Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1986 Oct 30 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [103/446-52]
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 3269
Themes: Parliament, Union of UK nations, Defence (arms control), Secondary education, Employment, Monetary policy, Taxation, Trade, European Union (general), Foreign policy (Middle East), Housing, Leadership, Social security & welfare
[column 446]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Wareing

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 30 October 1986.

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. Wareing

Has the Prime Minister studied the community care manifesto published during the party conferences by Dr. Barnardo's, MIND, MENCAP and the Spastics Society, which calls, among other things, for legislation to abolish discrimination against disabled people? Is this not an opportunity for the right hon. Lady to redeem her Government's pledge to disabled people after the disgraceful manoeuvres against the Bill I introduced three years ago and the disgraceful introduction this week of availability for work tests, which is already denying supplementary benefit to some of the most disadvantaged, disabled people in our society?

The Prime Minister

This Government's record of help for the disabled exceeds that of any other Government, as the hon. Gentleman well knows.

Mr. McCrindle

In view of several statements this week on mortgage tax relief, including one from the Leader of the Opposition, will the Prime Minister make it clear that the Government will continue broadly in its present form mortgage tax relief and thus reassure many millions of people who have become owner-occupiers since 1979 and whose family budgets critically depend on the continuation of this provision?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend is well aware, under this Government the present system of mortgage tax relief will continue. I believe that ours is the only party which stands four-square behind the system.

Q2. Sir Russell Johnston

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 30 October 1986.

The Prime Minister

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

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Sir Russell Johnston

Will the Prime Minister, in her moments of reflection between engagements, reconsider the answer that she gave in a recent interview to Colin MacKay of STV? She said:

“I am not satisfied that there is a fundamental desire for devolution.” Surely all the evidence is to the contrary, and it is silly for the Government to pretend otherwise.

Does the Prime Minister also appreciate that, given her opinion that devolution would lead to the break-up of Great Britain, she is shoulder to shoulder in the trenches with the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell)? Perhaps the call is, “Come back, all is forgiven.”

The Prime Minister

I confirm what I said in the interview and I would repeat every word again today.

Mr. Squire

Will my right hon. Friend congratulate the Minister for Housing, Urban Affairs and Construction on his reported comments yesterday to the effect that the Government are to make a specific form of assistance available to many young people in the south-east who find it so difficult at present to obtain housing? Does she appreciate that many of us welcome that wholeheartedly?

The Prime Minister

I understand that that is a reference to a breakthrough in housing finance under which it will be possible to build for assured tenancies with a mixture of public and private finance. I believe that it is a breakthrough and that it will help many young people, as well as helping to take a number of people out of bed-and-breakfast accommodation, which they would otherwise have to occupy.

Q3. Mr. Canavan

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 30 October.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Canavan

Is it not a fact that the Prime Minister's obvious lack of judgment and credibility are causing increasing embarrassment, even to her own party? How much would it cost the Tory establishment to see her off at Victoria station?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman is whistling in the dark, whether at Victoria station or elsewhere.

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

Will my right hon. Friend accept that it is not just in Brent and Hackney where the thought police are on the march in education? In Birmingham teachers are being threatened that if they advise on what is best for their students and parents in the way of grammar school education they will be disciplined. Does she not think that it is an evil practice when Socialists say that if all cannot be eagles then all must be sparrows? Is not the pursuit of excellence what the country needs?

The Prime Minister

Yes. I warmly support my hon. Friend in what he said. Grammar schools are an extremely important part of our education system and they stand for the pursuit of excellence. Many of us owed our future to those schools.

Mr. Kinnock

The Government have not volunteered a statement on their views about the Reykjavik talks or responded to our request that they should do so. Will the Prime Minister tell me whether she recalls saying to the United States Congress last year that nothing in the ABM treaty precludes research but that if research led to the

“possible deployment of new defence systems”

[column 448]it would be, in her words,

“a matter of negotiation under the treaty” ?

Is that still her position in view of the much less clear and less positive view expressed by the Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence last week? Can she tell us, specifically, what is the Government's position on star wars and the ABM treaty? [Interruption.] If we had had a statement, this request would not have been necessary.

Can the Prime Minister also say, specifically, what is her attitude to the adoption of the zero/zero option as discussed at Reykjavik? [Interruption.] As I said, if we had had a statement, this would not be necessary. In view of President Reagan 's clear reassertion yesterday that he will persist—[Interruption.]—I shall persist, too.

Mr. Speaker

Order.

Mr. Kinnock

In view of President Reagan 's clear reassertion yesterday that he intended to persist, very sensibly with his proposals on ballistic missile systems in future negotiations, will the Prime Minister tell us—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. We have only 15 minutes and points of order do not help.

Mr. Kinnock

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I repeat, had we had a statement from the Government, these questions would not have been be necessary.

In view of President Reagan 's clear reassertion yesterday that he wanted to pursue his proposition to get rid of ballistic missiles over 10 years, is the Prime Minister prepared to reconsider—[Interruption.]—the purchase of the Trident ballistic system, especially in view of the pressures that that imposes on our conventional defence programme?

The Prime Minister

I seem to remember that the other place was sitting at the time of the Reykjavik talks and a statement was made there. So a statement was made by Her Majesty's Government to Parliament on those talks.

Intermediate nuclear forces were subject to the SDI proposal at Reykjavik and we believe President Reagan was absolutely right in refusing to stop research on SDI. The future of the INF talks also appeared to be made subject to that, so the whole question is in issue again. It will be sorted out at the talks at Geneva. We are in discussion, through the NATO Alliance, with the United States about those talks and the proposals that have been made.

We believe in an independent nuclear deterrent. The British and French independent nuclear deterrents were not part of those talks. The Conservative party believes that the independent nuclear deterrent is vital to our future defence. We shall keep it, and the Trident programme will go ahead.

Mr. Sayeed

Will my right hon. Friend explain today why the European Commission is selling cut-price grain to Syria? Does she recognise how irritating that is and the considerable anger that that subsidy to state terrorism has caused?

The Prime Minister

The question of sales of European grain to Syria has arisen before. Normal refunds apply to all external sales and I am afraid that there is nothing we can do about that. However, I understand that there will be no special rates of refund to Syria following the meeting of my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Geoffrey Howethe Foreign Secretary with the Foreign Ministers a few days ago.

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Dr. Owen

Does the Prime Minister agree that if President Reagan was successful in negotiating the withdrawal of all ballistic missiles, both Soviet and American, it would be unlikely that the United States would be happy to go on selling us Trident? Is that not one more case for looking seriously at the cruise missile option?

The Prime Minister

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will be the first to understand when I say that the defence of a nation consists not only of its nuclear stance and independent nuclear deterrent, but also of chemical and conventional weapons. For anyone to suggest that one can get rid of ballistic missiles without considering conventional weapons and the impossibility of achieving equality in conventional forces in the alleged time scale is utterly absurd. President Reagan did not agree at Reykjavik, as the House knows.

Mr. John Browne

Does my right hon. Friend accept that our defence is based upon deterrence—the deterrence of alliances and of massive retaliation if attacked—the crucial pillar of which is the Atlantic Alliance? Does she now see that our key alliance is under threat from within, when partners within that Alliance are not only not prepared to support actions against terrorism but unilaterally to negotiate with terrorists? Secondly, does my right hon. Friend not see that our Alliance is under threat from within the Labour and so-called alliance parties—parties that march to the same drum, the drum of Socialism—which is a serious threat to our national security?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend that the NATO Alliance is under threat and under attack from the Opposition. Any change in the fundamental doctrine of flexible response, of which nuclear weapons are a fundamental part, is a matter for the whole Alliance to discuss and could not be decided separately. The fact is that the nuclear deterrent has kept the peace for 40 years—peace from nuclear weapons and from conventional war—and that is the most important factor of all.

Q4. Mrs. Golding

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 30 October.

The Prime Minister

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

Mrs. Golding

Will the Prime Minister explain to the House how an increase in the bank rate will lead to a reduction in unemployment and a reduction in the cost of living?

The Prime Minister

An increase in bank rate is occasionally necessary to hold down the long-term rate of inflation. As many hon. Members on both sides of the House have said, inflation breeds unemployment—it does not cure it.

Dr. M.S. Miller

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the importance of the question asked by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition—[Interruption.] It is the most important matter that we could be discussing. It is a matter of life or death. Will the Prime Minister——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman should address his point of order to me.

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Dr. Miller

May I ask whether the right hon. Lady will tell the yah-boos on her side that she takes this matter seriously?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a matter for me.

Sir Peter Emery

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As a matter of order, will you consider consulting Back-Bench Members as well as the usual channels on whether it would be in the interests of the House to return to the practice of Mr. Speaker Hylton-Foster, whereby an hon. Member when called asked only one question of a Minister rather than a series? It would mean that many more hon. Members could ask questions and the House could proceed much more quickly.

Mr. Speaker

As the hon. Gentleman knows, if he is here regularly for Prime Minister's Question Time, that is what I do, but it depends on how the questions fall on the Order Paper. I should point out, however, that it has been a long-standing convention that the Leader of the Opposition has an opportunity to ask more than one question. Today he asked only one question.

Mr. Willie W. Hamilton

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I hope I am wrong, but I thought I saw you reading from a list of names of Conservative Members and calling them to ask supplementary questions of the Prime Minister. Is that because representations are made to you—[Interruption.] I am asking for guidance from Mr. Speaker, not from Conservative Members. Is it the case, Mr. Speaker, that Members make representations to you before Question Time to be called to ask supplementary questions, or do you genuinely look around and choose at random?

Mr. Speaker

I am delighted to have the opportunity to clear up the matter. I must say to the hon. Gentleman and to the whole House that if representations are made to me beforehand that an hon. Member wishes to be called during Prime Minister's Question Time, that hon. Member will not be called. I make that absolutely clear. As to what goes on here—[Interruption.] I hope that the House will listen to this. My secretary lists the number of times that hon. Members have been called to put a supplementary question——

Mr. Hamilton

Well, I should be next then.

Mr. Speaker

There is nothing secret about it. The hon. Gentleman can have a look for himself. Against those names is marked the number of times that hon. Members have been called to put a supplementary question. I seek to ensure that every Member who seeks to put a question to the Prime Minister during a Parliament has an equal opportunity. I hope the House will agree that that is fair. [Interruption.]

Mr. Faulds

Further to——

Mr. Tony Banks

rose——

Mr. Faulds

Sit down.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think I am the only one who says that.

Mr. Faulds

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We elder statesmen occasionally get impatient with these younger puppies. While absolutely understanding and accepting your explanation, Mr. Speaker, with the deep and due regard that I hold for you, is it not a disproportionate way [column 451]of choosing who should be called in Prime Minister's Question Time, for the following reason. Some of us assiduously attend Prime Minister's Question Time——

Mr. Mark Hughes

And nothing else.

Mr. Speaker

Order.

Mr. Faulds

It is very heartening to see this occasional stranger. The point I was trying to make when that rather ludicrous comment was made about those of us who attend this Parliament daily was this. Is it not an incorrect way to assess the eagerness of hon. Members simply to have a list and see that they are all called in due proportion, when some of us are here every Prime Minister's Question Time, rise at every Prime Minister's Question Time, and make a much more frequent and regular effort to be called? Would it not be fairer to count our appearances in attempting to be called than simply to go through a list?

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is a matter for my discretion. I seek to treat the House fairly. I shall consider what the hon. Gentleman has said, but as most of the questions originally addressed to the Prime Minister appear on the Order paper in identical form it does not seem unfair that hon. Members whose questions are reached should be called.

Mr. Tony Banks

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker I am interested to learn that you have a list of people who have asked questions of the Prime Minister. Can you tell me when I last asked a question of the Prime Minister?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member has been called three times this Session on Prime Minister's questions.

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Mr. Hamilton

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I noticed that a moment ago you said that when an hon. Member has put down a question to the Prime Minister he will get some consideration. Are you aware that many hon. Members put down questions, but when we see that we are beyond Question No. 10 we immediately withdraw them? Does that enter your mind at all?

Mr. Speaker

It does enter my mind. That would be unwise. The hon. Gentleman did not know the way in which I was dealing with this before today, so perhaps he will not do that in future. The hon. Member has been called five times.

Mr. George Robertson

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I hate to prolong this issue and, as you know, I rarely do so. Is it possible to make an opportunity available so that the Prime Minister can clarify the comments she made to the effect that the defence of the realm depends on chemical weapons. This is something that we find disturbing.

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is not a matter that can be considered today. There will be other opportunities next week.

Mr. Kinnock

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. By way of a constructive suggestion, may I say that if we had a form of extra time as a consequence of prolonged and pointless interruption during Prime Minister's Question Time it might assist the conduct of the House, because the alternative is to have extra time which takes the form of points of order, and that is as tedious for you, Mr. Speaker, as it is for most hon. Members.