Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1987 Feb 24 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: House of Commons PQs
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [111/134-38]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2698
Themes: Executive, Civil liberties, Conservative Party (organization), Industry, By-elections, Monetary policy, Taxation, European Union (general), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Law & order, Media, Northern Ireland, Race, immigration, nationality, Social security & welfare, Terrorism, Strikes & other union action
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PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Donald Stewart

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 24 February.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others and addressed the conference of the Institute of Directors. 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. Stewart

In the light of leaks and forecasts about reduction in income tax in the forthcoming Budget, will the right hon. Lady take time to consider the evidence that the majority of people have a higher concept than the “I'm all right, Jack” philosophy and that they would prefer any excess funds to go to the deprived and less fortunate people in our society? Will she direct the Chancellor accordingly?

The Prime Minister

I am happy, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, to report that the Government have cut income tax and have increased personal allowances considerably and we hope that we shall go on doing so. Many of us happen to think that people such as nurses on £150 a week who have to pay £41 in income tax and national insurance contributions believe that they pay too much. Clearly, the right hon. Gentleman thinks that they pay too little.

Mr. Onslow

Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to congratulate the police and security authorities on their recent successes in catching suspected terrorists and in seizing illegal arms and explosives? Does she agree that the fight against terrorism might become much more effective if the official Opposition would stop opposing the renewal of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1984?

The Prime Minister

I gladly join my hon. Friend in congratulating the police and security authorities on their constant vigilance in our interest. I agree with him that it would be far better if the Opposition would support the Prevention of Terrorism Act instead of constantly opposing it.

Mr. Winnick

As virtually everybody, including apparently the Prime Minister, believes that the appointment of the present Conservative party chairman was disastrous, will the right hon. Lady consider in future ensuring that the position is no longer be subject to appointment but is by election? Can the right hon. Lady——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must ask about the Prime Minister's responsibilities for the appointment and duties of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

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Mr. Winnick

Can the right hon. Lady explain to the House why, although she is always on about democracy and the rest of it, she is not willing to bring about any changes in her own party, and, moreover, undermines some of the rights that Conservative party members already have?

The Prime Minister

I confirm that appointments for which I am responsible, including that of Norman Tebbitthe Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, will continue to be a matter for the Prime Minister.

Q2. Mr. Latham

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 24 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Latham

Is it not deplorable that in the week when the Russians rightly released Yosif Begun they also refused visas to three hon. Members for an entirely honourable purpose connected with a visit to Moscow for human rights? Will she please tell Mr. Gorbachev that if that is his idea of openness, it certainly is not ours?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend that it was a matter of regret that visas were refused to hon. Members of the House to attend the ceremony to present awards to seven leading refuseniks. However, I am sure that my hon. Friend will be glad to know that Sir B. Cartledgeour ambassador in Moscow has expressed regret to the Soviet authorities that the visas were not forthcoming and that he was able to present the awards on behalf of the committee and, fortunately, the recipients were allowed to enter the embassy for that purpose without hindrance.

Dr. Owen

Will the Prime Minister confirm that if the link with pensions had not been broken in 1980 the single pension would now be £5.95 extra and the married pension would be £9.40 higher? While it is impossible to give an increased pension to every person, irrespective of their income, the Government policy ought to be—like the SDP-Liberal alliance policy—to restore the link for all those pensioners who have no other source of income.

The Prime Minister

I see that the right hon. Gentleman has joined the great give-away—perhaps up to £28 billion, but we do not yet know. Our pledge to pensioners at the last election was that their pensions would be protected against inflation. They have been more than protected against inflation. Pensions have been paid to a million more pensioners, because there are that many more people. The right hon. Gentleman tries to give the impression that there should be higher pensions, but he never says what the greater burden of national insurance contributions would be on the working population.

Mr. Terlezki

Does my right hon. Friend agree that while we welcome the release of 140 innocent people from slave labour camps, and while it is very important to negotiate about disarmament, it is also very important to negotiate about human rights? When she goes to Moscow, will she tell Mr. Gorbachev that we will give him a vote of confidence only when he practises what he preaches?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend. The releases from prison that have been made are welcome, but there are many thousands more to go. We shall be discussing human rights with Mr. Gorbachev. We welcome what has happened, but, as my hon. Friend points out, many other improvements remain to be made.

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Q3. Mr. Tony Banks

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 24 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Tony Banks

Will the Prime Minister find time today to condemn utterly the vicious, personal and dishonest attacks being waged by certain newspapers against Deirdre Wood, Labour's candidate in the Greenwich by-election? As the Prime Minister clearly has such influence with those newspapers, will she call in the editors and see whether she can get some form of code of honest conduct to be used for by-elections?

The Prime Minister

I am the first to condemn vicious personal attacks, from whatever quarter they may come. I am the first to say that politics everywhere should be about constructive policies and not about personalities.

Q4. Mr. Dykes

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 24 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Dykes

Will my right hon. Friend join me today in welcoming the unanimous statement of the EEC Foreign Ministers supporting the idea of an international conference on peace in the middle east—an idea emanating from a number of sources, including the Soviet Union? Will she, on her forthcoming visit to the Soviet Union, discuss this matter with Mr. Gorbachev?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I join my hon. Friend in welcoming that pronouncement by the EEC Foreign Ministers. The suggestion for an international conference as a background for middle east negotiations between the two parties directly concerned has been around for a long time. I think that it first came from Jordan. It must be clear that all participants in any such conference would have to accept United Nations Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 as a basis for taking part.

Mr. Kinnock

The Prime Minister claimed earlier today that Britain's industrial base is now healthier than at any time for at least a generation. While I wish that were true, may I ask her to explain how she can make such a claim when manufacturing investment is still 20 per cent. lower than it was in 1979, when manufacturing output has yet to reach the levels that it was at in 1979, when manufactured exports have gone up by 15 per cent. under her premiership and manufactured imports have gone up by 50 per cent. under her premiership? If that is what she thinks is healthy, thank heavens she is not a doctor.

The Prime Minister

Yes, manufacturing is much healthier now than for a generation. It is no longer overmanned. The atmosphere in industrial relations is now infinitely better than it ever was under previous Governments. Manufacturing productivity has gone up faster than in many other countries and management is now able to manage. We now have a very healthy manufacturing industry—something we never had before.

Mr. Kinnock

When manufacturing industry is that much smaller, how it can be that much more healthy is very difficult to perceive. [Hon. Members: “Oh!” ] Perhaps the Prime Minister can explain that to the 2 million people who have lost their jobs in manufacturing industry. How [column 137]can it be more healthy when it is 17 per cent. less competitive than it was in 1979, when engineering, construction and other industries have severe skills shortages and when even the Chancellor of the Exchequer has to admit that this year we shall have a manufactured trade deficit of over £7 billion? I ask again, where is the healthiness?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman says that there are 2 million fewer jobs in industry. It will not help to overman manufacturing industry to the extent of 2 million jobs, even though it is nationalised. That is the right hon. Gentleman's policy—put manufacturing industry back to overmanning and make it less competitive. That is the road to ruination. We must have competitive and sound manufacturing firms. They are. Their profitability is up, their productivity is up and their export volume is up. Manufacturing output has risen by nearly 11 per cent. since the last general election. It is in a good state. That is what the right hon. Gentleman cannot stand. The Confederation of British Industry and everyone else is saying that things are optimistic and good, but not the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. McCrindle

Perhaps I may revert to the question about pensions asked by the leader of the Social Democratic party. Was the right hon. Gentleman not a member of an Administration which, having introduced the very linkage to which he now refers——

Mr. Speaker

Order. Will the hon. Gentleman please link his question to Prime Ministerial responsibility?

Mr. McCrindle

Does my right hon. Friend recall that, when the leader of the SDP was a member of a Labour Administration, there was indeed the link to which he now refers, but does she also recall that in two years out of five that Administration failed to implement the link?

The Prime Minister

I thank and congratulate my hon. Friend on making his point so effectively and accurately.

Q5. Mr. Tom Clarke

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 24 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Clarke

Does the Prime Minister accept that the present industrial dispute involving a large majority of Scottish prison officers is an indication of their frustration at overcrowding, understaffing and a lack of revenue resources for Scottish prisons? Does she further accept that the Government's neglect is particularly unacceptable in view of the increase in the Scottish crime rate of over 50 per cent. since she came to office?

The Prime Minister

I accept that there are considerable problems with prisons in England and Wales and in Scotland. I have also told the hon. Gentleman that the Government have done more than any previous Government to build new and modern prisons.

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Q6. Mr. Richard Shepherd

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 24 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Shepherd

Will my right hon. Friend urgently consider introducing legislation to adopt the practice of India, Pakistan, Canada, the United States of America, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina, among others, and impose fines on airlines which bring in people without valid entry documents?

The Prime Minister

It is crucial that airlines do not bring in people unless they have the proper documentation. Carriers are already required to pay the detention and other costs of people whom they bring in to the United Kingdom and who are refused entry. As my right hon. Friend Douglas Hurdthe Home Secretary said last week, the Government are considering urgently whether to follow the example of certain other countries, including the Federal Republic of Germany and Canada, in taking powers to impose financial penalties on carriers who bring people to this country without the necessary passports, visas or other documents. Both the powers and the penalties may well need to be retrospective.

Mr. Hume

Will the Prime Minister join me in calling on the leaders of all the major parties in the House to make clear, as she and the Leader of the Opposition have already done, that whatever the outcome of the election, it will make no difference to the attitudes of those parties to the Anglo-Irish Agreement, as expressed in a vote in the House, and that they will not engage in any power bargaining on that issue?

The Prime Minister

These agreements are signed between countries and not between parties. The Anglo-Irish Agreement therefore will continue.

Q7. Mr. Bellingham

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 24 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Bellingham

Will my right hon. Friend find time today to consider the City? Does she agree with me that recent criminal proceedings are evidence that the Government's legislation to stamp out insider trading is working? Does she also agree with me that under the last Labour Government nothing whatsoever was done to combat fraud in the City?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Mr. Speaker. This Government will give priority to rooting out financial misconduct and wrongdoing wherever it occurs; witness the action that we have taken to make insider trading a criminal offence. As my hon. Friend also raises the general matter of the City, may I point out that the City as a whole earns a net £7.5 billion in foreign exchange? It is of immense value to our balance of payments and to the country as a whole.