HC Deb 24 January 1995 vol 253 cc135-8
Q1. Mr. Flynn

To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 24 January.

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. Flynn

Was not top Tory John Maples right when he said that Tory Britain means the rich getting richer at the expense of the poor? Does the Prime Minister agree with his Chancellor that the orgy of unashamed greed of top salaries is justified? How does the Prime Minister explain that the wage of one boss of a privatised industry is worth the same amount of money as that received by 20 doctors or 100 nurses?

The Prime Minister

I have set out my views on board pay before and have made it clear that I do not agree with excessive and unjustified increases. No doubt the hon. Gentleman would agree. If he feels that the matter has been badly handled, he might discuss it with the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner), who declares an interest in a company that advises British Gas and North West Water.

Mr. Rathbone

When my right hon. Friend is making plans for the Tory manifesto for a Conservative victory at the next general election, will he pay particular attention to policies that touch on and support the encouragement of the family?

The Prime Minister

Yes. I will certainly bear in mind my hon. Friend's suggestion. We are embarking on perhaps the widest examination of the policies that will be right, up to the next century and beyond it, that any party has undertaken for many years. I look forward to contributions from my hon. Friend and many others.

Mr. Blair

If the Prime Minister says that excessive pay awards are a matter for shareholders, and as the Government are the 40 per cent. shareholder in National Power and PowerGen, why will he not intervene?

The Prime Minister

I made it clear from the outset that, having put the company in private hands, we are riot going to retain control over detailed decisions within the company. Recently, the right hon. Gentleman and his friends have been speaking about something that sounds much like the beginning of a pay policy.

Ms Church


The Prime Minister

The hon. Lady says yes. I am pleased to hear that she says yes. The right hon. Gentleman had better decide whether the new Labour believes in the free market or in controls and the politics of envy. The truth is that the language is new, but the prejudices are familiar.

Mr. Blair

I shall tell the right hon. Gentleman what we believe in: public services run for the public and in the public interest. We can see whom the Tories represent. While they represent these excesses, the Labour party will speak up for the vast majority of ordinary people. People struggling to pay their bills and worried about their living standards are fed up with the same small group of people playing the boardroom equivalent of the national lottery and awarding themselves huge pay increases, hitting the jackpot week after week at the expense of the public.

The Prime Minister

Well, now we see it: the right hon. Gentleman is becoming a slave to grievance politics. I shall tell him who is concerned about public services—the people who put the services that did not serve the public well in private hands. The result is that prices are falling, investment is rising and consumers are getting better service now, in the private sector, than before. The Labour party's campaign shows just how unreconstructed and envious the Opposition still are. The right hon. Gentleman makes no reference to the improvements in services. All he is doing is milking prejudice and exposing the fact that the Labour party has not changed.

Mr. Robert Banks

Has my right hon. Friend seen today's most welcome reports confirming that the Samsung Heavy Industries Company from South Korea is to establish a manufacturing plant near Knaresborough in my constituency, ultimately providing up to 600 jobs? Does he agree that the United Kingdom beat off competition from eight European countries because our Government have managed the economy so well? We have an excellent infrastructure; more importantly, we have a brilliant work force in Yorkshire.

The Prime Minister

I am delighted to hear that Samsung has decided to invest in my hon. Friend's constituency. I am only sorry that we did not hear the same sort of support for inward investment when NEC went to Livingston and Black and Decker went to Sedgefield.

The fact is that more inward investment is coming to this country than to any other in Europe because of the policies that we have followed, and because we will not accept the social chapter. People can see that the economy of this country is doing better than any other major economy in Europe. That means jobs for people in this country—jobs that would be lost by the policies followed by the Labour party.

Mr. Ashdown

Does the Prime Minister agree that the life sentence handed out to Private Lee Clegg, although required by the law, is nevertheless shamefully inappropriate, and that this is the moment for him to be released under licence, and the law changed?

The Prime Minister

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, it is not for Ministers to comment on the actions of the court.

There are two points that I can make to the right hon. Gentleman about Private Clegg. The first is that there have been suggestions in recent days of fresh evidence that might cast doubt on Private Clegg's conviction. If so, that evidence should be provided to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. He will then consider it and decide whether it is sufficient to refer to the Court of Appeal.

Secondly, after the recent decision, the question arises what should happen to Private Clegg now that his conviction has been upheld by the court. As the House will know, as for all life sentence prisoners there is a process to be gone through before a release date can be set. It will include consultations with the trial judge and the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, and it will take into account the nature of the offence. I know that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State will ensure that that process is undertaken both effectively and with due care.

Sir Donald Thompson

Does my right hon. Friend remember that when the Government banned veal crates and introduced the strictest regulations governing the transport of animals, and when they recently introduced welfare regulations covering the rearing of pigs, they did so hoping that Europe would soon follow? Will he persist in that policy?

The Prime Minister

We certainly will persist in that policy. We need a European-wide level of legislation if we are truly interested in animal welfare. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food pressed that issue in Brussels yesterday. He secured agreement yesterday to advance the review of European Union requirements, which was scheduled for 1997, and found that there was considerable sympathy for the aim of phasing out the veal crate. I believe that the writing is on the wall for that production system, and there is no one in Europe who can take more credit for that than my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Q2. Mr. Battle

To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 24 January.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Battle

As the Prime Minister and his Government hold the golden shares in the privatised water companies, why is he allowing Yorkshire Water to force people to have compulsory, expensive water metering, so that families, pensioners and the disabled pay the highest price for their water while Sir Gordon Jones and his directors hoard thousands of shares to themselves and skim off some £829,000 in boardroom remuneration?

The Prime Minister

If the hon. Gentleman had listened to my first answer, he would have known the answer about the golden share. What the hon. Gentleman illustrates, yet again, is that, whenever they can, the Opposition wish decisions to be taken by Labour Members of Parliament. They are in no sense interested in the private sector. They are not interested in putting decisions out to the private sector. [HON. MEMBERS: "Sleaze."] Whatever they may say, they want centralisation and nothing but. [HON. MEMBERS: "Sleaze."] Those Opposition Members who are chanting may well be directing their chants to the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape), but they need not chant at me.