Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [47/137-42]
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2122
Themes: Defence (general), Defence (Falklands), Employment, Monetary policy, Public spending & borrowing, Trade, Foreign policy (Americas excluding USA), Foreign policy (USA), Health policy, Housing, Local government finance
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Q1. Mr. Squire

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 25 October.

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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.

Mr. Squire

Has my right hon. Friend read in today's newspapers the welcome news of next month's reported 1 per cent. cut in mortgage interest rates? Does she agree that that is tremendous news for all home buyers? Does she welcome the final abolition of the building society cartel and the resulting increase in competition, which must be good news for investors and borrowers?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend says, home buyers and savers stand to gain from a vigorous and competitive building society movement. I note that, since market interest rates went down to 9 per cent., money has flowed into the building societies well. I hope that that augurs well for the many citizens who are profiting from the Conservatives' home buyers policy.

Mr. Steel

Is the Prime Minister aware——

Mr. Skinner

Take his pulse.

Mr. Steel

—of the havoc that has been caused by the latest local government spending cuts? Is she aware that the cut in home improvement grants in Scotland from 90 to 50 per cent. has led the Conservative group on Glasgow district council to say that it feels betrayed and stabbed in the back by the Government? Does she intend, as one of her advisers recommended in The Times last week, to abolish local government and replace it with the medieval model?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friends are proposing a grant figure, which means that if local authorities spend at their target rates rate increases next year should be extremely low. Last week my right hon. Friend Patrick Jenkinthe Secretary of State for the Environment issued a consultation paper on the rate support grant. I am sure that my right hon. Friend George Youngerthe Secretary of State for Scotland is equally efficient in his dealings with Scottish local authorities.

Sir Peter Emery

Did any British troops take part in the landing of American and Commonwealth forces in Grenada? Were there consultations between the United States and the British Government? What action has the Commonwealth Secretariat taken on this matter?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I must tell the hon. Gentleman and the House that this question relates to the Prime Minister's official engagements.

The Prime Minister

I should be quite happy to answer my hon. Friend's points on an open question. No British troops took part. As to consultations, we received a message some three or four hours after my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Geoffrey Howethe Foreign Secretary spoke in the House yesterday on a statement. The United States sought our advice at that time. We communicated to the United States our considerable doubts about initiating action. We asked it to weigh several points carefully before taking any irrevocable decision to act. We understand that the view of several Caribbean states weighed heavily and conclusively with the United States. The perspective of those Caribbean states is undoubtedly different from ours, as they are much closer to what is happening. As my hon. Friend knows, they have been prepared for a landing and contributed to the forces that landed on Grenada today.

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Mr. J. Enoch Powell

Having heard her Foreign Secretary yesterday say that he had been in the closest possible touch with the Americans and had no reason to think that there was any likelihood of their military intervention in Grenada, will the Prime Minister learn the lesson that no undertakings that may be offered by the United States—either as to the use that it might make of missiles stationed in this country or as to the consultation that would precede such use—ought to be relied upon?

The Prime Minister

What Sir Geoffrey Howemy right hon. and learned Friend said yesterday was the accurate information available to us then. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would not wish to misrepresent anything that my right hon. and learned Friend said. My right hon. and learned Friend did not mention any United States undertaking not to intervene, for the simple reason that there had been no such undertaking. The right hon. Gentleman, whose questions we always listen to with the greatest possible interest, tried to draw a parallel with cruise missiles. With the greatest respect, there is no parallel at all.

Q2. Mr. Fisher

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 25 October.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Fisher

Will the Prime Minister confirm that, as a result of the Government's cuts in NHS manpower, the real job loss in the NHS in the west midlands is not the 140 that her Secretary of State claimed, but 3,626? Will she report this fact to her “Star Chamber” of Ministers when they next discuss the cuts the Government are making?

The Prime Minister

The numbers employed in the NHS went up enormously during the lifetime of the last Government—very much more than in the lifetime of the Labour Government. The same is true of the amount spent on the NHS. Even after a reduction of half of 1 per cent. in NHS manpower in Great Britain, the numbers employed under this Government will far exceed anything under the last Labour Government.

Mr. Kinnock

Which of the right hon. Lady's policies has her “Star Chamber” been licensed to breach?

The Prime Minister

I first congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the important duties that he has assumed and I hope that he will enjoy the job. As I announced at the Dispatch Box before the House rose for the recess, our objective is to keep to the planning totals for this coming year and the following year which were published before the election and upon which the election was fought. That is still our objective. Therefore, the answer to the right hon. Gentleman is none.

Mr. Kinnock

I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for her felicitations. I am sure that I speak on behalf of the whole House when I say that we are glad that she has made such a full recovery from the personal problems that she experienced at the beginning of the recess. If the lady is still not for turning, what is the purpose in having a “Star Chamber” ? Can it be nothing more than a clumsy cover-up for the divisions that exist in the Cabinet and the indecisions that exist in the Prime Minister?

The Prime Minister

I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman has asked a well-studied supplementary question, but had he consulted his right hon. Friends and [column 140]colleagues he would have known that all public expenditure annual surveys cause problems. That is well known, and to refer to my noble Friend, Viscount Whitelaw as a “Star Chamber” carries no weight at all.

Sir Bernard Braine

In her busy schedule, has my right hon. Friend yet found time to intimate to President Reagan that the resumption of the supply of American arms to Argentina before that country has formally ended hostilities with us, before the European Community has received an answer to its request for information about those who have disappeared, and before there is an established democracy in Argentina, is not only an unfriendly act but is not likely to help secure a peaceful settlement with Argentina?

The Prime Minister

When I was in the United States, I made it very clear to the President that any resumption of the sale of arms to Argentina by the United States would be received with very grave concern—[Interruption.]—and deep criticism in this country, and that such criticism would be justifiable.

Mr. Speaker

I agree with those hon. Members who are drawing the noise to my attention. I cannot hear either.

Mr. John Morris

What consideration has the Prime Minister given to the recent OECD report that the figure of more than 12 million unemployed in Europe is rising? With her experience of four years in Government, does she expect her policies to bring unemployment down, or will it go up? What instructions has she given her “Star Chamber” to bring unemployment down?

The Prime Minister

The policies that the Government are following have the best chance of creating permanent and endurable jobs for the future. The youth training scheme is now working extremely well, as is the community enterprise programme. Enterprise allowances are also in place. That is the best chance the country has of creating new jobs and wealth, and public expenditure is designed accordingly.

Falkland Islands

Q3. Mr. Foulkes

asked the Prime Minister under what circumstances Her Majesty's Government are prepared to enter into discussions with a democratically elected Government of Argentina on the future of the Falkland Islands.

The Prime Minister

I see no possibility of discussing the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands with Argentina. I hope that a new Argentina Government will respond more constructively to our efforts to achieve more normal commercial and economic relations.

Mr. Foulkes

Why is the Prime Minister not willing to say that she will talk to a democratic Government in Argentina to try to find a peaceful solution that could be accepted by the islanders, instead of building up arms on both sides which could result in further conflict? Does she not agree that that could play into the hands of the generals in Argentina who will be waiting in the wings when a democratic Government take over?

The Prime Minister

No. The best deterrent to any further Argentine attack is a strong force on the Falklands. I believe that the whole House is very much aware of that. There would be no point in discussing sovereignty at the [column 141]moment. That would be an insult to all those who gave their lives to restore freedom and justice to the Falkland Islands. If the Government in Argentina are truly democratic, they will know that the essence of democracy is self-determination. That applies to the people on the Falkland Islands as much as to those anywhere else.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

Have not democratically elected Governments in Argentina previously been overthrown and replaced by dictatorship? Therefore, whatever the regime in Argentina, should not we be quite clear that British subjects and British territory cannot be handed over to Argentina?

The Prime Minister

Yes. I agree with my hon. Friend that the kind of Government in Argentina does not affect the fundamental rights of the Falkland islanders to choose the regime under which they wish to live and to choose to stay British, as they have said they wish to do.

Mr. Winnick

If the right hon. Lady is always concerned about reducing public expenditure, how does [column 142]she justify the Minister of State, Department of Employment being subsidised out of public funds as Tory party chairman——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The question relates to Argentina.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that any leasing proposals would be as unacceptable now as they ever were, because if Argentina were to be granted sovereignty with leaseback and then broke the agreement we could not then move in armed forces without invading Argentine territory? That must be why any consideration of leaseback will, into the foreseeable future, be unacceptable.

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend. The House made it clear that leaseback was not acceptable and the many debates that we have had have made it clear that the wishes of the Falkland islanders are paramount.