Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1982 Mar 11 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [19/964-68]
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2401
Themes: Agriculture, Privatized & state industries, Energy, Pay, Foreign policy (USA), Health policy, Labour Party & socialism, Law & order, Liberal & Social Democratic Parties, Race, immigration, nationality, Transport, Trade unions, Strikes & other union action
[column 964]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Kenneth Lewis

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 11 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 the House, I shall be having further meetings later today, including one with the Speaker of the Peruvian Parliament.

Mr. Lewis

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the best thing that she has done in recent days is to agree to a relaxation of the public pay guideline of 4 per cent. in favour of giving the nurses 6.4 per cent? That will be appreciated in Britain. Would it not be a good idea if other trade unions in the public sector, with the support of the Leader of the Opposition and the Labour Party, did not use that increase for the nurses to make bigger claims and thus gazump this claim, because that will make it more difficult in future to make exceptions in favour of professions such as the nurses, who are worthy of such an increase?

The Prime Minister

There were good management grounds for offering nurses more than 4 per cent. and I believe that the decision has been welcomed generally. It [column 965]is, of course, the taxpayers' money, not the Government's money, and my hon. Friend is right to say that it reduces our ability to pay increased wages elsewhere.

Mr. Foot

Has the right hon. Lady had an opportunity today to study the revelations in The Guardian about the sale of BNOC assets? Although the Labour Party is strongly opposed in principle to the sale, does the right hon. Lady not agree that the error would be compounded if the sale were to take place at a time of falling oil prices? Does she believe that that may account for the suggestions made by Mr. Clive Jenkins about the financial manoeuvrings on the board?

The Prime Minister

Those who will be interested in purchasing the assets are likely to take a longer-term view of their value rather than a short-term view, based on the immediate prospects for the price of oil.

Mr. Foot

That was not the question that I put to the right hon. Lady. I wished to know whether she believed that it was a good idea that the sale should take place when oil prices are falling generally. If the right hon. Lady is so confident that the matter is being dealt with properly by the Secretary of State for Energy—who was not so skilful in dealing with Amersham International—and if she is so confident that there is nothing wrong, does she believe that it was wise for the Secretary of State to sack Mr. Clive Jenkins—[Hon. Members: “Yes” ]—and remove him from the board, where he could see whether everything was being done properly?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman cannot have heard what I said or realised its implications. Although a sale may take place when the price of oil is falling, those who are interested in purchasing the assets are much more likely to take a long-term view of their value and to judge the price by that long-term view. We believe in privatisation and this will be a good opportunity for people to acquire shares in BNOC. With regard to what the right hon. Gentleman said about Mr. Clive Jenkins, it is the case that Mr. Jenkins was appointed for a period of three years. That period will expire shortly.

Mr. Montgomery

Will my right hon. Friend find some time today to study the speech made by the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), in which he advocated tougher controls on smoking and drinking? Bearing in mind that the Leader of the Liberal Party has given his tacit support to legalising cannabis, can it be assumed that the policies of the alliance party are to legalise pot and to ban smoking and alcohol, except claret?

The Prime Minister

It seems to me that these points were made more with a view to obtaining publicity than propounding sound policy.

Mr. Sandelson

In view of the chaotic conditions now reigning—[Hon. Members: “Reading” ]—will the Prime Minister now hold an inquiry into the financing of London Transport to ensure that there is a rational system of subsidies that will provide the proper level of fares and the efficient service that the people of London have a right to expect?

The Prime Minister

I agree entirely that the people of London have a right to expect a good and efficient service from London Transport. I believe that this can be provided as in the past, with a reasonable rate of subsidy. We condemn totally the strike yesterday, which put to [column 966]great inconvenience many people in London who, nevertheless, struggled to work. We have no immediate plans for an inquiry into London Transport. We believe that it can be run properly if there is the will to do so, under the present legislation, and with prudent financing.

Q2. Mr. Fox

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 11 March.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Fox

Will my right hon. Friend take time today to consider the frightening figures of increased crime in certain London boroughs, published yesterday? Does she agree that this increase is a direct consequence of a concerted attempt by the Left to undermine the authority of the police? Is it not time to confirm that this criminal minority will be brought to justice and that no accusations of racial discrimination will prevent the police profile that is necessary in these areas to protect decent and law-abiding citizens?

The Prime Minister

It is the duty of all our citizens to uphold the police—[Hon. Members: “Oh.” ] It is the duty of all our citizens to uphold the police in the pursuit of their duty of upholding the law. I believe that the public interest requires that all those who are engaged in crime should be detected, arrested, prosecuted and convicted and that this applies whatever—[Interruption.] I think that the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell), is making for me the very point that was made by one of my hon. Friends about the attitude of some Left-wingers towards the police. I believe that the public interest requires that all those engaged in crime are prosecuted and convicted, regardless of their race or colour. We have equal rights. We have equal responsibilities as well.

Miss Maynard

Will the Prime Minister take time today to intervene in the dispute between Bernard Matthews, the poultry tycoon, and members of the National Union of Agriculture and Allied Workers in Suffolk and Norfolk, who are on official strike? Is she aware that the strike is the action of desperate men and women, many of whom receive family income supplement, rate rebates and rent rebates, and who have been trying to live on starvation wages? Is the right hon. Lady further aware that these workers fully fulfil her criteria of increased production, having doubled production in the past 12 months? Will she now follow her words with deeds and support these workers who are trying to recover some of the wealth that they have produced?

The Prime Minister

The answer to the hon. Lady is “No” . Industrial relations are a matter between management and all those engaged in the enterprise. I hope that they will sort out this matter successfully. I might point out that my right hon. Friend Peter Walkerthe Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food took steps that helped considerably all those who produce turkeys in this country. I hope that this will be borne in mind.

Mr. Tapsell

When the Leader of the Opposition came to see my right hon. Friend to discuss the proposed visit of President Reagan to this country, did he remind her of the occasion in 1955 when Mr. Kruschev visited this building and, at a private dinner with the then leadership of the Labour Party, felt himself to have been so insulted that Mr. Gaitskell found it necessary the following morning to go round to Claridge's hotel to make a formal [column 967]apology? Is one to assume that discourtesy to the leaders of other great nations is now both obligatory and universally applied so far as the Labour Party is concerned?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I hope that we shall do honour to the President of a country who is a staunch and powerful ally in the defence of freedom and a great friend of Britain. To do otherwise would cause untold harm to our relations with that country, to the alliance and to the whole relationship between the United States and Europe. I remember the occasion when the Labour Party invited Mr. Kosygin to address both Houses of Parliament. We, on the Conservative Benches, loyally went along with it.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

Harking back to the question on the British National Oil Corporation, the Prime Minister said in her reply that the shares and value of BNOC were a long-term asset that investors would realise and recognise. Will she agree, in those circumstances, that it would be more appropriate not to put those shares on to the market because of the long-term potential and to make sure that the full value is recouped when the market for oil shares rises again?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. We believe that public ownership is better expressed by shares being genuinely in the hands of individual men and women and not in the hands of the State. In particular, it gives a chance for all those who work for BNOC to acquire a stake and a share in their own company.

Q3. Mr. Ward

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 11 March.

The Prime Minister

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

Q3. Mr. Ward

Has my right hon. Friend had time to study the advice given to the National Union of Mineworkers by Mr. Joe Gormley at a dinner given in his honour last night, on the effect that the trade union movement should reject Left-wing extremists? Does she not think that it would be helpful if the Leader of the Opposition endorsed this advice?

The Prime Minister

I believe that Mr. Gormley rightly condemns extremists in the trade unions. I believe that, in expressing that view, he is firmly supported by the vast majority of trade unionists as well as the vast majority of the people of this country. I also noted his remark that if one follows the leadership of the bully boys, it will be good riddance to a lot of jobs in British coal mining. He has the true interests of the workers of this country at heart.

Mr. Allen McKay

Will the Prime Minister therefore do a favour to Joe Gormley and ask her right hon. Friend [column 968]the Secretary of State for the Environment when he intends releasing a decision on the Vale of Belvoir, as this is needed for replacement capacity in the Leicester coalfield? Or is there collusion between the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Secretary of State for Energy to sell off the Vale of Belvoir?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend Michael Heseltinethe Secretary of State for the Environment, who was responsible for making a decision on this planning application, will, I hope, be in a position to make an announcement soon.

Viscount Cranborne

Will my right hon. Friend find time today to study this week's reports in the Washington Post, particularly those referring to the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mrs. Williams)? Will my right hon. Friend find time to congratulate her on her perspicacity in recognising the resurgence in the fortunes of the Conservative Party?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I believe that the view expressed in the Washington Post will be shared by many people in Britain.

Mr. William Hamilton

I revert to the question of nurses' pay. Does the right hon. Lady regard it as defensible that her Government should agree to give the police a 13 per cent. increase this year while they give nurses a 6 per cent. increase? Is a nurse worth only half what a policeman is worth? Even with a 6 per cent. increase, a staff nurse will earn less in a year than the right hon. Lady has given as an increase this year to Princess Margaret.

The Prime Minister

The Government were pledged to uphold the Edmund-Davies report on police pay. They have done so and will continue to do so. The Government should not take lessons from the hon. Gentleman on nurses' pay. After all, it was the Labour Government who kept down nurses' pay in their last years and then referred the whole matter to Clegg.

Mr. William Hamilton

That is not true. The right hon. Lady is deceiving the House.

The Prime Minister

It was this Government who honoured the Clegg recommendations and who reduced the weekly working hours of nurses, and it is this Government who now pay, through the taxpayer, 76 per cent. more on nursing pay bills than was paid on the day we came into power.

Mr. William Hamilton

Not one nurse has got that.

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman never did like the facts, but those are the facts.