Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1987 Mar 12 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [112/460-464]
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2173
Themes: Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Education, Industry, General Elections, Local elections, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Taxation, Law & order, Local government, Local government finance, Media, Trade union law reform, Strikes & other union action
[column 460]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. McLoughlin

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 12 March.

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, including one with the Prime Minister of Thailand.

Mr. McLoughlin

During her busy day will my right hon. Friend find time to consider the action that is being taken by some teaching unions? Does she not find it strange that they took action to get a pay rise, that they have now been awarded a pay rise, and that they are taking action again? Is it not true that the only people who will suffer as a result are the teaching professions and those in state education?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend makes his own point very effectively. The disruption in our schools is now totally unjustified, and I think it is absolutely appalling that some teachers pursue their own interests by damaging the education of the children in their care.

Mr. Kinnock

As information about an illegal concert party operating in the shares of Westland plc has been available to the Government for some months, what action have the Government taken to establish who precisely was involved with the nominee companies and what measures can be taken against such persons?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend Paul Channonthe Secretary of State for Trade and Industry made it quite clear some time ago that he was not taking any further action on this matter. I believe that that was announced some time in August.

Mr. Kinnock

Does that answer come from the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister because they are certain that no one who is involved in this operation falls within United Kingdom jurisdiction? If they are certain, can they tell us how they know that?

The Prime Minister

I am not quite certain whether the right hon. Gentleman is referring to something that has come to light in recent times. That, of course, will be considered in the appropriate way.

Mr. Kinnock

I was trying to clarify the basis upon which the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and now the Prime Minister have taken their view. That is especially necessary, is it not, because 12 months ago the Prime Minister said that decisions about Westland plc should be in the hands of the shareholders. When, so [column 461]obviously, a concert party was operating that had a major effect on the outcome, does the Prime Minister not think that she ought to pursue the matter further?

The Prime Minister

I understand that on 28 August 1986, following receipt of advice from Sir Michael Haversthe Attorney-General, Paul Channonthe Secretary of State decided, finally, not to appoint inspectors. Westland, the solicitors of Societe Nationale Industrielle Aerospatiale, the Takeover Panel and the Stock Exchange were all informed on 10 September. There has been no reaction from any of these parties.

Sir Peter Emery

Will my right hon. Friend, during the day, give instructions to those who may be accompanying her to Moscow to the effect that, for the defence of Europe, it is imperative that any agreement on disarmament should cover not only intermediate-range nuclear weapons but the shorter-range weapons, which may be no danger to the United States but are a major danger to European defence?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. This is a highly complicated matter, as he knows. As I have made clear in the House on several occasions, we cannot look at any single aspect of arms control in isolation. An INF agreement must provide for restraints on those shorter-range systems which could be used to circumvent an INF agreement. These are the longer-range SRINF; in practice it means the Soviet SS12, SS22 and SS23. I believe that the draft treaty tabled by the United States will do that effectively. At the same time, there must be provision for follow-on negotiations to deal further with those systems and to rectify the imbalance in shorter-range systems, comprising shorter range INF and SNF with a range of less than 500 kilometres. We also need to tackle the conventional imbalance: as nuclear weapons are reduced, measures to deal with disparities in conventional forces become even more important. [Interruption.] Yes, it is a very important question. Because of its complexity I thought it right to get the position absolutely clear.

Mr. Steel

In view of the judgment in the House of Lords this afternoon disqualifying 47 councillors in Liverpool, will the Prime Minister recognise that the financial damage that they have left behind will require united action in the city and co-operation from the Government to rectify it? Will she, therefore, agree to meet next week a broadly based deputation of the political, church and industrial leaders from the city?

The Prime Minister

No, Mr. Speaker. Liverpool council was democratically elected. The decision which has been taken today has been reached properly in accordance with the law. There will be local elections and by-elections, I expect, on 7 May, when the council will be reconstituted. Those democratically elected must learn to take responsibility for their actions.

Mr. Shersby

Will my right hon. Friend take time during her busy day to consider the very serious concern expressed by many sections of the community about the possession of chemical weapons by the Soviet Union? Will she discuss the matter with Mr. Gorbachev during her forthcoming visit?

The Prime Minister

We have been gravely concerned about chemical weapons and we have been active in trying [column 462]to secure disarmament in these weapons, as we gave them up a considerable time ago. I expect that that matter will come up during the deliberations.

Q2. Mr. Campbell-Savours

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 12 March.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Campbell -Savours

Is the Prime Minister aware of the outrage felt throughout the northern region over the switch by the BBC of the transmission of programmes for Cumbria from Newcastle to Manchester? Is the Prime Minister aware—[Interruption.] Is is a very important distinction. Is the Prime Minister aware that despite a poll of 6,042 people carried out by Cumbrian Newspapers in which 96.8 per cent. of the respondents opposed the switch, and a poll that I carried out in the Grasslot miners' welfare in Maryport, where only two of 260 people I consulted agreed with the switch——

Mr. Speaker

Order. This does not relate to the Prime Minister's responsibility.

Mr. Campbell -Savours

The BBC insists——

Mr. Speaker

Order. Come to the question. Opinion polls are not a matter for the Prime Minister.

Mr. Campbell -Savours

The BBC insists on this decision—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must relate his question to the Prime Minister's responsibility. I think the hon. Gentleman has asked his question. Opinion polls are not a matter for the Prime Minister.

Mr. Campbell -Savours

Does the Prime Minister believe that the BBC should respond to what the people want and not take arbitrary decisions on its own behalf, without consulting the people?

The Prime Minister

I am aware of the hon. Gentleman's concern because he has written to me extensively about this matter. I believe my right hon. Friend Douglas Hurdthe Home Secretary has explained to him that the reorganisation of television services by the BBC is wholly a matter for the BBC and the Government have no power to intervene in the regional organisation of BBC services. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will have put his own protests through to the relevant Committee, but by drawing attention to this matter in the House he has demonstrated his concern to the BBC.

Q3. Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 12 March.

The Prime Minister

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

Mrs. Bottomley

Will the Prime Minister urgently send President Reagan a copy of Monday's Hansard to remind him, prior to his meeting with the Leader of the Opposition, that successive Governments of all parties, and all sensible people, support effective defence policies?

The Prime Minister

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that the defence policies of the Opposition would gravely endanger, the NATO Alliance, which is the cornerstone of our security. We cannot claim to be a loyal [column 463]member of that Alliance while disassociating ourselves from its strategy, based on nuclear deterrence. My hon. Friend is quite correct.

Mr. Heffer

Is the right hon. Lady aware that the so-called irresponsible council of Liverpool in the last three years has built 4,600 houses, put 11,600 people into work in the construction industry, built sports centres and nursing schools, kept down the rents of people living in council houses, and at the same time has kept down rates to 5 per cent.? If that is irresponsible, what about the actions of the Secretary of State for the Environment, who has broken the law five times and has had to come to this House in order to get legislation to put it right? It is a scandal.

The Prime Minister

Liverpool city council is responsible for running its financial affairs prudently. Three separate courts—the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords—have now confirmed the district auditors' view that Liverpool councillors incurred losses for the city council by deliberately delaying the setting of a rate for 1985–86. The courts found that they acted wilfully or at best with disregard for the legality of their actions.

Q4. Mr. Watts

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 12 March.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Watts

Will my right hon. Friend find time to consider the relative merits of public expenditure and tax [column 464]cuts? In doing so will she reject the advice of those, like the Leader of the Opposition, who have substantial incomes, and consider instead the needs of families on average incomes who need large tax cuts to meet excessive rate increases imposed by local authorities?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend. As he knows, our aim has been, and will continue to be, to reduce the burden of income tax when it is prudent to do so, particularly to help those on modest incomes. He knows some of the examples which I have frequently used which demonstrate the point. A nurse on earnings of £155 a week pays £43 of that gross pay in income tax and national insurance contributions. A primary school teacher pays, out of a weekly salary of £205, some £61 in tax and national insurance contributions. Both of those figures make the case for reductions in income tax.

Mr. Dormand

In the little time left to the right hon. Lady before her defeat in the next general election, what does she intend to do to repair the damage to personal freedoms, to reverse the trend towards centralisation of power and to restore some regard for truth in public affairs?

The Prime Minister

On the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, I would not deny him the pleasure of whistling in the dark. On the second part, I point out the steps that the Government have taken to enlarge freedom by the number of controls that we have cut and by taking away from trade union bosses practically the government of this country as well as the power to dictate to their members.