Previous Section Home Page

Mr. Jessel : Is my hon. Friend aware that, although the PCFC has had an increase in funding of more than 6 per cent., it has offered only 2.5 per cent. to the excellent St. Mary's college in Twickenham, whose lack of enthusiasm for the PCFC is shared by me?

Mr. Jackson : I am looking forward to meeting my hon. Friend and his colleagues from his constituency later today when we can discuss the matter further. The way in which the PCFC allocates the resources provided by the Government is a matter for it.

Student Loans

12. Mr. Strang : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what proportion of the letters he has received about student loans have agreed in principle with his proposals.

Mr. Jackson : Letters have expressed a variety of views on different aspects of our proposals. Many support the underlying principle that students in higher education should contribute to their costs.

Mr. Strang : Has the Minister seen the survey by Dr. Burnhill of Edinburgh university which suggests that for every student from a professional middle-class home who will be deterred by a system of student loans, five students from manual working-class homes will be discouraged? Is not that the experience of Sweden? Should not we be taking action to increase the number of students from working-class homes who go on to higher education, rather than the opposite?

Mr. Jackson : I entirely agree, but that is not the experience of student loan schemes overseas. That experience shows that such schemes are compatible with


Column 178

higher rates of participation by students from working-class backgrounds than we have achieved in 30 years of the most generous grants system in the world.

Mr. Rhodes James : How does the Minister equate the Government's proposals with the 1987 Conservative manifesto?

Mr. Jackson : I have no doubt that the Government's proposals are readily reconcilable with those in the Conservative manifesto, which said that there should be an expansion of higher education. This is a means of assisting with that. We should remember the words of the Robbins report in 1960 which said that

"the arguments of justice in distribution and of the advantage of increasing individual responsibility"

pointed towards the eventual introduction of student loans.

Mr. Straw : Can the Minister explain why there is an item on the tapes now that the Government have agreed a system with the banks regarding the student loan scheme? Why has no statement been made to the House today? Is the Minister aware that the banks themselves are now disowning the scheme? Lord Alexander of Weedon, chairman of the National Westminster bank has just written to me on behalf of NatWest to say :

"We are in no sense promoting or supporting the introduction of the legislation on student loans".

Will the Minister comment on the fact that NatWest has now abandoned its support for the scheme?

Mr. Jackson : All the way through, our discussions have been punctuated by speculation about the attitude of the banks. Let us wait to see what it will be.

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Frank Cook : To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 14 November.

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. Cook : Will the Prime Minister explain why it is necessary for her foremost energy adviser, the noble Lord Marshall of Goring to resign, when the Ministers responsible for so many mistakes have kept their positions under her patronage, or is this just another factor that she finds incomprehensible?

The Prime Minister : Lord Marshall is considering his position in the light of the Government's decision. It is premature to speculate. It is a matter for the noble Lord.

Mr. Gregory : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the community charge is the fairest way to raise money? Does she deplore the new system that has been suggested by the Socialists--a combination of a property charge and income tax--which effectively means a snoopers' charter?

The Prime Minister : Yes, I believe that the community charge is the fairest way to make a contribution to local authority expenditure. It gives generous rebates--more


Column 179

generous than those given under the old rating system. I notice that the Opposition agree that rates are totally unfair, but that they have not been able to find a successful alternative which has not been blown out of the water before they have got very far with it.

Mr. Kinnock : Is the Prime Minister aware that she encouraged right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House last night, when she declared that :

"We must stretch out the hand of co-operation, and develop new forms of association with the emerging democracies of Eastern Europe"?

Will she tell the House precisely what new ideas she has had to give substance to that fine declaration?

The Prime Minister : The right hon. Gentleman should be aware that we have trading agreements, through the Community, with some of those countries, for example, Hungary. We do not have an association agreement between the Community and those countries, as we have, for example, with Turkey. I thought then that it would be wise, as I thought that the countries of Eastern Europe would naturally wish to enhance their contacts with the West, to consider an association agreement between the Community and those countries.

Mr. Kinnock : I am grateful to the Prime Minister for that answer. Is the right hon. Lady aware that she was also correct to remind everyone last night that Warsaw, Prague, Budapest, Leipzig and Dresden-- [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker : Order.

Mr. Kinnock : Is the Prime Minister aware that she was also absolutely right last night to remind everyone that Warsaw, Prague, Budapest, Dresden and Leipzig are great European cities-- [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker : Order. This takes a great deal of time. [Interruption.] Order. At this rate, I shall be able to call few Back Bench Members.

Mr. Kinnock : Should those great European cities--

The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Mr. Alan Clark) : Name them.

Mr. Kinnock : Does the Prime Minister think that those great European cities should continue to be the target for short-range nuclear weapons?

The Prime Minister : I pointed out over a year ago in the Bruges speech that Warsaw, Prague and Budapest were also part of Europe, and what a pity that the right hon. Gentleman did not congratulate me on that. I do not believe that the events in eastern Europe would have taken place but for the staunchness of NATO. One could never rely on the Labour party to support NATO.

Mr. Kinnock : To give some validity to what the Prime Minister is saying, will she tell us whether those great European cities should be the target of short-range nuclear weapons?

The Prime Minister : We should stick by our agreements with NATO, which were signed by all NATO countries.

Sir David Price : Does my right hon. Friend recall the words of that great and noble man, the late General de Gaulle, that Europe runs from the Atlantic to the Urals?


Column 180

Will she give the House an undertaking that she does not see the European Community as being fulfilled until it runs from the Atlantic to the Urals?

The Prime Minister : The European Community is only one manifestation of the identity of Europe. There is a wider one and I do not think that we should confuse the two in any way. Most of us would now hope that democracy will soon run from the Atlantic up to the Chinese border at any rate and eventually beyond that.

Mr. Ashdown : Why is it that in her bleak and visionless speech last night, the Prime Minister sought to return Europe to that uneasy balance of power between the nations which has twice done such damage to our continent this century? Why is it that while the rest of Europe is on a march to unity through closer integration, she is seeking to lead Britain into increasing isolation?

The Prime Minister : The right hon. Gentleman speaks absolute nonsense. It has been the staunchness of NATO which has helped to see the birth of democracy in eastern Europe. The right hon. Gentleman will recall that our views have frequently prevailed in the Community and if he had looked at our record for getting down constraints in Europe, he would have found that we were way out ahead of many other nations in implementing the directives. I hope that he would also have agreed with what seemed to be the almost unanimous verdict in the House about a European monetary union of the kind proposed by Delors. It seems to me that stages 2 and 3 have been totally and utterly rejected by all parties in the House.

Sir Jim Spicer : Does not my right hon. Friend find it strange that Opposition Members, who played such an ignoble role in 1983 and 1984, at a time of great danger to the western world, should now be saying that they played some part in what has now been achieved as a result of what she and her colleagues did then?

The Prime Minister : I do not think that freedom would have come about or that there would have been the prospect of democracy in eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union unless we had staunchly defended freedom through NATO, together with the essential part of the nuclear deterrent. As I pointed out in my speech last night, there was at one time a doctrine in the West that we had merely to contain Communism. After that, we put freedom on a peaceful offensive and it is partly that and partly defence that has led to the remarkable results that we now see in eastern Europe.

Q2. Mr. Lewis : To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 14 November.

The Prime Minister : I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Lewis : In view of the continuing corruption of women and young people by British Telecom and its dubious associates, and Oftel's inability to do anything about it by means of regulations, could I offer the Prime Minister a deal? If I bring to the House an amendment to the Telecommunications Act 1984, will she instruct her Chief Whip to find parliamentary time for it while I provide a majority to bring it into force?

The Prime Minister : With regard to the substantive part of the hon. Gentleman's question, he knows that I would not interfere with the duties of Whips. [Interruption.] I


Column 181

could wish that Opposition Members had more respect for the authority of their Whips on some occasions. It would greatly assist parliamentary business. Sir Bryan Carsberg, the Director General of Telecommunications has announced plans for closer control over premium rate services. He intends to introduce the new controls on 8 December, so perhaps the hon. Gentleman's help will not be required.

Q3. Mrs. Gorman : To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 14 November.

The Prime Minister : I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mrs. Gorman : Is my right hon. Friend aware of the comments by the president of the Bundesbank in support of her view on the advantages of competition between the 12 European state currencies? Has she thought of discussing with our European partners the logic of expanding that idea to its conclusion--the evolution of a free market in currencies and banking such as existed in Britain before 1840 and produced the financial stability and low interest rates which were the foundation of our economic prosperity in the 19th century?

The Prime Minister : I confess that we had not thought of my hon. Friend's ingenious solution. As she knows, we have put forward alternative plans for economic and monetary union in the Community which would preserve the authority of this national Parliament. I understand that Karl-Otto Poehl has made supportive remarks about them and I hope that they will find much support in the rest of the Community.

Q4. Mr. Callaghan : To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 14 November.

The Prime Minister : I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Callaghan : Is the Prime Minister aware that the arts are now suffering from their worst ever financial crisis because of a £40 million shortfall in the Government arts grant? How does she reconcile that with her comment when she first came to office that there would be no "candle-end economies" in the arts? Before the final curtain falls on the arts, will she help them out of this financial crisis?

The Prime Minister : As the hon. Gentleman knows, grants to the Arts Council have increased in real terms and a fantastic amount of sponsorship of the arts by industry has given great help to orchestras, theatres and many


Column 182

artistic events. If the arts are popular--I fully support them and agree that they are popular--I hope that people will spend more of their own money on attending arts events as their standard of living increases.

Sir Bernard Braine : Does my right hon. Friend agree that in this exciting, hopeful but still uncertain time, it is not rhetoric but deeds that count? What is her view of the need to give practical help to the emergent democracies of Poland and, in particular, Hungary?

The Prime Minister : Yes, I agree with my right hon. Friend's fundamental assertion that times of uncertainty can also be times of great danger, and that a wish to have democracy is nothing like having the capacity to set up that structure and get it working. We are already, both with the European Community and on our own account, giving practical help to Poland and Hungary in material terms. Help is also being given through the Community and we have relaxed some of the quota restrictions on trade for Hungary and Poland. That is practical help and we shall also consider further matters.

Q5. Mr. McFall : To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 14 November.

The Prime Minister : I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. McFall : The weekend papers tell us that the noble Lord Marshall of the Central Electricity Generating Board will receive more than £300,000 as a pay-off for the Prime Minister's monumental blunder in not listening to her advisers when they told her to withdraw all existing nuclear power plants from the privatisation proposal. More crucially, when will the Prime Minister pay off the moral debt to adult and child haemophiliacs? Despite last night's vote, does she agree that all these adults and children are more deserving than the noble Lord Marshall because they are not responsible for the position in which they find themselves?

The Prime Minister : Should Lord Marshall resign, compensation will be a matter for negotiation according to his contract and will be carried out between the two people involved. With regard to haemophiliacs, the hon. Gentleman will know that the Government have made an ex gratia payment of £10 million to the Macfarlane trust. By virtue of their nature, many charitable funds have to go to those in need. £10 million was given to the Macfarlane trust, not all of which has been committed. When the ex gratia payment was made it was indicated that if it should be insufficient we would consider making greater payments to the fund. The hon. Gentleman knows full well that I cannot comment on court cases from this Box.


Next Section (Debates)

  Home Page