Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [1000/752-56]
Editorial comments: 1515-30.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2246
Themes: Agriculture, Executive, Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Monetary policy, Pay, Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Private health care, Housing, Local government, Security services & intelligence, Trade union law reform, Strikes & other union action, Voluntary sector & charity
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Q1. Mr. William Shelton

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 10 March.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House I shall be having further meetings later today. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty the Queen.

Mr. Shelton

During her busy day, will my right hon. Friend turn her thoughts to Lambeth? Is she aware that NALGO—with, I fear, the tacit support of Lambeth council—is still totally blocking any action on council house sales? Does she agree that this is a denial of the rights of the tenants and citizens of Lambeth and indeed the tenants of all Socialist councils which are behaving in the same way, and a denial of the will of the electorate as expressed at the last general election?

The Prime Minister

I hope that all responsible trade union officials and all responsible political parties will combine to see that tenants are able to have their legal rights and to purchase their council houses. Any other action would be a denial of democracy.

Mr. Ashley

Will the Prime Minister explain why one of her Ministers, the Secretary of State for Social Services, refuses to intervene when local authorities neglect their [column 753]mandatory responsibilities to disabled people, while another of her Ministers, the Secretary of State for the Environment, insists upon intervening when local authorities do not sell council houses quickly enough? Is this politics by paradox or by prejudice?

The Prime Minister

I am sure that all my Ministers are right in their respective spheres.

Mr. Grieve

Will my right hon. Friend find time in a busy day to convey to those who have the privilege of serving in our security and monitoring services that the public expects of them a measure of loyalty, patriotism and devotion to duty and deplores the fact that, in pursuit of their sectional interests, some of them abandoned their posts yesterday?

The Prime Minister

Obviously I join my hon. and learned Friend in deploring the strike which took place yesterday, but I am sure that he will join me in congratulating the vast numbers of people who stayed at their posts and carried out their duties to the Government and to the people.

Mr. Hooley

When the Secretary of State for Defence said that Britain would contribute a company to the rapid deployment force, which company did the Government have in mind? Was it Lonrho, Vestey or what?

The Prime Minister

I suspect that the question is hardly worth answering—[Interruption.] If the hon. Gentleman looks at the full quotation, he will find that John Nottmy right hon. Friend started with a company, and went on to a battalion and various other things. There seemed to be a rather rapid multiplication.

Q2. Mr. Hannam

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 10 March.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Hannam

Apart from the current 7 per cent. pay offer, will my right hon. Friend confirm that over the past two years civil servants have received pay increases of over 48 per cent.? Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the country as a whole there is widespread condemnation of yesterday's strike, which was both unjustified and unjustifiable?

The Prime Minister

I confirm that the figure is about that which my hon. Friend has given. Of course, those who work in the public sector, particularly in the Civil Service, would point out that the rigid incomes policies of the Labour Government meant that they were grossly underpaid. That situation has now been remedied. I share my hon. Friend's view that at present there is no need for a strike on grounds of pay or conditions of service in the Civil Service.

Mr. Ioan Evans

Has the right hon. Lady read the Treasury and Civil Service Committee's report on monetarism? The chairman of the 1922 Committee is a prominent member of that Select Committee. Has the right hon. Lady also read the intemperate remarks made by the chairman of the Conservative Party, Lord Thorneycroft? When the right hon. Lady spoke to the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the weekend, to whom did she advise him to listen?

The Prime Minister

I suggest that the hon. Gentleman should read the transcript of the broadcast [column 754]made by my right Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) who is the chairman of that Select Committee. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will find that it supported the Government admirably.

Mr. Heddle

Will my right hon. Friend take time today to read a report in the Daily Mirror to the effect that certain officials of the Confederation Of Health Service Employees, including the general secretary, are secretly operating a private medical scheme for its members? Does not that show confidence in the fact that the private medical system does have a part to play in the overall provision of health care in the country?

The Prime Minister

I saw that report. I should stress that in a free country, people should be able to use their own money to provide for their hospital or medical treatment. That will be ensured for as long as this Government continue in office.

Mr. Pavitt

As the Prime Minister is having meetings with her ministerial colleagues today, will she have a special session with the Secretary of State for the Environment? Is she aware that her declared policy of helping voluntary bodies is being sabotaged by the rate support grant? Money is required to prime the pump of voluntary bodies. Is she aware that voluntary services are being cut?

The Prime Minister

I cannot see Michael Heseltinemy right hon. Friend because I regret to say that I believe he has flu. However, the Government give grants of about £86 million to voluntary bodies in order that they can carry out their activities. In my view, that is £86 million well spent.

Mr. Waldegrave

Does my right hon. Friend agree that when members of the First Division Association, who have immensely privileged jobs in terms of honour, security and pensions, take what they describe as “industrial action” , standards in public life have reached a new all-time low?

The Prime Minister

Like my hon. Friend, I very much regret that that should have happened. I hope that the strike will not continue. Over the past two years, pay increases in the public sector have amounted to about 50 per cent. Therefore, the Government have properly looked after those who are expected to serve each and every Government in their honoured and distinguished capacity.

Q3. Mr. Edwin Wainwright

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 10 March.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Wainwright

In her quieter moments today, will the right hon. Lady consider the letter that has been sent by President Brezhnev? Does she believe that the strong words uttered by President Reagan and herself had some bearing on those peace proposals? Does the right hon. Lady believe that those peace proposals have been made through fear of the strength of the United States of America and of NATO, or because those statements had been made? Will the right hon. Lady bear in mind that it is time that the Governments of the world started to talk at greater length about multinational disarmament, in order to ensure that peace can be brought about throughout the world?

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The Prime Minister

All Governments are entitled to make strong statements about the need to defend the way of life in which they believe, particularly when the potential aggressor spends so much more on defence, as a proportion of its gross national product, than this country. Yesterday, the Soviet ambassador came to see me and delivered a further letter. We had a quiet, courteous and businesslike meeting. He speaks very good English—[Interruption]—for which I am profoundly grateful. We shall, of course, consider his letter. As I made perfectly clear, this country is anxious and willing to consider reductions in the total level of armaments and to strike the balance at a lower level. However, we must be absolutely certain that those reductions will be properly monitored and verified. It would be an earnest of Soviet Russia's good intentions if it were to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan.

Mr. Stanbrook

Has my right hon. Friend yet had an opportunity to read the latest volume of the Crossman diaries? If so, does she agree that an apology is due to my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal for the miscarriage of justice done to his organisation in connection with the libel case referred to in those diaries? Does she not agree that an explanation and an apology——

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman knows, as I have said before, that the Prime Minister can be questioned only about those matters for which she is responsible. I also said that about the previous Prime Minister.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Will my right hon. Friend take time today, to ask whether the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is taking adequate steps to prevent foot and mouth disease, which is now active in Brittany, from spreading to Britain, and in particular to the West Country?

The Prime Minister

I saw my right hon. Friend Peter Walkerthe Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, this morning, but I confess that we did not discuss that subject. As my hon. Friend knows, my right hon. Friend makes every effort to look after the farming community and does so extremely well.

Mr. Alton

Has the right hon. Lady had time to consider the seriousness of the implications of the speech made over the weekend by the Leader of the Opposition concerning the tragic deaths of 13 black people in South [column 756]London? Is she happy with the investigation that is being conducted? Is she prepared to have an independent inquiry into those tragic deaths?

The Prime Minister

It would be totally wrong to jump to any conclusions about a matter which is still under investigation. In this country one is still innocent until proved guilty. It would be quite wrong to add any inflammatory language to anything that is said. There are about 50 police officers investigating that case. They have taken about 600 statements. They are doing everything to find out the cause of the fire, and I am sure that they will continue to do so. That fire had particularly tragic effects.

Mr. Foot

May I say to the right hon. Lady and to the House that I certainly did not wish anything that I said on Sunday to prejudge in any way the investigation that is taking place. Most of those who heard what I said could not have come to that conclusion. However, if any did reach that conclusion, I am happy to apologise. I agree with the right hon. Lady that it is of the utmost importance that this investigation should be carried out speedily and fairly. That was my desire.

The Prime Minister

I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

Did my right hon. Friend watch the interesting Panorama programme last night in which Friedrich Hayek indicated that a constructive and meaningful reform of industrial relations was vital if the economic policies of this Government were to succeed? Will she assure the House that she will have discussions in the near future with her right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment in order to outlaw the closed shop, which I believe is an evil and an infringement of personal freedom, to which my right hon. Friend has referred so often?

The Prime Minister

I did not see the broadcast, as I was in my constituency, but I am a great admirer of Professor Hayek. Some of his books are absolutely supreme— “The Constitution of Liberty” and the three volumes on “Law, Legislation and Liberty” —and would be well read by almost every hon. Member.

My right hon. Friend James Priorthe Secretary of State for Employment has put out consultations in the Green Paper on the closed shop, and I hope that those such as my hon. Friend, who have particular views on the matter, will make their views known to my right hon. Friend.