Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1985 Jul 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 [83/166-70]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2183
Themes: Employment, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Trade, Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (development, aid, etc), Law & order, Race, immigration, nationality, Terrorism, Strikes & other union action, Voluntary sector & charity
[column 166]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Holt

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

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 have an audience of Her Majesty the Queen.

Mr. Holt

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, apart from the lunatic fringe on the Opposition Benches, the vast majority of people in this country and in the world will be heartened by her strong and robust words yesterday on the subject of terrorism? Will she re-emphasise those words today and at every opportunity, especially to the justices of this country and to others responsible for sentencing policy, so that not only terrorists but all who are involved in vicious crime are brought to book and receive long sentences?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I believe that most people share the views that I put across on the need for maximum co-operation between countries on terrorism and the need for very severe sentences of imprisonment for those convicted of crimes of violence.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

What does the Prime Minister intend to do to prevent a repetition of the disastrous effect of the exchange rate on British industry in 1981?

The Prime Minister

I have no reason to think that the present exchange rate is adverse to British industry. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, when the pound is higher against the dollar we can get raw materials and semi-fabricated components at a lower price. When the pound is lower against the dollar exports become more competitive, but it is not advisable to rely on the exchange rate for competitiveness.

Mr. Cowans

Will the Prime Minister take time out to visit Trinity House and take the Secretary of State for Transport with her—even if he has to be taken on a lead—and discuss the efforts being made by Trinity [column 167]House to have lighthouse tender ships built in this country? Is she aware that she is being asked merely to match the offer and to repay the efforts of the shipbuilders on Tyneside who built the Endeavour for the Falklands campaign as well as the Ark Royal, but who for their pains now see ships for Britain being built in Korea? Will she show some compassion? Will she show the kind of woman she is and repay the people who work for us? They are British.

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman is aware that the gap between the price quoted in Korea and that quoted by British Shipbuilders was too great to be bridged by subsidies under the intervention system. The hon. Gentleman knows that we subsidise the business, but if we are to get business we must be able to match competitiveness and efficiency.

Q2. Mr. Nicholas Winterton

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

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Winterton

Does my right hon. Friend agree that a substantial reduction in interest rates would be much to the advantage of British industry and therefore outweigh any disadvantage to the value of the pound? Will she therefore have a word with the Bank of England and get the British banking system to act in the interests of manufacturing industry in the United Kingdom?

The Prime Minister

Many interests have to be considered in the determination of interest rates. My hon. Friend is aware that, when the value of the pound went down seriously, that was extremely damaging to the reputation of Britain, to British industry and bad for inflation. My hon. Friend is aware that we shall keep interest rates at whatever level is needed to maintain downward pressure on inflation, but no higher than that.

Mr. Kinnock

May I join the Prime Minister in her praise for the performers and contributors to Live Aid? As she said, it was humanity in action. By the same token, is it not inhumanity in action when a Government cut 18 per cent. off an aid budget in real terms in five years, when that same Government reduce the aid budget by 3 per cent. in real terms—£40 million just in this year—and when that Government, despite the emergency in Sudan and Ethiopia during the past two years, have not added one penny to the aid budget, except for the Hercules services, which they are now thinking of withdrawing? With a record such as that, what price the brotherhood of man?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is comparing the taxpayers' aid with voluntary aid. There has always been a place for voluntary aid. Voluntary services have done a great deal. For example, Christian Aid, Oxfam, War on Want and Save the Children have always been extremely active in this area and the new Live Aid was an extremely welcome addition. As for what we have done for Ethiopia and Sudan, in 1984 we provided £266 million, of which £248 million went to sub-Saharan countries, including £234 million for long-term development. In the year to March 1985 we spent £95 million on famine relief operations in Africa. This year we expect to spend at least £60 million. As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, my right hon. Friend Timothy Raisonthe Minister for Overseas [column 168]Development is now in Ethiopia and considering the needs for future months, especially the need to keep going with the Hercules.

Mr. Kinnock

I am more than prepared to compare Government aid—taxpayers' aid—with the charitable contributions made freely by people in Britain. When I do, I see that in the past year, a year in which the Government took £40 million off aid, the people were prepared to subscribe £67 million in aid—[Hon. Members: “What is wrong with that?” ] Well, why do we not have it all together, public and private? I also see that the Government have cut an amount equivalent to 10 times that which has been subscribed in the wake of the Live Aid concert. In any case, is the Prime Minister not ashamed of the fact—[Hon. Members: “No.” ]—that the only way in which she is prepared to provide short-term aid to the starving is by robbing the hungry of the world as she shuffles round the aid budget? Will she do three things? First, will she reverse this disastrous and cruel cut in aid policy? Secondly, will she make a contribution—[Interruption.] I can understand the irritation, embarrassment and shame of Conservative Members. Secondly, will she make a contribution to the international food and agricultural development fund, which helps poor farmers in Africa? Thirdly, will she give us a guarantee now that the essential Hercules service will continue—and not be withdrawn—for as long at the need for it exists in Ethiopia?

The Prime Minister

First, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, the majority of general aid is spent on capital long-term projects of the sort that he proposes should take place, that is on the development of food resources in Africa. Secondly, I am extremely proud of the Government's record on aid to Ethiopia and the Sudan. We were the first to respond, and that is what the right hon. Gentleman cannot stand. As he knows, within the aid budget there is always a certain amount both for disaster and famine relief and for contingencies. The right hon. Gentleman is well aware that the Government were the first to respond to the need in Ethiopia, and quick to respond in Sudan. We were the first to respond to the need for transport to take food to its destination. Yesterday, in response to a serious shortage of transport, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development announced further assistance of £2 million to help with the purchase of transport.

Mr. Steen

Will my right hon. Friend seek time this afternoon to drop a congratulatory note to Bob Geldhardt—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Interruptions take up the time of the House.

Mr. Steen

Will my right hon. Friend seek time this afternoon to drop a congratulatory note to Bob Geldof—[Interruption.]—and will she thank him for raising £50 million to be sent to Ethiopia? Will she remind him that young people, far from being hooligans on the football terraces, are as compassionate and caring as any people in the world?

The Prime Minister

Obviously, I sent a letter to Mr. Geldof before the concert congratulating him on the idea. We are all delighted that it had such a magnificent result. [column 169]We congratulate him not only on the result, but on the leadership that he gave to young people and to humanity everywhere.

Q3. Mr. Cohen

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

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Cohen

Will the Prime Minister condemn the monstrous murder in Ilford of Mrs. Kassam, who was eight months pregnant, and her three children in what was almost certainly a racial attack? Does that not highlight the need for tougher laws against racial attacks and harassment, such as I shall introduce tomorrow? Will the Prime Minister give a pledge to introduce such legislation at the earliest opportunity and to end her Government's failure to act in the face of an increase in racial attacks?

The Prime Minister

I am not yet convinced that we need any changes in the law. It would be premature to embark on legislation before the Home Office has received the Commission for Racial Equality's proposals for amending the Race Relations Act 1976 following its review of that legislation. One wholly and utterly condemns that terrible attack, which had such terrible consequences for the Kassam family.

Q4. Mrs. McCurley

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

The Prime Minister

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

Mrs. McCurley

In the light of the optimistic economic forecast made today by the chairman of the British Steel Corporation, will my right hon. Friend comment on the future of Ravenscraig and on the fact that those on the Left who are the most vociferous in howling for its retention were the ones who were prepared to make it the sacrificial baa lamb during the miners' strike?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is correct. The results announced by the British Steel Corporation are the [column 170]best for 10 years, although the steel industry lost £180 million because of the miners' strike. But for the effect of the strike on steel, it would have been in profit to the extent of about £40 million. It is an extremely good result. I agree with my hon. Friend about Ravenscraig. The people who work there struggled nobly and successfully to keep it going. Those who are now pleading for more for Ravenscraig are the very people who were anxious to close it during last year's coal strike.

Mr. Dormand

Will the Prime Minister give some thought today and, indeed, every day, to the plight of the long-term unemployed? Will she examine some of the studies that have been made of people who have been without work for a long time, to see the devastating effects of long-term unemployment? Does she sometimes have qualms of conscience about the catastrophic effect of long-term unemployment on families? Is it not the biggest single indictment of her economic policies?

The Prime Minister

It is because we are so very much aware of the catastrophic effect of long-term unemployment on the morale of people and their families that, in the Budget, my right hon. Friend Nigel Lawsonthe Chancellor announced nearly a doubling of the community programme and a substantial increase in jobs so that the long-term unemployed can have a chance of a worthwhile job after their periods of unemployment. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman has seen a document from Europe, published today, which shows that the numbers in employment in Europe are increasing, and that the increase in jobs in Britain during the past year is greater than that in all the other European countries put together.

Mr. Golding

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, arising out of questions. Can you ask the Government Whips whether, when they are planting out, they could choose more fertile ground and occasionally water the plants?

Mr. Speaker

I have no responsibility for the Whips.