Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1983 Nov 10 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [48/408-12]
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2433
Themes: Defence (general), Economy (general discussions), Education, Industry, Privatized & state industries, Pay, Trade, European Union Budget, Foreign policy (Americas excluding USA), Foreign policy (USA), Law & order, Religion & morality, Social security & welfare, Strikes & other union action
[column 408]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Ward

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 10 November.

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 Sonny Ramphalthe Commonwealth Secretary General.

Mr. Ward

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Is she aware of the anger in the country at the latest attempt by the Brussels Commission to distort the figures for the Community budget? Is she further aware that she will have the support of the whole House if she takes the most vigorous action to resist such an underhand means of going about things?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend that the latest report by the Commission as its contribution to the budget problem is unsound, unhelpful and unacceptable, and we shall say so and act accordingly.

[column 409]

Dr. Owen

Now that 94 per cent. of the British people want dual control over cruise missiles if they are to be made operational on 31 December and, more importantly, now that 78 per cent. want dual control and are prepared to pay for it, is it not time that the Government reconsidered their position and asked why a broad consensus exists in France over nuclear deterrent strategy, stretching from the Church to the Communist party?

Mr. Skinner

They have dual control and it does not work.

The Prime Minister

We debated these matters in the House last week. The main purpose of cruise missiles, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, is deterrence. We have the same arrangements now as obtained for many years in respect of nuclear-capable bombers and Poseidon submarines in British waters. The debate in the House last week was conclusive.

Mr. Needham

Is it not time that the NUM held a ballot on the overtime ban? Does my right hon. Friend agree that the overtime ban is doing nothing for the miners or the coal industry? Would it not assist if people such as the Leader of the Opposition helped the democratic process by condemning the ban?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend. I believe that the overtime ban is damaging both to miners and to the mining industry. What we need is a good profitable mining industry with the price of coal as low as possible, so that we can get other energy prices down. The overtime ban is not helping in any way.

Mr. Randall

Did the Prime Minister agree to the reported resumption of United States arms sales to Argentina? Was she fully consulted by President Reagan on this matter, or has he gone and done another Grenada on her?

The Prime Minister

So far as I am aware no decision has yet been taken by the United States about the resumption of arms sales to Argentina. As I understand it, first there would have to be certification of human rights in Argentina—that would not necessarily give rise to arms sales later, but it is a condition that would have to be fulfilled before further arms sales would be considered. Should there be further arms sales to Argentina without a cessation of hostilities, it would not be understood in this country. We have protested most vigorously in advance and would protest again if it came about.

Q2. Mr. Andrew MacKay

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 10 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. MacKay

Since my right hon. Friend's return from Germany, has she had an opportunity to study the text of the excellent Darwin lecture delivered by the Lord Chief Justice last Tuesday in Cambridge in which he called on the British people to go into battle against crime, said that there was a need for strong punishments to combat video nasties and, perhaps most serious of all, suggested that the Government were not taking action to stop heroin drugs coming in from Pakistan?

The Prime Minister

I have seen what Lord Lanethe Lord Chief Justice said about drugs, crime and pornography and I think that the overwhelming majority of people in this [column 410]country approve of what he said and of his encouragement that everyone should help and support the police. As for video nasties, I hope that the Bill that will come before the House tomorrow will receive its Second Reading and go through all its stages as soon as possible.

Mr. Kinnock

Has the Prime Minister had time to study the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons (Amendment) Bill that has been produced by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing)? In view of the purposes of the Bill and the widespread all-party support that it enjoys, will the Prime Minister ensure that a money resolution is attached to the Bill to ensure that it is fully effective?

The Prime Minister

I am not in a position to answer the right hon. Gentleman's question about a money resolution. I can only remind him that this Government's record of help to the disabled is very good indeed.

Mr. Kinnock

If the Prime Minister cannot answer that, I am not sure who can. I insist that this is not, and must not become, a partisan matter? Will the right hon. Lady give further consideration to the matter? Does she recognise that the Bill will be of considerable advantage in combating prejudice, disadvantage and discrimination against disabled people, but that without an expenditure commitment——

Mr. Marlow

How much?

Mr. Kinnock

As much as it takes to safeguard disabled people. Is the Prime Minister aware that without such a public expenditure commitment the value of this widely supported Bill will be very much reduced?

The Prime Minister

The matter must be considered along with consideration of the Bill, and my right hon. Friends and I will, of course, give it earnest consideration. In the meantime, I repeat that this Government's record of help to the disabled is excellent.

Mr. Silvester

Has my right hon. Friend seen the latest attack on Christian education by Manchester city council, which proposes to substitute pop songs for Christian hymns and periods of silence for Christian prayer? Does she agree that the protection of the rights of minorities cannot be obtained by bleeding the Christian content out of the school curriculum for the majority?

The Prime Minister

I saw some account in the press to that effect. As my hon. Friend knows, it is still the law of the land that there should be an act of worship and of assembly at the beginning of every school day. Anybody who tries to deprive children of that or of the pleasure of singing hymns may deprive them of an experience they may never otherwise have.

Mr. Allen McKay

Does the Prime Minister recognise that the growing unease in the coal mining industry has brought about a meeting of the three major trade unions in the industry—the triple alliance—and that that unease has been enhanced by MacGregor 's statements about mine closures for reasons other than exhaustion and by Government statements about privatisation? Will she now categorically deny that privatisation statement and discuss with MacGregor the question of closures?

The Prime Minister

John MooreThe Financial Secretary did not say that the coal mining industry was to be privatised, but that it would be right for some of the subsidiary activities [column 411]to be privatised, and while the hon. Gentleman might contest that, I doubt whether he would disagree with it. As for the industry in general, the hon. Gentleman will be aware that this Government have honoured to the full their promise to invest in the future of the coal industry. “Plan for Coal” , which was published in 1974, was not honoured in regard to productivity improvements or pit closures.

Q3. Mr. Tony Lloyd

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 10 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Lloyd

Will the Prime Minister take time to congratulate the Secretary of State for Energy on behalf of Opposition Members and millions of pensioners, unemployed and low-paid people throughout the country on his fight in the Cabinet this morning against the Chancellor of the Exchequer to keep energy prices down below the rate of inflation? [Hon. Members: “Oh!” ] If the right hon. Gentleman lost that fight, what plan does the right hon. Lady have for the uprating of benefits and pensions?

The Prime Minister

I fear that I was not able to hear all of that supplementary. Peter WalkerThe Secretary of State for Energy is in China.

Mr. Jackson

After her visit yesterday to the Federal Republic, can my right hon. Friend confirm reports in the press today that the German Government find as unacceptable as we do the Commission's latest proposals on the European budget?

The Prime Minister

The Federal Republic of Germany holds views very similar to ours on the need to reform the Common Market budget. Its view is that net contributions are the proper measure from which to start.

Mr. Ewing

Has the Prime Minister had time to study the speech of the director general of the CBI, Sir Terence Beckett, to the CBI in Glasgow in which he painted a gloomy picture of the economy? In view of that, does the Prime Minister hold to her view that the economy is recovering now and will continue to recover?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman may have noticed that the secretary general of the CBI concluded his speech by saying:

“We now have forward momentum” ——

[Interruption.]

“Inflation is down. Management is more confident about its effectiveness. There is some growth. Wage settlements are down. Productivity is up. Our profits are better and liquidity has improved.”

I could do with more criticism of that kind.

Q4. Mr. Eggar

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 10 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Eggar

Has my right hon. Friend noted the important speech made by the Financial Secretary last week in which he showed conclusively that the [column 412]introduction of competition and privatisation was good for jobs, good for consumers and good for the taxpayer? Will she assure the House that action on the principles outlined by the Financial Secretary will be a top priority of this Government?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend that competition always produces a better bargain for the consumer than monopoly of any kind. That is one reason why we must continue our privatisation programme along the lines indicated by John Moorethe Financial Secretary.

Mr. Skinner

Is the Prime Minister aware that when MacGregor, the right hon. Lady's hit man in charge of the coal industry, was speaking—[Interruption.] I can wait until the Liberal and SDP Members are quiet.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Time is moving on, so I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not wait too long.

Mr. Skinner

Is the Prime Minister—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman needs my protection.

Mr. Robert Atkins

Speaker's pet.

Mr. Skinner

Is the right hon. Lady aware that when MacGregor spoke in Nottingham yesterday he said that if miners refused to withdraw the overtime ban he would withdraw the wage increase?—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Come on.

Mr. Skinner

Will the right hon. Lady remind Mr. MacGregor that the miners have what is known as a five-day week agreement, which means that they do not have to engage in overtime to obtain a proper wage increase? Will she also bear in mind that if it is right for the Government to put legislation through the House of Commons to allow tax relief for marginal oilfields, it is also right that marginal pits should be kept open?

The Prime Minister

What an industry can offer in wage increases depends upon its success in selling a product at a price that buyers can afford to pay. The external financing of the National Coal Board is more than £1 billion and of that some £500 million is a straight forward subsidy to the coal industry's losses. I hope that those figures will be borne in mind. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will also bear in mind that there are well over 55 million tonnes of coal on the ground at the moment.

Mr. McQuarrie

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is evident from the way that you handled the House today that you look after the minorities, but it may not have been drawn to your notice that 56 of the 60 questions to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on the Order Paper today were open questions. You may recall that on a number of occasions your predecessor drew to the attention of the House the need for more positive questions. May we have your guidance and advice?

Mr. Speaker

I share the views of my predecessor on open questions but I have no way of controlling the questions that are put on the Order Paper. They are in order.