Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1983 Feb 3 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [36/413-16]
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2076
Themes: Executive, Defence (arms control), Employment, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Public spending & borrowing, Trade, Foreign policy (Americas excluding USA), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Transport
[column 413]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Nelson

asked the Prime Minister whether she will list her official engagements for Thursday 3 February.

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.

Mr. Nelson

Will my right hon. Friend find time in her busy day to reassure the many people who are deeply alarmed at the assumption in the Government's expenditure White Paper published this week that the prices of nationalised industries, including heating, electricity, transport and postage, will rise in the year ahead by the rate of inflation? As these prices have consistently risen by more than the rate of inflation for several years, does my right hon. Friend agree that both the Government and consumers are entitled to expect more restraint in the future?

The Prime Minister

What my hon. Friend says is true. The monopoly nationalised industries do not have the same spur of competition as the private sector. There will be an improvement only if strenuous efforts are made to cut costs and increase efficiency. In the meantime, we welcome the decision of the British Gas Corporation to freeze industrial prices and of the electricity industry not to increase average prices for the coming year.

Mr. Foot

Will the right hon. Lady give us a list of the nationalised industry price increases that she forced up by orders from on high? Furthermore, in view of the appalling figures published today, as the right hon. Lady has suggested that the only cure for mass unemployment that she believes in is a fall in the inflation rate, will she tell us when she thinks her cure will start to work? Is it not a fact that her Government are contemplating an increase of 280,000 or more on the already hideous and terrible unemployment figures published today?

The Prime Minister

The unemployment figures are a great disappointment. However, as the right hon. Gentleman will know, unemployment is rising the world over and in some countries, for example, Germany, the United States, Canada and Holland, it is rising faster than in the United Kingdom. Rhetoric, rows and strikes will not improve the position. It is only by having sound financial policies—which we have—by trying to keep interest rates down, by having industrial incentives and by drumming up orders the world over, delivered on time and at a price and design that people want, that we shall improve the underlying employment position.

Mr. Foot

If the right hon. Lady talks about drumming up orders all over the world, why has the Central Electricity Generating Board placed a £10 million order for a cable-laying ship with a Korean shipyard at a time when British Shipbuilders is perfectly prepared to do the job? What representations has the right hon. Lady made to put [column 414]that right? When she talks about the general situation, does she recall that she said that 1981 would be the year when results begin to show? What has gone wrong since then?

The Prime Minister

What has gone wrong since then, as the right hon. Gentleman would know if he looked around him, is that there has been a very deep world recession—[Hon. Members: “Oh.” ]—which was much deeper than expected, and that hit other industrial countries as well as our own—a recession that is the deeper because of the enormous loans that were made to the under-developed countries, greatly in excess of what some of them could afford to repay in either interest or capital.

On the subject of the vessel, there is an intervention fund for British Shipbuilders. Where the ship required is the one which the purchaser wishes to buy and can be quoted at a competitive price, the order goes to British Shipbuilders. Where it is not, the order goes to the shipyard most suitable for the task.

Mr. Foot

If the right hon. Lady is not prepared to intervene at once to get the order for British shipyards, will she cease to go around the country talking about buying British? [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.” ]

The Prime Minister

No, because, unlike the right hon. Gentleman, I am prepared to advise people to buy British only when British goods are the best, most competitive and most suitable to the buyer. The alternative course of protecting and cosseting British industry would lead to untold increases in the cost of living, untold inefficiencies in British industry, and a reduction in our standard of living.

President Reagan (Economic Summit)

Q2. Mr. Latham

asked the Prime Minister what items she intends to discuss with President Reagan in May at the economic summit.

The Prime Minister

Discussion is likely to concentrate on the state of the world economy, the prospects for lasting recovery, the risks of protectionism, and the problems of debtor countries, but it is too soon to say definitely what the agenda will be. I certainly expect to have bilateral talks with President Reagan at the same time.

Mr. Latham

When my right hon. Friend meets the President, will she stress that America cannot get on the mend by transferring its economic problems to the rest of the Western nations, and that if we are to avoid destabilising changes in the exchange rate and interest rates America will have to do something about its budget deficit?

The Prime Minister

I believe that the United States Administration recognise the problems that a large deficit creates, not only for their own economy, but for economies in the other parts of the world—our economy and European economies. I believe that in the recent budget they have made provision to reduce those deficits, and it is important for all of us that they succeed in that objective.

Mr. David Steel

While it is obviously right that the world economic problems should be dealt with at this summit, will the Prime Minister confirm that today's unemployment figures mean that unemployment in this country has risen during her period of office twice as fast [column 415]as in the other countries of the European Community? Will she therefore accept at least half the responsibility for the figures?

The Prime Minister

I understand that the right hon. Gentleman is asking about the speed at which unemployment has risen. It has risen faster in this country than in some others, and in other cases it has risen faster in other countries. Let me give the figures. These are the actual figures published in each country—the crude figures. In the United Kingdom, from May 1979 to December 1982 there was an increase in unemployment of 135 per cent.; in Germany, from May 1979 to December 1982 there was an increase in unemployment of 140 per cent. and in the Netherlands, from May 1979 to November 1982 there was an increase in unemployment of 186 per cent.

Sir Hugh Fraser

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether full preparation has been made for this summit, which will be of vital interest to the Western world because of the worldwide depression? Will she give us an assurance that sufficient work has been done on the control, not just of interest rates, but of the rates of exchange, and on reorganising the immense debt that is now weighing down our production chances and opportunities?

The Prime Minister

All those matters are the subject of studies that are going on now, before the summit in May.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

While the Prime Minister is discussing economic matters with President Reagan, will she point out to him that although it might be good for the American economy to supply aggressive Lockheed Hercules bomber aeroplanes to Argentina, it is in fact breaking an agreement that America has with us not to supply warlike materials to Argentina? Will she ask the United States to stop supplying aggressive war materials to any Fascist country?

The Prime Minister

I know that certain matters about supplying armaments from the United States to Argentina are under consideration. We made strenuous representations that such armaments should not be supplied, and I believe that at the moment only spares are being supplied. However, I shall check on that, following the hon. Gentleman's question.

Engagements

Q3. Mr. Trippier

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 3 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Trippier

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is now becoming clear that the major difference between the unilateralists and the multilateralists is that the unilateralists want peace at any price, whereas the remainder of us would view the sacrifice of freedom as too high a price to pay?

The Prime Minister

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. Unilateral disarmament would put peace at risk [column 416]and it would put peace with freedom and justice at risk. We in this country do not want peace at any price. We want peace to retain freedom and justice, which is a part of our way of life. That peace has been kept by the possession of nuclear weapons. If there is to be disarmament, as most of us desire, it must be all-sided disarmament, not just one-sided disarmament.

Mr. Christopher Price

The Prime Minister referred recently to the spur of competition. What spur of competition existed when her right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport handed out to Travers Morgan and Peat, Marwick, Mitchell, without going out to tender in any way, over £600,000 of public money as an interim payment?

The Prime Minister

The hiring of those consultants was fully in accordance with published codes of practice and precedents.

Mr. Waller

Will my right hon. Friend remind the women camping out at Greenham Common that the only country that has suffered a nuclear attack in war was one without a deterrent and the means of delivering it? Is it not an ironic but tragic fact that the only effect of demonstrations of this nature is to put off genuine multilateral disarmament because the Soviets may doubt our determination to defend ourselves?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is correct. The purpose of nuclear weapons is to deter any form of war across the NATO border. It has succeeded in that very well, because the risks of going to war for either side would be too great. I believe that what is happening now is that the Soviet Union, having no public opinion and denying its people any public opinion, is relying on some elements of our public opinion to enable it to keep all its SS20s, while denying us the necessary deterrent to prevent the Soviet Union from using them.

Q4. Mr. Cryer

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 3 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Cryer

Does the right hon. Lady accept that the women at Greenham Common, along with the vast majority of the population, are concerned that the installation of cruise missiles under American control will represent an escalation of nuclear weaponry which is not subject to any form of verification throughout the whole of Europe? Is not the £1 million campaign on which the Prime Minister and her cronies are about to embark a public relations exercise to hide the fact that she is a warmonger, in a year that is likely to be an election year?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman is talking his usual rubbish. The cruise and Pershing missiles are a modernisation of existing nuclear forces, a modernisation that has already taken place in the Soviet Union. When the missiles come here, their use and the use of the bases will be a matter of joint decision. It would be far better if the hon. Gentleman addressed his remarks to the Soviet Union to try to get it to take down its missiles.