Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [97/249-54]
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2848
Themes: Agriculture, Arts & entertainment, Executive (appointments), Parliament, Civil liberties, Conservative Party (organization), Industry, Energy, Environment, Trade, Foreign policy (Americas excluding USA), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Labour Party & socialism, Law & order, Media, Science & technology, Terrorism, Strikes & other union action
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Q1. Mr. Freeson

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 8 May.

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 the House, I shall be having further meetings later today, including one with the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka.

Mr. Freeson

Has the Prime Minister seen today's report of the Congressional decision to refuse endorsements of the latest proposals for arms exports to a middle east country? Does she sympathise with that rejection? Will she participate in trying to cut the obscene pouring of billions of pounds' worth of offensive arms equipment into middle east countries, causing political instability and the threat and risk of further wars in that area?

The Prime Minister

As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, that is not a matter for me. He will also be aware of our decision at the Tokyo summit not to export arms to Libya.

Mr. Patrick McNair-Wilson

Has my right hon. Friend yet had time to consider the worrying fall in the number of Americans planning to visit the United Kingdom since the Libyan bombing? As that is completely unjustified, is she aware of any plans to invite the United States' First Lady to the royal wedding, since an early invitation followed by an early acceptance may well go some way towards reversing that trend?

The Prime Minister

That is not a matter for me, but I am well aware of the reports of the reduction in the number of tourists from America coming to the United Kingdom, and I have already had something to say about it. They should continue to come. This is a marvellous country to visit, it is extremely safe, and there is a great deal going on that they will wish to see this summer.

Mr. Cartwright

Has the Prime Minister yet had time to consider the Privileges Committee recommendation that Mr. Richard Evans of The Times be suspended from the Lobby for six months for publishing a leaked report from the Environment Select Committee? Does she not think it ironic that Select Committees, set up to throw light on the workings of Government Departments, should be in danger of establishing rules of secrecy around their affairs which they would condemn if it occurred in Whitehall? If the House were to punish a journalist while letting the source of the leak go scot free, would it not appear to many outside as both pompous and extremely unfair?

The Prime Minister

That is a House of Commons matter, and the House of Commons will decide.

Q2. Mr. Shersby

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 8 May.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Shersby

Is my right hon. Friend aware that she has the widespread support of the British people for the initiative she has taken to prevent terrorism? Will she take time today to consider the terrorism of British scientists by [column 250]the Animal Liberation Front, which has caused millions of pounds' worth of damage during the past year and which is now resorting to the use of bombs and other forms of violence?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend. One can only utterly condemn the activities of the animal liberation movement, which deliberately poisons and contaminates food to cause great harm to human beings, and deliberately lets out animals, which causes harm to other animals. We support the police in their activities to deal with it. If further legislation were needed, we should not hesitate to introduce it.

Mr. Kinnock

First, I endorse every word of the Prime Minister's last answer.

In the wake of the Chernobyl disaster, is the right hon. Lady aware of the widespread feeling that the co-ordination of information between her relevant Ministers has been inadequate? Does she accept that the best assurance against unjustified alarm is candid information and coherent organisation by the Government? Will she ensure that clear and explicit information is provided to the general public about the form, incidence and implications of radioactive contamination in Britain?

The Prime Minister

I read what my right hon. Friend Kenneth Bakerthe Secretary of State for the Environment said on Tuesday. I thought that it was an excellent statement. It was very well received. The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that, after the arrival of the radioactive cloud over the United Kingdom last Friday, Michael Joplingthe Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food set up an incident room to provide expert advice on foodstuffs, and the Department of the Environment is acting as the overall lead Department, with responsibility for co-ordinating, monitoring and disseminating relevant information and acting as a focal point for inquiries.

Mr. Kinnock

When the right hon. Lady has time, will she ensure that action is taken to remove the inconsistencies that have been apparent in the information, and that the information is put in a form which the general public can clearly comprehend?

The Prime Minister

That is one reason for the Department of the Environment information room—it acts a clearing-house for information. I sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman's request to try to put the information in a form that ordinary people can understand.

Mr. Ian Lloyd

May I first congratulate the Prime Minister on her safe return from an outstandingly successful conference. May I, in the context of the Chernobyl disaster, refer her to the tendentious, inaccurate and damaging advertisement published by Friends of the Earth in The Times today. Does she agree that the damage done to Western economies by OPEC in the last decade would pale into total insignificance if Western Governments were to be panicked by public reaction into closing down the nuclear industry?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend. He is the first to know and to say that the record of the nuclear industry in this country has been excellent. As far as civil installations are concerned, there has been no fatality in this country. Provided we go on, as we shall, in safety in design, safety in manufacturing, safety in the mode of [column 251]operation and safety in maintenance, I believe that that record will continue and will gain public confidence once again.

Q3. Mr. Winnick

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 8 May.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Winnick

On reflection, does the Prime Minister not agree that she was rather unfair and hasty in dismissing the present Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food from his position as chairman of the Conservative party? Is she aware that it is an open secret here that, even among his Cabinet colleagues, there is a good deal of dissatisfaction at the way in which the present chairman of the Tory party is carrying on, and no doubt by tomorrow morning there will be even more dissatisfaction? Being no doubt, in some respects at least, a fair-minded person, why does the Prime Minister not bring back the little fellow and give him another chance?

The Prime Minister

[John Gummer Norman Tebbit] Both of them do extremely well wherever they serve, and that is what the hon. Gentleman does not like.

Mr. Ralph Howell

May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the outstanding part that she played in the success of the Tokyo summit and say how pleased I am that far greater prominence was given to the problems of agriculture than at any previous summit. May I tell my right hon. Friend that the present policy of cutting agricultural prices will fail, and urge her urgently to call a conference of all nations which have agricultural exports to form a concerted policy in order to avoid a trade war across the Atlantic?

The Prime Minister

As I think my hon. Friend knows, for the first time we had quite a considerable discussion on agriculture and on the tendency to protect and subsidise it so that we have enormous surpluses. He is the first to know that we have to find a way of getting down those surpluses. I am well aware of his personal opinion that price reductions may not be the only way, but I think he will agree, from the communiqué at the Tokyo summit, that for the first time all nations are looking at it together as a common problem instead of looking at it as a matter of competitive subsidies and competitive protection. I think that to look at it together and to co-operate in finding a solution—and through OECD—is the best way to go about it.


Q5. Mr. Gregory

asked the Prime Minister if she has any plans to appoint a Minister with responsibility solely for tourism.

The Prime Minister

My right hon. and noble Friend Lord Young of Graffhamthe Secretary of State for Employment exercises overall ministerial responsibility for policy towards tourism very effectively.

Mr. Gregory

I appreciate my right hon. Friend's comments. I hope that at the next opportunity she will consider a full-time post, bearing in mind that tourism is the fastest growth sector in the economy. Does my right hon. Friend understand that some 70,000 jobs were created last year and that those jobs are in no way, as the Opposition suggest, Mickey Mouse jobs?

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The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend that they are not Mickey Mouse jobs. Tourism is an enormous industry in this country. Total turnover in 1985 was around £13 billion, which is far greater than that of the aerospace industry and about the same as the whole of that of the motor industry. Altogether that industry supports between 1 million and 1.5 million jobs. It is a growing industry. It will produce more jobs. However, I believe that the present arrangements under my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Employment are very effective.

Dr. Godman

Does the Prime Minister agree that, in the interests of the African, Caribbean and Pacific cane sugar-producing countries and the sugar beet industry——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The question concerns tourism.

Sir Kenneth Lewis

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider the answer that she has just given, and consider whether it would be a good idea to promote one of our women Members of Parliament into that job as, clearly, it is the women, the wives abroad and at home, who are——


Order. Would that add to tourism?

Sir Kenneth Lewis

Yes. The women have far more say on tourism than the men.

The Prime Minister

I shall of course consider putting someone who will suit my hon. Friend in that Department.

Mr. Alex Carlile

Is the right hon. Lady aware that the tourist industry is liable to be affected by the report of John Large Associates, consultant engineers, which suggests that many of our nuclear power stations are less safe than those in the Soviet Union? In particular, will she institute a review of safety procedures at the Trawsfynydd power station, which is in one of our finest Welsh tourist areas?

The Prime Minister

The hon. and learned Gentleman will have heard me reply on the excellent safety record of civil nuclear installations in this country. He is casting aspersions on our most excellent nuclear inspectorate.

Mr. Murphy

Will my right hon. Friend consider putting tourism together with the arts and heritage to form one larger and more effective Ministry with Cabinet rank, so that we can promote those great assets of the United Kingdom?

The Prime Minister

All those things are represented at Cabinet rank. Tourism comes under my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Employment, and heritage and various other things come under my right hon. Friend Kenneth Bakerthe Secretary of State for the Environment. I am often asked to take Departments apart and put them back together again in different ways. I am reluctant to do so because I think that too much effort goes into reorganisation and too little into considering the real subject.

Mr. Skinner

Is the Prime Minister aware that it seems a little strange that Tory Members of Parliament want a new Minister responsible for tourism when they already have one—the Prime Minister herself? Since she came to public office in 1979, she has gallivanted round the world so many times that she has cost the British taxpayer more than £2.5 million already. What I want to know is how much the last Tokyo jaunt cost.

The Prime Minister

I do not think that I can be wholly responsible for the 1 million to 1.5 million jobs that tourism has created in this country.

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Q7. Mr. Butterfill

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 8 May.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Butterfill

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the outstanding achievement of the Tokyo summit has been the extraordinary unanimity that it has been possible for her to achieve among a large number of disparate sovereign nations? Does she agree that that unity contrasts rather strangely with the disunity that we see in the misnamed alliance parties, whose Members are rather short in number in the Chamber today?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Soley

Did the Prime Minister take a recent opportunity to remind President Reagan that the mining of harbours in Nicaragua and the funding of the Contras are real forms of terrorism, especially in view of the fact that the Government of Nicaragua were elected democratically, as confirmed by an all-party committee of the House—the Human Rights Parliamentary Group?

The Prime Minister

The matter was discussed in Tokyo, I believe, among the Foreign Ministers. It was made perfectly clear that both we and the United States support the Contadora process. The regime in Nicaragua is becoming more oppressive. The free publication of some church newspapers and radio station broadcasts has been stopped.

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Sir Eldon Griffiths

While my right hon. Friend was so splendidly batting for Britain in Tokyo, did she notice that back home, in Wapping, 140 British police officers were injured, many of them badly, by those who masqueraded as peaceful pickets outside the printing plant? Did she notice also that an hon. Member described those police officers as “All that is rotten in our society” ? Does my right hon. Friend agree with those comments? Will she invite the Leader of the Opposition, on behalf of the Labour party, to remove that smear from the Metropolitan police?

The Prime Minister

I saw the reports to which my hon. Friend referred, both of the activities last Saturday night outside the printing plant in Wapping—one can only totally and utterly condemn them and say that they were quite deplorable in terms of the effect on the police—and of the remarks of an hon. Member, which I also totally and utterly condemn. We support the police in the way in which they carry out their duties. Some 300 police have been injured in the demonstration outside the printing plant in Wapping. I note that the Labour party condones the tactics that lead to violence on the picket line at Wapping. The Labour party voted against the Public Order Bill and the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act. It tolerates Labour councils which harass the police and it cheers speakers at its conference describing the police as “the enemy” . Our view is totally different. We support and admire the police.