HC Deb 02 February 1989 vol 146 cc422-3
Q1. Mr. David Martin

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagemens for Thursday 2 February.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

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. Martin

Looking forward to the visit of Mr. Gorbachev to this country, will my right hon. Friend confirm that she will not be begging his consent to the wise defence policies pursued by her Government, unlike the mendicants seeking consent to their policies in Russia?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend makes his own point very effectively. It seems as though the Opposition want a defence policy labelled "made in Moscow". We shall insist on keeping our own independent nuclear deterrent. May I remind the House that Trident will be a smaller proportion of the Soviet strategic weapons than Polaris was when it was instituted many years ago. That is so even after the proposed 50 per cent, reduction in overall strategic weapons.

Mr. Kinnock

Do the changes that the Prime Minister proposes for the National Health Service mean that she will use the service herself?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman always mystifies me because he is quite prepared to purchase a private house, but not prepared to purchase private health care. I should have thought that he would realise that those people who pay for the National Health Service and then pay again for private health care are helping the National Health Service.

Mr. Kinnock

If the Prime Minister is telling us that there are people who can afford private care, can she tell us why such people should get a tax subsidy to do so?

The Prime Minister

I think that the right hon. Gentleman is referring to tax relief for the elderly. There must be many older than I in this House—there are a number of them on the Opposition Benches—some of whom are quite well enough off to pay for their own health care. With regard to tax relief for the elderly, there are now 5 million people who have private health insurance. All of them may be despised by the Labour party, but they are making their own provision. As they come up to retirement they may well find two things—first, that their company made the provision under a general company scheme, which was therefore cheaper and, secondly, that as they reach the age of 60 the premiums go up because the need to use the service is greater. We therefore thought it right to give tax relief at that stage so that people can continue to use the scheme privately and by so doing bring more benefit to the National Health Service.

Dr. Goodson-Wickes

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the provision of new consultant posts as outlined in the health White Paper will contribute in great measure to the reduction of the excessive workload undertaken by junior hospital doctors?

The Prime Minister

The consultant posts envisaged in the White Paper will, I hope, help to reduce the waiting lists where they are longest and most difficult. They will also give more hope to a number of junior doctors who are very anxious to have a clear career structure and need more possibilities of promotion. We are very anxious that junior doctors should not have to work too long hours, and we have a working party on that. My hon. Friend will know, however, that on average junior doctors are already working fewer hours than they were 10 years ago.

Mr. Ashdown

Does not the Prime Minister accept that the independence of public bodies and the use or abuse of a Prime Minister's privilege of patronage are matters of major public concern? Will she tell the House why she refused to answer the question I posed last week, asking her to list the appointments and salaries in her gift? Is it because there are too many or because she is afraid of revealing too much?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman knows that there are a considerable number of appointments. To list all of them would cost far too much—[Interruption.] Of course it would. The hon. Gentleman knows full well, as does the Labour party, that each and every Department has a list of members. He also knows that quite a number of such positions are filled by ex-Labour Ministers.

Mr. Sumberg

In the light of the Second Reading of the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Bill and the need to promote a genuine free labour market, will my right hon. Friend enact similar legislation to protect those contemplating employment in satellite television?

The Prime Minister

I am only too anxious that as many hon. Members as possible—particularly Conservatives—get on satellite and other television. We have such a good story to tell that I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will go out and proclaim it. I can understand why the Labour party is fearful of some of its Members doing that.