Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [46/1323-28]
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2294
Themes: Agriculture, Autobiographical comments, Executive, Parliament, Foreign policy (Americas excluding USA), Foreign policy (International organizations), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Health policy, Labour Party & socialism, Northern Ireland, Terrorism, Trade unions, Strikes & other union action
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Q1. Mr. Dubs

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 28 July.

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, including one with the Turkish Foreign Minister.

Mr. Dubs

Will the Prime Minister explain the basis of military co-operation between British forces and American forces in Central America? What recent request has the right hon. Lady had for help? Will she give an assurance that no British help or support will be given for any United States military intervention in any Central American country?

The Prime Minister

I know of no specific request for help. Our forces are, of course, in Belize. What happens in the rest of Central America is very important to Belize, which is a bastion of democracy in that area. It is important that it remains so. Also very important to us is what happens in the Caribbean, where we have at least one ship. Therefore, what the United States is doing to try to bring democracy to Central America—[Interruption.] Perhaps hon. Members will remember that elections were held in El Salvador, in the face of great intimidation. What the United States is trying to do is not only in the interests of Central America and the Caribbean but in Britain's interests.

Mr. Foot

Will the right hon. Lady reconsider what she has just said? Has she made any request to the President of the United States in the last two days about America's intentions? The right hon. Lady talks about protecting people against aggression. Of course, we agree that Belize must be protected against any form of aggression, but have not the people of Nicaragua the same rights as the people of Belize? Have not the people of Nicaragua the same right to be protected against aggression as people in the Falkland Islands? Should not the British Government be seeking to uphold the United Nations charter in Central America, as elsewhere throughout the world?

The Prime Minister

I do not know who the right hon. Gentleman is suggesting should go to Nicaragua to protect the people there, but I have not a shadow of doubt that he, along with many other people, saw what happened to the Pope when he went to Nicaragua and tried to demonstrate his right to freedom of speech and to preach what he believed.

At his press conference President Reagan said that the planned United States naval and military exercise in Central America was to be seen in the context of the basic United States policy aims set out in the congressional address on 27 April. With which of those aims does the right hon. Gentleman disagree?

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Mr. Foot

I agree with the aims, but I want to see that they are carried out. Does the right hon. Lady agree that Nicaragua has exactly the same right of protection against aggression as Belize? Will the Prime Minister uphold that right in the United Nations, otherwise she will be guilty of hypocrisy and, indeed, guilty of encouraging aggression?

The Prime Minister

The people of Nicaragua have a right to choose their own Government. That is exactly what the United States was trying to secure in El Salvador. That is the first of the four of President Reagan's policies. With which does the right hon. Gentleman disagree? I shall read them.

The first one is:

“In response to decades of inequity and indifference we will support democracy, reform and human freedom.”

Moreover, the United States, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, is giving a large proportion of its aid to food, fertilisers and civil aid, which is a jolly sight more than the Communists in the area are doing.

Mr. Foot

Is the right hon. Lady really trying to tell us that human rights are upheld in El Salvador? Can she not tell us that the British Government will exercise their duties at the United Nations to try to prevent aggression in Central America, as we have the right and duty to do everywhere else in the world?

The Prime Minister

Yes, and the British Government will try to secure self-determination and will uphold efforts to try to secure democracy throughout Central America. We have not the slightest shadow of doubt that, with the number of Cuban military advisers and the Communist efforts in Central America, if it gets Communism it will never get rid of it.

Mr. Kilfedder

In view of the visit to London this week of the vice-president of Sinn Fein, who spoke about peace and Socialism but advocates the use of a gun for the establishment of a Fascist republic in the whole of Ireland, does the Prime Minister agree that the visit is a propaganda exercise on behalf of Irish terrorists, who have slaughtered and tortured and have nothing for the people of Ulster, Protestant and Catholic, but death, grief and fear?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman knows, we are completely against violence and those who pursue violence for political ends.

Dr. Owen

The Prime Minister made an important statement yesterday about the National Health Service. Can she explain why more than the million or more people who work in the National Health Service should not have the opportunity to negotiate a no-strike agreement in exchange for a fair method of assessing their pay, so that they do not fall behind? Does the Prime Minister agree that if this issue were put to a ballot, the vast majority of Health Service workers would support it and the Health Service would thereby not have the disruption from which it has suffered severely in the past few years?

The Prime Minister

As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, we are most anxious that there should not be industrial action in the National Health Service. I have been very very firm in condemning all such action.

With regard to the review body, my right hon. Friend Norman Fowlerthe Secretary of State for Social Services, as far back as [column 1325]November last year when we were discussing this review body, for which the nurses had asked some time ago, made this point:

“The new review body recognises the special position of nurses and other professional groups who do not take industrial action and on whom we have relied heavily in the last six months … The fact that these groups do not take industrial action has now been adequately recognised.” —[Official Report, 9 November 1982; Vol. 31, c. 429.]

Should other unions come to us and say that they wish to have that type of agreement, we would of course consider it. No union other than the Royal College of Nursing has ever approached us, nor have other unions received the review body on nurses with acclamation.

Q2. Mr. Andrew MacKay

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 28 July.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. MacKay

Has my right hon. Friend noticed that, in addition to the Royal College of Nursing strongly supporting the Government's decision to set up this independent review body, with a no-strike clause, the overwhelming majority of patients in this country consider that, as we live in a civilised society, it is an absolute obscenity that many patients' lives should be put at risk because of possible industrial action in the Health Service?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend. I think that we owe a great deal to the nurses who, at a time of great difficulty, when other groups in the National Health Service were taking industrial action, stayed at their posts, gave attention to the sick and often carried out as well the duties of others who were on strike. A review body is a proper recognition of the excellent standards that they uphold.

Mr. James Callaghan

Reverting to the Prime Minister's meeting with the Turkish Foreign Minister this afternoon, may I ask her why the Government abstained on the United Nations vote last May calling for the withdrawal of Turkish troops? Why has she changed British policy on this matter?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is, of course, talking about Cyprus. We abstained because we did not think that the vote on that resolution would help to further the matter. We are, as the right hon. Gentleman is aware, trying to pursue the matter through the good offices of the secretary general of the United Nations with the points in mind that I set out in reply to a question the other day.

Q3. Mr. Colvin

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 28 July.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Colvin

Is my right hon. Friend aware that by the time she comes back to answer questions in the autumn the Labour party will have put up its fourth leader to face her? Can she assure the House that she will give him the same treatment as she has given the others?

The Prime Minister

I shall continue to give the facts, to be fair, and to be the essence of sweet reasonableness to the next three as I have with the last three.

Q4. Mr. Penhaligon

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 28 July.

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The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Penhaligon

Will the Prime Minister outline the manner in which Opposition Supply days will be allocated in this Parliament? Does she agree that it will be a scandal if the alliance does not get nearly half——

Mr. Skinner

Why should it? How can alliance Members have Supply days when they have sabbaticals?

Mr. Penhaligon

—or is the Prime Minister's determination to give the Labour party at least some credibility to be extended to maintaining the old fiddle?

The Prime Minister

As far as I am aware, there are to be no changes in the method of allocating Supply days, which is done through the official Opposition. I do not remember that we had such scintillating debates when the alliance chose the subjects.

Sir Philip Holland

Will my right hon. Friend be able to find an occasion later today to impress upon her right hon. Friends with departmental duties that there is no close season for hunting the quango? Will she perhaps encourage them to renew the cull of that species in the near future?

The Prime Minister

I am very much aware of the tremendous effort that my hon. Friend has made over the years to reduce the number of quangos. We should continue to do that and I hope that he will continue his splendid efforts to keep Ministers up to the task, as he has in the past.

Mr. Boyes

As this is the last Question Time before the recess, may I ask the right hon. Lady to take time to reflect today, during her busy schedule that, despite having a handsome majority, she has suffered three heavy defeats in the past few weeks, on the election of Mr. Speaker, hanging and on Member's pay? Is she aware that unless she stops her overpaid, overweight Chancellor attacking the poorest people in this land she will face perhaps the heaviest defeat that she has had since she came to office?

The Prime Minister

If that is the hon. Gentleman's last question before the recess, I need not worry.

Sir David Price

Is my right hon. Friend aware that her creation yesterday of an independent review body for nurses and other medical professionals' pay is widely welcomed? Will she extend the principle of generous pay agreements to those who enter into no-strike agreements beyond the NHS and into the caring services generally, in which action the vast majority of the country would support her?

The Prime Minister

As I said earlier, we have had no representations to this effect. One should remember that people should stay at their posts when they are dealing with essential services and not exact a large charge for doing so. The nurses have a particular professional standing in the way they carry out their duties. If we were to receive further representations we would consider them. I stress that, in any event, those who work in essential services should stay at their posts.

Mr. Coleman

During the course of her busy day will the right hon. Lady consult the Secretary of State for Wales concerning the closure of the creamery at Newcastle Emlyn owned by the Milk Marketing Board, a closure which will mean that about 250 people will lose their jobs [column 1327]in that tiny township, and will also mean that Marks and Spencer will have to look elsewhere for its Leicester cheese?

The Prime Minister

I understand that that question arose earlier—I am not sure whether the hon. [column 1328]Gentleman was in the House—when Michael Joplingthe Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food replied to the effect that there would be no interference with the commercial decision of the board.