The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1993Prime Minister (1990-1997)

PMQT – 11 March 1993

Below is the text of Prime Minister’s Question Time from 11th March 1993.




Q1. Mr. Mudie : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 11 March.

The Prime Minister (Mr. John Major) : 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.

Mr. Mudie : Can the Prime Minister tell the House how today’s distressing news that 5,000 Rolls-Royce jobs are to be lost and how the fact that since he became Prime Minister 750,000 manufacturing jobs have been destroyed fit in with any supposed strategy for manufacturing industry? And can he tell the country when it can expect this industrial carnage to end?

The Prime Minister : Let me respond first to the hon. Gentleman’s point about Rolls-Royce and the distressing announcement this morning of job losses at Derby and elsewhere. The hon. Gentleman will know that Rolls- Royce has two main international competitors, Boeing and Pratt and Whitney. He will know also that Pratt and Whitney has plans to cut 10,000 jobs over the next year or so and that Boeing will cut a total of 28,000 jobs. In both cases, the job losses have the same cause as those at Rolls-Royce–the state of the international market and of international demand. As to what is being done, I hope that the hon. Gentleman has not forgotten the long list of things that I set out the other day. If he wishes me to do so, I shall willingly repeat it.

Sir Terence Higgins : Will my right hon. Friend take time today to have discussions with the leader of the Labour party about the deplorable behaviour of the official Opposition last night, which was clearly encouraged by the Front Bench? Is it not pathetic that the Opposition have to resort to such tactics, instead of using effective debate, as these inevitably bring the House into disrepute?

The Prime Minister : Any discussions are for my right hon. Friend the Chief Whip and his Opposition counterpart. I condemn what apparently happened last night, although I was not in the House. I have to ask why the Leader of the Opposition did not stop it and, more relevantly, why his deputy Chief Whip seemed to be organising it.

Mr. John Smith rose–

Hon. Members : Answer.

Madam Speaker : Order.

Mr. Smith : If manufacturing matters to the Prime Minister– [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker : Order. The House must settle down and listen to what hon. Members have to say and to the responses.

Mr. John Smith : If manufacturing matters to the Prime Minister, as he would have us believe, what action does he intend to take to prevent the loss of 5,000 jobs at Rolls-Royce?

The Prime Minister : The right hon. and learned Gentleman still lives in a world in which the Government do everything and everything is the Government’s fault. That may be his vision of the future, but for most people it is their vision of the past, and a past that was not successful. He should remember, for example, the national enterprise board. It picked losers, not winners, it cost millions, and many of its investments, taking the sort of action that the right hon. and learned Gentleman would advocate, subsequently went into liquidation or receivership.

Mr. John Smith : Does the Prime Minister not remember that an Administration headed by one of his predecessors took Rolls-Royce into public ownership, otherwise it would not be there today? Does he recollect that only last week he told us in his The Independent interview that we have undervalued engineering skills? What on earth is the point of his talking about the value of engineering skills when, as Prime Minister, he does nothing about the loss of 5,000 skilled engineering jobs?

The Prime Minister : The right hon. and learned Gentleman may also recall that we put many industries into privatisation, without which they would not be in profit and creating jobs today. The way to create engineering and other jobs is to make sure that we have a growing economy and the right sort of international competitiveness. We have intervened to get the single market running and we have improved export credit guarantees. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has clearly forgotten all the matters that were contained within the autumn Budget. It is not nannying intervention of the sort that the right hon. and learned Gentleman advocates that this country needs ; it is the sort of supply-side measures that we are taking.

Mr. John Smith : Does the Prime Minister not understand that this litany of self-serving excuses gives no comfort to the 5,000 people who are to lose their jobs, let alone the 10,000 Rolls-Royce workers who have lost their jobs in the recent past? Does he not understand that in France today the Government are giving temporary help to the aerospace industry precisely to keep skilled engineering groups together? Why does not his Government back British industry the way other Governments back their industry?

The Prime Minister : If France is so successful, why are there 3 million unemployed there? Here is the right hon. and learned Gentleman again with his perennial gloom. He might welcome some of the new jobs announced recently : Digitals move for 1,100 more jobs at Ayr ; the prospect of 3,000 more jobs in Staffordshire ; the new jobs won yesterday in Cambridge ; the 6,000 jobs to be created in Manchester. Why do these always bypass the right hon. and learned Gentleman on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons?


Q2. Mr. Bates : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 11 March.

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

Mr. Bates : Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that it is vital to the success of the security services that they are kept free from political interference in operational matters? If so, does he agree that the remarks made yesterday by a Labour spokesman on Northern Ireland were a total disgrace and a slur upon the courageous and dedicated way in which the security services carry out their duties on behalf of all of us?

The Prime Minister : I agree with my hon. Friend. Those remarks were absurd. They were a slur on officers whose achievements must have saved many people from death or injury. The Opposition would have done better, rather than attacking the police, to join us last night in attacking terrorism. The Leader of the Opposition might tell us whether he stands by what his hon. Friend said or by the police in what they have to do. He cannot do both.

Mr. Ashdown : On this bleak day for job losses, will the Prime Minister reflect on the fact that, while there are 3 million unemployed in Britain, there are also 3 million small businesses in Britain, and a real, extra boost for small businesses could provide a real, extra boost for jobs? Will he cut the uniform business rate and penalise the late payment of bills, or is he simply content to continue to let small businesses go to the wall, as at present, at the rate of 250 a day?

The Prime Minister : The right hon. Gentleman has absolutely no idea that more than 400,000 new small businesses were formed last year. If he really wants to help create small businesses in future, perhaps he will stop joining others in delaying the European Communities (Amendment) Bill and putting at risk the inward investment that has totalled £100 billion in the past five years. If we have to choose between the right hon. Gentleman’s principles and his action, we had better be careful not to decide on his action until he has done it.

Mr. Gale : My right hon. Friend will have struck a chord with most of our constituents when he recently drew attention to the corrosive effects of violence on television. Will he now go a stage further and direct the Cabinet’s attention to the further effects of paedophilia created and transmitted by computer which, at present, is not covered by the law? Will he ensure that controls are included in the next criminal justice Bill?

The Prime Minister : I understand that that is covered by the law. But notwithstanding that, my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary is well seized of the difficulties raised by my hon. Friend and is examining them.


Q3. Mr. Lewis : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 11 March.

The Prime Minister : I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Lewis : Will the right hon. Gentleman concede that it is now time to release the capital receipts, long held by local authorities, in order to bring skilled building workers back into work to provide decent homes for the homeless and for elderly people?

The Prime Minister : As the hon. Gentleman may recall, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer released many of them in the autumn statement and those that have been released are currently being underspent by local authorities.

Mr. Marlow : We are told that we are winning the arguments in Europe. Does that mean that Mr. Delors, the Commission, Benelux, Chancellor Kohl and President Mitterrand are now enthusiastic decentralisers? Does that mean that the principle of subsidiarity will allow the House, and this House alone, to make a decision on whether we have a 48-hour week?

The Prime Minister : As the hon. Gentleman knows, article 3b specifically puts subsidiarity into the EC treaty and changes the situation in the future about that matter. He himself should vote for that instead of obstructing it.

Mr. Bryan Davies : Will the Prime Minister explain to the House why he has tabled a motion again today to allow debate to continue on the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, a motion which has been tabled many times in recent weeks and never moved? Has he made a deal with the Liberals and nationalists this evening, or will he be running away from his second defeat this week?

The Prime Minister : The hon. Gentleman clearly is as keen as I am to see progress on the Bill.

Dr. Spink : Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming the latest excellent figures for new house sales which were 20 per cent. up in the first eight weeks of this year? The Opposition concentrate on talking Britain down, but is that not good news for Britain?

The Prime Minister : My hon. Friend makes his point with great clarity. He is quite right about housing. He will know that mortgage rates for first-time buyers are lower today than they have been since 1956, and that is before many families yet feel the benefit of the interest rate cuts since the autumn. Many people are clearly deciding that now is a good time to buy, and I welcome that.


Q4. Mr. Matthew Taylor : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 11 March.

The Prime Minister : I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Taylor : Is the Prime Minister aware that prices in the South West Water region have risen 77 per cent. since 1989, faster than in the rest of the country, and are due to double over the next few years, faster than in the rest of the country? When the right hon. Gentleman recently visited Cornwall and Devon, he told the Western Morning News on 5 February that he was looking at action to help people with those problems. He told me last week on 4 March that he defended the price increases that we have seen. Which is right–what he said here or what he said in the west country?

The Prime Minister : I told the hon. Gentleman last week that the prices were broadly the same as those of Anglian Water, and they are. I can tell him again this afternoon that I am examining the matter with my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.


Q5. Mr. David Atkinson : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 11 March.

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

Mr. Atkinson : Is my right hon. Friend aware of a joint media campaign in my area called Action Desk, involving the Bournemouth Evening Echo, the Dorset chamber of commerce and Two Counties Radio, which is designed to beat the recession in our area by encouraging the spread of good news about our economic recovery and encouraging a positive approach by business and individuals?

Will my right hon. Friend commend this initiative and recommend it to other areas and above all, will he recommend it to the national media in order to counter the doom and gloom coming out of the Opposition?

The Prime Minister : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. It certainly is time that we started talking more positively about our good successes and about the opportunities we now have with low inflation and low interest rates.

Mr. Lewis : What about jobs?

The Prime Minister : And, in answer to that seated intervention, about the new jobs, many of which I listed a few moments ago. Exports are up; manufacturing productivity is up ; car sales are up ; house sales are up, and one day Opposition Members opposite may begin to acknowledge that.