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Mr. Hogg : My hon. Friend raises a number of matters. I agree that some people have been on remand for far too long and we are taking urgent measures to reduce the number. My hon. Friend is right about dormitories. Broadly speaking, they are not a secure way of keeping prisoners and we are in the process of eliminating them. We are seeking to improve the provision of education in the prisons, and I am glad to say that the fresh start procedures that we put in place have greatly enhanced the provision of education in the prison system.
Mr. John Patten : I congratulate my hon. Friend on his attendance and on his question. The answer to his question is that crime reduction forms part of a strategy that applies to all of England and Wales. Police manpower and resources have been substantially increased, crime concern was launched with Government support in May 1988 to stimulate support and develop local crime prevention activity, and the largest-ever crime prevention publicity campaign was launched last year. My right hon. Friend approved a further 24 police posts for the Norfolk force from 1 April. We give encouragement to the growth and development of neighbourhood watch schemes and crime prevention panels, and I am pleased to note that there are now 472 neighbourhood watch schemes in Norfolk, together with five crime prevention panels and three junior crime prevention panels.
Mr. Thompson : Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating the police and all others in Norfolk who were involved in the very encouraging recent reduction in crime in that area and in Norwich? Will my hon. Friend confirm that there has been a serious and continuing increase in violent crime? Will he do all that he can in discussions with the police and others in Norfolk to take further action to deal with that disturbing trend?
Mr. Patten : I certainly congratulate the Norfolk constabulary on its sterling efforts to reduce crime. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has introduced a lot of very original ideas and thinking about how to reduce violent crime. Indeed, most of my hon. Friends recognise that all the original thinking about crime prevention is coming from these Benches. Nothing is coming from the Opposition Benches and in particular from the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), who did not ask a question the last time we had Home Office questions and has not got on his feet once during this session either.
25. Mr. Cran : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what are the latest available figures for the number of criminal offences recorded by police as having been committed in Humberside ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Cran : Is my hon. Friend aware that the only category of crime that increased on Humberside last year was violence related to the consumption of alcohol? That being the case, will his Department encourage a whole range of schemes to tackle the problem of under-age drinking, which is endemic in many parts of this country?
Mr. Patten : We will certainly do all we possibly can and the whole Government, and I am sure the whole Conservative party, will support the efforts of my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council and his ministerial group on this issue.
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.
Mrs. Gorman : Will my right hon. Friend find time in her busy day to remind people of the importance of today's Euro-elections? Will she note the growing support by people in Northern Ireland for the Conservative party? Today they will have a chance to vote for Dr. Laurence Kennedy, our first-ever Conservative Euro-candidate in Ulster? Will she include him in her greetings to our candidates?
The Prime Minister : I have already sent the message of greeting and support which my hon. Friend seeks to our Euro-candidates. I agree that it is a very important election and a very important day and I hope that people will turn out in strength and vote. I note what my hon. Friend says about matters in Northern Ireland. I know her strong views about parties there, and I note what she says.
The Prime Minister : I answer on precisely what the Chancellor said on Wednesday of last week in the economic debate. The Chancellor set out the Government's position clearly and in some detail. he said : "Our overriding"
--I repeat "overriding"--
"objective is to bring inflation back down."
We shall not be diverted from that course.
Sir Peter Tapsell : While the Leader of the Opposition regards all this as a joke, is it not about time that we all began to take the sterling situation rather seriously and that the Leader of the Opposition ceased to try twice a week to talk sterling down?
Ms. Primarolo : Will the Prime Minister confirm that her policy of keeping interest rates as high as necessary for as long as necessary means that she will be prepared to tolerate a further increase in mortgage interest rates?
--I repeat "overriding"--
"objective is to bring inflation back down."
The Chancellor said :
"the policies that have successfully brought inflation down in the past will do so again."--[ Official Report, 7 June 1989 ; Vol. 154, c. 264.]
We have had an extremely successful economic policy.
Mrs. Peacock : Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Government's main priority is to reduce inflation? Will she also condemn members of the Opposition, including the Leader of the Opposition, for continually trying to talk the pound down?
The Prime Minister : Yes, I confirm once again that that is the Government's overriding priority, as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor said in the economic debate. We shall not be deflected from that course of action. I agree that the Opposition try to talk down the pound, which is a great tragedy.
Mr. Shore : Apart from the obvious and damaging effect that high interest rates have on the competitiveness of British industry, is it not a fact that the main effect of high interest rates, far from reducing aggregate demand, is simply to redistribute demand away from hard-pressed first-time mortgagors and other borrowers to people who are savers and creditors? If that is so, is this not an extremely unfair and ineffective way to reduce demand and counter inflation?
Mr. McNair-Wilson : Does my right hon. Friend agree that those both inside and outside Parliament who continually delight in rubbishing the achievements of this country fail to grasp the inherent strength of the British economy? Do we not now have a record level of new job creation in Europe, enjoy a record high standard of living, and have a record repayment of the debts piled up by the Labour party when it last had muddled control of our economy?
The Prime Minister : No, the Labour party has the record on inflation this century, with a rate of 27 per cent. As well as the record high standards of living and of social services, we have record repayment of debt, and record standards of investment in manufacturing industry and of business investment. I could go on with record after record of good things for the British people--an excellent record.
Dr. Kim Howells : How do the Government intend to clean up our rivers and beaches if they refuse to give the National Rivers Authority the powers to prosecute the regional water companies after they have been privatised?
The Prime Minister : Both our rivers and our beaches are being cleaned up, contrary to what happened during the time of the Labour Government. The directive from Europe came out in 1975, and it asked Governments to identify beaches that did not come up to standard. By 1979, the Labour Government had not identified one. It was left to us to identify them all. We have done so. Two thirds have already been dealt with and the other one third will soon be dealt with. As to rivers, 95 per cent. are classified, on European standards, as good or fair, which is the best record in the Community.
Mr. Leigh : Whatever else divides the two major parties, is not one thing crystal clear, and comes out in representations concerning the European Community? It is that the overwhelming majority of the House insists that this House, representing the people as it does, must retain its untrammelled power over taxation. Were we to subscribe to a central European bank or a common currency, the House would lose the right, uniquely sustained over many centuries, democratically to control
Column 1121economic policy. Is that not why public opinion in this country is so different from that in other parts of the Community?
The Prime Minister : I agree with my hon. Friend that the ability to run monetary, economic and fiscal policy lies at the heart of what constitutes a sovereign state. I very much agree with him that the rights and powers of national Governments and Parliaments in these matters must be preserved. That is what this Parliament is for. We must resist the constant centralising tendency of the European Community.
Mr. Spearing : Is the Prime Minister aware that the House has made representations to the Government about the Commission's proposals for all- European television rules? Is she aware also that at 3 am on Tuesday the House debated those rules, when it became clear that the decision whether a certain pornographic television channel which is transmitted in a member state, which I shall not name, becomes a legal transmission in Britain will be made by a majority vote? When the Prime Minister placed the Single European Act before the House, was she misled by others about its possible effects and potential? Was the right hon. Lady misled by the Commission or the Foreign Office, or is there some other explanation for this extraordinary state of affairs?
The Prime Minister : The hon. Gentleman knows full well that there is nothing misleading about the Single European Act. Greater majority voting in some spheres was clearly on the face of the Act, and he knows that. There is a question about interpretation with regard to one or two matters. Unanimous voting on certain matters was also clearly on the face of the Act. The hon. Gentleman knows that full well.
The hon. Gentleman knows that the Government have done more than any other to try to raise television quality standards, and hitherto we have had precious little help from the Opposition in so doing.
"national sovereignty is not inviolable, and that it may be resolutely diminished for the sake of all the men in all the lands finding their way home together."--[ Official Report, 27 June 1950 ; Vol. 476, c. 2159.]
When my right hon. Friend discusses these extremely important matters with her colleagues in the Community, will she consider not the unregenerate idealism of someone such as myself, who matters little, but the important idealism of the young people of Britain and elsewhere in Europe, who should be inspired by the idealism of the founding fathers, who have far to travel and who have not yet found their way home?
The Prime Minister : Every time we sign a treaty of international agreement we are voluntarily engaging in a certain pooling of sovereignty. That has been so almost ever since Parliament began and the first treaty was signed. When we went into the Common Market we agreed to pool our sovereignty on such things as the common
Column 1122agricultural policy. Hitherto it was negotiated completely through Europe. We agreed to pool all our rights in trading with other nations and henceforth the Community conducted our trading negotiations through the Community and the Commission. There are other occasions where one pools one's sovereignty. To revert to what I was asked about earlier, taxation policy, economic policy and monetary policy go to the heart of the rights of this place, to the heart of representations by the people and to control of the Executive, and that is one of the reasons why the House exists.
The Prime Minister : I know that all our supporters will come out and vote strongly for our sort of Europe. I note that Opposition Members were not sufficiently confident in the results to come and question me in the House this afternoon. They had to run away. They felt that if they did not do so their supporters might not come out.
Mr. Thurnham : If any members of Tonge Moor Conservative club have not heeded Mr. George Handley's excellent advice to be sure to vote today, will my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister remind them that the students in Peking are dying for democracy and that we should all go out and vote for the winning party, the party with more jobs, more exports, more productivity and more investment?
The Prime Minister : I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. This Conservative Government have created a strong Britain whose reputation rides high because we have put the economy in order. Voting Conservative today will help to create a strong Europe, and a strong Britain in a strong Europe, which pursues the same policies that have been so successful in this country.
Mr. Geoffrey Robinson : Is the Prime Minister aware that nothing so clearly reveals the dead trouble that she is in over sterling than the pathetically orchestrated series of questions about the Leader of the Opposition talking down sterling? Is she not aware that the persistent bickering between her and the Chancellor of the Exchequer and her pathetic record on inflation and the balance of payments are driving down sterling? The Prime Minister's policies and her failure to deal with that situation in the markets in Europe are on trial.
The Prime Minister : The hon. Gentleman has provided evidence of what we were complaining about earlier. The Opposition are out to write sterling down. Once again, he is at it, and his hon. Friends cannot leave it alone.
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