Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1990 Jul 24 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: speeches
Document kind: House of Commons PQs
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [177/293-98]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2347
Themes: Executive, Executive (appointments), Conservatism, Defence (general), Privatized & state industries, Energy, Environment, Economic, monetary & political union, Health policy, Labour Party & socialism, Local government, Local government finance, Community charge ("poll tax"), Media, Social security & welfare
[column 293]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Mr. John Garrett

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 24 July.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in House, I shall be having further meetings later today. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty the Queen.

Mr. Garrett

The Prime Minister has now had 20 major ministerial reshuffles during her reign. As a result, 115 Ministers and Whips have been sacked or disposed of. By and large, what was wrong with them?

The Prime Minister

We have a lot of good talent on these Benches waiting to come in. My second and third team could knock the Opposition's top team into a cocked hat.

Mrs. Maureen Hicks

Can my right hon. Friend believe that, once upon a time, only half my constituents paid anything for their services? The other half were totally subsidised. Can my right hon. Friend imagine going back to the bad old days, and explain to my constituents what a rating revaluation would mean—the removal of a spending assessment providing my authority with a guideline on what it should be spending, and hence no accountability whatever?

The Prime Minister

To go back to rates would indeed be a step backward. It was the most unpopular tax that we have ever had; it was also totally unfair. A system that permits 35 million or 36 million people to vote for local authorities and taxes only half of them is totally unfair and unaccountable. I understand that the Opposition are totally against capping local authority expenditure. That would mean higher rates, higher local authority spending and higher taxation all round.

Mr. Kinnock

Will the Prime Minister confirm that she is willing—even eager—to sell off PowerGen at a knockdown price to Lord Hanson, another friend of the family?

The Prime Minister

As my right hon. Friend the John WakehamSecretary of State for Energy said yesterday, the Government have a duty to get the best deal for the taxpayer. The right hon. Gentleman takes his customary swipe at private enterprise: he cannot stand it. He would far rather have nationalisation, run by politicians who know nothing.

Mr. Kinnock

There is private enterprise, and there is looking after your friends. I think that the country can tell the difference between the two. [Hon. Members: [column 294] “Withdraw!” ] How can anyone who is selling off the electricity industry say that he is trying to get a good deal for the country, in any case? Most of all, how can anyone who is selling off that industry at a third of its value say that he is getting good value for the country? Whatever happened to the undertaking given by the Secretary of State for Energy that no one—neither organisation nor individual—would ever be allowed to own more than 15 per cent. of the company?

The Prime Minister

PowerGen will be sold off at the highest price. My right hon. Friend the John WakehamSecretary of State for Energy has an indicative price and other bids will be asked for. Is the right hon. Gentleman against selling it off at the highest price? Or does he allow his prejudices against private enterprise to dictate his every sentence?

Mr. Kinnock

The Prime Minister can twist and turn all she likes. The truth is that, in breach of the promises that she has already made, she is selling off at a fraction of its value a highly profitable company to a bosom chum and major contributor to the Conservative party. Is not it obvious that this Session is ending as it began—with sleaze and shadiness at the heart of the Government?

The Prime Minister

In one respect the Session is ending as it began, with the right hon. Gentleman not listening to any reply, but going on with a supplementary question that he had worked out before the reply. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy indicated that he will maximise the price, and he is duty bound to do that to get the best value for the taxpayer. However, other bids will be asked for. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that PowerGen is being sold at a knockdown price, why do not he and some of his trade union friends put forward a consortium and bid at a higher price? No, the right hon. Gentleman is talking nonsense as usual. [Interruption].

Mr. Speaker

Order. Settle down now.

Mr. Gerald Howarth

As this is the last Prime Minister's Question Time before the 50th anniversary of the battle of Britain which will be celebrated in September, will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to pay her tribute to the heroism of the few and assure those 1,000 or so who remain that they are not forgotten? Will she join me in commending to the British public the Reach for the Sky appeal to raise £20 million so that those who so valiantly fought for the freedom that we in the House take for granted today will not be forgotten?

The Prime Minister

I am sure that hon. Members in all parts of the House will gladly respond to my hon. Friend's invitation. We shall never forget and can never repay the debt of gratitude that we owe in particular to those pilots and to the other people who lost their lives during the second world war. I hope that people will respond gladly to that appeal.

Mr. Ashdown

Did the Prime Minister notice yesterday that her Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the alternative to his plan was a two-speed Europe? Would the Prime Minister prefer that to Britain joining a single currency and a central bank?

The Prime Minister

I believe that the plan that we have put up can gather support from all European countries. It will be an effective next stage to Delors stage 1. I think that we all approve of Delors stage 1, or at least most of us do, [column 295]and we are prepared to have a stage 2 which would unite people. Why is the right hon. Gentleman constantly trying to divide them?

Mr. Boswell

Will my right hon. Friend find time to commission a special inquiry into the administrative cost and duration of a revaluation of every house in the country to effect a return to the rating system, or would she rather proceed with figures that are 20 years out of date?

The Prime Minister

I did at one time consider a rating revaluation which would have been 17 years after the previous one. However, we had enough experience in Scotland of a domestic rating revaluation only seven years after the previous one. That resulted in a bigger proportion being paid by the domestic ratepayer and rates on individual ratepayers which were utterly intolerable as well as grossly unfair.

Q2. Mr. Ron Davies

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 24 July.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Davies

Is there any truth in the rumour that the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) is still a man of principle, that he has not sacrificed his beliefs for a little patronage and that he has been appointed to the Government Whips Office only to mastermind the repeal of the poll tax?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) shares those characteristics with every other person on the Government side of the House.

Mr. Thurnham

Will my right hon. Friend give strong guidance to local authorities on their priorities for community care? Is she aware that the 64-year-old mother of my constituent Paul Hargreaves cannot go on holiday tomorrow because Bolton council says that his disabilities are too severe for it to look after him? Should not local authorities get their act together before taking on more responsibilities?

The Prime Minister

I am sure that we all sympathise with that family. I know of the particular attention that my hon. Friend pays to those with disabilities and the amount of work that he has done for them. I hope that he will be able to get the mother a holiday.—[Hon. Members: “Aah.” ] Yes, I do. Most of us have experienced cases of that kind in our constituencies and know that, during August, hospitals will frequently take in for a fortnight people who are in need of attention to permit their parents to go away.

Q3. Mr. Alan W. Williams

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 24 July.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Williams

As a chemist, and having been Prime Minister for 11 years, which environmental achievement would the Prime Minister like to be remembered for—the deterioration in Britain's beaches, the continued dumping of sewage sludge in the North sea, the 10-fold growth in the import of toxic waste, the continuing increase in carbon dioxide emissions, Britain's exports of chlorofluorocarbons—[Interruption].

[column 296]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Normally we have one question.

Mr. Williams

Or the fact that when this Government leave office not a single one of our power stations will have been fitted with desulphurisation equipment. Is it any surprise that Britain is now the dirty man of Europe?

The Prime Minister

Like many other people, I could scarcely hear what the hon. Gentleman said, except for his remarks about beaches and water right at the beginning. The hon. Gentleman asked me which I prefer to be remembered for. I should like to recall to the House that the European Community sent a directive in 1975 to the then Labour Government requiring that all beaches that were not up to standard or in accordance with the directive be identified and that something be done about them. The Labour Government did absolutely nothing. It took a Tory Government—[Interruption].

Mr. Speaker

Order. It takes a lot of time to answer multiple questions.

The Prime Minister

The Labour Government, I am reminded by one of my right hon. Friends, promptly cut capital expenditure on water. It took a Conservative Government to come in and increase capital expenditure on water, to identify those beaches, to deal with three quarters of them in the first 11 years, and, in the next few years, to have a £3 billion investment programme to bring all those beaches up to standard. I am glad to go on to answer the rest of the hon. Gentleman's question. I have a lot of information. For example, on achievements since the 1987 election, the national debt has been reduced by £30,000 million—[Interruption].

Mr. Speaker

Order. I have already said that multiple questions always take more time.

The Prime Minister

Two hundred thousand more businesses opened than closed, we had the top number of jobs in this country ever, and the 1988 Budget reduced basis income tax to 25p—et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Mr. Barry Field

Did my right hon. Friend see the report in The Sunday Times that the Roman Catholic and Anglican bishops of Liverpool have requested a meeting with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment because of the financial chaos into which Liverpool city council has been plunged as a result of the Liberal Democrats voting with Militant Tendency? Is not that the worst case of political prostitution we have ever seen?

The Prime Minister

I accept what my hon. Friend says and it shows precisely what happens when local government gets into the hands of Labour authorities with no overall control. That is precisely what would happen if socialism ever got in charge of Britain.

Q4. Mr. Campbell-Savours

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 24 July.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Campbell-Savours

As the Prime Minister was so keen to defend the right of Mr. Salman Rushdie to publish his book “The Satanic Verses” , may we have an assurance that she will be equally diligent and vigorous in defending the rights of Muslims who want the film “International [column 297]Guerillas” to be distributed, particularly as Mr. Rushdie has said that no question of criminal libel arises, or are we simply to have double standards?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. The decision to refuse the film “International Guerillas” a certificate was taken by the British Board of Film Classification which, having received legal advice [column 298]that the recording might constitute a work of criminal libel, decided in accordance with normal practice that it would not be appropriate to issue a certificate. The board is an entirely independent body and if the distributors of the recording wish to appeal against its decision, they may apply to the Video Appeals Committee in the usual way. That is what the House decided and we cannot overturn it.