Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1983 Mar 29 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [40/177-82]
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2498
Themes: Commonwealth (general), Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Economy (general discussions), Education, Employment, Industry, Privatized & state industries, Energy, Foreign policy (USA), Labour Party & socialism, Law & order, Race, immigration, nationality, Science & technology, Social security & welfare, Trade unions
[column 177]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Duffy

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 29 March.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House I shall be having further meetings later today. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty the Queen.

Mr. Duffy

Has the Prime Minister noticed the public advice from the new West German Chancellor, the Dutch Prime Minister, and the Italian Foreign Minister to President Reagan to break the deadlock on the Geneva talks on Euro-missiles this week? Why is she silent when even Republican senators are adding their voice to that view? Could that united effort to lift the shadow of nuclear war not have found just a small echo in her long speech on Saturday, or is she opposed to any interim proposals and any compromise on the zero option?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman can have listened neither to what I have said for several weeks nor to what I have said on television. I think that I was the first to point out that the original NATO dual-track decision said that there must be equal numbers on both sides. The zero option came later. It would be far better if the hon. Gentleman directed his attention to the Soviet Union and asked it to reduce its missiles to nil. If the zero option—which is the best option—cannot be reached, we must have an option that provides for equal numbers on both sides, which does not include the British and French independent nuclear deterrent, and which is verifiable. There is nothing new in that.

Mr. David Steel

As the Prime Minister has acknowledged that people over the age of retirement have a contribution to make, in running the National Coal Board, for example, will she now honour her manifesto pledge to abolish the earnings rule and allow elderly people to take up less exalted positions?

The Prime Minister

It is indeed our objective to abolish the earnings rule. The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that a time of considerable unemployment is not the best time to do that. Nor do I feel that it would be welcomed in all parts of the country if we chose to do so now. [column 178]

With regard to people aged over 70 having a contribution to make, there are some 23 in this House. They make a considerable contribution.

Sir Paul Bryan

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the phenomenal success of the two Government schemes which provide microcomputers to schools on a scale that is unequalled in any other country? Has the time not now come to expand those schemes on a dramatic scale to take advantage of the enthusiasm and skills of all those young people?

The Prime Minister

I thank my hon. Friend. It was a great step forward to put microcomputers in every secondary school and then in every primary school so that our young people are skilled at an early age and thinking in terms of the type of jobs—[Hon. Members: “Jobs?” ]—and products that computers and computing skills can create. We have allocated some £40 million between now and 1986 for microcomputers in schools. There is also a scheme for training 11,000 teachers to be able to train pupils properly.

Mr. Foot

In view of the great significance for everyone of President Reagan's speech a few days ago on laser beam defence in space against intercontinental ballistic missiles, can the right hon. Lady tell the House what consultations there were with the British Government before that speech and what representations she made on the subject?

The Prime Minister

Consultations, none. We were informed that the speech would be made. I must point out that a fantastic amount of research must be done, and the President's speech was about research in this area. It is advisable to continue such research.

Mr. Foot

Does that mean that the right hon. Lady made no representations to hold up those proposals? How much will the proposals injure existing disarmament agreements, especially that reached between President Nixon and President Brezhnev about 10 years ago? Does it not mean that that treaty will be broken? What hope does she or anyone else believe there will be for new disarmament agreements if we tear up the old ones?

The Prime Minister

That speech, and what it proposed, has no effect at all on the anti-ballistic missile agreement. That agreement does not affect research and it does not come into operation until the development of new anti-ballistic missiles. There is a long way to go in research before we reach any development. I believe in research, but the right hon. Gentleman obviously does not.

Mr. Foot

It is not simply a question of research. Has the right hon. Lady taken into account the statement of the former president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—[Interruption.] These are not laughing matters. We believe that such matters must be dealt with properly. Mr. Wiesner says that the statement

“is really a declaration of a new cycle in the arms race.”

Have the Government nothing to say on the subject?

The Prime Minister

I am not unaware of scientific matters—[Interruption.] May I express my gratitude to the House for acknowledging that that is so, or at any rate for not arguing to the contrary. I believe in going ahead with that research. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that President Reagan made it clear that his proposals were consistent with United States' obligations under the 1972 [column 179]anti-ballistic missile treaty. The treaty remains in force and was reviewed by both parties last year, when there was mutual agreement that no amendment to it was necessary.

Q2. Mr. Squire

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 29 March.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Squire

Has my right hon. Friend found time to read the CBI policy document issued today, which states that freedom from planning agreements and from threats of nationalisation are essential for trade and industry to grow? Will she contrast that document, from those who understand industry and trade, with the reported contents of the document issued by the Labour party, which manifestly does not understand industry and trade?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend that it is best for those in industry to be allowed to pursue their own organisation, products, marketing and financing in their own way. When they achieve the most competitive and best-designed products we shall achieve the greatest prosperity and the creation of jobs.

Q3. Mr. Dubs

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 29 March.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Dubs

Does the Prime Minister agree that it was highly misleading to publish selective crime statistics from one part of the country only and for fewer than 3 per cent. of all crimes? Does she agree that the way in which those selected crime statistics were presented was damaging to race relations, and will she confirm that the majority of black, as well as white, people in Britain are decent and law-abiding?

The Prime Minister

Indeed. One would not quarrel with that, but my right hon. Friend William Whitelawthe Home Secretary simply answered the question that was asked.

Mr. Ian Lloyd

My right hon. Friend will undoubtedly have had her attention drawn to the most recent annual report of Freedom House, which categorises Grenada as being within the hard core of the Communist system. Is she aware that not only Grenada but about one quarter of the member countries of the Commonwealth are now one-party states? Does she not consider this a most serious breach of the principles of the Commonwealth? As she will undoubtedly be leading the United Kingdom delegation to the next Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conference, will she ensure that these matters are discussed as soon as possible?

The Prime Minister

I am sure that my hon. Friend has strong views about one-party states, as quite a number of us have. However, my hon. Friend would be the first to realise that, once countries are independent, they are free to pursue their own systems. The Commonwealth sets its own standards, and I am afraid that there is no exclusion of those who operate as one-party states.

Q4. Mr. Hoyle

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 29 March.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Hoyle

Will the Prime Minister take time off from her engagements today to say what were the special [column 180]reasons that made her agree to the appointment of the executioner of the British steel industry, Mr. Ian MacGregor, to become the undertaker of the coal industry? Was it a fit of pique to get even with the miners? What will it cost the British taxpayer to get rid of this expensive American citizen from his position at the National Coal Board?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend Nigel Lawsonthe Secretary of State for Energy dealt with this matter yesterday. Mr. MacGregor was appointed because of his excellent record, especially in coal. He took his own business into the coal industry, made it the third largest producer in the United States, and invested heavily in coal at a time when others did not. We appointed him because we believe that he is the best person for the job.

Mr. Cyril D. Townsend

In greeting the second coming of the social contract, does my right hon. Friend recall that the last time we had this animal the Government gave and the trade unions received? Is it not grotesque and inherently wrong that a Government should have a contract with a privileged and protected group in society such as the trade union leaders?

The Prime Minister

Yes. It is totally and utterly wrong that a Government should represent one section of society and not others—[Hon. Members: “That is what the Government do.” ] The Labour Government attempted to have a social contract with the TUC, and when people asked who was more powerful, the then Prime Minister or Mr. Jones, the answer was “Mr. Jones” . That is totally wrong. People were fed up with the social contract, which took Britain to the highest rate of inflation in modern times.

Q5. Mr. James Hamilton

asked the Prime Minister whether she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 29 March.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Hamilton

Will the right hon. Lady take time, if she has not already done so, to read the editorials of most newspapers condemning the appointment of Ian MacGregor as chairman of the National Coal Board, which is reputed to be entirely her appointment? Will she ensure that during his transitional period between the British Steel Corporation and the National Coal Board under no circumstances will he depart from the decision reached in the House in December 1982, when it was made crystal clear that the five major plants would be inviolate and that Ravenscraig would remain in exactly the same position as it is at present?

The Prime Minister

The announcement about the five major BSC plants was that decisions would be taken by the Government. The statement also said that one can never guarantee a plant a future for all time, regardless of performance. If the hon. Gentleman looks back to that statement, he will find that that is so.

Q6. Mr. Silvester

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 29 March.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Silvester

Has my right hon. Friend had an opportunity to study the recent report of the CBI on [column 181]expectations in industry, which shows a remarkable upturn in its expectations for output? Is it not time that those who enjoyed commenting on the gloom of previous studies took pleasure in the optimism of this one?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend. The latest monthly report of the CBI shows that more firms expect to increase their output and that export order books have increased sharply. That is very good news. The optimism is more widespread than it was and there is a real chance that we are firmly on the road to recovery.

Q7. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 29 March.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Hamilton

Will the right hon. Lady tell the House which she thinks will come first—a reduction in the number of company bankruptcies or a reduction in the number of unemployed under her Government?

The Prime Minister

If the hon. Gentleman looks back to some of the speeches made by members of the Labour [column 182]party he will find that there is always a time lag in reducing the number of unemployed. It happens that I have a quote with me. As the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said, at a bankers' banquet in 1976.

“There is a time lag of up to a year between the increase in output and the fall in unemployment it produces.”

I am grateful to the hon. Member for allowing me to get that quotation out.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Frank Hooley, on a point of order.

Mr. Hooley

May I take if after the introduction of the new Member?

Mr. Crouch

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Before we proceed, I draw your attention to the fact that there is some unwanted political propaganda on the Table and obliterating the Mace—at least there was, but it has now gone.