Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1984 Feb 21 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 [54/692-96]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2565
Themes: Autobiography (marriage & children), Conservatism, Defence (arms control), Defence (Falklands War, 1982), Economy (general discussions), By-elections, Monetary policy, Public spending & borrowing, European Union (general), Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Labour Party & socialism, Security services, Social security & welfare, Terrorism, Trade unions
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PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Duffy

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 21 February.

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. Duffy

How does the Prime Minister reconcile the continuing assumption in last week's public expenditure White Paper of nearly 3 million unemployed, based on social security calculations, with the continuing constraints on public sector capital spending, excluding defence? What is the sense of depriving town halls of resources and neglecting housing and infrastructure investment when the relevant resources, including workers, are lying idle?

The Prime Minister

Because the resources would then have to be taken out of the private sector, where they could well be effectively and productively employed, and put into the public sector. The public expenditure White Paper contained the figures on which we fought the election, when we received a massive majority.

Mr. Kinnock

Has the Prime Minister personally agreed to the procedure whereby the recently announced concessions on housing benefit are to be financed by withdrawing benefits from other groups of needy people?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend Norman Fowlerthe Secretary of State for Social Services made it perfectly clear that some of those increases in housing benefit from the figure previously announced would be financed by economies elsewhere. That is perfectly right. Otherwise, there would be a general increase in public expenditure and sooner or later that would call for a general increase in taxation or national insurance contributions.

Mr. Kinnock

Does not the Prime Minister agree that those concessions are to be financed partly by taking housing benefit from people who need it and that the remainder will come from cuts in other benefits to people who have demonstrated their need by qualifying for them? If the right hon. Lady needs additional revenue to pay for [column 693]those who need such help, why does she not take it off the very rich? Why does the right hon. Lady always make the poor pay for the poor and the sick pay for the sick?

The Prime Minister

Absolute nonsense. We are spending about £3.7 billion on housing benefit, which is about 80 per cent. more than was spent in the lifetime of the Labour Government, so the right hon. Gentleman should be the last person to complain.

Mr. Haselhurst

Will my right hon. Friend have the opportunity to study the latest offerings of the Leader of the Opposition on the treaty of Rome? Does she agree that the use of the words “rejection” , “revision” and “rewriting” show no retreat from hostility towards the Community, which view does great damage to Britain's interests in the long term?

The Prime Minister

I saw what Neil Kinnockthe Leader of the Opposition wrote about rejecting, revising or re-writing the treaty of Rome. That was absolutely cloud-cuckoo-land. There are now 10 members of the EEC, and the number is about to go up to 12. The prospect of solemnly re-writing the whole thing means that the right hon. Gentleman utterly rejects the EEC, and this is merely a ploy to get him over the European elections.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

Can the Prime Minister give an assurance that there will be no question of Her Majesty's warships being engaged in the Persian Gulf in co-operation with American forces?

The Prime Minister

I cannot give that assurance because in certain circumstances—we do not know what those circumstances might be—it might be in Britain's interests to join with the United States forces to protect that part of the world and the oil supplies that are so vital to the West.

Mr. Ian Lloyd

Is it the Government's policy to attempt to confer credibility, legitimacy and dignity on terrorist leaders, who have the blood of thousands on their hands, by arranging for them to be received by the Foreign Secretary, and for offers of scholarships to be made to those whom they purport to represent? I refer to Mr. Sam Nujoma.

The Prime Minister

My right hon. and learned Friend Sir Geoffrey Howethe Foreign Secretary will have heard my hon. Friend. My hon. Friend knows full well Her Majesty's Government's policy towards terrorism. We are totally and utterly against the use of violence.

Q2. Mr. Flannery

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 21 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Flannery

Does the Prime Minister realise that her coming out against the working people at GCHQ Cheltenham having the right to join a union is seen as a continuation of the anti-trade union legislation which her Government have been passing for some time? Does she also realise that that is bound to give aid and comfort to the anti-trade union groups, such as the pro-Nazi group that is deeply entrenched in the bowels of the Tory party? [Interruption.] It sounds bigger than I thought. Will she explain why the Government are so passionately fond of free trade unionism in Poland, but will quite definitely kill it in Britain if they can?

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The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman must be hard put to it for a question. I remind him that hon. Members from all parts of the House fought deeply against Nazi socialism. Hon. Members from every part of the House fought against it and we would all resent any implication to the contrary. The majority of GCHQ staff have now accepted the Government's offer and a minimal number have refused it.

Mr. Leigh

Has the Prime Minister noted the remarks made in Chesterfield by the Leader of the Opposition that he would kick the Americans out of their nuclear bases in Britain? Has she noted that that policy is totally at variance with the remarks made earlier by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey)? Will she advise the voters at Chesterfield that they should reject the Labour party now in the same way they rejected a totally split Labour party at the general election?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I noticed Neil Kinnockthe right hon. Gentleman's remarks that he would dismantle our own nuclear deterrent and send back all nuclear weapons on British soil. That would mean that he would go back totally on the policy of NATO. Doubtless he has pleased Mr. Benn, but not the sounder members in his own party.

Q3. Mr. Farr

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 21 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Farr

Has my right hon. Friend seen the notable indicators today of further economic improvement, especially the fact that our gross domestic product in 1983 increased by the biggest amount in the past 10 years, and the greater optimism expressed by many owners of small businesses? With those two facts, which have just come to light today, does the Prime Minister not agree that the economic position has taken a marked turn for the better?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend. The economic situation is improving, and is improving in a sustainable way. That is what the Opposition cannot stand.

Dr. Marek

Does the Prime Minister agree that where there is legitimate public doubt or general public anxiety over instances where a Minister has or has not separated his ministerial duties from his private interests, it is in the general public interest—[Interruption.] I am trying to help the right hon. Lady—not just for that separation to be made, but for it to be publicly seen to be made?

The Prime Minister

I have answered question after question on this matter. There is nothing I can usefully add to what I have already said.

Q4. Mr. Pawsey

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 21 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Pawsey

What advice would my right hon. Friend give to the Chesterfield electorate at the present time?

The Prime Minister

There is no difficulty about that—Vote Conservative.

Mr. Ron Lewis

Is the Prime Minister aware that Shaw 's guide to recently published price increases shows [column 695]over 1,400 increases this month alone? The price rises in gas and electricity, fostered by the Government, must be added to that. Bearing in mind her wealth, is she conscious that the unemployed, the poor and the pensioners have to shop in the same markets as the wealthier sections of society? What will she do about that?

The Prime Minister

I point out that under the Labour Government food prices rose by 122 per cent. and that this Government's record on inflation is the best for 15 years.

The following question stood upon the Order Paper:

5. Mr. Loyden

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 21 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am not certain that the hon. Member is here.

General Belgrano

Q6. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Prime Minister why she will not set up a public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the sinking of the Belgrano.

The Prime Minister

The Government have explained very fully and on numerous occasions both in this House and in another place the reasons for the attack on the General Belgrano. An inquiry into the affair would therefore serve no useful purpose.

Mr. Dalyell

As the captain of the Conquerer has said in print that he was following the General Belgrano for at least 30 hours and the Government persist in claiming that the General Belgrano was detected on the same day as it was sunk, who is telling the truth or, bluntly, is it the submarine commander or the Prime Minister who is lying?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member must not use that word. I am sure that he will rephrase that final comment.

Mr. Dalyell

Is it the submarine commander or the Prime Minister who is telling the truth?

The Prime Minister

The full facts were given in several replies in the House and, I believe, in an Adjournment debate, in an article by my right hon. Friend Francis Pymthe former Foreign Secretary and one by Sir N. Hendersonthe former ambassador to the United States. All the facts are there. They support the Government's case.

Engagements

Q7. Mr. John Townend

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 21 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Townend

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there will be disappointment at the Home Secretary's statement that no action will be taken to remove the Greenham [column 696]common women, although they are causing a gross nuisance in that area? Is she further aware that great resentment is felt by taxpayers, in that they are subsidising the women to the extent of £800 a week in social security payments?

The Prime Minister

I am very much aware of the distress caused locally by the continued presence of those people. I have stated previously that the Government are expecting to give some help towards the cost. I share my hon. Friend's anxiety and will, of course, consider the matter again.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

Will the Prime Minister accept that the events of the past few weeks have seriously damaged the interests of GCHQ? In view of the unprecedented steps that the civil service unions have been prepared to take to try to meet the Government's conditions, will the right hon. Lady be prepared to negotiate seriously with them to try to achieve a settlement to repair the damage?

The Prime Minister

I do not accept that serious damage has been done to GCHQ recently. That was done when there were the disruptions 1979 to 1981, and to our security. The essence of the Government's case is that intelligence and security have always been treated differently, and when GCHQ was avowed as an intelligence and security organisation, it was brought into line with the other treatment. As I said earlier, the majority of people at GCHQ have accepted the option before them.

Mr. Bottomley

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It will be within your knowledge and that of most of the House that in the past the Leader of the Opposition has normally risen at Question Time after a Member from the Government Benches. Will it be possible for the Leader of the Opposition to consider reverting to this rather than coming in after a Labour Member?

Mr. Speaker

That is entirely a matter for the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Kinnock

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sorry, but I did not hear what you said in response to the point of order.

Mr. Speaker

I said that this is entirely a matter for the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Kinnock

I should not want to put the House to any inconvenience, and when I attempt to rise I require and seek absolutely no privilege other than that accorded in your judgment and your consideration—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The right hon. Gentleman is trying to make a point.

Mr. Kinnock

—your judgment and consideration as to when the Leader of the Opposition should rise. I can only hope that all hon. Members will seek to facilitate the business of the House in a similar way.

Mr. Speaker

I thank the right hon. Gentleman, and I entirely agree. I hope that everybody else will be as helpful.