Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1984 May 17 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 [60/501-06]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2283
Themes: Agriculture, Parliament, Conservatism, Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Privatized & state industries, Pay, Trade, European Union (general), European Union Budget, Foreign policy (International organizations), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Health policy, Law & order, Northern Ireland, Social security & welfare, Terrorism, Strikes & other union action
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PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Latham

asked the Prime Minister whether she will list her official engagements for 17 May.

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 King Hussein of Jordan.

Mr. Latham

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the brutal Gulf war, with hundreds of thousands of casualties and the vile abomination of chemical warfare poses a major threat to world peace? Should not the major powers insist upon an immediate arms embargo and call the Security Council into force to get one?

The Prime Minister

The Government are seriously concerned about the Iran-Iraq war, the loss of life and the implications for Western security, especially in view of the recent attacks on neutral oil tankers. We are willing to support any initiatives in the United Nations that are likely to achieve peace. Britain does not supply lethal weapons to either side in the Iran-Iraq war, and we have refused to export eight different chemicals which might be fabricated into weapons of chemical warfare.

Mr. James Hamilton

Will the Prime Minister, if she has not already done so, read the speech by her right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour), in which he denounced the Government's unemployment policies, the demise of the GLC and the latest policy appertaining to the public sector? Bearing in mind that his speech was in accordance with the sentiments of the Opposition, will the right hon. Lady take cognisance of that fact and attempt in some way to change the policies of Her Majesty's Government?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir.

Q2. Mr. Wardell

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 17 May.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Wardell

Following the leaking of yet another confidential report—[Interruption.] With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to repeat my question. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order.

Mr. Wardell

Following the leaking of yet another confidential report, “A Review of Benefit Visiting,” will the Prime Minister assure the House that copies of the [column 502]report will be made available to right hon. and hon. Members and, in the meantime, will she assure the House that DHSS staff will be retrained so that supplementary benefit claimants will be fully and adequately informed of the benefits that they can claim?

The Prime Minister

The answer to the first part of the question is no, Sir. The answer to the second part is that, as the hon. Gentleman knows, if supplementary benefit claimants are dissatisfied with the amount awarded to them, sufficient appeal procedures are available. I shall, of course, bring the other matter to the attention of Norman Fowlermy right hon. Friend.

Mr. Lilley

Has my right hon. Friend had time to consider her policies towards Europe in the light of the manifestos now being prepared and published by the opposition parties? Will she reassure the House that she will continue to steer a middle way between the extremists of the Labour party, who wish to leave Europe, and the equally extreme policy outlined in the alliance manifesto of abandoning or severely restricting the veto and handing over to the European Assembly the right to raise taxes without this House having any say in the matter and the policy outlined by alliance spokesmen of doubling our contribution to own resources?

The Prime Minister

We shall continue our present policies in Europe. We believe that it is to the advantage of Britain to remain in the Community. There is no doubt about that. We also believe that this country needs a strong voice in Europe, and we believe that it has just that.

Mr. Kinnock

It is now seven weeks since 31 March when our £457 million rebate from the Common Market was supposed to be paid. When does the Prime Minister expect our money to be paid to us?

The Prime Minister

The date on which we were expecting it was 31 March, but I am afraid that that is not a legally enforceable date. [Interruption] I am giving the right hon. Gentleman the facts. One does not normally make fun of legal facts. That is not a legally enforceable date, but we hope that the money will be paid by the end of this year.

Mr. Kinnock

The Prime Minister is right in one respect. The absence of the £457 million that is due to us is not in the least bit funny. Will she tell us whether she thinks that the money is actually due to us—yes or no? In view of her entirely dilatory attitude towards reclaiming it, does she believe that we shall get the money—yes or no? If the money that is due to us is not paid, will she withhold that sum, so that we can spend it on necessary objectives in Britain—yes or no?

The Prime Minister

Under the terms of the Stuttgart communiqué, 850 million ecu were reserved from this year's budget to be paid to Britain. The normal practice has been to pay it by 31 March. That is a matter of practice. It is still in the reserve European budget.

Mr. Kinnock

Is the Prime Minister aware that the fact that this year is an exception is due entirely to her abrasiveness and utter incompetence in defending the interests of this country?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. Without a strong voice we should never have got the promise of payment. I [column 503]believe that that promise will be honoured. The Opposition were not much good at getting rebates of any kind at any time.

Mr. Robert Atkins

Is it not extraordinary that, having, against intense competition, obtained a contract to export 175,000 tonnes of coal to the United States, the National Coal Board now has to buy that coal on the open market because it cannot be produced in this country? Does that not throw doubt on the credibility of those in the NUM leadership who say that they have the interests of the coal industry at heart?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend. The National Coal Board obtained a valuable contract to export coke to the United States. An essential part of the contract was that the first shipment should leave this country by the end of May. If it cannot be produced in Britain at present, it clearly makes sense to keep the next tranche of sales within possibility for this country by purchasing the coal and exporting it from here. The NCB is trying to retain the possibility of those sales for this country. That is a very advisable policy, although it would be far better if all the coal could be produced here and sold from this country.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Will my right hon. Friend find time during her official duties today to convey to the other European Heads of Government that it is a gross discrimination against the United Kingdom to impose quotas for excess milk production, without also imposing quotas for the excess production of wine and olive oil?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend knows that one of the biggest items of the Community budget and of the common agricultural policy arose from the excess production of milk. It is right to tackle that matter first.

Q3. Mr. Dubs

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 17 May.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Dubs

Has the Prime Minister had a chance to consider the recently published report of the New Ireland Forum? Despite her commitment that the people of Northern Ireland will not become part of a united Ireland without their consent, does she agree that this veto should not apply to other political changes in Northern Ireland, including the development of closer ties with the Republic?

The Prime Minister

We try to work with the Republic of Ireland, because we believe that it is in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland to do so. The constitutional future of Northern Ireland is a matter for Northern Ireland and this Parliament, and for no one else.

Sir Anthony Grant

Is my right hon. Friend aware that since the matter was raised with her exactly a week ago violence and thuggery have continued unabated in the miners' strike? Is she further aware that all decent people are disgusted by this behaviour? Is it not time that any sort of illegal picketing was unequivocally condemned by all sections of the House?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. That is correct. The right to picket is a right to picket peacefully to persuade people who are going to work not to work. Most people will agree that that is not what we are seeing. The criminal law on picketing has not changed. The law on crime relating to [column 504]violence and intimidation has not changed. Most people—and this goes for the majority of miners, too—are grateful to the police and congratulate them on the excellent way in which they are carrying out their duties.

Dr. Owen

Is it not a shameful abandonment of principle, after everything that was said during the general election—[Interruption.]—for the Prime Minister and her Government—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order.

Dr. Owen

Is it not a shameful abandonment of principle—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The right hon. Gentleman has an absolute right to be heard.

Dr. Owen

Is it not a shameful abandonment of principle that the right hon. Lady has changed the commitment that she made during the general election to the defence of this country and in two years' time will abandon the 3 per cent. increase in growth in the defence budget, will cut it to 0.5 per cent., will rely totally on nuclear weapons, and will not be able to make a contribution to the strengthening of European defence in a conventional war? Will she reconsider her decision on Trident?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. At no time did we make a full commitment to the 3 per cent. increase for the years following 1985–86. The right hon. Gentleman is fully aware that during our first years we fulfilled the NATO commitment of 3 per cent. and we shall continue to do so until 1985–86.

With regard to Trident, we need an independent nuclear deterrent. The Polaris submarines and missiles will have to be replaced in the early 1990s. Trident takes only 3 per cent. of the defence budget and gives us a considerable amount of deterrence, which we could not get by spending the same amount on extra conventional weapons.

Q6. Mr. Willie W. Hamilton

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 17 May.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Hamilton

With regard to nurses' pay, does the Prime Minister think that a nurse's work is as valuable to the community as that of a policeman?

The Prime Minister

Most people's work is valuable to the community. Under this Government, nurses' pay has increased by 80 per cent., compared with only a 60 per cent. increase in the retail price index.

Mr. Leigh

Given that the so-called peace movement declined rapidly once we deployed cruise missiles, will my right hon. Friend take time today to convey to the Dutch people and Parliament the vital importance of that country meeting its obligation to install 48 cruise missiles, because if it fails to do so Belgium might waiver, the Alliance upon which all our freedoms depend might be damaged and the sinister forces that threaten those freedoms might be given new heart?

The Prime Minister

If not today, we have brought, and will continue to bring, to the attention of the Dutch people and their Government the importance of their honouring their commitment on cruise missiles, for the reasons which my hon. Friend mentioned.

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Mr. Beggs

Has the Prime Minister protested to the Government of the Irish Republic at the most recent murder of a Protestant farmer and member of the UDR? If not, will she undertake to do so and seek the co-operation of the Government of the Irish Republic to have those responsible apprehended and extradited to Northern Ireland to stand trial for this terrible crime?

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The Prime Minister

We have had great co-operation from the Irish Republic in apprehending criminals and in attempting to bring them to trial, and I have no complaints against the Irish Republic on that score.