Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1987 Jan 27 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [109/177-82]
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2775
Themes: Defence (general), Education, Employment, Industry, Trade, European Union (general), Foreign policy (USA), Labour Party & socialism, Law & order, Media, Northern Ireland, Security services, Strikes & other union action
[column 177]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Thurnham

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 27 January.

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.

Mr. Thurnham

Does my right hon. Friend agree that those who serve the most vulnerable in our society—the disabled, the sick and the elderly—should remember that the telephone is a lifeline, as should Opposition Members who support the bully tactics of striking militants?

The Prime Minister

I share my hon. Friend's concern about the industrial action and its effects on businesses, jobs, the old and the sick. Having expressed that concern, it is right that we should also thank those employees of British Telecom who are keeping the telephone network going, and those who are maintaining the emergency services in spite of working under difficult circumstances at times.

Mr. Kinnock

It is now publicly clear from the Prime Minister's answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) that the Government knew in October of the intention to include specific material on a secret defence project in a BBC programme. Can the Prime Minister explain the contrast between four months of complacency and four days of activity last week, of seeking injunctions, sending Treasury Solicitor's letters, threatening newspaper editors and sending the police into magazine offices? Why so casual for so long and so frenzied so late?

The Prime Minister

As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, in October 1986 the Government learnt of the BBC's intention to show specific material on a secret defence project. Discussions took place between the Government and the BBC, which subsequently decided, as a result of those discussions, not to show the material on the project. Therefore, the discussions were successful.

[column 178]

Mr. Kinnock

Does the Prime Minister really hope to convince the country that a chat with the BBC is a sufficient way in which to safeguard national security? Does she agree—[Interruption.]—that if a national security secret is worth having it is worth keeping, and that it required proper action in October to see that it was kept? Does she agree that her actions, subsequent to last week, have been produced by lateness, clumsiness and vindictiveness?

The Prime Minister

The discussions with the BBC were successful. The BBC decided not to show the film. I am advised that no injunction would have been obtained without evidence against the New Statesman that would have satisfied the judge that there was a significant risk of the New Statesman publishing material on the project. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman should direct his strictures against the New Statesman and Duncan Campbell.

Mr. Kinnock

The New Statesman would not have come into it had the Prime Minister acted when she knew that there was likely to be material that would jeopardise national security, as she defined it. Will the Prime Minister now tell us why there was complacency and inactivity for four months and such frenzy for four days?

The Prime Minister

I have already said that, as a result of the action which the Government took——

Mr. Campbell-Savours

The right hon. Lady failed to act.

The Prime Minister

—the BBC did not show that film. I have already said that, with regard to the New Statesman, I am advised that no injunction would have been obtained without evidence that would have satisfied the judge that there was a significant risk of the New Statesman publishing material on the project. Again I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that I think he should direct his strictures at Left-wing organs such as the New Statesman, which have, in spite of the fact that the BBC refused to show the film, deliberately attempted to release material which is contrary to national security.

Sir Marcus Fox

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider the practice of consulting the Leader of the Opposition on matters of security, bearing in mind that Mr. Duncan Campbell, an adviser to the Labour party on security and defence matters, already has one conviction for breaking the Official Secrets Act? [Hon. Members: “Oh!” ]

The Prime Minister

That is not a matter for me.

Mr. Steel

Is the Prime Minister concerned—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. This noise takes up a lot of time.

Mr. Steel

Is the Prime Minister concerned at the damage done to British-Irish relations by the disclosure of the interception of communications with the Irish embassy? Is it the Government's policy to monitor communications of members of the European Community in this way? Is this not another example of the case for a senior parliamentary committee to oversee the intelligence services?

The Prime Minister

As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, there is a long-established practice that Governments do not comment on matters of this kind. That was the practice of the Government whom the right hon. Gentleman's party kept in power too.

[column 179]

Q2. Mr. Budgen

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 27 January.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Budgen

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the educational policies of Brent have now spread to Wolverhampton where, at the Colton Hills school, white and West Indian pupils have been forced to attend Punjabi lessons without the consent of their parents and without proper consultation? Is my right hon. Friend further aware that when the parents objected to this piece of social engineering they were treated with abuse and arrogance? Is it not clear that the Tory manifesto ought to contain a clear commitment to reducing the power of politicians and to increasing the power of parents?

The Prime Minister

I am aware of my hon. Friend's concern on this matter and of the fact that he has already had an Adjournment debate in the House on it. As he knows, the new Education Act gives parents stronger representation on governing bodies, and the first annual meeting for parents must be held before the end of this year's summer term.

With regard to the wider matter, we are anxious that parents should be given a stronger voice in the education of their children and that they should have greater freedom to choose the school which best suits their child.

Q3. Mr. Haynes

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 27 January.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Haynes

Is the Prime Minister aware that the House and the nation are watching the Government farce on Zircon—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Noise takes up a lot of time.

Mr. Haynes

Who arranged the initial botching and who then arranged the bullying?

The Prime Minister

I think that people outside the House are very critical of those who choose to use national defence secrets for their own personal gain.

Mr. Sims

Has my right hon. Friend noticed that President Reagan has now signed orders which will come into effect this weekend and which will increase substantially duties on gin and other EEC products? Will she use her best endeavours to persuade the Americans to approach these negotiations over trade problems with the EEC in a reasonable frame of mind and avoid a trade war, which can only harm all the parties concerned?

The Prime Minister

We are greatly concerned about the matter which my hon. Friend has raised. We take the view that the enlargement of the European Community is something that benefits the United States as well, and is rather more than a trade matter. So we have protested very vigorously against the measures that the United States proposes and will continue to negotiate with it on this and other trading matters. I agree with my hon. Friend that if we go into a measure of protectionism now there is no telling where it may end.

Mr. Robin Cook

Has the Prime Minister been notified that yesterday police removed correspondence to Duncan Campbell from a senior member of her Government? Has [column 180]she been further advised that the correspondence makes it clear that the senior member of her Government supplied information for the series “The Secret Society” , met Duncan Campbell to discuss it and was willing to appear in one of the programmes? In view of her strictures against Duncan Campbell and the New Statesman, does she not think that the House is entitled to know the name of that senior member of her Government, who only last autumn took such a markedly different attitude to both of them?

The Prime Minister

The police have used powers which they have under the appropriate and proper authorities. Any information that they have obtained is a matter for them and for any prosecuting authorities.

Mr. Galley

Will my right hon. Friend ask her right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Employment to lay a report before Parliament setting out the likely employment consequences if Her Majesty's Government were to adopt a policy of a minimum national wage of £80 a week, control of inward investment and other policies espoused by the Labour party? Will she confirm that the likely outcome would be a million more jobs lost?

The Prime Minister

If these policies were to be followed, and if we added to them the phasing out of all civilian nuclear power and the removal of all American nuclear bases, the result would be very much higher unemployment in this country than we now have.

Q4. Mr. George

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 27 January.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. George

In the light of the regrettable lapses as regards security and the intelligence services, is this not the wrong time for the Government to be considering booting out the Ministry of Defence policemen guarding MI5 and MI6 headquarters? Is this not the ultimate idiocy in privatisation? Will the Prime Minister call for the files and see if these proposals can be conveniently shelved?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, we do not discuss these matters in the House.

Q6. Mr. Hayes

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 27 January.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Hayes

Will my right hon. Friend advise Her Majesty to arrange an urgent and important meeting with the Leader of the Opposition so that he can explain his recent eccentric behaviour in saying on one day that he would not talk to Sinn Fein and, on the next, sending his Northern Ireland spokesman to speak to them? Does this not smell of hypocrisy?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend is aware, we take the view that Ministers do not talk to Sinn Fein. What the right hon. Gentleman Neil Kinnockthe Leader of the Opposition does is a matter for him.

Q8. Mr. Boyes

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 27 January.

The Prime Minister

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

[column 181]

Mr. Boyes

Is it not a fact that the Government bungled the matter last week? Is The Guardian not correct in its editorial when it suggests that the Prime Minister is now trying to cover her embarrassment

“by increasingly dubious and reckless means” ?

Is that not a ridiculous way for the Government to behave? Would the Prime Minister like to comment on the increasing press and media criticism of her reckless, dubious, bungling ways?

The Prime Minister

The action of the Government prevented the showing of the film, or the BBC agreed not to show the film. The trouble has arisen because of Left-wing organs like the New Statesman and people anxious to ferret out the secrets of national security in order to sell them either for personal gain or some kind of personal notoriety.

Q11. Mrs. Clwyd

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 27th January.

The Prime Minister

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

Mrs. Clwyd

In view of the detailed information on satellites in a book entitled The Ties That Bind, published in 1985 by Allen and Unwin—far more detailed information than anything Mr. Duncan Campbell revealed either in his film or articles—why has the Prime Minister decided not to prosecute the authors of this book?

The Prime Minister

Matters of prosecution are for the prosecuting authorities, not for politicians. They never have been and never are. With regard to the recent matter, may I add to what was said in the House the other day. One breach or threatened breach will not justify a further breach.

[column 182]

Mr. Bruce

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Arising out of questions?

Mr. Bruce

It will be.

Mr. Speaker

It must be a point of order that I can answer, not a continuation of Question Time.

Mr. George

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The role of the Ministry of Defence police is apparently not to be discussed in this House. Can the Prime Minister tell me where the debate on the Ministry of Defence——

Mr. Speaker

Order. Prime Minister's Questions are at an end.

Mr. Nicholls

On a point of order arising out of questions last Thursday.

Mr. Speaker

I cannot take that now.

Mr. Madden

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, on an intervention that occurred yesterday.

Mr. Speaker

I shall take it later on.

Mr. Caborn

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Arising out of questions today?

Mr. Caborn

Yes. Can you inform the House, in the light of the Prime Minister's earlier answers, whether debate will be ruled out of order on proceedings on the Ministry of Defence Police Bill [Lords], on Wednesday, because that was the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George)? If so, that will therefore be ruled out of order.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman can raise what he likes in debate, but the Prime Minister's Question Time is at an end.