Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1986 Jun 3 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 [98/728-32]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2569
Themes: Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Employment, Industry, Environment, Public spending & borrowing, Foreign policy (development, aid, etc), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Housing, Law & order, Social security & welfare, Terrorism
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PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Dixon

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 3 June.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

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

Mr. Dixon

Is the right hon. Lady aware that last year in the northern region over 23,500 jobs were lost in heavy manufacturing industry? Today, Swan Hunter is announcing massive redundancies, on top of those already announced in the shipbuilding industry, the steel industry and the engineering industry, and the last shipbuilding and ship repair facility in my constituency is virtually at an end. When will the Government do something to save our industrial base, or is the right hon. Lady prepared to sit back and allow the country to become what Napoleon once described at “a nation of shopkeepers” ?

The Prime Minister

Yes, the north-east has suffered because there was a concentration of heavy industries there. That is why regional aid is concentrated on that area, to try to get extra help to go there. As the hon. Gentleman is aware, the order for the second oiler replenshment vessel was brought forward especially for Swan Hunter, subject to price. It had the second of the type 23 frigates, again subject to price, and it can bid for a further two type 23 frigates. So there are good possibilities for Swan Hunter if it can manufacture down to the price.

Mr. Higgins

Will my right hon. Friend now accept the recommendation of the Treasury and Civil Services Select Committee that the House should have an opportunity to debate public expenditure before the beginning of the annual review, rather than after it is all over? In particular, should we not have an opportunity to express our views on priorities, particularly, for example, with regard to the overseas aid programme, following the tremendous public response to the Sport Aid exercise?

The Prime Minister

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be in order if he makes a speech on any matter relating to public expenditure in the debate on economic policies later today. With regard to overseas aid, particularly as it relates to Africa, I should point out that last year we spent about £550 million, taking into account those sums which were put through the multilateral agencies and our bilateral aid.

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Mr. Hattersley

What pressure does the Prime Minister propose to exert on President Reagan to persuade him not to abandon the SALT II agreement and thus jeopardise the prospect of an autumn summit?

The Prime Minister

As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, we regard it as important that the SALT II agreement continues to be observed, and observed by both sides. That is precisely what it means. The right hon. Gentleman is aware that when President Reagan gave warning that unless the Soviet Union complies with SALT II he would make different arrangements from November, he at the same time dismantled two Poseidon submarines in accordance with SALT II. We wish SALT II still to be regarded on both sides, and we hope that it will continue to be so.

Mr. Hattersley

Will the Prime Minister now at least attempt to answer the question? Does she believe that the President should abandon SALT II, or does she believe that what I think she calls “the Russian case to answer” is in itself justification for abrogation?

The Prime Minister

I notice that the right hon. Gentleman will never say anything about the Soviet Union not complying with SALT II. Never, never, never. I make it perfectly clear that I hope that SALT II will continue to be observed on both sides. President Reagan has just observed SALT II by breaking up two Poseidon submarines in accordance with SALT II. I hope that both sides will continue to comply.

Mr. Hattersley

The House and the country know perfectly well why the Prime Minister will not give a straight answer to that straight question. Why does she so regularly humiliate herself and this country by always dancing to President Reagan 's tune? Does she not think that in the matter of world peace she has a duty to speak for this country, rather than wait to be told what to say by the President of the United States?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is talking utter nonsense. I hope that SALT II will continue to be observed. The United States is observing SALT II by dismantling two Poseidon submarines. It has left the door open for the Soviet Union to comply with SALT II. I hope that it will do so, because there is a clear opportunity for the Soviet Union to respond positively.

Mr. Jim Spicer

Will my right hon. Friend join me in praising the Dorset police for the firm but fair way in which they handled this so-called peace convoy at the weekend? At the same time, will she accept that most people are puzzled that such trespass and such disruption of a weekend and of our highways can be allowed to continue?

The Prime Minister

Yes. I share my hon. Friend's distaste for this whole matter. If by any chance the law on trespass is inadequate, we shall have to consider amending it.

Dr. Owen

How can President Reagan expect Mr. Gorbachev to visit him in Washington in December if in November President Reagan increases the number of cruise missiles on the B52 aeroplanes? Surely the Prime Minister ought to show her convictions at the Dispatch Box and make it clear that the abandonment of SALT II would be a disaster and that her Government would not support that.

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The Prime Minister

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will make it equally clear that if there is an agreement it has to be complied with by both sides. The United States is complying with it. It has given a number of details where it thinks the Soviet Union is not complying with it. The reply from the Soviet Union has not dealt with those non-compliance points. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will at least agree that both sides must comply with the agreement, and the United States is doing so.

Mr. Andrew MacKay

Further to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Spicer), while I am delighted that my right hon. Friend will look at the question of trespass and the law, may I ask whether she is satisfied that the law is being obeyed to the extent that benefits are being properly paid to these hippies? Is she satisfied that their children are being properly educated within the law and that the health legislation is being properly enforced by the health authorities?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend knows, matters such as vehicle registration are wholly matters for the police. He asked about the benefits that these people receive. So that there should be no possibility of fraud or of people appearing at one benefit office having received benefit from another, there is a social security officer attached to them to see that duplication does not occur. [Interruption.] I had exactly the same reaction as Opposition Members when I read that, but then I was told that there was a tendency for these people to apply to one office and go on to another one and apply again. The social security authorities thought it important to take action to avoid that.

Q2. Mr. Dobson

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 3 June.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Dobson

What credence can the Prime Minister place in the reasons that President Reagan has given for withdrawing from the SALT treaty, when he personally misled her over the accuracy of F111 bombers on the raid on Libya?

The Prime Minister

I utterly reject the hon. Gentleman's assertion. He asked what credence I place in the United States agreement on SALT II. The hon. Gentleman will be aware, and I have repeated it several times, that when the President made the announcement he simultaneously acted in accordance with SALT II by dismantling and breaking up two Poseidon submarines. One could have no better evidence than that.

Mr. Squire

When the Cabinet discusses public expenditure in the near future, will my right hon. Friend look in particular at a number of housing aspects, including the desirability of phasing out all bed-and-breakfast accommodation for the homeless, which is both expensive and unnecessary? Will she also consider the reintroduction of improvement grants at a higher level, as they are a classic illustration of the way in which public money can stimulate greater private investment?

The Prime Minister

I notice that if my hon. Friend is proposing additional expenditure he carefully proposes [column 731] economies equal to the additional expenditure. I hope that his example will be followed by all right hon. and hon. Members.

F111 Aircraft

Q3. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Prime Minister if she will list those characteristics of F111 aircraft based in the United Kingdom which rendered their use essential for the United States' attack on Libya.

The Prime Minister

The F111 aircraft based in the United Kingdom provided the best equipped means of carrying out the United States operation against specific terrorist targets in Libya, with the lowest possible risk of Libyan civilian and United States service casualties. As the United States has indicated, the F111 possesses advanced avionics and other capabilities which made it particularly suitable for such a mission.

Mr. Dalyell

Will the Prime Minister name the senior American, or Americans, who told her that the F111s were more precise than the carrier-based aircraft?

The Prime Minister

That was the advice that we received both from across the Atlantic and from home.

Sir Antony Buck

Does my right hon. Friend agree that if we had not given permission for the F111s to be utilised, the Americans would have gone ahead, used less accurate aircraft and there would have been more civilian casualties?

The Prime Minister

As I said when I spoke to the House on this matter, I understand that the raid would have gone ahead in any event.

Mr. Stuart Holland

The Prime Minister referred to the United Kingdom's aid budget to Africa.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The question is about the F111.

Mr. Marlow

What effect has the raid had on Colonel Gaddafi's ability to wage international terrorism?

The Prime Minister

I believe that the raid had a great effect. I believe that it showed that the United States was prepared to use force in self-defence against terrorism. That in itself is a salutary warning.

Mr. Wareing

Will the Prime Minister say what kind of self-defence should be conducted by the Nicaraguan Government against the terrorist in the White House?

Mr. Speaker

Order. That does not relate to this question, which is about Libya. It is a definitive question.

Mr. Wareing

As the United States believed that it was necessary to use F111s——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member is wasting time.

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Engagements

Q4. Mr. Litherland

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 3 June.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Litherland

Does the Prime Minister agree with Mr. Bob Geldof 's vivid description of the Foreign Secretary's speech at the United Nations? However crudely it was put, was it not a fair and just assessment of the cant and hypocrisy of this Government's aid to the Third world, compared with the Live Aid events? Does the right hon. Lady realise that her Government are now branded as a Government without compassion?

The Prime Minister

There are 550 million reasons why that assertion is not true. I have already said that £550 million was given by the taxpayer, through this Government, to Africa in one year both in bilateral and in multilateral aid. That was a generous contribution to the problems of that troubled continent.

Mr. Nelson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there will be widespread public support for her restatement this afternoon of the mutual obligations under the SALT II treaty? Does she agree that treaties lightly cast aside may be lightly entered into?

The Prime Minister

Treaties should not be lightly entered into. This one was not lightly entered into. It was never ratified by the United States, because in the meantime the Soviet Union went into Afghanistan, which country it still occupies. Nevertheless, the United States has continued to observe the treaty and I believe that it is anxious that both sides should continue to observe it.

Q5. Mr. Eadie

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 3 June.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Eadie

As the Prime Minister has shown concern about litter in our streets when viewing from a car window and has asked that something be done about it, I wonder whether the right hon. Lady would consider at long last travelling by British Rail? If she looked out of the window she would see the litter of industrial devastation that the economic policies of her Government have perpetuated, and she might do something about that too.

The Prime Minister

With regard to the implications of the question, an initiative will shortly be announced on improving the environment with regard to litter. With regard to the greater matter, as the hon. Gentleman is aware, regional aid is now slanted towards creating more jobs in those regions, and my noble Friend Lord Young of Graffhamthe Secretary of State for Employment has taken extensive action, all of which the hon. Gentleman will find set out extensively in the new booklet “Action for Jobs” .