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Mr. John Evans : Will the Minister reconsider his decision to cut off section 4 arbitrarily? I am particularly concerned about the north- west. Haydock park, in my constituency, was holding discussions with his Department, in the middle of which he cut off the grant. Is that not unfair?
Mr. Lee : Considerable new invesment and development work has been under way at Haydock park. As for the north-west overall, it has done extremely well in terms of new capital investment in tourism, and the tourism industry there has received substantial section 4 grants. The Granada studios tour development in Manchester, for instance, received some £750,000.
11. Mr. Oppenheim : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many people are currently self-employed ; and how many people became self-employed during the latest year for which figures are available.
self-employment jobs are real jobs and make a good contribution to the economy? Will he confirm that those moving into self-employment will be able to find training opportunities on the education training scheme?
Mr. Meacher : Is the Minister aware that no less than 41 per cent. of the Government's claimed increase in jobs in the past two years allegedly comes from self-employment? Is he aware that those Government figures are simply invented-- [Hon. Members :-- "No."]--that the latest known figures date from 1981 and that in any event the lifetime of self-employed small businesses is now the shortest ever, with bankruptcies at a record high?
Mr. David Shaw : Is my right hon. Friend aware that self-employment provides real jobs which are not invented? Many people in my constituency and in constituencies all over the country are grateful to the Government for opportunities in self-employment, which enables some to obtain jobs for the first time.
Mr. Cope : I absolutely agree. They are real jobs, and not inventions as the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) suggested. Of course the figures are estimates, but they are accurate estimates and show that jobs that people want are being provided.
Mr. Nicholls : In the year to September 1988 the civilian work force in employment increased by 31,000 in the northern region. The only available information about full-time and part-time employment in the regions is for female employees. This shows increases of 7,000 in female full-time employees and 8,000 in female part-time employees.
Mr. Cook : Did not the Secretary of State let the cat out of the bag in an earlier answer, when he admitted--confessed, indeed--that 45 per cent. of the new jobs were casual and part-time? Does the Minister accept that in the final quarter of last year 23,000 jobs were created in the northern region, as against the stated reduction of 33,000 in the unemployment figures? Will the Minister admit that the 10,000 difference between the two figures has simply disappeared into the Government's big bass fiddle?
Mr. Nicholls : No. The only cat to be let out of the bag today is the fact that the Opposition have a vested interest in bad news. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman, in reciting his mish-mash of figures overlooked the position in his own constituency. I know that he will wish the House to know about it so I shall remind him of the figures. Unemployment in Stockton, North fell by 20 per cent. in the past year so the hon. Gentleman would have done better to have confined his remarks to saying thank you.
Mr. Janman : Is my hon. Friend aware that unemployment in my constituency has fallen by more than 50 per cent. in the past three years, a fact that has been acknowledged and welcomed by the local Labour council? Does he agree that the MacInnes report tells us nothing about employment trends, but tells us only that Glasgow university is wasting taxpayers' money by employing charlatans to produce shoddy and intellectually bankrupt work?
Mr. Nicholls : I could not begin to cap the way in which my hon. Friend expresses his views about the quality of that report. It simply makes the point, as always, that unemployment is coming down dramatically, and Labour Members absolutely loathe that.
The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher) : 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. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty the Queen.
Mr. Morgan : Did the Chancellor of the Exchequer have the January inflation figure when he leaked the 7 per cent. plus inflation figure when he spoke to his local Conservative association at Hinckley on Saturday night? Is not that an example of governmental insider trading? Did the Prime Minister sanction that leak, or will she order an inquiry into it?
Column 144was perfectly candid. Of course he is well aware, as I am, that our record on reducing inflation greatly excels that of the previous Government.
Q2. Mr. Latham : To ask the Prime Minister what meetings she expects to have with senior representatives of middle eastern countries during the month of February regarding the peace process in the middle east.
Mr. Latham : When my right hon. Friend meets Mr. Arens tomorrow, will she remind him of the wise words of Abba Eban and Ezer Weizman, supported by 54 per cent. of the Israeli voters, that it is now time to take constructive advantage of the major step forward made by Mr. Arafat in recognising Israel through United Nations resolutions Nos. 242 and 338 and to make progress from that position?
The Prime Minister : I agree with my hon. Friend that perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the present position is that everyone realises that the status quo cannot last and that there must be negotiations. I believe that those negotiations must be well prepared and I shall urge Mr. Arens to take advantage of the new opportunities that have been opened up. I also hope to be able to discuss those vitally important matters with Mr. Shamir in due course.
Mr. Bell : Will the Prime Minister convey to the Israeli Foreign Secretary that in the House the strongest supporters of the state of Israel are gravely disquieted by events in the Gaza strip and the West Bank? Will she convey to him that those supporters say that the sooner a dialogue is opened on the future of those territories the safer and more secure will be the state of Israel?
The Prime Minister : Yes. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. As I said, it is most encouraging that both sides now accept that the status quo cannot continue and that there is an urgent need for negotiations. The hon. Gentleman will agree that it is important that the negotiations are well prepared so that they have a chance of fulfilling the hopes of all of us for a comprehensive settlement based on United Nations resolution No. 242.
Mr. Robert Hicks : Does my right hon. Friend also agree that the response of the new American Administration is crucial to any long-term settlement in the middle east, and particularly to persuading the Israeli Government to come to the negotiating table? What action are we taking, either alone or through the European Community, to bring that about?
The Prime Minister : I agree that the response of the United States' new Adminstration is absolutely crucial, particularly in helping to bring Israel to the negotiating table. I have already had discussions about this matter, first with President Bush when he was President-elect and with the American Secretary of State, Mr. Jim Baker, over the weekend. Both countries share the view that it is important that the middle east should have near top priority in foreign matters--after that given to East-West relations--but that we should not rush to the negotiating table until full and proper preparations have been made.
Ms. Short : Does the Prime Minister agree that it is not enough merely to call on the Israelis to negotiate, when there is no sign that they will do so? Will she consider taking action to force Israel at least to abide by the Geneva convention on the treatment of people in occupied territories and to stop the annexation of land, the deportation of people, illegal detention without trial and the demolition of houses? Britain should put pressure on Israel to improve conditions in the occupied territories and to bring it to the negotiating table.
The Prime Minister : Over the years, many people have told Israel about those actions which are unacceptable. It is important, now that there is a feeling that it is time for negotiations, that we concentrate on starting them while there is the best possible chance of success. I believe that that chance is higher now than it has been for many a long year.
Mr. Dykes : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Israelis are hearing the voices of the true friends of Israel throughout the world who feel that talks are long overdue? Further to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Latham), is she confident that the United States will not only continue the Tunis talks with the PLO but will upgrade them? Will she also consider upgrading our level of talks with PLO representatives in the future?
The Prime Minister : I see no reason to go any further immediately than we have already gone with the PLO. As my hon. Friend knows, we do not necessarily accept the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian people. There are other people who could well represent them. That factor-- precisely who shall negotiate--needs to be addressed when preparing for the negotiations. Another fact that must be addressed is whether the negotiations will take place in the framework of the five permanent members of the Security Council, as I believe most parties would wish.
Mr. McFall : Is the Prime Minister aware that thousands of young people have vanished from the registers of state agencies as a result of losing their automatic entitlement to social security benefit? Is she further aware of the comments of the Association of Metropolitan Authorities and the Association of Directors of Social Services, which say that this underclass of 16 to 17-year-olds are drifting into crime, homelessness and, in some cases, even prostitution? Will the Government give a commitment that the Social Security Bill before the House will contain some concession to eliminate this scandal? If not, will the Prime Minister agree that the policies that she has pursued over the last decade are the antithesis of the sentiments she preached on the doorstep of No. 10 in May 1979, when she had the gall to quote that great prayer of St. Francis of Assisi? [Interruption.]
The Prime Minister : No. Social security has been withdrawn from the 16 and 17-year-olds--with the exception of those who are disabled or in very keen need--because they can stay at school, take training or take a
Column 146YTS job. The number of YTS jobs available exceeds the numbers applying for them. Conservative Members think that it is far better for young people to be trained than to choose to be idle.
Sir Hugh Rossi : Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating Motability on the initiative that it showed in launching yesterday a campaign, with all-party support, for the promotion of unleaded petrol--not only for the disabled but for all car owners--which will benefit the nation's health and the environment?
The Prime Minister : Yes, Mr. Speaker, it was an excellent initiative and it will be received very well, I believe, throughout Britain, where more and more people are conscious of the need to convert their cars to unleaded petrol and more and more oil companies are conscious of the need to provide that petrol on the forecourts of garages. It is important to the health of children. Government cars are being gradually converted. Not all of them can be converted immediately ; some of us have to wait for new cars. However, this was a splended initiative, which augurs well for the future, and I congratulate all those involved in it.
Mr. Kinnock : Perhaps the Prime Minister can help us further. A Cabinet Minister yesterday said, "What John has said is that he is thinking about banning cheese." John said, "There is no question of banning cheese." What does Margaret say?
The Prime Minister : There is a different position in Scotland from that in England and Wales, and the chief medical officer has given very, very clear and explicit advice. The position in Scotland is that there is already a ban on sales of unpasteurised liquid milk and cream to the general public. Unpasteurised milk may still be used for cheese-making, though there is a code of practice on good hygiene procedure.
In England and Wales the Ministry of Agriculture is considering whether unpasteurised liquid milk and cream for sale to the general public should also be banned, and a consultation document will be issued shortly. A code of practice for major manufacturers of soft cheeses has already been issued, and one for smaller cheese-making businesses is in draft.
On listeriosis, the chief medical officer-- [Interruption.]
The Prime Minister : It is a comprehensive answer. On listeriosis, the chief medical officer's advice is that pregnant women and certain other categories of people should not eat certain types of soft cheeses. That advice applies irrespective of the type of milk from which they are made. The chief medical officer also gave advice that these people should fully reheat cook-chill meals and ready-to-eat poultry until they are piping hot. Those are the facts and the advice.-- [Interruption.]
Sir Antony Buck : Will my right hon. Friend now turn to international matters of real significance? Will my right hon. Friend utilise the hot line between her and the White House to talk to the President about matters of international significance, and also pay tribute to the outgoing American ambassador, who has contributed so much to the special relationship which exists between our two countries?
The Prime Minister : I gladly respond to my hon. and learned Friend's advice. Yes, we still confer closely with the President of the United States and I gladly pay tribute to the services in this country of the retiring American ambassador, which have been quite outstanding and
Column 148which have contributed greatly to the special relationship that we have with the United States. I pay tribute also to Mrs. Price, who has been absolutely marvellous as well.
Mr. Ashdown : Does the Prime Minister not find it somewhat odd to be lecturing other Europeans on the safety of their cheese while at the same time refusing to accept European standards for the higher safety and quality of our water?
The Prime Minister : We are accepting European standards for the higher safety and quality of our water. I hope that some other European countries are doing as well as we are. The right hon. Gentleman will perhaps not recall that for the last four years we have deliberately increased capital expenditure on water, so all of a sudden the Opposition are complaining about the necessary increase in prices and the necessary capital expenditure. Capital expenditure on water will continue to rise both this year and next. It will go up to something like £1.4 billion to improve some of the capital equipment. We are doing it as quickly as possible. With regard to cheese and other food, the right hon. Gentleman ought to look at the World Health Organisations's working party report of last February. Other European countries have taken action on cheese, including Switzerland.
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