Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1986 Feb 4 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 [91/139-44]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2402
Themes: Executive, Executive (appointments), Parliament, Education, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Energy, Trade, Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (Asia), Housing, Law & order, Media, Terrorism, Transport, Strikes & other union action
[column 139]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Dr. McDonald

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 4 February.

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.

Dr. McDonald

Is there a level below which the Government would not want the pound to slide, and if it continues to slide will the Government step in to raise interest rates?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Lady is aware, the Government's main priority is to keep inflation down. It is also important that interest rates do not rise. We do need to have regard to inflation. As the hon. Lady is well aware, there have been no changes for some time.

Mr. Budgen

Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity of reminding all those who are interested in the future of BL that the company has already received over the past 10 years about £2 billion from the taxpayer and that it is unlikely that the taxpayer will wish to provide any more money for BL? Therefore, BL's future may be best safeguarded if it finds allies and friends in the private sector, whether they come from this country or abroad.

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend says, no one can doubt the Government's commitment to the future of BL. The taxpayer had already put in over £2 billion, and in addition there have been £1.5 billion guarantees under the Varley-Marshall assurances. We are determined to create an internationally competitive BL, and that is what the discussions which are now under way are aimed to achieve, namely, is to protect jobs in the long term.

Mr. Kinnock

When British money has rightly gone into modernising BL, what possible excuse can there be for serving it up gift-wrapped to a foreign competitor?

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The Prime Minister

As I am sure the right hon. Gentleman heard, at the moment the Varley-Marshall assurances in the form of guarantees are of the order of £1.5 billion, in addition to the £2 billion that has already been put in. That cannot continue. We are concerned that BL should be competitive and the talks that are being entered into now are designed to achieve that and so secure the future of a strong BL.

Mr. Kinnock

Would those or any other assurances offered by General Motors be valid in the case of BL? Are they not subject to change in decisions at any stage by a company that took over BL and its various assets?

The Prime Minister

The discussions are taking place with General Motors with the full support and approval of the BL board. I have already mentioned the large sums, both of taxpayers' money and existing guarantees, that have gone into BL. BL will have a better future if it is in a position not to make a continuous demand on the taxpayer, because doing so means that it takes money that could well go to other things.

Mr. Kinnock

Does the Prime Minister not accept that security of work, of technology and of orders, both for BL and for its component suppliers should command the highest priority? Can she tell us how she thinks any objective of security can be achieved by ensuring that a further set of colonisation takes place in the British economy?

The Prime Minister

I note that the right hon. Gentleman appears to be against inward investment although many regions in his own Principality are competing for inward investment from other countries. One of the problems is that the capital required to create new models has to be spread over a comparatively small number of cars compared with our European competitors. The only way to safeguard jobs in BL, as elsewhere in the economy, is to compete successfully in domestic and international markets.

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

Will my right hon. Friend accept that many people who have built BL, and in this case Austin Rover, up into a successful enterprise resent very much the implication that somehow or other it is a financial leper? If General Motors and Ford are willing to back BL, why cannot our Government show the same faith?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend should not forget that the backing through the Government by the taxpayer, not the Government, has been enormous. During the lifetime of this Government it has been £1.5 billion. Again he must not forget the guarantees that rise annually. One is concerned for the future of BL. One is concerned, therefore, to have a competitive BL. That is what the talks upon which we have embarked are designed to achieve.

Dr. Owen

If British helicopters were to go to Sikorsky, if airborne early warning was to go to Boeing, and if Land Rover was to go to General Motors, would the Prime Minister draw the line at 44.5 per cent. of the United Kingdom car market going to Ford? At the very least, will she give us an assurance that would be referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission?

The Prime Minister

That is a matter for my right hon. Friend Paul Channonthe Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. May I point out to the right hon. Gentleman that this country [column 141]also invests extensively overseas? There have been many years when our direct investment in the United States has exceeded the States' investment here. That investment gives us enormous advantage in the invisible returns, which help the balance of trade every year. Yes, we do have inward investment. Many right hon. and hon. Gentleman seek it for their constituencies. We have outward investment, which achieves income.

Mr. John Mark Taylor

Will my right hon. Friend find time in a busy day to issue a word of reassurance to 8,000 Land Rover employees in my constituency?

The Prime Minister

As I have already indicated, discussions are taking place with General Motors with the full support and approval of the BL board. Those discussions are about both Leyland Trucks and Land Rover.

Q2. Ms. Clare Short

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 4 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Ms. Short

Is the Prime Minister aware that she is in breach of the constitutional principle of ministerial responsibility in blaming her civil servants for the Westland leak? How can she possibly rely on the same principle to prevent them from giving their version of the truth now that they have been blamed publicly?

The Prime Minister

No. I understand that there have been negotiations with the Select Committee on Defence and that Sir Robert Armstrongthe head of the Civil Service will be giving evidence—I believe tomorrow—before it.

Mr. Walters

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the print unions harassed and bullied the very conciliatory Thomson organisation to the point of despair, until it sold to Mr. Murdoch? Are they not now paying the price for their very shortsighted greed?

The Prime Minister

I think that my hon. Friend is right. Newspapers, as well as other industries, must not shrink from coming into the present technological age.

Q3. Mr. Allan Roberts

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 4 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Roberts

Why was an official in the Cabinet Office reprimanded or disciplined for his conduct in contacting the private offices of Ministers to see whether they were available for a meeting about Westland on 13 December? What form did the reprimand or disciplinary action take?

The Prime Minister

Disciplinary action is not a matter for me.

Mr. Marlow

Given the enormous success of the Government's programme of privatisation of nationalised industries, in that the consumer is better served, the nation has better value for money and the people who work in those industries are doing better than they would have done otherwise, will my right hon. Friend consider privatising such nationalised services as education and housing?

The Prime Minister

I accept my hon. Friend's description of the success of privatisation. He is aware that [column 142]the effect of selling council houses is to privatise many of the assets that were previously owned by councils. I deeply regret that there are not so many direct grant schools as there were, and I believe that we must consider further the question of education.

Q4. Mr. Tony Lloyd

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 4 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Lloyd

Does the Prime Minister insist that Miss Colette Bowe corroborates the statements that the right hon. Lady has made to the House? If that is so, why is the right hon. Lady preventing her from appearing before the Select Committee?

The Prime Minister

My statement to the House on 23 January and my speech on 27 January were checked for accuracy with all those concerned, including Sir Robert Armstrongthe head of the Civil Service, who conducted the inquiry.

Mr. Thornton

Will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity this afternoon to restate her own and her Government's implacable opposition to dealing with any organisation that uses terrorism to achieve its ends? If so, will she offer a reassurance to those forces in South Africa that wish to bring about peaceful change concerning the proposed meeting between the African National Congress and a Foreign Office official, which seems to fly in the face of those principles?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend is aware, Ministers have not met terrorist organisations, although there have been occasions, when we have had the Presidency of Europe, when we have met a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation as part of another delegation. As for the ANC, we uphold our normal principle that we are absolutely against violence as a method of pursuing political ends. There have been no ministerial contacts. There has been contact between officials and the ANC.

Q5. Mr. Willie W. Hamilton

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 4 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Hamilton

Since it is quite clear that the public do not believe that the Prime Minister has told the truth about the Westland matter, will she now agree to appear in front of the Select Committee so that it can drag out of her the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

The Prime Minister

I totally reject the hon. Gentleman's remarks in asking his question.

Mr. Conway

Does my right hon. Friend share the widespread concern about the reluctance of the Indian Government to co-operate in the fight against drug trafficking, when it is reported that 49 per cent. of the heroin in the United Kingdom comes through the port of Bombay? Is not the Indian Government's reluctance a disgrace?

The Prime Minister

From what I know of the Indian Government, they will do everything they can to co-operate in drug trafficking. They are just as anxious as the rest of us that we should try to stop this evil traffic.

[column 143]

Q6. Mr. Terry Lewis

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 4 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Lewis

Despite today's token reduction in petrol prices, is it not time that the right hon. Lady acted against the oil companies' cartel, in the interests of the British motorist consumer?

The Prime Minister

I understand that petrol prices are going down. Like the hon. Gentleman, I hope that they will go down further and faster.

Q6. Mr. Neale

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 4 February.

The Prime Minister

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

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Mr. Neale

Has my right hon. Friend taken note of the commendable performance by miners at Tilmanstone colliery in Kent, who have reduced the cost of production from £120 per tonne to £40 per tonne, brought the pit into profitability and saved 500 jobs? Is this not an excellent example and a vindication of all that she has been saying about the need to be productive and efficient as the best way to protect jobs and expand the market for British made goods?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing that remarkable example to our attention. There has been a dramatic improvement in productivity at Betteshanger and Tilmanstone. That dramatic improvement has led to the saving of one pit and to the possibility of saving the other.