HC Deb 25 July 1986 vol 102 cc610-2W
Mr. Sayeed

asked the Prime Minister what are the longer-term objectives of Government policies; and what policy initiatives she proposes to take to ensure that these objectives are fulfilled.

The Prime Minister

At home, the Government will maintain sound financial policies designed to bring about the defeat of inflation and to maintain the conditions for a sustained expansion of output and living standards. We will continue to pursue policies aimed at improving the prospects for employment, through a more flexible and competitive economy. We will encourage the spread of wealth and ownership and the return of stat owned industries to the private sector. We will further increase incentives and remove barriers to initiative and enterprise. We will maintain firm control of public expenditure in order to leave room for further reductions in the burden of direct taxation.

We shall continue to improve training arrangements so that young people get a better preparation for work and adults obtain the skill needed in a changing work environment. The structure of vocational qualifications will be reformed. The Government will continue to pursue higher standards throughout all sectors of educations. The lessons of the successful technical and vocational education initiative will be extended to secondary schools across the country. In the Bill currently before Parliament, we are planning more effective arrangements for in-service training so as to improve the quality of teaching, and we are giving parents more say in what happens in their schools locally.

We shall continue to give high priority to encouraging the spread of individual home ownership. We also intend to give tenants a wider range of choice through measures to revive the private rented housing market and by promoting new more locally based types of ownership and management for public sector stock.

Our objectives in social security are to ensure soundly-based provision for people in retirement; to improve help for less-well-off families with children, including in particular those in low-paid jobs, and for the long-term sick and disabled; and to create a simpler, more up-to-date benefit system which is also more effective in meeting genuine special needs. We shall meet these objectives by continuing to protect the pension against price increases, and by extending rights to occupational and personal pensions; by carrying through the proposals of the Social Security Bill for an improved benefit structure including our new Family Credit; and by applying new technology throughout social security administration. We will encourage health authorities to make cost effective use of the increased resources we are making available to the health service so as to continue to improve the quality of service provided to patients. We are making a drive to reduce hospital waiting lists and waiting times. We shall bring to a conclusion our review of primary health care—the first since the Health Service was established 40 years ago. We shall continue to promote community care policies as the best means of improving the quality of life for those whose needs can most appropriately be met in this way.

We will continue to ensure that the trade union movement is more responsible and accountable to its members and that abuses are corrected. We will be developing our plans for a new system of local government finance to increase local accountability and, in the meanwhile, will be using our rate-capping legislation to protect households and businesses from excessive rate demands. We will seek improved efficiency and strengthened standards of conduct in local government. We will continue our policy of freeing publicly owned land for development and will take further action to secure this. We will also take further measures to simplify the planning system and improve its efficiency.

We shall vigorously uphold the rule of law and fight crime, especially drug abuse and crimes of violence. We will complete our revision of public order legislation.

Our policies on pollution will improve the environment, and our conservation policies will protect the best of our heritage. In the energy sector our policies will promote the best use of our rich endowment of natural resources and scientific and innovative talent, in a responsive, market-orientated environment.

The Government will continue to promote consumer choice and efficiency through competition in the provision of transport services, and will seek to ensure the provision of roads and other transport infrastructure that will bring benefits to users, having full regard to safety and the environment.

We will continue to contribute to peace with freedom and justice in Europe by maintaining effective defences in co-operation with our NATO allies. We will continue to discharge our defence responsibilities and protect British interests outside the NATO area. We will maintain our drive to secure better value for money from the defence budget, particularly through increased competition and international collaboration in the procurement of equipment.

Abroad, our basic objectives are to enhance the security and prosperity of the United Kingdom and the dependent terrorities; to promote and protect British interests overseas; and to keep Britain's international reputation high. We also want, and work for, greater co-operation and trust between East and West: I am looking forward to visiting Moscow in due course to meet Secretary-General Gorbachev again. We want to see progress in arms control negotiations and remain actively involved in efforts to bring this about.

The economic well-being of the United Kingdom, its allies and the developing countries depends on a smoothly-running international economic system. We are working with others to carry out the agreement reached at the Tokyo economic summit on close and continuous co-ordination of economic policies to promote non-inflationary economic growth and to improve exchange rate stability. We will promote freer and fairer trade between nations and will participate to this end in the proposed new round of trade negotiations in GATT.

We wish to see Europe playing its full part in international affairs. Within the European Community, we are working to improve Europe's competitive position in world trade; to create a single market for goods and services in the interests of prosperity and jobs; to adapt Community policies to current needs; and to achieve closer co-operation in foreign policy to strengthen Western democracy. The Government will seek the changes needed in the CAP, and through wider international co-operation, to enable agricultural production to be better adapted to the market situation, while ensuring that our industry remains competitive and is further encouraged to conserve and protect the rural environment.

We want to see human rights and the rule of law upheld internationally. We wish to see Soviet aggression in Afghanistan and Vietnamese aggression in Cambodia ended, so that both countries can regain their independence. We wish to see the apartheid system in South Africa removed by peaceful means and dialogue, rather than violence; we are pursuing this actively with our partners in the European Community and the Commonwealth, and with other industrialised nations. We wish to see the scope for international terrorism and drug-trafficking effectively reduced and are taking various initiatives to this end. We will continue to play a full part in international aid, disaster relief and peacekeeping, as well as in the United Nations, the Commonwealth and many other international bodies.