Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1985 May 16 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: speeches
Document kind: House of Commons PQs
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [79/485-90]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2842
Themes: Conservatism, Defence (Falklands War, 1982), Employment, Local elections, Privatized & state industries, Energy, Pay, Taxation, Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (International organizations), Health policy, Labour Party & socialism, Law & order, Northern Ireland
[column 485]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. John Mark Taylor

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 16 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 this House I shall be having further meetings later today.

Mr. Taylor

Will the Prime Minister take time during a busy day to study press notices of an enterprise by Shell [column 486]in the North sea involving the investment of £2.5 billion, many ancillary contracts for British firms, and jobs for 6,000 people? Will she comment on that enterprise?

The Prime Minister

I confirm what my hon. Friend said. I understand that it is an enterprise which will provide about 6,000 jobs and that the Budget of Sir Geoffrey Howethe Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1983 probably contributed to the decision to go ahead with this development. It is good news and I wish the enterprise well.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

Will the Prime Minister take time today to look at the Hansard reports of our economic debates in the House in the past two months, from which she will find that about 25 per cent. of the contributions from the Government Benches have been critical of the Government strategy? Does not that, together with the establishment of dissident groups on her own Back Benches, indicate the total failure of the Government's policies in dealing with unemployment?

Will the Prime Minister stop carrying on thinking that there is no alternative and start—[Interruption.] Will she start to listen to the proposals that are being made by groups on her own Back Benches and by some on the alliance Benches, and drop the absurd notion that there is no alternative?

The Prime Minister

No, I shall not stop carrying on. I shall carry on.

Sir William Clark

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, as a proportion of the population, the number of people in work in Britain is the highest in the European Community?

The Prime Minister

The proportion of the population of working age in work is 66 per cent. in Britain. That is as high as in the United States and higher than in France and Germany. It is one of the highest percentages in Europe.

Kampuchea

Q2. Mr. Allen Adams

asked the Prime Minister if the Government have any intention of recognising the regime in Kampuchea.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. We recognise the state of Cambodia, but in common with the overwhelming majority of the international community will not countenance having relations with the present regime in Phnom Penh, which depends on the Vietnamese occupation forces for its existence.

Mr. Adams

Does the Prime Minister not think that it is gratuitously offensive to the vast majority of the British people that we recognise at the United Nations the representatives of a regime which murdered 2 million of its own people? Is the bogus excuse still that the north Vietnamese or the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia? If that is the bogus excuse, is the Prime Minister aware of the United Nations 1948 convention on genocide? We cannot argue—[Interruption.] We have obligations under international law to put a stop to genocide.

The Prime Minister

The Government withdrew formal recognition from the Pol Pot regime in December 1979. In accordance with the recommendation of the United Nations General Assembly credentials committee, we continue to accept the representatives of the democratic parts of Kampuchea as representing the Cambodia seat.

[column 487]

Sir Anthony Kershaw

While admitting that the regime we recognise in Kampuchea has a deplorable record, may I ask whether the Prime Minister agrees that the regime in Phnom Penh, backed by the Vietnamese, has committed every crime under the sun and is the enemy of our friends in that part of the world?

The Prime Minister

Yes. The Vietnamese forces are still in occupation. They have caused the flight of many refugees into Thailand. We give as much support and help as we can to those refugees. We shall not recognise the puppet regime in Phnom Penh, which is upheld only by the Vietnamese occupying forces.

Q3. Mr. Parry

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

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Parry

In view of the wide divisions in her party, will the Prime Minister stop shedding crocodile tears, and will she state today that she is concerned about unemployment? In view of the formation of the new Centre Forward group——

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

It is disintegrating. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not know what hon. Members are laughing at, either.

Mr. Parry

Those baboons over there may be shouting at—[Hon. Members: “Withdraw.” ]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw that word.

Mr. Parry

I withdraw.

In view of the formation of the Centre Forward group and the statement by Mr. Iain Picton, chairman of the Tory Reform Group, will the Prime Minister now state whether the Lady is for turning, and if not, why not?

The Prime Minister

I am not sure whether I picked my way through that complicated question. The name “Centre Forward” was, of course, first coined by my hon. Friend Rhodes Boysonthe Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, who wrote a book called “Centre Forward—a Radical Conservative Programme” . Hon. Members can see that book, which I have here. It was written in 1978, and I am delighted to find that my hon. Friend has so many new supporters.

Mr. Roger King

Following the good news from Shell, has my right hon. Friend had the time to reflect on the good news from British Leyland, which, in the first quarter of this year, had achieved its highest output for 10 years, with 98 per cent. availability?

The Prime Minister

I am always delighted to hear of great success in our motoring industry. I hope that it will steadily increase the proportion of the car market that is taken by firms in this country. I congratulate the company.

Mr. Kinnock

Why have crimes of every kind increased substantially since the Prime Minister took office in 1979? What is she going to do about it?

The Prime Minister

Crime has been going up both in this country and in other countries. This Government, unlike previous ones, have substantially increased the [column 488]numbers in the police force—by some 12,000. We have also increased the amount of equipment that is available to them.

Mr. Kinnock

The police are not convinced by that. Who does the right hon. Lady expect to believe it?

The Prime Minister

I had hoped that the right hon. Gentleman might actually be swayed by the facts on the numbers of the police.

Mr. Kinnock

rose——

Hon. Members

No.

Mr. Kinnock

This right hon. Gentleman and, plainly, the police are more impressed by the 30 per cent. rise in serious crime since the right hon. Lady became leader of the Government. Will she now answer the question? Why is the crime rate so much higher? What is she going to do about it?

The Prime Minister

I repeat the reply that I gave. We have increased the numbers in the police force. We have also increased, as we did during last year, the actual amount of resources available. If there should be any under-recruitment in local authorities, I urge them to come up to establishment.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

Has my right hon. Friend noted that in the year to March wages rose by 9 per cent.? Does she agree that if those in work take more of the national wage bill it must be bad for the unemployed? Will she therefore re-emphasise the need for wage restraint in any sensible attack on unemployment?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I saw those figures today. On average earnings, the underlying rate is still 7½ per cent., but my hon. Friend will also have heard today the news and wisdom that has come out of Southampton docks. Six months ago those docks were not working at all. The news came today that they have realised that if they are to get back to work they must reduce the wage bill. By doing that they have turned the position around and are now very successful. As my hon. Friend has said, wage costs must not rise too high if we are to get more jobs.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

Will the Prime Minister note that in yesterday's elections in Northern Ireland about 10 per cent. of those who wished lawfully to cast their votes were prevented from doing so by the terms of the Elections (Northern Ireland) Act of this Session? Does she agree with the opinion held in all quarters of the Province that that statute cannot remain unamended?

The Prime Minister

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the purpose of the Elections (Northern Ireland) Act 1985 and the local elections order of 1982 was to strengthen safeguards against personation, to counter a significant increase in electoral abuse in recent years. We shall, of course, be reviewing the way in which the legislation works and, in particular, the usefulness of the various documents specified for identification. In response to the right hon. Gentleman, we shall certainly look at the way in which the Act has worked.

Mr. Rowe

Is my right hon. Friend aware that recently I shared a platform with an employee of the Greater London council whose principal contribution to our discussions was to advocate riot as the only means [column 489]whereby the ethnic minorities in this country could achieve their objectives? Does my right hon. Friend not think that that is one of the contributions to the rising crime rate?

The Prime Minister

I hope that almost everyone in the House accepts that the law must be obeyed, and we are all responsible for helping in its enforcement.

Q4. Mr. Allen McKay

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

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. McKay

Will the Prime Minister reflect on the situation of my constituent E. G. Moxon, and thousands like him, who went out under the job release scheme only to find that this year his annual increase is only 60p due to favourable developments in personal tax allowances? Has not the scheme turned out to be a con trick in that those low-paid people have paid for an increase, which they were not supposed to do? Will that not be detrimental to people wishing to go out under the scheme?

The Prime Minister

I think the hon. Gentleman will agree that the job release scheme was a good one, allowing people to retire early and releasing jobs for people on the unemployment register. If there is a particular difficulty or a special case in relation to tax I hope that the hon. Gentleman will write to my right hon. Friend Nigel Lawsonthe Chancellor of the Exchequer about it.

Q5. Mr. Andrew MacKay

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

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. MacKay

Has my right hon. Friend had time during her busy day to read the totally independent report of the Comptroller and Auditor General stating that the National Health Service has never been more flourishing? Does that not show that the Opposition's scurrilous rumours about the future of the Health Service are utterly dishonest?

The Prime Minister

Yes, the Opposition do a lot of the talking, but we have delivered the best National Health Service that this country has ever known, with more doctors and nurses—[Hon. Members: “Use them!” ]—dealing more efficiently with a greater number of patients. [Interruption.] The Opposition may shout, as they usually do, but they cannot overcome the facts. Under this Government the National Health Service is the best ever.

Mr. Foulkes

Has the Prime Minister had time today to read the point of order that I raised yesterday regarding early-day motion 686——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The point of order was to me, so it is my responsibility and not that of the Prime Minister.

Mr. Foulkes

Yes, Mr. Speaker. I wondered whether the right hon. Lady had had time in her busy day to read that point of order. As Reuters has apologised to me for [column 490]the inaccurate report, and as the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) has graciously withdrawn the early-day motion, will the right hon. Lady now have the courtesy to apologise for, and withdraw, the remarks that she made without any justification at Question Time on Tuesday?

The Prime Minister

I said at Question Time on Tuesday:

“Those remarks must have been deeply wounding and we on these Benches reject them absolutely.” —[Official Report, 14 May 1985; Vol. 79, c. 169.]

I understand that the hon. Gentleman is withdrawing the remarks—[Interruption.]

Mr. Foulkes

indicated dissent.

The Prime Minister

rose[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Prime Minister must be given an opportunity to reply.

The Prime Minister

I understand that my hon. Friend has withdrawn the remark and, of course, I therefore do. I hope that the hon. Gentleman now thinks that that airstrip was a very good investment—[Interruption.]

Mr. Ryman

rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I shall take points of order only if they relate to Question Time and only if they are not an extension of Question Time.

Mr. Ryman

Only two days ago you ruled on a point of order——

Mr. Speaker

Order. If the hon. Gentleman's point of order relates to what happened two days ago, I shall take it later.

Mr. Stephen Ross

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As someone who accompanied the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) to the Falkland Islands, I can confirm that everything he has said in the House is correct and that if statements were made on Tuesday impugning his conversations in the Falkland Islands they are wrong and ought to be withdrawn.

Mr. Speaker

I heard the exchanges yesterday and the points of order were addressed to me. I called the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) to the Falkland Islands, I can confirm that everything he has said in the House is correct and that if statements were made on Tuesday impugning his conversations in the Falkland Islands they are wrong and ought to be withdrawn.

Mr. Speaker

I heard the exchanges yesterday and the points of order were addressed to me. I called the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) today. I heard exactly what the Prime Minister said, and she did withdraw.

Mr. Willie W. Hamilton

My hon. Friend the Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) specifically asked the Prime Minister to read the exchanges which took place on Tuesday. She has obviously read them and must know that my hon. Friend was misreported. Will she now have the courtesy and grace to withdraw her remarks?

The Prime Minister

I thought that I had withdrawn—[Hon. Members: “No.” ] Then I do. I do so now—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.” ]—and of course, I apologise.