Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1988 Feb 18 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 [127/1144-48]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2195
Themes: Executive, Parliament, Conservatism, Defence (arms control), Employment, Pay, Public spending & borrowing, Taxation, Health policy, Housing, Law & order, Northern Ireland, Social security & welfare, Terrorism, Transport, Voluntary sector & charity
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PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Sir John Farr

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 18 February.

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.

Sir John Farr

Although I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer, may I ask her whether she will take time today, in her busy schedule, to consider the sixth report of the Home Affairs Select Committee relating to criminal evidence, which was compiled in 1982 under the chairmanship of Lord Eden and comprised a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House? One of the Committee's recommendations was that a committee should be established to assist and advise the Home Secretary in cases of appeal. I should like my right hon. Friend to consider whether that is right. It is important to note that the House has not yet had a chance to discuss the recommendation. Will my right hon. Friend do something about that?

The Prime Minister

My answer to my hon. Friend has to be in the negative, because the Government's response to that recommendation was set out in the Government reply to the sixth report from the Home Affairs Select Committee, Session 1981–82. The reply concluded that, as a matter of principle, priority should be given to improving and enhancing the part played by the courts in considering alleged miscarriages of justice. I have nothing further to add to that reply.

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Mr. Hattersley

Did the speech by the Secretary of State for Social Services to Young Conservatives last weekend represent official Government policy?

The Prime Minister

Yes. I went all the way through the speech. It was excellent.

Mr. Hattersley

Having been all the way through the speech, the Prime Minister will be able to confirm the Secretary of State's view on the resources that he was allocated for spending on the Health Service this year. His view was:

“I didn't think that was enough” .

Does the Prime Minister endorse that view, or does she repudiate the Minister?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman has left out a part of the sentence. It read:

“I didn't think that was enough, in terms of the changes … all of us would like to see so far as the primary health care service is concerned.”

John MooreMy right hon. Friend went on to explain where the extra resources for those primary health care services were to come from. The misreporting occurred in one newspaper, but the matter was reported quite accurately in another paper.

Mr. Hattersley

Let us continue our textual analysis of the Secretary of State's speech. He went on to tell the Young Conservatives—I read the sentence in its entirety:

“I wanted to see additional resources above and beyond those that I've secured.”

As far as I can make out, all the country wants to see additional resources except the Prime Minister. Why does she not provide them?

The Prime Minister

That sentence referred to primary health care services. My right hon. Friend went on to say that he was going to get those extra resources from charges which have already been before the House, of which in fact the right hon. Gentleman disapproved. The fact is that the right hon. Gentleman has asked his question on a false supposition, because he did not read the speech. He disapproves of the place from which the extra resources are coming. My right hon. Friend went on to say:

“It was … a Labour Government first started the introduction of charges in the field of optometry in spectacles and dental care, in league with all of these areas.”

Extra resources over and above that are coming next year. They have been in the public expenditure paper. They are the biggest cash increase the Health Service has ever known—£1,100 million.

Mr. Summerson

In view of the Labour party's opposition to the Prevention of Terrorism Act and to the British independent nuclear deterrent, does my right hon. Friend agree that the Labour party has abrogated——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member's question must refer to the Prime Minister's responsibilities.

Mr. Summerson

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the British independent nuclear deterrent is part of the Government's responsibility, which has been thrown away by the Labour party?

The Prime Minister

Yes. The British independent nuclear deterrent is vital to the security of our people today and to generations in the future. The nuclear deterrent is a fundamental part of NATO's strategy. I also agree with my hon. Friend that the Prevention of Terrorism Act has [column 1146]been a tremendous help to police both here and in Northern Ireland. Those who really wish to fight terrorism should support that Act.

Mr. Flynn

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 18 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Flynn

Is the Prime Minister aware of the widespread fury at the pig's breakfast her Government have made of the ex gratia payments for the retail prices index error? Tens of thousands of war pensioners, the disabled, invalids and other pensioners have been cheated by the chaos. Nearly one in 10 of all those with combined pension books have lost out and many of them have been advised by Government offices to combine their books. Will the Prime Minister give us a guarantee today that all those who have been short-changed by the system will be compensated?

The Prime Minister

As I indicated to the House on Tuesday, there was no legal requirement on the Government to make those payments. We, however, calculated that the total estimated social security underspend was £109 million, of which special payments of over £101 million have been made to over 12 million people.—[Interruption.] Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would listen. A very small group have been under-compensated, out of 12 million.—[Interruption.] Out of 12 million, 175,000 have been undercompensated, and the under-compensation is £1 million. Over 2 million people who have lost nothing by the error, but nevertheless receive an £8 special payment, which of course comes to £16 million. [Interruption.] It was necessary to do it that way in order to get the payments there very quickly, so the under-compensation has been about £1 million and the over-compensation has been about £16 million for 2 million people. Nevertheless, that is not the whole story. [Interruption.] If the hon. Gentleman can contain himself in patience, if he has any to contain himself with. In addition, my right hon. Friend Nigel Lawsonthe Chancellor of the Exchequer has made available a further £7 million, which is to go to voluntary charities specifically to help people in low income groups. Therefore, the under-compensation has been about £1 million against the extra £7 million available.

Mr. Haselhurst

Will my right hon. Friend take time to consider whether there should be a review of the compensation paid in relation to major public works developments such as roads and airports? Is she aware that people who may not have any land taken suffer a substantial loss of amenity and loss of value of property simply because their houses are near to where the development is taking place?

The Prime Minister

We have no major review of that kind planned. There have been times when an airports authority or an air company has purchased property which is affected. If there are any cases, I suggest that my hon. Friend pursues that course of action.

Mr. Hume

As the person ultimately responsible for national security, will the Prime Minister tell us whether she was consulted by the Attorney-General before he made his statement of 25 January on the Stalker-Sampson report, and whether she approves of the principle which [column 1147]he enunciated that day, that the interests of national security transcend the rule of law even in cases where there is loss of human life?

The Prime Minister

I do not accept the description which the hon. Gentleman put in his question as accurate in any way. Sir Patrick MayhewThe Attorney-General made a full and complete statement in discharge of his duties. I have nothing to add to that statement. As the hon. Gentleman is aware, in this country prosecution is not a matter for Government; it is for the prosecuting authority.

Mr. Nicholas Baker

Will my right hon. Friend ignore the simulated hysteria on the Opposition Benches about the National Health Service? Will she join me in congratulating West Dorset health authority, which is removing more than 50 of the 152 administrative posts so as to be able to apply the resources to greater patient care? Will my right hon. Friend join me in recommending other health authorities to follow that example?

The Prime Minister

I know that a number of health authorities have done precisely the same as the West Dorset authority. Indeed, there has been much more effective use of resources through cutting out waste. It normally amounts to about £150 million a year, which goes straight back into improved patient care and is one of the reasons why the number of patients who have been treated in the Health Service has gone up steadily. I understand that there is still a good deal more in terms of efficient use of resources to be got out of the Health Service, and I expect that the number of patients treated, the number of operations performed and the satisfaction with the Health Service will continue to rise.

Q3. Mr. Tony Lloyd

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 18 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Lloyd

Can the right hon. Lady explain carefully to the House how she can justify the policies of her Government which allow massive tax breaks to the already [column 1148]rich to plant trees and destroy the environment in Scotland when she will not fund an adequate pay rise for low-paid nurses?

The Prime Minister

Nurses have had an increase of 30 per cent. in real terms under this Government, contrasting with the cut of 20 per cent. which they suffered under the Labour Government. The hon. Gentleman raises a matter of taxation. That is not yet for me. It is to be discussed in the Budget. I notice that the Labour party was singing a very different story in 1986, before the election, when the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) said:

“An election victory would be followed by a massive increase in taxation, as it was in 1979.” —[Official Report, 17 December 1986; Vol. 107, C. 1253].

Q4. Mr. Burns

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 18 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Burns

Would my right hon. Friend care to comment on the latest unemployment figures which show, once again, that seasonally adjusted unemployment has fallen, and does she agree with me that these figures, together with the White Paper on training that was published earlier this week, show that the Government's economic policy is working and that prospects for lower unemployment in the future are excellent?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend. Today's figures are more good news and show that unemployment has fallen for 18 months running, and by over 500,000 in the past year, that all regions have shared in that fall and that employment is still rising, with more than 1,500,000 more jobs since 1983.

Moreover, my right hon. Friend's statement on training indicates that as we shall need more and more skilled workers we are making provision to ensure that they get that training. That is a great tribute to the stewardship of my right hon. Friend Nigel Lawsonthe Chancellor of the Exchequer in his management of the economy.