Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1986 Mar 27 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [94/1065-70]
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2284
Themes: Conservatism, Defence (arms control), Local elections, Public spending & borrowing, Trade, Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Housing, Labour Party & socialism, Local government, Local government finance, Liberal & Social Democratic Parties, Religion & morality
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PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Kirkwood

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 27 March.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

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

Mr. Kirkwood

Will the Prime Minister take time out of her busy day today to study the positions that are being taken by various countries contributing to the multi-fibre arrangement talks that will take place next week in Geneva? Is she aware of the potential damage that could be done to the domestic market, in which substantial firms in my constituency, such as Pringle of Hawick and Barrie Knitwear, operate, if the volume of imports out with the EEC is much increased beyond existing levels? Will the right hon. Lady give us an assurance that she will use her [column 1066]authority to try to sustain the limits that are set out in the current EEC mandate, so that they cannot be breached in the bilateral discussions that will flow from next week's talks? Will she seek to use her influence with her American friends to try to make them less isolationist, so that they get together with the EEC negotiators to establish a fair framework of international textile trading?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman is talking about an extremely important series of negotiations that are to start in Geneva next week. The Ministers for Foreign Affairs set the mandate in great detail—the hon. Gentleman will know that these documents are decided in great detail. Therefore, the negotiations must take place within that detailed mandate. The negotiators would have to go back for another one if it were to be altered.

I do not think that there is any point in trying to put pressure on the United States at the moment. It is possible that it will make its position clear once the negotiations have started. We shall, of course, take an interest in its position, which will be extremely important for many of our constituencies.

Mr. Sims

Has my right hon. Friend noted that in the course of the Easter recess the Greater London council will cease to exist, with the result that many London ratepayers will be receiving rate demands that will be substantially lower than those of previous years? Would she care to draw the attention of Londoners to the close association between these two events?

The Prime Minister

Being a London Member, I am very much aware of what my hon. Friend has said. The GLC will go out of existence. It has long outlived its usefulness because so many of its duties have been transferred to other bodies or other councils. I agree with my hon. Friend that the ratepayers of London are already breathing a sigh of relief at the extinction of the GLC.

Mr. Kinnock

As the right hon. Lady is a London Member, does she think that, on the day on which an authoritative report is published showing that 600,000 people in the London boroughs are either homeless or without a secure home, it is just or sensible that her Government have intervened to prevent the expenditure of necessary moneys on the improvement of properties throughout those London boroughs?

The Prime Minister

The Government have an excellent record in the private and public sector. The number of renovations has exceeded those under the previous Government, and there are already more houses. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman also looks at the number of council properties that are vacant, some of which have been vacant for over a year.

Mr. Kinnock

The Government have the worst ever record on housing. They have made a 59 per cent. cut in public spending on housebuilding and house improvement in the public sector since they first came into office, and they have betrayed the needs of old and young people who require accommodation. Instead of resorting to the kinds of words that she does, why does the right hon. Lady not take note of the reports of the Duke of Edinburgh, the Department of the Environment and the Church of England, which say that priority should be given to a real housing programme?

The Prime Minister

There are well over 1 million more dwellings than there were during the lifetime of the [column 1067]previous Government, and house improvements in the public and private sector far exceed those under the previous Government.

Sir Hugh Rossi

If, as a result of recent problems regarding extradition, it is decided to make changes within the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, will my right hon. Friend ensure that recruitment does not take place from among those who advise the Leader of the Opposition on expulsions from the Labour party?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend makes his point very effectively.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

Does the Prime Minister find it acceptable that the armed forces of the United States should violate the mainland territory of an independent country in North Africa, and will she distance the United Kingdom from that action?

The Prime Minister

As I said on Tuesday, I believe that the United States is absolutely within its rights to keep international waters and airspace open. When there is an unwarranted attack on aircraft in international air space from the land of another country, the United States has the right to defend its planes under article 51.

Mr. Cyril D. Townsend

Will my right hon. Friend try to persuade President Reagan to turn his attention away from his Libyan sideshow towards the fundamental problem in the middle east—the future of the Palestinians? Does she agree that the absence of any form of diplomatic peace process in the middle east, when combined with the growing repression on the West Bank and in Gaza, where there have been increased deportations and detentions without trial, can only fuel international terrorism and bring the prospect of armed conflict in the middle east that bit closer?

The Prime Minister

I agree that the fact that there are no negotiations in prospect at the moment over resolving the main Arab-Israeli problem is a cause of great concern. Since the initiative of King Hussein of Jordan broke down there has not been another, other than the agreement at Camp David some time ago, which the United States may think fit to revive. I share my hon. Friend's concern.

Q2. Mr. Maclennan

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 27 March.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Maclennan

Following the Prime Minister's decision to wipe out those local authorities with whose policies she disagrees, and the failure of the Leader of the Opposition to curb the cancerous spread of fundamentalist extremism within the Labour party, will she seek to protect local democracy in Britain by trusting the people and introducing a fair and proportional voting system?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I note what the hon. Gentleman says about, in effect, the GLC, and I note that his constituency is about as far from London as it could possibly be.

Mr. McQuarrie

In the course of my right hon. Friend's busy day, will she take time to read the national press about the shambles in the Labour party——

Mr. Speaker

Order. That might just about have to do with Prime Ministerial responsibility.

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Mr. McQuarrie

Will my right hon. Friend find time to read the national press, where she will find some very interesting information about the Labour party, which illustrates clearly the danger that this country would face if we had a Labour Government—an unlikely event—with a Labour Prime Minister who was not in control of his own party?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend's analysis, but I am sure he will understand when I say that I have more important things to do than to read those reports.

Mr. Foot

Should not the Prime Minister and the country as a whole be deeply concerned about the frustration and abandonment of the international treaties stopping the testing of nuclear weapons? What action do the Government intend to take immediately to try to restore the effectiveness of those treaties, bearing in mind that we are treaty bound to try to ensure that such a system is re-established, or is this just another matter on which she prefers to take instructions from the President of the United States?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. But the right hon. Gentleman is correct to say that the comprehensive test ban treaty negotiations are not proceeding at any pace at all. They have come up against difficulties in verification. There have recently been proposals about offers to discuss verification, with a view to American ratification of the peaceful nuclear explosive treaty and the threshold test ban treaty. But those included particular aspects of verification depending upon some of the latest discoveries and upon new technical forms of verification which have recently been made possible.

Totnes

Q3. Mr. Steen

asked the Prime Minister if she will pay an official visit to Totnes.

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to do so.

Mr. Steen

When the Prime Minister does visit Totnes, will she ensure that she visits the Waterside development, where she will see that derelict warehouses have been renovated to a high standard thanks to a local entrepreneur with a great sense of civic pride and thanks to local people with a sense of community and conservation? If that sense of civic pride were transferred to inner city neighbourhoods, might it not go a long way towards restoring morale and be far more effective than pumping yet more public money into the inner cities?

The Prime Minister

I know of that scheme and I agree with my hon. Friend's analysis. It is an excellent scheme that has been led by the private sector, helped by a certain amount of public money and pursued with the total dedication of the local community. I agree that such a scheme would go a long way towards helping the problems of inner cities. I am sure that my hon. Friend will have read with the greatest interest the Immanuel JakobovitsChief Rabbi's report on inner cities, and will have agreed with most of the things that he said.

Dr. Owen

Now that, after the Budget, the Gallup poll has shown—[Hon. Members: “Totnes.” ] I am not going to speak in the House, Mr. Speaker, against a constant barrage—[Interruption.]

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Mr. Speaker

Order. The right hon. Gentleman has as much right to be heard as have other right hon. and hon. Members.

Hon. Members

Totnes.

Mr. Speaker

The right hon. Gentleman's question is, I hope, related to Totnes.

Dr. Owen

Now that the Gallup poll following the Budget has confirmed that the SDP/Liberal alliance is in the lead—a situation that has already been confirmed by the electors of Totnes, who have chosen the SDP/Liberal alliance to control Devon country council—is it not clear that the people of this country will not be so easily bribed, and are more interested in an economic recovery and in getting people back to work than in seeing 1p being taken off the standard rate of tax?

The Prime Minister

I think I am right in saying that the rates have gone up in that area as a result of alliance control.

Mr. Lilley

Will my right hon. Friend reflect on the opinion poll—doubtless influenced by the electors of Totnes—which shows that 80 per cent. of the population supported the decision to cut the rate of income tax by 1p?

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The Prime Minister

I take note of that. This Government's achievements have been made, not by twisting and turning with every opinion poll, but by carrying out with persistence and perseverance the policies upon which we were elected.

Engagements

Q4. Mr. Fisher

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 27 March.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Fisher

What advice can the Prime Minister give to her party's candidate in the Fulham by-election to help him when addressing the 30 per cent. of the electorate who are the private tenants of absentee landlords? Why cannot private tenants have the same right to buy as council tenants?

The Prime Minister

It is not the Government's job to give away private property—[Interruption.] I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman approves of the sale of council houses, but it is not possible, under totally different circumstances, to deprive private citizens of their freedoms.