to award free port status to Liverpool? Will my right hon. Friend wish the port and the organisers of the event August every success?

The Prime Minister : I do so with great pleasure, for I think that such congratulations are well deserved–as are the congratulations to my hon. Friend on his recent award.

Mr. Ashdown : In the light of the Prime Minister’s answer to the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), has he noted that one of his own officials described Jacques Delors as a President of the European Commission of outstanding integrity and competence? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree?

The Prime Minister : I think that Mr. Delors has many qualities.

Mr. Marlow : Can the Prime Minister tell the House how the exchange rate mechanism affects the ability of Her Majesty’s Government to set interest rates compatible with the level of activity of the United Kingdom economy?

The Prime Minister : As my hon. Friend knows, since we became members of the ERM we have used it as the centre of our anti-inflationary policy. As a result, inflation–both headline inflation and core inflation–has fallen dramatically since a period when it was far too high. It remains the Government’s policy to meet the convergence criteria set out in the Maastricht treaty, not just for the treaty but for their own sake as well. For that purpose, and for the reduction and eventual elimination of inflation, we intend fully to sustain our commitment to the exchange rate mechanism.


Q3. Mr. McFall : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 16 June.

The Prime Minister : I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. McFall : Although the Maxwell spying allegations make interesting reading and may prove that the Government have more responsibility in the affair than has hitherto been stated, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the banks should return the £200 million assets which they do not own? Does he agree that he should direct the Treasury to use its powers under section 4(3) of the Bank of England Act 1946 to recover the money which the banks do not own?

The Prime Minister : As the hon. Gentleman knows, the special unit announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security will actively assist the trustees in securing the return of assets.

If the earlier half of the hon. Gentleman’s question was aimed in the direction I think it was, I can state clearly that the Government had no information about Mr. Maxwell’s financial affairs, contrary to what was alleged in the Financial Times yesterday, whether in 1989 or subsequently. I saw no such information, my office saw no such information, and nor did any Minister–for the very good reason that it never existed.

Mr. Budgen : Does my right hon. Friend agree that what is now required in considering the Maastricht treaty is some objective analysis of its detailed effects? Is he aware that the Conservative Lawyers recently published a pamphlet saying that the doctrine of subsidiarity was virtually useless in terms of providing any protection against the further unwanted expansion of European laws and institutions? In view of the considerable misunderstanding that has arisen since the passing of the Single European Act, is it not important to publish either the advice of the Attorney-General about the effect of the treaty or at least a White Paper? It would be unfortunate if Ministers advocated the treaty in general and euphoric terms but it was subsequently found to have a different meaning when considered by the Commission or the court.

The Prime Minister : I always read carefully what the Conservative Lawyers have to say–often in agreement, but perhaps not always in total agreement. My hon. Friend asked about subsidiarity, and I agree with the substantive part of his point, which is that we should speedily clarify its practical applications. In the next few weeks that will most certainly be one of our priorities during our presidency.


Q4. Mr. Nigel Griffiths : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 16 June.

The Prime Minister : I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Griffiths : Will the Prime Minister join me in congratulating the Scottish football team on its tremendous, spirited performance in Sweden? Will he also congratulate Scottish fans on their exemplary performance to date and reprimand the Secretary of State for National Heritage for his ill-founded and ignorant comments about “British” fans when British fans were not to blame?

The Prime Minister : I am happy to congratulate the Scottish team on its fine performance and I regret that it was not successful in proceeding further in the competition. I hope that on future occasions the team will do better. I certainly condemn the lawlessness of a small minority of English supporters. As my right hon. Friend has made entirely clear, they have sullied our reputation abroad.


Q5. Mr. Paice : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 16 June.

The Prime Minister : I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Paice : Will my right hon. Friend find time to read yesterday’s Hansard, especially the Adjournment debate by my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Riddick)?

Mr. Cryer : And the money resolution last night.

Mr. Paice : There was no money resolution on the Adjournment debate. That debate was about the National Union of Students and about suggestions of abuse of public money, and my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley was supported by many Conservative Members. Will the Prime Minister urge the Secretary of State for Education to act quickly to remove one of the last bastions of compulsory union membership?

The Prime Minister : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education is considering action on student unions. As my hon. Friend said, we shall seek to move in the direction of the voluntary principle.


Q6. Mr. Pike : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 16 June.

The Prime Minister : I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Pike : We all know that the Prime Minister opposes a national minimum wage. There are millions of people on low pay and hundreds of thousands on poverty wages. Does he disagree with his predecessor that low pay is better than no pay, or will he do something to ensure that people have a reasonable living wage? Does he accept that in 1992 there should be a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work ?

The Prime Minister : I do not believe that anyone disagrees with the hon. Gentleman’s final proposition, but it is equally true that people who receive low pay would rather that than receive no pay.


Q7. Mr. David Shaw : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 16 June.

The Prime Minister : I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Shaw : Can my right hon. Friend state whether his office has any information about the meeting in Liechtenstein tomorrow to explain the role of Liechtenstein lawyers and others in secreting away Maxwell family moneys? Will he confirm that the Government will take every action necessary against Liechtenstein to ensure that any money due to Maxwell pensioners is returned to the pension funds as soon as possible?

The Prime Minister : I had no knowledge of that particular meeting, but in the light of my hon. Friend’s remarks I will make inquiries.

Mr. Hoyle : As the Prime Minister has read the reports in the Financial Times, he must be aware that they mention not only Maxwell but other national companies being under surveillance. If that is so, will the right hon. Gentleman say who signed the warrants allowing that to take place?

The Prime Minister : I have no intention of dealing with matters of that sort. The hon. Gentleman knows that very well. Every previous Government have consistently declined to comment on the activities of the intelligence and security services. I made the point perfectly clear in respect of Maxwell because of the damaging effect that the report could have had on Maxwell pensioners.