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Column 799thereby undermining the effectiveness of DESO, the Defence Export Services Organisation, which has been partly responsible for the offset deal?
Mr. Sainsbury : My hon. Friend is quite right. There is no doubt that the policies set out by the Labour party stringently to limit defence exports would certainly be damaging to the British defence industry and would make the achievement of offset agreements that much more difficult. I remind the House that all the contracts involve high technology and high- quality goods and therefore are particularly valuable to industry.
"Boeing is publicly committed to placing high-technology work with British companies and job losses resulting from the cancellation of Nimrod would be equalled if not exceeded by job gains".--[ Official Report, 18 December 1986 ; Vol. 107, c. 1353.]
Now, three years later, those targets have not been reached, whatever the Minister says. There is evidence of that in the Select Committee report. The jobs that have been created are low-technology jobs. How is it that France has such a good agreement for just four Boeing AWACS aircraft while we have such a lousy deal?
Mr. Sainsbury : The hon. Gentleman apparently spends more time reading old copies of Hansard than more up-to-date reports. If he studies the Select Committee report he will find that we are getting high- technology, good-quality awards in respect of the offset agreement. That is written into the agreement. We have already achieved some $624 million. I should have hoped that the hon. Gentleman would have the grace to recognise that reaching 40 per cent. of the target in 32 per cent. of the time was a worthwhile achievement, rather than trying to rubbish the performance of the British defence industry.
Mr. Soames : Is my hon. Friend aware that although British companies with particular expertise came forward very promptly for the AWACS contract, nevertheless Boeing had to go searching the highways and byways of British industry to find other companies to take part in the contract? Does my hon. Friend agree that it is a measure of the success of the transaction that so many British companies have taken part in it?
Mr. Sainsbury : It is a measure of success that the benefits of the offset deal are very widely spread throughout British industry, particularly the electronics and engineering industries. One of the follow- on benefits that is not covered in the agreement is that many of the firms with contracts in the offset agreement have obtained further contracts not within the offset agreement but much to the benefit of the companies and the work force.
under-utilisation of armed services hospitals.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces (Mr. Michael Neubert) : The utilisation of service hospitals was considered by the Select Committee on Public Accounts in its ninth report of the 1987- 88
Column 800session. The Government replied in a Treasury minute in February 1989, Cm. 323. The Committee's 21st report of the 1988-89 Session, which also deals with service hospitals, was published on 22 June. It contains further observations which are now being considered.
Mr. Marshall : Will the Minister confirm that the Select Committee on Public Accounts criticised Halton, Wroughton and Haslar military hospitals for failing to agree to treat more National Health Service patients? Why is the Ministry of Defence still dragging its feet on the issue? Will the Minister act immediately to ensure that all military hospitals take more NHS patients instead of leaving so many empty beds?
Mr. Neubert : It may not be appreciated that the service hospitals already take 250,000 NHS patients. The scope for more is limited only by the willingness of local and regional health authorities to accept more contracts. I can report that since the consideration by the Select Committee on Public Accounts, RAF Wroughton has negotiated a contract with the Mid-Glamorgan and Crewe health authorities to take patients of theirs.
Mr. Archie Hamilton : The greatest threat to stability and security in Europe remains the huge superiority that the Soviet Union and its Warsaw pact allies have in many types of conventional armaments. All the NATO allies are agreed that the elimination of those disparities in conventional forces is our highest arms control priority. The allies have recently confirmed that for the foreseeable future, there will continue to be a requirement for land, sea and air-based nuclear systems, including ground- based missiles, in Europe. Security and stability of Europe would be greatly enhanced if the Soviet Union were to eliminate its huge superiority in short-range nuclear missiles.
Mr. Galbraith : Does the Minister agree that it would make sense to have a lower level of arms all round? That being so, why can we not have simultaneous action on conventional and short-range nuclear forces? Is it not somewhat unreasonable for Britain to insist that we can have no deal which involves any cut in our forces in Germany or which puts British aircraft with nuclear capability on the negotiating table?
Mr. Nicholas Bennett : Does my hon. Friend recall the words of only two months ago that the purpose of retaining the deterrent is not to use it or even threaten to use it, as enunciated by the hon. Member for Dagenham
Column 801(Mr. Gould) on 8 May? What sort of policy would that be for a Government who were attempting to have a nuclear deterrent?
Mr. Hamilton : My hon. Friend is right. A deterrent does not count as a deterrent unless there is a preparedness to use it. That is why I believe that the country will see through the Leader of the Opposition and will realise that the deterrent would not be worth keeping if he were in power.
Mr. Archie Hamilton : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State paid a most successful and interesting official visit to Spain on 19 and 20 June. He had wide-ranging and useful discussions with his Spanish colleague, Senor Serra, on Alliance and bilateral matters, and visited the naval base at Rota. The Ministers reaffirmed their desire that the close bilateral relationship which has grown up between the British and Spanish armed forces in recent years should continue to be developed.
Mr. Hamilton : I do not think that that was anything to do with the Spanish authorities. A statement was made by Inspector Rayo to Inspector Correa of the Gibraltar coroner's office on 8 August. It was signed by Rayo and witnessed by Correa. On 9 August, Rayo submitted a signed carbon copy of the statement to the Malaga judge and attested his signature. Correa attested his signature before the Malaga judge on 22 August. The copy plus attestations was passed to the British embassy in Madrid. That copy was not sworn and, therefore, of no greater validity. We must emphasise that there is only one statement, but there were two copies.
Mr. Knight : Will my hon. Friend give the House an unequivocal assurance that, when he next reviews policy, he will bear in mind--and, indeed, make it the only consideration--the defence needs of Britain? Will he confirm that the Government will not place the freedom of the country at risk by pursuing a policy of negotiating over beer and sandwiches with trade union leaders whose idea of democracy appears to be based on the principle of one man, one million votes?
Mr. Hamilton : I do not think that the trade unions have anything to say about our defence policy. We shall certainly not take into account what the Transport and General Workers Union says, which is extremely dangerous and threatens the survival of this country.
Mr. Eastham : Would it not be useful if, in future, the Minister at least discussed with the TUC issues such as the selling of the royal ordnance factories, given that three factories were sold off at terrific loss to the taxpayer and hundreds of engineering jobs were lost as a result?
Mr. Hamilton : The hon. Gentleman says that the royal ordnance factories were sold off at great cost to the taxpayer. In fact, they were sold to the highest bidder. I do not know how else one can sell things.
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, including one with the Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. Mulroney.
Mrs. Gorman : Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming the agreement negotiated by the Minister for Overseas Development with the Brazilian Government under which we are to provide technical and scientific aid to Brazil to help it to preserve its rain forests? Will not this be a triumph-- [Interruption.]
The Prime Minister : Yes, Sir. The agreement that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development signed is the first of its kind with Brazil to seek to preserve the tropical rain forest--the largest block of tropical rain forest in the world. It involves research projects in conjunction with us--with the Royal Geographical Society--on the sustainable development of the forest and on climatic change. As The Times said,
"It was a triumph for--
"It was a triumph for quiet diplomacy of the sort that will be needed to protect the world environment."
Mr. Kinnock : Is the Prime Minister aware that she was absolutely right to say last December that energy efficiency is crucial in combating the greenhouse effect? So why, according to the Government's own figures, has expenditure on energy efficiency been cut by 15 per cent. since 1987 and is to be cut in half again by 1991? Is not that the record of a Government who talk green but act dirty?
The Prime Minister : No, Sir. The part of the energy efficiency budget that is being cut was the part heavily devoted to advertising. In fact, the energy efficiency record of this country is excellent. We use less energy now to produce 25 per cent. more goods than was the case in 1973. It is a very good record on energy efficiency.
Mr. Kinnock : If the Prime Minister is proud of her record and is seriously concerned about energy efficiency, which she says is crucial, will she overrule her Secretary of State for Energy and accept the Lords amendment to the
Column 803Electricity Bill which had all-party support and which will penalise suppliers if they fail to give proper attention to energy efficiency?
The Prime Minister : No, Sir. They will give proper attention to energy efficiency--and so will consumers, most of whom wish to use energy efficiently to keep down their bills. That is a very important incentive to energy efficiency.
The Prime Minister : Usually when we privatise things, they have to be run very much more efficiently. [Interruption.] For example, when I first came to the Dispatch Box British Steel required £1 billion per year subsidy from the taxpayer. Now it is making £500 million per year profit. That is an excellent example of the greater efficiency of privatisation.
Sir Patrick McNair-Wilson : When my right hon. Friend visits France in the next few days for the European economic summit, will she urge her colleagues to continue the sustained and steady policies that have produced growth for all countries in the Community? Will she further urge the summit to support her Government's policies, which are tackling the problems of the global environment?
The Prime Minister : Yes. I believe that it was the experience of the economic summit--particularly during its second cycle, which has just been completed--that sound economic policies have produced faster growth than we have ever had before, a higher standard of living, and a better standard of social services. We shall be looking very much at the economics of better environment. We notice that it is the countries which are more prosperous and have more growth that now have the resources to devote to better environmental conditions, unlike some of the Third world and some eastern European countries. We shall be paying great attention to that factor.
Mr. Ashdown : If the Government's policy on the environment is so good, how is it that the latest figures show that Britain's production of the primary greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, is increasing at twice the world average rate? How will the Prime Minister explain that at the Paris summit next week while opposing further measures for energy conservation?
The Prime Minister : I think that the right hon. Gentleman must be referring to some figures that were compounded by the Oakridge laboratory in 1986. Our published figures do not agree with its comparison between 1986 and 1987. However, as the right hon. Gentleman has asked me about the fundamental carbon dioxide gas, from the figures published from the Oakridge laboratory, which we have not yet seen in detail, the Daily Telegraph gave these figures :
Column 804"Per capita figures from the Oakridge laboratory for the production of fossil fuels in tonnes of carbon per man or woman"--
the higher the figure, the worse it is--
"United States five tonnes of carbon dioxide for each person, Czechoslovakia 4.2, Bulgaria 3.6, Soviet Union 3.6, West Germany 3.06, United Kingdom 2.9."
Mr. Malins : Is my right hon. Friend aware that if Pakistan were readmitted to the Commonwealth it would be warmly welcomed throughout the country, not least in my constituency of Croydon, North-West, where many constituents are from a Pakistani background?
The Prime Minister : Yes, I believe that it will come about at the next Commonwealth conference, and it will be very warmly welcomed. I am glad that we are among the first to suggest and to approve that Pakistan return to the Commonwealth. Of course, it could not be done without the co- operation of India, through Mr. Rajiv Gandhi. We had a successful visit here last week by the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto. We were very pleased that we were able to help her with some aid for rural development and extra help for the Afghan refugees, which brings our help for the Afghan refugees up to £15 million in the past 18 months.
Mr. Fatchett : Now that the Government have rolled over to the brewers, will the Prime Minister advise the British Medical Association how much it should invest in the Tory party before the views of the doctors will be listened to?
The Prime Minister : I should have thought that an Opposition party with massive investment from the trade unions was not well equipped to ask that question. With regard to the decisions of my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, within two years all brewers with more than 2,000 pubs will have to have untied 50 per cent. of the number in excess of 2,000. That will add 11,000 free houses, which is equivalent to serving some 3 million customers a year. As the House knows, tenants will be able to purchase, free of ties, soft drinks, non-alcoholic ciders, wines and spirits. In addition, many of the other recommendations of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission were implemented in full.
Mr. Watts : When my right hon. Friend crosses the England channel to visit Paris later this week, will she recall that last year we celebrated the tercentenary of our own glorious revolution which, as revolutions go, was virtually bloodless--certainly much less so than the reign of terror being celebrated in Paris?
The Prime Minister : I hope that in 1993 I shall be able to go across by the Channel tunnel as Prime Minister --[Interruption.] Yes, we managed our revolutions much more quietly in this country in 1688 and 1689 when Parliament took over the authority for the country from
Column 805the monarch. Our revolutions have certainly been quieter. Our revolution during the past 10 years--a revolution of high living standards and high social services--has also been managed quietly and very well.
Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones : The Prime Minister will be aware of the intense speculation in Wales about the future of the Welsh Development Agency. Will she assure the House that the Government have no intention whatever of privatising the Welsh Development Agency either as a whole or in part?
The Prime Minister : The Welsh Development Agency will continue the most excellent work that it has carried out under both Secretaries of State for Wales in this Conservative Government. It will continue to attract a fantastic amount of inward investment to Wales under the Tory Government.
Mr. Charles Wardle : Does my right hon. Friend accept that if there is one thing worse than the mindless arrogance of unions which bully the public before they negotiate with management, it is the supine indifference of Opposition Members to the damage done by strikes-- [Interruption.]
The Prime Minister : Let us hope that the negotiations now taking place will result in a successful conclusion so that British Rail can work fully again, serving both the public and freight, and justify the great investment that this country has put into the railways, especially in the past two or three years, including the great investment in electrification. We have now the greatest investment since changing from steam to the modern railway.
Mr. Bennett : Given the welcome reduction in tension between East and West, and the reduction in regional conflict, does the Prime Minister agree that the potential for arms sales has reduced in the world? What initiatives is she taking to encourage British industry involved in the arms trade to find peaceful alternative products?
The Prime Minister : Of course we welcome the reduction in tension between East and West--we were among the first to do so--but that does not mean that the reductions in arms now being negotiated will come about quickly. For several years the Soviet Union will have a great superiority over us in conventional, nuclear and chemical weapons. The only safe course for all who believe in freedom and justice is to ensure that we, with NATO, have a proper and full defence. The Soviet Union is not reducing its arms sales capability in any way. It is increasing its arms sales to the middle east.
Mr. Stern : Will my right hon. Friend take time this afternoon to condemn the fact that physically and mentally handicapped people are being deprived of essential services as an inevitable result of the callous withdrawal of labour by the National and Local Government Officers Association?
The Prime Minister : Yes, I most certainly condemn it. I noticed that it was reported this morning that some nurseries and other services might not be running today. Once again, that is the fault of some people of the extreme Left wing in the trade unions who never think of serving the public or of their duty to the public. I am happy to say, however, that many people in NALGO went to work as usual to carry out their duties in the best possible way and in the best possible traditions of local government.
Several Hon. Members rose --
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