Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1986 Jun 12 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 [99/491-96]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2410
Themes: Commonwealth (South Africa), Conservatism, Defence (general), Privatized & state industries, Pay, Trade, Foreign policy (Africa), Health policy, Northern Ireland, Security services, Social security & welfare, Terrorism, Transport
[column 491]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1.Mr. Pavitt

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 12 June.

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.

Mr. Pavitt

Is the Prime Minister totally unaware of the deep anger among nurses over the fact that, for the second year running, she has overturned the review body award and short-changed them by giving them only nine months' instead of 12 months' pay? Is she also aware that the injustice of giving the managers back pay until February has infuriated doctors and nurses alike? Ward sisters have now got £800 less than the review body decided they should have. When the Prime Minister replies to the Royal College of Nursing's letter of 28 May, will she take into account the grave shortages in acute nursing facilities and the low morale? Will she take the decision back to the Cabinet and not give the House a lot of statistics about national numbers, past comparisons and the inflation rate?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman is aware that nurses have had a far better deal under this Government than ever they had under the Labour Government. A ward sister to whom the hon. Gentleman refers is now, on the top of her scale, receiving £2,000 a year more than she would have done had the 1979 rate, which appertained when his Government were in power, merely been increased by inflation. Our record on that is excellent.

With regard to the pay of National Health Service general managers, the new rates of pay which operated from 1 February related to the 1985–86 pay year for [column 492]general managers. The hon. Gentleman is aware that many general managers had jobs with tenure and they have had to give up that tenure to take the management jobs.

Sir Paul Bryan

Reverting to my right hon. Friend's answer of last Tuesday on the question whether Rolls-Royce required Government support, is she aware that last week Cathay Pacific Airways ordered two Boeing 747 400s, with an option on seven more?

Cathay Pacific, when deciding upon the engines for that plane, having considered Pratt and Whitney, GEC and all the rest, finally came down in favour of the new Rolls-Royce RB211 524 D4D. Is it not a promising start for the engine to have a company of this standing as its launch company, and should it not bring orders for many years to come?

The Prime Minister

I am delighted to hear of the order won by Rolls-Royce, on the merits of this engine. It is very good news indeed and it highlights the company's export record. Rolls-Royce is used to exporting. Last year Rolls-Royce engine sales to the United States were worth £435 million.

Mr. Shore

The Prime Minister will know that this morning a state of emergency was declared in South Africa. In the light of these latest and grave events, and the sombre report of the Eminent Persons Group, is it not now plain to the Prime Minister that her stance at Nassau last October was totally misjudged? Political progress against apartheid cannot be made without effective and concerted economic pressure against South Africa. Detailed measures need urgent consideration with Commonwealth partners. The House and the Commonwealth are entitled to know from the Prime Minister now whether she accepts the principle of economic sanctions against South Africa.

The Prime Minister

We have just received the group's report and we are studying it carefully. Time is needed for all concerned, including the South African Government, to consider the report. I shall be meeting the two co-chairmen later today. We must not close the door on future negotiations. The group's report recognised that it was not its task to make specific proposals about measures. Therefore, we shall be in touch with our Commonwealth partners, our European partners and our economic summit partners to discuss this report.

Mr. Shore

That is an equivocal, and, for the right hon. Lady, a surprisingly unclear and indefinite response to what was a unanimous report by a group that spent six months, at her personal request, studying events in South Africa.

The Prime Minister

We have just received the report.

Mr. Shore

We have indeed just had the report, but it has been available to almost everybody for the past 48 hours. The Prime Minister has had plenty of time to consider, not so much the detail of what we need to do, but the principle of the matter. Will she now remove her veto on economic sanctions, on which she has previously insisted?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is complaining because we are to consider the report carefully with our partners before we reach our conclusions. He knows full well that the report says:

“we are not determining the nature or extent of any measures which might be adopted, or their effectiveness” .
[column 493]

The report has taken a long time to compile and we are grateful to the group that has undertaken the task. I shall be seeing its members later. I am not aware that the phrase “economic sanctions” appears in the conclusions.

Mr. Shore

I have one final point to put to the Prime Minister, because she is equivocating. The word “sanctions” has been used by the leading members of the Eminent Persons Group. I quote directly from paragraph 352 of its report, which says:

“We are convinced that the South African Government is concerned about the adoption of effective economic measures against it.”

If that is not equivalent to sanctions, I do not know what is.

The Prime Minister

I have read out what the report says, which is: “we are not determining the nature or extent of any measures which might be adopted, or their effectiveness” .

The right hon. Gentleman is complaining because we shall take great care in considering the report and in consulting both the Commonwealth and our economic partners. I shall quote what a spokesman of the Labour Government, of which the right hon. Member was a member, said in December 1977, after Soweto was debated in the United Nations. He said:

“We voted against” ——

economic sanctions against South Africa— “together with France, West Germany, the USA and some other Western countries, because we do not agree that the far-reaching economic measures which the resolution calls for would produce the changes in South Africa which we would all wish to see.” —[Official Report, 16 January 1978; Vol. 942, c. 9.]

Mr. Hunter

My right hon. Friend has made much of the sentiment “the lady's not for turning” . May we take it that she will not turn aside from her view that the further isolation of the South African Government and the imposition of sanctions, while they will achieve many things, will not help the creation of a more just and equitable society in South Africa?

The Prime Minister

Of course we want a more just and equitable society in South Africa and we condemn apartheid. We still believe that we must not close the door on future negotiations and that the group's basic approach of promoting dialogue and a suspension of violence remains correct. Of course, we shall consider this distinguished report carefully, and consider it with our European partners, our Commonwealth partners and with the seven industrialised nations. I am sure that my hon. Friends will agree that that is the right way to go about it, before dashing into premature conclusions.

Dr. Owen

Can the Prime Minister promise the House that when President Reagan applies economic sanctions against South Africa she will not turn round and follow suit? When will she lead world opinion instead of being led by the nose? In the light of the state of emergency that was declared today in South Africa, will she tell us now that she will be ready to stop direct intercontinental flights to South Africa?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is well aware that those flights are conducted under legal contract. There are specific legal obligations in those contracts, which cannot suddenly be abrogated. I note that in an article in The Sunday Times on 24 March 1985 the right hon. Gentleman said:

“Total, or even selective trade sanctions, will not succeed.”
[column 494]

Mr. Baldry

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is time that Northern Ireland said yes to something? The SDLP vetoed the Assembly and the Unionists have vetoed the Anglo-Irish accord. Is it not time that Northern Ireland said yes to something and then tried to seek a solution to its problems? Northern Ireland should not always look to Westminster for a new initiative, because we have rather run out of initiatives and out of patience with the people of Northern Ireland, who sabotage everything that we try to do.

The Prime Minister

I appreciate what my hon. Friend has said. As he knows, my right hon. Friend Tom Kingthe Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will make a statement later today. In the meantime, the invitation to the Unionists stands. We invite them to come and discuss how to get devolved government and to discuss the future of the Assembly. It is also open to them to come to discuss the future arrangements about the conduct of Northern Ireland legislation in the House. I hope that one day they will take up that offer.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

Will the Prime Minister invite her security advisers to study with great care the implicit timetable behind the outrages and attempted outrages for which the perpetrators have just been convicted? Will she compare those with the successive stages of negotiation between Her Majesty's Government and the Governments of the United States and the Irish Republic?

The Prime Minister

I shall deal separately with the two parts of the right hon. Gentleman's question. Of course security advisers will learn any lessons that are to be learnt. It is their duty to do so. They go to great lengths to try to protect us and they do a supremely good job. I totally reject the latter half of the right hon. Gentleman's question.

Q2. Mr. Patchett

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 12 June.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Patchett

Does the Prime Minister accept that the uprating by 10p per week of child benefit is an insult to the many families who depend upon it? Is that not another example of the Government's callous indifference to those that have not?

The Prime Minister

No. Child benefit is at just about the right level. The hon. Gentleman fails to observe that the money for child benefit often has to come from the very families to which it goes. There are of course increased amounts under supplementary benefit. In so far as the hon. Gentleman refers to supplementary child benefit, the increase is low because inflation is low—lower than ever his Government had it.

Q3. Mr. Craigen

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 12 June.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Craigen

When it comes to the crunch, is the Prime Minister prepared to break the Commonwealth rather than back stronger concerted measures to break the pattern of apartheid in South Africa?

The Prime Minister

I have said that we shall be consulting the Commonwealth, I think at the beginning of [column 495]August, when the seven Heads of Government come to London for that purpose, and I shall be seeing the two co-chairmen of the Eminent Persons Group later this afternoon.

Q4. Mr. Jessel

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 12 June.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Jessel

As it is only the Conservative party which is united, with a strong and clear defence policy for the defence of Britain, is it not a danger to our country that unilateral nuclear disarmament is supported not only by the Labour party but by five out of every six Liberal candidates, over which they are deeply split with the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen)? Is this not a total abuse of the word “alliance” , which should now be dropped?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Mr. Speaker. I wholly agree with my hon. Friend that only the Conservative party and [column 496]the Government have a defence policy which is based on British interests and not on trying to reconcile irreconcilable views.

Q5. Mr. Allen Adams

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 12 June.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Adams

Is the right hon. Lady aware that many parts of Rolls-Royce aero-engines are made in my constituency at Hillington and that there is deep concern about the company's future in Glasgow, particularly its capacity to produce in the west of Scotland? Will she ask her Ministers to seek assurances from the directors of the company that they will keep a presence in Glasgow?

The Prime Minister

I shall, of course, pass on the hon. Gentleman's request, and I am sure he will appreciate that the likelihood of the company maintaining a presence in Scotland is the greater the more orders Rolls-Royce wins. It appears to be being very successful on design and merit.