Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1986 Oct 28 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type:public statement
Document kind:House of Commons PQs
Venue:House of Commons
Source:Hansard HC [103/159-64]
Journalist:-
Editorial comments:1515-1530.
Importance ranking:Major
Word count:3235
Themes:Education, Pay, Social security and welfare, Industry, Trade, Defence (general), Transport, Public spending and borrowing, Higher and further education, Housing, Health policy, Law and order, Media, Executive, Parliament, European Union (general), Terrorism, Energy
159

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Maxton

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 28 October.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

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

Mr. Maxton

Does the Prime Minister agree with the Secretary of State for Scotland that it is essential that the teachers in Scotland know the Government's view of the Main committee, and whether they will give the money to finance those proposals before they take a decision on whether they will accept those proposals? Will she make a statement today, making it clear that the Government intend to finance in full the Main proposals in Scotland and the proposals for teachers' pay in England and Wales?

The Prime Minister

The Government are giving the careful consideration to the Main report to which it is entitled. We are also taking a close interest in the talks taking place in England and Wales, as my right hon. Friend [ Kenneth Baker] the Secretary of State for Education and Science said. We want an outcome that is good for the children and gives them uninterrupted education, and that means a clearly defined contract and a pay structure that attracts and retains teachers of the right quality.

Mr. Ralph Howell

I draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to a report in The Sun last week showing that a family of 13 was receiving something approaching £2,000 a week in benefits at the expense of the ratepayers and 160taxpayers. Is this not an appalling misappropriation of public funds? Will she give urgent consideration to putting a top limit of, say, £150 a week on what any family can receive in any circumstances from public funds? Will she further make changes in the system so that nobody, whether British citizens or foreign nationals, can receive benefit until they have paid national insurance contributions for at least a year?

The Prime Minister

I share my hon. Friend's concern about that case, and many people were concerned about the vast sums that were being paid out. My right hon. Friend [ Norman Fowler] the Secretary of State for Social Services is considering the matter, and I shall pass my hon. Friend's comments on to him.

Mr. Hattersley

Why has manufacturing industry, which in the last full year of the Labour Government contributed a £4 billion surplus to the balance of trade, now slumped to a deficit of £4 billion?

The Prime Minister

It has done so because it is not sufficiently competitive overseas.

Mr. Hattersley

Why does the Prime Minister not admit the truth? Is it not a fact that investment in manufacturing is now lower than it was on the day she was elected? Is that not the direct result of her policies. which have produced in Britain the highest real interest rates in any developed industrialised country?

The Prime Minister

No. The test of an economy is not the rate of investment in one particular aspect of its wealth but the rate of investment and the success of the economy as a whole. The right hon. Gentleman always gets up and offers selective figures. The volume of total fixed investment is at a record level. One million new jobs have been created since 1983. The profitability of industrial and commercial companies is at the highest level since 1964.

Mr. Hattersley

As the Prime Minister reminds us that the real criterion is the performance of the economy as a whole, will she tell us about the performance of the economy as a whole on the balance of trade over the past two months?

The Prime Minister

Again, the right hon. Gentleman has taken two particular months. Exports are running at a record level, including over the past two months.

Mr. Key

On Sunday week my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and other party leaders will represent us at the annual Cenotaph service. Does my right hon. Friend share my deep distaste at the proposals of the so-called peace movement to substitute white poppies for red poppies? This causes deep offence to the vast majority of people and, incidentally, reduces the income of the Royal British Legion.

The Prime Minister

I share my hon. Friend's deep distaste. The Cenotaph service is a national occasion. It brings help and comfort to all our citizens and, I am sure, will continue to do just that.

Mr. Steel

In view of the Prime Minister's personal commitment to the Channel tunnel project, what will be her attitude to the project if British investors fail to come up with the British half of the cash necessary?

The Prime Minister

The decision whether to make the necessary investment is entirely one for British institutions. I have made it perfectly clear that no Government money 161will be involved in this project. Nevertheless, France and Britain continue to find it an exciting and challenging project and hope that it will go ahead, but it is for the institutions themselves to make the decision.

Mr. Michael Morris

Does my right hon. Friend recall the time she opened Nene teacher training college—now the Nene college of advanced education—which has the fourth largest number of full-time equivalent higher degree courses? Will she therefore make representations to the National Advisory Body at least to accept a presentation from Nene concerning its future status as a polytechnic?

The Prime Minister

I know my hon. Friend's concern. I am sure that that institution's application will be carefully considered by my right hon. Friend [ Kenneth Baker] the Secretary of State for Education and Science.

Q2. Mr. Ashton

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 28 October.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Ashton

With respect to interest rates going up, is the Prime Minister aware that the Library today released figures showing that the mortgage repayments on an average three-bedroomed London semi are £450 a month? When the Conservative party came to office, they were £120 a month. That is nearly 350 per cent. inflation. Why does the right hon. Lady not include house prices in the Government's inflation figures? Why does she fiddle the figures and create a situation in London whereby Camden is allowed to build only nine houses this year instead of the 1,000 it was building before, with the result that young couples cannot get on the housing list?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman refrains from saying that the standard of living is at its highest level ever, and so, too, is the standard of housing, with an extra 1 million houses more than during the lifetime of the last Labour Government. Much more money is being spent on renovation. Whatever the hon. Gentleman says, he cannot escape the fact that our housing record is far better than Labour's.

Mr. Maclean

Is my right hon. Friend aware that East Cumbria health authority will have an additional £300,000 to spend this year on direct patient care, money which has become available because of cost-improvement schemes, the success of the excellent new management system, and, of course, a remarkably low level of inflation?

The Prime Minister

I congratulate the health authority, as my hon. Friend has congratulated the Government, on keeping a lower level of inflation. The Health Service is in excellent shape and I wish that more people would recognise that fact. As it is, Labour Members never hesitate to criticise a service which employs 1 million people. It would be as well if we congratulated them on, and thanked them for, their services.

Q4. Mr. Michie

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 28 October.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Michie

In view of the dramatic increase in violent crime over the past decade, does the Prime Minister accept that reducing the number of weapons rather than arming 162the police could avoid and reduce crimes such as the tragic shooting at Ughill near Sheffield? Will the Prime Minister immediately recommend that we have a permanent review committee of the Home Office to recommend on the availability of weapons and arms in Britain?

The Prime Minister

No, Mr. Speaker. I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman said at the beginning of his question. The Home Office and, in particular, the chief inspector of police, will keep that matter under permanent review and if there are any changes they will involve that part of the Home Office.

Q5. Mr. Adley

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 28 October.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Adley

Reverting to the Channel tunnel, is my right hon. Friend aware that the Advertising Standards Authority requires that advertisements should be "legal, decent, honest and truthful" and that the ASA has now required Flexilink, the opponents of the Channel tunnel, to withdraw its current advertising campaign? Will she deplore with me the disreputable, disgraceful and, indeed, dishonest campaign that has been waged by professional opponents, led by the rather flabby Mr. Sherwood, against the project? Having already confirmed her Government's commitment to it today, does she agree that the City of London has an opportunity to refute the allegation that it is only interested in short-term profits rather than in long-term investments by backing the project?

The Prime Minister

I am aware that the Flexilink advertisements have been withdrawn. I repeat that the French and British Governments hope that the Channel tunnel project will go ahead. It is very challenging, but the decision on who invests what is entirely a matter for the institutions. There will be no Government money. It is a challenging project and the French and British Governments continue to support it.

Q6. Mr. Clelland

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 28 October.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Clelland

Has the Prime Minister yet had time to read the article in The Observer on Sunday, which contains accusations that she and others lied over the Westland affair? Does she agree——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman may have arrived here fairly recently, but "lie" is not a parliamentary word.

Mr. Clelland

Has the Prime Minister yet had time to read the article in The Observer on Sunday? Are the accusations made in it true, and, if so, is that one reason why some civil servants are so relucant to appear before the Select Committee on Defence?

The Prime Minister

I have not read the article. I do not intend to read it. The facts were set out in statements and debates and in the Government's reply to Select Committees. Those are the true facts.

Mr. Sumberg

Is it not ironic that when there were terrorist bombs in Paris last month the French Government looked to us for support, and yet, with 163evidence that Syria is behind the Hindawi affair, European Governments are conspicuous by their silence? When will our European partners realise that in relation to terrorism we either stand together or we hang together?

The Prime Minister

I share my hon. Friend's disappointment that the European statement on Syria was not stronger. I hope that our European colleagues will consider the matter further, especially in view of the bold statements previously made. For example, in September 1984 the Foreign Affairs Council said:

"If one partner suffers a serious terrorist attack involving abuse of diplomatic immunity partners will be ready to consider common action in response." I hope that our colleagues will ensure that at the next meeting they put what they said then into practice.

Q7. Mr. Litherland

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 28 October.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Litherland

Is the Prime Minister aware that last winter many old-age pensioners died from hypothermia? Does she agree that pensioners on supplementary benefit should automatically receive the £5 heating allowance so that so many people do not die from hypothermia this year?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. The cost of fuel and light has remained stable, so there will be no change in the heating additions—[Interruption.] However, it ill becomes any Labour Member to criticise this Government, given that expenditure on heating additions has risen to more than £400 million, compared with £90 million in 1978–79. Moreover, accusations of not caring come ill from a party which supported a coal strike designed to deprive pensioners of heat and light.

Mr. Hume

Is the Prime Minister aware that there is serious public concern over the Stalker affair? As there is also concern, which is felt by hon. Members on both sides of the House, about a serious miscarriage of justice in the Guildford and Birmingham bombing cases, will that not tend to undermine confidence in the administration of justice, particularly as it applies to Irish people, unless it is allayed? Will the right hon. Lady take a personal interest in those issues and ensure that steps are taken to see that justice is done in those cases?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that questions about a particular case should be directed to [Lord Hailsham] the Lord Chancellor or to my right hon. Friend [ Douglas Hurd] the Home Secretary. The hon. Gentleman will also know that anything that one might say about the Stalker affair could impinge on one of the inquiries into the RUC, and so I can say nothing further.

Sir Peter Tapsell

Will not the problem of hypothermia among the old become much worse in the decades ahead if we fail to press ahead with a civil nuclear power programme?

The Prime Minister

I take my hon. Friend's point. It is necessary for this country to go ahead with a nuclear power programme. It will be impossible to obtain all the energy that the Western world, and the developed world, need unless nuclear power programmes go ahead.

164

Mr. Dalyell

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, which arises directly from your earlier ruling. My hon. Friend the Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Clelland) referred to an article in The Observer concerning

"What Blunt Bernard said to Reluctant Colette."

Anyone reading that article will see that it makes serious allegations against——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is not raising a legitimate point of order. My ruling was that in this Chamber hon. Members should not accuse each other of lying. That would be unparliamentary. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman knows that, and would not do it himself.

Mr. Dalyell

No one is accused of lying. It is a question of information in a paper. Surely the advice that you receive from the learned Clerk must be that a statement should be forthcoming. Is the Prime Minister going to take legal action——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The unparliamentary expression "the Prime Minister lied" cannot be allowed in the Chamber. That ruling is in the interest of good order, and the whole House will agree with that.

Mr. Williams

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The article says that Bernard Ingham told Colette Bow that

"You will ... do what you are ... well told"

Either there is——

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is reprehensible that a Front Bench spokesman should try to continue Question Time through me. I stopped the hon. Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Clelland) and asked him to rephrase his question, which he correctly did. That is the end of the matter. I do not know what Mr. Bernard Ingham said, and it is nothing to do with me.

Mr. Williams

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. This is a matter of the utmost seriousness. Either there has been a gross contempt of the House in the information that we have been given, or there has been a gross libel of a senior member of the Prime Minister's staff. For the Prime Minister to pretend that she is unaware of those allegations and for her to be unwilling to make a statement at the Dispatch Box is an abuse in itself.

Mr. Speaker

Order. If the Front Bench believe that, they can raise the matter at Prime Minister's Question Time on Thursday.

Mr. Skinner

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Does it arise out of Question Time?

Mr. Skinner

Yes. Would you agree, Mr. Speaker—[Interruption.] She is scuttling away. Would you agree, Mr. Speaker, on the question of getting parliamentary language correct, that my hon. Friend the Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Clelland) could have used the phrase which I used some time ago and which you accepted—that the Prime Minister would not recognise the truth if it were sprayed on her eyeballs?

Mr. Clelland

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman did the right thing in rephrasing his question. I do not think that I can help him any more. I do not think that we want to pursue this matter.