Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1984 Jun 19 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type:public statement
Document kind:House of Commons PQs
Venue:House of Commons
Source:Hansard HC [62/137-40]
Journalist:-
Editorial comments:1515-1530.
Importance ranking:Major
Word count:2145
Themes:Privatised and state industries, Strikes and other union action, Law and order, Defence (arms control), European Elections, Elections and electoral system
137

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Hayes

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 19 June.

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 am holding a dinner at No. 10 to mark the centenary of the NSPCC.

Mr. Hayes

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the vast majority of the British people, never mind their political persuasions, are deeply shocked at the ugly scenes of violence on the picket line at Orgreave? Does she agree that that behaviour is representative, not of the true tradition of British trade union lawful picketing, but of the rule of the mob? Will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity to praise the British police for their courage and dedication and for their discipline in combating a difficult situation?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend that the scenes at Orgreave yesterday had nothing to do with peaceful picketing, either under the law or under the rules laid down several years ago by the TUC. However serious the strike—and it is serious—the consequences of giving in to mob rule would be far graver. Thanks to the courage of the police, yesterday's attempt failed. I agree with my hon. Friend that the law must be, and will continue to be, upheld.

Mr. Kinnock

Does the Prime Minister realise that, if she were to make an effective and helpful intervention in the dispute, she would not be giving in to mob rule or anything like that, but would merely be fulfilling her responsibilities as Prime Minister of this country? Her absolutism, as her right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Pym) would put it, has brought us Britain's first billion pound industrial dispute. It has brought violent conflict on a scale that has virtually been unknown in this country, certainly for the past 50 years or more. Will the Prime Minister tell us why she wants this chaos, conflict and cost to go on rising?

The Prime Minister

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman could forthrightly and unequivocally condemn the scenes that took place outside Orgreave yesterday. He has made no attempt to do so. He knows full well that what we saw there was not peaceful picketing, but mob violence and intimidation. I am astonished that he should suggest that, because one faction of the National Union of Mineworkers adopts these disgraceful tactics, it should be given what it wants. If we were to do that, we would lose in two ways. First, we would be asking the National Coal Board to adopt a policy which would destroy the prospects 138of an efficient industry; and, secondly, we would be accepting that violence and intimidation are an acceptable part of industrial relations. I challenge the right hon. Gentleman: will he condemn those scenes of violence outside Orgreave?

Mr. Kinnock

That is no challenge at all. I have repeatedly, in spite of the Prime Minister's continual fiction, condemned without reservation the use of violence by any and all parties in industrial disputes. It is about time, and I appeal for the fourth or fifth time in the past 15 weeks to the Prime Minister, to concentrate on the real issues and stop treating the dispute like a political football.

I further say this to the Prime Minister, since she asks me about the National Coal Board. Does she not appreciate that there is still a strong basis for a negotiated settlement and that the National Coal Board and its leadership have made an agreement on two vital areas of the future of the coal mining industry? I ask the right hon. Lady now to stop being preoccupied with the horrific but nevertheless indirect consequences of the strike, to concentrate on the sources of the strike and the future of the coal mining industry, and to use her influence, just for once, to sponsor a speedy settlement to the dispute and to get the parties back to the negotiating table. If the right hon. Lady expended a fraction of the energy that she gives to political posturing on trying to promote a settlement, we would have ended the strike by now.

The Prime Minister

I note that the right hon. Gentleman referred to mob rule as political posturing. I can say to him only that whatever Government are answering from the Dispatch Box, if they gave in to mob rule, that would be the end of liberty and democracy. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that at present 43 pits are working normally and 12 partially in a number of National Coal Board areas. In other words, some 50,000 miners are working. I note that the right hon. Gentleman is against the miners who are working. He knows full well that the Government have carried out their task of seeing that the law is upheld, that there is an abundant supply of money for investment in profitable pits, and that those who take voluntary redundancy have an excellent deal.

For example, in 1979, when the right hon. Gentleman's Government were in power, a 49-year-old miner opting for voluntary redundancy would have received a capital sum of £1,450, whereas now he would receive £33,000. The facts are known. This Government have given a better deal to the mining industry than any other, and a better future. I hope that one day the right hon. Gentleman will urge people to obey the rules of the TUC on peaceful picketing and that he will have some regard for the 50,000 miners who are working.

Mr. Kinnock

That was not an answer; it was a recitation of arrogant complacency, an evasion, and a betrayal of the national interest. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Tony Favell, Question No. 2.

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman, who is shouting and posturing, is more accustomed to it than I am. We have seen violence which he has not—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. There is so much noise that the Prime Minister did not hear that I called Question No. 2.

Q2. Mr. Favell

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 19 June.

139

The Prime Minister

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Favell

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, if there was conflict between the police and miners yesterday, that was precisely what those masterminding the strike had intended from the outset? These people have shown no respect for democracy, either inside or outside their union, and have never ceased to take any opportunity to incite people to show the utmost disregard for the police. As a result, young policemen have had to endure taunts and jibes——

Mr. Speaker

Briefly.

Mr. Favell

—and bricks and spit.

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend. The fact is that these violent tactics have been used to try to impose the will of one faction of the NUM on the rest. Those people have tried, by those tactics, to destroy the steel industry. They have failed. They have tried, by those tactics, to disrupt the power stations. They have failed. They have tried, by those tactics, to destroy those who are still going into work in the many pits around the country. They have failed. In every single way, they have tried to use violence to impose their will. So far they have failed. The lorries got through; the coal is getting through. I hope that that will continue, as I hope that the overwhelming majority of workers in this country will join all people of good will to see that mob violence does not prevail.

Mr. Steel

Why does the Prime Minister not remind the country that the civil law is there to be used against secondary picketing? Secondly, why does she not give some encouragement to miners who deplore their leader's tactics by persuading the Secretary of State for Energy to call both sides together under his chairmanship to ascertain whether there is a way forward, rather than leaving the issue as though it were a private television battle between Mr. MacGregor and Mr. Scargill?

The Prime Minister

The facts are well known. The fact that the Government have given a better deal to the mining industry than any other previous Government is well known. The fact that the offer has been taken up by 50,000 miners is also well known. The House knows that 50,000 miners are working and are continuing to work—[Interruption.] Hon. Gentleman who are interrupting from a sedentary position cannot give any example where any other Government have given a better deal to the miners. It is up to those who could use the civil law—that is those who are aggrieved—to go to the courts to use it if they choose. That is a matter for them and not for the Government.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

Is my right hon. Friend concerned at the development of ballistic missile defence systems in space by the United States and the Soviet Union? Such systems weaken the stability of nuclear deterrents. Will she use the London summit declaration on East-West relations to press for a negotiated end to such developments?

The Prime Minister

That is one very early experiment. It is far too early to deduce anything for future prospects from one experiment with infra-red heat sensors used against one target in the skies. It cannot be assumed 140that that can rapidly be transferred by technology into a mass capability to stop every missile going into space. For as long as we can foresee it will be necessary to have a strong nuclear deterrent, and Trident will be that deterrent in future.

Q3. Mr. Simon Hughes

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 19 June.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Hughes

Now that one out of five of the electorate has voted—[Interruption.] Now that one out of five of the electorate has voted for the alliance parties, will the Prime Minister—[Interruption.] Will the Prime Minister—if there were some quiet the right hon. Lady might be able to hear my supplementary question—justify to the House, to the millions of electors and to the other nine democratic members of the European Community how, in spite of the alliance gaining what amounted to 20 per cent. of the votes cast, there will not be one alliance Member out of the 81 Members of the European Parliament for the next five years? How will she justify that distortion of democracy?

The Prime Minister

That is quite simply because no alliance candidate won the constituency which he sought to represent.

Mr. Onslow

May I revert to the disorders at Orgreave and elsewhere? As it must be clear that these unlawful assemblies are neither spontaneous nor unco-ordinated, how long is it likely to be before the police have sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against those responsible for controlling and directing these riotous mobs?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend knows, there have been a number of arrests on all of the violent pickets. I do not know whether the police will have sufficient evidence to bring the sort of charge to which my hon. Friend has referred. As he knows, it is a matter for the police and it would be quite wrong for politicians to interfere in duties for which the police are responsible.

Mr. Redmond

Will the Prime Minister inform the House when she has sufficient blood on her hands to satisfy her hatred of the miners?

The Prime Minister

As I said, in 43 pits 50,000 miners are working and looking after their families. The hon. Gentleman seems to disregard those completely. They have accepted the offers and look forward to a prosperous future for the coal industry. Those who brought the miners out on strike are responsible for ending the strike. They now have fewer prospects and have damaged the coal industry considerably.

Mr. Forth

Although the Prime Minister is entitled to feel satisfied about the Conservatives winning 44 of the 78 mainland seats in the European Parliament elections, does she agree that we should be grateful that we do not have proportional representation, which has allowed the far Right National Front to be elected in France?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. A proportional system of election often allows extremists to be elected.