Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1981 Feb 5 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: House of Commons PQs
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [998/400-04]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-30.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1958
Themes: Agriculture, Union of UK nations, Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Employment, Privatized & state industries, Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Labour Party & socialism, Trade unions, Strikes & other union action
[column 400]

Prime Minister

Scottish TUC

Q1. Mr. Ron Brown

asked the Prime Minister when she next proposes to meet the Scottish Trades Union Congress.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

I have at present no plans to do so, but my right hon. Friend George Youngerthe Secretary of State for Scotland has met representatives of the STUC on several occasions and has made it clear that he is prepared to meet them whenever this would be useful.

Mr. Ron Brown

Does the Prime Minister agree that if she has the courage of her convictions, as she so often tells the House she has, she should meet workers' leaders in Scotland, an area devastated by Government policies? Will she face the music for once, or will she hide in her London bunker while the Tory Reich crumbles and workers fight back, because she leaves them no alternative? That is the message of the Labour and trade union movement.

The Prime Minister

I have not the slightest doubt that if the Scottish Trades Union Congress wishes to see me, it will ask to do so. I have seen the English Trades Union Congress and the Wales Trades Union Congress.

Mr. Ancram

Will my right hon. Friend point out to the STUC that, bad as the Scottish unemployment figures are, the trend in Scotland is better than that in the rest of the United Kingdom? Does she not agree that the prospects for attracting jobs in Scotland would be much enhanced if the Opposition and the STUC would stop talking Scotland down?

The Prime Minister

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. What he says about the unemployment trends is correct. Scotland benefits from the enormous oil-related industries, and some parts of Scotland are doing very well. I agree with my hon. Friend that the way to get more jobs there is to preach and practise the virtues of Scotland and not to talk it down.

Mr. James Hamilton

If the Prime Minister cannot meet the STUC, will she instruct the Secretary of State for Scotland to make it clear categorically to the people of that country that in no circumstances will the youth opportunities programme be used, either in or out of uniform, in conjunction with the Services? Will she also reconsider the money paid to the youth opportunities programme and ensure that at least it gets something more than what is paid in social security insurance?

The Prime Minister

I think that the hon. Gentleman is mistaken in his first question. I have not refused to see [column 401]the Scottish Trades Union Congress. So far as I am aware, it has not yet asked to see me. If it does, I shall of course be pleased to see it.

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that there is a substantial increase in the number of places available in the youth opportunities programme in Scotland next year. Opportunities being made available by the Ministry of Defence, would, of course, have to comply fully with the youth opportunities programme. If they can, it would seem reasonable to offer young people that extra chance to work.

Engagements

Q2. Mr. Robert Atkins

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 5 February.

The Prime Minister

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be having further meetings with ministerial colleagues and others.

Mr. Atkins

Will my right hon. Friend make my birthday today even happier by adding her good wishes to the sale, widely announced today, of British Aerospace shares? Will she draw particular attention to the generous special offers to employees and the preference expressed for small shareholding applications?

The Prime Minister

I congratulate my hon. Friend and hope that both he and his constituents are happy with the birthday present that he has been given. I hope that his constituents will take up the offer to which he referred. I also hope that we have not raised his future expectation of birthday presents too high, but, we shall do our best to follow that same path in future.

Mr. Foot

Has the right hon. Lady had a chance to study the serious and dangerous suggestion as some of us see it, that the United States Administration may wish to return to the development of the so-called neutron bomb? Does she not agree that one result, which would be extremely dangerous for everyone in Europe, is that it could lower the nuclear threshold? Does she not think that that should be an over-riding consideration? What steps will the Government now take to try to ensure that these and kindred weapons are never stationed in Europe?

The Prime Minister

It is clear that that is one of the possibilities which the new United States Administration may want to consider. So far, we have not been asked to look at any new proposal but, at his press conference the United States Defence Secretary said that the allies would be fully consulted before any decision was reached.

Mr. Foot

Will the right hon. Lady give an assurance that the House will be fully consulted before she makes up her mind?

The Prime Minister

That is not wholly a matter for me, but I have no doubt whatever that the matter will arise in the House on many occasions.

Sir Walter Clegg

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the grave crisis facing the British fishing industry, including the port of Fleetwood? What steps will the Government take to help?

The Prime Minister

I am very much aware of the grave crisis facing the fishing industry in Fleetwood, as [column 402]well as other ports in Scotland and England. My colleagues and I briefly considered the matter this morning and agreed that we must now look at both the timing and the level of help to the fishing industry.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Does the Prime Minister accept that people in countries with differing political systems must live together or die together? Will she tell President Reagan that if he wants to relax East-West tensions the use of words such as “cheats” , “liars” and “criminals” , and the deployment of the neutron bomb, are not the way to go about it, particularly as Russia would no doubt follow suit and introduce the neutron bomb?

The Prime Minister

I am certain that Russia has as many nuclear weapons as she wishes to have. She has put enormous resources into research and technology for all weapons of destruction in preference to raising the standard of living of her own society. The purpose of the neutron bomb is to attack massive concentrations of armour, which the Warsaw Pact countries have. Therefore, it is unlikely that such weapons would need to be based here.

Mr. Adley

In the light of what Shirley said to Bill and what Tommy is saying about Mike, may I ask whether any of them has presented my right hon. Friend with any more credible and viable ideas for controlling inflation than the policies that she is already pursuing?

The Prime Minister

No, but what I have watched seems a strange demonstration of brotherly and sisterly love.

Q3. Mr. Dubs

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her public engagements for 5 February.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply which I have just given.

Mr. Dubs

When the Prime Minister goes to Washington to meet President Reagan, will she impress upon him that the people of this country and the whole of Europe are anxious about the increasing steps being taken towards nuclear weapons? Will she impress upon him the need to consider returning to SALT 2, and perhaps even SALT 3, as a much better way forward than devising yet another horrible weapon which threatens us all?

The Prime Minister

When I see President Reagan I shall tell him that I believe that the vast majority of the people of this country are anxious to have proper deterrents to the weapons which the Soviet Union possesses in such abundance, and that the first duty of a Government is to defend and protect their own people.

Mr. Churchill

Does not my right hon. Friend agree with the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), who last week so accurately referred to the immoral earnings of the Labour Party? [Interruption] Is it not a scandal—[Hon. Members: “Yes” .]—and a denial of democracy that union bosses should be able to wield 90 per cent. of the votes at the Labour Party conference and additional votes through the abuse of the block vote system?

The Prime Minister

What my hon. Friend has said is true. I am glad that we Conservatives are nobody's creatures.

Mr. Skinner

rose——

Mr. Speaker

Dr. David Owen.

Mr. Skinner

What about me?

[column 403]

Mr. Speaker

I shall take any points of order after questions. I have called the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen).

Dr. Owen

rose——

Mr. Skinner

The Council for Social Diseases.

Dr. Owen

Now that European theatre nuclear weapons negotiations have just commenced, does not the Prime Minister agree that in her forthcoming visit to Washington she should urge President Reagan to make no decision about the deployment of the neutron bomb, put this whole issue into the European theatre nuclear weapons negotiations and hope that it may be possible to negotiate a substantial reduction of battlefield nuclear weapons in Europe?

The Prime Minister

We are all anxious to reduce the level of battlefield weapons and, indeed, of all armaments. As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, the problem is that if we agree we must be absolutely certain that all agreements can be effectively monitored; if not we shall lose the essential defence which a government must provide for their people.

[column 404]

Sir Graham Page

Will my right hon. Friend today warn against the continuing damage of the seamen's strike, such as the immense loss of revenue, the loss of British ships to foreign management and ownership and the loss of future employment for British seamen?

The Prime Minister

I am happy to endorse everything that my right hon. Friend has said. If this strike continues, it will mean fewer jobs for our people and fewer ships flying our flag.

Mr. Foot

May I press the right hon. Lady on her last reply? Is she not aware that on two or three occasions I have asked the Government to make up their mind to intervene in this dispute? Will she not confirm to the House that the National Union of Seamen has said throughout the dispute that it is ready for the matter to go to arbitration? Will not the Government intervene to help to prevent the damage to which she referred?

The Prime Minister

Certainly not. It is for the employers and employees to sort out their own problems in their own way. The era is past when everything came to No. 10 Downing Street to be solved.