Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1986 Jan 28 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 [90/790-96]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 3622
Themes: Executive, Executive (appointments), Defence (general), Education, Industry, Energy, European Union Budget, Economic, monetary & political union, Foreign policy (Africa), Health policy, Law & order, Media, Terrorism, Strikes & other union action
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PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Freeman

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 28 January.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later today.

Mr. Freeman

As my right hon. Friend probably did not receive a copy of The Times this morning, like many other hon. Members, did she therefore have time to reflect that it must be in the public interest that our great national newspapers are produced as efficiently as possible? Does she agree that newspaper employers are right to us the Employment Act 1980 to the full to prevent industrial secondary action and picketing? Does she also agree that one person, the Leader of the Opposition, must be relieved at not getting his copy of The Times this morning, to save him from the embarrassment of the extremist activities of his friends?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend that Fleet street employers are fully entitled to use all the legal remedies available to them. Restrictive practices have dominated Fleet street for far too long and there has been far too great a resistance to technological change. When that happens, the change, when it does come, is much sharper than it would otherwise have been. I hope that the matter will soon be resolved and that we shall have The Times with our breakfast again.

Mr. Bidwell

May I draw the attention of the right hon. Lady to the brutal murder of Mr. Tarsem Singh Toor, the general secretary of the Southall Indian Workers Association, and the inevitable feeling that this was a political killing by an assassin? In view of the effect that it is having on my constituency, will the right hon. Lady assure the House that every possible step is being taken to bring the killers to justice?

The Prime Minister

I agree most earnestly with the hon. Gentleman. This was a brutal shooting and the Metropolitan police are taking urgent steps to investigate it. Action has also been taken by the police with regard to the security of Mr. Toor 's relatives and others who may be at risk. Everything possible will be done to assist them and to track down the perpetrators of this brutal crime.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

In view of the fact, as indicated in Hansard yesterday, that the Government have decided to take the European Assembly to the European Court because of the illegal budget, but nevertheless to pay the money in the meantime, will my right hon. Friend take every possible step to make sure that the Commission will not spend the money that it may eventually have to pay back?

The Prime Minister

I take my hon. Friend's point. It is quite true that the Council and we, this country, are taking the matter to court, but it is customary to offer to pay the full budget in the meantime. I share my hon. Friend's view, and I hope that the money will not be spent.

Q2. Mr. Livsey

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 28 January.

The Prime Minister

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

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Mr. Livsey

In view of the furore over the leaking of a Government letter, does the Prime Minister not agree that now is the time to institute a Freedom of Information Act?

The Prime Minister

No.

Mr. Hirst

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Howden group of Glasgow has recently announced a $50 million sale of wind turbine equipment, thus making this group the world leader in medium-sized wind turbine equipment? Is she further aware that the research and development and manufacturing of this order were carried out in the west of Scotland? Does not this welcome news contrast very sharply with the picture of industrial gloom that the Opposition seek to portray of Scotland?

The Prime Minister

Yes. I congratulate the Howden group of companies and all those who work for it on being so competitive as to get this excellent order, and I wish them well for the future.

Mr. James Lamond

When the Prime Minister received the report last week from her Cabinet Secretary about the leak, did the report refer to a difference of understanding among civil servants?

The Prime Minister

In my speech yesterday I set out the full circumstances—[ Interruption.]—of the establishment and the outcome of the inquiry. Its accuracy was checked with all those concerned. I have given the right hon. Gentleman—[Interruption.]—reports, of course, are confidential.

Q3. Mr. Andrew Bowden

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 28 January.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Bowden

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the growing anger among parents at the refusal of the NUT to negotiate, and will she condemn the planned strikes, which can only do more damage to the education of the children of the country?

The Prime Minister

We deeply deplore the strikes. We are very glad that there is a prospect of an end to the damaging disruptions. I share my hon. Friend's view that it is deeply disturbing that the NUT was not part of those negotiations, but I hope that it will consider adopting the ACAS solution.

Q4. Mr. Alex Carlile

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 28 January.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Carlile

On 20 January this year, late in the evening, the Prime Minister, or someone acting on her behalf, telephoned Miss Colette Bowe while Miss Bowe was sitting in her London club. [Interruption.] There was also a call from the right hon. and learned Member for Richmond, Yorks, (Mr. Brittan). [Interruption.] Bearing in mind that the Prime Minister told us yesterday that she knew nothing about the right hon. and learned Member for Richmond, Yorks—[Interruption.]—having authorised the leak of the Solicitor-General's letter until 22 January, will she tell the House what was said—[Interruption.]—during those telephone conversations with Miss Bowe?

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The Prime Minister

The hon. and learned Gentleman will be aware that Leon Brittanmy right hon. and learned Friend said yesterday that he could and did confirm that the statement I made was correct with regard to all the facts in his knowledge. I have nothing else to add.

Mr. Yeo

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the present time might be a favourable opportunity for Britain to join the exchange rate mechanism of the European monetary system, and does she further agree that if we were part of that mechanism real interest rates might not need to be at such a high level for the purpose of protecting the pound?

The Prime Minister

Not just now. Indeed, I think that had we joined a few months ago there might have been readjustments with regard to the deutschmark, so I do not think that now is the right time to join. It will, of course, continue to be considered. I understand that there may be a debate on this in the near future.

Mr. Kinnock

If a Department of State seeks agreement from the Prime Minister's Office and gets acceptance, is that not acceptance acquiescence? There really can be no misunderstanding about that.

The Prime Minister

I made a full statement yesterday, and I made a full one previously. I have nothing further to add.

Mr. Kinnock

If there is no dispute, if there is not disagreement, if there is no refusal and if there is no objection, is not the acceptance of a request for agreement acquiescence? Will the Prime Minister give a straightforward answer to a straightforward question? Is it acquiescence—yes or no?

The Prime Minister

I do not share the right hon. Gentleman's view of a straightforward question. My authority was neither sought nor obtained for the disclosure. I have nothing further to add.

Mr. Colvin

Does my right hon. Friend agree that her time would be better spent getting back to proper matters of state rather than listening to the waffle about Westland from the windbag opposite? Yesterday, she was found guilty of two things—tolerance and loyalty to officials and Cabinet colleagues. With faults like that, who needs qualities?

The Prime Minister

I assure my hon. Friend that my time is spent dealing with the great strategic matters and political issues of the time that must be solved.

Q3. Mr. Ron Davies

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 28 January.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Davies

In view of recent events, does the Prime Minister think that the best possible deployment of the new polygraph, the lie detector, would not be at GCHQ, Cheltenham, but at Downing street?

The Prime Minister

I have nothing to add to the reply that I have already given.

Q6. Mr. Michael Forsyth

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 28 January.

The Prime Minister

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

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Mr. Forsyth

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a head teacher of a primary school in Edinburgh has seen fit to issue gloves to the teaching staff because he believes that they are at risk of contracting AIDS from the children in their care? Is that not a gross overreaction to the area's drug problem? In view of such ignorance, will my right hon. Friend ask the Health Education Council to mount a campaign to explain the causes of AIDS and to target those groups that are most at risk?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend that it is important to dispel ignorance about this disease. I understand that the Chief Medical Officer in Scotland is considering the matter urgently. I shall see that my hon. Friend's views are passed to the Health Education Council.

Mr. Dalyell

Referring to what my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, Central and Royton (Mr. Lamond) said, my I ask whether, in the Cabinet Secretary's report of the leak, there was or was not any reference to “differences of understanding” between civil servants? Does the Prime Minister understand that she has put distinguished civil servants in an invidious position? It is a matter of honour for all politicians, whether in office or not, to see that those civil servants are at least given justice.

The Prime Minister

As I said, one of the reasons for having an inquiry was to enable officials to put their view. I said in my speech yesterday that the accuracy of all the facts was checked with all those involved.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

As the Government have shown their willingness to intervene in the markets to keep down interest rates, and as the Exchequer has lost some £1.5 billion in revenue as a result of the fall in oil prices, will the Government now respond to calls by OPEC and other oil producers to discuss with them ways of managing the fall in oil prices in order to achieve more stability in the oil markets and thereby reduce the pressure on the pound and help other economies?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir, I do not think so. The United Kingdom maintains the freest oil province in the world. Subject only to technical limits, decisions on production levels are entirely in the hands of the producing companies. There has been no change in that policy.

Q7. Sir Fergus Montgomery

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 28 January.

The Prime Minister

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

Sir Fergus Montgomery

After the successful evacuation from Aden by the royal yacht Britannia and others, can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that the Government will do everything possible to protect the safety of British nationals in Uganda?

The Prime Minister

We stand ready to provide assistance for an evacuation of the foreign community in Uganda, should it be necessary. There appears to be no immediate need for such an evacuation. The high commissioner has reported that the British citizens in Kampala are safe, and that the airport is expected soon to be opened to normal traffic.

Q8. Mr. Ray Powell

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 28 January.

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The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Powell

Will the right hon. Lady give a truthful reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham Central and Royton (Mr. Lamond)? Is she aware that the House will not allow this Westland affair to be swept under the carpet? A number of other questions need to be answered. Will she assure me that she came to the House yesterday and gave the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

The Prime Minister

As I said, the accuracy of what I said was fully checked with those concerned. I repeat that I have nothing further to add.

Mr. Dickens

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We know of your great traditions in trying to improve conduct and behaviour in this House during Question Time and during debates. Was it in order for the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), to intervene twice from a sedentary position this afternoon? In the first instance he criticised your judgment in asking the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) to withdraw. In the second instance he called the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health a twister. This is not the behaviour that we seek in this House. Would you please ask him to withdraw both remarks?

Mr. Speaker

I did not hear those remarks. If I were to ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw everything that he says from a sedentary position, I would be on my feet for most of the day.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

My point of order is brief, Mr. Speaker. Over the next few weeks, and indeed months, there will be many of my hon. Friends who will wish to ask questions about the Westland affair. May I have an assurance that whenever Government Members intervene from a sedentary position to prevent my hon. Friends from asking questions, you will immediately intervene to protect them? Today during Question Time, and yesterday during the Leader of the Opposition's speech, and in the debate, whenever the Prime Minister was criticised, Conservative Members insisted on drowning out Labour Members. The House seeks your protection. May I have your assurance that you will give it?

Mr. Speaker

I thought that the debate yesterday, in the light of the very highly charged atmosphere, proceeded very well. I shall be, as I have always been, entirely even-handed in my protection of both Back Benchers and Front-Bench spokesmen.

Mr. Winnick

On a point of order, arising out of questions, Mr. Speaker. There clearly remains a great deal of dissatisfaction about the Prime Minister's statement and her answers. Is there any way in which the civil servants at No. 10 and at the Department of Trade and Industry who were involved can be brought before the House so that we can try to find out precisely what happened with respect to the leakage of the letter from the Solicitor-General?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member knows the answer to that. He knows also that a Select Committee is dealing with that matter.

Mr. Ryman

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. During Prime Minister's Question Time, when the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) asked a [column 795]number of searching questions about the leaking of the letter, there was a deliberate campaign by the Conservative party to drown his questions—so much so that he had to repeat them several times before he could be heard. Surely you can protect hon. Members who wish to ask relevant questions about the Prime Minister's conduct in this affair, so that hon. Members can put their questions sensibly, shortly and quietly.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member makes a valid point. He has been a Member for as long as I have, and he knows that frequently there is a good deal of background noise at Question Time and during debates. I wish that that were not so.

Mr. Sheerman

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Many Opposition Members believe that there is a new censorship and control of freedom of speech in the House. This is a serious situation. I have been a Member since 1979 and I am familiar with the normal level of hubbub in a normal debate, but there is a new conspiracy on the Government Benches to stop Labour Members from asking questions and receiving a fair hearing when Government Members do not want to hear the responses to the Westland issues and other questions.

Mr. Speaker

We have a heavy day in front of us. I cannot be a party to any conspiracies. I do not know whether there are any—I hope that there are none. I shall continue to do as I have always done to ensure a fair hearing for every hon. Member.

Mr. Alex Carlile

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. I asked the Prime Minister questions about telephone calls to Miss Colette Bowe—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I cannot hear the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile)—[Hon. Members: “The noise is coming from Conservative Members.” ] Order.

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Mr. Carlile

I asked the right hon. Lady specific questions about telephone calls to Colette Bowe on the night of 20 January——

Mr. Speaker

Order. Is this a point of order for me? It sounds very much like a continuation of Question Time. I know that the hon. and learned Member will not do that. Will he put a point of order to me, please?

Mr. Carlile

I asked the Prime Minister a question through you, Mr. Speaker, on specific matters. I do not believe that the right hon. Lady could hear my questions relating to telephone calls to Miss Colette Bowe on 20 January——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am afraid that this is a clear case of trying to get a second bite.

Mr. Skinner

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Earlier today during Question Time, on a genuine point of order—[Hon, Members: “Oh.” ]—Oh, yes. At that time my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), the Opposition spokesman on health, referred to the Government misleading the House. He was subsequently pulled up by a Tory Member. You confirmed, Mr. Speaker, that my hon. Friend should withdraw any references to the Government misleading the House.

I have to remind you—[Hon. Members: “Oh.” ]—Oh yes. Only a few days ago—it is recorded in Hansard—when one of my colleagues referred to the Government deliberately misleading the House, you asked him to withdraw the word deliberately. The rest was OK. We cannot make up the rules as we go along. The Tory Government do, but it would be better if you did not follow their example.

Mr. Speaker

Let me clear the matter for the whole House. Over the centuries we have proceeded in civilised debate and it has always been our practice and the rule of the Chair to rule out of order matters which touch upon the honour of any right hon. or hon. Gentleman on either side of the House. That is precisely what I did this afternoon.