Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [3/646-50]
Editorial comments: 1515-30.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2285
Themes: Parliament, Defence (general), Economic policy - theory and process, Employment, Industry, Energy, Law & order, Local government finance, Northern Ireland, Race, immigration, nationality, Terrorism
[column 646]



1. Mr. John Townend

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 28 April.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be having further meetings later today.

Mr. Townend

May I first congratulate my right hon. Friend on her most successful tour, and particularly on the way in which she stood up for Britain and British interests?

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that legislation passed by this House is not the business of foreign Powers, that the British Nationality Bill is non-racial, that we have the same laws in Britain for black and white, and, above all, that young thugs who riot with Molotov cocktails will be severely punished, regardless of colour?

The Prime Minister

I thank my right hon. Friend for his congratulations. I confirm that legislation passed by this House about United Kingdom citizens is not the business of other Powers, although we listen to representations made by old friends. I confirm that the British Nationality Bill will apply equally across all racial boundaries. Indeed, many minority groups here will benefit from its better definition of British citizenship. I confirm that the same laws apply to everyone in the community, and that those who break the law should be punished, irrespective of race or colour.

Mr. Foot

Since this is the first opportunity that I have had of doing so, may I ask the right hon. Lady—indeed, urge her—to respond to the representations that were made from the Labour Benches yesterday not to proceed with the imposition of the guillotine on the British Nationality Bill? I do so in the interests of good race relations in this country. Will the right hon. Lady recognise that the attempt to force through this Bill, of all Bills, by this means, can only further injure good race relations in this country?

The Prime Minister

I cannot respond to the appeal made by the right hon. Gentleman. In making such an appeal he should remember that in two years of office the Government have only just passed his record for guillotines in one day.

Mr. Foot

Does the right hon. Lady understand that this is a constitutional measure, that it should have been taken on the Floor of the House, and if she really is to attempt to deal with a Bill of this nature in this insensitive manner, it shows how unqualified she is to talk on any of these issues?

Will the right hon. Lady now take the opportunity to withdraw the remarks that she made when she was in India, when she said that one of the purposes of the Bill was to stop immigrants from pouring into this country? Does she think that that showed any knowledge of the Bill or any sensitivity about race relations?

The Prime Minister

I said in India that the purpose of the British Nationality Bill was to enable the British Parliament to define British citizenship. That is a right that almost every other Parliament or Government in the world take unto themselves and which we should also possess. [column 647]With regard to the right hon. Gentleman's point that this is a constitutional Bill, he guillotined the Scotland and Wales Bills and the European Assembly Elections Bill.

Mr. Foot

Why is the right hon. Lady so eager to dodge the fact that the Bills to which she refers were taken on the Floor of the House of Commons? Does she not understand, even at this late stage, that race relations are in a somewhat sensitive state in this country and that almost everything that the right hon. Lady does or says apparently contributes to these animosities? Will not she consider once again what we, as an Opposition, have asked her to do in order to give the British Parliament proper time to discuss this major measure?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I believe that what the British Government are doing in the British Nationality Bill, in taking the right to define British citizenship, is correct. I believe that our approach, which is non-racial, will contribute to good race relations and not detract from them. We shall continue the way we are going.

Mr. Latham

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the catastrophic situation regarding the electricity supply in many parts of the East Midlands, where thousands of people have been without power since Saturday night? Will she ensure that the full resources of the State, including the Army, are immediately available to deal with this desperately urgent matter?

The Prime Minister

I am very much aware of the grievous circumstances in which my hon. Friend's constituents find themselves together with certain people——

Mr. Skinner

And in Derbyshire.

The Prime Minister

—in the Midlands and elsewhere in the country. Ninety five per cent. of people who were without electricity have been connected. That does not alter the difficulties affecting the other 5 per cent. I know that my hon. Friend has been in contact with the Department of Energy and the electricity boards. I confirm that the Army is being brought in to use generators, wherever possible. Where elderly people are particularly affected, measures are being taken to get them to rest centres when they cannot cope. The electricity boards will continue to do everything in their power to help, together with the Army if necessary.

Mr. Wm. Ross

Following the law and order question by her hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) may I ask whether the right hon. Lady is aware that the IRA gun-runner Neil Blaney is to address a meeting in this building this afternoon? Does she deplore the use of the facilities of the Palace of Westminster for the promotion of the interests of a murderous terrorist organisation?

The Prime Minister

I was aware that such a meeting is to be held. I must point out to the hon. Gentleman that the use of rooms in this House is not a matter for me but for the authorities of the House. It would be wrong for me to interfere.

Mr. Kilfedder

Is the Prime Minister aware that another of my constituents, Garry Martin, a young policeman with a wife and two baby children, was brutally murdered yesterday and his colleagues seriously injured by Irish republican terrorists? Does she realise that it is heart-breaking and sickening to the Ulster people—particularly [column 648]to the relatives of the 2,000 people murdered by the IRA—and provocative to all law-abiding people of the Province, that the world's press, including the British media, churn out IRA propaganda about a convicted thug who attempts to commit suicide when even that choice was not given to other people? Will the Government vigorously counter lies with the truth in embassies throughout the world?

The Prime Minister

I join the hon. Gentleman in condemning totally all organisations in Northern Ireland and anywhere in the world which try to impose their will by terrorism which takes or endangers the lives or limbs of innocent men, women and children. I share his great sympathy for the relatives of the 1,500 civilians and 600 soldiers and policemen who have been murdered since the troubles in Northern Ireland began. Our sympathies are with them. We condemn utterly and totally those who perpetrate these monstrous offences.

Greater Manchester

Q2. Mr. McNally

asked the Prime Minister when next she intends to visit Greater Manchester.

The Prime Minister

I have no immediate plans to do so.

Mr. McNally

When the Prime Minister does have plans to do so, will she visit the new Salford jobcentre which is already dubbed by locals, “Maggie's Joke Shop” ? Will she accept that it is a pretty sick joke for her and her Ministers to start talking about an upturn and better days ahead when every responsible commentator thinks that the Government are committing areas such as Greater Manchester to a further 1 million unemployed and the destruction of their industrial base?

The Prime Minister

I am just as anxious as the hon. Gentleman to see genuine jobs created in this country. They will be created only when industry and commerce start up or expand, so creating either goods or services which people in this country or overseas will buy. However much the hon. Gentleman tries, he cannot get away from that fact.

Mr. Montgomery

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Conservative-controlled Greater Manchester council has reduced the rates by 5p in the pound this year? Is she aware that the programme put forward by the Labour Party there is extremely expensive and that it would mean an enormous rise in rates with consequent loss of jobs? Would not the electors be well advised to keep Greater Manchester out of the red?

The Prime Minister

I join my hon. Friend in congratulating the Greater Manchester council on reducing its rate by 5p in the pound. It is clearly aware that sharp increases in rates cost jobs.

Mr. Charles R. Morris

Reverting to the question of unemployment in Greater Manchester, will the Prime Minister give her attention to the scandal of unemployment among young people, particularly in the city of Manchester? Is she aware that with unemployment at its current appalling level, 40 per cent. of those unemployed in Manchester are under 25 years of age? Is she aware of the sense of rejection and frustration to which this situation gives rise? What will she do about it?

[column 649]

The Prime Minister

It is precisely because the Government are aware of the grievous problems as they affect young people that we have put our priorities into the youth opportunities programme, so that all those young people who leave school during the summer term will be promised some work experience by the following Christmas——

Mr. Skinner

Real jobs?

The Prime Minister

I know that some industries and a number of those engaged in commerce are coming forward with real work experience opportunities. Real jobs can be created not by people muttering from the Front Bench below the Gangway—which is easy—but by creating the sort of conditions under which expansion can take place——

Mr. Skinner


The Prime Minister

—and producing goods that even the hon. Gentleman may buy.


Q3. Mr. Neubert

asked the Prime Minister whether she will list her official engagements for 28 April.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Neubert

Will my right hon. Friend find time today to visit the London borough of Tower Hamlets in view of the serious rioting that broke out there last night between the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) and the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore)? Will not she bring peace and reconciliation to that troubled community?

The Prime Minister

I am not the referee for the Opposition, although there are times when I feel like blowing the whistle.

Mr. Marks

In view of the Prime Minister's expressed desire to keep the Polaris fleet afloat, will she investigate, and also ask her Ministers to investigate, the case of Laurence Scott and Electromotors of Manchester which has been taken over and is being closed at short notice? this firm supplies the flame-proof motors, and maintains them, for Polaris submarines and for most of the coal mines in this country.

[column 650]

The Prime Minister

I shall bring the hon. Gentleman's question to the attention of my right hon. Friends John Nottthe Secretaries of State for Defence and Sir Keith Josephfor industry and ask them to look into the point that he raises.

Sir Graham Page

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that during her recent Middle East tour the view was expressed that a strongly armed Britain is the best safeguard for world peace?

The Prime Minister

Yes, very much so. Most nations are beginning to realise that weakness does not give security. We must rely on our own defence for the security and freedom of our people.

Mr. Freeson

I imagine that people think of anything but that in the Middle East slums—as is the case in areas of this country where there is much unemployment. As London has been mentioned, may I draw the Prime Minister's attention to the figure of nearly ¼ million unemployed in Greater London? Would it not be far better to do something for those people and bring peace and prosperity to the deprived areas of inner London?

The Prime Minister

Yes. I am well aware of the difficulties of finding jobs. If there were no difficulties, industry and commerce would thrive and be competitive with other countries that have not had our problems of overmanning and inflation, and that have not suffered from some of the financial policies carried out by the Labour Party when in Government.