Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1986 Jan 21 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 [90/179-84]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2534
Themes: Defence (general), Education, Employment, Industry, Monetary policy, Trade, Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Health policy, Local government finance, Sport, Terrorism, Transport, Trade union law reform, Strikes & other union action
[column 179]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Butterfill

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 21 January.

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.

Mr. Butterfill

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the pleasure that will exist in many parts of the House over they fact that, for the first time in seven years, a Prime Minister of Israel is visiting a British Prime Minister? Will she use this opportunity to discuss with him ways in which our two democratic countries can improve their co-operation to combat the scourge of international terrorism?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend. We are very much looking forward to the visit of Prime Minister Peres. Terrorism will of course be one of the subjects that we shall discuss, but my hon. Friend would not expect me to go into details. I stress that we attach great importance to this meeting.

Mr. Kinnock

May I first associate myself closely with the Prime Minister's latter remarks?

Will the right hon. Lady give an assurance that she will do everything in her power to prevent a rise in interest rates, in view of additional burden that that would impose on British industries doing their best to compete?

The Prime Minister

Obviously the Government do not like increases in interest rates, but they are bound to take action to ensure that keeping down inflation remains our top priority. Markets this week have been unsettled by the fall in the oil price, but the Bank of England has maintained its dealing rates.

Mr. Kinnock

Is it not the case that the Prime Minister must be the only person left who believes that she can fight inflation by pushing up interest rates and by imposing on industry the nutcracker of high domestic interest rates and a high exchange rate? What has the Prime Minister got against British industry?

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The Prime Minister

British industry has had an extremely good year, with record profits, record investment and excellent exports.

Mr. Kinnock

The Prime Minister keeps making misleading claims. Investment in manufacturing industry in Britain is 18 per cent. lower than it was six years ago. Although manufactured exports have increased by 13 per cent. during the past six years, manufactured imports have increased by 45 per cent. I ask the Prime Minister again, what has she got against British industry?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman ran away from many industrial problems, such as restrictive practices and the behaviour of trade unions during the winter of discontent. Yesterday's figures show that industrial production in the third quarter was 2 per cent. up on the second quarter and that manufacturing output was 1 per cent. up. Gross domestic product is at an all-time record.

Sir Peter Tapsell

Does my right hon. Friend think that it is right or sensible that men and women running small businesses should have to pay about 16 per cent. to borrow money when there are over 3 million unemployed and enormous unused resources? Will she bear this in mind as the clamour rises for even higher interest rates?

The Prime Minister

It is hardly clamour for higher interest rates. As my hon. Friend has occasion to know, the interest rates are to a considerable extent partly due to the commercial judgment of the banks in the City, and he knows that we cannot disregard that.

Mr. Steel

Since the Prime Minister recognises the unacceptability of the domestic rating system and is so strongly pledged personally to abolish it, why is it that in the meantime she loads extra expenditure on to the broken-down system, and particularly on to the ratepayers in the counties?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman will have been in for, or will have read, a considerable part of the debate yesterday. He knows full well that the rate support grant settlement for next year involves a modest shift in grant from the shire areas to London and other metropolitan areas, which, unfortunately, does cause discomfort to the shire counties. He knows also that I am no advocate of the present system, and that is why we shall be putting forward proposals, I hope by the end of the month, in a Green Paper to change it.

Q2. Mr. Forsyth

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 21 January.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Forsyth

Will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity today to pay tribute to the skills and courage shown by the master and crew of Britannia in rescuing our citizens from the fighting in South Yemen?

The Prime Minister

I gladly do so. My right hon. and learned Friend Sir Geoffrey Howethe Foreign Secretary will be making a statement after questions, but I am sure that the whole House would like to congratulate the officers and the men of Britannia and of HMS Jupiter and HMS Newcastle and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Brambleleaf, and the crisis unit at the Foreign Office, which did such excellent work in identifying the people who needed to be taken off from Aden.

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Q3. Mr. Madden

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 21 January.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Madden

Can the Prime Minister say when she will honour her promise to give Government money to Bradford City football club to help rebuild its ground at Valley parade?

The Prime Minister

I do not think that I made a promise to do that. As the hon. Member will be aware, we are at present considering whether we should give money to Bradford football club. In the exceptional circumstances—[Interruption.] I hear various things coming from hon. Members in a sedentary position. We made a contribution to the disaster fund, and quite rightly. We are considering the question raised by the hon. Gentleman.

Sir Peter Blaker

Has my right hon. Friend has her attention drawn to the article in the magazine Jane's Defence Weekly, stating that Soviet trained agents have been infiltrating the ranks of the Greenham Common women and that they have been trained to carry out acts of sabotage in time of tension and war? Does my right hon. Friend have any information to contradict that report?

The Prime Minister

As my right hon. Friend is aware, we do not comment on specific reports, but we are very much aware of the dangers that special forces in the country would present at times of crisis or in wartime. That was precisely why we had Exercise Brave Defender last September, in order to see how we should properly protect sensitive installations.

Mr. Evans

Has the Prime Minister had the opportunity to read today's London Standard, which carries a front page story stating that the Government are planning new curbs on unions and further anti-trade union legislation? Will the Prime Minister take this opportunity to deny that outrageous story, which will cause anger and dismay among trade union members who have just carried out highly successful ballots to maintain trade union political funds?

The Prime Minister

I saw the article and anticipated the question. May I make it quite clear that this Government have done more than any other to ensure that union bosses are accountable to their members. There are further steps that can be taken. We have not yet reached any decisions and, before doing so, will be consulting further.

Sir Anthony Grant

To revert to the question raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Sir P. Blaker), does my right hon. Friend not think that it would be extraordinarily incompetent of the Soviet Union if it did not seek to infiltrate Greenham Common? Can she confirm that top priority will be given to the security, not only of Greenham Common, but of the Molesworth base in Cambridgeshire?

The Prime Minister

I know of my hon. Friend's particular interest in that base. Brave Defender was carried out to see how we could ensure the defence of all-important installations, including that one.

Q4. Mr. Kilroy-Silk

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 21 January.

The Prime Minister

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

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Mr. Kilroy-Silk

What would the right hon. Lady say today to those unemployed young people from my constituency who visited her last year and who are still unemployed, to the 10,000 unemployed in my constituency and to the tens of thousands who will lose jobs throughout the country as a result of the massive rises in rates and interest rates that are in the pipeline?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman refers to the group that he brought to see me a year ago. I had several employers there to see the group. I made inquiries before I came to the House today and I was told that all but four of the group have been offered either training or employment.

Q5. Mr. Fox

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 21 January.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Fox

Will my right hon. Friend assure us that once the law to allow Sunday trading comes into operation she will give some support to flexible licensing hours, and thus bring the country into line with Scotland and the Palace of Westminster?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend is aware, the Shops Bill has yet to come to the House and proceed through its stages. I am aware that a number of people would like to consider flexible licensing hours, and if my hon. Friend wishes we shall give consideration to that in due course. However, one should not do anything to suggest that flexible licensing hours are equal to or in any way the same as those of the Palace of Westminster.

Mr. Donald Stewart

Does the right hon. Lady intend to ignore the vast correspondence that she has received protesting against the Shops Bill? Will she at least refrain from putting a three-line Whip on what is a matter of conscience?

The Prime Minister

I understand that the right hon. Gentleman comes from a part of the country where there is no limitation on Sunday trading. However, he wishes to stop us south of the border from having the same privilege. As he knows, we do not discuss Whipping matters in the House.

Q6. Mr. O'Brien

Is the Prime Minister aware of the serious unrest among members of the Royal College of Nursing following the appointment of district managers from outside the service, and of the effect that that is having on the morale of nurses? Will the Prime Minister prevail upon her colleague the Secretary of State for Social Services, with a view to him examining this serious problem so that he can appoint nurse-managers from within the service, to whom nurses would be responsible and by whom they would be managed, to ensure proper patient care?

The Prime Minister

I visited a hospital on Friday, and I did not find what the hon. Gentleman is suggesting. Most people in the National Health Service realise that it is important to get good management. Managers are [column 183]sometimes nurses or doctors, but it is important that the right person to be a manager is chosen, whether that person has previously been an administrator, a nurse or a doctor.

Q7. Mrs. McCurley

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 21 January.

The Prime Minister

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

Mrs. McCurley

Will my right hon. Friend consider using her personal influence to urge the Scottish striking teachers to negotiate an end to this damaging strike, which is hurting pupils and lowering the profession in the esteem of the public?

The Prime Minister

I agree very much with my hon. Friend. We deplore the further industrial action because of the harm that it is doing to pupils and the great distress that is causing the parents. I join her in hoping that the strike will soon end, and that we shall be able to come to some agreement on terms and conditions of service also and that we will be able to get a better system of appraisal so that we can pay better teachers more.

Mr. Loyden

Can the Prime Minister say what benefits will accrue to the northern regions of this country, and to Scotland and Northern Ireland, arising out of the [column 184]agreement that she signed yesterday with the French President, particularly regarding the regeneration of industry and jobs?

The Prime Minister

That would depend upon how many of the orders for equipment and materials went to Scotland, but about 50,000 man-years' work will be involved in that project and I hope that that will spread very well over the country.

Q8. Mr. George Gardiner

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 21 January.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Gardiner

After giving such a commendable impetus to plans for a tunnel under the English Channel, may I ask my right hon. Friend to instil the same sense of urgency into the Department of Transport regarding a far more modest project for a tunnel under the River Thames at Dartford—thereby removing the most atrocious bottleneck on the M25—especially since private risk capital is available for this venture too?

The Prime Minister

I very much take note of what my hon. Friend says. I have occasion to know that area very well. I particularly note that he believes that private sector capital would be available for such a project.