Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1986 May 22 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: speeches
Document kind: House of Commons PQs
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [98/525-30]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2484
Themes: Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Employment, Industry, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Energy, Public spending & borrowing, Taxation, Trade, Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (International organizations), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Social security & welfare
[column 525]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Hirst

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 22 May.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had [column 526]meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House I shall be having further meetings later today.

Mr. Hirst

Does my right hon. Friend recall that when she spoke last year of her determination to reduce inflation to 3 per cent. this spring her claim was ridiculed by the Opposition, who said that that could not be done? Does she therefore agree that last Friday's announcement that inflation is down to 3 per cent. and falling is welcome news, especially for savers, the elderly and business? Does she also agree that the present low level of inflation is in marked contrast to the appalling levels which followed Labour's last spending spree?

The Prime Minister

Yes, that is a remarkable achievement and is greatly to the credit of my right hon. Friend Nigel Lawsonthe Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is also of particular benefit to pensioners, who can be certain that their savings will not be plundered as they were during the lifetime of the last Labour Government.

Mr. Healey

Mr. Speaker, you will recognise that I am in an unfamiliar position. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition is elsewhere making certain that the next opinion poll gives the Labour party an even bigger lead.

Will the Prime Minister get in touch immediately with her right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence in Brussels and instruct him not to agree to new American chemical weapons as the NATO force goal and to make it absolutely clear that Her Majesty's Government will under no circumstances accept the deployment of such weapons in Britain as that would represent a major escalation of the arms race and be even less acceptable to the British people than the use of F-111 bombers for the attack on Tripoli?

The Prime Minister

I notice that the opinion polls said yesterday that the Centre Right parties would lose in Holland. I notice that the result yesterday was a convincing victory.

As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, the United Kingdom has received no request from the United States for the deployment of chemical weapons. If any such request were made we would have to consider it under all the circumstances of the time. Britain has manufactured no chemical weapons, and the United States has manufactured none since the 1960s. The culprit is the Soviet Union. I wish that the right hon. Gentleman would concentrate his efforts on criticising the Soviet Union instead of doing everything to reduce Britain's capacity to deter it.

Mr. Healey

Is the right hon. Lady aware that the extreme Right party in Holland, which is the equivalent of her party in Britain, lost heavily in the election, but that the Dutch Government had the courage to make it clear that they oppose the acceptance of new American chemical weapons as a NATO force goal and are completely opposed to the deployment of such weapons in Europe?

The Prime Minister

Holland decided to accept cruise weapons. In fact, the party that was for cruise weapons—[Interruption.] Will the right hon. Gentleman never criticise the Soviet Union for stockpiling such weapons? Is he always concerned to give aid and comfort to it and to make certain that we have nothing to deter it in its use of them?

[column 527]

Sir Peter Blaker

Does it not require rather difficult mental gymnastics to believe in deterrence in relation to nuclear weapons and not in relation to chemical weapons?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Mr. Speaker. It also shows the unwisdom of unilateral disarmament. We unilaterally disarmed with our chemical weapons many years ago. Far from following suit, the Soviet Union still stockpiles and increases the production of its chemical weapons.

Dr. Owen

Does not the case for Britain retaining its nuclear capacity and for NATO having nuclear weapons mean that we can denounce the folly of the Soviet Union in stockpiling chemical weapons and that Britain should have no truck whatever with the deployment or stockpiling of chemical weapons by the United States as part of its NATO force levels?

The Prime Minister

If we were asked to deploy them we should have to look at the request at the time and have regard to proper defence and deterrence. It would be folly to tell the Soviet Union now what our answer would be. I notice that the right hon. Gentleman embroils himself in that folly.

Mr. Terlezki

In view of the all-party visit to Moscow this weekend, will my right hon. Friend send a message to Mr. Gorbachev telling him to get rid of 300,000 tonnes of chemical weapons, because he is the guilty one who is stockpiling and using those weapons? Will she also ask Mr. Gorbachev to tell the delegation the truth about what happened during the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in the Ukraine, to ensure that all the other nuclear power stations in the Soviet Union do not go the same way as the one at Chernobyl?

The Prime Minister

The delegation is under the leadership of my right hon. Friend Viscount Whitelawthe Lord President, who will carry my views to Mr. Gorbachev. It will be saying something about how strongly we feel about chemical weapons and the fact that, even under our chairmanship, the disarmament negotiations are not getting anywhere, and the fact that the Soviet Union is still stockpiling them. With regard to Chernobyl, I think that we are making headway under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency and I hope and believe that we shall get the full facts and be able to profit from what we learn.

Q2. Mr. Wallace

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 22 May.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Wallace

This year Britain has the chairmanship of the chemical weapons disarmament committee at Geneva. Does the Prime Minister not think that it is unworthy of our chairmanship for us to agree to the further American production of binary chemical weapons? Will she give us some hope by telling us, instead of agreeing to the proposition, what steps she proposes to take during the period of British chairmanship to get a treaty to rid the world of these weapons?

The Prime Minister

No such request has been received. I do not know how we would deal with it if it were received. We would have to look at the request in the light of all the circumstances at the time. I have made that perfectly clear. We shall have our own proposals in the chemical weapons negotiations, and we have been pursuing proposals for challenge inspection anywhere. Of [column 528]course, the Soviet Union would not agree to that. Again the fault rests with the Soviet Union for continuing to manufacture and stockpile chemical weapons, and the censure should be on the Soviet Union.

Q3. Mr. Yeo

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 22 May.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Yeo

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a large number of people believe that the need to improve the quality of public services is as great as, and possibly even greater than the need to make further cuts in the basic rate of income tax? In the light of this will she apply any additional resources that are generated by economic growth in pursuit of both those objectives rather than in the exclusive pursuit of one of them?

The Prime Minister

We have strict priorities within total constraints. Everyone must live within constraints, otherwise, whether individuals, Governments or businesses, they will soon be in difficulty. By having strict priorities we have been able substantially to improve the resources devoted to the Health Service and to pensions. That must be done under overall constraints and priorities. Many people who receive below average earnings are asking for increased pay because they think that their net take-home pay of such people without adding to industrial costs is to reduce the standard rate of income tax.

Q4. Mr. James Hamilton

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 22 May.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Hamilton

At the Tory party conference in Perth last Friday the Prime Minister declared that she would set about slaying the dragon of unemployment. Will she remain conscious of the fact that in Scotland 380,000 people are unemployed? After the shipbuilding and British Rail redundancies that figure will be considerably increased. Will the Prime Minister accept the advice of some of her senior Back Benchers and change her policy? More important, will she flex her muscles and get the British Steel Corporation to spend the £90 million that is urgently required to save Ravenscraig and Motherwell?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, I have replied to questions about shipbuilding on a number of occasions. The acid test is how many orders we can get in a world where there are very few orders to be had because there is so much surplus tonnage still swinging on the buoys. There are surplus ships to the tune of 42 million tonnes, and that is equal to the output of all the world's shipyards for two years. The hon. Gentleman asked about Ravenscraig. He is aware that it is being kept in commission during the lifetime at least of the current corporate plan of the British Steel Corporation. On the general problem of unemployment,

“the only answer to the economic problems which have dogged Britain ever since the war is to improve the performance of our manufacturing industry. That means higher productivity, better design, more vigorous salesmanship, more reliable delivery and servicing.”

That is what the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said on 4 February 1977.[column 529]

Sir David Price

In the light of that reply, has my right hon. Friend received a message that came out of yesterday's debate on shipbuilding, that the whole House requires action against the Japanese, who speak the language of free trade and practice protectionism? In conjunction with our European colleagues, will she put an act together to defeat this current yellow peril, which has destroyed industry after industry in Britain?

The Prime Minister

Regarding my hon. Friend's comments on the Japanese in relation to shipbuilding, he may be thinking of the nuclear vessel order which went to the Japanese. I believe that that matter has already been referred to the European Commission on the ground that the price was such that it may amount to dumping. Regarding the fact that Japanese markets are not as open as ours, we have already made our views known vigorously. That is a reason for wanting to hold GATT negotiations as soon as possible.

Q5. Mr. Eadie

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 22 May.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Eadie

Does the Prime Minister recall the answer that she gave on Tuesday about the National Coal Board's refusal to re-employ 40 victimised miners who went to a tribunal, which recommended that they be reinstated? Does she recall that her reply was that NCB activities were governed by an Act of Parliament? Is she aware that the NCB is in breach of that Act of Parliament in relation to those victimised miners? Will she instruct her Attorney-General to investigate the matter and report back to the House?

The Prime Minister

If the hon. Gentleman has anything like that to say, he should say it to the appropriate quarters. The management of the NCB on detailed decisions—the hon. Gentleman knows this because he operates the legislation—[column 530]

Mr. Eadie

It is in a parliamentary Act.

The Prime Minister

If the hon. Gentleman will listen, I shall answer his question. The management is not for the House, but for the NCB.

Later——

Mr. Pavitt

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Does it arise out of questions?

Mr. Pavitt

Yes, Sir. In answer to questions, Mr. Speaker, you will have heard the Prime Minister state that when the Inter-parliamentary Union delegation goes to the Soviet Union the Lord President of the Council will convey her views to Mr. Gorbachev. Mr. Speaker, you are the custodian of the traditions of this House and for 100 years it has been the tradition that the Inter-parliamentary Union is Parliament, and is different from the Government. Therefore, this is an infringement of an old tradition. Is there anything that you can do to protect the independence of both the IPU and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in these circumstances?

Mr. Speaker

As President of the British branch, I have sent a message to my opposite number in the Soviet Union.

Mr. Faulds

Further to that point of order——

Mr. Speaker

Order. We have rather a lot of business before us.

Mr. Faulds

Very briefly. I am a member of the executive of the IPU. You, Mr. Speaker, and the other members of the IPU will know that on a foreign visit it is essential to differentiate between the views of the IPU and the views of the Government. It is a fact, which now, unfortunately, perhaps cannot be corrected, that the Prime Minister was totally incorrect to put that reading on the visit to Moscow.

Mr. Speaker

I have no knowledge of other messages which may be sent by other people.