Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1982 Nov 16 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [32/143-48]
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2301
Themes: Defence (arms control), Defence (Falklands War, 1982), Industry, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Energy, Public spending & borrowing, Taxation, Trade, Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Housing, Local government, Liberal & Social Democratic Parties, Social security & welfare
[column 143]

PRIME MINISTER

ENGAGEMENTS

Q1. Mr. Duffy

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 16 November.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. I also met the chairman of the Indian Advisory Committee of the Festival of India to mark the end of the very successful festival. Early this afternoon I was present when Her Majesty the Queen welcomed Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands on her arrival in London. In addition to my duties in the House I shall be having further meetings later today. This evening I will be attending a State banquet in honour of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands at Buckingham Palace.

Mr. Duffy

What encouragement does the Prime Minister draw from the latest findings of the Central Statistical Office showing industrial production in September as flat, and with no improvement in the third quarter over the second, thus confirming the recent bleak forecasts of the CBI? Does the Prime Minister deny that the PSBR could now provide for some pump-priming, or has she abandoned unemployed people to the electoral needs of a give-away Budget?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman is right, production is flat. But he will have noticed that the retail trade is buoyant and he will have drawn the conclusion that people are buying more goods. The demand is there, but it is not being met by production from our factories. That stresses the need once again to be competitive both in price and design. As regards the PSBR, as one of the world troubles in the coming financial year will be the accumulated deficits of debtor countries, it is far better that we do not join those countries, but keep our finances on a sound basis.

Mr. Montgomery

Will my right hon. Friend find time today to study recent developments in the London borough [column 144]of Lambeth, where, due to the defection of a Social Democrat councillor, the Marxist-led Labour Party is now in control? Does she not think that that is bad news for the ratepayers of Lambeth? Does that not prove, as regards the Social Democrats, that once a Socialist always a Socialist?

The Prime Minister

I agree wholly with my hon. Friend. What has happened in Lambeth shows that the Social Democrats prefer to keep their Socialist allegiance when there is a choice. I agree also that it is bad news for the Lambeth ratepayers. Under the Conservative-controlled Lambeth council the rates were reduced by a further 10p this year.

Mr. Foot

Turning to a more serious subject than the SDP, may I ask the right hon. Lady whether she will be good enough to clear up the confusion that she left last week about the proposed pension clawback? There is a serious discrepancy among Ministers about the amount involved: the right hon. Lady says about £375 million and the Chancellor about £180 million. May not the Chancellor be correct, as the sum is only for part of a year? Will the right hon. Lady tell us that she will not proceed with the miserable measure to take back money which pensioners would otherwise have had under the law of the land?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman has confused two figures. The £375 million is the extra amount paid in advance, by virtue of the 11 per cent. payment being over and above the amount that would have been required for inflation. That is the extra amount paid out in advance this year. It is a payment in advance. The £180 million next year is an amount which is in the public expenditure plans and which has not yet been allocated.

Mr. Foot

Will the right hon. Lady take the opportunity to state that she will not go ahead with the legislation? In the five years of the Labour Government the value of the pension was increased by over 20 per cent.—[Interruption.]—The real value was increased by over 20 per cent. Seeing that the pensioners might conceivably get a 2 per cent. increase, the right hon. Lady proposes to claw back part of it. Will she promise—we give her the chance—not to introduce legislation on the subject?

The Prime Minister

No. What we also have to consider is—[Hon. Members: “Answer” ] I answered directly. I said “No” . If only hon. Members would listen instead of shouting. I also have to consider—[Interruption.] If hon. Members do not wish to listen, I shall not reply.

Mr. Foot

rose——

Several Hon. Members

rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is inevitable that if people are not allowed to speak, both sides of the House will get agitated. I remind the House once more that everyone is entitled to a reasonable hearing.

Mr. Foot

It is right that the right hon. Lady should be heard. Everyone in the House and the country should hear her answer. The pensioners especially want to hear it.

Mr. Robert Atkins

That includes the right hon. Gentleman.

The Prime Minister

I believe that the pensioners would be the first to understand the burden on the working population. On a pay-as-you-go scheme, every penny paid [column 145]out this year must be paid in this year, and it is paid in by the working population, who will already be paying a 9 per cent. national insurance contribution on their wages, with the employer paying 10.45 per cent. What they are paying is not sufficient to meet the fund's outgoings this year, which is being borne from the reserves. We cannot go on that way. When we come to consider the amount for the pension next year, which will be decided in the Budget, we must take account of the pensioner and the working population, The right hon. Gentleman will remember that the phraseology that I use is similar to that used during the time of the last Government.

Sir William Clark

Is my right hon. Friend aware that with the recent 2 per cent. cut in mortgage interest, rates have come down by 5 per cent this year? Does she agree that in many cases it is cheaper for a council tenant to buy rather than to rent, which should be an added incentive for people to buy council houses?

The Prime Minister

Yes. In many cases the discount permitted to council tenants and the tax relief on mortgage payments will mean that the net mortgage repayment is less than the rent that would otherwise have been paid. I hope that that fact will lead many council tenants to take the opportunity to purchase their houses under the right-to-buy legislation.

Q2. Mr. Dormand

asked the Prime Minister if she will state her official engagements for 16 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Dormand

In view of the Government's gross interference in the price mechanism for gas and electricity, will the Prime Minister, who clearly acknowledges that there is merit in intervention, abandon other of her cherished principles and throw out the monetarist concept in order to get the country working again?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman must be referring to a levy on gas. There is petroleum revenue tax on gas from some fields but not on gas from others. The recent decision was made wholly by the Gas Council, and the decision was made possible as it had kept within its external financing limit. I would have hoped that the hon. Gentleman would welcome the decision.

Mr. Hordern

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Labour-controlled council in Crawley has put up signs costing £900 stating that Crawley is a nuclear-free zone? Does she agree that neither Mr. Andropov nor the ratepayers of Crawley are likely to be impressed by the declaration and that it is a total waste of money?

The Prime Minister

I entirely agree. The sign has no legal significance and serves no purpose. Unfortunately, it puts an extra burden on the ratepayers and shows once again that Labour has no consideration for them.

Mr. Charles R. Morris

Will the Prime Minister recall the words that she intoned in Downing Street after the last election to the effect that she would seek to give hope where there was despair? Is she aware that in my constituency 125 people are now unemployed for each vacancy on the job register? Against that background, why does she refuse to meet a deputation from the Manchester city council and the North-West Industrial Development Association to discuss the industrial wasteland developing in the area?

[column 146]

The Prime Minister

Had the Government not tackled the fundamental problems which the previous Government thrust aside, such as overmanning and keeping old industries going with money that should have been directed to new industries, because they were too difficult, there would be precious little hope for industry's future. We now have to make industry still more competitive and we have a long way to go to make up for the lost years. The deputation from Manchester city council should be seen by the Department of the Environment.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

In view of the new Soviet leadership, will my right hon. Friend agree to support the Swedish Government in any new representations that they may make about the fate of Raoul Wallenberg, especially as his plight symbolises the fate of countless other political prisoners?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend knows, we have considered the matter before. It is extremely serious. Raoul Wallenberg disappeared a long time ago, having helped many people to escape from a dangerous situation, in which their lives may have been lost. We shall certainly join in any representations.

Q3. Mr. Alton

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 16 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Alton

Following the Prime Minister's statement last night that pensioners should not be reduced to penury, will she confirm that had the £10 Christmas bonus kept pace with inflation it should now be about £30? Does she agree with what a Liverpool pensioner said to me recently, that if she does not increase this pitiful sum it could reasonably be said that Scrooge is alive and well and living in Downing Street?

The Prime Minister

My comments last night referred to the savings of non-index-linked pensioners having been reduced by a policy of inflation over the years. I said that those days were over; the pensioners were abused disgracefully by a policy of inflation over a decade.

It is easy for the hon. Gentleman to ask for increases in the bonus, but they must be met out of the pockets of the working population. Every time that we put extra burdens on them or on industry we make it more difficult for industry to be competitive. The hon. Gentleman knows of the increases in the national insurance contribution that we have had to make this year. It would not be wise to put an extra burden on the working population.

Mr. Dykes

As my right hon. Friend has expressly not taken time for the purpose today or yesterday, does she believe that it was wise of President Reagan to sign the book of condolence in Washington for President Brezhnev?

The Prime Minister

It is for President Reagan to make his own decisions. I sent a message of condolence direct to the Soviet Union, the Minister of State signed the book of condolence and Francis Pymthe Foreign Secretary went to the funeral in Moscow.

Mr. Dalyell

Did the Secretary of State for Defence tell the Prime Minister on 29 March that Ministers had ordered the Fleet Auxiliary vessel “Fort Austin” to the South Atlantic?

[column 147]

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman will recall that HMS “Endurance” had to be replenished. The Fleet Auxiliary vessel was sent to do that. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would be pleased that “Endurance” was to be replenished.

Q4. Mr. Colvin

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 16 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Colvin

Will my right hon. Friend ensure that at the forthcoming GATT conference the Government will [column 148]uphold the principles of genuine free trading, bearing in mind the activities of countries, such as Spain with cars and Korea with ships, which do not follow the British example?

The Prime Minister

It is our purpose, and it is in our interests, to uphold the principles of free trade. However, we are in difficulty when other countries do not uphold the principles of free trade. However, we are in difficulty when other countries do not uphold the same principles. We must make it clear to them that if free trade is to continue, as we wish, they must bring down their barriers or they will be in danger of retaliation from Britain.