Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [122/157-62]
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2635
Themes: Parliament, Education, Industry, Energy, Trade, Foreign policy - theory and process, Health policy, Local government, Northern Ireland, Social security & welfare, Terrorism
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Q1. Mr. Rooker

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 10 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. Rooker

Does the Prime Minister accept that, when the state causes an avoidable injustice to a citizen, compensation and help should be swift and substantial? That being so, why is there such a delay in dealing with the legitimate claim of 1,200 of our fellow citizens who suffer from haemophilia and who have contracted the AIDS virus from the use of dirty blood products? They were not to blame and we need to help them.

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend John Moorethe Secretary of State is considering this matter and I hope that he will have a statement to make shortly.

Mr. Peter Robinson

During the course of the day, will the Prime Minister reflect upon the massacre in Enniskillen on Sunday? As Ulster once again buries its dead, will she attempt to project herself forward into the meetings at council chambers up and down Northern Ireland where Unionists councillors and others have to sit down with representatives of the Provisional IRA? Will she take the obvious and logical step to proscribe Sinn Fein and any other organisation that supports terrorism?

The Prime Minister

We are concerned about the presence in Northern Ireland of district councillors who support terrorist violence. We believe that parties should choose between violence and democratic ways. A recent discussion paper canvassed a number of possible solutions to this problem, and my right hon. Friend Tom Kingthe Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will consider what further steps should be taken in the light of comments received. The possibility of proscribing a number of organisations, Sinn Fein and UDA among them, is kept under review, but proscription is a blanket measure that would go further than the specific problem. We shall await further consultation results before we make up our mind.

Mr. Kinnock

May I first say how much I agree with the view expressed by the Prime Minister that those who pursue the so-called joint strategy of the ballot and the bullet are guilty of both hypocrisy and complete incompatability with a democracy. Will the right hon. Lady accept that, even in the wake of the barbarism at Enniskillen, she is completely right to resist demands for the return of internment, since that would be more likely to give some form of perverse reward to the terrorists than enhanced security? Can the Prime Minister now tell us whether she will be meeting the Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey, to consider new joint initiatives to improve security and intensify the use of the Anglo-Irish Agreement for that purpose?

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The Prime Minister

At the moment I have no plans to meet Charles Haugheythe Taoiseach. I shall be seeing him in the margins of the European Council at the beginning of December. I believe that at the moment events are speaking very loudly to those who have important decisions to make.

Sir Giles Shaw

Does my right hon. Friend consider that the unity of condemnation in the House against the outrage on Sunday should be followed by unity of purpose in dealing with terrorism? Does that suggest to my right hon. Friend that those who have consistently opposed the Prevention of Terrorism Act should now reconsider their position?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. The Prevention of Terrorism Act will come up for renewal in the coming year and I hope that we shall have unity of purpose in supporting it.

Mr. David Marshall

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 10 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Marshall

Is the Prime Minister aware of the Age Concern prediction that almost 1 million pensioners are at risk this winter? As she has stated that she needs the comfort of a £100 cashmere sweater to keep warm, what does she intend to do to prevent less well-off pensioners from freezing to death this winter?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, the heating additions are higher than they have ever been, both on the regular supplementary benefit, where they go the whole year through to enable people to buy cheaper coal during the summer if they wish, and the severe weather payments, which have been the object of many questions in the House and which we have changed so that we now believe that they will achieve the best possible results.

Mr. Hayes

I hope that my right hon. Friend is greatly encouraged by the fact that on Sunday every Catholic priest in Ireland will be preaching on the sinfulness of those who harbour the Remembrance Day butchers. Does she agree that when those people are brought to justice, it must be British justice, before a British court and a British judge, and that any foreign Government who attempt to foil this will not be forgiven or forgotten by the House?

The Prime Minister

I think that we are all encouraged by the universal condemnation and repugnance felt by the whole world about the vile act that took place in Enniskillen. I agree with my hon. Friend that the justice in Northern Ireland is the justice of the United Kingdom and the courts of the United Kingdom.

Select Committees

Q3. Mr. Allen

To ask the Prime Minister what representations she has received about the establishment of Select Committees to monitor Government Departments.

The Prime Minister

I have received a small number of representations, including one from the hon. Member.

Mr. Allen

Does the Prime Minister agree that the inability to bring forward and to find time on the Floor [column 159]of the House for a given number of reports from Select Committees that are meant to oversee Government Departments weakens the accountability of the Government in the parliamentary process? Will she make representations to her hon. Friends to bring forward the recommendations of the Procedure Committee to ensure that Select Committees have a proper place in our parliamentary process?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, there were motions on the Order Paper about Select Committees which were objected to yesterday, and which are still on the Order Paper today. Select Committees have an important role. They have a considerable number of days allocated to them for debate, but if the hon. Gentleman thinks that that is not enough he should have a word with his Front Bench to secure more of the Opposition's days.

Mr. Ashby

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the Ombudsman committee already does an excellent job in overseeing Government Departments? Will she consider extending the jurisdiction of that committee to include the Police Complaints Authority?

The Prime Minister

Any such questions should be addressed in the first place to John Wakehamthe Leader of the House. I am wary about saying anything about Select Committees without first consulting my right hon. Friend, for very good reasons.

Mr. Bell

When the Prime Minister considers the establishment of Select Committees to monitor Government Departments, will she consider a Select Committee to monitor the progress of the Anglo-Irish Agreement? Does she agree with the Government of the Republic of Ireland that, with the Government of the United Kingdom, we can use the agreement to put behind us the tragic events of Sunday and seek peace, stability and reconciliation for the whole of Ireland?

The Prime Minister

I believe that the Anglo-Irish Agreement offers the best chance that we have of enhancing security co-operation with the Irish. Tom KingMy right hon. Friend will be having further urgent talks with Irish Ministers about security. Perhaps the statement that we had yesterday and the universal expressions of opinion from both sides of the House spoke volumes more than any Select Committee could.

Sir John Farr

Will my right hon. Friend also bear in mind that quite a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House think that we are getting on rather well without Select Committees? Bearing in mind the excesses of some of the Select Committees in the last Parliament, will she not be in a hurry to see that they are re-established?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend knows, motions on the membership of most of the Select Committees were put before the House yesterday and objected to. They remain on the Order Paper and the House will have an opportunity to consider them in the normal way.

I have heard what my hon. Friend has said about the Select Committees. The House decided that they should monitor each Department, and we therefore do not have anything like a Science and Technology Committee. If I am allowed to have a personal opinion, I must say that I have always rather regretted that.

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Q4. Mr. Alton

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 10 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Alton

In the discussions between the British and Irish Governments, will the Prime Minister look carefully at the establishment of a joint security commission and the need for a unitary judicial system and joint anti-terrorist legislation, passed both by the Dail and Westminster? Does she agree about the paramount importance of the Dail enacting the new extradiction agreement on 1 December?

The Prime Minister

I see no reason at all to have a joint security commission. The Anglo-Irish Agreement enables us to consider security matters—the Republic of Ireland to raise them with us, and we to raise them with Ministers from the Republic of Ireland—so that, by co-operation, we may achieve better security. We must operate that agreement, trying all the time to enhance security.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that every nation should fight terrorism—every single one. I hope that people will consider, among other things, where the arms are coming from and what action they can take through their ordinary policies about that. We must all fight terrorism, but between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom we must fight it through the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

Mr. Thornton

Is my right hon. Friend aware of an initiative by the Liverpool Society of Chartered Accountants and the Merseyside task force that is called “Business Opportunities on Merseyside” ? Is she also aware that that initiative was launched at a well-attended conference this morning at the Barbican? Will my right hon. Friend congratulate those bodies on showing the real face of Merseyside, and reaffirm her view that a partnership between the public and private sectors is the best way to regenerate our inner cities?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend, particlarly about the need for more businesses—especially small businesses—to start up. It is vital that the local authority welcomes private enterprise and the operations of the private sector.

Q5. Mr. Welsh

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 10 November.

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 anxiety expressed by Scottish parents, teachers and churches about the Government's school management proposals, which are designed more for England than for Scotland? Does she agree that, after a period of prolonged industrial dispute and massive curriculum changes, we require stability rather than divisive, alien ideas, which have been forced upon an unwilling population and on what is still arguably the best education system in Europe?

The Prime Minister

I believe that the Bill coming before the House concerning education in Scotland is designed to give parents more power and influence over their schools. That is a good thing to do and will be welcomed by many Scottish parents.

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Q6. Mr. Anthony Coombs

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 10 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Coombs

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, in terms of sustained growth and profitability, British industry is stronger now than it has been for 20 years? Will she further confirm that, in addition to making representations to the United States Government about reducing their budget, and, therefore, their trade deficit, representations should also be made to countries such as West Germany and Japan—which have practised unduly restrictive trade and monetary policies over the past few years—to avoid an unnecessary fall in world trade?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend that British industry is healthy, fit and flourishing, that its profitability is higher than it has been for many years and that it is exporting well, particularly manufactured products. With regard to the wider economic scene, it is absolutely vital that we first have decisions upon the deficit in the United States and how the President and Congress together propose to deal with it. I agree with my hon. [column 162]Friend that as soon as we have that it is vital for there to be a meeting of the G7 countries and to get co-operation, especially from Japan and Germany, about what they and we can do to help implement the decision from the United States to restore confidence in the world economic community.

Q7. Mr. Salmond

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 10 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Salmond

Is the Prime Minister aware of the growing concern that NIREX, having failed to dump nuclear waste in East Anglia, is turning its attention to Scotland? However poorly the Prime Minister may think of us, does she accept that the people of Scotland will not tolerate the country being used as a dumping ground for Europe's nuclear waste?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Member is aware, the question of how nuclear waste will be disposed of is still under consideration. He will also be aware that we all, including Scotland, have nuclear power stations. I am sure that he supports those nuclear power stations and also supports the interesting experiments at Dounreay into a different method of nuclear generation.