Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1988 Apr 12 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 [131/14-18]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2145
Themes: Industry, Pay, Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Housing, Northern Ireland, Social security & welfare, Terrorism

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Dr. Reid

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 12 April.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. I was also present at Windsor for the arrival of His Majesty The King of Norway. In addition to my duties in the House I shall be having further meetings later today. This evening I will be attending a state banquet in honour of His Majesty The King of Norway.

Dr. Reid

What advice does the Prime Minister have today for over 4 million of Britain's poorest people who stand to lose because of the social security changes? What does she have to say to Britain's oldest pensioners who stand to be robbed of £91 a year, or to Britain's youngest unemployed who lose £405 a year? Will she tell them that it is all an incentive to work harder, or will she finally admit that it is the biggest betrayal of Britain's poor since the welfare state was set up?

The Prime Minister

The extra money, in particular the money provided in the coming financial year, against a background of fewer unemployed, is being targeted particularly to help the poorest among our people. Indeed, now that the new system is in operation, in cash terms, there will be 5 million gainers compared with fewer than I million losers.

Mr. Churchill

In welcoming Secretary-General Gorbachev 's announced withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, may I ask my right hon. Friend to send a message of warm congratulations to the Afghan freedom fighters on their courageous and victorious struggle over eight long years against the most powerful army in the world? Will she never forget that to this day 120 million people of eastern Europe and the Baltic republics remain under the Soviet tank track and that they, too, are entitled to freedom and national self-determination?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Mr. Speaker. I agree with my hon. Friend. It is because of the splendid resistance of the people of Afghanistan against the occupying power that [column 15]the Soviet troops have decided to pull out. That decision is a welcome one and we should recognise the tremendous role of the freedom fighters.

Mr. Kinnock

The effects of housing benefit changes on pensioners across the country are now obvious to the country and to hon. Members on both sides of the House. Therefore, will the Prime Minister amend the regulations to ensure that no one with accessible capital of less than £10,000 will lose housing benefit or help with rates?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. As I have said to the right hon. Gentleman before, it was a matter of policy that we should target the benefits on those in greatest need. Even after the reforms, more will be spent in real terms and more people will be receiving housing benefit than was the case in 1979. The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that there is nothing unusual or unknown about rent help being subjected to a capital limit. When rent help came under supplementary benefit, it came under the maximum capital disregard limit, which under the right hon. Gentleman's Government was £1,200.

Mr. Kinnock

If the right hon. Lady will do nothing to help people with £6,000 in lifetime savings, may I give her the case of someone with just £1,600 in total savings? She is a single woman, 73 years of age, who is disabled, diabetic and virtually housebound, who does not smoke or drink. She has a weekly pension and occupational pension totalling just over £50 a week. That lady is now losing £6.80 a week because of reductions in housing benefit and help with her rates. Her already low income is being cut by 12 per cent. When she, and thousands like her, ask, “How can I economise?” , can the Prime Minister tell her?

The Prime Minister

I saw this morning in the Daily Mirror an account of a particular case—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Prime Minister has a right to answer the question.

The Prime Minister

The account that was given was substantially inaccurate—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I call upon the Prime Minister to answer.

The Prime Minister

John MooreMy right hon. Friend, having had time to look up all the facts, gave the House the facts and they were totally different from those reported. If the right hon. Gentleman wants a particular case looked up, perhaps he will contact my right hon. Friend and give him the facts. In the meantime, the right hon. Gentleman will know that £46 billion is being spent on social security. He talks about thrift and savings. Let me remind him that inflation under the Labour Government robbed people of their savings, so we take no lectures from him. They robbed people of 5 to 6 per cent. of their savings every quarter.

Mr. Kinnock

Perhaps the Prime Minister will now answer the question that I asked her. Will she tell a disabled diabetic, of 73 years of age, with £1,600 in capital and an income of just over £50 a week—[Hon. Members: “What's her name?” ]—Miss Lilian Williams of Manchester. There is no need for the Prime Minister to take the reference from me, as she has already had a letter from Miss Williams. Perhaps she will answer the question of how Mrs. Williams economises on that kind of sum, instead of relating her remarks to the Daily Mirror.

As for that issue, that newspaper printed the full facts of Mrs. Godden 's income. Her right hon. Friend the [column 16]Secretary of State for Social Services has just made it apparent that he does not think that women with multiple sclerosis should have holidays.

The Prime Minister

No. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to take up the full details, he will do it in the proper way, through the Department for Social Security.

For those who are living alone and are disabled, a great deal depends on the kind of domiciliary help that they receive. As in Bristol, the local authority should be in touch to see what domestic help is required. They can also apply to the independent living fund for extra help. That is precisely what the independent living fund is there for. Perhaps he will pass on that message.

Mr. Kinnock

rose——

Hon. Members

“Oh” .

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Kinnock

How does Mrs. Williams, and thousands like her, economise when she has lost 12 per cent. of her income? Will the Prime Minister please answer the question?

The Prime Minister

I have done. I have said that for people who are disabled—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I say again to the whole House that behaviour of this kind, and I am saying this to both sides of the House, gives this place a very bad reputation.

The Prime Minister

If people are disabled, there is an extra £60 million—[Hon. Members: “Answer the question.” ]—yes, I will answer the question if I am allowed to do so. An extra £60 million will go to the sick and disabled through the disability premium. There is also a severe disability premium which will channel an extra £8 million to an estimated extra 7,000 of the most severely disabled. It can mean that a person living alone will now get £24 a week in place of £6. In case neither of these apply, we have set up an independent living fund which is already—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. May I say to the whole House that it is no good shouting at the Prime Minister to answer the question when she is actually doing that.

The Prime Minister

We have set up an independent living fund, to be run by independent trustees, to allow the most severely disabled to live independently in the community. There is an interim address for the fund, and people who think that they may be eligible for help should apply now. I repeat, £46 billion: had the right hon. Gentleman's Government paid anything like that, he would have shouted it from the housetops with acclaim.

Mr. Nelson

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, just as the scourge of terrorism is indiscriminate and knows no boundaries, so the fight against it should be international and co-operative?

The Prime Minister

Yes. Of course we fight terrorism in every way we can. As regards the Kuwait hijacking, we are very glad that the United Kingdom passengers were released; but hostage-taking of this kind affects all countries, and we have strong sympathies for the Kuwaitis and the Cypriots in dealing with the problem and fully support the line that they are taking.

Mr. Steel

Did the Prime Minister see the report published yesterday by the Church of Scotland, which showed that in 1985 31 per cent. of the population of [column 17]Scotland were living either in poverty or on its margins? Is she appalled by that figure, or is it, too, “substantially inaccurate” ?

The Prime Minister

I did not see that report, but I commend most warmly to the right hon. Gentleman an excellent speech just made in Scotland by John Majorthe Chief Secretary, pointing out that earned income per head in Scotland is higher than anywhere else in the United Kingdom save the south-east. If people did not run Scotland down, but allowed it to live up to its enterprise, it might have a lot better chance than under the right hon. Gentleman's strictures.

Rev. Ian Paisley

In view of the recent serious happenings in Northern Ireland, will the right hon. Lady tell the House when her Government will bring in proposals to deal with the Sinn Fein/IRA godfathers in the councils of Northern Ireland? Is she aware that as her Secretary of State at present holds conversations with the Social Democratic and Labour party, that party is holding conversations with the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Adams) and the Sinn Fein/IRA leadership? Is she aware that the purpose of these talks, as the SDLP has declared it, is to get Sinn Fein to the conference table? Will she take it from me and my right hon. Friend the Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux), the leader of the Unionst party, that we will never sit down with Sinn Fein or with the IRA?

The Prime Minister

I understand what the hon. Gentleman says. As he knows, we condemn not only the use of violence but those political parties which support [column 18]the use of violence. Ministers of this Government have no contact whatsoever with Sinn Fein and will not deal with inquiries from them. On this we are absolutely at one with the hon. Member, and I would have thought that most hon. Members hold the same view.

Q2. Mr. Nellist

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 12 April.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Nellist

In between mouthfuls at tonight's banquet, and with her well-known sympathy for widows, could the Prime Minister advise my constituent in Binley, in Coventry, who yesterday received the £1.65 increase in her widowed mother's pension but lost the right to free school meals for her four children and therefore will have to pay £13.20 a week extra, just how she is expected to manage? When will this millionaire Prime Minister start attacking poverty and stop attacking the poor?

The Prime Minister

The highest ever social security budget—[Interruption.] Yes, the highest ever social security budget in real terms has been targeted on the poorest, as a result of which, in cash terms, this week there are 5 million people who have more than they had before. There are 2 million who have no change and there are just under 1 million who have a decrease. Fortunately, opposite the right hon. Gentleman there are 5 million people who have benefited in cash terms this week from increased social security, the level of which could never have occurred but for the increased prosperity of this country.