Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1976 Feb 12 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [905/608-15]
Editorial comments: 1515-30.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2824
Themes: Industry, Privatized & state industries, Transport
[column 608]

PRIME MINISTER

(VISITS)

Q1. Mr. Crawford

asked the Prime Minister when he next proposes to pay an official visit to Oslo.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

I have at present no plans to do so, Sir.

Mr. Crawford

When the Prime Minister does visit Oslo, will he lose no opportunity to inform the Norwegian Prime Minister that with self-government the people of Scotland will be able to emulate the economic achievements of the Norwegians—1 per cent. unemployment, a competitive bank rate, and access to their oil revenues? Does the Prime Minister agree that the people of Scotland could not possibly make a bigger mess of running their economic affairs than this House is doing for them?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman will know that in preparing our plans for North Sea oil we have drawn considerably on the successful experience of the Norwegians. However, I understood that in the last General Election campaign particularly, the SNP was totally opposed to anything of the kind and wanted to hand over all the profits to private enterprise.

Mr. Jay

Could not the Prime Minister save much of his time and that of the House if he published from time to time a list of all his intended visits?

The Prime Minister

It takes up quite a lot of time of the House to indicate those visits that I shall not be making.

[column 609]

Mr. Rifkind

Will the Prime Minister remind the SNP that in its admiration of all things Norwegian it has forgotten that Norway has conscription to its armed services? Will he ask the SNP to make it clear to the people of Scotland whether an independent Scottish army would be completed by means of conscription?

The Prime Minister

There is no ministerial responsibility for the SNP—and as far as I can see, no other kind of responsibility either.

Q3. Mr. Weetch

asked the Prime Minister if he will pay an official visit to Lee.

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to do so, Sir.

Mr. Weetch

When my right hon. Friend does have a chance to make a visit, will he visit the Homes Limited property conveyancing association, a firm which, like others, can conveyance property for half the charges of a solicitor's office but which is hounded through the criminal courts for doing so? Knowing that my right hon. Friend is aware that a promise was made in the Labour Party manifesto of 1964 to undertake a fundamental reform of conveyancing, will he please tell me what is the state of that promise now?

The Prime Minister

I am aware of the work of the organisation to which my hon. Friend has referred, but to visit it is not one of my highest current priorities. However, I ask my hon. Friend to await the statement that I hope to make after Question Time.

Mr. Tebbit

Is the Prime Minister aware that the River Lea runs through my constituency and that it is quite near to the town hall? If he visits the town hall at Waltham Forest he will find that the borough council is attempting to force all its employees to join trade unions, under the threat of dismissal, although at the moment fewer than half of them wish to join. Why should the borough council be allowed to jump the gun of his rotten legislation in this way?

The Prime Minister

There is no ministerial responsibility for which river has the misfortune to run through the hon. Gentleman's constituency. I do not think that asking me to go by circuitous routes to places that I was not going to go to [column 610]anyway, arises out of the original Question.

Q6. Mr. Marten

asked the Prime Minister if he has any plans to visit Copenhagen.

The Prime Minister

I visited Copenhagen on 18th and 19th January to attend the meeting of Socialist Party Leaders at Elsinore. I have no plans at present for a further visit.

Mr. Marten

As the Prime Minister is not going there again, will he have a telephone conversation with the Danish Prime Minister about Mr. Tindemans ' conclusion, in his report, that Europe will further its destiny only if it espouses federalism?

The Prime Minister

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will repeat his Question.

Mr. Marten

Assuming that the Prime Minister telephones the Danish Prime Minister, will he refer to Mr. Tindemans ' report, in which it is said that Europe will further its destiny only if it espouses federalism? Does he agree that Britain is utterly opposed to being part of a federal Europe?—[Interruption.] In spite of the Liberal Party, is he aware that many Opposition Members are believing increasingly that direct elections are one step on the road to federalism?

The Prime Minister

I answered the hon. Gentleman's Question, and I mentioned Elsinore hoping for a typical Shakespearean quotation from him, which I was disappointed not to get. The Tindemans Report will come up for discussion at the next meeting of the European Council. In view of the magnitude of the issues raised, I doubt whether we would want to have any definitive or final discussion, but that will be a matter for the Council. As for federalism, I have never been a federalist, and most of my right hon. and hon. Friends have never been federalists.

Mrs. Thatcher

When Harold Wilsonthe Prime Minister next travels to Copenhagen or elsewhere, will he take the opportunity to charter a plane, from Laker Airways, preferably—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Presumably, if the Prime Minister went to Copenhagen he would have to travel by some means of transport.

[column 611]

Mr. Roy Hughes

On a point of order. Although I have great respect for your decisions, Mr. Speaker, I hope you will appreciate that they give the impression of siding with the Opposition.

Mr. Speaker

I am sure that no personal reflection is intended. I am trying, if I may use an English expression, to play as straight a bat as I can.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of your ruling about the Prime Minister's possible means of locomotion on any visit that he may make to Copenhagen, is it not more likely that he will merely walk upon the water?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman has been here too long not to know that that is not a point of order.

Mrs. Thatcher

When the Prime Minister visits Copenhagen or elsewhere, will he charter an aeroplane, from Laker Airways, preferably, with Freddie Laker on board, so that he may hear at first hand of the cheap air services that private enterprise can provide and that the Labour Government are denying to the people?

The Prime Minister

However cheap the service provided by Mr. Freddie Laker, I am sure that he has never had a cheaper commercial than that. The right hon. Lady's memory departs further and further from the collective responsibility of the Government of which she was a part. She must know that in these and in other matters I have totally followed the precedent set by my predecessor, the previous Prime Minister. I have followed the advice that he was given on security grounds—namely, that on such visits I should travel at home and abroad by Service aircraft. That was the advice I was given. If the right hon. Lady regards that advice as wrong, I am surprised that she did not raise the matter when she was a Cabinet Minister.

HONOURS LISTS

Q2. Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

asked the Prime Minister whether he is satisfied with the system of the submission by Departments of names for the Honours Lists.

[column 612]

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir.

Mr. McNair-Wilson

Is the Prime Minister aware of the widespread belief that the present system is too selective and is dominated by Prime Ministerial patronage and departmental lobbying? Does he agree that in the interests of open government it would be a good idea if the system and the way it works were made more public, for all to see.

The Prime Minister

I know that there have been criticisms recently—indeed, in the House—about the use of the honours system for conditioning the votes of Members of Parliament. I have not noticed that. However, I have studied the facts. I find that in the whole of the seven and a half years during which I have been Prime Minister so far, six knighthoods have been conferred on Members of this House—including two from the Chairman's Panel, and of course, the Leader of the Conservative Group at the European Assembly, and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warrington (Sir T. Williams) in respect of his IPU work. Six knighthoods have been conferred in the seven and a half years while I have been Prime Minister, as compared with 57 during the last seven and a half years of Conservative government.

Mr. Watkinson

Does my right hon. Friend accept that many Labour Members, at least, will welcome his statement that honours will not be awarded for political or party service? However, does he accept that there may be a place for a more independent approach to the consideration of honours?

The Prime Minister

When I decided, I think in 1966, to stop the system of political honours, I provided that a similar number of honours should be recommended in the case of service to local government, irrespective of party. Although the Conservatives had been in office for 13 years before 1964 and had given a vast number of political honours, after that decision all were decided on their merits, and impartially—and about a third of the honours in respect of local government service went to Conservatives or Liberals.

[column 613]

MINISTRY OF DEFENCE

(JOB DISPOSAL)

Q4. Mr. Teddy Taylor

asked the Prime Minister if he is satisfied with the co-ordination between the Secretary of State for Defence and the Secretary of State for Scotland in carrying out the Government's policy of facilitating the dispersal of Ministry of Defence jobs to the west of Scotland.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Taylor

Is the Prime Minister aware of the concern in Scotland that the programme is about six months delayed, and that it now seems that it will not be completed until 1984? Will he give us a clear assurance that work will not be further delayed by the Defence Review? Will he give us some indication when work will start on the building of new offices? I point out to the Scottish National Party that if Scotland goes independent these jobs will go back to the South.

The Prime Minister

The Government remain fully committed to complete within 10 years the programme that we have set ourselves, which was announced by my right hon. Friend the Lord President. There have been a number of difficulties with the staff involved about the move to Scotland. I know that the hon. Gentleman is aware of those matters. I happen to share the view of the hon. Gentleman and the former and present Lord Provosts about the great qualities and attractiveness of Glasgow for such work to be established there.

Mr. Roy Hughes

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the decision to disperse Ministry of Defence personnel to Wales smells of jiggery-pokery? Is my right hon. Friend further aware——

Mr. Speaker

Order. A supplementary question must be related to the Question on the Order Paper, which in this instance relates to the dispersal of jobs to the west of Scotland.

Mr. Roy Hughes

My supplementary question was related to the dispersal of Ministry of Defence personnel. I was saying that the decision——

Mr. Speaker

Order. As I understand it, the Question concerns the dispersal of [column 614]Ministry of Defence jobs to the west of Scotland.

Mr. Roy Hughes

Will my right hon. Friend conduct an investigation into how the decision has been reached regarding Wales?

The Prime Minister

I naturally bow to your superior knowledge of the geography of Wales, Mr. Speaker. With great humility, I submit that no part of Wales is in the West of Scotland.

PRESS (ROYAL COMMISSION)

Q5. Mr. Lawson

asked the Prime Minister when he expects to receive the final report of the Royal Commission on the Press.

The Prime Minister

As I informed the hon. Member for Blackpool South (Mr. Blaker) on 5th February, the date of the final report is a matter for the Royal Commission, but I am sure it fully appreciates the need for urgency on reporting on all the issues referred to it. The Royal Commission is aiming to submit its interim report on the immediate problems facing national newspapers by the end of this month.

Mr. Lawson

Despite the habit of the Prime Minister and his entourage of scattering writs like confetti, and whatever may be the state of those writs, will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to present his own evidence to the Royal Commission before it reports? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware—[Interruption.] Three months ago the right hon. Gentleman told the House that he expected——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I could not even hear the question. Has the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson) asked his question?

Mr. Lawson

I wanted to ask the Prime Minister, Mr. Speaker, whether he is aware that three months ago he told the House that he expected to present his evidence to the Royal Commission in the very near future. If a week is a long time in politics, how soon is the very near future?

The Prime Minister

I shall treat the opening words of the hon. Gentleman with the contempt with which his questions are increasingly deserving. I have [column 615]made it clear that while civil proceedings are continuing—I hope to see them dealt with very quickly, one way or the other—it would be utterly wrong for me to submit my evidence. I intend to publish the evidence as soon as I present it to the Royal Commission. There is no question—I am quite clear about this—of any of the present delay in any way deferring or holding up the work of the Royal Commission, or the presentation of its final report. I understand the sensitivity of the hon. Gentleman and some of his hon. Friends about the subject matter that he has raised.

Mr. Hooley

Does my right hon. Friend agree that a free Press is rather like a sewer, in that it is essential to public health but is bound to stink?

The Prime Minister

I do not accept that a free Press is bound to stink. In answer to a question about the Press on Tuesday I made a comment about a recent matter, by which I stand, but it does not follow that every newspaper is behaving in the way that I was condemning. There is wide support from my right hon. and hon. Friends, and from a number of decent Opposition Members, of whom there are quite a few, for what I said on Tuesday.

Mr. Charles Morrison

Does the right hon. Gentleman consider that television programmes, involving senior journalists, which purport to be, and which probably are, documentaries of events and discussions which have gone on in Cabinet, are a matter of concern and interest which should be referred to the Royal Commission?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Royal Commission is concerning itself with the Press and not with broadcasting. The Annan Committee is inquiring into broadcasting. I did not see the programme that I think the hon. Gentleman has in mind, but from what I am told it involved a number of very distinguished actors, who are not members of Equity, and who wrote their own scripts. I am told that neither the acting nor the scripts were very good.