Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [979/1134-39]
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2180
Themes: Defence (general), Education, Private education, Monetary policy, Pay, Taxation, European Union Budget, Foreign policy (Africa), Health policy, Law & order, Local government, Northern Ireland, Religion & morality, Social security & welfare, Terrorism, Strikes & other union action
[column 1134]



Q1. Mr. Neubert

asked the Prime Minister whether she will list her official engagements for 26 February.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

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

Mr. Neubert

Does the Prime Minister share my surprise that Mr. Bill Sirs has called the proposal of the British Steel Corporation to hold a secret ballot in order to see whether the steel workers want to vote on their pay offer “a dirty trick” ?

The Prime Minister

I share my hon. Friend's suprise. Workers who have been without a pay packet for about eight weeks and who have gone without strike pay have a right to expect to be consulted about their wishes for the future.

Mr. David Steel

Will the Prime Minister study today the speech of her right hon., noble and very distinguished Friend, Lord Butler? He spoke yesterday on the Education Bill. Is the right hon. Lady aware that he suggested that the Government could save public expenditure as regards sending a few pupils to private schools, and that they could use the money to maintain free school transport for children?

The Prime Minister

I noted the observations of my very distinguished right hon. and noble Friend. He went to the type of school that we wish other children to have an opportunity to attend.

Mr. John Browne

During the course of her busy day, will the Prime Minister [column 1135]consider the insidious effect of the activities of members of the Unification Church—known as “moonies” —and the threat that is thereby posed to family unity? Will she consider taking measures to alert and protect citizens from such activities?

The Prime Minister

I am quite prepared to consider any proposition that my hon. Friend puts to me on the subject.

Mr. Spearing

Will the Prime Minister reconsider her reply to the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel)? Does she not agree that spending public money on private schools such as Marlborough will further divide British society? Will she consider the announcement made by the Minister, who, during the Committee stage of the Education Bill, made it clear that certain expensive schools would not be part of the system?

The Prime Minister

I obviously disagree with the hon. Gentleman. It is important to give all children the very best educational opportunities. If that includes assisted places at some schools, so be it.

Mr. Lee

Will my right hon. Friend find time today to consult her Treasury colleagues and to request clearing banks voluntarily to consider some form of reduced interest rate charge on smaller businesses, in view of the banks' substantially increased profits?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend knows that one of the problems of bank profits is that banks inevitably make high profits when there are high interest rates. That occurs when other businesses are in considerable difficulty. Banks do less well when businesses are doing well. That is certainly a difficult problem to explain. However, I do not think that we can have two-tier interest rates. Nor can we do anything to increase the amount of borrowing. That is the cause of high interest rates.

Mr. James Callaghan

Would the Prime Minister care to try to explain something else in the light of her television discussion last night? As wage earners are apparently able to claim more when an industry is prosperous than when it is [column 1136]not, is she now saying that bank clerks should have a substantial increase while steel workers should get nothing?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman knows that it is not my policy to intervene in pay claims.

2. Mr. Heddle

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 February.

The Prime Minister

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I have just given.

Mr. Heddle

Will my right hon. Friend take time today to reflect on the decision of the executive of the Iron and Steel Trades Confereration to expel the Sheerness steel workers from union membership for exercising their desire to work?

The Prime Minister

I saw the report to which my hon. Friend refers. If it is true it brings the trade unions into conflict with public opinion. These workers wish only to carry on working——

Mr. Flannery

They are blacklegs.

The Prime Minister

These workers wish only to carry on working in a company which is not in dispute with its own workers. They wish to carry on working to support their families and honour business contracts, and both of those objectives should be encouraged.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

Before the elections begin in Rhodesia tomorrow, will the Prime Minister give a categorical assurance that Lord Soames will call on the leader of the majority party in the election to form the Government of Zimbabwe as soon as the results are known?

The Prime Minister

I have every confidence in my right hon. and noble Friend Lord Soames to do whatever is just and proper——

Mr. William Hamilton

Answer the question.

The Prime Minister

I have every confidence in my right hon. and noble Friend Lord Soames as the man on the spot, to do whatever is just and proper as soon as the results are known of the free and fair elections which I am confident he will hold.

[column 1137]

Mr. John Townend

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the overwhelming support of the British people for her television statement last night that she will take the strongest action to get justice for this country in respect of our contribution to the EEC? Will she take time to remind our German friends that the sooner we get justice the less likelihood there is of our withdrawing troops from Germany, since those troops are highly expensive?

The Prime Minister

It so happens that our German partners are considerable contributors to the EEC budget, and we hope that others will increase their contributions. With all due respect to my hon. Friend, I do not think we can get this issue muddled up with any question of reopening the offset agreement.

Medical Education

Q3. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Prime Minister if she will transfer responsibility for medical education from the Department of Education and Science to the Department of Health and Social Security.

The Prime Minister

I have no plans to do so.

Mrs. Short

Is the Prime Minister aware that in the Flowers report, which was published today, there are proposals to close down several medical schools of merit and also several teaching hospitals? Is she also aware that the proposals include the closure of several institutions, including the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Institute of Paediatrics and Dental Surgery? Does she not think that the very far-reaching proposals in this report need adequate funding, and adequate discussion by this House and by all interested bodies outside? Will she give serious consideration to this?

The Prime Minister

I looked quickly through the Flowers report, sufficiently to know that before any opinion is ventured on it, it requires considerable study and consultation. I heard what the hon. Lady said to my hon. Friend Patrick Jenkinthe Minister for Health during Question Time and I assure her that this matter will be given full consideration.

Mr. John Carlisle

Has the Prime Minister had time to reflect on the [column 1138]comments of Lord Justice Lawson to the effect that social security scroungers should be sent to gaol? Will she comment on my suggestion that we should ask neighbours to help the authorities in their inquiries?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend is making strenuous efforts to bring to the courts any who are alleged to be fraudulent in claiming social security benefits to which they are not entitled. When they get to the courts it is a matter for the judge to decide what sentence should be passed.

Mr. Ernie Ross

Will the Prime Minister take time today to study the comments made by the retiring chairman of the Inland Revenue, who estimates that there is a loss of £2,000 million to £3,000 million in tax evasion——

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is not an open question. I shall call the hon. Member when we reach the next question, which is an open question.



Q4. Mr. Barry Jones

asked the Prime Minister what her official engagements are for 26 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Jones

Will the Prime Minister have the courage to admit that her Secretary of State for Industry has introduced ruthless, reckless and reactionary policies which are dividing our nation and totally rending apart the social fabric of Britain? When will she assert her premiership, move against the monetarists in the Cabinet and sack the Industry Secretary?

The Prime Minister

Sir Keith JosephMy right hon. Friend, to whom the hon. Member has referred, has probably done as much for the social services of this country as any right hon. Member who was ever responsible for the social services. The hon. Member forgets that it was my right hon. Friend who introduced pensions for those over 80, family income supplement, pensions for widows between 40 and 50 years of age, invalidity pensions and constant attendance allowances. He should pay credit where credit is due.

[column 1139]

Viscount Cranborne

Will my right hon. Friend take time to reread a report in Saturday's Daily Mail which discloses that the Tameside council intends to allow representatives of the Irish National Liberation Army to lecture in Greater Manchester? Will she not only condemn that proposal, but ban appearances by representatives of a terrorist organisation which was responsible for the murder of Airey Neave?

The Prime Minister

I certainly deplore the fact that this is being done. Subject to further inquiry, I believe that this is a proscribed organisation and, if so, the matter should be taken up formally with the Home Secretary.

Mr. Ernie Ross

Will the Prime Minister study the comments of the retiring chairman of the Inland Revenue, who estimates that this country loses annually between £2,000 million and £3,000 million through tax evasion?

Would it not be more correct to direct the efforts of a substantial number of the 1,000 people who are supposed to be investigating social security scroungers into chasing tax evaders?

The Prime Minister

I agree that fraud is fraud wherever it occurs——

Mr. Kerr

And Fascism is Fascism.

The Prime Minister

It is fraud whether it occurs when people try to claim social security benefits to which they are not entitled, or when people try to get out of paying tax. Both offences should be treated in exactly the same way.

Mr. Rathbone

Will the Prime Minister, particularly in the light of her earlier answer, find time to send a message of congratulations and good wishes to the Governor of Rhodesia and to the people of Rhodesia on the eve of the historic act of casting their votes for a democratically elected Government?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I will certainly do so. The Governor has had an extremely difficult task. This is a week of decision for Rhodesia. I shall send him that message from my right hon. and hon. Friends.