HC Deb 08 February 1996 vol 271 cc468-70
Q4. Mr. Chidgey

To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 8 February. [12664]

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Chidgey

Does the Prime Minister agree with the Social Security Secretary, who has described today's proposed cuts of £1 billion in the social security budget as devastating?

The Prime Minister

That is in no sense what my right hon. Friend has said about the outcome of the public expenditure round. The whole House will recall that, in recent weeks, I have been criticised by the Opposition for administrative costs being too high. Here we have a practical illustration of the Government seeking to cut administrative costs, in the interests of the taxpayer, to preserve the resources available for benefits—yet on that point the Opposition criticise me as well.

The hon. Gentleman must make up his mind: does he criticise the Government for not cutting administrative costs or for making administrative savings? Even though he is a Liberal Democrat, he cannot have it both ways.

Mr. Butterfill

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is the height of hypocrisy to maintain that one is committed to the elimination of state subsidy and then to do the reverse? Do not the recent decisions by the Transport Commissioner show that the Labour party— whether old Labour or new Labour, in Westminster or in Brussels—is committed to state subsidy and to Spanish practices?

The Prime Minister

The whole House will know of our concern about the Iberia decision. It is certainly not in the interests of the air travellers of Europe, and we have made that known to Commissioner Kinnock and to others.

Q5. Mr. Hoon

To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 8 February. [12665]

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Hoon

In a statement to the House about the setting up of the Scott inquiry, the Attorney-General stated that matters of form and procedure were a question for the learned judge. Why will not the Prime Minister condemn unequivocally those, such as Lord Howe, who have sought to impugn the integrity of the learned judge and to attack the contents of his report before publication?

The Prime Minister

On attacks on the contents of the report, if anyone has predetermined what the contents of the report might be, it is the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) and not my noble Friend Lord Howe.

On the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, I refer him to what I said on 13 January 1994 at column 332.

Mr. Butler

Does my right hon. Friend recall the words of Lord Palmerston, who said that to be born British is like winning the lottery of life? Will my right hon. Friend now go further and say that to be born or to live in Milton Keynes is like winning the national lottery, and join me in welcoming the grant of £19 million to build what will undoubtedly be the best theatre outside London?

The Prime Minister

There may be some challenges about the scheme being the best theatre, but I know that my hon. Friend is proud of the scheme and I congratulate him on it. As for being proud of being British, I just hope that we do not reach the situation where to live in Scotland is to lose the lottery of taxation because it has to face extra taxation and a tartan tax.