Below is the text of Prime Minister's Question Time from 18th July 1996.
Q1. Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 18 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. Hoyle: Will the Prime Minister explain why a Treasury document shows that, under this Government, the economy is set to decline to the level of those of Brazil, Thailand and Mexico? Is not that a telling indictment of the Government's policy?
The Prime Minister: One of the attractions of the document to which the hon. Gentleman refers is that it looks forward to the possibility of what may happen 10 years ahead, whatever the policies followed and whoever the Government may be. I have no doubt that some of the matters in the document that the hon. Gentleman would consider barmy are policies that the Treasury considered might be adopted by a Government other than this one.
Q2. Dr. Goodson-
The Prime Minister: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave some moments ago.
The Prime Minister: Today's strikes cannot and should not be justified, and I roundly condemn them. They are costing the country millions and causing great inconvenience to many people who are not part of the dispute.
Mr. Skinner: Why?
The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman asks why-
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett), the education spokesman, I understand, for the Opposition, said that the strikers should go to arbitration, which self-
Mr. Blair: Given that, as we speak, talks are taking place both here between the British and Irish Governments and in Belfast in respect of the peace process, after what, by common consent, must be judged the most damaging two weeks in the affairs of Northern Ireland since August 1994, does the Prime Minister agree that there are three essential foundation stones for rebuilding support for peace? The first is that the two Governments renew their relationship of trust, based firmly on the Anglo-
The Prime Minister: The past 14 days have certainly been extremely difficult for everyone in Northern Ireland, as the right hon. Gentleman said. I shall try to respond to his three points. During the past few years, the British and Irish Governments have worked very closely together. It is important for the success of the talks that that co-
Of course I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the rule of law needs to prevail in Northern Ireland, as it does elsewhere in the United Kingdom. The scenes that we have witnessed over the past few days-
As to the future and the talks, I entirely agree that progress so far has been inadequate. It is our intention to try to ensure that the talks move forward rapidly from talks about procedure to talks about substance.
Our intention will be to try to turn the setbacks of the past couple of weeks into a positive advantage as the talks resume, and we will bring all our strength to bear to achieve that.
Mr. Yeo: In view of the remarkable transformation of Britain's competitive position, which has been brought about by our opt-
The Prime Minister: I agree with my hon. Friend about the United Kingdom's competitive position at the moment. It is very important that we remain competitive in the areas to which he has referred, as well as others.
I think that I heard the deputy leader of the Labour party say a moment ago, "What about your social conscience?"-
Mr. Prescott: His social contract.
The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman does not seem roundly to condemn today's strikes, which are damaging our competitiveness, as I believe he should. No doubt his relationship with his sponsors prohibits him from doing so.
Q3. Mr. Simon Hughes: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 18 July.
The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply I gave some moments ago.
Mr. Hughes: On the day when the Cabinet has apparently decided to start a new campaign to clamp down on public expenditure, beginning once again with freezing the pay of public sector workers, which it has no doubt done to try to pave the way for tax bribes for its supporters before the election, what does the Prime Minister say to parents in my borough who find that the secondary school that their children attend is having to go to the British American Tobacco company for sponsorship to the tune of several hundred thousand pounds? Is it acceptable that the Government have so underfunded public services to try to produce tax cuts that schooling has become dependent on profits from tobacco sales, when under-
The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman knows that he is making a silly point. He also knows about the growth in expenditure on, and provision for, education over recent years, the dramatic increase in spending per pupil and the improved educational opportunities that now exist. As for pay in the public sector, our view remains that set out by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor last September-
Sir Michael Marshall: Can my right hon. Friend tell us what information Her Majesty's Government have received about the crash of the Trans World Airlines airliner last night? Will he take the opportunity to express the sympathy of the House to all involved, and to reaffirm that, if terrorism is involved, international co-
The Prime Minister: I can certainly confirm my hon. Friend's last point. As yet, we have received no solid information about the cause of the dreadful crash that occurred a few hours ago. A great deal of examination is taking place, and as soon as I have further information I shall ensure that the House is aware of it. I have of course conveyed the sympathy of the House to the American Government, and told them that if they feel that we can assist in any way, we shall be happy to do so.
Q4. Mr. Robert Ainsworth: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 18 July.
The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply I gave some moments ago.
Mr. Ainsworth: To return to the leaked Treasury document, is the Prime Minister aware that his right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood)-
The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman stood up to ask that question immediately behind a shadow Chancellor who proposes to cut child benefit for 16 to 18-
Q5. Mr. Amess: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 18 July.
The Prime Minister: I refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave some moments ago.
Mr. Amess: Does my right hon. Friend agree that yesterday's welcome news that unemployment has hit a five-
The Prime Minister: As ever, my hon. Friend speaks for the country as well as for Basildon and Southend, West. There is no doubt that yesterday's news about jobs was extremely good. We are now into the fourth successive year of falling unemployment. There is also increasing growth in new inward investment.
Mr. Janner: They are fiddled statistics.
The Prime Minister: The hon. and learned Member shouts about statistics. They are new jobs. He may regard them as statistics, but I see them as new jobs. I welcome inward investment and new jobs, even in the hon. and learned Gentleman's constituency. I welcome them in any constituency. How he can refer to them as statistics when they are people's hopes, livelihoods and futures, I cannot imagine. However, the policies to which my hon. Friend referred would damage the lives, opportunities and futures of the hon. and learned Gentleman's constituents and everybody else's.
Q6. Mrs. Anne Campbell: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 18 July.
The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Lady to the reply I gave a few moments ago.
Mrs. Campbell: Will the Prime Minister say in public what the Foreign Secretary told the positive Europe group of Tory Members last Monday: that there will be no toughening of the Government's stance on Europe-
The Prime Minister: I shall tell the hon. Lady exactly what my right hon. and learned Friend told my hon. Friends. He set out the policy in the public document that determines our negotiating posture for the intergovernmental conference-
Mr. Tracey: Does my right hon. Friend share my dismay at the fact that a group of Opposition Members should publicly support the striking tube train drivers who are grinding London to a halt and costing Londoners and London commerce millions of pounds? Does he agree that the public must be deeply angered by the irresponsible action of union members and the last-
The Prime Minister: I have not seen a great amount of support for opposition to the strike from Opposition Members. No doubt the opposition to the strike will be clearly expressed by every Front Bencher over the next few days. Not only will there be a request that the parties go to arbitration-