Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1988 Dec 13 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type:public statement
Document kind:House of Commons PQs
Venue:House of Commons
Source:Hansard HC [143/764-68]
Journalist:-
Editorial comments:1515-1530.
Importance ranking:Major
Word count:2413
Themes:Transport, Northern Ireland, Terrorism, Law and order, Privatised and state industries, Strikes and other union action, Health policy, Agriculture, Pay
764

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1.Dame Jill Knight

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 13 December.

The Prime Minister

This morning I visited St. George's hospital in Tooting to visit some of those injured in yesterday's train crash, and to thank the hospital staff and the emergency services. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having meetings with ministerial colleagues and others later today. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty the Queen.

Dame Jill Knight

Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity, in the aftermath of yesterday's appalling rail crash, to record the thanks of the whole House, first, to the emergency services and secondly, to the master and boys of Emanuel school who happened to be passing when the accident occurred?

As it is now emerging that rail passengers who have to stand appear to be most at risk, will my right hon. Friend ensure that that aspect is thoroughly considered in the Government inquiry?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I gladly respond to my hon. Friend's remarks, and the whole House will wish to record its congratulations and thanks to the emergency services and to the hospital staff for the excellent work that they did yesterday. I thank also those of Emanuel school who saw quickly what was happening, and who were thoughtful and swift in their reactions. They are a credit to the young people of our country.

I take note of my hon. Friend's third point concerning standing passengers. It is our purpose that all matters relating to the accident shall be considered in the public inquiry.

Mr. Kinnock

I join the Prime Minister in expressing my deep sorrow for the pain and grief suffered by those hurt in yesterday's accident, my sympathy for their loved ones, and my admiration for and thanks to those in various capacities who helped the injured. I am sure that the whole House will want to return to that question, which is one of deep public concern.

I wish to raise with the Prime Minister another matter of public concern. It is now clear that by her performance in the House and in Rhodes, the right hon. Lady threw away the possibility of securing the extradition of Patrick Ryan—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order.

Mr. Kinnock

Will the Prime Minister take the advice offered by myself and by others, and consider proceedings 765under the Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Act 1976, especially since the Irish Attorney-General commented in his statement today that the charges are of a most serious kind and should be investigated by a court?

The Prime Minister

The Government utterly repudiate the assertion that Patrick Ryan would not receive a fair trial in this country. The effect of the Irish decision is that a person accused of very serious crimes will not now be brought to answer them in an English court of law. That underlines how right we were to say that the existing extradition arrangements are inadequate, and we look to the Irish Government to honour their pledge to re-examine them.

As to the possible trial of Patrick Ryan in the Republic of Ireland, we do not absolutely exclude that, but only two of the four charges are covered by the Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Act. There would be problems over the security of witnesses, whom we could not compel to go to the Republic. If the case failed because of the absence of witnesses, we could not subsequently try Patrick Ryan in our own jurisdiction.

Mr. Kinnock

The Prime Minister can repudiate as much as she likes. She is faced with the fact that Patrick Ryan will not be extradited to Britain and it is primarily her fault. I understand that the Prime Minister is very disappointed; that feeling is shared by many others, including myself. But she is also culpable. She blew the possibility of extraditing Patrick Ryan. May I ask whether she will ensure that both she and the Attorney-General will avoid making again the errors so far committed—errors of judgment, fact and conduct?

The Prime Minister

Let me answer the right hon. Gentleman by pointing to the facts. The Irish Extradition (Amendment) Act 1987 itself requires the Irish Attorney-General to state that he is satisfied that the United Kingdom prosecuting authorities have sufficient evidence on which to prosecute. I understand that the Irish Attorney-General agrees that that is so. He made his decision on an entirely different ground.

In Ryan's case the extradition proceedings in Belgium were in public, and wide publicity had been given to the nature of the charges and the allegations on which they were based before extradition from Ireland was ever requested.

May I make a third point—[Interruption.] Yes, because these points must be made. The extradition proceedings were held in public, with the allegations. Moreover, as the right hon. Gentleman is aware, the Irish Attorney-General could have backed the warrant within three days, which is the time for which his provisional warrant runs. He could have done that long before the question ever arose in the House.

Mr. Kinnock

All that the Prime Minister has said about Belgium and the conduct of affairs there was well known a fortnight ago. Why, then, was she so poisonous about the conduct of affairs by the Irish Government?

If the Prime Minister is quoting from the Irish Attorney-General why does she not draw attention to the fact that he also said that the matter does not end at extradition? He said:

"The charges which have been brought against Patrick Ryan are of a most serious kind, and they should be 766investigated by a court. The Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Act 1976 provides a means whereby certain serious offences committed outside this jurisdiction may be tried here." that is, in Ireland.

"Such a trial may ... take place before a court of three judges ... Heavy penalties are prescribed by Irish law for those offences."

Is it not still the case that because she cannot—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Let us hear the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Kinnock

Is it not the case that because the Prime Minister cannot get everything that she wants she is going to settle for nothing?

The Prime Minister

The fact is that the Irish Attorney has refused to back our warrant on grounds that do not arise from the 1987 Act. The result is that someone accused of very serious crimes will be at liberty in the Irish Republic. I notice that the right hon. Gentleman does not put his weight behind trying to secure the extradition of Ryan.

Q2. Mr. Butler

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 13 December.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Butler

Does my right hon. Friend believe that a permanent postal monopoly can be justified if this vital public service is continually undermined by strikes?

The Prime Minister

I am very pleased that some 60 per cent. of Post Office counter staff continued to work. That is very good news. However, I agree with my hon. Friend that if we continue to experience sporadic troubles the permanent monopoly of the Post Office will come under review, and, we shall have to consider a reduction in the present level of £1.

Dr. Owen

It is obviously a quite unacceptable insult to the people of this country to say that Patrick Ryan would not receive a fair trial in Britain. That belief should be conveyed to the Irish Government as coming from everyone—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is a very serious matter.

Dr. Owen

Furthermore, is it not bound to mean that the Anglo-Irish Agreement is now questioned by everyone in Britain? Will that also be conveyed to the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic?

The Prime Minister

I am very pleased that the right hon. Gentleman agrees with us in repudiating utterly the assertion that Patrick Ryan would not receive a fair trial in this country. Of course he would, but the arrest of anyone on charges of that nature inevitably will receive front-page treatment. It would be a matter for the courts if there were any prejudice to the trial which inevitably would be heard very far from the time that we had the problem. We must use the Anglo-Irish Agreement to make our point vigorously to the Irish Government on this matter. At the time, the Irish Government promised to review their 1987 extradition Act if it was not working satisfactorily. It is not working satisfactorily, so we shall call in that promise for them to honour.

767

Mr. Gow

Have we not conferred upon the Government of the Irish Republic, by treaty, a place of special privilege in relation to Northern Ireland? Since Northern Ireland has suffered more grievously than any other part of the United Kingdom at the hands of terrorists, is it not a signal irony that the Irish Government are presently the harbourer of a suspected terrorist?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend makes his point very cogently. Under the Anglo-Irish Agreement we can tackle the Republic of Ireland about matters of security just as much as they can tackle us. The difficulty is that the Republic of Ireland unilaterally passed a different extradition Act, when we already thought that arrangements had been agreed between us. That Act is not working properly, and the decision taken under that Act, not for any reasons within it, has caused the present trouble.

Mr. Mallon

Does the Prime Minister remember her elegant words in 1964 at the Conservative party conference when she said:

"Any country or Government which wants to proceed towards tyranny starts to undermine legal rights and undermines its own law."?

Does she agree that if the Irish Government tried to bypass their extradition laws, which exist to protect the rights of their nationals, they would be undermining their own law? When do her Government intend to sign the European convention on the suppression of terrorism?

The Prime Minister

The Act to which the hon. Gentleman refers gives two grounds for refusing extradition. Those are not the grounds which the Irish Attorney-General has used. He has used nothing related to those grounds. He has chosen something totally different, which is a great insult to all British people. We must make that very clear, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will look at the Act and agree with us.

Mr. Marland

Is my right hon. Friend aware how widespread devastation in the egg industry has become? The Sunday papers tell us that 10,000 people will become redundant before Christmas and millions of egg-laying hens will be slaughtered prematurely. All this has occurred because of the ill-considered and negligent remarks of one of her junior Ministers. Does my right hon. Friend agree that one more redundancy should be added to that list, that of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie)?

768

The Prime Minister

So far this year 49 cases of salmonella affecting just over 1,000 people have been traced to eggs. That is why the Government have taken steps in conjunction with the industry to issue codes of practice. Those figures demonstrate that there is a problem.

The Chief Medical Officer has issued guidance, most recently on 5 December, stating that the risk to normally healthy people from eating cooked eggs was very small, although they should avoid eating food with raw egg in it. For vulnerable groups, such as babies, the elderly and pregnant women, eggs should be cooked until the white and yolk are hard. [Interruption.] It is our duty to give advice. That is what the Chief Medical Officer has said and it is my duty to repeat it. We shall continue to reassure—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. These are matters of grave concern not only to the House but to those outside it.

Q3. Dr. Reid

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 13 December.

The Prime Minister

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

Dr. Reid

The Prime Minister started her Question Time by congratulating hospital staff. Is she aware that many nursing staff in Lanarkshire and throughout the country have been denied fair grading because they have been deemed to be working under supervision, even when the supposed supervisor is off duty, asleep and at home? Does the right hon. Lady agree that there can be no adequate supervision when people are miles apart and completely out of touch with each other? Does not her relationship with the Chancellor of the Exchequer prove that very point?

The Prime Minister

The grading structure was agreed between the management side and the nursing staff and went before the review body. The review body added an amount necessary to implement that structure. That was not sufficient, so my right hon. and learned Friend [ Kenneth Clarke] the Secretary of State for Health and my right hon. Friend [ Nigel Lawson] the Chancellor provided an extra amount. Together, the sums came to nearly £1 billion. The structure and the money have to be applied through the regions and the districts. There is no way in which Government can undertake the regarding of 500,000 nurses. The overwhelming majority of nurses are more than satisfied with the extra that they have received, which is considerable—an average of 18 per cent., and the highest amount that they have ever had.