Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1986 Apr 8 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 [95/14-18]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2409
Themes: Defence (arms control), Education, Higher & further education, Industry, Privatized & state industries, Trade, Health policy, Labour Party & socialism, Northern Ireland, Science & technology, Terrorism, Strikes & other union action
[column 14]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. McKelvey

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 8 April.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others, including one with the President of Kiribati. In addition to my duties in this House I shall be having further meetings later today. This evening I shall be presiding at a dinner for the President of the Republic of Korea.

Mr. McKelvey

Does the Prime Minister endorse the actions of “Rambo Ronny” who, at this very moment, is exploding a nuclear device in the Nevada desert? Does she agree that that is against the spirit of world peace? [Hon. Members: “Reading” .] If the Prime Minister is in favour of a comprehensive test ban treaty, will she say so? Will she—[Hon. Members: “Reading” .]—further assure the House that this test is not in any way connected with the present British Trident programme?

The Prime Minister

I have seen press reports on the prospective test. As a nuclear power, we understand the reasons for nuclear testing. It is not possible to have a comprehensive test ban treaty until methods of verification have cleary been worked out.

Mr. Robert Atkins

Has my right hon. Friend seen—[Hon. Members: “Reading” .]—a copy of this document, which I have in my hand, which purports to be guidelines for members of governing bodies in secondary schools and which seeks to destabilise, damage and destroy the relationship of head teachers with governors and children in schools? The document is circulating in the north-west of England. Will my right hon. Friend do what she can to publicise to head teachers, governing bodies and parents the nature of this insidious and seditious paper, which is put out by the extreme Left-wing of the Labour party?

The Prime Minister

I have seen today the report of that document in The Times. I agree with my hon. Friend. The document should be compulsory reading for everybody. It shows how the extreme Left really works.

Q2. Mr. Willie W. Hamilton

asked the Prime Minister of she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 8 April.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Hamilton

Has the Prime Minister ever known a time when the education system as a whole was in such a chaotic mess and when morale among all sections involved, whether parents, teachers, students or university lecturers, was so low? When will the Government understand that massively increased investment in this area would be the wisest possible decision that the nation could make now?

[column 15]

The Prime Minister

I hear what the hon. Gentleman says and, of course, disagree with most of it.

“I fear that those whose only answer to these problems is to call for more money will be disappointed … The challenge in education is to examine its priorities and to secure as high efficiency as possible by the skilful use of existing resources.”

That is what the last Labour Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan), said in a speech at Ruskin college. I agree with him.

Mr. W. Benyon

In view of the recent appalling events in Protestant Loyalist Ulster, has not the time come when we should reconsider very carefully the expenditure of lives and money to keep Ulster within the United Kingdom?

The Prime Minister

I share my hon. Friend's view about the recent appalling events in Ulster, when the police have been attacked in a terrible way, which all of us should utterly condemn. I think that we must carry on with the Anglo-Irish accord and do our best to try to restore some peace and stability in the Province. We really must call upon all decent Unionists utterly to condemn this kind of activity and to do their best to see that no more of it occurs.

Mr. Kinnock

First, may I completely endorse the Prime Minister's last answer and express the hope that the message goes to all parts of the community of Northern Ireland so that they will comprehend the determination, jointly shared in this House, to see that the agreement is upheld in peace as a way to peace.

When our country's future depends so obviously and so heavily on technology and trade, where is the sense, the efficiency or the justice in making further cuts in polytechnic degree courses in civil engineering, the sciences and modern languages? Would that not be a desertion of the national interest? Would it not be a further action by a yob Government?

The Prime Minister

The number of places in polytechnics in 1986–87 will be 172,000, an increase of 43 per cent. over the number in 1979, which remained static under the Labour Government. As for trying to get more scientific courses in both universities and polytechnics, an extra £43 million has been made available by the Government to get the courses which industry requires. Industry has contributed another £24 million towards those courses. That augurs well for future co-operation between universities and polytechnics and industry.

Mr. Kinnock

If the position is as the Prime Minister describes, why is it that her own National Advisory Body and the Committee of Directors of Polytechnics say that they cannot make any further cuts without destroying the quality of provision in all the subjects that she mentioned? Will she heed the words of her own Green Paper last year on higher education, which acknowledged that if present trends continue we shall fall even further behind our competitors in engineering and technology?

The Prime Minister

I saw the right hon. Gentleman sitting in his place when I heard my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden), the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science, who is chairman of the National Advisory Body committee utterly repudiate that report. [Hon. Members: “Not true.” ] He should know, because he is the chairman.

[column 16]

Mr. Kinnock

In that case, was the dispatch of a letter from the National Advisory Body committee to the directors of the polytechnics a mistake, or did it not take place, or is it another fantasy?

The Prime Minister

It was not a committee. It was a secretariat. The National Advisory Body will not submit formal recommendations about academic provision in particular polytechnics in 1987–88 until September. In the meantime, I repeat that this Government have an excellent record in the provision of science courses in polytechnics.

Mr. Baldry

Does my right hon. Friend agree that this House will not countenance intimidation from the Loyalist community in Northern Ireland, any more than it would countenance it from the IRA? Does she agree that it does not lie in the mouth of any person who attacks anyone who wears the Queen's cap badge to call himself a Loyalist?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend that terrorism and violence must be condemned equally, no matter from what quarter in Northern Ireland they come. I am sure that the police will uphold their duty totally impartially and will not be intimidated by terrorism.

Mr. Steel

Will the Prime Minister explain to the House how it is that, when Sunday trading was not in the Conservative manifesto at the last election, the Government are intending to introduce the Bill to this House next week on a three-line Whip? Should there not be some issues left to a conscientious free vote of the majority of Members of this House?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman will remember that we have had the Auld committee report, that it made a full report on Sunday trading, that the Bill has been through the other place and that it will shortly be coming before the House. He knows that whipping is never decided until much nearer the time.

Sir Eldon Griffiths

Referring to Northern Ireland, does my right hon. Friend recall that long before Portadown, when we were debating the Northern Ireland agreement, I asked in the House for an assurance that, in the event of the police needing protection for their families, that protection should be provided? As Ministers promised it and it did not materialise until the petrol bombers struck, does my right hon. Friend not understand that that is why there is among the rank and file of the Royal Ulster Constabulary a great measure of dispiritment at the present time?

The Prime Minister

I understand what my hon. Friend is saying, and I know he will agree with me that we have great admiration for the RUC, for the totally impartial way in which it carries out its duties. My right hon. Friend will take every action he possibly can if any further action is required to see that the families of the RUC are protected.

Q3. Mr. Sheerman

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 8 April.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Sheerman

Will the Prime Minister have time today to look at the chorus of criticism of her Government's educational policies? Her Government have been in power now for seven years, yet at this time her Ministers are publicly both confused and divided about the [column 17]educational policies of her party and her Government. When will she do something to put at rest the minds and hearts of parents and deal with the confusion and chaos that exist in our classrooms today?

The Prime Minister

This Government have committed substantial resources to education. Indeed, expenditure per pupil is up by 16 per cent. in real terms and pupil-teacher ratios are at their best-ever levels. So resources and increasing numbers of teachers have been provided. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that many of us are shocked at the action that some of the teachers have taken recently. It is not befitting any profession, let alone a profession which expects, and should expect and enjoy, a good deal of prestige.

Mr. Holt

Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that most of us woke up this morning to a marvellous fillip on hearing of the launching of HMS Coventry? Does she agree, further, that the management of Swan Hunter has shown that it is leading a marvellous shipyard in the north-east, and does this not augur well for the order for the new auxiliary oil replenishment vessel going to that region?

The Prime Minister

Strenuous and successful efforts were made to ensure that the frigate HMS Coventry was launched on time, and I congratulate all concerned. I have nothing further to report on the order which two shipyards are hoping will come to them. Further inquiries are being made to ensure that the figures about competition are fair, because that is vital to both shipyards.

Q5. Mr. Stott

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 8 April.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Stott

The Prime Minister is no doubt aware that in a letter replying to my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) she admitted that reports by Her Majesty's inspectors of schools indicated that at least one third of local education authorities in this country were vitally short of textbooks for the education of our children. Is that not an appalling record for someone who has been the Prime Minister of Britain for the last seven years?

[column 18]

The Prime Minister

If the hon. Gentleman reads that report in full he will find that a good deal of the problem is due to bad management of the resources. He has heard about the tremendous extra resources that the Government have made available per pupil for education. Expenditure per pupil is up by 16 per cent. over and above inflation and pupil-teacher ratios are at their best-ever level. With increasing resources per pupil, and an increasing number of teachers compared with pupils, there is good reason to expect that, if those resources are properly managed, education will be at a high standard.

Viscount Cranborne

Will my right hon. Friend take time today to tell the House whether, in her opinion, there would have been an Anglo-Irish agreement if there had not been an IRA terrorist campaign?

The Prime Minister

There is an Anglo-Irish accord, and it must be implemented. It is intended to bring peace and stability to Northern Ireland. Obviously that requires the goodwill and active co-operation of decent men and women on both sides of the community. As Burke said, all that is required for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing. Now is the time for good men on both sides of the community to make their views known.

Q6. Mr. Redmond

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 8 April.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Redmond

What monetary price does the Prime Minister put on the pain and suffering of people who are waiting to go into hospital? Will the Government cut the waffle and put their money where their mouth is?

The Prime Minister

The number of nurses and doctors has increased considerably, the number of patients treated by the NHS has also considerably increased and the waiting lists have decreased. In 1979, when the Government were elected, expenditure on the NHS was £7.5 billion. This year it will be £17.5 billion.