Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1982 Dec 23 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [34/1063-68]
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2387
Themes: Defence (arms control), Education, Industry, Monetary policy, Trade, Foreign policy (general discussions), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Housing, Northern Ireland
[column 1063]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Adley

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 23 December.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

In addition to my duties in the House I shall be having meetings with ministerial colleagues and others.

Mr. Adley

In wishing my right hon. Friend a deserved and very happy and peaceful Christmas, may I ask her over the Christmas holiday to spare a thought, and also encourage everyone to spare a thought, for the millions of people around the world who are not free to travel, to speak and write what they wish, to congregate or to choose their Government? Will she in the new year try to encourage people like Mr. Bruce Kent to recognise that his inability to differentiate between the East and West blocs must seem deeply offensive to people like Archbishop Glemp, for whom words such as “peace” and “freedom” have real meaning?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend that freedom and justice are very precious. We should not take them for granted. There are hundreds of millions of people in the world who would wish to have the freedoms that we have in this country. They must be defended. Otherwise, those who are so free to exercise freedom of speech will no longer be able to do so. The best defence is the Western Alliance and the nuclear deterrent.

Mr. Foot

Is the right hon. Lady aware that we are all concerned to try to get the best defence we can without blowing the world to pieces? Has the right hon. Lady had a chance to reconsider the reply that she made to the House on Tuesday about Mr. Andropov 's proposals? The right hon. Lady said, I think, that she had not had time to read the full proposals. She made the most peremptory and slapdash reply on a matter of major importance. Has she had now chance to consult the Foreign Office, which seems to take a very different view from hers on the way that negotiations should be proceeded with?

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The Prime Minister

The Foreign Office takes precisely the view that Francis Pymthe Foreign Secretary and I take. It is perfectly straightforward and simple. The Soviet Union has been offered the zero option of no intermediate range nuclear missiles. That is by far the best answer for the Soviet Union and for us. For all those who hate nuclear weapons and who wish for peace everywhere, that is the option that we should go for. I am utterly mystified that certain Members of the Opposition prefer to go for an option where we have none and the Soviet Union still has very many.

Mr. Foot

The right hon. Lady has not followed these matters. Nor has she attempted to reply to the specific questions that I have put. What she has just stated does not accord with what the Foreign Secretary told the House yesterday. The right hon. Gentleman attempted, at any rate, to treat the matter seriously. There are many others in Europe who have responded seriously—for example, the Foreign Minister of West Germany. Is the right hon. Lady aware that we are asking her to catch up with the Foreign Office on this issue? Will she recognise that 1983 could be the most dangerous year in the history of the nuclear arms race and that we want a British Government who will act constructively to try to end that race?

The Prime Minister

The danger will be reduced, not by Mr. Andropov's proposals, but by having no intermediate-range nuclear weapons. The right hon. Gentleman is prepared to have some on the Soviet side. I do not want any. I want a zero option on both sides. If he wants the official Foreign Office briefing, let me give it to him. It is that

“a continuing Soviet monopoly of longer-range INF missiles in Europe, with NATO alone implementing the zero option, would be unacceptable.”

Mr. Foot

Did not the Foreign Secretary say yesterday that these proposals would be examined seriously? Which is the Government's policy—the right hon. Lady's explosions, or the Foreign Secretary's considered replies?

The Prime Minister

The policy of Her Majesty's Government is the zero option. It is, perhaps, because some of us have stood so firmly by it and said that the cruise missiles will be deployed unless we get satisfactory conclusions from the Soviet Union that the Soviet Union is now for the first time beginning to consider reducing armaments. It has a long way to go yet for the zero option. The right hon. Gentleman is content for it to have some and for us to have none. I repeat, for the Soviet Union to have a monopoly of those weapons, and for us to have none, is totally unacceptable to the Government.

Mr. Foot

The right hon. Lady should sort out these matters. When she talks about these negotiations, in fact it was pressure from the Opposition and the peace movement throughout Europe that got the Geneva discussions going.

Sir Peter Emery

Rubbish.

Mr. Foot

The Government did not say a word in favour of those Geneva talks before President Reagan was eventually persuaded to come forward in favour of them. We were in favour of those talks all along.

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is talking nonsense. An extensive list of proposals for reducing strategic weapons, for a zero option of intermediate-range nuclear forces and substantial [column 1065]reductions in conventional weapons was put forward in a well-known speech by President Reagan. It was an excellent package of disarmament proposals on a multilateral basis. Is the right hon. Gentleman for the zero option, or is he prepared to have a monopoly of those intermediate-range weapons on the Soviet side and none on ours? He must answer that question. [Hon. Members: “Answer.” ]

Q2. Mr. Colvin

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 23 December.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Colvin

I echo the good wishes already expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley). Will my right hon. Friend find time today to read the copy of the document that I have sent to her entitled “Avon Peace Education Project: A Programme for Schools” ? Does she feel that there is a danger that the so-called peace studies are being used by CND as a means of indoctrinating our schoolchildren? Does she agree that peace, good will and disarmament are all part of the Christmas message, are two-sided if not multi-sided matters, and that the unilateralists, by definition, are more likely to put those aims at risk than to secure them?

The Prime Minister

Thanks to my hon. Friend, I am aware of that syllabus, which was produced not by the Avon education authority, but by a group of people funded, I believe, by the Rowntree Trust. I am as anxious about those matters as my hon. Friend. I agree with him completely that unilateralism would put peace, freedom and justice at risk. I should think that many of us who lived through the 1930s are well aware of that. It leads to weakness and puts freedom and justice at risk. There cannot be both unilateralism and multilateralism. One has to have multilateralism. It is for both governors and parents to consider the matter carefully and make their views known to education authorities and head teachers.

Mr. David Steel

I also wish the Prime Minister a happy, relaxed, family Christmas. During the holidays will she reflect on the English housing condition survey, just published by the Department of the Environment, which designates 1 million houses as unfit? As there are 400,000 building workers on the dole, will she make a new year's resolution to start a sustained programme of home improvement and thus bring seasonal cheer to such people as the 76-year-old man in Liverpool, reportedly sleeping on the floor, and let them know that something will be done to clear these unfit houses in the coming year?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his kind remarks, which I reciprocate warmly. My hon. Friend John Stanleythe Minister of State for Housing and Construction at the Department of the Environment issued a statement which came out at the same time as the housing survey. It pointed out that the Government had taken a number of steps to increase improvement grant activity. There has been a significant rise in the number of improvement grants paid. In the third quarter of this year they were the highest since 1974. The Minister listed a further five major steps which the Government have taken which will, I hope, deal with many of the matters mentioned in the housing report. The five steps are detailed in the answer that he gave a few days ago.

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Mr. Neil Thorne

In view of the important relationship between the sale of British goods and the protection of British jobs, will my right hon. Friend find time during a busy day to consider recommending to Her Majesty the Queen the institution of an award system for retailers of wholly British goods along similar lines to the award system for British industry, with an award of a special emblem going to the top 10 firms who sell most British goods in each year?

The Prime Minister

I shall of course look at that suggestion. There are a number of items that are not made in this country. We have to remember also that we depend on exports for many jobs. It is very important to urge people to remember that jobs and prosperity depend upon customer satisfaction and purchase. It will help if people will buy British goods that are of excellent value and design rather than foreign goods. I hope that people will take that step.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

Will the right hon. Lady, who in 1982 has done so much to revive the national spirit of this country and to prove that sovereignty is no longer a dirty word, recognise that in 1983 in those two principles will lie the solution to her problems and ours in maintaining the Union of the United Kingdom and in making new relations between Great Britain and our continental neighbours?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for what he said in the earlier part of his question. It is right that we defend our legal sovereignty and uphold international law in so doing. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. I believe and hope that it will remain part of the United Kingdom.

Q3. Mr. Hal Miller

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 23 December.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Miller

Is my right hon. Friend aware that people and firms in the West Midlands, the region with the highest rising and absolute rate of unemployment, agree that Labour's policy of increased spending, borrowing and taxation, leading to increasing inflation and ever higher unemployment, offers no answer to their growing anxiety over the continuing decline in the industrial base as they struggle to regain competitiveness and customers? They expect——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must be fair. If he asks a quick question, other hon. Members can be called.

Mr. Miller

—to be able to compete on fair and equal terms with other regions in this country and other countries, whether Spain, the political economies, or our partners in the EC.

The Prime Minister

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend's economic analysis. We must have sound financial policies, get down inflation and try to keep down interest rates if those industries in the West Midlands are to have a real chance in a highly competitive world. I am well aware of the difficulties that the West Midlands has with imports, especially from Spain and Japan. We are in touch with the European Community about this matter, [column 1067]especially about Spain and Japan. We have said that we really must have some action about both and that, if not, we shall have to consider taking action ourselves.

Mr. Dormand

Will the Prime Minister say what principles are being applied in the Government's review of their regional policies? Whatever they are, will she assure the House that more and not fewer resources are needed in areas such as the North, and will she say when the review is likely to be completed?

The Prime Minister

The principle of the review of regional policies is to see how we can best help effectively and in the longer run to build industries that will have a future. We are all very much aware that some of those who went to the regions—I suppose that Linwood is a classic example—did not have a future. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have concentrated our help on the special development areas. We shall continue to do that.

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Mr. Dalyell

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the considered and grave charges that I made against the Prime Minister personally on Tuesday, has there been any request to answer substantive Question No. Q8?

Mr. Speaker

No.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker——

Mr. Speaker

Order. Normally I take points of order after the Business Question. Officially, we are still in Question Time.

Mr. Dalyell

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Some of us tabled questions of substance to the Prime Minister today. Will you give us general guidance? Do those hon. Members who table questions of substance thereby disadvantage themselves in that they have little chance of being called?

Mr. Speaker

Not at all. The hon. Gentleman's question was No. 8 and that was his disadvantage. If it had been No. 1, it would have been called.