Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [92/183-88]
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2397
Themes: Conservatism, Defence (arms control), Defence (Falklands), Higher & further education, Employment, Industry, Privatized & state industries, Trade, Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (Americas excluding USA), Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (development, aid, etc), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Labour Party & socialism, Law & order, Media, Terrorism, Strikes & other union action
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Q1. Mr. Gould

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagments for Tuesday 18 February.

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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, including one with the Prime Minister of Turkey.

Mr. Gould

Will the Prime Minister confirm what she appeared to say on television last night—that a firm such as Land Rover must choose between being British and being successful? Is it this despair about the future of British industries which makes her so keen to act as a broker for American interests in the proposed sale of Land Rover?

The Prime Minister

I am anxious that there should be good jobs here in companies here which have a great future. I am anxious that Land Rover and Freight Rover should have as big a market and as big a distribution service as possible, and I believe that we must consider the bids that have been made.

Sir Julian Ridsdale

Will my right hon. Friend find time today to congratulate Balfour Beatty on the successful conclusion of a joint venture with Japan to build a hydroelectric plant in Sri Lanka? Is this not a way forward in which we can balance our substantial trade imbalance with Japan and help the developing world?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend knows that this will be the second dam project with which we have assisted in Sri Lanka. The earlier project on the Victoria dam was extremely successful. The present one has been assisted by overseas aid and will bring great prosperity to Sri Lanka. I hope that it augurs well that we are co-operating with Japan.

Mr. Steel

As it now seems clear that going ahead with the Trident missile programme means jeopardising a successful deal between the United States and the Soviet Union on nuclear weapons in Europe, will the Prime Minister tell our American allies that she is willing to give up this expensive and unilateral escalation of British nuclear firepower?

The Prime Minister

No. I think that the right hon. Gentleman has fallen for Soviet Union propaganda. There is no question of Britain giving up her independent nuclear deterrent, and there is no question of the Trident programme being involved.

Mr. John Carlisle

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, as hon. Members enjoy freedom of speech and the right to reply in this place, that same right should be allowed to hon. Members in universities and places of further education?

The Prime Minister

The whole House will sympathise with my hon. Friend on the nasty incidents that he has experienced. I believe and hope that the whole House agrees that upholding freedom of speech in our institutions of higher education is vital and that we would like to express our view to that effect. I hope that the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals will make strenuous efforts to ensure that that right is upheld, so that hon. Members can speak freely at universities. Freedom of speech consists of being able to say things that are not acceptable to everyone.

Q2. Mr. Meadowcroft

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 18 February.

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The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Meadowcroft

Does the Prime Minister recognise that what is happening in the British computer industry, in Westland, and perhaps even in British Leyland are not isolated events, but are part of a determined effort by American industrial power to influence what happens in British industry? Have the Government any policy to counter that?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman has referred to the British computer industry, I hope he realises that the Government have done a good deal to help ICL during its days of difficulty. I hope he will also recognise that many American companies have provided jobs, especially in development areas. I hope he will do nothing to stop that process.

Mr. Hayes

Will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity to condemn the violence and intimidation that are occurring on the picket lines at Wapping, particularly against the police? Will she try to persuade the leaders of SOGAT '82 and the National Graphical Association to take a leaf out of the book of the Leader of the Opposition and root out some of the extremists in their organisations?

The Prime Minister

Yes. We totally condemn the violence that has been occurring, and which we saw on the television screens on Saturday night, arising from the demonstrations outside Wapping. We understand that the majority were not thought to be printers. Nevertheless, it is disgraceful that they should attack the police. We totally support the police.

Mr. Kinnock

In condemning violence wherever it occurs, will the Prime Minister also acknowledge the contribution made by the leaders of SOGAT and the NGA to try to stop violence, and the way in which they have roundly condemned those who bring their unions and their activities into disrepute? When seven years of the Prime Minister's continuing policies have brought record and rising unemployment, record real interest rates, a record manufacturing trade deficit and a record tax burden, and when she tells the country that she will not change, is she not showing complete contempt for the people?

The Prime Minister

I recognise what the right hon. Gentleman said, and I am glad that he totally condemns violence—I hope on each and every picket line or demonstration where it occurs. I should be grateful if he would confirm that. I also point out that this Administration have carried out policies that have led to a record standard of living, record production and output, record expenditure on and a record number of patients treated under, the Health Service and a record standard of living for pensioners.

Mr. Kinnock

Looking at all of industry and at unemployment, is not the biggest record that of the wreckage that the right hon. Lady has brought?

The Prime Minister

In the last two years, as the right hon. Gentleman will have heard from questions shortly before Prime Minister's Question Time, a record number of jobs have been created. We have a better record than any other country in Europe, with 700,000 jobs in the last two years. That, together with efficient industry, is the way to get more jobs.

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Mr. Nicholas Baker

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Argentine Members of Parliament who are visiting Britain should be made to feel extremely welcome, but told that sovereignty is not available for discussion, and that the way forward between our two countries is to negotiate the commercial exploitation of the area around the Falkland Islands?

The Prime Minister

I understand that Argentine Members of Parliament are in this country. We have done our best as a Government to restore commercial relations with Argentine to a normal basis, but our efforts have not met with reciprocation from the Argentine. I wish to make it absolutely clear that the sovereignty of the Falklands is not negotiable and that the wishes of the Falkland Islanders are and will remain paramount.


Q3. Mr. Ron Brown

asked the Prime Minister if she will seek to meet President Babrak Karmal to discuss his proposals for the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I have no wish to meet the leader of a regime which depends on an occupying force of 115,000 Soviet troops for its survival.

Mr. Brown

While the Prime Minister's knee jerk response was to be expected, does she not realise that a negotiated settlement is possible provided her Government stop aiding the counter-revolutionaries, which is now costing this country over £3 million per year—and it has not been rate-capped? More important, does she not appreciate that Karmal can use tribal power against Zia?

The problems of Afghanistan will be small indeed compared to the problems of Pakistan. I suggest—[Interruption.]—that the sooner a settlement is reached the better.

The Prime Minister

People who are citizens of an occupied country have a right to fight for their country. If the hon. Gentleman really wants peace, he should assist the Secretary-General's efforts to find a settlement by negotiating the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan without more ado.

Mr. Churchill

Will my right hon. Friend offer her congratulations to the valiant people of Afghanistan on their six-year fight for national liberation against the most powerful war machine in the world? Will she confirm that there is nothing standing in the way of the Soviet Union withdrawing its forces, and that there is nothing to discuss with Mr. Babrak Karmal except possibly which country might offer him asylum once the Soviet forces have gone?

The Prime Minister

Nothing must deflect us from the important task of securing the withdrawal of Soviet occupying troops from Afghanistan. I appreciate what my hon. Friend says.

Mr. James Lamond


Mr. Speaker

Order. This is a rare, definitive question.

Mr. Lamond

In the nauseating performance that we had to put up with on “Panorama” last night, was it necessary for the Prime Minister to make statements such as those that she has made today? [Interruption.]

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Mr. Speaker

Order. The question is about Afghanistan.

Mr. Lamond

My question is about Afghanistan. The right hon. Lady says that she believes that people in an occupied country are entitled to fight for their freedom. Does the Prime Minister extend that same freedom to the people of South Africa, who are living in an occupied country, and whose leader, Nelson Mandela, has been in prison for more than 20 years?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman knows that the two countries are totally dissimilar. People of all colours in South Africa, whether white, coloured, Indian or black have a right to be there, and we believe that they should all have a right to take part in the government of their country. We deplore violence in that country as a means to that end.

Mr. Terlezki

In an excellent television programme we saw Mr. Shcharansky reunited with his dear wife after 12 years of separation. On Afghanistan, does my right hon. Friend not believe that it is high time this House told Mr. Gorbachev to withdraw his 115,000 troops from Afghanistan and take them back to where they belong, in the Soviet Union, and to free Afghan people so that they can fulfill their own destiny in their own country?

The Prime Minister

I agree wholeheartedly with what my hon. Friend has so aptly said.

Mr. Nellist

Given the Prime Minister's sudden attack of double standards over Afghanistan and South Africa, how does she feel about American intervention in Central America?

The Prime Minister

I had hoped that even the hon. Gentleman would agree that 115,000 Soviet occupying forces should be withdrawn from Afghanistan. Apparently he does not.

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Q4. Mr. Tony Lloyd

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 18 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Lloyd

Which major industrial power would consider selling off its last significant domestic car producer to a foreign power? Does the right hon. Lady think that it is part of popular capitalism that she should act as a broker for the United States?

The Prime Minister

Austin Rover is a mass car producer. It has only 4 per cent. of the European market compared with other mass car producers, such as Renault, Volkswagen, Fiat, Ford and General Motors, which have between 10 and 12 per cent. of the market. Austin Rover therefore has difficulty in competing. That is the measure of the task. I hope that the company will succeed in obtaining more of the market. If there is a British bid for Austin Rover, we shall look at it carefully.

Q5. Mr. Marlow

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 18 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Marlow

Can my right hon. Friend hazard a guess as to why Labour Members, and perhaps the odd Conservative Member, seem to think that there is something wrong with outward investment from Britain because, they say, it destroys jobs in this country, and yet at the same time they complain about inward investment, whether by General Motors, Sikorsky or any other such company?

The Prime Minister

I note my hon. Friend's cogent point. When we had inward investment, for example, with Nissan, half the Labour Members wanted the investment to go to their constituencies. They forget all that now.