Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1987 Nov 3 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 [121/778-82]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2419
Themes: Union of UK nations, Education, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Energy, Taxation, Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Community charge ("poll tax"), Media, Northern Ireland, Security services, Social security & welfare, Terrorism
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PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Meale

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 3 November.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House I shall be having further meetings later today. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty The Queen.

Mr. Meale

Will the Prime Minister explain to the House why in the last Parliament members of her Cabinet voted against a measure to introduce free TV licences for pensioners? Can she also tell the House why her Government can always find time to help the City but never money to help British pensioners?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman is aware that it is not Government policy to give free television licences to pensioners. Such free licences would have to be paid for by increasing the cost of licences for the rest of the population and that would not be fair in any way. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the City raises about £7 billion a year for our balance of payments.

Several Hon. Members

rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. May I appeal to the House to give the Prime Minister and hon. Members who ask questions a fair hearing?

Mr. Rathbone

As life returns to normal in the south-east will my right hon. Friend spare a moment today to show her appreciation to the local authorities, the voluntary services, the emergency services and all those involved in helping the south-east return to normal? In particular, will she say a word of praise to the many people who have helped each other in their considerable [column 779]difficulties?

The Prime Minister

I gladly respond to my hon. Friend's invitation and offer a word of thanks—I believe on behalf of the whole House—to all those authorities and workers about whom my hon. Friend spoke.

Mr. Kinnock

I associate myself with the Prime Minister's last answer and should like to include, of course, the electricity workers.

The electricity industry's own plan for development until the end of the century clearly shows that it can efficiently meet its investment obligations as well as obligations for production and supply without any substantial price increases. Does the Prime Minister agree that there is absolutely no justification for inflicting any significant increases in electricity bills on either the households or the industries of Britain?

The Prime Minister

As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, there will have to be a very considerable programme for new power stations between now and the year 2000. There is a need for new stations because of increased demand and to replace old ones. That, in any event, will require a great deal of finance and a certain amount of money will have to be spent on the distribution system. The right hon. Gentleman is also aware of the amount that needs to be spent for environmental reasons on some of the coal-fired power stations. All that will constitute a massive amount of capital expenditure. My right hon. Friend Cecil Parkinsonthe Secretary of State for Energy will fix a rate of return for the electricity industry, and it is up to him[sic].

Mr. Kinnock

Does the Prime Minister not realise that those obligations for power stations and other services as well as the clearing of debts have already been accounted for in the estimates made by the electricity industry? Is it not obvious that the only reason that the Prime Minister could advance for changing the financial targets of the industry is to ensure that privatisation is an even bigger giveaway and that those who buy that new private monopoly will make even greater gains? That may be very sweet for those who buy electricity shares, but it will be very sour for those who have to buy their electricity.

The Prime Minister

This year the electricity industry plans to achieve a current cost rate of return of something just under 2.5 per cent. That is not adequate to fund the investment programmes and the rate will have to be increased. That would be true whether the industry remained in the public sector or was privatised. In fact, one power station has been ordered since the Government have been in office. Sizewell B is the first of approximately 10 stations that will be needed. The money will have to be found, and that is something like £40 billion.

Mr. Kinnock

The United States privatised electricity system has not ordered a new power station for more than two decades. Is that the future that we have to look forward to? Will the Prime Minister also acquaint herself with the plan for electricity development right to the end of the century and acknowledge that it states that the only reason for changing the estimates would be if the Government changed the financial targets? That is exactly the kind of treachery that we will see this afternoon.

The Prime Minister

All the estimates show that by the mid-1990s we shall need considerably more power stations. Indeed, we will need up to 10 by the end of the [column 780]century. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman does not understand that those stations have to be built and the money has to be found.

Mr. Marlow

With the possible exception of London, would it not be the height of political and bureaucratic masochism to run two systems of local authority finance simultaneously? Could we please have our community charge in one chunk?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend Nicholas Ridleythe Secretary of State for the Environment is considering the many representations that he has received and how best to meet them, if that is possible.

Q2. Mr. Tony Banks

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 3 November 1987.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Banks

rose——

Hon. Members

Where is the hon. Gentlemans tee shirt?

Mr. Banks

It is underneath my shirt.

There has been a great deal of talk in the House in recent weeks about sharks in the City. I want to ask the Prime Minister a question about another form of shark. These are rather lovely, pleasant and harmless sharks. I want to ask about basking sharks, and that is not a description of the Cabinet on holiday. Is the Prime Minister aware that the basking sharks in British territorial waters are being fished dangerously close to extinction by the Norwegians, and the Nature Conservancy Council has asked—[Interruption.] This is a serious point. The Nature Conservancy Council has asked that basking sharks be brought within the terms of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Knowing the Prime Minister's great concern for sharks of all descriptions, will she ensure that speedy action is taken to comply with the Nature Conservancy Council's request?

The Prime Minister

Clearly, the hon. Gentleman knows far more about sharks than I do.

Mr. Dykes

Will my right hon. Friend send a message of appreciation to the French agencies of government today reflecting the seizure of the vessel containing arms over the weekend, showing, as it does, the increase in international co-operation in the unremitting fight against terrorism, from wherever it may occur?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I am sure that the House will wish to join in congratulating the French authorities on the successful seizure of this large shipment of arms. Their action has undoubtedly saved many lives in Northern Ireland and elsewhere, and I am sure that we would all wish to send a message of appreciation.

Q3. Mr. Geraint Howells

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 3 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Howells

I am sure that the Prime Minister is aware that many children in Wales are taught through the medium of Welsh. Will she give an assurance that our inherited language will have equal status with English in a core curriculum in Wales?

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The Prime Minister

I do not think that I could give an assurance that it will have equal status with English in a core curriculum. There will, of course, be plenty of facilities for teaching and learning Welsh for those who wish to do so.

Mr. Allason

Is my right hon. Friend aware that her decision to appoint a counsellor or ombudsman for the security service will be widely welcomed within the organisations, but will she consider widening his responsibilities, thus enabling him to attend the regular directorate meetings of the security service with the status of a non-executive director?

The Prime Minister

No. The appointment was of a staff counsellor in accordance with a promise that I made to the House, and it has now been made. It is a counselling management appointment and it should not be widened.

Mr. Rees

Is it not a matter of regret that the Prime Minister chose to make her announcement about a staff counsellor by a written answer, thus preventing clarificatory questions and the widening of the issue, because there are other issues that should be discussed? Does her phrase “anxieties relating to the work of the service.” mean that the new counsellor could deal with the anxieties of the security service if a Government were to order it to carry out duties that had not been notified to Parliament?

The Prime Minister

The reply means exactly what it says. It was partly in response to people such as the right hon. Gentleman that we decided to appoint the staff counsellor. He will deal with complaints from those employed by the security service. In the first place, those will be dealt with by ordinary line management, but if anyone working for the security services feels that that is not sufficient he can go to the staff counsellor, who will be available to hear all complaints. A report would then be made to the heads of the services and the appropriate Secretary of State.

Mr. John Marshall

In view of the recent admission of failure on the part of the first-class post and the threatened disruption of the Christmas post, will my right hon. Friend reconsider the Post Office monopoly?

The Prime Minister

I share my hon. Friend's concern about the Post Office and the threat that there may not be a sufficient service for the Christmas post, but I hope that that will not come about. As my hon. Friend says, it is true that we have powers to suspend the monopoly for letters. We would be prepared to use those powers should the need arise, but we do not believe that it has arisen yet.

Q4. Mr. Andrew Welsh

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 3 November.

[column 782]

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Welsh

Is the Prime Minister aware of the CBI's overwhelming rejection of her business and poll tax proposals, which it does not believe will lead to greater accountability or to a clearer relationship between local spending and decision-making? If her political friends and all major professional bodies reject that tax system, and if those who are asked to impose it do so with reluctance, why is she inflicting it on a population that incresingly rejects it?

The Prime Minister

My understanding is that the CBI does not want rates, either. It wants rates to be cut considerably because it does not want to have to pay such a large proportion to local authorities. It wants to diminish its rates bill because it wants to cut its costs. The Government have tried to do everything possible to cut the costs that fall on companies from either central or local government. The community charge will help to cut costs for many businesses.

Mr. Adley

Will my right hon. Friend please add books to the list of items on which she has said her Government do not intend to impose value added tax?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend knows, I really cannot trespass on my right hon. Friend's Nigel Lawsonthe Chancellor's statement. I am sure that he will make a most excellent Autumn Statement and rise to the occasion, as he always does. It will be good for both the short-term and long-term interests of Britain.

Q5. Mr. Michael J. Martin

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 3 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Martin

Is the Prime Minister aware that I, no doubt like many other hon. Members, have constituents with fuel bills to the tune of £300 outstanding? Some of those families have an income of as little as £80 per week. Will the right hon. Lady consider the serious problem of fuel poverty that the high tariffs for electricity and gas are causing those families?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, the heating additions to supplementary benefit under this Government have risen enormously and now amount to more than £400 million. He is further aware that the big increases in electricity prices took place under Labour Governments. In cash terms they were of the order of 27 per cent., then 48 per cent., followed by 18 per cent. in domestic electricity. Prices have fallen by 16 per cent. in real terms under the last five years of this Government.