Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1983 Jul 19 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: House of Commons PQs
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [46/172-78]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2665
Themes: Executive, Monarchy, Parliament, Civil liberties, Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Employment, Industry, Privatized & state industries, Public spending & borrowing, European Union (general), Foreign policy (general discussions), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Law & order, Local government finance, Northern Ireland, Social security & welfare, Terrorism
[column 172]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Penhaligon

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 19 July.

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. Penhaligon

Is the Prime Minister aware that during the general election the then Chancellor of the Exchequer said that he had seen the document outlining the circumstances in which American weapons in Britain may be used? Will the Prime Minister confirm that? Will she let us know who else has seen this document and say why the rest of us cannot see it?

The Prime Minister

I cannot confirm whether my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Geoffrey Howethe former Chancellor of the Exchequer said that he had seen the document. If he said that he had, he had. He must answer for that.

Mr. Amery

Will my right hon. Friend consider seriously with our right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary whether the proposed compromise to end the Madrid talks on the Helsinki agreement really fulfils our obligations to ensure human rights? Or is this just agreement for agreement's sake?

The Prime Minister

It is more than agreement for agreement's sake. It is a provisional agreement so far and not yet fully signed. It has two things in particular which we are anxious to achieve. The first is the conference on disarmament in Europe—Europe for the first time being defined as going right up to the Ural mountains—which [column 173]will take place in Stockholm in January 1984. Secondly, it has further references to human rights on which two meetings will take place—one in Canada in 1985 and the other in Switzerland in 1986. There will be particular concern for human contacts—the separation of families and so on. We are anxious to have both of those things, and therefore gave our provisional agreement to the document.

Mr. Donald Stewart

Does the Prime Minister accept that in the past local authorities were free to raise their own rates, being answerable only to their electors? The right hon. Lady has asserted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has a responsibility for determining the amount raised by local authorities. On what legal basis is that assertion made?

The Prime Minister

Local authorities have only the powers granted to them by statute. Statutes change from time to time. Such changes must go through the House and it is perfectly permissible to seek to change statutes from time to time in the customary way.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Will my right hon. Friend find time today to issue a reminder to her Ministers that the treaty of Rome makes provision only for a European Assembly, not for a European Parliament? Does she agree that if Ministers, among others, falsely describe it, that encourages those who wish to endow it with powers which the treaty of Rome does not give it so to do, to the disadvantage of the signatories to the treaty?

The Prime Minister

I agree with and confirm what my hon. Friend said, that “Assembly” is the correct title, and it is so called in the treaty of Rome.

Q2. Mr. Simon Hughes

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 19 July.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Hughes

Will the Prime Minister explain how she can reconcile the statement in the Gracious Speech that the Government would pursue policies to reduce unemployment with the reported statement yesterday by the Secretary of State for the Environment that the Government's policies on local authority financing would cause considerable numbers of redundancies, possibly including thousands of teachers?

The Prime Minister

If the policies pursued by the Government were such that interest rates rose considerably because of factors within our control, far more jobs would be lost, far more construction projects would be aborted and far more small businesses would not be able to expand. If we are to take advantage of an upturn in world trade we must pursue policies which enable small businesses to expand and new ones to start.

Q3. Mr. Sean Hughes

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 19 July.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Hughes

Is the Prime Minister aware that one of my constituents recently sent his three world war 2 medals to me as a protest, because as he is in receipt of a war pension he is entitled to only 28p a week supplementary benefit? Will the Prime Minister find time to explain to [column 174]him where his patriotism and suffering rank on her list of priorities, compared with a runway on the Falkland Islands or tax cuts for the rich?

The Prime Minister

If the hon. Gentleman wishes to raise a specific case about supplementary benefit, perhaps he will write to me or to my right hon. Friend Norman Fowlerthe Secretary of State for Social Services. As a Parliamentary Secretary for three years I dealt with detailed cases, and I shall not answer a specific point about a detailed case without prior notice.

Mr. Kenneth Carlisle

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the recent news that productivity in the British Steel Corporation has reached German levels bodes well for that business and for this country? Is not being competitive the only way to create real jobs in the long term?

The Prime Minister

Yes, BSC productivity is excellent and, I understand, better than our competitors in Germany. In a world in which we hope trade will expand, that is the way to secure orders and jobs for Britain and keep our main factories working.

Mr. Foot

Will the Prime Minister confirm the report in The Times today that on Thursday her Cabinet will have before it proposals from the Chancellor of the Exchequer for a £5 billion cut in projected public expenditure for next year? Is that a correct report?

The Prime Minister

As the right hon. Gentleman has been a member of a Cabinet, he is fully aware that one never reveals agendas, let alone the contents of papers, in advance. He is fully aware of that practice and I am surprised that he should wish to break it, other than for his own personal reasons.

Mr. Foot

Did not The Times get it right about the last round of cuts? As some of the right hon. Lady's Cabinet colleagues apparently complained that they were bounced into cuts then, will she confirm—even if she will not confirm the figure quoted in The Times—that the Cabinet will be discussing projected public expenditure cuts for the year ahead? In the light of her earlier reply, will she tell us whether she agrees with the Secretary of State for the Environment that the projected cuts will lead to a large measure of redundancies? Those are his words. Will those redundancies include more teachers, home helps, dinner ladies and librarians? Is that what will happen under the cuts to be discussed in the Cabinet on Thursday?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is fully aware that this is the time of the year when public expenditure surveys for the following year begin. Decisions for the following year are usually made in the autumn, and for the years after that in the expenditure White Paper in January or later—sometimes as late as the Budget. That is the usual procedure. The right hon. Gentleman is aware that we have published our total expenditure plans for this year and next, and we expect to adhere to them.

Mr. Lyell

Has my right hon. Friend seen a report of the excellent speech yesterday by Prince Charles? Does she agree that not only young offenders but school leavers under 18 would benefit from a period of training of the type mentioned by Prince Charles? Will she ask her right hon. Friends at the Home Office, the Departments of Defence and Employment and the Treasury to liaise to try to make further progress in that direction?

[column 175]

The Prime Minister

I am aware of the speech. A wide range of courses and facilities are available for the supervision of young offenders in the community. The course to which the Prince of Wales referred was the good youth adventure scheme run last year by the Army, which was widely welcomed and greatly appreciated by those who took part. It is being replaced by a much larger youth training scheme to provide training and work expertise. I believe that the number of applications will probably greatly exceed the number of places.

Dr. Owen

Will the Prime Minister confirm that the Government do not intend to interfere with the Office of Fair Trading's impending court action against the Stock Exchange in the Restrictive Practices Court? Does she admit that it would be extremely odd for a Government committed to fair competition to interfere in that way?

The Prime Minister

The case is still before the court. However, that does not preclude the Stock Exchange council from making proposals to settle the matter. My right hon. Friend Cecil Parkinsonthe Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has told the chairman of the Stock Exchange that he would be prepared to consider such proposals. If proposals are made which the Government can recommend to Parliament, a statement will be made to the House and an order to exempt the Stock Exchange from restrictive trade practices will have to be made. Therefore, it will be a matter for the House.

Gibraltar

Q4. Mr. Latham

asked the Prime Minister whether she will pay an official visit to Gibraltar to assess the economic and constitutional problems facing the colony.

The Prime Minister

I have no plans to do so, but I saw Sir Joshua Hassan during his visit to London on 29–30 June, and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement will be visiting Gibraltar for further talks this week.

Mr. Latham

As the closure of the naval dockyard will save only £13 million, which is one fifth of the cost of a type 22 frigate, will my right hon. Friend be careful not to send the wrong signals to Spain about that closure? Will she ensure that any new commercial dockyard is firmly backed by Government contracts and hard cash?

The Prime Minister

As I believe my hon. Friend is aware, we have made it clear to the Spanish Government that we have a firm commitment to respect the wishes of the people of Gibraltar, as enshrined in the Gibraltar constitutional document. We believe that the commercial dockyard provides the best future for Gibraltar. We have made it clear not only that there will be generous financial arrangements—certainly during the earlier years—but that we will give it a number of naval orders to enable it to become viable early in its lifetime.

Mr. Strang

Do the Government still strongly support Spanish accession to the European Community on political grounds? Will the Prime Minister take this opportunity firmly to reject any suggestions from a few of her hon. Friends that the Government should modify their position on Spanish entry to bring pressure on Spain to resolve the Gibraltar issue?

The Prime Minister

I agree that there is a political ground, in that in an uncertain world we need an area of [column 176]stability in western Europe, and the European Community is one of the best ways of achieving that. It is clear that Spain cannot enter the EC until the restrictions on the border between Spain and Gibraltar are lifted.

National Economic Development Council

Q5. Mr. Madden

asked the Prime Minister when she next intends to attend a meeting of the National Development Council.

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to do so.

Mr. Madden

As the Chancellor of the Exchequer appears to have his public expenditure sums wrong and, according to today's edition of The Guardian, jumped the gun when he recently announced cuts, will the Prime Minister assure the NEDC and everyone else that there is now no need for doctors or nurses to be sacked or for any more NHS hospitals to be closed?

The Prime Minister

The public sector borrowing requirement figures will be published on Thursday. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to have some measure by which to judge the figures, he might recall that the PSBR figure for the same time a year ago was £1.1 billion, but the outturn was £9 billion.

Mr. Eggar

Will my right hon. Friend draw the attention of the NEDC to the excellent article in the Lloyds Bank Review this week, which urged the privatisation of a number of nationalised industries? Will she stress again and again that the Government are determined to denationalise and to introduce competition wherever possible?

The Prime Minister

Yes, the Government are determined to denationalise and to introduce competition. Whatever financial rules and regulations we make for nationalised industries, there is no substitute for competition. It is our objective to increase the amount of competition and, therefore, to increase the service and choice to the consumer.

Mr. Straw

If, as the Prime Minister asserted, it is not normal practice to disclose in advance details of what is coming up for discussion in Cabinet, will the right hon. Lady say whether the No. 10 press office acted with her authority when, on Sunday, journalists were briefed to the effect that this Thursday the Chancellor would be making proposals for major cuts in public spending?

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is not an open question. It refers to meetings of the National Economic Development Council.

Engagements

Q6. Mr. Winnick

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 19 July.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Winnick

When will the Government reappraise the situation in Northern Ireland? Is the right hon. Lady aware that if the deaths and injuries that have occurred in the Province in recent years had taken place on the mainland there would have been many debates and many decisions would have been taken by the Cabinet to bring [column 177]the issue to the House of Commons? Does she agree that there is need to consult Dublin to try to find a solution to the tragedy that is occurring in the Province?

The Prime Minister

Any question concerning the future of Northern Ireland must be dealt with according to [column 178]the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland and in accordance with any measure that can be passed through this House. The overriding need is to try to fight terrorism on every front, including with the co-operation of the Republic of Ireland.