Below is the text of Prime Minister's Question Time from 4th July 1996.
Q1. Mr. Skinner: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 4 July.
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. Skinner: Is the Minister aware that, in the next two or three days, Members of Parliament and Ministers will be voting to set a new and increased national minimum wage for Members of Parliament and Ministers? If it is good enough for them, why can we not have a national minimum wage for everyone else? If those increases go beyond the pay barrier, will the Government give a guarantee that workers, including nurses and others, and pensioners will all receive the same?
The Prime Minister: I am not at all sure that the hon. Gentleman carried every Opposition Member with him with that particular remark.
The point about a minimum wage, of course, is the impact that it would have on the capacity to employ people. That is the point that we have repeatedly made. That is one of the reasons why unemployment is falling in this country, whereas it is rising in other countries. We intend to continue to see a downward trend in unemployment, which is why we do not favour the policies that the hon. Gentleman advocates.
As for the report that will be published this afternoon, let me say first to the hon. Gentleman that it is worth remembering precisely why the review was set up. It was for two reasons essentially: first, it was necessary to devise a new formula for determining Members' pay as the old one had broken down and, secondly, 300 Members of the House, of whom 200 were Labour Members, had called for such a review-
Following the consultation that I have had with leaders of other political parties, it is clear that they do not wish to express a view and that they believe that it is a matter for the House as a whole to decide. The Cabinet decided this morning to offer the House an opportunity to vote for the recommendations as they stood, but the Government will be recommending and also voting for restraint.
Mr. Elletson: Does my right hon. Friend agree that defence exports earn this country billions of pounds every year and guarantee thousands of jobs in Lancashire and elsewhere? Is it not, therefore, an absolute disgrace that Labour Members now oppose the sale of British defence equipment to Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and, some of them, even to the world's largest democracy, India? Does not that show that workers in the defence industry face a real danger from the Labour party?
The Prime Minister: Defence is a very important industry in this country and one that plays a very important part in our economy, both in export earnings and, of course, in job provision in many parts of the country-
Mr. Blair: Are this morning's newspaper reports correct that the selective slaughter scheme for beef is now to amount to 120,000 cows, which is a higher figure than previously thought, and that an additional £100 million, £200 million or possibly more will have to be paid in compensation on top of the £2 billion that the Prime Minister has already mentioned? Are those reports correct?
The Prime Minister: It is not possible to be entirely clear precisely how many animals will be slaughtered. What is clear is what was set out in the 30-
Mr. Blair: I think it is clear that the number is to be greater than originally anticipated. When the Prime Minister made his statement to the House earlier, he suggested that the reports of additional slaughter schemes were incorrect. Will he confirm whether, as a result of the Florence summit and the statement from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food last night, the 1989 to 1990 cohort is to be included in the selective slaughter scheme, which will increase the number of cows involved? Last night, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food apparently said that it would take six to nine months for the scheme to be implemented. Does the Prime Minister still hold to November of this year as the date by which the ban will be completely lifted?
The Prime Minister: Yes; on the information we have, we still hold to the dates that we set out, but, as I said at the time, those dates depend on our meeting the requirements, which I previously set before the House and which we believe we can meet in the time scale that I set out. Long before I went to Florence, there was a lot of discussion about the 1989 to 1990 cohort involving both my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Agriculture and me. There is a distinction between the compulsory slaughter and the voluntary scheme that exists for the 1989 to 1990 cohort-
Mr. Blair: With due respect to the Prime Minister, the Agriculture Minister had said that the 1989 to 1990 cohort was not to be included and it is now clear that it is. The Agriculture Minister now says that the lifting of the ban may or may not take place at the end of the year. As more details emerge, is it not clear that the costs will be greater, the number of cattle slaughtered will be higher and the time scale will be longer-
The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman seems to have lost sight of the two fundamental reasons why the policy is necessary. The first is to ensure public health-
Mr. Butcher: Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that he will never introduce a policy which, as the price of a sell-
The Prime Minister: I believe that my hon. Friend speaks for millions of people in every part of the United Kingdom. [Interruption.] The dangers that arise from the Opposition's policies are self-
Q2. Mr. David Marshall: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 4 July.
The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave some moments ago.
Mr. Marshall: Does the Prime Minister fully realise how much the Labour party in Scotland looks forward to his visit? Will he today, or at the Scottish Grand Committee meeting in Dumfries tomorrow, answer my question, which his deputy dodged last Thursday? Why is it all right to offer Northern Ireland devolution, with a Secretary of State in the United Kingdom Cabinet and no reduction in the number of Members of Parliament at Westminster, while denying the same to the people of Scotland? How does he justify treating the two countries so differently?
The Prime Minister: How does the hon. Gentleman justify tax raising in Scotland and not in Wales? That is the distinction to which the hon. Gentleman must bend his mind. If he cares to read the speech that I made a week ago-
Q3. Mr. Amess: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 4 July.
The Prime Minister: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave some moments ago.
Mr. Amess: Will my right hon. Friend reconfirm his commitment to the assisted places scheme and to doubling it? Does he agree that, if the scheme were abolished, those children would still have to be educated in the state system, thus producing a small net saving? Does not that simple piece of arithmetic demolish the shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer's policy to abolish the scheme and spend the money in the primary sector?
The Prime Minister: I fear that some of the figures issued by the shadow Chancellor this morning are shown to be wholly wrong, even on cursory examination. It was already clear before today that the windfall tax is unravelling before the Opposition's eyes, and it certainly could not pay for the new pledges that they make. Sadly, the shadow Chancellor seems to have got his sums wrong. He has inflated the amount that he hopes to raise by forgetting to include the cost of sending the children who were in assisted places schemes back to the state sector. It can be seen simply from a cursory glance at the Opposition's new plans that the sums do not add up. The new Labour party's policies mean new taxes: taxes in Scotland; taxes on people with children aged between 16 and 18 who would lose child benefit; taxes for living in London; and taxes on jobs, with the social chapter and a minimum wage. That is what is offered by the Labour party. No wonder we talk of new dangers.
Mr. Hoon: The Prime Minister has rightly condemned those who oppose the rule of law and those who fail to follow the courts' decisions. Will he unequivocally condemn Governments who refuse to implement, or threaten to refuse to implement, the European Court of Justice's decisions?
The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman knows that this Government implement the regulations. Where we think they are wrong-
Q4. Sir Peter Tapsell: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 4 July.
The Prime Minister: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave some moments ago.
Sir Peter Tapsell: Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in my Lincolnshire constituency, those who work in the seaside resorts and on the land are in the habit of working far more than 48 hours a week during the summer, although often less in the winter? If the Brussels Commission is to impose its directive limiting the number of working hours to 48 hours a week with effect from 23 November, will that not seriously reduce the standard of living of many of my constituents? If the European Court of Justice seeks to overturn that part of the social chapter from which we have opted out, will my right hon. Friend take steps to reassert it?
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend has neatly picked up the point to which I alluded in response to the previous question, which was asked by the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Hoon). I share my hon. Friend's concern on behalf of his constituents.
The European Court has not yet given its final judgment on our challenge to the working time directive-
I reached an agreement on ensuring that we were not covered by that at Maastricht, and I intend that that agreement shall be kept. Our colleagues in Europe need not expect that we will reach further agreements at the next intergovernmental conference unless, at that conference, they are prepared to restore the agreement that I reached at Maastricht. It specifically deals with the matter referred to by my hon. Friend.
Mr. Salmond: The Prime Minister is coming to Dumfries tomorrow to speak at the Burns supper and to celebrate the bicentennial of Scotland's national bard. Is he aware that the lines that he has twice quoted in the House from "The Dumfries Volunteers" were written when Burns was under investigation by the Government of one of his predecessors for sedition as a radical and a Scottish nationalist? Will the Prime Minister demonstrate his knowledge of all things Scottish-
The Prime Minister: I have no intention of regaling the House with poetry. I enjoyed listening to "Tam o'Shanter" last time I attended a Burns supper-