Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1985 Apr 16 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 [77/133-36]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2233
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Executive, Employment, Industry, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Taxation, Trade, Foreign policy (Asia), Housing, Labour Party & socialism, Race, immigration, nationality, Terrorism, Transport, Trade unions, Strikes & other union action
[column 133]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Forth

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 16 April.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House I shall be having further meetings later today. This evening I hope to attend a state banquet in honour of President Banda.

Mr. Forth

Is my right hon. Friend aware that millions of home owners throughout the country are appalled at the proposals of an Opposition Front Bench Member that a Labour Government would abolish mortgage interest tax relief? Will she confirm that her Government remain committed to our present policy of mortgage interest tax relief?

The Prime Minister

I saw the Labour party plan for abolishing mortgage tax relief. I confirm that, so long as I am at the Dispatch Box, mortgage interest tax relief will be a policy of the Conservative party.

Mr. Steel

Since the Chancellor of the Exchequer has told the House that inflation is likely to rise to 6 per cent. later this year, does the Prime Minister still agree with the target of 3 per cent. of which she spoke in the far east? When will she have a target for reducing unemployment?

The Prime Minister

I believe that inflation can be reduced further. My right hon. Friend Nigel Lawsonthe Chancellor of the Exchequer is right to say that it will increase slightly before it decreases, but we must pursue policies to reduce inflation. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that 3 per cent. is still inflation.

Mr. Hubbard-Miles

Does my right hon. Friend agree that commitments made to the working miners during the recent coal strike both in this House and by the National Coal Board must be honoured? As some of those miners seek transfers because of harassment and intimidation, does she agree that the promises made must be fulfilled speedily and sympathetically?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I am anxious that the working miners should be fully and properly looked after. My hon. Friend will notice that Mr. MacGregor issued a firm statement the other day which showed the action that he had taken and made it clear that wherever he was presented with firm evidence it would be followed up immediately.

Mr. Alfred Morris

How many extra flights into Manchester international airport will result from the Prime [column 134]Minister's visit to the far east? Regarding her visit, does it help our country to talk about seeing off—[Hon. Members: “Yes.” ]—a section of Britain's working people, who were recently described by the Earl of Stockton as the finest people in the world?

The Prime Minister

In the first part of the question, I think that the hon. Gentleman was referring to a possible application by Singapore International Airlines. Talks on that will be starting shortly.—[Interruption.] I am referring to Singapore. We dealt with the Malaysian matter earlier. I believe that more flights into Manchester are required from Singapore.

As for the second part of the question, I shall read out precisely what I said. Referring to strikes, I said:

“Then came the big one—the strike of coalminers. That is in the public sector. But the great achievement of that was not only that some miners stayed working, not only that we saw it off after a year—”

[Interruption.] Hon. Members do not want to hear the truth because it gets in the way of their propaganda. I said:

“The great achievement of that was not only that some miners stayed working, not only that we saw it off after a year, but that steelworkers were not going to come out in support, nor were the railway workers going to come out in support and the docks, of which most are private, were brought out under false pretences for about a fortnight and they got back to work.

So may I cheer you up a bit. We resisted that year-long strike and the two outstanding achievements were that among trade unionists in Britain not one trade union gave support because they were learning the facts of life.”

That was the support from true, decent, honourable trade unionists. What I find is that everywhere I go people know that that coal strike lasted for a year, that it was pursued with violence and intimidation, that the Labour party supported it throughout and that Neil Kinnockthe Leader of the Opposition did not have the guts to go to a meeting and condemn it.

Q2. Mr. Stanbrook

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 16 April.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Stanbrook

Will my right hon. Friend ignore the humbug from the Opposition about her very successful far eastern tour? Was her attention drawn during her absence to the evidence of ballot-rigging in the election for the leadership of the Transport and General Workers Union? If we want responsible and representative leaders for our great trade unions, should we not insist on mandatory postal balloting?

The Prime Minister

That was considered during the passage of the Trade Union Bill of 1984, which comes into force on 1 October this year. My hon. Friend will be aware that for some unions, such as the National Union of Seamen, postal ballots would not be appropriate. There is, however, a presumption in the Act that a postal ballot will take place, and if there is not to be a postal ballot a secret ballot must be carried out at the workplace or somewhere more convenient. There are very stringent conditions attached—everyone must be able to vote in secret and without interference or constraint, and if any member is dissatisfied with the way in which the ballot is conducted he can apply to the Certification Officer with his complaint and request a postal ballot.

Mr. Kinnock

As Britain's share of world manufactured trade has dropped by 20 per cent. in the six years during which the Prime Minister has held office, does she [column 135]agree that it would now be best for everyone if she concentrated her attention on policies for production and sales promotion instead of on trips for self-promotion?

The Prime Minister

If the right hon. Gentleman is really interested in selling goods, which I doubt, why does he support strikes which have a devastating effect on Britain's reputation? He supports the lot. And why in the world does he not recognise that if we are to get more jobs we must get our unit labour costs down? Neither of those facts will he recognise.

Mr. Kinnock

Has the Prime Minister not yet learnt that one of the best ways to reduce labour costs and to increase our export performance is to sponsor and encourage policies for investment, design, training and employment, which would also have an effect on labour relations? Why does she not introduce and encourage such policies instead of dashing around all over the place like an egotistical flea in a fit?

The Prime Minister

Investment in assets in Britain was at an all-time record last year. I held the first design seminar at Downing street, involving those engaged in design, that has even been held. We have the best training system ever known in this country. That is my answer to the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Pym

Discarding the absurd remarks of the Leader of the Opposition, and acknowledging the success of my right hon. Friend's visit to the far east, may I ask my right hon. Friend now to reveal her itinerary for the Whitsun recess?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. My destination for Whitsun has been fixed for some time; it is Chequers.

Mr. Corbyn

Will the Prime Minister tell the House whether, after her visit to Sri Lanka, she does not now believe that it would be better for Britain not to export arms to that country, in view of the oppression of minorities there, and that the service training agreement with the Sri Lankan armed forces should be ended?

The Prime Minister

Sri Lanka has a terrorist problem. The hon. Gentleman will know that the Conservative side of the House believes that terrorism must never be allowed to win. Any applications for arms are dealt with specifically, and they are not usually revealed.

Q3. Mr. Andrew MacKay

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 16 April.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. MacKay

During her busy day, will my right hon. Friend find time to consider who are more likely to create real, lasting jobs—those who stay at home, carp, and make cheap propaganda points, or those who go to the far east and create the climate that will produce British business and orders?

The Prime Minister

I thank my hon. Friend. I believe that what the Labour party could not stand was the outstanding welcome that we received on the tour wherever we went.

Q4. Mr. Alton

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 16 April.

The Prime Minister

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

[column 136]

Mr. Alton

Despite the inadequacies of some of the youth training schemes, does the Prime Minister not agree that the calls by some irresponsible members of the Labour party for young people to come out on strike and to leave their schools on 25 April is mischievous and irresponsible, and an attempt to use young people as cannon fodder?

The Prime Minister

I understand that that is the action which the trade union rights group proposes to take in Liverpool on 25 April. I deplore that politically inspired and counter-productive action. It is directly against the youth training scheme, which is designed to help young people to acquire more skills and better training in order to help them to get jobs. The action is totally inspired by the extreme Left wing of the trade union movement.

Q5. Mr. Gareth Wardell

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 16 April.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Wardell

Will the Prime Minister tell the House what decisions her Cabinet colleagues made in her absence from which she will dissociate herself when she next goes abroad?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman will be relieved to know that there were no Cabinet meetings in my absence.

Q6. Mr. Tracey

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 16 April.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Tracey

Has my right hon. Friend had a chance to compare the statements on immigration made by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) with her own Government's policies? Does she agree that the right hon. Gentleman's statements are irresponsible, to say the least?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I saw the pledge by the Labour shadow spokesman to repeal the Immigration Act 1971, which he said was—[Hon. Members: “Reading” .] I am sorry; I am looking at what the right hon. Gentleman said. It was a deplorable pledge, which will give cause for alarm to a great many people. I note that the right hon. Gentleman proposes to repeal the 1971 Act, which was operated by the last Labour Government throughout their whole period of office, from 1974 to 1979.

Q8. Mr. Winnick

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 16 April.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Winnick

Does the right hon. Lady agree that it is utterly undesirable for someone with a known Nazi past, who has been active in Nazi organisations, to be employed as a civil servant? Was it known when he was appointed that he had a Nazi record and had served a term of imprisonment for Nazi activities?

The Prime Minister

I believe that the hon. Gentleman is referring to the employment of a civil servant in the Department of Trade and Industry. Inquiries are proceeding and my right hon. Friend Paul Channonthe Minister for Trade will make an announcement as soon as possible.