Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1981 Jan 20 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: House of Commons PQs
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [997/144-50]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-30.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2512
Themes: Economy (general discussions), Employment, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Public spending & borrowing, Taxation, Trade, European Union (general), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Media, Race, immigration, nationality, Social security & welfare
[column 144]

Prime Minister

(Engagements)

Q1. Mr. Pawsey

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 20 January.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others, including one with the President of the Romanian National Assembly. In addition to my duties in this House I shall be having further meetings later today, including one with Mr. Bill Hayden, the Leader of the Opposition in Australia.

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Mr. Pawsey

I thank my right hon. Friend for that comprehensive reply. Will she find time in the course of her busy day to consider the fact that in recent years issues of gilt-edged stock have amounted to about 90 per cent. of total issues made? Does she regard that as a satisfactory proportion? What steps will she take to ensure that the State takes fewer of the nation's resources?

The Prime Minister

Clearly, it is not satisfactory that the State should pre-empt such a large part of total capital issues. It means that we have to reduce our spending, or try to reduce our borrowing—there are other ways of doing that—or try to raise more of Government debt through the ordinary national savings institutions, so that we release a bigger proportion of the market to raise capital for industry.

Mr. Foot

In view of the very strong rumours that The Times and The Sunday Times may be acquired by Mr. Rupert Murdoch, will the right hon. Lady give an undertaking that if that were to occur she would immediately refer the matter to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission? Will she undertake that she will ask the commission to report with extreme urgency, in view of the threat to those newspapers and their possible extinction in March?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend John Nottthe Secretary of State for Trade has so far received no application for consent to transfer The Times newspapers. If he does receive such an application, he will have to consider the newspaper merger provisions of the Fair Trading Act 1973.

Mr. Foot

Will the right hon. Lady go a little further in trying to protect the position of some great newspapers in this country? Does she recollect that when Lord Thomson—Mr. Roy Thomson as he was at the time—acquired The Times alone in the first place, that acquisition was referred to the Monopolies Commission and pledges of independence had to be given? Will she tell us clearly that the Government will refer the matter to the Monopolies Commission for an urgent report on the matter, in the interest of the newspapers and all their customers in this country?

The Prime Minister

I do not think it advisable to say precisely what one would do before an application has even been received. We shall wait to see whether the Secretary of State receives an application and then we shall apply the law as it is, and apply it precisely.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Has my right hon. Friend heard the sad news of the death this morning of Lord Amory, that most distinguished statesman, former Member of this House and public and private benefactor?

The Prime Minister

I gladly join my hon. Friend's tribute to Lord Amory, who had such a very distinguished career in this House and, as my hon. Friend said, was a uniquely distinguished person in the amount that he did for all good causes.

Q2. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 20 January.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply which I gave a few moments ago.

Mr. Roberts

Will the Prime Minister, at some suitable point in the day, take the opportunity to [column 146]congratulate President Reagan on his inauguration and to warn him that the type of monetarist policies pursued by her Government lead only to failure, producing falling productivity and massive unemployment?

The Prime Minister

I am delighted to join with the hon. Gentleman and, I believe, with the rest of the House in congratulating President Reagan on his inauguration. I look forward very much to working with him. I would point out that the policies of this Government have brought inflation down extremely rapidly.

Mr. Stokes

Has my right hon. Friend seen the report in the newspapers today that an industrial tribunal found BL guilty of indirect racialism because it demanded that people applying for jobs should fill in the form in English? Is this not absurd? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that English is still the language of England?

The Prime Minister

I wholly agree with my hon. Friend.

Mr. David Steel

Is the Prime Minister aware—[Interruption.]—that, in spite of her new year resolution——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not know what exactly has been said from below the Gangway, but I see wide, open mouths and I hear a lot of noise.

Mr. Steel

Is the Prime Minister aware that, in spite of her new year resolution, there was another Government leak at the weekend when the Secretary of State for Employment forecast that this month's unemployment figures would be appalling? What will she do about him? More important, what will she do about them?

The Prime Minister

As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, I do not make forecasts about unemployment figures. They will be out in due time.

Mr. George Gardiner

No doubt the Prime Minister has already given time today, as in previous days, to considering the position of those Britons still held prisoner in Iran. How hopeful is she that the developments concerning the United States hostages can be followed up constructively to secure the release of the Britons?

The Prime Minister

We try continually to secure access to the British subjects, who have been detained for five months in Iran without any charge brought against them. We shall continue our efforts by all means possible. I hope that the release of the United States hostages will augur well for the release of our own people.

Mr. Stoddart

Will the right hon. Lady inform the House why she refused to meet a deputation today from the “Dignity in Death” campaign which presented a petition at No. 10 Downing Street? Is she aware that over 1 million people have signed this petition for an increase in the death grant? Does she not feel that she could have spared a little time to listen to the pleas of these people?

The Prime Minister

It is not possible for me to receive all people and all deputations who would like to see me. I believe it is reasonable that petitions of that kind should go to the Minister who is directly in charge, so that he, on behalf of the Government, may receive them.

Q3. Mr. Colin Shepherd

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 20 January.

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The Prime Minister

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave some time ago.

Mr. Shepherd

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the growing indignation in the country at the continuing burden on the taxpayer of the nationalised industries, many of which are monopolies? Does she agree that fair competition is the real friend of the customer? If so, will she take further steps to denationalise and de-monopolise wherever possible?

The Prime Minister

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. The private sector gives the consumer a much better bargain than the goods and services of the nationalised industry sector. That is shown by the figures over the past six years. The figures show that the increase in prices between 1974 and 1980 in the nationalised industries has been 239 per cent. compared with an increase in the private sector of about 168 per cent. We shall certainly take my hon. Friend's advice on further deregulation and denationalisation as soon as we can.

Mr. Soley

What evidence can the Prime Minister give to the House today to show that tax cuts awarded to the better off by her Government about a year ago have gone into productive investment within the United Kingdom?

The Prime Minister

I would have thought that some of the export industries, many of them small, had performed extremely well. I would have thought also that much of the excellent performance of management was due to increased incentives given by those tax cuts.

Sir Anthony Kershaw

Will the Prime Minister remind the House that last year we had a visible surplus on trade with the European Community compared with a deficit of £3,000 million in 1979? Is that not a good augury for our relations with Europe?

The Prime Minister

Yes. The balance has been improving. Added to that, we usually have a balance on invisible account. I hope that this augurs well for our future relations with the Community.

Mr. Foster

Will the Prime Minister spend some time today persuading her Secretary of State for Education and Science to instruct his Department to have a much greater involvement in the youth opportunities programme which, in the present situation, is the one hope for educational advance under her miserable Administration?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. and learned Friend Mark Carlislethe Secretary of State for Education and Science is in close consultation with my right hon. Friend James Priorthe Secretary of State for Employment. The youth opportunities programme is one of the sectors that has received great priority under this Government. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have increased the number of places available to about 440,000, which I hope will give jobs to far more young people than would otherwise have been possible.

Q4. Mr. Michael Brown

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 20 January.

The Prime Minister

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave some time ago.

Mr. Brown

Will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity today to congratulate the several thousand steel workers in my constituency who voted so overwhelmingly in support of the MacGregor plan? Will she interpret this vote as a clear indication of realism on the shop floor, also evident at British Leyland?

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The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend. We were most encouraged by the result of the ballot. I agree with the conclusions that my hon. Friend draws. There is greater realism. More people are realising that their job prospects and their future lie in co-operation with the company for which they work.

Mr. William Hamilton

In view of the clobbering that the Government have given to the disabled over the past 18 months, does the right hon. Lady not think that the reception that she gave them last night was an example of brazen humbug and cant?

The Prime Minister

Whatever the hon. Gentleman thinks, that view was not shared by all the people there, who thoroughly enjoyed the reception. I remind the hon. Gentleman that it was at the invitation of the committee in charge of the International Year of Disabled People that I gave that reception. Those who came were most appreciative. So was I. It was a chance to say “Thank you” to many of them for the work that they do.

Mr. Murphy

Will the Prime Minister find time today to agree that both the recent fall in inflation and the rise in the standard of living emphasise the success of her Government's policies?

The Prime Minister

Yes. An absolutely essential precondition for expansion is to get the rate of inflation down so that there is enough confidence for destocking to end and new investment to begin. There has undoubtedly been a rise in the standard of living over the country as a whole last year by an average of 2 per cent., and for those in work by an average of 4 per cent.

Mr. Foot

As the right hon. Lady is so boastful about the Government's dealings with inflation, will she now answer the question that she has not answered before? When exactly does she think that she will have the rate of inflation down to the figure it was at before she started putting it up?

The Prime Minister

On the six-month rate, it is already very much below—[Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman may not like it, but that is the fact. On the six-month rate, it is very much below the level that we inherited—very much below.

Mr. Foot

Will the right hon. Lady now be good enough to answer the question? When will the annual rate be down to the figure that it was at before she and her Government started putting it up?

The Prime Minister

If we—[Hon. Members: “Answer” .]—take the Healey mechanism, multiply the six-month figure and annualise it, according to the Healey basis it is already very much below. What the right hon. Gentleman is so anxious to conceal is that prices were rising very quickly and very substantially when the Labour Government left office. They were rising very quickly and very substantially, and the Labour Government delayed a number of price increases by referring them to the Prices Commission as well as by delaying increases such as increases in the price of milk.

Questions to Prime Minister

Mr. Wilkinson

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I draw your attention to the fact that only two questions to the Prime Minister out of 42 tabled asked [column 149]anything other than that the engagements for today be listed by the Prime Minister? This makes a mockery of the questioning of the Prime Minister, which should be better structured and ordered. May I ask, Mr. Speaker, that this matter be referred to the Procedure Committee and discussed through the usual channels?

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Mr. Speaker

I have said before to the House that I think that we have spoilt Prime Minister's Question Time. However, it is for hon. Members to table substantive questions on the Order Paper.