The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1995Prime Minister (1990-1997)

PMQT – 29 June 1995

Below is the text of Prime Minister’s Question Time from 29th June 1995.




Q1. Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 29 June.

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. Mitchell: The President of the Board of Trade said on radio yesterday that the Prime Minister consulted him about his barmy decision to hold a leadership lollipop scramble. Is that correct? If it is correct, is it not rather like inviting Lucrezia Borgia to provide the wine at the party?

The Prime Minister: The fact is that I informed my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Devlin: Is my right hon. Friend aware of the absolute horror with which the one third of the north-east’s GPs who are currently budget holders will greet Labour’s proposals? Do not the proposals show that the Labour party is completely against any form of success and innovation?

The Prime Minister: I agree with my hon. Friend about that. Everyone in the House wishes to ensure that the national health service is successful, and that it can continually provide a better service and treat more patients. I do not believe that the proposals introduced by the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett), the Opposition spokesman on health, will achieve that.

“There have been enormous changes in the NHS reorganisations and Labour should be wary of threatening more wholesale organisational change.”

[Interruption.] I am interested to see that Labour Members disagree. Those were not my words but the words of the Socialist Health Association.

Mr. Blair: As we now know that the former Secretary of State for Wales strongly disagreed with the whole direction of Government policy, should he not have resigned from the Cabinet a long time ago, irrespective of the leadership issue? If that is right, should not the present members of the Government who, we well know, agree with the former Secretary of State for Wales also resign?

The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman misunderstands the situation. As I understand it, my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) resigned from the Cabinet because he was devastated that I had resigned as leader of the Conservative party.

Mr. Blair: I wonder whether that is the view of all the members of the Cabinet; I rather doubt it. Does the right hon. Gentleman recall saying that the leadership election would clear the air? Surely all that has become clear is the divisions, the hatred and the anarchy that exist within his party. Is it not the case now that whoever leads the Conservative party will, in effect, lead not one party, but two? Those divisions can never be reconciled.

The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman certainly has a cheek, since 40 per cent. of his party voted against him when he was elected leader recently. [Interruption.] The right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott), the deputy leader of the Labour party, said 1 million. I did not realise that a million people voted against the right hon. Gentleman. Perhaps they did.

Sir Teddy Taylor: To be serious, does the Prime Minister agree that one of the most worrying aspects of the leadership contest is that it is distracting attention from the remarkable technical and engineering achievement of the reopening tomorrow, only three weeks after a devastating fire, of Southend pier? Is my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, in a spirit of unity, prepared to congratulate the Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative councillors of Southend-on-Sea, who have worked in the spirit of the battle of Britain to restore one of Britain’s great national assets?

The Prime Minister: I enjoy the odd battle myself, so I am entirely happy to congratulate my hon. Friend and all those whom he mentioned on the success at Southend pier. It is amazing what can be done under good government.


Q2. Mr. Foulkes: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 29 June.

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

Mr. Foulkes: Will the Prime Minister tell us what word he would legitimately use to describe those Cabinet Ministers who, while professing loyalty to him, are setting up telephone lines in campaign offices for the second round of the election?

The Prime Minister: I have no knowledge of that. I can say that the speed at which these matters can be done is a tribute to privatisation.

Madam Speaker: Mr. Julian Brazier.

Mr. Brazier rose — [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker: Order. The House must come to order. This is great fun.

Mr. Brazier: Will my right hon. Friend tell the House why it is that, of the 10 cases considered earlier this month by the Northern Ireland review board, nine, including a number of former IRA and Ulster Defence Association terrorists, have now been told the outcome of their review at least in outline? Why has Private Lee Clegg alone not been told the outcome of his review and when is he likely to be told?

The Prime Minister: Any decision in the case of Private Clegg, first, will be reached as soon as possible and, secondly, will be advised to Private Clegg before any further statement is made.


Q3. Mr. Tyler: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 29 June.

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

Mr. Tyler: If the Prime Minister is so keen to avoid prejudging the outcome of the Scott inquiry, why does he keep suggesting that he and his colleagues, including the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, have no case to answer? Is it not now time to put up or shut up?

The Prime Minister: I set up the Scott inquiry and I have made the point repeatedly that I will consider the Scott inquiry when it has reported. I have no intention of being tempted down the route that the hon. Gentleman suggests.


Q4. Sir Peter Tapsell: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 29 June.

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

Sir Peter Tapsell: May I ask my right hon. Friend, to whose support as leader of our party I am fully committed, and before the long years that lie ahead in which he should have ample time to give me a job, whether, in view of Chancellor Kohl’s ardent, continued support for a single currency or a core currency, both of which would of course be dominated by Germany, my right hon. Friend will ensure that, as leader of any Government whom he heads, no decision will be taken to join either of those organisations until the British people have been given an opportunity to say whether they regard it as being in their long-term interest by means of a referendum?

The Prime Minister: I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s offer of support, which has been made both publicly and privately, and I welcome that.

Hon. Members: What about a job?

Madam Speaker: Order.

The Prime Minister: On a referendum, let me set out the position for the House. The first thing of course would be for the Cabinet to determine whether the country should enter into a single currency. If the Cabinet decides that it does not believe that it is right to enter into a single currency, the question of a referendum does not arise, although, as I have said in the past, were the Cabinet to decide that it did wish to proceed, as my hon. Friend says, there would be a serious question to be asked about a referendum. I repeat what I have said in the House before: I do not propose to rule one out.


Q5. Mr. Bennett: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 29 June.

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

Mr. Bennett: In the course of his busy day, has the Prime Minister had a chance to consider the Employment Select Committee report on the pay and remuneration of people in the gas, electricity and water, now privatised, utilities? Is that not a disgraceful example of greed, and is it not high time that he took action to curb those pay increases, or is it that perhaps he is looking, if the worst comes to the worst, to move to the City with a pay increase?

The Prime Minister: I have no intention of responding at all to the latter part of the hon. Gentleman’s question, which, knowing him, he may come to regret in due course.

On the Select Committee’s report, no, of course I have not had the opportunity of reading it in full yet, but I understand that, like me, it believes that pay rises and remuneration packages should be justified by company performance and affordability. But from what the hon. Gentleman says, it is clear that he speaks for the bulk of his party and that Labour’s industrial policy is becoming clearer. It will be, yet again, the Whitehall-knows-best attitude, a commissar in every boardroom and no changes from what we have seen in the past. So much for the charade of ditching clause IV.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman: Can my right hon. Friend find time to consider the remarkable similarity between Henry Ford and the new model Labour party? He may recall that Henry Ford said that one could have any colour for one’s car, provided it was black. The new-look modern Labour party says that one may have any candidate one wants, provided she is female, particularly if she happens to be the chairwoman of Lancashire county council.

The Prime Minister: There is, of course, in addition to those similarities, one difference, I suggest to my hon. Friend: persistently, Henry Ford tended to win.


Q6. Mr. Hoon: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 29 June.

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

Mr. Hoon: In the light of the recent local and by-election results, what advice would the Prime Minister give to those Conservative Members who try to get mortgage protection insurance, only to be told that their future career prospects are so uncertain as to be uninsurable? Has the Prime Minister tried to get such insurance lately?

The Prime Minister: No, I have not, nor do I need it.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: Does my right hon. Friend recall the time under the last socialist Government when Britain was regarded as the sick man of Europe and we could take only £50 on each trip abroad? Does he agree that the Government should retain the influence of this country in the rest of the world and not close off any options in relation to Europe or elsewhere before we need to do so?

The Prime Minister: I certainly recall the time when we could take only £50 abroad on holiday under the last Labour Government. Of course, that point is not that relevant because under the last Labour Government very few people had £50.


Q7. Mr. McAvoy: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 29 June.

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

Mr. McAvoy: When speaking to Tory party chairmen recently, the Prime Minister resorted to the language of Gerald Ratner in describing the processes of the European Union. Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that he and the Tory Government are also trying to sell cheap and tawdry products to the British people? At the next general election, under whatever Tory leader, the Tories will pay the same price as Gerald Ratner.

The Prime Minister: I think that the hon. Gentleman may be referring to a private remark that appeared to have been bugged by the BBC at some stage over the weekend. I have learnt that, from time to time, one mike can be left on by mistake. However, I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that he take no notice of that. He should concentrate on the fact that under this Government the changes that we have seen in prospects and prosperity for the future are greater than any that we have seen for many years. Not within his adult lifetime has this country ever faced the benign economic prospect for the future that we can today honestly offer the British people.