HL Deb 26 June 1989 vol 509 cc481-4

2.58 p.m.

Lord Dean of Beswick asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, in view of the results of the elections which took place on 15th June, they will reconsider some of the policies which they are pursuing.

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Belstead)

My Lords, no.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, is the Leader of the House aware that most Members of the House will be surprised by the terseness of that reply, bearing in mind the serious erosion caused by the results of the European elections and the two by-elections on 15th June to the point of the Government being almost obliterated in Scotland and Wales? Does that not indicate to the noble Lord, as has been reinforced by subsequent opinion polls, that there is serious public concern about the stupid intentions of the Government to carry on with the privatisations of water and electricity and the reorganisation of the National Health Service? Is the Leader of the House aware that the answer no is not good enough? Government support has been reduced to three out of 10 people in the United Kingdom, nearly an alltime low—

Noble Lords


Lord Belstead

My Lords, the European elections on 15th June were to elect members of the European Parliament. In the general election in 1987 the Government were re-elected, and the Government will pursue policies for which they then received a mandate.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the European election had nothing whatever to do with the policy of privatisation inside this country and that, as regards the two by-elections, in one seat which the Labour Party already held the majority went slightly up and in the other went slightly down? What conclusions does my noble friend draw from that?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, the same conclusions as, I believe, my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter draws; namely, that it is not appropriate to use the European parliamentary election in order to ask general questions on domestic policy.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, when the Minister is reviewing the European election results, will he keep in mind that more than 21 per cent. of the people voted for minority parties in that election and have no representation whatever in the European Parliament? Is it not a disgrace that this country alone among all the European nations does not observe proportional representation, which would enable minority groups to have some voice in the European Parliament?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I believe that the answer to that question must be the same Answer that I originally gave to the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

My Lords, is not the real lesson to be learned that, We are all of us dreadfully keen To be thought of as greener than green. But, when all's done and said, Tory's blue, Labour's red And the rest of us are nowhere to be seen.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I take on board the experience and wisdom of my noble and learned friend.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, in view of the particularly important summit conference presently taking place in Madrid, will the noble Lord the Leader of the House give an assurance that a Statement will be made by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons when she returns and that that will be repeated in this House?

Furthermore, does the noble Lord agree with his right honourable friend the Prime Minister when she said that the reason that the Conservative vote was so low in the European elections in this country was that it was a nice, long, hot day? Is it the intention of the party opposite in future to call for general elections in cold weather?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I am bound to say that the last three elections have been in the middle of the summer and we have not done too badly. However, I give the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition an assurance that there will undoubtedly be an opportunity for your Lordships to discuss those European matters following the council meeting in Madrid.

Lord Grimond

My Lords, is the heart of the Leader of the House not touched by the fact that the Tories in Scotland do not have one single representative in Europe? In spite of everything, there are quite a few of them. Does that not show not only a lack of any attempt at democracy, but a curious lack of belief in the noble Lord's own party, and indeed a curious obliviousness to the right of the Scots to have the various opinions in Scotland deployed in Europe? Is not now the case for electoral reform absolutely overwhelming?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, the noble Lord talks of the people of Scotland having their case deployed in Europe. I remind the noble Lord, Lord Grimond, that in the European Community the United Kingdom since the last Euro election has taken a leading part in securing a substantial reform of Community finance and making real progress towards the completion of the single market. I believe that we have a record which stands up against any other country as regards complying with Community directives and, arguably, we have also stood by the British interests. I hope that those representing the people of Scotland in the European Parliament will do likewise.

Lord Bruce-Gardyne

My Lords, just because noble Lords on the Labour Benches make policy cartwheels in pursuit of a recovery of their popularity vote, is there any reason why the Government should follow their example?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, indeed, there is no reason and therefore I agree with my noble friend's question.

Lord Mason of Barnsley

My Lords, can the noble Lord the Leader of the House tell us what, in his opinion, was to blame for the Tory rout on 15th June?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, fewer supporters of the Conservative Party went to the poll than we might have hoped. However, as I said to the noble Lord, Lord Grimond, I believe that we have been following the right policies and that in the end they will prevail.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, the noble Lord referred to the efforts of his right honourable friend the Prime Minister in the financial field. Is he aware that the net result has been, as the Prime Minister has now revealed in another place, that this country will bear a burden of £2 billion net of all receipts during the forthcoming year? If that is financial control, I should be glad to receive further information from the noble Lord on that subject taken as a whole.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, the fact is that at Fountainebleu my right honourable friend the Prime Minister secured a lasting and equitable arrangement as regards the contribution from this country to the Community budget. Had it not been for that, the figure quoted by the noble Lord would have been much higher.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that at the time of the European election, the forms for the poll tax were being sent out? Could it not be that Tory supporters are worried not only about the administrative nightmare of the poll tax but also that they will have to pay a lot more than they were led to believe by a Tory Government? Is it not now the case that, in seats like Reading, Bath, Bristol, Exeter and Southampton, the Labour Party is now rampant and will win those seats necessary to form a new government?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, my admiration for the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, in managing to raise the issue of proportional representation while discussing this Question is only exceeded by my admiration for the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, who manages to raise the issue of community charge.