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Mr. Cox : Does the Minister agree that that is a deplorable reply? Is he so unaware of the problems that his Government are causing to industry and to people seeking to buy their own homes? Can he tell the House what advice he would give to people who budgeted for expenditure that they thought they could undertake and are now suffering from the ongoing increases in interest rates, leading to higher mortgage repayments? What advice can he give them so that they may have confidence in the future under the Government's policies?
Mr. Lilley : Far from suffering from the present circumstances, industry is undergoing an investment boom which I hope the hon. Member welcomes. We have been very successful in our policy of encouraging home ownership ; 3 million more people own their homes. Mortgage rates show no correlation with difficulties over arrears or repossessions, the biggest factors in those problems being martial discord and unemployment. Happily, the latter is coming down.
Mr. Ian Taylor : Does my hon. Friend agree that the tight fiscal policy of the Government, shown by the size of the public sector surplus, has enabled them to use the interest rate weapon flexibly? Now that it is having its effect, will Opposition Members stop ranting and raving about other measures and give the Government credit for their success in curbing consumer spending?
Mr. Lilley : My hon. Friend is right to point to the importance of having a background of sound fiscal policy. The fact that the Government are repaying £10 billion of debt means that that money is available for industry to borrow.
Mr. Chris Smith : The Minister's statement just now will go down in the House as representing the uncaring face of the Government. As millions of home owners around this country are finding it extremely difficult to meet massive increases in mortgage repayments, when will the Government give them some hope and some relief in that task?
Mr. Lilley : When the hon. Gentleman was last at the Dispatch Box he said that lots of people had budgeted prudently by borrowing up to the hilt. Happily, most hon. Members would not give that advice to their constituents. Both the lender and the borrower have an obligation to make sure that borrowing is not excessive. On occasions when the borrower has difficulties, almost invariably the building society will reach arrangements that will accommodate those difficulties.
Mr. Ashton : As this Government are supposed to be the Government who keep down inflation, what have they been doing to help young couples to buy a house or even rent one from the council? Have not the Government priced young couples out of the market? Why did the Chancellor not urge the building societies to lend only two and a half times the annual income of an applicant, as they did many years ago? Why has the Chancellor sat back and done nothing, in the free market, when building societies are lending three and a half to four times annual incomes, and sending house prices rocketing through the roof? What advice would he give now to young couples who are desperately seeking somewhere to live?
Mr. Nicholas Bennett : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the majority of people in this country recognise the great benefits of home ownership and the fact that mortgage rates go up from time to time as well as come down, but that the advantages of home ownership outstrip the short- term disadvantages?
Mr. Worthington : Does the Minister agree with the statement of his hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury a few minutes ago that people have no more difficulty in paying their bills when mortgages go up than they did when they were low?
Mr. Brooke : That is not what my hon. Friend said. According to the Building Societies Association the main causes of mortgage problems are matrimonial problems, unemployment and financial mismanagement.
Mr. Key : Does not that reply indicate that manufacturing industry understands far better than the Opposition the opportunities generated in the economy by this Government? Can my right hon. Friend say by how much manufacturing investment has grown over the past five years or so?
Mr. Anthony Coombs : I welcome the buoyancy of manufacturing investment intentions, especially as last year there was the largest increase in manufacturing investment for 25 years. Is my right hon. Friend aware of
Column 1173a recent survey on industrial space take-up throughout the country which indicated that more than one third of the total industrial space taken up last year was in the west midlands? Does not that show clearly and unequivocally how geographically broadly based the economic expansion of this country has become?
Mr. Major : Indeed it does, as does the fact that unemployment has fallen in all the regions in the past 29 months. The last CBI survey shows clearly that investment intentions remain strong for the future.
Mr. Win Griffiths : Is the Minister aware that, despite high investment in industry, the CBI survey pointed out that, for the first time for three years, more exporters are gloomy about prospects than before, and that in Wales more than one in three manufacturers who export are reporting reductions in their orders because of the high interest rate policy? Are we not suffering because of the Chancellor's desire to give money hand over fist to the wealthy?
As regards the CBI survey, the hon. Gentleman quoted very selectively. The CBI said quite clearly that the figures indicate that strong manufacturing investment is set to continue.
The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher) : This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later today.
Mr. Curry : In the light of widespread public concern about the expansion of private credit, so eloquently endorsed by the Labour party, does my right hon. Friend consider that the case for credit controls is severely undermined by the fact that that party intends to launch a membership drive backed by credit cards?
The Prime Minister : I agree that those who are concerned about too much credit should not add to it, but should fully support the Chancellor's policy of getting inflation down through interest rates.
Mr. Kinnock : Will the Prime Minister agree with me that hospices in Britain meet a vital health care and humanitarian need? If so, will she now respond to the appeal by the Royal College of Nursing and the charity Help the Hospices and provide full funding for the pay increases of nurses who work in hospices, thereby ensuring that any possible bed closures are prevented?
The Prime Minister : The practice is that the health authorities make a grant for the contractual obligations that they have with the hospices to supply nurses to them. A sum of money was given to the hospices for that purpose. The Government also made it clear that they
Column 1174would wish it to be sufficient for authorities to supply on a non-contractual basis, which some of them do. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Health discussed this matter with the hospices this morning.
"£4.5 million more"
would be paid to the hospices
"to pay the increases of nurses who work in hospices".
Does she know that the hospices have now been told by her Ministers, as recently as this morning, that the most that they can get is not £4.5 million but £1.3 million?
A very small amount of money is needed in Health Service terms to meet a very great need and to provide comfort and care. Will the Prime Minister immediately see to it that the Government keep their promises?
The Prime Minister : I have indicated what the arrangements are. I have indicated that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Health today discussed this with representatives of the hospice managers' forum of the Royal College of Nursing. He emphasised the Government's commitment to the voluntary hospice movement. Information on local funding arrangements is being collected urgently and my right hon. and learned Friend will consider the need for further action once this has been received and analysed. All that was told to them this morning--not only what the right hon. Gentleman said.
Mr. Kinnock : What is not in doubt is that the Government promised £4.5 million, and what is not in doubt either is that the Government are now saying that the sum is limited to £1.3 million. Will the Prime Minister tell the voluntary movement how it can meet the need, exercise choice and be independent when it has no money with which to do it?
The Prime Minister : Once again, the right hon. Gentleman did not listen to what I said. He had worked out his supplementaries, irrespective of my answers. [Interruption.] It is quite a good idea to get the facts right first. That is why information on local funding arrangements is already being urgently collected. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State will consider the need for further action once the information has been received and analysed.
Mrs. Peacock : Will my right hon. Friend take time in her busy day to consider the document on Transpennine that I have sent to her? This is an initiative by a group of business men and bankers who have come together to promote the north of England, not only to the rest of the country but to Europe and the rest of the world. Will she join me in congratulating them on their intiative?
The Prime Minister : Yes, most certainly. I congratulate many of them on the enterprise they are showing and the way in which they are providing jobs, reducing unemployment and building up prosperity for the future.
Mr. Ashdown : When the Prime Minister appointed Lord Chalfont to the post of deputy chairman of the Independent Broadcasting Authority, was she aware that he is the director of a private intelligence company with extremely grubby connections in the past and whose-- [Interruption.]
Mr. Ashdown : Was the Prime Minister aware that Lord Chalfont is currently the director of a private intelligence organisation whose publicly stated aims are to provide private intelligence services for the Government? Has she no idea of the conflict of interests involved?
Mr. Stanbrook : Has my right hon. Friend had an opportunity to see the three Green Papers issued by the Lord Chancellor's Department yesterday? Does she agree with me that, contrary to the impression given by some, including a former Lord Chancellor who ought to know better, the Bar has no need of restrictive practices in order to maintain its high standards? Does she also agree that members of the Bar welcome the opportunity to help recast the legal professsion to give the public an even better service in the future?
The Prime Minister : Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend that those three Green Papers tackle the problems in a bold and courageous way and provide solutions. I hope that they will be widely discussed and will maintain the high standards of legal service that we are entitled to expect.
Mr. Hoyle : Is the Prime Minister aware of the widespread feeling in this country and the House about torture in Turkey, and about the deep disappointment felt that she did not discuss that matter with either the President or the Prime Minister of Turkey last year? Did she discuss torture and human rights with the Turkish Defence Minister yesterday? If she did, what was the result?
The Prime Minister : The answer is yes. We did discuss the matter, and the Turkish Defence Minister assured me once again that the Government are taking all possible steps to see that there are no abuses in that country.
Sir Hal Miller : Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming the indication that a leading Japanese motor manufacturer, Toyota, is considering investing in Europe rather than exporting to Europe? Can she tell us what steps we are taking to ensure that the investment comes to this country rather than to other member states?
The Prime Minister : Yes, we believe that we are the lead country of Toyota's choice for them to invest in. They will be very welcome in this country. They are interested in a number of different areas. We shall work closely with them and shall of course consider any application for selective assistance under our legislation.
Mr. Janner : On another matter affecting Japan, does the Prime Minister recall that, of the 50,000 British prisoners-of-war of the Japanese who were tortured and starved, 12,433 died in captivity? Does she recall that thousands of other Commonwealth service men suffered in the same way, including over 2,800 Australians who died as a result of war crimes while working on the railways? In those circumstances, how could it happen that Her Majesty's Government would advise the Duke of Edinburgh to pay a royal visit to Japan in the circumstances he has in mind? Will she please reconsider this grotesque and offensive suggestion?
The Prime Minister : Nothing can obliterate what happened then or the memories and feelings of the people who suffered or of their relatives. There is no difference between us on that. Japan is now a democracy and is a very different country. Many people here have jobs provided by Japanese investment. We are both economic summit countries and there have been state visits. We have made the proper recommendations, which I believe are right, with an eye to the future.
Mr. Devlin : On the occasion of Australia Day, will the Prime Minister take this opportunity to communicate to the Australian Prime Minister this country's commitment not only to the future of an unrestricted European market but to the ideal of free trade throughout the world?
The Prime Minister : Yes, I will gladly do so. We have to work hard to see that there is no element of protectionism in Europe after 1992. That is very much in keeping with everything we believe and that will be the message I shall try to give the Australian Prime Minister. It is the message which my right hon. and hon. Friends and I are constantly giving the European Community. We look forward to welcoming the Australian Prime Minister to this country later this year.
Mr. Meale : Bearing in mind the Prime Minister's support for the football ID scheme, and bearing in mind also the hooliganism that we saw at Henley regatta last year and on a whole variety of sporting occasions, has she any intention of trying to widen the scope of the scheme?
The Prime Minister : The hon. Gentleman is aware that it is a membership card scheme because football has developed a history of attracting hooliganism both on the pitch and outside the stadium over the years and there have been several reports upon it to both Conservative and Labour Governments.
We believe that those clubs that have membership schemes have largely eliminated hooliganism from the match, thus enabling families to watch the game. Those who are anxious to reduce hooliganism and to separate it from the game of football and to get football back as a game to which families can go should support the national membership card scheme.
Mr. Leigh : Bearing in mind the enormous losses suffered in the second world war by Bomber Command, which was based substantially in my right hon. Friend's home county of Lincolnshire and which resulted, unbelievably in losses of air crew in greater numbers than all the officers killed on the western front in the first world war, surely it is never too late to recall our second lost generation, to reconsider our decision not to grant a medal for Bomber Command and at least to say "We shall remember them".
The Prime Minister : There will be no difficulty about remembering all of those in Bomber Command and in other commands who gave their lives or suffered during the war. I know that these matters are very carefully considered in the Ministry of Defence, and I am sure that they were carefully considered before a decision was reached. The chances of the matter being reopened are not very good, but of course I shall pass on to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence what my hon. Friend has said.
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