Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1987 Nov 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 [123/136-40]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2534
Themes: Parliament, Civil liberties, Defence (general), Environment, Pay, European Union (general), Foreign policy (Australia & NZ), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Health policy, Labour Party & socialism, Law & order, Community charge ("poll tax"), Media, Northern Ireland, Terrorism
[column 136]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Dr. Michael Clark

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 24 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.

Dr. Clark

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the decision taken yesterday by the North East Thames regional health authority to build a new cancer treatment unit at Harold Wood on the eastern outskirts of London and to close the cancer treatment unit in Southend, which will mean a very long journey for my constituents and those of my right hon. and hon. Friends in the area? Will she prevail upon my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services to review this decision, to spend some of the money at Southend and to keep open this cost-effective unit, which gives dedicated care to thousands of cancer sufferers every year?

The Prime Minister

I am aware of the decision of that regional health authority. As my hon. Friend knows, the matter will now come to my right hon. Friend John Moorethe Secretary of State, who will look carefully at the authority's proposals, and his prime concern will be to ensure the best interests of the patients. My right hon. Friend will take into account the Department's own review of the basis on which radiotherapy services are provided.

Mr. Kinnock

Will the Prime Minister tell us precisely what is the justification for making nurses in residential homes liable for the whole of the poll tax?

The Prime Minister

Nurses in residential homes will have the same treatment on community charges as other people. Of course, if their incomes are low, they will be able to get up to 80 per cent. rebate on the community charge.

Mr. Kinnock

Is the Prime Minister making a new announcement that low wages, such as those of nurses, will be enough to qualify people for the full 80 per cent. reduction in poll tax liability?

The Prime Minister

No. What I am saying—as the right hon. Gentleman is aware—is that student nurses receive more than those at universities who receive student grants. That is the reason for the difference. I note that the right hon. Gentleman tries to masquerade as being on the side of the nurses—[Interruption.] The Opposition can hardly claim to be the nurses' friend. They cut nurses' pay in real terms for three years running, and in 1976–77 by 10 per cent. In the five pay years between 1974–75 and 1978–79 they cut nurses' pay in real terms in four of those years. Under this Government the pay of nurses has gone up by 30 per cent. in real terms.

Mr. Kinnock

If the Prime Minister is concerned now about the economic position of nurses, will she instruct the Secretary of State for Social Services not to withdraw the special night-time and weekend payments from nurses, and will she instruct the Secretary of State for the Environment not to impose the poll tax obligation on people who currently have little or no rates obligation?

[column 137]

The Prime Minister

No, Mr. Speaker. The proposals go to the review body for nurses' pay, which was granted by this Government and which nurses did not have under previous Governments. It is necessary to consider the pay of nurses structurally. One thing which arose on a question to which I heard the answer given a moment ago is that nurses who serve geriatric patients are given higher pay than those who serve in paediatric units. That is causing problems. Yes, the pay needs to be looked at structurally, and the review body is the right body to do it.

Sir Fergus Montgomery

In view of the repugnance felt in all parts of the House about the horrific atrocities committed by the IRA, will my right hon. Friend seek a meeting with the Leader of the Opposition on Privy Councillor terms in order to ensure that the Opposition withdraw all support from the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone)? [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is perfectly in order for the Prime Minister to answer the question whether she will have a meeting.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I will not seek a meeting with Neil Kinnockthe Leader of the Opposition. I think that most of us believe that no one in this House should have contacts with the IRA or Sinn Fein.

Q2. Mr. Tony Banks

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 24 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Banks

Will the Prime Minister tell the House why she is so opposed to the televising of proceedings in the House of Commons?

The Prime Minister

Suppose we wait until the debate. I do not think that televising the House would enhance its reputation.

New Zealand

Q3. Mr. Butler

To ask the Prime Minister if she has any plans to seek to pay an official visit to New Zealand.

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to visit New Zealand.

Mr. Butler

Will my right hon. Friend perhaps reconsider her decision? The New Zealand Government are Socialist, but they are at least following my right hon. Friend's economic policies and cutting higher taxation as well.

The Prime Minister

I note what my hon. Friend says. I know that New Zealand is following Thatcherite economic policies in removing exchange controls, selling shares in a number of Government-owned enterprises and reducing the burden of taxation and Government expenditure as a proportion of output. I agree with those policies. It only goes to show that the Labour party is out of step, not only with the mood of the country as a whole, but with its brothers abroad.

Mr. Grocott

Will the Prime Minister take a lesson from the Government of New Zealand and learn that it is possible for a Western democracy to have a foreign policy which is not one of total subservience to the United States?

[column 138]

The Prime Minister

I believe that if a country relies on another country to help with its defence it should give that country's ships refuge in its harbours.

Engagements

Q4. Mr. Atkinson

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 24 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Atkinson

Does my right hon. Friend recall that last month she received a telegram from the newly formed Moscow branch of the International Society for Human Rights, the release of whose leaders, Alexander Ognorodnikov and Vallry Sendlrov, many right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House campaigned for in recent years, and who are now resuming monitoring of the Helsinki Final Act? Does my right hon. Friend agree that the existence of such groups without discrimination, harassment and persecution will be the shrewd test of glasnost and the end of the Stalin terror?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Mr. Speaker, I recall that telegram. I agree with my hon. Friend that the right of such groups to operate freely, which was guaranteed by the Helsinki accords, will be one of the tests of openness and democracy in the Soviet Union. But it is encouraging that two of the founders of the group, whom my hon. Friend mentioned, both with a long record of human campaigning, were released from prison earlier this year.

Mr. Wallace

The Prime Minister will be well aware that in the run-up to the Ministers' conference on pollution in the North sea there has been much criticism from nations traditionally friendly towards us, not only of the extent to which Britain is responsible for pollution of the sea, but of the degree to which we have been feet-dragging in coming to agreements to do something about it. Is the Prime Minister concerned about Britain being known as a bad neighbour? If so, what initiatives will Britain be taking this week to clean up the North sea and this country's image?

The Prime Minister

We are delighted to be hosting the second international conference on the protection of the North sea. The United Kingdom is committed to a clean North sea, and is therefore ready to play its part. The majority of pollution input to the North sea is via rivers, and with £200 million of expenditure on improvement, I am pleased to say that the Thames is just about the cleanest metropolitan river in Europe.

Mr. Andrew MacKay

During her busy day, will my right hon. Friend consider the claims that Vanessa Redgrave and two other members of the CND funded the operation to spring George Blake from Wormwood Scrubs? Bearing in mind that at a recent press conference Miss Redgrave, appeared to admit to that serious crime, should not Miss Redgrave, Mr. Pottle and Mr. Randle be charged?

The Prime Minister

As the House knows, charging people for a crime is not a matter for me but for the prosecuting authorities.

Mr. Livingstone

Will the Prime Minister explain to the House how she equates her view that there should be no negotiations with the IRA with her membership of a [column 139]previous Conservative Government in which Lord Whitelaw actually met and negotiated with the IRA? Can she assure us that there have been no further contacts between the IRA and members of her intelligence services, MI5 and MI6, during the last eight years?

The Prime Minister

Ever since 1979 the policy of the Government has been that we have no contact at ministerial level with the IRA or with other terrorist organisations. They are working fundamentally against the citizens of this country, fundamentally against democracy and against all innocent people in this country and in the Republic of Ireland.

Mr. Jim Spicer

Does my right hon. Friend agree that if criminals carry weapons and firearms and are prepared to use them, they must expect to meet that sort of force exercised on behalf of our society?

The Prime Minister

If there were not terrorism it would be easier to tackle these matters, but the police and the security forces who operate on our behalf must have full means for proper self-defence.

Q5. Mr. Harry Barnes

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 24 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Barnes

In the light of the previous exchange between the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) and the Minister for Health about open-heart surgery, will the Prime Minister ensure that the Government take action today on the case of David Barber, who has had his operation put off five times? Will she ensure that immediate action is taken so that the operation takes place and his life is saved, or is her only intention to attend the funeral?

The Prime Minister

I heard Tony Newtonmy hon. Friend say from the Dispatch Box that the unit of the Birmingham hospital is today back to full strength. It is hoped that the operation will now take place as soon as possible. My hon. Friend also explained that previously there was a shortage of peadiatric nurses—[Hon. Members: “Why?” ] I have indicated, in answer to a previous question, that that was one reason why we need to look at the pay of nurses structurally, to see that such shortages are remedied.

[column 140]

Mr. Barry Field

As the Prime Minister's responsibilities include the security of the nation, will my right hon. Friend consider whether the advice of Arthur Scargill that members of the Communist party should be able openly to join the Labour party——

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is not within the Prime Minister's responsibilities.

Q6. Mrs. Mahon

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 24 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mrs. Mahon

As a mother, would the Prime Minister be happy with a Government who create conditions in which a small baby has to apply for a life-saving heart operation six times, but has still not yet had it?

The Prime Minister

As I have stated earlier, there have been enormous increases in expenditure on the Health Service. Birmingham was short of paediatric nurses, but we are trying to deal with that problem by looking at the pay of nurses on the basis of the areas in which we need more nurses. I understand that the unit is now back to full strength and that it is hoped that the operation will take place soon.

Q7. Mr. Alexander

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 24 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Alexander

Has my right hon. Friend had time to consider the current proposal of the EEC that British summer time should end in September instead of October? Bearing in mind that most people object to its ending in October, will my right hon. Friend tell her colleagues in the EEC when she next meets them that it is yet another of their daft proposals and that we do not want anything to do with it?

The Prime Minister

I understand that a draft directive has now been proposed that extends the existing arrangements for a further year. It would have the effect of maintaining the status quo in all countries until the end of 1989, so that we shall have time to consider whether it is advisable that we take on a similar date to Europe.