Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1986 Jun 19 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: speeches
Document kind: House of Commons PQs
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [99/1193-98]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2821
Themes: Conservatism, Education, Secondary education, Higher & further education, Employment, Industry, Energy, Public spending & borrowing, Trade, European Union (general), Foreign policy (Africa), Local government
[column 1193]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Boyes

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

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. I also attended a memorial meeting for the late Lord Shinwell. In addition to my duties in this House I shall be having further meetings later today.

Mr. Boyes

Has the Prime Minister noted carefully that yesterday the United States House of Representatives supported the imposition of the strictest possible sanctions against the evil and repugnant apartheid regime in South Africa, and that that reflects the worldwide revulsion over what is happening in South Africa? Is it not shameful that the only two leaders sending signals of support to the evil regime in South Africa are President Reagan and herself?

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The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman is not correct. The European Council of Heads of Government will meet in Europe next week and will decide what further measures to take.

Mr. Jim Spicer

My right hon. Friend knows that her Government have rigorously enforced the mandatory sanctions on the sale of arms to South Africa. Can she assure the House that every other country has done so in exactly the same way and at the same level?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is correct. We have rigorously enforced mandatory sanctions on arms to South Africa. Nevertheless, South Africa does not seem to be short of certain things, which seems to confirm what my hon. Friend has said. That shows the difficulties of a course of mandatory economic sanctions.

Mr. Kinnock

The right hon. Lady says repeatedly that she wants negotiations and the suspension of violence in South Africa, which we would all like. The South African Government's response to her attitude is to deride negotiations, to undertake armed attacks on Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Angola, and to impose totalitarian controls on the press and public of the Republic of South Africa. Faced with those realities, is not the Prime Minister's vetoing of sanctions not so much caution or concern as supine appeasement of the apartheid regime? P.W. Botha is making use of the right hon. Lady. When will she stop that?

The Prime Minister

The question is whether adding economic sanctions, with the severe unemployment it would bring to South Africa—adding poverty and unemployment to an already difficult situation—the unemployment it would bring here, and the damage it would do to our shipping, would help the position in South Africa. I doubt very much whether it would. I think that it would aggravate it. It would mean that negotiations would not be brought about. I am still concerned that negotiations should be brought about. Like the right hon. Gentleman, I have totally condemned the raids. I believe that they were responsible for stopping the success of the Eminent Persons Group.

Mr. Kinnock

If the right hon. Lady is concerned about employment, here or in South Africa, she had better calculate the effect of what the Eminent Persons Group called the “descent into further violence” . Sanctions may cost jobs, but the collapse that will come without effective pressure on the South African Government will cost a great many more jobs both here and in South Africa. Will not the right hon. Lady accept that her present attitude amounts to doing nothing? Will she remind herself that all that is required for the triumph of evil is that the good people do nothing?

The Prime Minister

Many of us think that it is quite possible imposing strong mandatory economic sanctions on South Africa would add to the violence, and not detract from it, and would end all possibility of negotiations between the Government and the black people of South Africa, which is still our objective. The right hon. Gentleman speaks as though this Government had done nothing. I do not think that he will find another industrialised Western country that has done more—an embargo on exports of arms, refusal to co-operate in the military sphere, recall of military attachés, discouraging scientific events, except where those contribute to the [column 1195]ending of apartheid, cessation of oil exports to South Africa, prohibition of all new collaboration in the nuclear sector, cessation of exports of sensitive equipment to the police, banning all new Government loans, a commitment to take unilateral action on the banning of imports of Krugerrands—action that was taken—end of Government funding for trade missions and banning the import of all gold coins from South Africa. Would the right hon. Gentleman like to name a Western industrialised country that has done more?

Mr. Kinnock

Mr. Speaker—[Hon. Members: “Answer.” ] I will answer. There is no other country in the world that has a greater and closer relationship or a greater and closer responsibility than this country. A few months ago the Prime Minister was describing all that as a “teeny little bit.” Will the right hon. Lady now do the effective thing and ban new investment in South Africa?

The Prime Minister

Tell me a Western industrialised country that has done more. The right hon. Gentleman cannot.

Dr. Hampson

Does my right hon. Friend recall that, when she was Secretary of State for Education and Science, in her White Paper “Education: A Framework for Expansion” she urged the need for more part-time students? Is that not now very much the essence of our industrial future, in that we need more people to update their qualifications and retrain? Is there any need to wait for a loans scheme to give those people an incentive, because currently they pay both their maintenance costs and their fees?

The Prime Minister

Retraining, and therefore perhaps returning to university or to other advanced education colleges for further training, will be an important part of our future. Frequently, training takes place through industry itself or through industry sponsoring the requisite courses. I think that that is one of the best ways.

Q2. Mr. Haynes

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

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Haynes

Do the Prime Minister and her Government represent the people of this nation? [Hon. Members: “No.” ] I should like the right hon. Lady to answer, bearing in mind that a recent opinion poll found that more than 50 per cent. of the people wanted her to take action against South Africa by way of sanctions. If the answer is no to sanctions, is it because of the financial interests of Conservative Back Benchers in their investments in South Africa? We want to know about that.

The Prime Minister

Yes, the Government do represent the people of this country. If we do not dash into full economic sanctions, as the Opposition would wish, it is because we agree with the reason that the Labour Government gave in the United Nations when they voted against full mandatory economic sanctions. At that time they said:

“because we do not agree that the far-reaching economic measures which the resolution calls for would produce the changes in South Africa which we would all like to see.” —[Official Report, 16 January 1978; Vol. 942, c. 9.]
We would endorse that sentiment.

Mr. Spencer

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the inner city initiative in Highfields in my constituency, [column 1196]which is much welcomed by the people who live there, will press ahead notwithstanding the childish hostility of Leicester city council?

The Prime Minister

We believe that the inner cities initiative was widely welcomed. I assure my hon. and learned Friend that we shall press ahead with it in the city he represents.

Dr. Owen

Since Canada, Holland and the Scandinavian countries have all done more than this country against South Africa, and since, if the Prime Minister is not careful, the United States Senate will pass a modified Bill following the lead of the House of Representatives and the Prime Minister will again, as last summer, have to follow in the wake of President Reagan, would it not be better for her to adopt a more conciliatory approach and put forward constructive proposals which she could support and which other countries ought to be forced to support as well?

The Prime Minister

I deliberatly said major “Western industrialised country” . No other has done more. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that he, too, is against trade sanctions and has made his position clear in the articles he has written.

Mr. Robert B. Jones

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a typical headmaster and board of governors in my constituency would have discretion over a mere £4,000 out of their total budget? Will she have talks with our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science to see whether a system can be instituted that would more fairly reflect the number of pupils in the school and give responsibility locally to the headmaster and the board of governors?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is correct. That is a possible reform of education expenditure. Kenneth BakerMy right hon. Friend is prepared to consider any reform that will make the money spent on education more effective and produce better results for the pupils.

Q3. Mr. Ron Brown

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 18 June.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Brown

Will the Prime Minister take particular note of the early-day motion tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson), because he expresses fears about the operation of the Torness power station, remembering that Lothian and the Borders fire board has also criticised safety measures at that station? Will she join the Edinburgh Evening News and the people of east Scotland in opposing the commissioning of that station—or have the lessons of Chernobyl been forgotten in this country?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman is perfectly well aware, the commissioning of the station will depend upon its passing the very rigorous tests of the nuclear inspectorate, which are very rigorous indeed. As the hon. Gentleman knows, our safety record in the nuclear industry is excellent. It is not long ago since some hon. Members in Scotland were preferring the AGR kind of reactor and extolling its virtues over others.

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Mr. Porter

Will my right hon. Friend take note of the absence of the right hon. Gentleman the leader of the Liberal party, who I understand is on a nuclear-freeze bus today——

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is not the Prime Minister's responsibility.

Mr. Porter

Will my right hon. Friend also take note of the presence of the leader of the Social Democratic——

Mr. Speaker

Get it in order please.

Q4. Mr. Redmond

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

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Redmond

Will the Prime Minister explain to the House her dual standards on South Africa?

The Prime Minister

I have said that we totally and utterly condemn the system of apartheid and that we condemn the raids, but, like the Labour party when it was in power, we do not agree that the far-reaching economic measures that mandatory overall sanctions would call for would produce the changes in South Africa that we would all like to see. In the end, we shall have to come to negotiations between the Government of South Africa and the black people of South Africa. That is our purpose and we shall strain every sinew to that end.

Mr. Churchill

While condemning the inhuman system of apartheid, will my right hon. Friend make it clear that it cannot be any part of our policy to take steps that would encourage a process leading to bloody revolution in South Africa, but, that on the contrary, it is our policy to redouble our efforts to encourage peaceful evolution there?

The Prime Minister

That is precisely our policy, but the extent of economic sanctions being called for in some parts of the House would add poverty and unemployment to violence and that would increase the violence and make matters a great deal worse, not only for the people of South Africa, but for the front-line states and other countries beyond those in Africa.

Q5. Mr. James Hamilton

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

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Hamilton

To get back to the home front, will the Prime Minister reflect for a moment on the plight of thousands of young people who have completed their youth training scheme and now find themselves on the [column 1198]scrap heap? Is she aware that most of those people, particularly in my constituency, have now lost faith in her and in her Government? For God's sake, will she reconsider the position and adopt an attitude that will change her policy, get these young people back to work and give them hope for the future?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, many, many young people on the youth training scheme benefit from it, go on to jobs and find it easier to get jobs because they have taken the youth training scheme. He will also be aware that the number of jobs in Scotland has increased by 50,000 since 1983 and that there have been 15,000 new companies since 1979. That is going the right way to get new jobs for young people and for those who have been on the unemployment register for some time.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Will my right hon. Friend, as First Lord of the Treasury, take personally a close look at the financing of the first year of the GCSE, which involves an investment in schools which is not proportionate to the number of children taking the examination? Thereafter it will be, but in the first year an expenditure is needed for which no provision has yet been made and without which the future prospects of the first year's intake of those taking the GCSE will be sacrificed.

The Prime Minister

It is inevitable that we have different arrangements for the first year, because it takes some years to work up to the time when that examination is taken, which, I think, first comes in 1988. However, I shall look at the particular point my hon. Friend raises.

Mr. Adley

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will have noticed that the first 13 questions on the Order Paper to the Prime Minister today are all from Labour Members. From inquiries that I have made, with great discretion, I understand that the Labour party, and, indeed, the Liberal party, are operating some sort of cabal, which would never be considered by Conservative Members. Will you please ensure that if bunches of questions are put in by one hon. Member on behalf of others, they are given a particularly good shuffle?

Mr. Speaker

Order. As the hon. Gentleman has raised that question, he perhaps should know that only 30 Conservative Members put in questions to the Prime Minister today. The more Members who go in for the ballot the better chance of success.

Mr. Skinner

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. In order that we can be absolutely clear as to why it is that only 30 Tory Members managed to get their questions down today, you should reflect on the fact that it is Royal Ascot week and it is Gold Cup day today.