Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [984/20-27]
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2512
Themes: Agriculture, Defence (general), Education, Local elections, Monetary policy, Pay, Trade, European Union (general), Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Labour Party & socialism, Law & order, Local government, Media, Sport, Social security & welfare, Terrorism, Trade unions, Strikes & other union action
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Q1. Mr. Canavan

asked the Prime Minister what are her official engagements for 6 May.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be having meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. Later this afternoon I shall visit the Yugoslav embassy to sign the Book of Condolence for President Tito. This evening I hope to have an Audience of Her Majesty The Queen.

Mr. Canavan

Has the Prime Minister found time to reflect on the hammering that the Tories deservedly got in last week's local elections, especially in Scotland where Labour now controls 25 district councils? In view of the Tories' stated belief in the freedom of local authorities, and the fact that Labour councillors were elected on manifestos opposed to the Tory cuts in essential spending and to the legislation on the compulsory selling of council houses, will the Prime Minister now abandon these proposals, otherwise [column 21]she will face massive confrontation from the elected representatives of the people?

The Prime Minister

The most notable thing in Scotland was the collapse of the Scottish National Party vote.

Mr. Canavan

And the Tories.

The Prime Minister

On the question of the Labour Party's performance in the local elections in England—my goodness, the Labour Party must have been very disappointed with it.

Dr. Mawhinney

Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that those who work in the public service and who indulge in the political strike on 14 May will not be paid for that day?

The Prime Minister

I do not imagine that anyone who goes on strike will be paid for the services which will not be rendered that day. However, I hope that people will not go on strike.

Mr. Stoddart

Will the Prime Minister consider some time today whether, when she attends Marshal Tito 's funeral—and we all regret his death—she will take the opportunity to have talks with President Brezhnev about the world situation and the need to restrict armaments, particularly the nuclear armaments build-up?

The Prime Minister

I am going to the funeral primarily to pay tribute to President Tito. There will be time for a few bilateral conversations, but not many. These have not yet been fixed.

Mr. Viggers

Has my right hon. Friend had a chance to read the first leader in The Times newspaper, pointing out how Communism has subverted democracy throughout the world? In this light, has she reflected on the payment of £5,000 to the Communist paper, the Morning Star? Will she, as leader of one great party that won many millions of votes from trade union members in the last election, comment on this? Does she think that there is any prospect of the leader of the other major party, which also won many millions of union votes, commenting on the same matter?

The Prime Minister

I believe that Communism and true democracy are totally incompatible. I believe that that subscription will cause great concern to many members of the Transport and [column 22]General Workers Union, who would not dream of approving it themselves.

Mr. Ashley

Does the Prime Minister support the comments of the Secretary of State for the Environment to the effect that local authorities should operate within the law? Since part of that law is the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, which is now being flouted by some authorities will she join me in condemning those local authorities and asking the Law Officers of the Crown to take legal action against them?

The Prime Minister

I am sure that if the local authorities were in breach of the law, action would be taken against them, but that is a matter for Sir Michael Haversthe Attorney-General and not for me. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, I fully support my right hon. Friend, Michael Heseltinethe Secretary of State for the Environment, and that position is reciprocal.

Q2. Mr. Marlow

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 6 May.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Marlow

Will my right hon. Friend not agree that one of the major changes of the last few months is the new respect in which Britain is now held by the rest of the world, based on the increasing competence, sensitivity, and determination now abounding in Britain, which was shown especially by yesterday's events and by all those involved in them? Will she also agree that, after a long period of time, everyone in this country can now once again hold up his head and say how proud he is to be British?

The Prime Minister

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. I should like to say one word about events yesterday. It was, I believe, a brilliant operation, carried out by the Special Air Service with courage and confidence. I agree with my hon. Friend that the performance both of the police and the SAS made hon. Members on both sides of the House proud to be British.

Mr. James Callaghan

May I also congratulate all those who had the skill to plan this operation and the courage [column 23]of those who carried it out? I express our gratitude at the fact that they succeeded and our sympathy for those who lost their lives. In view of the exchange of correspondence with President Bani-Sadr, does the Prime Minister propose to send him a message to inform him that it is the responsibility of all Governments, including his Government, to resume control of the situation in Tehran and to secure the release of the American hostages and their return to the United States?

The Prime Minister

I sent a message to President Bani-Sadr right at the beginning, defining what I understand and believe to be the legal responsibilities of each and every Government to look after the safety of diplomats on their territory. I believe that the way the operation was carried out in this country will have an effect on the future position of American hostages in Iran. I have replied to President Bani-Sadr. We should now consider how we can turn this superb operation in Britain to best advantage for the American hostages.

Mr. Dubs

Will the Prime Minister say what advice the Government are now giving to British industry regarding trade with Iran?

The Prime Minister

The Foreign Ministers met yesterday and again today to give further detailed consideration to the communiqué that they issued previously regarding sanctions and Iran. The position will remain as it is at present until it is changed.

Mr. W. Benyon

Did the Prime Minister hear the reports on the BBC this morning concerning the massacre of schoolchildren in Kabul by Soviet forces? If these reports are true, can they be circulated to every athlete who proposes to attend the Olympic Games?

The Prime Minister

I am not in a position either to confirm or deny that report. I hope that British athletes will not go to Moscow so long as Soviet troops are holding down an independent country by force, and atrocities are being committed.


Q3. Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

asked the Prime Minister if she will visit Heaton Moor.

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The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to do so.

Mr. Bennett

Will the Prime Minister explain to pensioners in Heaton Moor why they will have to wait an extra two weeks this year for their uprating and, further, that the amount that the Government save in those two weeks is about the same as pensioners will receive as their Christmas bonus?

The Prime Minister

By the time November comes, a married couple's pension will have gone up by over £12 a week. What is happening is totally in accordance with our undertaking to keep the pension in line with the increase in prices.



Q4. Mr. Beith

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 6 May.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Beith

Will the right hon. Lady have an opportunity today to take some action on behalf of the beleaguered and depressed fishing industry? Is she aware how deeply is felt a situation in which the industry sees its markets destroyed by imported, dumped, fish and conservation regulations flouted by just about every other country that fishes in its territories?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman, I believe, is aware, we made a grant of about £3 million to the fishing industry recently. Its distribution is a matter for the fishing industry. The hon. Gentleman will also be aware, from the communiqué issued after the EEC meeting in Luxembourg, that I was not prepared to accept anything for the fishing industry that I believed to be detrimental to our own fishermen. I shall persist with that view.

Mr. Heddle

Will my right hon. Friend take time today to advise the National Union of Teachers to follow the example set by other teachers' unions and put the welfare of the children and the wishes of parents before political considerations next Wednesday?

The Prime Minister

I am happy to do so. I believe that example is the most important thing in teaching.

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Mr. Meacher

Will the right hon. Lady take time to reflect on the fact that, contrary to what she keeps saying, a comparison between the growth of the money supply and the rate of inflation shows no relationship at all in Britain over the last five years? Equally, there is no association visible between the two in France, Germany, the United States or Japan over the same period. If she still stubbornly clings to this idea, will she provide the evidence to enable hon. Members to see whether the foundations of her economic policy are built on wishful thinking?

The Prime Minister

No. I cannot accept the hon. Gentleman's contention. The factor he has left out of account regarding money supply in those countries is that those countries have grown considerably year after year. When that is taken into account, with the money supply, the hon. Gentleman will find that the figures bear a relationship one to another.

Mr. John Carlisle

Is my right hon. Friend aware that several holidaymakers last weekend had their weekends ruined by mobs of skinheads and so-called yobs in seaside resorts? Will she urge her right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to increase the number of police and urge on magistrates the need to impose stronger sentences upon these people?

The Prime Minister

William WhitelawMy right hon. Friend will take every possible step to increase the strength of the police and to see that the law is upheld in this country.

Mr. Freeson

Will the right hon. Lady take action to remove the threat to residents in this country who hail from Libya? Will she give instructions for the closing down of the Libyan embassy which is harbouring, it seems, a gang of thugs, bent on shooting and killing people in this country?

The Prime Minister

There have been two cases of murder of Libyan citizens in this country. People are held and being charged with murder at the moment. No one, of course, is guilty of murder until proved guilty. As the matter is sub judice, I think it best to go no further.

Mr. Adley

While everyone in the House will welcome the fact that the Leader of the Opposition has joined my [column 26]right hon. Friend in commenting upon recent events at the Iranian embassy, will not my right hon. Friend agree that it would be extremely helpful if the House knew precisely where the Leader of the Opposition and his party stand on the question of the 14 May strike? Will she agree that leadership is demanded not only from our Prime Minister but also, occasionally, from the Leader of the Opposition?

The Prime Minister

I trust that the Opposition Front Bench, as well as the Government, are against strikes for political purposes. Such strikes are wholly contrary to the law in this country.


Q5. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Prime Minister if she will seek to place on the agenda at the next European Council meeting the question of leisure activities in the Community.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir.

Mr. Roberts

Does not the right hon. Lady agree that there is a need for the Community to look at leisure activities, in view of the fact that enforced leisure is the fastest growing sector in the Community? Does she not feel that Britain should give a lead in view of the fact that we face not only technological unemployment but the unemployment created by the policies of her Government?

The Prime Minister

With due respect, I think that at the moment the Community has even more important questions to examine and resolve, and that will be so for some time.

Mr. Dykes

In view of my right hon. Friend's strong reiteration last week of the importance of our membership of the Community—in spite of the EEC budget problems—does she agree that the House should dismiss the rather destructive comments of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) in the Sunday Express and, therefore, invite him to take extra leisure?

The Prime Minister

I am firmly behind our membership of the European Economic Community. We are trying to turn it into the kind of Community [column 27]which does not devote such a large proportion of its budget to agriculture. However, we must accept and admit that the work of the Community, particularly in co-operation over foreign affairs, has been excellent and is not hindered in any way by a number of disagreements about internal matters.