Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [974/1100-06]
Editorial comments: 1515-30.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2164
Themes: Agriculture, Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Privatized & state industries, Public spending & borrowing, European Union Budget, Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Health policy, Media, Northern Ireland, Terrorism, Strikes & other union action
[column 1100]



Q1. Mr. Cook

asked the Prime Minister, if she will list her engagements for Tuesday 27 November.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I had meetings with representatives of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and later with the president of the National Farmers Union. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be having further meetings with ministerial colleagues and others, including one with the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty The Queen.

Mr. Cook

Before the Prime Minister departs to meet the Moderator will she take the opportunity, which will be the last before she departs for Dublin, to place on the record of this House the minimum shift in Britain's budget contribution that she will accept? Is she aware that every cow in the Common Market enjoys a subsidy of £100 per annum, much of it provided by the British taxpayer? Is she also aware that tomorrow, on the eve of her departure, there will be a demonstration against [column 1101]her expenditure cuts? It will be insupportable if she fails to obtain a cut in our subsidy to farmers in France and Germany while enthusiastically cutting social services in Britain.

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to have support from both sides of the House for the task that faces us in Dublin. As the hon. Gentleman knows, if there had been greater public expenditure cuts we should have had to borrow less and the interest rate would have been lower. If the public expenditure plans of the Labour Government were put into effect, the interest rates would be infinitely worse and the prospects dim.

Mr. Moate

When she is in Dublin, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the anger of those who are suffering losses on their lamb production as a result of the French ban, and are facing losses on their apples? The French are flooding our markets with about 300,000 tonnes of apples this season. If necessary, will she gently remind our partners that membership of the Community is subject to the continuing assent of Parliament?

The Prime Minister

There are two big problems, one of which, the budget, we shall tackle at Dublin. I know the resentment felt by most people over the fact that despite being one of the poorer members of the Community we have to pay a large amount to the Common Market. There is also the long-term problem of the common agricultural policy. That, too, I am afraid, will take a long time to solve.

Mr. Buchan

When the right hon. Lady meets the National Farmers Union, will she ask if it agrees with the estimate of the National Farmers Union of Scotland that her savage cuts in rural transport will cost a rural worker with two children at school £270 per annum?

The Prime Minister

I have received congratulatory letters on what we have managed to do for hill farming in the latest subsidies, and I have not received many complaints.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Will the right hon. Lady take time off today to speak to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland about the serious attacks in the Province yesterday, when 30 bombs exploded and there was a wave of [column 1102]violence throughout 12 towns and villages? Will she see to it that rigorous steps are taken to seal the border so that explosives cannot be brought in from the South of Ireland? Will she also take time today to get in touch with the Palace and convey to Her Majesty The Queen the thanks and gratitude of the people of Northern Ireland and the troops there for the visit of the Prince of Wales last week?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his last remark and I will, of course, convey it to the appropriate place. I need hardly say how disturbed we all are at the latest spate of mindless bombings in Northern Ireland. We will do everything possible to track down those who are responsible. The hon. Gentleman asks us to seal the border. If that were possible we would have a go. However, I do not think that it is possible to do that. That opinion has been held by nearly every Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and for Defence.


Q2. Mr. Parry

asked the Prime Minister if she will pay an official visit to Liverpool, Scotland Exchange.

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to do so.

Mr. Parry

The right hon. Lady will be aware of the effect of the Government's policies on unemployment in Liverpool and the cuts in public expenditure which affect school children, the disabled, the sick and the aged. Will she be in a position to accept a petition signed by nearly 100,000 people protesting against the proposed closure of the Royal Liverpool children's hospital? I assure the Prime Minister that if she visits Liverpool she will receive a hot reception.

The Prime Minister

Many of us are aware that Liverpool has serious and grievous problems on a bigger scale than some of the other large cities. The hon. Gentleman referred to particular public expenditure cuts. None of us wishes to make cuts in public expenditure, but we are up against the reality that no Government can urge a nation to live beyond its [column 1103]means and expect to command respect either at home or abroad.



Q3. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Prime Minister if she will state her official duties for 27 November.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply which I gave earlier.

Mr. Allaun

Will the Prime Minister consider whether it is in the interest of the British people for us to press on 12 December for cruise missiles to be sited on British soil? In particular, will control over launching lie with the Pentagon, with the inevitable retaliation against this country?

The Prime Minister

I am certain that it is in the interests of our people to be armed so that we can deter any potential threat from any aggressor. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence said earlier, the need now is for us to modernise to equal the extensive modernisation and supply that has been made by the Soviet Union.

Mr. Shersby

Will my right hon. Friend take time today to consider the serious position of Charing Cross hospital? The lives of patients are at stake because of unofficial industrial action. Will she consult her right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Employment and for Social Services to see whether, in consultation with the unions, a non-strike agreement or clause can be contained in conditions of employment for hospital employees in order to avert this sort of action?

The Prime Minister

We were all appalled and repelled by the scenes outside Charing Cross hospital yesterday. We are repelled by the difficulty that the hospital is experiencing in receiving proper oil supplies. The scenes that we saw seem to show a callous disregard for common humanity. They reflected unjustly on trade unionism, because most trade unionists were just as horrified as others by the scenes. This morning my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services made clear that if the siege of oil is not lifted we shall be prepared to authorise [column 1104]whatever action is necessary to ensure that the supplies of oil get through.

Mr. Allen McKay

Will the Prime Minister take time to meet the Federation of Old Age Pensioners to explain to it, so that it can explain to its members, that while she and the Government—unlike the Labour Government—cannot take time to phase out television licences she can give £60 million to private education?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman is very much aware of the problems of having special rates for television licences for one group of the community. It is especially difficult when many families have a parent living with them. My right hon. Friend William Whitelawthe Home Secretary had to announce an increase in the television licence. The increase was inevitable if we are to receive the sort of service that people expect from the BBC.

Mr. Cormack

Will my right hon. Friend take time today to look at the many interesting photographs in the press of the Opposition Front Bench spokesman the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield)? Will she seek to discover whether the activities of the hon. Gentleman represent the official policy of the Opposition?

The Prime Minister

Fortunately, I am not responsible for the official policy of the Opposition—thank goodness.—[Hon. Members: “Who is?” ] As far as British Leyland is concerned, the previous Government appointed an extremely good manager in Sir Michael Edwardes. We have backed him, and we must continue to leave the resolution of the problem to him.

Mr. Park

Will the Prime Minister take time today to discuss with the Secretary of State for Industry the fact that he misled the House yesterday about the number of times that he had met the chairman of Rolls-Royce in the absence of the chairman of the NEB? He also misled the House in another respect, because the whole board of Rolls-Royce had not threatened to resign—it was only the chairman.

The Prime Minister

I never knew my right hon. Friend Sir Keith Josephthe Secretary of State for Industry to mislead anybody—[Interruption.] If the hon. Gentleman [column 1105]has a particular point, perhaps he will take it up with my right hon. Friend.

Q4. Mr. Newens

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 27 November.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply which I gave earlier.

Mr. Newens

Will the right hon. Lady take time to explain why it is that when the West has 11,000 targetable nuclear warheads against the Warsaw Pacts's 5,000—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Newens

I hope that Conservative Members are not showing their ignorance of the facts. Why, when the West has an overwhelming superiority in the strategic sphere, does the Prime Minister believe that we should seek overwhelming superiority in theatre weapons? Will she make clear—as she did not in her reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun)—whether she will have control over those weapons and be able to determine whether or not they are used? Or will that control be in the hands of the President of the United States?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman knows that to be successful with a policy of deterrence it is necessary to deter at each and every level. I can hardly accept that the West has overwhelming superiority against the Soviet Union—I do [column 1106]not believe that it has. We have to have sufficient power through our Allies to deter at the strategic level and sufficient power among ourselves to deter at the theatre nuclear force level. That still leaves the vexed question of conventional forces, in which the Warsaw Pact countries have a great superiority.

Mr. James Callaghan

Does not the right hon. Lady agree that there will be a long period between the taking of the decision on 12 December and the moment when the cruise missiles can be added to the armament of the West? Therefore, while we should not allow the Soviet Union to determine our decision on 12 December, which must be what we regard to be in our interest, we should use the intervening period to negotiate seriously with the Soviet Union. We should negotiate both on Mr. Brezhnev 's at present inadequate offer and on the possibility of the withdrawal of the SS20s, which would remove a large threat from Europe.

The Prime Minister

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, we are always prepared seriously to try to negotiate genuine disarmament. As he in particular will be aware, the latest weapons, such as the SS20s, are already being provided to the Warsaw Pact forces. We have no modern reply. Yes, we must have the modernisation of the theatre nuclear forces. Yes, we are always prepared genuinely to negotiate on disarmament. But I had understood that the Soviet Union was somewhat reluctant to negotiate on disarmament at the theatre nuclear force level if we put in sufficient to deter. But we are ready to try.