Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1988 Jan 26 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 [126/165-70]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2421
Themes: Executive, Education, Industry, Privatized & state industries, Environment, Pay, Trade, Foreign policy (Asia), Health policy, Law & order, Media, Northern Ireland, Terrorism
[column 165]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. McCusker

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 January.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others, including one with the President of Egypt. In addition to my duties in the House I shall be having further meetings later today.

[column 166]

Mr. McCusker

Will the Prime Minister find a few minutes today to consider whether anything of any value is left of the Anglo-Irish Agreement? Will she now concede that it has failed in its primary objective of reducing violence in Northern Ireland, not only as illustrated in the statistics of the past two years, but in the statement by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland last week that the people of Northern Ireland should prepare for another terrorist onslaught, and, more immediately, by the death of another civilian and another policeman in Northern Ireland yesterday? If relationships between the right hon. Lady's Government and the Government of the Republic have failed to improve, to the extent that they could have prevented the outbursts from the Dublin Government over the past 24 hours in relation to the statement made to the House yesterday, what has the agreement to commend itself, except that it continues to alienate large sections of the community in Northern Ireland?

The Prime Minister

It will not surprise the hon. Gentleman to hear that I disagree with him. The Anglo-Irish Agreement has led to greatly increased co-operation on security, which is to the advantage of the people in Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland. With regard to the statement that was made yesterday, I have nothing to add to what my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Patrick Mayhewthe Attorney-General said.

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

Following her remarks on “Panorama” last night, will my right hon. Friend consider the future of the National Health Service management board? Does she think that it adequately reflects the commercial and managerial disciplines of the private sector, and is she satisfied that, since it is responsible for perhaps the largest service organisation in western Europe, it has the powers that any normal board of directors should have over such a massive organisation?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend is aware, the management board has on it people who are well accustomed to managing private sector organisations. We are now gathering together the requisite information, which shows that different authorities make very different use of the money at their disposal. Now that we have that information, the management board may be able to take more effective action on it. I agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of the excellent management of resources throughout the service.

Mr. Kinnock

Will the Prime Minister respond to last Friday's letter from Mr. Trevor Clay of the Royal College of Nursing and other leaders of nursing and midwives trade unions by agreeing to meet those people urgently?

The Prime Minister

Mr. Clay wrote to me and to my right hon. Friend John Moorethe Secretary of State for Social Services, and my right hon. Friend will be meeting them very shortly. [Hon. Members: “You.” ] I am delighted that people always want to see me. I am absolutely delighted. Yet if ever I say that I shall do something I am accused of dictatorship and all sorts of things. We have rather a lot of most excellent Ministers on the Government Front Bench, and it is right that the Secretary of State in charge should see these people first, and that is what will happen.

Mr. Kinnock

Does the right hon. Lady not realise that those people want to see her because she is the architect of the crisis of underfunding? Why will she not see them? Why does she treat the nurses with such contempt? Does [column 167]she not realise that those nurses are motivated entirely by concern for the National Health Service and the patients in their care? Who can believe that her so-called review of the National Health Service can have any integrity, when she slams the door in the face of people best placed to know the problems of health care and of funding because they have to deal with those problems every day of their working lives?

The Prime Minister

It was this Government who, because the Royal College of Nursing had never gone on strike, and does not, set up a review body, whose recommendations have so far been honoured. It is this Government who have seen to it that nurses have had increases in pay over and above inflation—30 per cent. in real terms. It is this Government who have reduced the standard working week of nurses from 40 to 37½ hours. It was the last Labour Government who cut the pay of nurses.

Mr. Kinnock

If the Prime Minister has such faith in her figures, why does she not have the nurses into No. 10 Downing street and offer that recitation to them face to face? Why does she not do that and see what response she gets? Perhaps she knows what response she will get and that is why she is frightened to meet them.

The Prime Minister

Which of the figures is the right hon. Gentleman challenging? He seems to be indicating that he is challenging none of them. Or is he saying that he does not believe any figures given by the Government? If so, why does he ask any questions?

Mr. Squire

Is my right hon. Friend aware we on the Government Benches welcome her comments last night and the record of her Government? Is she also aware, given the impossibility of a National Health Service meeting immediately every demand that is made upon it, that in addition to looking at further ways of funding it, some of us would also wish us to be looking at medical priorities within the National Health Service?

The Prime Minister

Doctors, of course, make decisions on medical priorities almost every day. I think that it is for them to establish priorities. I doubt very much that we could do it—not between patients. But I know that a number of doctors have made comments recently, which have been very carefully noted, which indicate that they are thinking about this matter themselves.

Mr. Wigley

In view of what the right hon. Lady said on television last night, that the review of the National Health Service should be expedited very quickly, will she suggest to health authorities considering hospital closures that they should suspend such closures until the review has been completed?

The Prime Minister

Not in any way, because, as the hon. Gentleman is aware, sometimes the building of a big new facility which brings new possibilities of medical treatment to a whole region may also depend on the closure of some local hospitals. To stop the one will also stop the other and could result in less medical treatment than the present system provides.

Q2. Mr. Gerald Bowden

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 January.

The Prime Minister

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

[column 168]

Mr. Bowden

My right hon. Friend must be well aware that the statement she made last night about instituting her fundamental review of the National Health Service will be widely welcomed, since there is widespread public concern about the operation of the service. Does she join me in condemning those who callously exploit individual suffering, often misrepresenting the facts, for crude political purposes?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. I have had occasion at Question Time before to correct the alleged facts of a particular case. Last week at Question Time another case was brought up, of someone who, it was said, had been moved 2 miles in a furniture van which was dirty and smelly. I made inquiries of the regional health authority, which has indicated that the patients, two patients who could not be moved by ambulance because they had to be moved on beds, were in fact moved in a van. They were kept warm with thermal blankets, they were moved skilfully and the van was clean. They were accompanied by ambulance men and nurses on a short journey, and their condition on arrival was as good as it had been when they left the first hospital. The medical staff and the consultant orthopaedic surgeon were happy with all the arrangements. The regional health authority chairman said:

“ambulance men and nurses have expressed their concern at the distorted reporting of the transfer by the news media, particularly as they would never associate themselves professionally with any action which compromised the well-being of patients.”

Q3. Mr. Flannery

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 January.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Flannery

When will the Prime Minister realise that reading out cold-blooded statistics at the Dispatch Box—[Interruption.]—despite all the noise that hon. Members behind her make, will not solve the problems of the National Health Service? Only more money will solve those problems. Would it not be a good beginning to give deserving nurses the 20 per cent. increase which they have asked for? [Interruption.] I hope hon. Members will let me say what I want to say. Is the right hon. Lady not ashamed that she can say, “I want to go into hospital on the day I want, to the doctor I want, and when I want,” when she is stopping thousands of people doing just that? Babies are dying while she is doing that.

The Prime Minister

First, next year there will be more money, £1,100 million more, which will be paid by the taxpayer. Secondly, 3,000 babies survive every year who would not have survived as far back as 1978–79. Thirdly, it sounds as if the hon. Gentleman wants a voucher scheme. Fourthly, in Sheffield health authority area inpatient cases are up by 13.5 per cent. since 1982—the last reorganisation—and day cases are up by 4,000. The Northern general hospital had a £9.5 million development opened in the summer of 1986, and there is a £8 million development opening this year. At the children's hospital there is a £8 million development opening in 1989. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is pleased with the advances under this Government.

Q4. Mr. David Evans

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 January.

[column 169]

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Evans

Does my right hon. Friend agree that British Aerospace and the people of Welwyn and Hatfield should be congratulated on designing, producing and selling 109 146 Jetliners and 684 British Aerospace executive jets? Does she also agree that this mirrors the success of privatisation?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend sets out the most excellent record of a successful company, which is selling aircraft in the highly competitive North American market, and getting increased performance and increased profits. I understand that it also exports to about 40 countries. I join him in congratulating the company on its excellent record. It is a tribute to privatisation.

Q5. Mr. Tony Banks

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 January.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Banks

I have given the Prime Minister prior notice of my supplementary in the hope of getting a considered response. Is the Prime Minister aware that the world population of black rhinos has gone down from 65,000 in 1970 to under 4,000 now and continues to decline? The reason, as she knows, is poaching. One of the most important world markets for black rhino horn products is Hong Kong. Will the Prime Minister tell us what Her Majesty's Government are doing to clamp down on the internal and external trade of black rhino horn products in Hong Kong?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice. I know that he and many [column 170]hon. Members are interested in conserving the rhino. The hon. Gentleman has asked the Foreign and Commonwealth Office a number of questions and I have taken steps to find out the precise position with regard to Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong Government have banned the import of rhino products, including horn, since 1979 and a total ban on the export of all rhino products, including horn, has been in force since 1 April 1986. A total ban on the sale of rhino products within Hong Kong will take effect from July this year.

Q6. Mr. Robert G. Hughes

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 January.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Hughes

In the course of her busy day, will my right hon. Friend take time to note the achievement of the London borough of Harrow, which for the third year running has the best O-level results in the country? That is partly due to many years of parent power, as envisaged under the Education Reform Bill, being practised in Harrow. Will she consider an invitation from the London borough of Harrow to see that success at first hand?

The Prime Minister

I gladly join my hon. Friend in congratulating Harrow on its excellent results. May I point out to him that Barnet comes pretty close—in particular Barnet girls are very good indeed. I hope that the opportunities provided under the new Education Reform Bill to give parents a wider say will extend the excellent results of which my hon. Friend speaks.