Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1985 Nov 19 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 [87/133-37]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2402
Themes: Civil liberties, Defence (arms control), Employment, Industry, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Public spending & borrowing, Taxation, Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Law & order, Local government finance, Northern Ireland, Terrorism
[column 133]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Colvin

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 19 November.

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 shall be giving a reception for Fellows of the Royal Society.

Mr. Colvin

Will my right hon. Friend find time today to welcome the enormous measure of all-party support that she received in the House yesterday following her statement on the Anglo-Irish agreement? Will my right hon. Friend reflect with sadness on the extremist reaction of certain hon. Members from the Province? Does she not agree that surely the time to judge the agreement is in two or three years, when it has had a chance to work? Do not those who prejudge the agreement misjudge the very real yearning of the vast majority of people in the United Kingdom, which includes Northern Ireland, for a new and constructive approach towards achieving peace and stability in the Province?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I very much welcome the reception given to the agreement. I believe that most people wish to give it a really good chance to work, and that most people will take a constructive approach and condemn those who use violence to defeat democracy.

Mr. Steel

Is the Prime Minister aware that 72 per cent. of the electorate, including 62 per cent. of Conservative voters, now believe that a freeze on the testing and deployment of nuclear weapons is the way ahead at Geneva? Has the right hon. Lady told President Reagan that the Government are prepared to have the Polaris system counted in in the discussions and to freeze the purchase of the Trident if that would help the peace process?

The Prime Minister

I do not believe that either the independent French or independent British nuclear deterrent should be counted in in the discussions, for obvious reasons. If there are negotiations between the two super powers on the broad basis of equality, balance and verification, to count in the British and French would mean that we would determine exactly what the United States says, and the right hon. Gentleman must see that that would be utterly impossible.

Mr. Terlezki

In view of the meeting taking place in Geneva between President Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev, does my right hon. Friend agree that, while it is imperative that there is a positive result from the conference, it must be remembered that unless the human rights issue is included—rights which, regrettably, do not exist in the Soviet Union—and unless Mr. Gorbachev adheres to the Helsinki final act, nothing positive will result from the conference?

The Prime Minister

It is, of course, imperative that we continue to have a sure defence. I believe that the [column 134]human rights issue is on the agenda at Geneva. It would be wise to wait to see what comes out of Geneva, rather than attempt to prophesy.

Mr. Hattersley

Will the Prime Minister confirm that as the Government expect to receive £4.75 billion next year from the sale of British Gas and other public assets, the tax cuts that she proposes for March will be wholly financed by those sales?

The Prime Minister

No. The right hon. Gentleman should wait for the Budget before talking about tax cuts. We will not be in a position to determine what will happen in the Budget until we have the latest economic forecast, which usually comes in February. That will depend upon many things, and it is thoroughly mischievous to try to say in advance what will happen.

Mr. Hattersley

I take it that the Prime Minister does not deny the Chancellor's estimate that £4.75 billion is to be obtained through asset sales. If that is the case, what other means of financing the tax cuts is possible? Is not the Prime Minister trying to set up a smokescreen to obscure the truth that, having increased taxes year after year when she promised to cut them, she now proposes to sell off national assets to buy a few squalid votes?

The Prime Minister

The privatisation programme stands in its own right, because we believe in putting more companies into the hands of the people, with the possibility of enhanced share purchase. Even if the proceeds of privatisation are added to the public sector borrowing requirement, that figure as a proportion of GDP is expected to be the lowest since 1971–72. Will the right hon. Gentleman contrast that with the record of the Labour Government in 1975–76, on which the equivalent PSBR now would be £33 billion?

Mr. Hattersley

The right hon. Lady flagrantly and pathetically avoids answering my question, so I shall repeat it. If she proposes to raise £4.75 billion next year from the sale of public assets, what possible alternative financing is there for the tax cuts that she proposes?

The Prime Minister

Public expenditure is projected to remain broadly stable in real terms over the survey period, whether those asset sales are included or excluded. I do not propose to make any statement about taxation cuts. My right hon. Friend Nigel Lawsonthe Chancellor particularly did not make any statement about fiscal adjustments. The right hon. Gentleman is intentionally being thoroughly mischievous.

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the tragedies of Ireland is that those who should take the lead in ending the maiming and killing of people in our land are the very people who talk of treachery, where only courage and vision have been shown at this time? Is it not important that those fanatics, whether they be IRA or Protestant, should seek a way in which all peoples can live at peace and be united in this land?

The Prime Minister

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend. I believe that men and women of good will in Northern Ireland, in the whole of the United Kingdom and in the Republic should join in defeating the IRA.

Mr. James Callaghan

Reverting to the question asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), as the Prime Minister says that the equivalent of the just over £10 billion [column 135]PSBR in 1977 would now be £33 billion, does that not illustrate how seriously our currency has been devalued under her management?

The Prime Minister

No one in the House could exceed the right hon. Gentleman's own record on devaluation.

Mr. Porter

Will my right hon. Friend comment on the report in The Guardian today that she may be having second thoughts about the Anglo-Irish agreement? Is she aware that a large number of reasonable, non-extremist English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish unionists would welcome a reconsideration?

The Prime Minister

I think the general view is that the agreement should be given a chance, that it is contructive, and that it is welcomed because it should get everyone who believes that violence should not be a part of democratic life to join in defeating violence.

Q2. Mr. Martin

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 19 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Martin

What does the Prime Minister intend to do about the decline in traditional industries such as engineering? It is deplorable in a community like mine, which has one of the main railway engineering workshops in the United Kingdom. BREL is closing that workshop. When will the Prime Minister reverse the decline and do something about unemployment?

The Prime Minister

Because of reduced maintenance requirements of modern rail rolling stock the work force of British Rail Engineering at Springburn is to be reduced from 1,680 to 460. We cannot alter that. The new rolling stock requires less maintenance. I understand that the Scottish Development Agency has undertaken a study to make recommendations on how to generate employment and has made suggestions about how best to go about it.

Mr. Patrick McNair-Wilson

Has my right hon. Friend had drawn to her attention the article by the political editor of the Mail on Sunday to the effect that the Government have abandoned their plans for rate reform in England and Wales? In view of her very firm commitment during her speech on the Loyal Address, can she confirm that that remains Government policy?

The Prime Minister

Yes. I hope that a Green Paper will be published early in the new year.

Q3. Dr. McDonald

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 19 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Dr. McDonald

Will the Prime Minister now agree with even her own supporter, the CBI, which has called for at least £1 million more to be put next year into spending on contruction and training to create jobs? Will she agree to that, instead of sucking up to the electorate with more promises of tax cuts?

The Prime Minister

The CBI stresses in its proposals that any increase in spending on certain areas must be contained within the same overall total. It also says that [column 136]employers are more inclined to believe that the level of unemployment results from excessive pay increases, overmanning, poor productivity and management failures rather than from Government policies.

Q4. Mrs. Currie

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 19 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mrs. Currie

Has my right hon. Friend noticed the hefty sentences handed out by courts yesterday and last week to bunches of brutal thugs and rapists? Will she join me in congratulating the judges who have indicated that we will not tolerate violence of that kind, be it against male of female, be it done by black or white? Is not that a message that we must hand out loud and clear?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend that some of the crimes that we have seen recently warrant very serious sentences indeed. The sentences are justified on the basis of punishment for the offender, as a deterrent to others and to protect the law-abiding citizen.

Q5. Mr. Janner

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 19 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Janner

Reassuring as it is to the House that the right hon. Lady knows that human rights are on the agenda in Geneva, may I ask whether she will undertake to use every possible opportunity to emphasise to the Soviet authorities that mutual trust between nations requires that they should comply with human rights within their own countries, and in particular that a modest gesture, such as the release of those comparatively few Jewish people who have been waiting for many years to join their families outside, would do a power of good and create much goodwill for the Soviet Union?

The Prime Minister

The answer is, yes, to both parts of the hon. and learned Gentleman's question. As he knows, we frequently raise the matter both in general and in particular cases. My right hon. and learned Friend Sir Geoffrey Howethe Foreign Secretary did so when he last met Mr. Shevardnadze. The matter will again be raised in Geneva. I respectfully suggest that we would all be very pleased if rather more than a moderate gesture were forthcoming.

Q6. Mr. Proctor

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 19 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Proctor

Does my right hon. Friend recognise that there are some on the Tory Benches who believe that the Anglo-Irish agreement will tend to increase rather than diminish the level of violence? Does she further recognise that that view is widely shared by Ulster Unionist Catholics as well as by people throughout the Province? Concerning the detail of the agreement, may we have an assurance that the representations by the Government of the Republic at the Anglo-Irish conference will be made public on all occasions?

The Prime Minister

The answer to the first part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question is that I hope he will join in thoroughly condemning all who resort to violence, [column 137]and will make that perfectly clear. The answer to the second point, about representations at the intergovernmental conference, is that they would not normally be published.

Mr. McCusker

Does the Prime Minister consider that distinguished Member of the Dublin Parliament, Senator Mary Robinson, to be an illiterate extremist who has thrown away the advances made in this document by her resignation, announced this morning, from membership of the Irish Labour party

“on the basis that it was negotiated without the involvement in any way of the majority community in the North and was unacceptable to all sections of Unionist opinion, and not just to extremists.”

The Prime Minister

I do not believe that the agreement is unacceptable to all shades of Unionist opinion. Part of its purpose is to give them greater security and greater assurance about their future.