Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1986 Feb 20 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: House of Commons PQs
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [92/474-78]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2557
Themes: Civil liberties, Education, Industry, Privatized & state industries, Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Community charge ("poll tax"), Leadership, Northern Ireland, Terrorism, Strikes & other union action
[column 474]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Fisher

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 20 February.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. 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 this House I shall be having further meetings later today. This evening I shall attend a reception to mark the 75th anniversary of the Royal National Institute for the Deaf.

Mr. Fisher

When did the Prime Minister first know of the deadline of 4 March?

The Prime Minister

I have nothing to add to what I have already said on this matter.

Mr. Hanley

Is my right hon. Friend aware that British companies made acquisitions to the tune of some £4 billion in the United States last year, and therefore acquisitions in the United Kingdom by United States companies is by no means a one-way street?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I saw a detailed account in a paper today of inward and outward investment, and of American investment in this country. The figures published in the Financial Times show that British companies acquired 160 businesses in the United States last year and 142 in 1984. I hope that the British acquisition of businesses in the United States was welcomed in that country.

Mr. Kinnock

What specific assurances are being sought from potential purchasers of the constituent parts of British Leyland? What means will the right hon. Lady adopt to ensure that such assurances are enforced in practice?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend Paul Channonthe Secretary of State for Trade and Industry spoke about some of the assurances that were being sought, in his statement yesterday. The assurances are, for example, that the British nature of Land Rover and Range Rover in particular should be honoured, and that there should be certain assurances on sourcing.

[column 475]

Mr. Kinnock

How can the Prime Minister convince herself that honour is equivalent to binding assurances that will determine the future of an essential part of the British motor industry? What did the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry mean in the other place yesterday when he said about such assurances:

“with regard to British content, trade marks, names and the like … there is a time limitation” .—[Official Report, House of Lords; 19 February 1986, Volume 471, c. 634.]

The Prime Minister

We believe that we are seeking the best future for Land Rover, Freight Rover and the whole of British Leyland. We are seeking the best future for jobs through the extension of trade and business. My Lord Lucas of Chilworthnoble Friend was clear in what he said to the other place, and I do not understand why the right hon. Gentleman finds difficulty with it.

Mr. Kinnock

Does the best future, as defined by the right hon. Lady, include binding enforceable assurances?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman must see how long enforceable assurances can be instituted. He must then get legal advice upon that. That is precisely what my noble Friend was saying. I make it clear that there is no binding enforceable assurance about the future of a loss-making British Leyland.

Mr. Richard Page

As it was known by Members of this House and by the trade unions that discussions between General Motors and British Leyland were taking place months before Christmas, would my right hon. Friend like to comment on the fact that either the Opposition are ill-informed, or they have waited for the right moment to make political capital and are not worried about the workers in British Leyland?

The Prime Minister

We are anxious to secure a good future for British Leyland. Taxpayers have already put into British Leyland some £2.2 billion and have guaranteed a further £1.6 billion. That means that every family in the United Kingdom has contributed £200 to British Leyland. That situation cannot continue.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

Does the Prime Minister realise that hundreds of thousands of her fellow citizens whom she regards as no less British than her own constituents in London are looking to her to defend with courage and visibility their rights and their status?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is aware that I am to see leaders of the Unionist parties next week, and the SDLP after that. I hope and believe that people who are completely Unionist in Northern Ireland will accept the decisions of this House.

Mr. Hickmet

Will my right hon. Friend comment upon Anglo-Turkish relations following the visit of the Turkish Prime Minister? Does she agree that Turkey is progressing satisfactorily towards a restoration of full political and human rights? Does she further agree that Turkey is committed to a just and fair solution for both communities in Cyprus?

The Prime Minister

We had very good talks with the Turkish Prime Minister. He is taking enormous strides towards improving human rights in Turkey. We discussed briefly the situation in Cyprus and we both hope that both parts of Cyprus, which is a present artificially partitioned—I hope not permanently—will co-operate with Mr. Perez de Cuellar in seeking a satisfactory future for Cyprus as a unitary, although federal, state.

[column 476]

Dr. Owen

Will the Prime Minister now take action about the distressing case of the teachers' dispute? Will she accept that, although the Education Bill published today contains many worthwhile things, the Government nevertheless expected to build on the ACAS proposal in England and Wales and produce a quantified offer for Scotland?

The Prime Minister

As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, processes under ACAS are continuing with the unions which are party to that agreement. A decision about the attitude of the NUT will have to be taken by the NUT. We will know more in a few days' time. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will welcome the Education Bill and the increased powers that it gives to parents in school governorship.

Mr. Gale

After reflecting on the talks that she had with the Turkish Prime Minister, can my right hon. Friend tell us when the property stolen by the Turkish army of occupation in northern Cyprus will be returned to my constituents who own it?

The Prime Minister

I am not able to give my hon. Friend the information that he seeks. We shall, of course, take up any specific case.

Q2. Mr. Meadowcroft

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 20 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Meadowcroft

Many of us who have expressed anxiety about increasing American involvement in British industry are not motivated by anti-American sentiment. We are simply deeply worried about what is happening to British Leyland, to Westland and to large parts of our computer industry. What is happening will inexorably ensure that crucial decisions about the character and development of British industry are be made in the United States. Will the Prime Minister sit back and let that happen?

The Prime Minister

Britain invests abroad and British companies go abroad on a very considerable scale. When they invest in the United States—ICI has made a considerable investment in Beatrice Chemicals, amounting to about £700 million—I believe that they are welcome and that there is no anti-British feeling there. I fear that some anti-American feeling has been aroused. I fear that some has been aroused deliberately about the future of British Leyland. All bids are being considered, but we are concerned about the future of the whole of British Leyland and trying to get it privatised.

Q3. Mr. Hannam

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 20 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Hannam

Has my right hon. Friend taken notice of the Vickers employee consortium proposals for the buy-out of the shipyards at Barrow and Birkenhead? Is she further aware of the local communities' involvement in the proposals? In view of the success of the National Freight Corporation workers' buy-out, will my right hon. Friend confirm that it is still the Government's policy to encourage the wider ownership of British industry?

[column 477]

The Prime Minister

The answer is yes—to further privatisation and to the encouragement of wider ownership. We shall, of course, consider that bid along with all of the others for that shipyard.

Mr. MacKenzie

Is the Prime Minister aware that we have just heard the figures that she gave for taxpayers' assistance to British Leyland? Is she aware that some of us cannot for the life of us understand why the Swedes, the Japanese, the Germans, the Italians and the French—indeed all our competitors—give much more assistance to their motor car industries than we do to ours? We cannot understand why Britain will not help its motor car industry as do our competitors.

The Prime Minister

I do not believe that other countries are giving more assistance than has been given to British Leyland. I stress once again that taxpayers' grants and guarantees amount to every family giving £200 in assistance to British Leyland and, alas, British Leyland is still in a loss-making condition.

Q4. Mr. Nicholas Winterton

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 20 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Winterton

Will my right hon. Friend assure those of us who openly and honourably disagree from time to time with Government policy, but do not question her courageous leadership or her determination to restore the economic and political power of the United Kingdom, that she will continue to respond robustly to the hypocritical, irresponsible, carping cant of the Opposition parties and lead the Conservatives into a third successful general election?

The Prime Minister

Yes, on the same excellent policies that secured the first two victories.

Mr. Skinner

Now that the Prime Minister, as she showed in a recent broadcast, has become deeply concerned about the low-paid and levels of taxation, will she take the necessary steps to abolish the poll tax? [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is the first opportunity that the hon. Gentleman has had to ask a question of the Prime Minister today.

Mr. Skinner

Is she aware that the poll tax means that the poor will pay for the rich? Is she further aware that a wealthy couple can buy a £500,000 house in Dulwich and be relieved of paying £3,000 in rates in exchange for a few hundred pounds in poll tax, and that pensioners will have to pick up the bill? Why does she not put her money where her mouth is?

The Prime Minister

There is not a poll tax. What we have proposed is a community charge, which would be rebated. I note that the hon. Gentleman supports a system under which many people pay nothing to local rates but put [column 478]up public expenditure. We would not approve such a system. I note that the hon. Gentleman wants a system which would go in for a rating revaluation, and all the injustice that that would mean.

Q5. Mr. Temple-Morris

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 20 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Temple-Morris

Is my right hon. Friend not seriously concerned at the escalation of fighting in the Persian Gulf and, not least, the reported shooting down of an Iranian civil airliner by Iraqi jets this morning? In connection with all this, will my right hon. Friend confirm that we are not supplying arms or military equipment to Iran, or, for that matter, to Iraq? Will she do her utmost, in conjunction with our allies, to limit, if not finish, this fighting and this unfortunate war?

The Prime Minister

I am aware of that tragic incident this morning, but I have nothing further to report about it. We do not know anything more about the passengers who were on board. We do everything possible in connection with any reconciliation or any mediation in the Iran-Iraq war. There is no shortage of efforts. Unfortunately, we have not been able to find a solution. We do not supply equipment which would exacerbate the conflict, and we will do everything possible to try to bring it to an end.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Given the reaction to the so-called Anglo-Irish agreement in the Province, the boycotting and non-co-operation that is taking place in the Province, the reports last night of disaffection in the RUC, the newspaper reports—but newspaper reports only—of calls from an elected representative to take over the Parliament building at Stormont, leading to UDI, and the report of an Ulster workers' strike on 3 March, should not the Government make a statement on this? The discussion is taking place elsewhere but not here, and we have not even had a report on the Prime Minister's meeting with the Dr. Garret FitzGeraldTaoiseach yesterday. There are five private notice questions in the Dail. It matters to us here as well as to the people in the south of Ireland.

The Prime Minister

The Taoiseach and I discussed the Anglo, or United Kingdom-Irish agreement yesterday. We pointed out that we both believed that it must be implemented. We shall do all in our power to implement it. We shall do everything that we can to reassure Unionist opinion and to have structures for consultation with them. We hope that the SDLP will soon honour its commitment to enter into talks about devolution, which, of course, would put much more power into a devolved Assembly, and much less to the Intergovernmental Conference. We also hope for increased security co-operation across the border. We welcome very much the decision of the Taoiseach to sign the European convention on the suppression of terrorism.