HC Deb 10 November 1992 vol 213 cc736-8
Q1. Mr. Cox

To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 10 November.

The Prime Minister (Mr. John Major)

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later today.

Mr. Cox

Does the Prime Minister recall the many promises that he made at the last election that there would be no increase in taxation? Against the background of those promises, will he confirm in the House that there will be no increase in national insurance contributions, or are the people of this country to see in the very near future yet another broken election promise from an already totally disgraced and devalued Prime Minister?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman ought not to get himself into such a tiz. He will know the answer to his question soon enough. On the subject of income tax, I seem to recall the Labour party contesting the election on the basis of increasing tax and the shadow Chancellor saying only yesterday that the Opposition are not proposing raising income tax at this time. Some U-turn.

Sir Peter Hordern

Can my right hon. Friend give the House an assurance that, notwithstanding the efforts of Mr. Mitterrand and Mr. Delors, the general agreement on tariffs and trade negotiations will be brought to a successful conclusion?

The Prime Minister

We are doing all we can to make sure that the Community re-engages in negotiations without delay so that we can reach a satisfactory GATT settlement in a matter of weeks at the outside. I hope that we shall reach agreement between the Community and the United States; then the remaining aspects of the GATT round ought speedily to be determined. It is the first priority for international economies at the moment to make sure that there is a GATT agreement and no single country should be permitted to stand in the way of it.

Mr. John Smith

Does the Prime Minister recall assuring the House in January 1991 that for some considerable time we have not supplied arms to Iraq"?—[Official Report, 31 January 1991; Vol. 184, c. 1102.] How does the Prime Minister reconcile that assurance with the revelation in the Government documents produced at the Matrix Churchill trial that as late as 27 July 1990, only six days before the invasion of Kuwait, machine tools known to be intended to make fuses for missiles and artillery shells were supplied to Iraq?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows that from 1985 until the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait the Government operated under guidelines first set out by the then Foreign Secretary, my noble Friend Lord Howe. Since the invasion, we have operated, and we continue to operate, the full embargo to which I referred in answering the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel).

Mr. John Smith

Does the Prime Minister understand that there are two aspects of this matter that are causing grave concern to the British public? The first is that equipment was supplied to Iraq which could have been valuable to it in hostilities against British service personnel; and the second is that the truth about a secret change of policy appears to have been concealed from the House and also from the British public. Will he now set up an inquiry under the Tribunals and Inquiries Act 1992 to make the fullest investigation into this deeply disturbing matter?

The Prime Minister

Let me say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that there have been some extraordinnary stories about this matter and I agree with him that they must be clarified beyond any measure of doubt.

I have asked my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General to make a statement on the matter later this afternoon. My right hon. and learned Friend will tell the House that the Government will be setting up an independent judicial inquiry, which will have full access to all the papers and will be able to take evidence from all he Departments and all the agencies concerned.

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