Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [4/612-16]
Editorial comments: 1515-30.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2284
Themes: Agriculture, Industry, Local elections, Privatized & state industries, Pay, European Union (general), European Union Budget, Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Northern Ireland, Social security & welfare, Terrorism, Strikes & other union action
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President of France

Q1. Mr. Renton

asked the Prime Minister when she next plans to meet the President of France.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

I expect to meet François Mitterrandthe President of France next at the European Council on 29 and 30 June.

Mr. Renton

Does my right hon. Friend recall the French proverb “À nouveaux seigneurs nouvelles lois” ? [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. We must all understand what is being said. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will translate.

Mr. Renton

With pleasure, Mr. Speaker. It means “New brooms sweep clean.” To what extent does my right [column 613]hon. Friend think that the advent of M. Mitterrand may sweep away some of the procrustean obstacles to change and enable us to start on the vital task of reforming the EEC budget system whilst Britain holds the Presidency of the Community?

The Prime Minister

It is not for me to adjudge between the personalities of the people that France chooses to lead her. The problems are difficult but they remain the same. The reform of the common agricultural policy and the budget structure are vital issues which we must undertake to tackle this year and seek, at any rate, a preliminary solution by the end of the year. Britain will go ahead determined to seek those solutions.

Mr. Foot

May I thank the Prime Minister for the speed and generosity with which she sent her congratulations to President Mitterrand on his great victory for Socialism? Does she agree that one element in that victory was the recognition by the people of France that there is a real alternative to the defeatist policy of accepting mass unemployment? Does she agree that the elections nearer home show exactly the same spirit rising in Britain?

The Prime Minister

Of course I send congratulations to anyone elected by the democratic system, in which I wholly believe. That reminds me that I have not sent congratulations to Berlin, where Socialism was defeated.

Mr. Foot

Following the arrangements that the right hon. Lady has just announced, may I ask whether she has sent congratulations to the hundreds of successful Labour candidates in the election last week? If she is sending congratulations, will she spread them properly around the country?

The Prime Minister

The answer is “No” . Not even the right hon. Gentleman would wish me to send congratulations to everyone. I notice that in relation to the GLC Mr. McIntosh, who was a moderate Labour victor, said:

“The danger to the Labour Party today is so great that I have decided I must expose what is going on. It's gang warfare, just like the Jets and the Sharks.”

Mr. McQuarrie

When my right hon. Friend meets the new President of France, will she impress on him the urgent need for the early completion of the common fisheries policy within the European Community?

The Prime Minister

Most certainly. Chancellor Schmidt and I are firmly agreed on the need for a common fisheries policy and on the need to achieve one shortly which is satisfactory to all members of the Community.


Q2. Mr. Canavan

asked the Prime Minister what are her official engagements for 12 May.

The Prime Minister

This morning I held a press conference with Chancellor Schmidt following our meetings yesterday. In addition to my duties in this House I shall be having meetings later today with ministerial colleagues and others including one with Kurt Waldheimthe United Nations' Secretary-General. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty the Queen.

Mr. Canavan

In view of the Prime Minister's weekend speech to the Scottish conference of the Tory Party, may we know whether she was taken up to Perth [column 614]blindfolded so that she would not see the industrial deserts that she has created? With Scottish unemployment fast approaching 300,000, how can she expect us to believe all that claptrap about a dramatic industrial recovery, especially coming from the lips of the woman who has wrought more damage to Scottish industry in two years than the Kaiser and Hitler managed to achieve in two world wars?

The Prime Minister

I would expect even the hon. Gentleman to rejoice in the many orders that Scottish industry has recently won. I think that he prefers it not to get orders because he wants to wallow in misery.

Mr. Viggers

Has my right hon. Friend noted from a parliamentary answer that there are now more than 16,000 pre-1950 widows of non-commissioned ranks receiving pensions granted by her Government? Does she take pride in that, bearing in mind that the Labour Government said that it was administratively impossible?

The Prime Minister

We most certainly take pride in that, as do the many widows involved and the Armed Services.

Mr. David Steel

When the Prime Minister has her meeting this afternoon with her ministerial colleagues, will she consider which of them are overdue for elevation to the other House? Is she aware that last week 395 Liberals were elected to local authorities? Is it not time that we had some parliamentary by-elections?

The Prime Minister

We have already had a list of people elevated to the other House. It is not my intention to make another list of working life peers.

Mr. Cadbury

Despite her busy day, will my right hon. Friend reflect on the fact that production of all Mini-Metros at the Longbridge plant and of all Ford Escorts at Halewood has been stopped by unofficial strikes? Does she not agree that unions and management must end the tradition of unofficial strikes, otherwise the British motor industry will destroy itself, with catastrophic effects on the entire economy?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point. We have two cars that are acknowledged winners—the Escort and the Metro. It is crazy that those who produce them should be on strike. They are putting in jeopardy their own jobs and the jobs of many others who supply them. If unemployment is increased because of that and because of this country's bad reputation abroad for strikes, they will have only themselves to blame.

Mr. Molyneaux

In relation to the evidence, to which I have drawn the Prime Minister's attention, that mortar attacks on our security forces are being organised from the Irish Republic, may I ask whether the right hon. Lady is aware that the people of Northern Ireland rely on her to take a tough line with the Irish Government?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman drew my attention to the mortar attacks on border posts, which, we believe, from forensic evidence, involve mortars of a sort produced by the IRA, although I cannot confirm the other matters referred to in the hon. Gentleman's letter. I shall continue wholeheartedly the full guarantee to the people of Northern Ireland which is enshrined in legislation. However, we must strive to work for peace and reconciliation with the Republic.

Factory Closures

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Q3. Mr. Campbell-Savours

asked the Prime Minister how many hon. Members she has seen on matters relating to factory closures since she last answered oral questions; and how many jobs are expected to be lost in the closures discussed.

The Prime Minister

I have had no such meetings since 7 May.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Is the right hon. Lady aware that, as a result of her industrial gang war policy, unemployment due to closures in the Northern region has nearly doubled since the general election? Is she aware that in Cumbria it has doubled and in the West Cumbrian constituencies it has more than doubled? It will be almost 19 per cent. to 20 per cent. in the next few months. Will she tell our constituents in the Northern region when those factories that now stand empty will be put back to work under her policies?

The Prime Minister

There will be more factories in work, and new factories started, when people are prepared to purchase the goods and services produced. I am aware of the steel problem in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. He should know that steel has been over-manned for years. If the Labour Government had tackled the problem more vigorously we would have had a better equipped and more efficient steel industry. Consequently, we would now have a larger share of the world market. That problem must be dealt with. Until it is we shall not have a flourishing industry able to compete with any the world over.

Sir William Elliott

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the trading estates in the Northern region in the past 12 months there have been three times as many new openings as there have been closures? [Hon. Members: “No.” ] Look at the facts. Many of those new openings are small factories and there is a buoyant demand for more new small factories. To continue with the good news, is my right hon. Friend aware that a £14 million order for a Norwegian bulk carrier to be built on the Tyne was announced at a press conference in Oslo this morning?

The Prime Minister

We are always ready to accord congratulations to those many companies that are gaining new orders against competition from the rest of the world. In my speech in Scotland I gave lists of them. Many companies are doing extremely well. We accord congratulations to those many small companies that are starting up in the new factories to which my right hon. Friend Sir Keith Josephthe Secretary of State for Industry gives great priority. I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Geoffrey Howethe Chancellor of the Exchequer on introducing an enterprise Budget which gives many people the opportunities, if they will take them. [Interruption.] The Opposition sit and laugh but do not produce jobs.

Dr. Edmund Marshall

Is the right hon. Lady aware that last Thursday, GEC Small Machines Ltd. announced its proposal to close its factory at Thorne in my constituency? That would mean a loss of 424 jobs in an [column 616]area which is already an unemployment black spot. Will she have urgent consultations with GEC in an effort to avert that further severe loss?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman and many of his colleagues always miss one point. To keep factories in existence one needs customers and to get customers one needs to be competitive. There was no shortage of demand in this country last year. There was a shortage in the supply of goods produced at competitive prices, with good delivery dates, to fill that demand. Until industry becomes competitive we shall not produce the jobs, but other companies in other countries will.

Mr. William Hamilton


The Prime Minister

Tedious it may be, but it is the truth.

Mr. Archie Hamilton

Does my right hon. Friend agree that to use taxpayers' money to support jobs in one sector of the economy merely takes money away from the profitable and productive side of the economy?

The Prime Minister

We must ensure that we do not take too heavily from those successful companies to subsidise other companies, unless, by taking that subsidy, they are prepared to restructure themselves, to slim their operations down so that they become competitive. In that case we give them subsidies to do so.


Q4. Mr. Christopher Price

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 12 May.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Price

Can the Prime Minister explain the curious logic of the present public sector pay policy? What is the logic of tearing up the negotiating machinery for the Civil Service while respecting that of the Armed Services? What is the logic of limiting to 7 per cent. the pay of the Civil Service and other groups, while allowing 11 per cent. or even more to other public servants in the Armed Services, or public servants who have a little more industrial clout? How can she expect to solve the Civil Service dispute with twisted logic of that nature?

The Prime Minister

I shall be making a statement shortly, when the reports have been printed, about the parts of the public service which are the subject of reviews by independent review bodies. We feel that a Civil Service award of 7 per cent. is as much as the private sector can afford to finance at present. That award is on top of previous awards of 50 per cent. during the past two years. The Civil Service may have complaints against the last Government concerning inadequate pay, but we do not believe that it has complaints against this Government. Incidentally, I understand from Chancellor Schmidt that the German Civil Service has just settled for 4.3 per cent.