Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1986 Oct 23 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 [102/1287-92]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2364
Themes: Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Education, Primary education, Employment, Monetary policy, Pay, Public spending & borrowing, Trade, European Union Budget, Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Labour Party & socialism, Local government, Local government finance, Liberal & Social Democratic Parties, Northern Ireland, Race, immigration, nationality, Terrorism, Trade unions
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PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Neil Thorne

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 23 October.

The Prime Minister

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. Following Questions in the House I shall be going to sign the book of condolence opened for President Machel of Mozambique.

Mr. Thorne

Will my right hon. Friend find time to reaffirm her Government's commitment to abhorring violence in Northern Ireland and to condemn the action of three local authorities in London which have entertained Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA, this week—Haringey on Monday, Lambeth on Tuesday and Hackney last night, all of which, needless to say, are Labour-controlled local authorities?

The Prime Minister

We utterly condemn violence in Northern Ireland and do everything we can do to eradicate it. I join my hon. Friend in completely deploring invitations to any organisation which supports or perpetrates violence and therefore gives a platform to those who advocate violence. We think that that is completely wrong, and I agree with my hon. Friend.

Mr. Kinnock

I firmly associate myself with the view that the Prime Minister expressed concerning violence in pursuit of all ends, including political ends, and say that those who have the immense dishonesty to fight with a ballot box in one hand and a rifle in the other have no place in democratic politics.

While this month's balance of payments statistics show some welcome improvement on last month's disastrous figures, they still reveal that we have been in deficit this year for the first time since we started to receive oil money, and they further record manufacturing trade figures that are the worst in all history. Does the Prime Minister really think that she can combat that grave position by raising interest rates, raising industrial costs and increasing home payments, since that appears to be the only economic policy she has?

The Prime Minister

Certainly the balance of trade figures published today are better than those for last month. The right hon. Gentleman will have noticed that exports have risen, which is good. One of the problems of securing a good balance of payments, especially on current account, is that of keeping unit costs down. The biggest aggravating factor for unit costs is unit wage costs, which, in this country, are rising faster than elsewhere. That is a matter to which I hope the right hon. Gentleman and the trade unions will give their attention and not seek to get more out in wages than is put in in productivity.

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Mr. Kinnock

Is the Prime Minister announcing her intention to establish some form of incomes control policy, contrary to everything that she has ever said, or will she concentrate on the basic causes of our loss of 27 per cent. in competitiveness over the past seven years, which have been the restrictions on demand and the massive costs that she has imposed on industry by a permanent policy of high interest rates?

The Prime Minister

How does the right hon. Gentleman explain the first part of his question when he then says that there are restrictions on demand? There are greatly increased imports because there are no restrictions on imports.

Q2. Mr. Amess

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 23 October.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Amess

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the rate support grant settlement is such that those local authorities which manage their affairs prudently will be able to keep any rate increases low? Will she also join me in welcoming the fact that the Labour party has just lost control of Basildon district council because of the resignation of Labour councillors concerned about imprudent spending and the political posturing of local authorities such as Brent, Haringey, Hackney and Lambeth?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend knows, this year's rate support grant settlement is generous and he will be well aware that the Local Authority Audit Commission has given examples of ways of making local authorities much more efficient. I congratulate Basildon on what has happened and I am sure that it will be beneficial to all ratepayers.

Mr. Steel

Is the Prime Minister aware that the Government's own report—[Interruption.]—to the regional development commissioner of the European Commission stated clearly that the prospects for reducing unemployment were “frighteningly bleak” ? In view of that, how can she continue to announce cuts in railway, local authority and housing expenditure in the very areas of the country which the report ackowledges need extra help?

The Prime Minister

With regard to the figures in the European regional development fund application, the unemployment totals on which the report is based are taken from the 1986 public expenditure White Paper. They are assumptions, not forecasts or predictions, and they follow the same practice as that adopted by the Labour Government. Figures for the individual regions assume that the existing regional pattern of unemployment continues. As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, the Government's record on infrastructure expenditure is far better than that of the Government whom he supported.

Mr. Robert Sheldon

Will the Prime Minister explain the Government's monetary policy? The City of London does not understand it, financial commentators do not understand it and now even the Governor of the Bank of England does not seem to understand it. Will she explain it?

The Prime Minister

If the right hon. Gentleman will give me longer than I have at Question Time, I will do so [column 1289]gladly. I do not think that other people are as ignorant as he seems to think. The monetary policy is to keep downward pressure on inflation. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that inflation is far lower than any level that his Government ever managed to achieve.

Q3. Mrs. McCurley

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 23 October.

The Prime Minister

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

Mrs. McCurley

Following my right hon. Friend's successful visit to Barrow and Furness in September, where she laid down the keel for the new submarine for Trident, can she reaffirm the Government's commitment to a nuclear defence policy with Trident as its base? Would she care to comment on the fact that no amount of games down on the farm with Roget's Thesaurus can remedy a weak and discredited alliance policy?

The Prime Minister

I reaffirm our independent nuclear deterrent policy and that Trident will come into operation. The first submarine is now being built at Vickers yard in Barrow and Furness. I agree with my hon. Friend about the policies of certain other parties. I do not believe that the British people will take seriously a political party which, on a subject as important as the British deterrent, claims that it is committed to maintaining it, but cannot agree on how to do so.

Mr. Chris Smith

Can the Prime Minister tell us, in relation to her earlier answer on the regional report to the EEC, what precisely is the difference between an assumption and a forecast or prediction?

The Prime Minister

If the hon. Gentleman looks at the public expenditure surveys he will see that we never make forecasts for successive years. We do the best that we can with the immediately following year and then, in the years after that, the present figure automatically continues. That has been the practice and it was first announced in 1978 by the Government whom the hon. Member supported.

Mr. Cormack

Will my right hon. Friend seek an opportunity, today if possible, to see the remarkably moving and accurate film “Cry Hungary” which the BBC screened last night? Is this not an appropriate moment to remind people throughout the free world that no country under the domination of the Soviet Union has had the opportunity to opt even for neutrality?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend, We should all recall that, I believe, 30 years ago today, the Soviet tanks rolled in and crushed the attempts of the Hungarian people to gain for themselves some greater freedom. I hope that we shall remember it vividly, be grateful for our liberty and be determined to defend it, as this Government are.

Q4. Mr. Wareing

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 23 October.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Wareing

The right hon. Lady will appreciate that one of the factors causing a deficit in our balance of payments is Britain's loss in trade in terms of shipping. In 1979, when the right hon. Lady became Prime Minister, we had 1,200 vessels, and now we are down to about 600. [column 1290]At that time we had 80,000 seafaring jobs and now we are down to 40,000. Will the right hon. Lady now tell us what she and her Government will do about that?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman is aware that one of the problems with shipbuilding the world over is that every country has given shipbuilding so many subsidies—[Hon. Members: “Shipping.” ] I will come on to shipping. There have been so many subsidies that there are now two years' supplies of ships swinging on the buoys. With regard to shipping, one of the problems is that the National Union of Seamen has priced itself out of the market—[Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen always react in the same way to the truth. The NUS has priced itself out of employment. Consequently, the work has gone elsewhere, and that is a tragedy, I agree. The remedy lies in its hands.

Mr. Greenway

Does my right hon. Friend share my concern for my constituent, Miss Maureen McGoldrick, and the children in her care in a Brent school? The governors of the school have found her totally innocent of accusations of racism, as has the High Court, yet Brent Labour council insists on persecuting her, to the great detriment of her school, the children and their parents.

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend makes his point effectively. I believe I am right in saying that an appeal has been entered and, therefore, I am circumscribed in what I can say.

Q8. Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 23 October.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago and have given several times since.

Mr. Bennett

Does the Prime Minister recall that when she was Secretary of State for Education and Science she made a series of speeches in favour of nursery education? For almost 10 years after that nursery education in Britain was steadily expanded. It now appears that the Government have abandoned all plans to improve Britain's nursery education. What steps will she take to discuss with Ministers with responsibility for education ways in which we can try to achieve the same sort of nursery provision as the French?

The Prime Minister

I am so pleased that the hon. Gentleman managed to get his question in. I am very keen on nursery education. Since January 1979 the proportion of three and four-year-olds at school has increased from 37 to 43 per cent. in January 1986.

Mr. Charles Wardle

Has my right hon. Friend seen the Labour party's new booklet about public investment? It is on sale at some newsagents, but, not surprisingly, it has failed to make the bestseller list——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Prime Minister can only reply to questions for which she has responsibility.

Mr. Wardle

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Labour party—[Interruption.]—is as bereft of sound financial policies in 1986 as it was in 1976?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Donald Stewart

Is the Prime Minister aware that our merchant fleet has shrunk because, unlike the British [column 1291]Government, which is indifferent, our competitors assist their merchant navies? If the right hon. Lady is not aware of the consequences for trade and industry, will she at least bear in mind what will happen to the defence of this country if our Merchant Navy is not given assistance?

The Prime Minister

Obviously we are considering that very carefully, but the main problem is that the National [column 1292]Union of Seamen has demanded salaries and restrictive practices that have priced its members out of British shipping. That is very damaging for our shipping.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, which arises out of questions.

Mr. Speaker

I will hear it after the private notice question.