§ 24. Sir Michael Neubert
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when he last visited the county Palatine.
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Chris Patten)
I have made five visits to Lancashire in the past three months. My last visit was two days ago.
§ Sir Michael Neubert
Is it true, as Frank Johnson claimed in yesterday's Sunday Telegraph, that my right hon. Friend wouldprefer to pop down to the social market rather than Romford Market"?Are not Esssex man and Essex woman just as keen as Lancastrians on greater choice in housing and education? Will my right hon. Friend take time off from his duties in the north-west to visit my constituency and hear the views of my constituents for himself?
§ Mr. Patten
I certainly did not agree with everything that Frank Johnson wrote. He suggested, for example, that my idea of Essex man is probably Constable. However, my hon. Friend is entirely right to point out that we have extended the choice available to parents, children, patients, and council house tenants over the past few years. We have plenty more still to do in extending choice, but I fear that all our proposals will be resisted by Labour.
§ Mr. Pike
The right hon. Gentleman's visit to Ribble Valley and to Southport last week will have caused him to rethink the answer that he gave me on 11 February. Does he now acknowledge the serious concern that exists about many of the Government's policies? When shall we see further changes and U-turns in a vain attempt to defend themselves?
§ Mr. Patten
I have little doubt that we shall win back Ribble Valley at the next election. Apparently, those who live in Ribble Valley do not have much doubt about that, either. We shall win the next election, whenever it comes, on our policies. I suspect that a large number of Liberal Democrat Members also believe that we shall win the next election.
§ Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman
I was delighted to hear from my right hon. Friend's office this morning that he is to visit us in Bilsbrorrow in October, as he promised several years ago. Is he aware that my constituents are delighted at today's trade figures, which are the best since February 1987 and will increase Britain's prosperity still further?
§ Mr. Patten
I have been looking forward to visiting my hon. Friend's constituency for many years. It promises to be the highlight of my autumn. My hon. Friend is right to point to the substantial improvement in the trade figures. It is yet a further indication of the sense and effectiveness of the Government's economic policy.