Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1986 Jan 16 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: speeches
Document kind: House of Commons PQs
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [89/1203-08]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2489
Themes: Executive, Executive (appointments), Defence (general), Education, Industry, Privatized & state industries, Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Local government finance, Terrorism, Strikes & other union action
[column 1203]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Butterfill

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

The Prime Minister (Mr. 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 the House I shall be having further meetings later today. This evening I shall be giving a dinner for his Majesty King Hussein of Jordan.

Mr. Butterfill

Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming the initiative taken by ACAS in securing a meeting next Tuesday between the employers and the majority—one hopes all—of the teachers' unions to discuss negotiations on their pay claim? Will she share with me the hope that the National Union of Teachers will at last recognise that, if we are to have discussions about the amount that teachers should be paid, we should also have discussions about what they are supposed to do for the money?

The Prime Minister

We hope that ACAS is able to help the two sides to reach a satisfactory conclusion. The Government, like parents, want to see an early end to this damaging dispute, but I agree with my hon. Friend that it is our objective to have a statement that clearly defines teachers' duties and to have a pay structure that gives better pay to better teachers. That remains our objective.

Q2. Mr. Haynes

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

[column 1204]

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Haynes

When did the Prime Minister first learn of the letter sent by Sir Patrick Mayhewthe Solicitor-General to Michael Heseltinethe former Secretary of State for Defence?

The Prime Minister

I do not have the precise dates with me—[Interruption.] If the hon. Member will repeat the question, I will see whether from my recollection I can give him an answer. Will he repeat his question? I am sorry, but I did not quite get it.

Mr. Haynes

Will the Prime Minister tell the House when she first learnt of the letter sent by Sir Patrick Mayhewthe Solicitor-General to Michael Heseltinethe former Secretary of State for Defence? That is the second time.

The Prime Minister

Fairly soon after it was written, when it was sent to the Department—[Interruption.] I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the precise time or day, for obvious reasons.

Mr. Heseltine

May I ask my right hon. Friend, in between her other meetings, whether she can answer for me a question arising out of yesterday's debate, at column 1167, where the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry quoted from the records of the meetings that took place on 4 and 17 October? Would it now be in order, as he has quoted from those documents, for me to add a few words to the quotations?

The Prime Minister

As my right hon. Friend knows, matters of order are not for me. I am not quite certain whether Leon Brittanmy right hon. and learned Friend quoted direct from the documents. As I heard him, he was giving the gist of the information. I am not sure whether he quoted direct. The precise point of order my right hon. Friend would clear with other people.

Q3. Mr. Nellist

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

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Nellist

Is the Prime Minister aware of how appalled the country is at the succession of half-truths and naked, political ambition of recent days alongside the total disregard for the future of the jobs of Westland workers? Is she not appalled at the sharks of the City picking over the bones of Westland shares—the same people whose hands are bloody over recent redundancies in Coventry, South-East? Is the Prime Minister further aware that neither bid guarantees jobs at Westland, and that the only way to a secure, long-term future for the helicopter industry is public ownership and an expanded civilian programme?

The Prime Minister

I do not believe that the future for Westland lies in public ownership. We have great regard for the people who work there and for their future. I hope that for that reason the matter will be speedily resolved.

Mr. Michael Marshall

My right hon. Friend will be aware of my interest in British Aerospace, as declared in the Members' Register. Specifically on the question of the meeting between my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and Sir Raymond Lygo on Wednesday 8 January, does my right hon. Friend accept that a close reading of the documents now [column 1205]available, together with other evidence, suggests a case of genuine misunderstanding, which I hope will help us to understand some of the problems?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I think that that is correct. I am glad that those accounts have been fully published.

Mr. Kinnock

Given the extent, the closeness and the frequency of the contact between Sir Raymond Lygo and United States Government aerospace interests, does the Prime Minister agree that he is the last man who would need to be advised by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry? Does that not make the excuse offered by the Secretary of State for the meeting on 8 January somewhat thin? Was not the real purpose of that meeting, not to advise, but to menace?

The Prime Minister

No one would ever accuse Sir Raymond Lygo of being anti-American in any way whatsoever. My right hon. and learned Friend Leon Brittanthe Secretary of State gave his own account of the meeting and why he thought it was advisable to have it at the time. I have nothing to add to that.

Mr. Kinnock

Will the Prime Minister then answer the question, which she evaded yesterday and which her right hon. and learned Friend did not answer? Can she think of any plausible reason whatsoever why Sir Raymond Lygo should falsify either the words or the meaning of the meeting on 8 January? Is there any feasible reason why Sir Raymond Lygo should say that the Secretary of State had said to him.

“What you are doing could be extremely damaging to you and your business.

Is that not more Mafia than ministerial?

The Prime Minister

No. No one on this side of the House is accusing anyone of falsifying any document—[Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for Arundel (Mr. Marshall), who asked me a question a moment ago, has the right explanation.

Mr. Kinnock

I know that the Government's stock in trade is to suggest that there has been a misunderstanding. May I suggest that the quotations from Sir Raymond are so extensive, so detailed and so particular as to forbid the idea that any of the difficulty arises from misunderstanding? Sir Raymond was within minutes of his departure from the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he retold the story in full detail.

The Prime Minister

The accounts are out. I fully accept that Leon Brittanmy right hon. and learned Friend's account is the correct version of the meeting—[Interruption.] It is not impossible for there to be different, genuine recollections, genuinely held.

Mr. Ashby

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the serious fire raging underground in a coal seam in a village in my constituency? Is she prepared to give an undertaking to assist the local authority financially in putting that fire out?

The Prime Minister

We shall obviously do all that we can, because the matter is serious.

Mr. Cartwright

In view of the widely publicised Libyan involvement in the affairs of Fiat, has the Prime Minister been given clear assurances that President Reagan 's ban on economic and business links with Libya will not apply to Westland if the Fiat-Sikorsky rescue bid [column 1206]succeeds? Can she guarantee that the President's sanctions against Libya will not affect technology transfer from the United States to Westland?

The Prime Minister

I can guarantee none of those things without looking into them a good deal further.

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg

Does my right hon. Friend agree that what happened yesterday, when we saw the Opposition querying the veracity of notes taken by civil servants, is unprecedented? Does she perhaps feel that those who started saying that are basically those who have never held office and never should?

The Prime Minister

I thought that they were unwarranted attacks on civil servants, who serve all Governments supremely well.

Mr. Foot

As the notorious letter sent by the Solicitor-General to the former Defence Secretary seems to involve the pursuit of a most vicious vendetta, will the right hon. Lady give an absolute undertaking that she will make the report to the House herself when she discovers the culprit?

The Prime Minister

The inquiry announced in my reply to the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) on 14 January is still in progress. The right hon. Gentleman knows the custom with regard to leak inquiries—their outcome is not announced. That has been the traditional custom.

Mr. Andrew MacKay

In the light of the serious terrorist attacks on Rome and Vienna international airports during the recess, which left many innocent people murdered or maimed, and as it was quite clear that the godfather of terrorism, Colonel Gaddafi, was behind the attacks, will my right hon. Friend say what action the Government intend to take against Libya?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is aware that we took action against Libya after Yvonne Fletcher was murdered by guns fired through windows in the Libyan embassy. We cut off diplomatic relations, cut any defence equipment and severely restricted immigration and ECGD credit. There is very little at present that we can add to that action, which has not been diminished in any way.

Q4. Mr. Foulkes

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagemetns for Thursday 16 January.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Foulkes

Does the Prime Minister recall that the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) has claimed that a further meeting on Westland was fixed for 3 pm on Friday 13 December? Does she recall that, yesterday, she said that, as no meeting was agreed, no meeting could be cancelled? Did she hear the Secretary of State for Transport say on the Radio 4 “Today” programme this morning that he was glad that the meeting had been cancelled? However inadvertently, he confirmed which side was telling the truth on this issue.

The Prime Minister

As I said yesterday, no meeting was needed and no meeting was agreed—[Interruption.] No meeting was needed and no meeting was agreed. I made that clear yesterday.

Mr. Greenway

Is it not to the eternal discredit of the Labour party—[Interruption.]

[column 1207]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will ask a question on the Prime Minister's responsibilities.

Mr. Greenway

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is to the eternal discredit of the Labour party that it separated, when in government some 20 years ago, discussions on teachers' pay from discussions on conditions of service? Is it not that which has led to the damage to children's education today? Does my right hon. Friend agree that those circumstances must be reversed as soon as possible?

The Prime Minister

There have been several attempts to negotiate pay and conditions of service together. So far, all have failed. I agree that this has been to the detriment of the education system. We must make strenuous efforts this time to see that conditions of service and a pay structure that gives better teachers more pay are agreed.

Q5. Mr. Livsey

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

The Prime Minister

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

[column 1208]

Mr. Livsey

Turning from Britain to Wales, to the £200 million cut in education forecast in yesterday's expenditure White Paper and the 13 primary schools in Powys that are doomed to close, will the Prime Minister instruct the Secretary of State for Wales—[Hon Members: “Reading.” ]—to increase the proposed rate support grant in Powys—[Hon Members: “Reading.” ]—to the Welsh average from its present totally inadequate level for 1986–87?

The Prime Minister

I know that the hon. Gentleman feels strongly about education and about primary schools in his constituency. He knows full well that it is for local education authorities to determine the pattern for the provision of education. May I point out that his constituency, Powys, is favourably treated by the Welsh rate support grant. The block grant per head in Powys is 70 per cent. of expenditure compared with an average for the Welsh counties of 59 per cent. of expenditure. The disbursement of the amount is, of course, left to the local authority.