Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1990 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 [174/795-800]
Journalist:-
Editorial comments:1515-1530.
Importance ranking:Major
Word count:2341
Themes:Executive, Conservatism, Economy (general discussions), Industry, Monetary policy, Public spending and borrowing, Taxation, Energy, Environment, Health policy, Housing, Law and order
795

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Duffy

To ask 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, including one with the director general of the International Atomic Agency and another with the 796Foreign Ministers of Bangladesh, Sudan, and Somalia. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later today, including one with Mr. Attali, president-elect of the new European bank for reconstruction and development, which will have its headquarters in London.

Mr. Duffy

Did the Prime Minister note the biting comment in the Sunday quality press that the fast-revolving door through which ex-Cabinet Ministers are passing towards the boards of privatised industries that they themselves have set up has become a symbol of greed in high office? As that is an entirely new development for which discretion and restraint are simply not enough, as we saw last week, will the Prime Minister consider extending to ex-Ministers the same restrictions that apply to former civil servants?

The Prime Minister

There will be 15 months between the noble Lord Young leaving office and taking up his appointment. For civil servants, that period may be shorter. I agree with the Earl of Stockton who, when asked a similar question, said that "it is desirable and beneficial to the country that men of considerable experience should be available, when they leave the Government, to the service of industry and commerce.—[Official Report, 20 November 1962; Vol. 667, c. 1000.] I quoted last week what the noble Lord Wilson said in a similar vein.

Mr. Nelson

Has my right hon. Friend had an opportunity to reflect on the interview with the Leader of the Opposition on television——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The question should relate to a matter for which the Prime Minister has responsibility.

Mr. Nelson

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that a Conservative Government will remain committed, even after the next general election, to reducing still further the direct burden of taxation on individuals, whereas the inevitable consequence of Labour policies, despite what the Leader of the Opposition says, will be to raise significantly the average burden of taxation on the British people?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I confirm that our policy on income tax rates remains to reduce the standard rate of income tax from 25p to 20p as and when it is prudent to do so.

Mr. Kinnock

What will the Prime Minister do now to stop inflation reaching 10 per cent?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman somehow seems to believe that reducing interest rates will cure inflation, but we shall maintain our policy, because the interest rate of 15 per cent. will succeed in bringing down inflation.

Mr. Kinnock

Does the Prime Minister recall telling me early last year that the Government were "proceeding" towards zero inflation? We have had 16 more months of her policy since then, but, rather than proceeding towards zero, inflation is proceeding towards double figures. Apart from trying to fix the figures, what is the Prime Minister going to do to get inflation down?

The Prime Minister

Does the right hon. Gentleman seriously maintain his position, and his ridiculous economics, by saying that to get inflation down one needs 797to cut interest rates? [Hon. Members: "Answer the question."] That would put it up to the rates that Labour Governments were used to having.

Mr. Kinnock

Is any economic policy more ridiculous than one that produces the lowest growth rate, the highest inflation rate and the worst balance of payments position in the major industrialised countries? If the right hon. Lady wants to talk about ridiculous economics, let her look at herself.

The Prime Minister

That policy also produces—and has for three years—the highest level of investment in industry that we have ever experienced, the highest standard of living and the highest standard of social services that this country has ever known, and the lowest levels of income tax in the post-war period.

Mr. Burns

Does my right hon. Friend share my anger about the misery, frustration and expense caused by squatters who occupy privately owned homes? Does she accept that, provided that no damage is done to securely locked houses, there is nothing that the police can do before a court order is obtained? Is it not time that the balance of the law was redressed to favour the innocent home owner, rather than the reprehensible activities of squatters?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend is aware, squatting that directly excludes a householder from his home is already a criminal offence. The police can act, and penalties are severe. However, squatting in residential property which does not cause the immediate threat of homelessness can be dealt with only through civil action. I agree with my hon. Friend that there appears to be a defect in the law, and I am looking into the matter further.

Global Warming

Q2. Mr. Allen

To ask the Prime Minister if she will convene an international conference on global warming.

The Prime Minister

There have already been several such international conferences in the past year. International initiatives on climate change are dealt with primarily through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Its report will be considered carefully and fully at the second world climate conference in the autumn, which I hope to address.

Mr. Allen

The Prime Minister may talk green—she may even dress green—but there are the same old blue policies underneath. Will she admit what the people at home know—that her complacency about global warming, the depletion of the ozone layer, the running down of our environment and the degradation of our wildlife have all taken place under the present Government? Instead of bleating at the Dispatch Box, will she come forward with a practical plan of action for our environment, so that her last year in office is not as wasted in environmental terms as her first 11 years?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman should look up the record of the last Labour Government, who, after the directive of 1975 was issued by the Commission, did nothing about water or beaches. They did not even identify the problem, let alone clean up the beaches. We have cleaned up three quarters of our beaches, and have a programme to clean up the rest. We are also doing a great 797deal more with the rivers. We have the best record of river cleanliness in Europe—perhaps the hon. Gentleman has forgotten that. We also have a good record because we have called the ozone conference and set the targets, and there will be a further conference soon. Instead of making such remarks, the hon. Gentleman should examine the record. He will see that the last Labour Government did nothing but cut capital expenditure, and made the environment worse.

Mr. Rost

Will my right hon. Friend take another look at a number of reputable studies which show that Britain can not only stabilise its greenhouse gases but reduce them without any financial penalty or pain because greater efficiency in the production of energy means that we can achieve cost savings, higher productivity and a more competitive economy?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend is aware, yesterday I gave a certificate to a house which had very high energy efficiency and had led the way. It was the first house to secure that particular certificate. I agree with my hon. Friend that industry has already done a great deal to improve its energy efficiency as a way of keeping down costs and will do a good deal more. Particular companies have done a great deal of research, which will make them more energy efficient than ever before. Our target of getting back to 1990 levels by the year 2005 is a good one. It is the right time scale and has been confirmed by the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Ms. Walley

Does the Prime Minister accept that her Government's projections for carbon dioxide emissions are a gross overestimate and misleading? Despite today's green mantle, is not she conning the British public about what she is doing on green issues? Will she give the House a commitment that she will make available for full public inspection detailed information about the Government's scientific reports on the level of emissions of carbon dioxide, which contribute to global warming?

The Prime Minister

I notice that the Labour party tried to sustain that argument the other day and was completely blown out of the water. The CBI totally agreed with our target, which was confirmed by Dr. Houghton who has the best available evidence. He said that the "fifteen year period is an appropriate timescale to set ... It represents a significant step towards reducing the rate of climate change during the next 15 years, by the end of which substantial improvements in the accurancy of the scientific assessment should be expected." It is all based on sound science.

Mr. Squire

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that CFCs are a greenhouse gas far more damaging in equivalent weight than carbon dioxide, and that the steps that the Government have taken in beating the Montreal protocol target deserve praise even from the Opposition?

The Prime Minister

Yes. We have indeed done that, beating the Montreal protocol, and we hope to set new targets at the conference to be held next week. My hon. Friend is quite right that CFCs are a very damaging greenhouse gas, as is methane. Some people wish to take as their target not only the carbon dioxide emissions, but the CO2 equivalent which takes into account CFCs and methane gas.

799

Engagements

Q3. Mr. Bill Michie

To ask 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. Michie

Why is the Prime Minister still insisting that the national health service is safe in her hands when there is chronic underfunding throughout the country? In Sheffield, more than £1 million underfunding has resulted in 108 beds being closed and plans to close two more hospitals. Surely the Prime Minister should have the courage to accept that it is better for her to lose face than for patients to lose their lives.

The Prime Minister

For the taxpayer, because of the rate of growth that we have enjoyed under the Conservative Government, to be able to increase the finance to the health service from £7 billion per year in 1979 to £29 billion per year is a great tribute to the growth that has occurred under this Government and to the way in which we have been able to divert quite a bit of that growth to improving the health service in a way that the Labour party could never have done.

Sir Robert McCrindle

Reverting to the earlier question, as some organisations such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth seem dissatisfied with our progress on matters such as global warming and other environmental issues, does my right hon. Friend agree that the time has come for those organisations to be asked to cost their own, more ambitious proposals? Does she agree that we should all like a greener environment but that apparently not everyone is prepared to face the financial consequences?

800

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is right. It costs money to make the environment much better, whether in electricity, in gas or in water. We should, of course, be able to improve and reduce carbon dioxide emissions if we had a greater amount of nuclear energy, but those who urge us to reduce the emissions further are often those who detest nuclear energy, or those from the Labour party who want to keep all the coal mines open and to generate all our electricity from coal.

Q4. Mrs. Rosie Barnes

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

The Prime Minister

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

Mrs. Barnes

In view of the reports in The Independent today about a rift between the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Health on the timing of the introduction of the community care reforms outlined in the National Health Service and Community Care Bill, will the Prime Minister assure the House that if and when the reforms are introduced, their funding will be ring-fenced and that she will not seek to overturn the amendment passed to that effect in another place?

The Prime Minister

The Government set out their proposals in the White Paper and in the Bill, which has been extensively debated in both Houses. These are major changes in community care, but planning is going ahead well and it remains the Government's intention that the changes will get under way this coming year, as from April 1991. It is not universally accepted, by any means, that the funding should be by specific grant. Indeed, many local authorities prefer it to be in the ordinary aggregate Exchequer grant and not by specific grant.