Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1984 Oct 30 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 [65/1156-60]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2347
Themes: Employment, Industry, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Trade, European Union (general), Economic, monetary & political union, Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (development, aid, etc), Foreign policy (Middle East), Law & order, Local government, Local government finance, Northern Ireland, Terrorism, Strikes & other union action
[column 1156]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Cohen

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 30 October.

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. Cohen

Will the Prime Minister ponder today the role played by the Government in London, which now has the largest single concentration of unemployment in the industrialised world? Does she agree that it is nonsense to withhold £1,500 million of London's rate support grant, which has contributed to doubling business bankruptcies, has led to the closing of factories in London which then reappear in docklands, where the Government grant is just sleight of hand and has threatened the Greater London Enterprise Board, which creates jobs four times more cheaply than the London Docklands Development Corporation? When will she stop her dogmatic games, which affect the job prospects of my constituents in Leyton and of other Londoners?

The Prime Minister

The high rates charged by the Greater London council during the past three years have contributed to unemployment. It is one of the reasons why the GLC must be abolished. The London docklands authority has done an excellent job, which was never previously achieved by combined local authorities.

Mr. Neil Thorne

Will my right hon. Friend take time to consider what steps may be taken in the short term to prevent authorities such as the GLC from entering into [column 1157]entirely bogus exercises and spending nearly £500,000 worth of ratepayers' money on trying to avoid their civil defence responsibilities, before their demise in the spring of 1986?

The Prime Minister

We have gone as far as we can through legislation in curbing some excesses of the GLC. I hope that people will watch these excesses and be glad when we complete the legislation to abolish the GLC.

Mr. Steel

Is the Prime Minister aware of the lunchtime radio interview with the new chairman of the Trades Union Congress, in which he made it clear that if Mr. Scargill continues to remain obdurate the TUC leaders will, in the interests of trade unionism and the national economy, become more involved in efforts to reach a settlement? Will she authorise the Secretary of State for Energy to talk to the new chairman? Does she recognise that the general public now believe that the sooner Mr. MacGregor and Mr. Scargill cease their useless confrontations, the better?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman will agree that the NACODS' settlement reached at ACAS was excellent. It was reached by two sides after prolonged negotiations. Both sides were interested in a prosperous coal industry for the future. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will join us in putting pressure on the TUC to press the leadership of the NUM to accept the NACODS' settlement and end the coal strike.

Q2. Mr. Tony Lloyd

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 30 October.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Lloyd

Has the Prime Minister had time to consider last week's report of the European Commission on Human Rights on the use of plastic bullets and the subsequent demand by the Police Federation for the introduction of their use by all police forces in Great Britain? In the light of the clear evidence from the North of Ireland of the deaths and physical mutilation caused by these brutal weapons, will she tell the House—if she is not prepared to forbid the extension of their use to Great Britain—under what circumstances the Government would allow their use, especially in an industrial dispute?

The Prime Minister

So far we are discussing only the use of plastic bullets in Northern Ireland, where they are necessary for the protection of the security forces.

Mr. John Browne

Does my right hon. Friend accept that, with sterling at or near historically low levels, it would be a great advantage for us, especially with the outlook for lower interest rates, to join the European monetary system?

The Prime Minister

We shall reconsider that matter when we believe the time is appropriate. As my hon. Friend will be the first to appreciate, Britain is the only country in Europe that is subject to variations in the value of its currency because it is an oil country. That introduces an element into our valuation that is different from that of other European countries.

Mr. Kinnock

From her unique position, can the Prime Minister tell us precisely what has been going on in the National Coal Board?

The Prime Minister

The National Coal Board has done its level best to make the best offer to the miners for wages and future investment, and has given them an [column 1158]excellent guarantee of work and excellent terms for voluntary redundancy. The board hopes that tomorrow it will reach a settlement of the coal strike with the National Union of Mineworkers on the basis of the NACODS' agreement, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will say clearly where he supports the NACODS' settlement.

Mr. Kinnock

I have been working for rather longer than the right hon. Lady to get a negotiated settlement to the dispute. She is only at the very beginning of understanding, and there is still some distance to go in her mind. Throughout the dispute I have deliberately refrained from making comments about the chairman of the National Coal Board. In the light of recent events in the conduct of the coal dispute, does the chairman of the board still command the full confidence of the Prime Minister and her Cabinet?

The Prime Minister

With regard to what the right hon. Gentleman has or has not said, I distinctly remember him saying from the Dispatch Box as long as last April that a ballot was nearer in the NUM. He made no reference to it after that until NACODS had a ballot, and I hope that he will support the NACODS settlement. This chairman of the National Coal Board has given a better deal to the miners than any previous chairman. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will join me in urging the NUM to accept the NACODS' settlement. Will he or will he not?

Mr. Hordern

Does my right hon. Friend agree that in view of all that has happened, tomorrow's offer by the National Coal Board to the National Union of Mineworkers should be the last? Does she realise that if the National Union of Mineworkers refuses that offer, no matter how long it takes or how much it may cost, my right hon. Friend will have the full support of the country in defeating Mr. Scargill and his friends?

The Prime Minister

The NACODS' settlement, reached after long negotiation, must be the basis of an agreement with the NUM, and that agreement must be substantially unchanged.

Q3. Mr. Parry

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 30 October.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Parry

As the estimated cost of the miners' strike is nearly £5 billion, will the Prime Minister state who will pay for it? Will there be further increases in energy prices this winter, or will there be cuts in benefits? Is the Prime Minister aware that this Christmas thousands of striking miners, workers sacked from Cammell Laird, single-parent families and people on lower incomes will not be able to buy their children food or toys or new clothes and will tell their children that Father Christmas is dead? Is she aware that, in addition to having blood on her hands, she will go down in history as the woman who killed Santa Claus?

The Prime Minister

I believe that the striking miners were manipulated into a strike without a ballot. I believe that if they now had a ballot the majority would wish to go back. The hon. Gentleman referred to the cost of the strike. The miners have already lost £500 million in wages, 19 coal faces have already been lost and 79 are causing concern. Much investment has also been lost. We [column 1159]Conservatives wish that many of the striking miners would go back to work, where they will get excellent pay and where they have a guarantee of jobs in the future or the best voluntary redundancy ever offered. The money is there to be taken. Will not the hon. Gentleman urge them to go back to work, or does the Labour party prefer people to be on strike and to encourage them to be in poverty?

Mr. Maclean

Has my right hon. Friend thought about asking her right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary to ask the Metropolitan police to initiate an investigation into the sinister links between the NUM and Colonel Gaddafi, to establish the nature of those links?

The Prime Minister

I believe that the overwhelming majority of the country was shocked at the NUM's attempt to go to Libya to seek funds.

Mr. Skinner

What about your husband's companies?

The Prime Minister

That does not include the hon. Gentleman, but I believe that the majority of the country was shocked that part of the NUM should go to Colonel Gaddafi, who allowed his embassy to be used for murder on London's streets. That is shocking.

Q4. Sir John Biggs-Davison

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 30 October.

The Prime Minister

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

Sir John Biggs-Davison

While applauding the efforts and lead of the Government, the RAF and the charitable organisations in relieving famine in Ethiopia, may I ask whether the Government will seek joint measures and machinery with our European and Commonwealth partners, as well as the United States, for a better disposal of food surpluses?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The fact that we were fairly quick off the mark, got a good deal of aid to Ethiopia announced and were able to approach Garret FitzGerald in his capacity as President of the Community, helped with the speed of relief. However, it would have been slightly faster in relation to the aircraft had we been able to obtain visas for two of our RAF personnel to go to Ethiopia immediately. We might then have been able to get aircraft there to help with distribution from a ship which is carrying huge amounts of grain. We shall do all that we can to co-operate so that the maximum amount of aid can be distributed.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

Will the Prime Minister take this opportunity to respond to the serious statements made by [column 1160]Dr. Charles Elliott this week that the Government have been slow in releasing funds to the regime in Ethiopia, for ideological reasons?

The Prime Minister

The Government have not been slow in releasing funds. Over the past two years British aid to Ethiopia has been worth more than £13 million, including our share of European Community support. In addition, this July we cancelled Ethiopia's debts to Britain, which were worth more than £2.5 million. As well as giving ourselves, we have been giving through the European Community, which in the last two years has also given about £22 million.

Food shipments from Britain are arriving. A total of 14,000 tonnes reached Assab yesterday. The main problem is internal distribution. As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, lavish expenditure of about £200 million on the 10th anniversary celebrations of Ethiopia's Socialist revolution hardly helps.

Mr. Skinner

In view of all the talk about Libyan blood money, and to remove any charge of hypocrisy, will the Prime Minister issue instructions that all those firms which have donated money to the Tory party and have had contracts with Libya should have the money sent back because she does not want the Tory party to be tainted with it? Will she tell the House directly that during the period that she has been Prime Minister none of the companies with which her husband has been associated have had any trading links with Libya whatsoever?

The Prime Minister

The NUM's leadership went to a Government who had used their embassy for murder on London's streets. If the hon. Gentleman does not recognise the difference between that and trading arrangements, nothing will teach him. Hon. Members will have seen today's Daily Mirror, in which Mr. Windsor is reported as having said to Colonel Gaddafi:

“We need all the money that you can send us through the Libyan trade unions.”

He apparently received the reply:

“We shall make sure that the money is sent to you into a foreign bank account.”

Mr. Allen McKay (Barnsley, West and Penistone)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Since the Prime Minister has failed completely to say whether she and the Government have confidence in the chairman of the Coal Board, will you consider——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hope that hon. Members will not raise points of order designed to prolong Prime Minister's Question Time. That is not a point of order.