Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1984 Mar 13 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 [56/276-82]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2572
Themes: Autobiography (marriage & children), Executive, Defence (general), Higher & further education, Industry, Privatized & state industries, Energy, European Union Budget, Health policy, Law & order, Northern Ireland, Terrorism, Strikes & other union action
[column 276]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Gould

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 13 March.

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. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty the Queen.

Mr. Gould

If expenditure on the common agricultural policy were brought under control, which seems unlikely, would not that remove the need for an increase in EC tax revenue? In either case, can the Prime Minister confirm that, at a time when other public spending programmes are being savaged, there will be no increase in the 11.2 per cent. of total VAT revenues that we are currently obliged to pay to the Common Market?

The Prime Minister

There would have to be a sharp reduction in the amount spent on the common agricultural policy, not merely bringing it under control. The hon. Gentleman will recall that a much bigger proportion of the budget is spent on the CAP than was envisaged when we joined the Community. Control of it would be insufficient to obviate the second of our demands, which is that there must be an equitable system of financing EC expenditure. That is separate from the amount spent, and we must solve that issue once and for all.

Mr. Rost

Will the Prime Minister today send a message to Mr. Arthur Scargill reminding him that, [column 277]although he may be a Marxist, we live in a democracy where those who do not wish to join a suicidal strike should be given the opportunity to say so through the ballot box, rather than be coerced, intimidated and bullied by mobs of flying pickets?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend is aware, people have a right to go to their places of work and to go about their lawful duties peaceably. Any difficulty with the maintenance of peace and the enforcement of criminal law is the responsibility of the chief officer of police concerned. If there is violence or intimidation on picket lines, the overwhelming majority of our people would give their full support to the police in dealing with those matters, as would the overwhelming majority of miners.

Mr. Maginnis

Is the Prime Minister aware that for the second time in a few months a farmer in my constituency has been murdered by the IRA, close to the frontier with the Irish Republic? What message does she have for people who are likely to be victims, such as Ronnie Funston, of the IRA's genocide along the frontier, and will she instruct the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to protect my constituents? It can be done.

The Prime Minister

The majority of hon. Members would join me in praising the work of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Ulster Defence Regiment and the Army in protecting the citizens of Northern Ireland and in trying to eradicate violence. They would be very grateful if we were to show our appreciation.

Q2. Mr. Terry Davis

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 13 March.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Davis

Will the right hon. Lady find time today, perhaps during her Chancellor's Budget statement, to reflect on that part of the Budget that has already been announced—the increase of 15 per cent. in the charges paid by people who are unfortunate enough to be ill? Will she explain why her Government have singled out this group of people to be treated so unfairly?

The Prime Minister

The prescription charges have gone up, but they are a smaller proportion now of total expenditure than they were some time ago. This Government have an excellent record over the National Health Service. The Labour Government could not match either the expenditure or the number of patients who have been treated under this Government on the National Health Service.

Mr. Chope

Will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity of inviting the Leader of the Opposition to condemn the violent picketing by miners on the picket lines today?

The Prime Minister

I join my hon. Friend in hoping that the right hon. Gentleman will condemn any intimidation and violence or mass picketing that may have occurred. Most people would be glad to condemn intimidation, mass picketing and violence on the picket line.

Q3. Mr. Maxton

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 13 March.

The Prime Minister

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

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Mr. Maxton

Will the Prime Minister explain what is so special about her hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Fletcher) that he can bungle the Stonefield Vehicles Ltd. issue, preside over the selling of a college of education at 10 per cent. of its valuation price, make indiscreet remarks to the press that have since been repudiated by the Secretary of State for Scotland and a Treasury minute, and yet still remain part of her Government?

The Prime Minister

I read the PAC report and the reply, and there was no personal condemnation of my hon. Friend Alex Fletcherthe Under-Secretary. I deeply resent what the hon. Gentleman said, and I have nothing to add to the Government's formal reply to the Committee's report that was published yesterday. I see no reason to condemn my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State who is responsible for corporate and consumer affairs.

Mr. Couchman

During her busy day, will my right hon. Friend seek time to contact Mr. Ian MacGregor to assure him of the support of all sensible hon. Members in his efforts to bring viability to the coal industry?

The Prime Minister

I shall be glad to do so. Mr. MacGregor has demonstrated his faith in the future of the coal industry by recommending the Government to invest in the Asfordby coal mine, a recommendation which the Government accepted. This Government's record is that we have invested the equivalent of £2 million a day for every day that we have been in power. That is faith in the future of the coal industry.

Mr. Kinnock

Will the Prime Minister understand once and for all that I now condemn, and always have condemned, violence in pursuit of industrial disputes, even when it occurs among people who feel impotent in the face of the destruction of their jobs, their industry and their communities? Will she now desist, and encourage her hon. Friends to desist, from trying to make cheap points, which do not bother me, but which are absolutely contemptuous of the interests of many ordinary people in our country?

The Prime Minister

I welcome what the right hon. Gentleman has said. I therefore accept and hope that he will fully protect the right of ordinary people to go to their place of work unhindered by unlawful picketing.

Q4. Mr. Barron

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 13 March.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Barron

Will the Prime Minister tell the House whether she has ever met Mr. Jamil Amyuni, who is the middle-east director of Cementation International? If so, can she tell us where it was and what was discussed?

The Prime Minister

I have met most people in the construction industry at one time or another.

Mr. Hayward

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the recently announced investment in Wrexham by a Japanese high technology company, following on the announcements of American companies, confirms that the British economy is now on a sound track, which I hope will be further confirmed later this afternoon?

The Prime Minister

The record of the electronics industry in Britain is extremely good. In the United [column 279]Kingdom, the electronics industry is expecting to grow at least 12 per cent. during 1984, with data processing growing at 32 per cent., and integrated circuits at 21 per cent. There was also, of course, very good news today. Today's figures indicate that industrial production in the three months to January rose 1.5 per cent. on the three months previously, and is now running 4.5 per cent. above the same period a year ago.

Q5. Mr. Tim Smith

Now that the contract of the chief executive of the Property Services Agency has been terminated by mutual agreement, will my right hon. Friend do everything that she can to ensure that his successor has the proper qualifications and experience to root out fraud and corruption at PSA, and to implement proper management control systems?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is correct. The service contract of the chief executive of the Property Services Agency has been terminated by mutual agreement. My right hon. Friend Patrick Jenkinthe Secretary of State will be answering a question later today. He is very anxious that the task of following up the Wardale Touche Ross report should be pursued vigorously, and he came to the conclusion that the task should be placed in other hands. I shall, of course, take fully into account what my hon. Friend said about finding a suitable replacement. In the meantime, I should like to thank Mr. Alfred for the work that he has done while he has been at the Property Services Agency.

Mr. Eadie

If the right hon. Lady is feeling inclined to send messages today, will she send a message to Mr. Ian MacGregor, the chairman of the National Coal Board, telling him that conciliation is the language of her Government, rather than confrontation, and that, if he continues to engender conflict in the mining industry, she will ask for his resignation?

The Prime Minister

There is no confrontation on the part of Mr. MacGregor. A person who has recommended as much investment into the coal industry as he has is not in a position of confrontation, but is demonstrating his faith in the future. The Government will not intervene in this matter. The Government will leave the National Coal Board to deal with the matter as it thinks fit.

Mr. Favell

Sympathising with those miners unfortunate enough to work at uneconomic pits, but does my right hon. Friend agree that high fuel costs contribute to job losses in other industries?

The Prime Minister

Yes. If we were able to concentrate much more on the profitable pits the coal industry would have an even better future, because the price of coal might then be lower, and therefore we should be able to have far more exports than we do now. If major contracts with the Central Electricity Generating Board could be fulfilled at a lower price, the price of electricity could thus be brought down.

Mr. Alton

Has the Prime Minister had the chance to consider the implications of the recently published Ministry of Defence 1953 document which demonstrates conclusively that British service men were deliberately [column 280]exposed to the effects of radiation during the atomic tests in the south Pacific in the 1950s? Does she not agree that it is time to review section 10 of the Crown Proceedings Act 1947 to allow service men to have the right to sue? Does she not further agree that it is time to review the compensation procedure available to service men? Will she make available all the information that was published at that time, which is obviously of great concern to many of the widows and bereaved relatives of these men?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, I have answered many questions on this in detail. He will be aware that a very extensive survey is taking place of those who were involved in the tests. Of course, he and I will await the results, but it will take quite a time to get them.

Q7. Mr. Malone

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 13 March.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Malone

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the coal industry is now consuming £17 per year for every man, woman and child in this country and that the annual cost of support is one fifth of the cost of running the National Health Service? Does she agree that it is the Government and Conservative Members who support the future of the coal industry, and the Opposition and Mr. Scargill who are interested only in supporting the past?

The Prime Minister

The Government's record of investment in the coal industry is unrivalled. The taxpayers have demonstrated their faith in the industry to the extent that total public expenditure on the coal industry this year will be £1,388 million.

Mr. Nellist

Mr. Speaker—[Interruption.] Mr. Speaker—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. We have a very important day ahead of us. Mr. Nellist.

Mr. Nellist

Does the Prime Minister agree that, having given the miners four years' continuous advice to increase production, when productivity at the coal face or per man is increased to produce a 55 million-tonne stockpile at the pithead and the power stations and the miners ask for their share they are given 25,000 redundancies? Is she surprised at the anger over the destruction of that industry?

The Prime Minister

On productivity, “Plan for Coal” called for an increase of 4 per cent. per year. That was in 1974. There has been an increase of only 4.7 per cent. in 10 years. Productivity actually fell in the late 1970s and reached the 4 per cent. target only last year. More than 300 coal mines were closed in 11 years of Labour Government. In nine years of Conservative Government only 92 pit closures occurred.

Mr. Dalyell

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In relation to the attack made on me—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I gave the hon. Gentleman an opportunity at Question Time, but I will give him another one.

Mr. Dalyell

Is not the reality that answering questions becomes very expensive in circumstances in which Governments have something to hide?

Mr. Speaker

Fortunately, I am not responsible for the answers to questions.