Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1987 Nov 12 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: House of Commons PQs
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [122/547-52]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2418
Themes: Executive, Conservatism, Economy (general discussions), Employment, Privatized & state industries, Pay, Trade, Health policy, Law & order, Media, Northern Ireland, Security services, Terrorism, Transport
[column 547]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Nelson

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 12 November 1987.

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 the House I shall be having further meetings later today.

Mr. Nelson

Will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity today to welcome the decision by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the commendably swift report by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission giving the go-ahead to the bid by British Airways for British Caledonian? Does she agree that such a merger is likely to be in the interests of both companies, their employees and customers, and that it is wholly consistent with the Government's competition policy? However, will she give an undertaking that if British Airways fails to comply with the conditions for competition the Government will not hesitate to refer British Airways back to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend that the Monopolies and Mergers Commission worked with commendable speed and that the decision by my right hon. Friend Lord Young of Graffhamthe Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has been widely welcomed. I also agree that the merger is consistent with the Government's policy on competition. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has made it clear that he expects the Monopolies and Mergers Commission proposals to be fully implemented. Assuming that the merger goes ahead, the chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority has undertaken to report in a year to my right hon. Friend Paul Channonthe Secretary of State for Transport about its implementation on the basis proposed.

[column 548]

Mr. Kinnock

Are we to take it for granted that from now on the Government's policy on competition is the creation of private monopolies in gas, electricity and airlines, regardless of the interests of the consumer?

The Prime Minister

No. The right hon. Gentleman is aware that the BCal-British Airways merger was referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. He is also aware that in the absence of an adverse public interest finding by the MMC there are no powers for Lord Young of Graffhamthe Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to prevent the merger. The right hon. Gentleman must await the Bill on electricity privatisation to see how that industry is to be privatised.

Mr. Kinnock

The terms of reference of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission are one thing; the Government's role as the ultimate safeguarder of the public interest is another. Will the Prime Minister answer the question? Is the future to be one of private monopolies, whereas previously she has been critical of public monopolies?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is critical of the decision. [Hon. Members: “Answer” ]. I will answer in my own way. The right hon. Gentleman is critical of the decision taken on British Airways and British Caledonian. That is the meaning of his question. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Prime Minister must be given a chance to answer.

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend took the decision to refer the merger to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. The commission decided that the acquisition would not operate against the public interest and I have just informed the right hon. Gentleman that, in the absence of an adverse public interest finding by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, there are no powers for the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to prevent the merger. Our competition policy remains. There are other powers under competition legislation if concerns arise in the future.

Q2. Mr. Bowis

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 12 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Bowis

Will my right hon. Friend spend a little time today looking at the latest unemployment figures, which show that for the 16th month in succession unemployment has fallen—to below 10 per cent.? Does she agree that, together with the steady growth in inflation, the steadiness in inflation and the value of the pound, the people of this country and abroad can rejoice in the strength of the British economy, which strength has come about through her Government?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is quite right. The unemployment figures today are encouraging. Unemployment has now fallen by a record 445,000 over the past year, faster than in any other major industrialised country. Six years of economic growth show the wisdom of the Government's economic policies. Sound finance and British enterprise have produced the highest standard of living the country has ever known.

Q3. Mr. Fatchett

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 12 November.

The Prime Minister

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

[column 549]

Mr. Fatchett

In a week in which the House has experienced the sordid use of bought political influence, it has been announced that private companies, without any reference to their shareholders, donated more than £2.5 million to the Conservative party in 1986. Is it not time that the Government introduced legislation to provide that shareholders are balloted before companies make political contributions, or is this simply another case of where the Government's stated political principles come second to their political and private greed?

The Prime Minister

I totally reject the hon. Gentleman's charge. The reason why Conservative Members supported the Felixstowe Bill is that Felixstowe is an excellent port. The Bill will help it to develop and it will be good for jobs, enterprise, exports, prosperity and the local people generally. No wonder the Labour party opposed it.

Mr. Aitken

While warmly welcoming yesterday's surprise announcement that the Government now intend to reform the Official Secrets Act, may I ask my right hon. Friend to clarify whether her replacement legislation is likely to be a measure in the direction of greater liberalisation, or greater restriction?

The Prime Minister

As my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Patrick Mayhewthe Attorney-General said earlier this week, work has been in hand for some time to find effective enforceable and reasonable provisions to replace section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911. If, in the light of that work, we decide to bring forward further proposals for the reform, we shall announce our intentions in due course. I hope that my hon. Friend is conscious of the criticisms that have been levelled at the 1979 Bill. A great deal of work was done on that Bill. The Franks report was produced in the lifetime of the last Labour Government and that Government produced a White Paper. We brought forward the proposals then fashioned in the White Paper, but they did not find favour in the House. Therefore, we must be careful with the measures that we bring forward. They will be more restrictive than the present section 2. My hon. Friend did not need to ask a question to secure that reply.

Mr. Steel

Presumably the Prime Minister did not mean to say that the legislation would be more restrictive.

An Hon. Member

That is what the right hon. Lady said.

Mr. Steel

I know that is what the Prime Minister said, but presumably it is not what she meant. Presumably it will not be more restrictive than section 2 of the Official Secrets Act. Will the right hon. Lady support the private Member's Bill being introduced by her hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) to repeal section 2?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is quite right. Should we decide to bring forward a new section 2, it will be less restrictive than the present section 2, for obvious reasons. Indeed, so was the clause brought forward in 1979, which was rejected, as the right hon. Gentleman knows. A great deal of work had been done by both sides of the House then and it was thought to be a virtually agreed measure, but it did not turn out to be so.

Mr. Barry Field

In view of the imputations against my right hon. Friend over her support of yesterday's business, [column 550]does she agree that it is remarkable that the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society spent £10,000 on the London Labour party——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I will explain afterwards why that is not in order.

Q4. Mr. Hoyle

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 12 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Hoyle

In the course of her busy day, will the Prime Minister take time to read early-day motion 96 about speech therapists, which has been signed by 222 hon. Members belonging to all parties? Will she note that the motion draws attention to the grave shortage of speech therapists and their low salaries compared with those of other graduate professions? Will she, as a woman and as Prime Minister, support speech therapists, who are predominantly a female profession, in their efforts to obtain equal pay for work of equal value compared to that of other graduate professions in the National Health Service, which are mainly male?

The Prime Minister

Yes, of course, I shall read the motion. On pay, my recollection, subject to checking, is that speech therapists stayed outside the professions supplementary to medicine being referred to the review body on pay.

Q5. Mr. Nicholas Bennett

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 12 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Bennett

Will my right hon. Friend find time today to send a message to the Customs service and to the Dutch authorities to congratulate them on their success in discovering the £51 million haul of drugs this week?

The Prime Minister

Yes, gladly, both to the Customs officers, who are delighted with the haul, and to the Dutch authorities, on their efficiency. The drug seizure was double the total amount seized in Britain in the whole of last year. That is very good news and we gladly give congratulations to all concerned in the seizure.

Q6. Mr. Eastham

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 12 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Eastham

Does the right hon. Lady recall the statement that she made to the House last week in response to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Mr. Ruddock), when she claimed that funding for the National Health Service had been transferred, thus improving the service in the north? May I draw to her attention the fact that in Manchester royal eye hospital old people aged 78 and 80 are waiting 60 weeks for their first appointments and up to two years for cataract operations? How does the Prime Minister square that with the statement she made last week?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman is aware that under the reallocation of health resources more has been allocated outside London to help other hospitals. I have [column 551]visited many new hospitals which have come about as a result. He is also aware that far more cataract operations are undertaken now than there were eight years ago. It is hoped that under the waiting list provision that improvement will continue.

Mr. Grylls

Does my right hon. Friend agree that millions of people throughout the country will have welcomed the fact that the Licensing Bill received its Second Reading last week? No doubt quite a few hon. Members in the House will have welcomed that as well. Does she agree that that is one more successful step down the path of deregulation, and that removing the obstacles and burdens from both large and small firms is the best way to get them to grow and create the new jobs that we all need?

The Prime Minister

I welcome the passage of the Licensing Bill to its Second Reading and I hope that it will complete all its stages without any hitches.

[column 552]

Mr. Mallon

Noting the resolve of the Prime Minister and Charles Haugheythe Taoiseach of the Irish Republic to bring to justice those who planted the bomb in Enniskillen, may I ask whether the Prime Minister agrees that no one should use the terrible suffering of those people of Enniskillen for political reasons? Does she further agree that the job of politics in the north of Ireland now is to translate the humanity, compassion and forgiveness of the relatives of people who have suffered in Enniskillen into politics in the north of Ireland for the betterment of all the people there?

The Prime Minister

I believe that the brave and noble reaction of the people of Enniskillen has had a profound effect on all who witnessed it. The people of Enniskillen have no time for hate, only for dignity and help. Now is the time for co-operation between the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland, that is, those who reject violence. They must come together to make a new move forward.