Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1986 Nov 4 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [103/796-804]
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 4050
Themes: Agriculture, Conservative Party (organization), Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Defence (Falklands War, 1982), Education, Employment, Industry, Pay, Trade, Foreign policy (Americas excluding USA), Community charge ("poll tax"), Media, Social security & welfare, Strikes & other union action
[column 796]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Foulkes

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 4 November.

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 later today. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty The Queen.

Mr. Foulkes

Has the Prime Minister seen today the report of the serious concern expressed in Europe and the United States of America, as well as throughout Latin America, at the unilateral announcement of a Falklands fisheries zone? As it is in our interests to get an internationally accepted agreement on fisheries and to do nothing to undermine democracy in Argentina, will she think again about this hasty and ill-considered decision?

The Prime Minister

The decision was absolutely right. As the hon. Gentleman is aware, we have been trying through the Food and Agriculture Organisation to secure a multilateral agreement on fisheries with Argentina. We first took an initiative in April 1985, but it was delayed by Argentina. Eventually Argentina signed bilateral agreements which purported to regulate fishing in waters over which the Falklands are entitled to exercise jurisdiction. Faced with that, we took our action. It was correct and, indeed, necessary to exercise jurisdiction over those waters.

Mr. Fallon

Is my right hon. Friend aware that most parents will regard the teachers' pay award of 16 per cent. as reasonable, generous and fair? Will she reassure the House that the Government will protect children from any further disruption of their schooling?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend that the offer made by my right hon. and learned Friend Malcolm Rifkindthe Secretary of State for Scotland is, as he said, fair, reasonable and, indeed, generous. Indeed, with the latest offer it would mean that Scottish teachers had had about [column 797]a 30 per cent. increase in pay over the past two and a half years. Many parents would wish to have a similar increase, and they have every right to expect that their children will be properly and fully educated.

Mr. Kinnock

Will the Prime Minister condemn the manic efforts of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to suborn the BBC by his smears and menaces, or is he acting under her orders?

The Prime Minister

The matter raised with the BBC is a straightforward one of whether the BBC is honouring the terms of its charter and its licence and agreement which it signed after the charter some time in 1981. A complaint has been made to the BBC. It is not for us to discuss it, it is now for the BBC to reply.

Mr. Kinnock

The Prime Minister is incredible. Is she trying to say that her creature—which the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster most definitely is—is acting in a straightforward fashion? Is this not the most tortuous attempt to try to intimidate the BBC because it is not manipulating the news in the way that the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster would like?

The Prime Minister

It may be that the right hon. Gentleman has read the submission, but from what he has said it does not seem that he has. If he has, he will have seen that it refers to the terms and conditions under which the BBC broadcasts, and a complaint has been made. It seems to me a matter of fact for the governors to consider. It is only they who can decide and reply to that complaint. It was a fairly measured complaint, which the right hon. Gentleman will see if he reads the submission.

Mr. Kinnock

I have read the submission. It is not a complaint, which is right; it is coercion, which is entirely wrong.

The Prime Minister

It is a matter for the governors, and only the governors, to see whether the charter, and the licence and the agreement have been honoured. It is not for us to have an argument on this matter. A complaint has been made and it is for the governors to reply.

Q2. Mr. Hirst

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 4 November 1986.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Hirst

May I remind my right hon. Friend that the people of Scotland are anxiously awaiting confirmation that the Queen's Speech next week will contain proposals for legislation to reform the thoroughly discredited and unfair rating system in Scotland? Can she reassure me that they will not be disappointed?

The Prime Minister

I know how anxiously Scotland awaits this legislation and I gladly give my hon. Friend the reassurance he requires.

Dr. Owen

In view of her earlier reply, can the right hon. Lady tell the House whether the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was complaining to the BBC, or was his complaint made solely in his role as chairman of the Conservative party? If so, how are the two roles distinguished? Surely the real issue is that the board of governors are responsible for the BBC and it is they who should now reply to the Conservative party, and the Government should distance themselves from Mr. Tebbit 's other role, in which he does not act as a member of the Government?

[column 798]

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is correct—Norman Tebbitmy right hon. Friend was acting as chairman of the Conservative party.

I have experience and know that if, on that basis, I refuse to answer all questions, rather a lot of noise ensues in the House.

Mr. Patrick Thompson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is reported that teachers in Norwich are on strike today? Does she agree that this action by the teachers' unions is destroying support for the teachers' case and lowering the regard in which the teaching profession is held by right-thinking people in Britain?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I think that such action is utterly disgraceful and shows no regard whatsoever for the children who are in the care of the teachers. I believe that the offer that has been made is a very generous one and that most teachers would wish to accept it. I agree very much with my hon. Friend that if teachers wish to have their professional standards restored—that is our purpose—they should accept the offer and return to giving a full education to all our children.

Q3. Mr. Lofthouse

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 4 November 1986.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Lofthouse

Is the Prime Minister aware that the Jarrow marchers arrived in London today to protest about unemployment and to defend their right to work? Is she also aware that these marchers have now been on the march for four weeks? With regard to last week's statement, does she really think that the marchers should lose their benefit because they are not available for employment?

The Prime Minister

Yes, of course I am aware of the march. As the hon. Gentleman is aware, unemployment benefit is paid to those who are genuinely available for work.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

The right hon. Lady is cruel.

The Prime Minister

The statement that has been made is the response to the criticisms made by the Public Accounts Committee of the existing arrangements. The new questionnaire applies the law—

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Heartless.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Prime Minister is giving an answer.

The Prime Minister

The new questionnaire applies the law as the Labour Government reaffirmed it in the Social Security Act 1975, which said:

“a day shall not be treated in relation to any person——

(i) as a day of unemployment unless on that day he is capable of work and he is, or is deemed in accordance with regulations to be available to be employed in employed earner's employment” .
—[Interruption.]—Of course Opposition Members make a noise. They do not like the facts read out.

Mr. Couchman

During her busy day yesterday, did my right hon. Friend have a chance to read the report in The Daily Telegraph about the extraordinary happenings on Manchester city council? Does she agree that a council which behaves in that thoroughly intolerable way deserves the sort of support—

[column 799]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Prime Minister can answer questions only on matters for which she has responsibility.

Q4. Mr. Eastham

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 4 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Eastham

Is the Prime Minister aware that two weeks ago the Employment Select Committee visited Japan, a country to which the Prime Minister would possibly refer as being very successful, where we were advised that inflation is now standing at zero, but in spite of that they paid a 4.7 per cent. wage increase this year? Is the Prime Minister aware that when we met the industrialists they advised us that they were borrowing money from the banks for industrial development at 4⅛ per cent.—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The same rules must apply. The Prime Minister can answer questions only on matters for which she is responsible.

Q5. Mr. McNamara

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 4 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. McNamara

rose

Hon. Members

No.

Mr. Eastham

On a point of order.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I shall take points of order afterwards.

Mr. Eastham

rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. I shall deal with that afterwards.

Mr. Eastham

rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. I shall deal with that afterwards.

Mr. McNamara

The Prime Minister will recall that when the decision was taken on the dual track to have cruise and Pershing in this country it was on the ground that it would force the Russians to the table and make them take out the SS20s. Now that the Russians under Secretary-General Gorbachev, and the Americans under President Reagan, have agreed that the SS20s and cruise and Pershings should go, why is she running to the United States to see President Reagan and saying that she did not really mean it and, please, can she keep those weapons here?

The Prime Minister

The matter of the intermediate nuclear forces has to be negotiated, as the hon. Member knows, in Geneva. That is the only place where agreement can be reached. Her Majesty's Government welcome the progress made on INF at Reykjavik. It is consistent with the long-standing Alliance position that INF must be dealt with on a global basis. A zero-zero solution in Europe with some long-range intermediate nuclear forces in Asia is acceptable provided that the disparity is not too great. It is also the well-known Alliance position that the problem of the short-range intermediate nuclear forces must also be addressed because they were put in the satellite countries in response to cruise and Pershing, which themselves were in response to the SS20. The whole thing must be thoroughly and properly worked out.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

Will my right hon. Friend, during her very busy day, have a word with the Secretary [column 800]of State for Defence about the Royal Air Force's need for an advanced early warning system? Will she accept that if that order is not placed with GEC Avionics and British Aerospace it will be a dreadful blow for Britain's manufacturing industry, a further blow for unemployment and a kick in the teeth for British technology?

The Prime Minister

Of course one would wish orders to go to Britain. They have to be won on merit, and the important thing is whether the services which that aircraft and early warning system provide are acceptable on the ground of competence to the Royal Air Force and all the forces who use it.

Q7. Mr. Dobson

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 5 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Dobson

Will the Prime Minister tell the House whether, in the course of her busy involvement in the pressurising of the BBC by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, she found time to read the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the standards of conduct in public life?

The Prime Minister

I have, I believe, sufficiently answered the hon. Gentleman's question.

Several Hon. Members

rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. To forestall any possible points of order, I should tell the House that I stopped the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman) from asking a question about what went on in the Manchester city council—[Interruption.] The Prime Minister is not responsible. I must apply the rules equally to both sides of the House.

Mr. Eastham

rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. If the hon. Gentleman will do me the courtesy of reading in Hansard what he said, I think he will see that had he framed his question in a rather different way it would have been in order.

Mr. Eastham

rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. From all that I heard, he was saying about Japan very much the same kind of thing as the hon. Member for Gillingham was saying about Manchester.

Mr. Eastham

rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. There has been a tendency in recent days for the Prime Minister to be asked questions on matters for which she is not responsible. I think we ought to get back to the traditional rules.

Mr. Shore

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. All questions to the Prime Minister are prefaced, to a greater of lesser extent, by paving material in order to put the question, and my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Eastham) was precisely paving the way to ask a question about Britain's economic performance compared with that of Japan, which the Prime Minister, as First Lord of the Treasury, is perfectly capable of answering, and for which she is responsible.

Mr. Eastham

rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. Let me forestall all this. I shall read carefully what the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Eastham) said, and, indeed, what the hon. [column 801]Member for Gillingham said, although my recollection is that in prefacing his question the hon. Member said “Did the Prime Minister, in the course of her busy day yesterday consider …” Allow me to reflect on the matter. I am simply telling the House that I must apply the same rules to both sides and that we should get back to the position of asking the Prime Minister about matters for which she has direct responsibility.

Mr. Eastham

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Dickens

On a point of order Mr. Speaker. You know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) has sought to do no more and no less than to encourage the BBC to be impartial—

Mr. Speaker

Order. That seems the sort of question that might well be asked of a Minister, but not of me.

Mr. Dickens

rose

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to ask for your guidance on the rights of Back Benchers in the House. It arises specifically from the next item, a private notice question about unemployment, an issue which any Opposition Member can and does raise any day of the week. I put in an application this morning to ask you about—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman knows that if he put in an application to me for a private notice question he must not raise the matter in the House.

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

I am asking for legitimate guidance from you, Mr. Speaker in the Chair. Why is it that an issue of great importance to the integrity of Britain, about whether someone is sent abroad in a crate, whether to Israel or to Nigeria, is not allowed while a private notice question about unemployment, which can be asked at any time, is in order? Why are Back Benchers ignored while matters coming from the Front Bench are allowed?

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is a very unworthy statement by the hon. Gentleman, who well knows that I treat the Front Benches and the Back Benches with an equal and even hand. The hon. Gentleman has not even heard the private notice question.

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

Answer the question.

Mr. Dickens

rose

Mr. Speaker

I cannot answer a question about the chairman of the Conservative party. That is what the hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens) asked about.

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

Yes, but I did not.

Mr. Eastham

rose

Mr. Skinner

rose

Sir Kenneth Lewis

rose

Mr. Speaker

I will call Mr. Eastham first.

Mr. Eastham

On a point of order Mr. Speaker. May I seek clarification? I asked the Prime Minister to make some comparisons between the Japanese economy and the disastrous British economy, but you ruled me out of order and did not give me an opportunity to pose my question. What is the reason for such conduct?

Mr. Speaker

I have explained that to the hon. Gentleman. I have said that I will read carefully in Hansard what he said. I did not hear him preface his [column 802]remarks with, “In the course of her busy day” or anything like that. May I say to the House that if, on any day, I feel that I have been unfair to any hon. Member, I have ways of putting that straight, and I always do so.

Sir Kenneth Lewis

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, have you noticed that there are 139 questions down today to the Prime Minister? My right hon. Friend is in great demand to answer questions on every subject under the sun, and she does it very well. May I ask my right hon. Friend to consider, instead of answering questions for a quarter of an hour twice a week, answering them for half a day in order to get rid of the backlog.

Mr. Faulds

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

We have a busy day ahead of us, but I will take it.

Mr. Faulds

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. This, oddly enough, is a genuine point of order. You made some comments a little earlier drawing to the attention of the House the fact that questions to the Prime Minister should have some relevance to her responsibilities. Of course, this House does not expect any longer any real answers from the Prime Minister. Would it not test the subtlety of Members of the House if you were to reinstitute the former requirement, which I think has been abandoned under your Speakership, that the questions should be prefaced by some relevance to her activities on the day on which the question is put? That old practice has increasingly been abandoned and it would be healthy for the skills of the House and a sensible return to old practice if there were a requirement to preface the question by considering today whatever the relevance of the question is.

Mr. Speaker

That is exactly the point that I was seeking to make. The hon. Gentleman makes it clearly for me and I thank him.

Mr. Adley

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I try to be helpful over this matter of Prime Minister's questions? The right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) made a fair point about paving questions, and we all know that occasionally some of us become a little long-winded in putting our paving questions. In these days of modern technology, might not a device be put to work to help you, Mr. Speaker, of the sort that is used at Wimbledon that causes bells to ring? If Members cannot get their paving questions out in the first 100 words, a bell would ring and you, Mr. Speaker, would tell them to sit down.

Mr. James Callaghan

I was wondering, Mr. Speaker, whether, to help us phrase our questions correctly, you could advise us how to distinguish between the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster requesting the BBC to act impartially and fairly and the chairman of the Conservative party sending a bullying letter.

Mr. Speaker

Order. As the right hon. Gentleman knows from his long experience, I am in no way responsible to the chairmen of political parties. I am responsible, however, for Ministers in this place when they come to the Dispatch Box.

Mr. Dickens

rose

Mr. Speaker

If the hon. Member wishes to raise a point of order I shall take it, but it must be a point of order and not a spoof.

[column 803]

Mr. Dickens

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sorry that I misled you earlier, but I was going on to say, had I been given the chance to do so, that earlier this afternoon the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), with great venom, referred to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of [column 804]Lancaster by his ordinary name in making a cheap point about broadcasting. Surely we are to return to the niceties of this place.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I judged that the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) was referring to the Minister in his capacity as chairman of a party and not as a Member of the House.