Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1984 Apr 5 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: House of Commons PQs
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [57/1107-12]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2734
Themes: Agriculture, Autobiography (marriage & children), Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Industry, Privatized & state industries, Trade, European Union (general), Law & order, Local government, Local government finance, Security services, Terrorism, Trade unions, Strikes & other union action
[column 1107]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Marek

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 5 April.

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.

Dr. Marek

Did the right hon. Lady hear the lunchtime news today, which carried a report of a death in unexplained circumstances of an employee at GCHQ Cheltenham? Can she give the House any further information on that matter?

The Prime Minister

I am not certain to which matter the hon. Gentleman is referring. I know a number of—but they will be reported in due time when all the information is known.

Mr. Farr

If my right hon. Friend has a chance today, will she consider the position facing some local authorities which are having to meet additional bills for police expenditure because of the miners' strike? Is she aware that in Leicestershire the bill so far is an additional £2 million? It will be difficult for local authorities to meet that sort of money out of their funds.

The Prime Minister

I understand that my right hon. and learned Friend Leon Brittanthe Home Secretary met certain local authorities recently and has said that when we know the full extent of the bill he will generously and sympathetically consider applications for help.

Mr. Kinnock

On the specific subject of local authorities, is the Prime Minister not ashamed to be bringing before Parliament a Bill that will remove voting rights from 13 million electors in Greater London and the metropolitan counties? Will she, in the name of basic British democracy, ensure that the Bill is withdrawn?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. [Laughter.]

Mr. Kinnock

I note the humour of Conservative Members at the removal of those democratic rights. Is that [column 1108]not exactly the misuse of Government power and abuse of democratic values of which the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Pym) warned during the general election? At some stage, will the Prime Minister try to provide the facts that are supposed to support her case for taking them away? When, in any democratic country, have any democratic Government given satellite status to the council of their capital city?

The Prime Minister

The policy was endorsed by the votes of 13 million people at the last general election.

Mr. Kinnock

If the right hon. Lady is referring to her manifesto, there is no mention in it of the abolition of the right to vote in any circumstances. The right hon. Lady may have a mandate for some things; she has no mandate for imposing puppet councils on London and the metropolitan counties.

The Prime Minister

The abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan counties was a foremost part of our manifesto. We intend to carry out those abolitions.

Q2. Mr. Simon Hughes

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 5 April.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Hughes

Will the Prime Minister confirm that her Office has already confirmed the report that, within the last day or two, a GCHQ employee has committed suicide; that that has been confirmed by GCHQ: that a note was left and that note confirmed that the suicide was attributable to the pressure put on that employee as a result of the Government's policy of taking away the right to belong to a trade union? Will the inquest be in public? Will the report be made available to the House? What was the rank of that GCHQ official? Will the Prime Minister make a statement about the matter?

The Prime Minister

Any suicide—I am aware of the suicide to which the hon. Gentleman refers, which was accompanied by a suicide note—will be a matter for the coroner. I expect that that note is in his possession.

Sir Dudley Smith

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the announcement by the hard-nosed General Motors Corporation of America that it intends to invest £100 million in this country because of the changed circumstances here is a considerable vindication of the policy that she has pursued over the past four and a half years? Is she further aware that other policies of that kind will lead to further successful investment?

The Prime Minister

I saw the news to which my hon. Friend refers. It is very good news and augurs well for the future of General Motors in Britain and prospects for jobs.

Mr. James Callaghan

In giving permission to the Metropolitan police to acquire sub-machine guns, have the Government considered the impact of this serious further step in arming the police on the relationship between the police and the public, and on the very nature of the police service? I recognise the Government's dilemma in protecting foreign Heads of Government, but would it not be preferable in those circumstances to give that responsibility to the regular armed services when the Government are faced with short-term need? If the Metropolitan police are armed with sub-machine guns, [column 1109]that could change the character of the force and sacrifice a long-term beneficial system of policing to a short-term need.

The Prime Minister

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, my right hon. Friend Leon Brittanthe Home Secretary agreed to a request from the Metropolitan police for the purchase of a small number of sub-machine guns, as I said on Tuesday. The right hon. Gentleman may recollect, as it is within public knowledge, that as long ago as 1976 the Labour Administration approved the acquisition by the Metropolitan police of a small number of conventional sub-machine guns—[Hon. Members: “Ah” .]—for possible use in a terrorist emergency—a cause which I feel sure the right hon. Gentleman and the then Home Secretary had very much in mind when they approved that purchase.

Mr. Callaghan

rose——

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Reverting to the question raised by the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan), is my right hon. Friend aware that the authorisation for the purchase of sub-machine guns by the police was given by the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) when he was Home Secretary? Is she further aware that when the Leader of the Opposition seeks to make mischief and to attack the British police for doing what the Labour Government authorised them to do he is stabbing in the back the best police service in the world?

The Prime Minister

I am sure that any Home Secretary would have considered such a request very carefully, as I am sure my right hon. and learned Friend did, and had good reason for granting it.

Mr. Callaghan

rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think that we should move on. I think that the House will consider it fair if I call the next question, as the Leader of the Opposition has had three opportunities to ask a question.

Later——

Mr. Kinnock

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I should like to raise with you a point of order relating to remarks made by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths), which you and the House will have heard during the Prime Minister Question Time. The hon. Gentleman said that I made an attack on the police. That has never been true, is not true, and never will be true.

My references to the use of sub-machine guns—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I have called the right hon. Gentleman on a point of order, and I want to hear him.

Mr. Kinnock

My references to the provision of submachine guns for body guarding purposes are anything but an attack on the police, for whom I have every respect. The hon. Gentleman is sponsored in the House by the Police Federation, but my opinions are held in common with my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan); the editor of Gun Review, himself a former police inspector, who called the Government's decision “horrendous” ; and the editor of The Times this morning.

Several Hon. Members

rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. Many provocative things are said in the Chamber from both sides of the House. I hope that [column 1110]we shall not have an extension of Question Time through points of order. I called the Leader of the Opposition, and I wanted to hear what he had to say.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Leader of the Opposition raised what he claimed to be a point of order. To protect Back Benchers, will you declare that spuriously to raise as a point of order something that in no sense is a point of order is just as unacceptable from the Front Benches as it is from the Back Benches—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.” ]

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is a great expert on procedural matters and I entirely agree with what he has said. I called the Leader of the Opposition, and to that extent it is my responsibility, not his. I do not think that we should take this matter any further.

Kingswood

Q3. Mr. Hayward

asked the Prime Minister if she will pay an official visit to Kingswood.

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to do so.

Mr. Hayward

On behalf of the residents of Kingswood, may I extend an invitation to my right hon. Friend to visit that area, where she will find extreme concern among many of my constituents who, in view of United States' unwillingness to export high technology in the form of extra-territoriality, cannot understand why the Government are considering the purchase of a United States ship-to-ship guided weapon, when an equivalent is available in Britain?

The Prime Minister

As I indicated a few days ago, a decision will be taken fairly soon as to which surface-to-surface guided weapon will be purchased for the needs of the Royal Navy. The factors that my hon. Friend has mentioned, with a number of others, will be taken fully into account.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

If the Prime Minister visits Kingswood, will she explain to the hon. Gentleman's constituents how she reconciles her statement of May 1979 that the public have a right to look to the Government for protection from crime with the fact that since then robberies have increase by well over 50 per cent.?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman will be aware of the vastly increased police resources now compared with that time. He will also be aware that the latest crime figures show a small but welcome overall reduction in crime.

Engagements

Q4. Mr. Willie W. Hamilton

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 5 April.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Hamilton

Will the Prime Minister now give a simple yes or no answer to the following question? When she went to the palace of the Sultan of Oman to discuss the Cementation contract, was she then aware that her son was working for Cementation? Will she confirm or deny that the fee of £85,000 was paid to Mark, as reported in the press last Sunday?

[column 1111]

The Prime Minister

I have answered many questions about my visit to Oman, the Oman university project and official meetings and discussions with representatives of the Government of Oman and others connected with the project. I have nothing further to add to those answers.

Mr. Rathbone

Will my right hon. Friend spare a moment today to plan with the Foreign Secretary a follow-up of British initiatives on the banning of chemical weapons and support for the new American initiatives in that sphere?

The Prime Minister

We welcome the recent initiatives by President Reagan to table further proposals. That initiative was foreshadowed in a speech by Mr. Shultz at the Stockholm conference recently. As my hon. Friend knows, we had previously tabled an initiative on chemical warfare, including the right to challenge inspection. We warmly support President Reagan's present initiative. At a time when chemical weapons have been used, it is extremely important that we should secure a comprehensive ban on their manufacture, stockpiling and use.

Mr. Steel

In standing up for British interests, how does the Prime Minister justify the sudden severe cut in milk production inflicted on Britain, when we are less than self-sufficient, whereas the French, who overproduce, will have only one third of those cuts? Is she aware that that policy could spell financial disaster, especially for small dairy farmers?

The Prime Minister

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, we are self-sufficient in liquid milk and almost self-sufficient in dairy products, perhaps more so when one takes into account the imports that we have in support from New Zealand. I had thought, perhaps mistakenly, that the right hon. Gentleman was in favour of the European Community and the common agricultural policy, although I would not necessarily have deduced that from what he has said today. I hope he will agree that the recent decisions to reduce the overall surpluses are in the [column 1112]interests of the Community and especially of those who pay for so many of the surpluses to be subsidised and sold cheaply to other countries.

Q5. Mr. Nicholas Winterton

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 5 April.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Winterton

My right hon. Friend has an outstanding reputation for visiting all parts of the United Kingdom. Will she try to find time in the not-too-distant future to visit some of the dairy farmers in my constituency and explain to them why the full burden of the irresponsibility of successive Governments and of the European Community is being placed on their shoulders? Bearing in mind that schemes have been introduced for the coal industry and the steel industry, in which restructuring has taken place, will the Government introduce a United Kingdom Government-funded scheme to help dairy farmers——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must not make a speech.

The Prime Minister

Other dairy farmers in other Community countries are taking just as big a cut in production as we are. In fact, in Germany and Holland the cut is slightly larger. I am sure my hon. Friend will agree that it was necessary to try to reduce the surpluses that have been produced year after year and have been stockpiled. For example, there is nearly a year's stockpile of butter in the Community.

There are schemes to help farmers. For example, the European Community has agreed to continue for two years the income aid for small dairy farmers. In addition, there are pension or lump sum aids for farmers who want to give up farming, and various grant schemes for those who want to invest to change the nature of their farming. I hope that these schemes will help. I recognise that it is difficult for farmers, but I think they recognise that action had to be taken.