Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1986 Jul 22 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [102/175-80]
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2779
Themes: Monarchy, Commonwealth (South Africa), Conservatism, Employment, Privatized & state industries, Trade, Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (Middle East), Health policy, Private health care, Leadership, Sport, Transport
[column 175]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Favell

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 22 July.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House I shall be having further meetings today. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty The Queen. Tonight I shall be attending a dinner at the United States embassy in honour of Mrs. Reagan.

Mr. Favell

On the day that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services has announced his attack on NHS waiting lists, will my right hon. Friend consider the outstanding success of the partnership, in Wales between the NHS and the private sector in tackling a shortfall in kidney dialysis treatment? Is my right hon. [column 176]Friend aware that the number of new patients has trebled as a result of that partnership, and is not there a great deal for the rest of the United Kingdom to learn from that?

The Prime Minister

We welcome the involvement of the private sector in the NHS making provision for services of that kind, which give excellent value for money. They often enable people on NHS lists to get much-needed treatment more quickly. It is for the local health authority to evaluate the treatment, but we wish that scheme well and hope that there will be more.

Mr. Steel

In all her considerations with our Commonwealth partners of the measures that we should be taking against the South African Government, what weight does the Prime Minister attach to her need to safeguard the position of Her Majesty as head of the Commonwealth?

The Prime Minister

As I said last week. Mr. Speaker, I propose to follow the well-established practice of my predecessors and not answer questions, direct or indirect, about the monarchy.

Sir Edward Gardner

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the two main aims of any policy towards South Africa should be, first, to end as soon as possible the system of apartheid, and, secondly, and equally important, to protect the victims of apartheid from any unnecessary and avoidable suffering and bloodshed? Does she further agree that both those aims must overrule and override all other considerations, including who will or will not take part in the Commonwealth Games?

The Prime Minister

I wholly agree with my hon. and learned Friend. It is our aim to end apartheid as soon as possible—[Hon. Members: “How?” ] By negotiation, and by not applying punitive sanctions, which would hit those whom we most wish to help. I agree wholly with my hon. and learned Friend that the games are the Commonwealth Games, and it would be best if those who have thought of boycotting them would reconsider their decision and come and join in those games.

Mr. Kinnock

Following the Harare meeting last week, is it not clear that a categorical statement from the Prime Minister to the effect that the British Government will impose sanctions against South Africa would increase the probability of restoring participation in the games, would improve the prospects of the Heads of Government meeting in August reaching productive conclusions, and would at the same time strengthen the hand of the Foreign Secretary in his visit in South Africa. Will the Prime Minister now make such a categorical statement?

The Prime Minister

No, Mr. Speaker. The right hon. Gentleman is asking me to make a categorical statement before the Heads of Government meet to consider the matter. That is absurd.

Mr. Kinnock

By failing to make such a categorical statement at this stage, a categorical statement for which Commonwealth leaders both black and white have repeatedly asked, the Prime Minister is spoiling the games, is fracturing the Commonwealth and is sabotaging the mission of her own Foreign Secretary. Does she not realise that the Harare statement was an olive branch, or is she in such a state of paranoia that she cannot tell the difference between an olive branch and a club?

[column 177]

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is asking us to reach a conclusion or to commit ourselves to a conclusion before the meeting which meets to consider the matter. That is an absurd way of going about any Heads of Government conference.

With regard to the Commonwealth Games, I stress that they do not belong to Britain or to Scotland. They belong to the Commonwealth. The countries which are withdrawing are damaging their own games and damaging the chances of their own athletes. In relation to the Heads of Government conference, we shall consider before we conclude.

Mr. Kinnock

The one thing that the Prime Minister says that is true is that the Commonwealth Games are not directly her business. What is her business is the withdrawals from the games, because that is entirely her fault. When she says that to make a categoric statement in favour of sanctions is absurd, is she saying that Rajiv Gandhi, Bob Hawke and Brian Mulroney and all the rest are absurd?

The Prime Minister

I am adhering to the Nassau accord. The Heads of Government, or their representatives, after the appropriate time, will then meet to review the situation. If in their opinion adequate progress has not been made within this period, we agree to consider the adoption of further measures. The right hon. Gentleman is following his old trick of reaching a conclusion before the meeting is even held.

Mr. Cyril Townsend

Bearing in mind the nature of the crisis in South Africa and Britain's pivotal position inside the international community on this issue, will my right hon. Friend at least keep open the possibility of personal talks with the state President, inside or outside South Africa, in the critical weeks ahead?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend is aware, my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Geoffrey Howethe Foreign Secretary goes to South Africa today to have talks with the P.W. BothaPresident and a number of other people in South Africa—for more than one set of talks—and he may need to go again later. Obviously, I should like to consider the results of what he is able to achieve as President of the 12 countries of the Community before saying anything further. I do not exclude what my hon. Friend has said.

Q2. Mr. Craigen

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 22 July.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Craigen

Does the Prime Minister know, and if she does will she tell us, whether some of the recent comments about the rift between No. 10 and the Palace on South Africa have arisen from certain sections of the Tory establishment——

Mr. Dickens

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. [Interruption.]

Mr. Craigen

—have arisen from certain sections of the Tory establishment who feel that she has been in the job too long as Prime Minister and has developed monarchical tendencies of the absolutist kind?

The Prime Minister

I make it clear once again that I propose to follow the well-established practice of my predecessors and not answer direct or indirect questions [column 178]about the monarch. I note that the hon. Gentleman has no complaints about how the Government are running the affairs of this country.

West Derbyshire

Q3. Mr. McLoughlin

asked the Prime Minister whether she has any plans to visit West Derbyshire.

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to do so.

Mr. McLoughlin

My constituents in West Derbyshire will be sorry to hear that my right hon. Friend has no plans to visit West Derbyshire at present. If she were able to visit West Derbyshire, they would tell her of their pleasure about yesterday's announcement by the Post Office of record profits and about the recent announcement of the profits of the—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has not been here for very long and he should be given consideration in asking his question.

Mr. McLoughlin

They would also tell her of their pleasure about profits recently announced by British Steel, the first profits for 11 years. Does my right hon. Friend not agree that that those profits hold out the prospects of a better future for the people who work in those industries than the major losses that were made when the Opposition were in government?

The Prime Minister

Yes. I join my hon. Friend in congratulating both the management and the workforce of British Steel on turning a £1 billion loss into a £38 million profit. It is excellent news. I congratulate, similarly, the management and workforce of the Post Office and Girobank, who have exceeded all the targets that the Government set for them. I will one day visit West Derbyshire.

Mr. Cyril Smith

If the Prime Minister did decide to visit West Derbyshire, does she think that it would increase or reduce the 100 Tory majority?

The Prime Minister

I am only after increasing the Tory majority.

Engagements

Q4. Mr. Ashton

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 22 July.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Ashton

As the Prime Minister cannot comment on her relationship with the Palace, can she comment on her relationship with her Back-Benchers? On the front page of yesterday's issue of The Times there was an article under the heading

“Rebel Tories accused of Thatcher plot.”

What does the Prime Minister intend to do about such treachery? Or is it really a plot by the editor of the Tory The Times Mr. Rupert Murdoch, to drive a wedge between the Palace and Downing street? Is she aware that many of us hope that the Prime Minister will not be forced to resign over a constitutional crisis, because we think that she is one of the best vote-winners the Labour party has got?

The Prime Minister

I propose to continue to answer questions from this Dispatch Box, in the hope that one day the standard of questions from the Opposition may improve.

[column 179]

Q5. Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 22 July.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

Has my right hon. Friend had a chance to welcome the visit of Mr. Peres to Morocco to meet King Hassan, which shows that the middle east peace process may be under way again? Since my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary is hoping to meet ANC leaders in South Africa, will my right hon. Friend in due course authorise meetings with Palestinian leaders, including members of the PLO?

The Prime Minister

I hope that the ANC will agree to meet my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Geoffrey Howethe Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary on his visit to South Africa. If it does not do so, it will cast doubt on its commitment to try to solve the problem by peaceful means. Like my hon. Friend, I very much welcome the initiative of the Prime Minister of Israel, Mr. Peres, in visiting King Hassan of Morocco, with a view to a new initiative to help to solve the middle east problem. My hon. Friend will be very much aware that, unless the PLO accepts resolutions 242 and 338, I do not believe that it can be involved in negotiations to solve the middle east problem.

Mr. Loyden

In view of the answers given today on unemployment by the Prime Minister's right hon. and learned Friend, does she understand that the majority of people in this country now realise that the Tory Government have failed absolutely to solve the unemployment problem and that the scandal of unemployment is surpassed only by the Government's arrogance in disregarding completely the misery caused to millions of families by the direct actions of this Government?

The Prime Minister

The numbers of people in employment and in self-employment are once again rising, and that is good news. In the last three years 1 million jobs have been created. In the end we will solve the unemployment problem only when companies in manufacturing and services produce the goods and services that people are prepared to buy. The most worrying thing at present is the height of unit labour costs in Britain compared to those in other countries. That could be losing us export orders.

Mr. Gregory

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 22 July.

[column 180]

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Gregory

Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to praise the British Railways Board and its hard-working staff for turning a massive loss last year into a surplus of over £49 million before taxation? Does she agree that the investment by the Government in electrification was a good investment?

The Prime Minister

I gladly congratulate British Rail on its excellent achievement. It has turned from a £408 million loss in 1984–85 to a small profit in 1985–86, and that is good news. I wish British Rail well and I am glad that we decided to invest in further electrification.

Miss Boothroyd

In view of the evasive answer given to me last week during Question Time by the Prime Minister, will she now take the opportunity to clarify her position? Is she in favour of early majority rule in South Africa, or is she not? The House demands an answer.

The Prime Minister

I am in favour of the process decided and described in the Nassau accord about apartheid. The Eminent Persons Group was sent to South Africa. The accord said—I shall read the whole paragraph—[Hon. Members: “Answer the question.” ]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Prime Minister is answering the question.

The Prime Minister

The accord said:

“We agree on the compelling urgency of dismantling apartheid and erecting the structures of democracy in South Africa. The latter, in particular, demands a process of dialogue involving the true representatives of the majority black population of South Africa. We believe that we must do all we can to assist that process, while recognising that the forms of political settlement in South Africa are for the people of that country—all the people—to determine.”

That was the unanimous view of the Commonwealth.

Miss Boothroyd

On a point of order Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Does it arise out of questions?

Miss Boothroyd

Yes, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

As long as it is not a supplementary question, I shall allow it.

Miss Boothroyd

It is not a supplementary. I seek your guidance Mr. Speaker. Is it right for the First Minister of the Crown to treat the House in this way?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Lady is an experienced Chairman, and she knows that that is a supplementary question.