Below is the text of Mr Major’s response on Contingency Funds, made on 23rd February 1989 in the House of Commons.
Mr. Robertson To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to what he expects to allocate resources from the contingency funds in 1989–90.
The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. John Major) Allocations from the reserve will be made as the need arises.
Mr. Robertson Has the Chief Secretary had a chance to read the Home Secretary’s speech last month when he promised that more resources would be devoted to better street lighting? As the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s home town has had brighter and more energy-efficient lighting installed, may we expect that the contingency reserve will be used to provide better lighting throughout the streets of Britain so that our citizens will have some relief from the constant fear of crime in our streets?
Mr. Major I always read my right hon. Friend’s speeches with great interest. There were substantial increases in the Home Office budget in the last public expenditure round, taking effect from 1 April. I have no further announcements to make about expenditure on street lighting today.
Mr. Kennedy Is the Minister aware that the Scottish Office has asked for reports from local authorities in the Highlands because of the severe hurricane and flood damage there in recent weeks, which could mean additional resources being required for relief work in the 1989–90 financial year? If such an application is made, will the Minister look upon it constructively and favourably?
Mr. Major My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is an avid guardian of the interests of the Scots. If and when my right hon. and learned Friend approaches me on that or any other matter, I shall of course consider it carefully.
Mr. Bill Walker When my right hon. Friend is contemplating any raiding of the contingency reserve, will he bear in mind that the Europeans have £2,000 million of our money that we could well spend on some of the problems in Scotland, that are the direct result of the storms, as well as on some of our roads, which certainly need upgrading and improving? We would rather see European money used than our contingency reserve.
Mr. Major I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will read what my hon. Friend has said. I certainly endorse it.
Mr. Nicholas Brown As the Government have committed themselves to allocating resources next year towards providing tax relief for pensioners’ private medical insurance, can the Minister tell us what is the estimated cost of this concession? What provision have the Government made from the contingency funds or from elsewhere to provide a similar financial contribution towards the health care costs of the two thirds of British pensioners who do not pay income tax and are thus unlikely to benefit from the scheme? Will the Minister explain why the Government give priority to the wealthier pensioners rather than to all pensioners?
Mr. Major The hon. Gentleman is less than wholly accurate. He confuses tax relief with expenditure. Even putting that aside, however, the hon. Gentleman has overlooked, first, the extra resources from the reserve next year to meet a great proportion of the pay review body awards for nurses and others, much of which will result in better nursing care for the elderly, and secondly, the significant package of extra help for poorer pensioners, which takes effect on 1 October and comes specifically out of the reserve.