Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1983 Nov 15 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 [48/717-22]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2123
Themes: Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Employment, Monetary policy, Energy, Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (USA), Housing, Law & order, Northern Ireland, Social security & welfare, Terrorism, Transport
[column 717]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Adley

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 15 November.

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, including one with the high commissioner for Papua New Guinea.

Mr. Adley

In welcoming my right hon. Friend's announcement that she will be going to Hungary, may I ask whether she is aware that she will find there a fiercely proud nation, a nation deprived of self-determination in which protest at its subjugation is forbidden but which years to maintain contact with western Europe? Will she do all that she can to let the people there know that we appreciate their difficulties and are concerned about their future?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I believe that the time is now right to make strenuous [column 718]efforts to have a sensible dialogue between East and West to ensure that there are no misunderstandings. The Deputy Prime Minister of Hungary paid a very successful visit to this country earlier this year. I hope to make a return visit shortly.

Mr. Kinnock

Will the Prime Minister confirm that all the cruise missiles have now arrived at Greenham common? Will she now tell us in what circumstances she would be prepared, if President Reagan bothered to ask her, to sanction the use of those missiles?

The Prime Minister

Cruise missiles will be coming in over quite a long period. My right hon. Friend Michael Heseltinethe Secretary of State for Defence promised to inform the House when the first ones arrived and he has done so. As for the right hon. Gentleman's second question, it would clearly be of the greatest possible use to the Soviet Union to know the precise circumstances or details of the arrangements. One does not normally help a potential aggressor in that way. The Labour Government never did so and I do not intend to have a worse record than theirs.

Mr. Kinnock

In the light of recent events, why is the Prime Minister still prepared to accept an utterly inferior status in what we thought was an alliance,? Can she not tell the difference between dependence and alliance, between the status of a partner in NATO and a lackey to the Americans?

The Prime Minister

Of course I can. I also know the difference between unilateral disarmament, which the right hon. Gentleman espouses, and multilateral disarmament, which we support.

Mr. Kinnock

Is the right hon. Lady aware that although there were times in the past when we could accept her credentials on multilateral disarmament, in the light of recent events those are now past and we do not believe that she is genuine?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is talking absolute rubbish. Arrangements with regard to American nuclear weapons on our soil remain precisely the same as those that existed during the time of the Labour Government. They satisfied all Labour Prime Ministers. Those arrangements have been applied to cruise missiles. As President Reagan said, there will be a joint decision before they are ever used. He also said that that is tantamount to a British veto on their use.

Mr. Kinnock

rose——

Several Hon. Members

rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is normal to allow the Front Bench some latitude. I shall allow the Leader of the Opposition one more question.

Mr. Kinnock

I do not want to abuse your kindness, Mr. Speaker. These questions are so fundamental that they demand to be asked. I shall make this my last question. Is the right hon. Lady aware that nobody, be it President Reagan, his chiefs of staff, the Opposition or the British people, believes that there is joint determination over cruise missiles?

The Prime Minister

There is joint determination. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman has doubts, but Labour Prime Ministers have been prepared to rest upon what I have described. I notice that neither the Leader of the [column 719]Opposition nor his colleagues were forthright or forward in their protest against the constant stationing of SS20s by the Soviet Union throughout the disarmament talks.

Q2. Mr. Tim Smith

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 15 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Smith

Has my right hon. Friend seen the private Member's Bill dealing with the disabled, which is to be debated later this week? Will she take this opportunity to remind the House of the Government's outstanding record on helping the disabled?

The Prime Minister

The Bill has been published and the Government's view will be given on the appropriate day. As my hon. Friend said, the Government's record on helping the disabled is outstanding. The mobility allowance is 90 per cent. higher than it was during the Labour Government and it is now tax-free. Expenditure on the long-term invalidity and disability benefits is 21 per cent. above the level of increase in inflation. We deliver the goods and the Opposition do the talking.

Dr. Owen

Is the Prime Minister aware that those of us who are in favour of the dual key for cruise missiles will not allow it to become a source of anti-Americanism? Is she further aware that we shall also not allow advocacy of that argument to undermine the bargaining position of NATO in its attempt to achieve a reduction of SS20s? Will the Prime Minister assure the House that negotiations will continue until the end of December and that the Government will consult the United States about reducing the number of Pershings that are to be deployed? Does she agree that one way in which to show restraint in the deployment of cruise missiles would be to recognise the strength of Soviet feeling about Pershing?

The Prime Minister

I understand that negotiations in Geneva continued this morning. We hope that they will continue and that, if satisfactory agreement is not reached by the end of December, they will continue into next year. There are many proposals on the table that require serious consideration. With regard to some of the proposals on the proportion to be struck between cruise and Pershing, should the total number of nuclear missiles be diminished because we have reached agreement on a lower number, the same proportion between Pershing and cruise will be retained.

Mr. Molyneaux

Will the Prime Minister—who will have been grieved by the most recent murders of full-time and part-time members of the security forces in Northern Ireland—recognise how much the morale of those security forces has been sustained by her firm refusal to engage in or condone any attempts to weaken the constitutional status of Northern Ireland? Will she do all that is within her power to ensure that the security forces are not hampered in any way by inappropriate economic measures or considerations?

The Prime Minister

None of us can speak too highly of the bravery and courage of the police, the Ulster Defence Regiment and the armed forces in Northern Ireland. They do a great job trying to protect the weak and to uphold the law in a part of the United Kingdom. It will remain part of the United Kingdom unless the people there [column 720]wish otherwise. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, we have protected the forces of law and order and increased expenditure on them.

3. Mr. Ray Powell

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 15 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Powell

Is the Prime Minister aware of the delays to traffic over the Severn bridge, which results from the complacency and lethargic attitude of her Secretary of State for Transport? Will she ensure that the Welsh economy's lifeline is protected and compel her Minister to make a statement to the House before the end of the week?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman knows of the exchanges about the Severn bridge that have taken place in the House and that the Minister is awaiting a report before reaching a final decision on how best to cope with the problem. We are fully aware of the importance of that road bridge as an efficient means of transport to south Wales. We are also aware of its importance to present and future investment in that area.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

May I direct my right hon. Friend's attention to another matter? Will she today consult her Secretary of State for Energy and the Chancellor of the Exchequer about the cost of energy? How can she explain the proposed increases in the price of electricity and gas for next year—[Interruption.] Would the Opposition shut up?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think that I am the person who should say that.

Mr. Winterton

I am most grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for your protection. Will my right hon. Friend explain how she justifies these proposed price increases in the light of the huge profits that the gas and electricity industries have announced? Is she aware that those price increases will make British industry less competitive? Will she veto them?

The Prime Minister

Our policy is to set energy prices that relate to the trends and costs, and the costs of investment, in the industries concerned. With regard to electricity, the return on capital—the “huge profits” as my hon. Friend called them—is 1.5 per cent. I doubt whether many people would like to invest their savings for a return of 1.5 per cent. when the expected return on new investment is 5 per cent.

Some gas comes from the southern basin of the North sea and costs 6p a therm. However, because of exhaustion of the southern basin, an increasing quantity must come from the Frigg field and other imported sources. That gas costs 23p per therm. An increasing proportion of gas will come from more expensive fields. If gas prices were kept low, the cheap gas would be used up more quickly, to the detriment of future generations.

Q4. Mr. Needham

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 15 November.

The Prime Minister

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

[column 721]

Mr. Needham

Notwithstanding the reduction in the level of home improvement grants, will my right hon. Friend confirm that the real level of spending on such grants is much higher than it was under Labour?

The Prime Minister

The Government's record on home improvement grants is outstanding. The Labour Government spent £90 million a year on home improvement grants. That expenditure is expected to reach about £650 million this year. That is an excellent record.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

Why has crime increased so much since the right hon. Lady came to office?

The Prime Minister

For the answer to that, the hon. Gentleman should go to the many reports that have been written. In fact, crime has increased in all countries of the world—[Hon. Members: “No” ]—and as the reports [column 722]show, it is not directly related to unemployment. Crime increased during periods when unemployment was decreasing.

Mr. Fairbairn

Has my right hon. Friend noticed the reports in the newspapers today of the suppression and outlawing of all peace movements in the satellite countries that attempt to object to the deployment of Russian missiles in their nations? Will she notice that in this country, where that does not happen, three forces are now aiming at the same purpose—the Labour party, CND, and the Communist party? All are attempting to achieve the same aim as Soviet Russia?

The Prime Minister

I understand what my hon. and learned Friend is saying. Many brave and courageous lives have been lost defending the right of those people to say what they do. I wish that more people realised that.