Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1983 Apr 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 [41/158-62]
Journalist:-
Editorial comments:1515-1530.
Importance ranking:Major
Word count:2508
Themes:Commonwealth (general), Defence (arms control), Defence (Falklands War 1982), Employment, Industry, Monetary policy, Privatised and state industries, Trade, General Elections, Energy, Environment, European Union (general), Foreign policy (Africa), Health policy, Labour Party and Socialism, Social security and welfare, Voluntary sector and charity
158

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Dykes

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 19 April.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House I shall be having further meetings later today. This evening I shall be attending the CBI annual dinner.

Mr. Dykes

Has my right hon. Friend had time to see the remarks of Mr. Terence Duffy, of the engineering union, who has declared that the Leader of the Opposition has his defence policies totally wrong? Will she commend Mr. Duffy's remarks to the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues on the Opposition Benches, especially his robust declaration that the only path to genuine peace is multilateral disarmament?

The Prime Minister

Yes, like my hon. Friend I saw those most excellent remarks, which, so far as I remember, were to the effect that if we really wish to keep our freedom we must have the capacity, will and courage to defend it, and if we wish to reduce the amount we spend on armaments we must do it by seeing that both sides reduce their armaments in an equal and balanced way.

Q2. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

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

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Roberts

Will the Prime Minister give a few minutes today to consider the fall-off of 17 per cent. in the output of manufacturing industry since her Government took power, and the much larger fall-off in the west midlands? Will she accept that the marginal improvement in the figures recently is no significant sign of economic recovery and that the appointment of a Minister does not go anywhere to solve the west midlands' problems?

The Prime Minister

The output of manufacturing industry has indeed fallen, here and elsewhere. But the ironic thing is that in the first quarter of this year we achieved an all-time record for car sales, with retail sales in the first quarter being 4.5 per cent. up. If our industries had really good design and competitive pricing, a greater proportion of that would have gone into British jobs.

Q3. Mr. Viggers

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 19 April.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Viggers

Has my right hon. Friend had time in her busy day to note recent press comment on the south Atlantic fund, much of which has been inaccurate and unfair and no doubt disturbs those who gave to the fund? Does she agree that the fund is administered by trustees in the best long-term interests of the widows, children and others who suffered loss, and that those most deeply concerned are grateful for the way in which they have been helped and their interests safeguarded?

159

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for those remarks. I have seen a number of comments about the south Atlantic fund in the past few days. It is a charitable fund, and subject to the laws of charities, unlike the Penlee fund, which was a disaster fund and was not so subject. It is vital that the trustees also have regard to the long-term interests of those who have been disabled and wounded, and some of their needs may not emerge for a long time. In the meantime, the trust has disbursed some £6 million and I believe that it is properly acting as trustee and looking after the interests of those who are the true beneficiaries of the fund.

Mr. Foot

If the right hon. Lady is in a mood for clearing up inaccuracies, can she tell us whether she was correctly reported at the weekend when she claimed that hers will be the first Government to go to the country with a lower inflation rate than they inherited? Does she not recall that she inherited a lower inflation rate from the Labour Government than the one with which she left us when she was a member of the last Conservative Government?

The Prime Minister

Assuming that the forecasts on inflation are reasonable—I know that our inflation forecasts have been wrong for a long time—even if inflation were to go up a bit in the coming months, and even if prices were to increase a little in the year—[Interruption.]

Mr. Healey

Cut and run.

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is afraid of an election, is he? Afraid? Frightened? Frit? Could not take it? Cannot stand it? If I were going to cut and run, I should have gone after the Falklands. Frightened! Right now inflation is lower than it has been for 13 years—a record which the right hon. Gentleman could not begin to touch.

Mr. Foot

If the right hon. Lady is now to join the Chancellor of the Exchequer in favour of the cut-and-run election that will make excellent news throughout the country, because we are certainly happy to have it whenever they wish. [Interruption.] I just want, if I can, to ask the right hon. Lady—whether or not she goes for the election; even if she decides to stick it out and face the figures and the facts—to try to give the correct figures to the country. Will she acknowledge that she inherited from the Labour Government a much lower inflation figure than the one she left us when she was a member of the Government of the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath)? I know that she never likes to defend anything that she did in that Government, but she had better do so now.

The Prime Minister

Our performance on inflation is far better—[Hon. Members: "Answer the question".] Our performance on inflation is far better than the right hon. Gentleman's best, and our performance on the upper level is not nearly as bad as the right hon. Gentleman's worst. He cannot get away from that.

Mr. Foot

Does not the right hon. Lady's reply mean that the inflation figures that she gave to the country at the weekend were false?

The Prime Minister

I do not recollect giving any specific figures at the weekend. Can the right hon. Gentleman quote them? I did not give any specific figures to the country at the weekend on inflation, but I shall now 160repeat what I said. Inflation is lower than it has been for some 12 or 13 years, and that has happened under this Government.

Mr. Cryer

Very good, Michael . Game, set and match.

Q4. Mr. Chapman

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 19 April.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Chapman

Will my right hon. Friend reflect today upon the wide welcome that has been given both inside and outside the House to the Government's statement yesterday on lead, in particular on lead in petrol? Does she recognise that many people are gratified that the Government kept an open mind on this important issue, in spite of the Lawther committee's conclusions over two years ago? Will she assure the House that the Government will take the initiative with our EC partners in seeing that vehicles running on lead-free petrol are on our roads as soon as is practicably possible and, I hope, well before the end of this decade?

The Prime Minister

I should point out that before the decision that was announced yesterday by my right hon. Friend [ Tom King] the Secretary of State for the Environment the Government had taken the decision substantially to reduce the level of lead in petrol in all cars. That was the fastest way of reducing lead that we could possibly have chosen. In addition, we are now prepared to go to new car models, which will have no lead whatever in their petrol. As my right hon. Friend said, we must do that in conjunction with Europe and we shall be among the first to see that we try to act together to secure the appropriate directive. Altogether, the Government will have done more to reduce lead in the human body than any other Government.

Mr. Winnick

Is the Prime Minister aware that her refusal to meet a deputation from the March for Jobs which starts in Glasgow on Saturday will be seen as indifference on her part to the plight of millions of British people who are today refused the opportunity of earning their living? Does the right hon. Lady believe that mass unemployment and all the misery, poverty and insecurity that accompanies it are part of the Victorian values that she admires so much?

The Prime Minister

I shall not be meeting that march to London for jobs. I do not believe that marches will in any way help to procure the jobs of the future. What the Government are doing by pursuing sound financial policies, by giving help to small businesses and, in particular, by giving help to new products, will do far more to secure the jobs of the future than any number of marches.

Mr. Blackburn

Will my right hon. Friend confirm to the nation that it remains the paramount aim of Her Majesty's Government to reduce inflation? Will she accept the congratulations of the House, because that is the greatest blessing that can come to the sick, the poor, the disabled, the pensioners and the unemployed?

The Prime Minister

It is indeed our foremost aim to reduce inflation further. We must continue with our policies. Some of our competitors already have a lower rate of inflation than we do. To pursue any other policy would be actively to plunder the savings of pensioners.

161

Q6. Mr. Foulkes

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 19 April.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Foulkes

Has the Prime Minister's attention been drawn to the recent leaders in the Sunday Standard and The Scotsman, which point out that the continued uncertainty over Ravenscraig and the sell-out of Anderson Strathclyde show the Secretary of State for Scotland to be both inpotent and imcompetent? When will the Prime Minister recognise what the newspapers and the people of Scotland have recognised for a long time and bring in someone who is prepared to defend Scottish interests?

The Prime Minister

Ravenscraig's problem, as the hon. Gentleman knows, is to get more orders for steel in a world that has a great overcapacity of steel——

Mr. Foulkes

Rubbish.

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman says "Rubbish". How does he think that any company will succeed unless it can procure orders and fulfil them at good prices and with delivery on time? That is the way to try to get more orders for Ravenscraig and that is the way in which the chairman of the BSC board is proceeding.

Q7. Mr. Colvin

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

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Colvin

Will my right hon. Friend find time today to read the recently published document by the Department of Industry entitled "How to make your business grow", which is a practical guide on Government assistance to small firms? I acknowledge and welcome what the Government have done, but does my right hon. Friend agree that business in Britain is over-regulated? As we erode one regulation we usually impose yet another. Therefore, will she consider including in the Conservative manifesto a commitment to deregulate Britain and to remove some of the regulatory shackles that are presently stifling free enterprise?

The Prime Minister

I know that my hon. Friend recognises that the Government have done more to encourage small businesses to start and expand than any other Government. That is generally recognised by those 162who are concerned to create the new wealth in Britain. We have tried to help small businesses by altering some sections of the Employment Protection Act 1975, by substantially reducing the number of forms and by increasing the levels for VAT registration. We shall continue to do the best that we can to ensure that they can operate as smoothly and effectively as possible.

Mr. Edwin Wainwright

In some quiet moment, will the Prime Minister think back to what she said prior to the last general election? At some time will she relate to us all the promises that she made that she has not fulfilled? When she talks about inflation, will she also consider unemployment as one of the issues on which she has failed the nation? When will she do something about reducing the number of unemployed in Britain to bring us back on to an even keel?

The Prime Minister

I have already said that we have a superlative record on inflation. Unemployment is a worldwide problem. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will remember that the Labour Government more than doubled the level of unemployment with which they began.

Q8. Mr. Cyril D. Townsend

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 19 April.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Townsend

In view of the growing number of allegations of murder and mayhem in Matabeleland, will my right hon. Friend support the calls for Commonwealth observers to be sent to Zimbabwe? Will she give an assurance to the House that if the present military situation there deteriorates into straight tribal warfare, the strong British Army training team will be instantly withdrawn?

The Prime Minister

We are of course concerned, as I think a number of people are, about the reports of what has been happening in Zimbabwe. We have let our views be known to the Government there. The British military training team is at present doing a superb job. I believe that its presence is reassuring to many people who are deeply concerned about what is happening there. I think that it should stay there for the time being. With regard to what my hon. Friend said about Commonwealth observers, if there were a call for them from Zimbabwe or from the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, we would most earnestly consider it, but at present there is not.