Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1988 Apr 21 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 [131/983-88]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2358
Themes: Conservatism, Defence (general), Employment, Industry, Public spending & borrowing, Trade, Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (Middle East), Health policy, Housing, Social security & welfare, Terrorism, Transport, Trade unions, Voluntary sector & charity
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PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Gwilym Jones

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 21 April.

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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. Jones

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the considerable rise in the number of operations to transplant organs, especially kidneys? May I suggest that we need to move to a form of required request legislation as the only way of dramatically increasing the availability of organs for transplant, thus countering increasing waiting lists?

The Prime Minister

I know of my hon. Friend's interest in this matter. We are committed to trying to increase the numbers of operations with transplant organs. The form of required request by doctors to relatives, for which my hon. Friend asks, was referred to a committee of the royal medical colleges, which recently considered it. The committee did not recommend legislating for it. My hon. Friend can understand the emotional problems caused in asking relatives for permission. We are pursuing a number of the recommendations for alternative approaches.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Does the Prime Minister think it morally right for Scottish and Newcastle Breweries to take over a profitable brewery in my constituency, in a development area in west Cumberland, and throw more than 40 people out of work? Does the right hon. Lady think it right that the free market gives companies the right to treat my constituents in that way? Why, when I went to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry prior to the takeover, did he refuse to intervene when I warned him that these jobs would be lost in my profitable brewery?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman is aware that a takeover either qualifies for reference to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, and he knows the procedure well, or it does not. It seems that in this case it did not qualify. The hon. Gentleman is aware also that there must be rationalisation and redundancies from time to time to keep undertakings profitable and competitive into the future. The hon. Gentleman and I would hope that, whatever happens people are treated well when that occurs.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

Does my right hon. Friend recall the reign of Queen Anne—[Interruption.]—when there was a national lottery of which the then Archbishop of Canterbury was a patron? In the event of a hospitals lottery, will an invitation be extended to Dr. Runcie?

The Prime Minister

To answer the first part of my hon. Friend's question, I do not recall those days. With regard to the National Hospital Trust's proposed National Health Service lottery, it appears to be a private matter and, as far as we can make out, it seems to be legal. If it raises extra money for the Health Service, that will be a very good thing. Of course, DHSS Ministers will not seek to recover any money forthcoming from the trust by adjusting health authority cash limits—it will be extra money. What the trust wishes to do and whom it wishes to join its numbers is a matter for itself.

Q2. Mr. Menzies Campbell

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 21 April.

The Prime Minister

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

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Mr. Campbell

The Prime Minister will be aware of the tragic occurrence late yesterday afternoon when a Phantom aircraft of 43 Squadron flying from RAF Leuchars in my constituency was lost. I am sure that the Prime Minister will wish to join me in expressing sympathy to the families of the missing crewmen. I understand that the wreckage of the Phantom aircraft was found by a Wessex aircraft of 222 Squadron flying a search and rescue operation.

Since 1956 more than 2,000 such operations have been flown from RAF Leuchars—57 of them this year—and more than 2,000 lives have been saved. In the light of that, will the Prime Minister confirm that there is no risk, or even likelihood, that search and rescue operations will be withdrawn from RAF Leuchars?

The Prime Minister

I join the hon. and learned Gentleman in expressing sympathy to the relatives of those two young men who lost their lives when the Phantom crashed into the sea yesterday.

As the hon. and learned Gentleman is aware, my right hon. Friend the George YoungerSecretary of State is conducting a review of the air sea rescue services. When he has completed that review, of course he will report his conclusions to the House and to the hon. and learned Gentleman.

Q3. Mr. Sackville

To ask the Prime Minister of she will list her official engagements for Thursday 21 April.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Sackville

Will my right hon. Friend commend the wisdom and courage of the Government of Kuwait? Does she agree that those Governments who fail to learn the lesson that terrorism must be resisted at any cost expose their own citizens and all of us to the most appalling risks?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I endorse what my hon. Friend has said. I think it is excellent that the 17 prisoners are still in gaol in Kuwait. It is a policy that we urged upon the Government of Kuwait—not to give in to any blackmail involving hijacking. Various countries have accepted obligations when hijacks occur. That is why my right hon. and learned Friend the Sir Geoffrey HoweForeign Secretary will be raising the implications of hijacks with his European colleagues in the Foreign Affairs Council next week. We have also been in touch with our Summit Seven partners to propose further discussions in that forum. Thirdly, our delegation to the International Civil Aviation Organisation will be raising the matter of hijacking and the question of what action to take.

Mr. Boateng

Will the Prime Minister take time this afternoon to dissociate herself from the disgraceful remarks of her right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) in his outrageous attack on the front-line states, which she visited recently, and which we understand she will visit again? Will she respond to the profound moral challenge from Archbishop Tutu and at last recognise that the only way forward for non-violent change in South Africa is the immediate implementation of comprehensive sanctions?

The Prime Minister

I read Norman Tebbitmy right hon. Friend's speech in full. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman [column 986]has done the same. My right hon. Friend made it quite clear that economic freedom and political freedom are indivisible and he said to South Africa:

“So you have a hard choice before you. The very economic success that your political system seeks to preserve will before long be destroyed by the policies you are following to preserve your political system.”

He made it quite clear that each and every person has equal rights to consideration, and he really made it very clear to South Africa that we detest apartheid as a system.

Q4. Mr. Kirkhope

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 21 April.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Kirkhope

As today is the 40th anniversary of the creation of the state of Israel, a country which has had turbulent times throughout its existence and which has often acted as a democratic refuge for people who have been persecuted elsewhere in the world, will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating all the people of Israel on their achievements, and will she also join me in hoping that it will not be another 40 years before a peace settlement is found for the middle east that recognises the right of Israel to exist?

The Prime Minister

I readily join my hon. Friend in congratulating Israel on its 40th anniversary. Israel's achievements in that period have been remarkable. I agree with him that that makes it all the more important that those who built the nation should now help to build peace with security for all countries in the region.

Mr. Kinnock

I support the Prime Minister's last reply.

May I point out to her that a 73-year-old widow in my constituency has lost all her housing benefit because she owns a house that she has been trying unsuccessfully to sell for 20 months? Out of a total income of £41.67 a week she now has to find a rent for her pensioner flat of £32.74. Can the Prime Minister tell me and my constituent how that old lady can live on less than £10 a week?

The Prime Minister

I think that the right hon. Gentleman is referring to a number of cases, where there is lapse of time between when a house is put on the market and when it can be sold. There used to be a provision to cover that gap. Unfortunately, it was not properly used. Therefore, the rules were changed. If there is any difficulty in that particular case. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will be taking it up with my right hon. Friend the John MooreSecretary of State.

Mr. Kinnock

But there is difficulty in that particular case. That is why I took it up with the DHSS, and that is why it replied that this lady

“will still be entitled to a Retirement Pension of £41.67 a week. I am sorry that I have been unable to alleviate …”

—I leave out the lady's name because I do not want publicity for her— “anxieties.” I shall show that reply to any hon. Member on the Conservative Benches who wishes to see it, but I am sure that they have received similar correspondence. As the regulations would be properly used if changes were made, to take the Prime Minister's point, again I ask her to change the regulations so as to lift people such as my constituent and thousands like her out of the anxiety, the fear and the poverty into which the changes have now plunged them.

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The Prime Minister

No. The reason why I said, “If there is any difficulty” is perfectly plain, and I shall explain it to the right hon. Gentleman. If a person has an asset such as a house which is on the market, it should not be difficult to raise money in the form of a loan from the bank on the strength—[Interruption.] If a person has a very considerable asset such as a house, it should not be difficult to raise a modest loan on the valuation of that asset.

Mr. Kinnock

The Prime Minister does not live in the real world. The house of which I speak cannot be sold, and has not been sold for 20 months. Can the Prime Minister recommend which building society or what source of credit would enable my constituent to raise an additional mortgage at 73 years of age to provide her with the kind of sum that would enable her so to supplement her income in order to live a civilised life?

The Prime Minister

It would be a loan on the security of an asset, which is a perfectly well understood transaction, and usually provided for by the banks of this country.

Q6. Mr. Stevens

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 21 April.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Stevens

Has my right hon. Friend seen reports recently that the Scottish TUC is to mount a campaign of opposition and boycotting of the Government's new programme for training the long-term unemployed, a [column 988]matter which I understand will be voted on by committees of the English TUC next week? Will she condemn the wholly negative approach of the Scottish TUC, which, if supported by the English TUC, would be a major threat to the training opportunities for some 60,000 unemployed people?

The Prime Minister

I saw the report about the Scottish TUC, to the effect that it is objecting to the new training programme. I think that it would be absolutely disgraceful if any union objected to helping a person to get training—the very training that he may need to help him to secure one of the many jobs available for skilled people—especially as the unions are part of the Manpower Services Commission, which approved that programme. I hope that the unions will support the programme in the end.

Mr. Terry Lewis

Will the Prime Minister inform the House how she regards the old and disabled couple in my constituency who have no assets to sell and whose rent is being increased from £1.66 to £35 a week, because of the housing benefit cut? Will she please explain to them how they will live from now on?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, I have said that detailed cases should be taken up with John Mooremy right hon. Friend—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman is aware that even after the changes more money is being spent on housing benefit in real terms than in 1979, and still every two households are having to support not only themselves, but keep a third. The amount of money spent on housing benefit is greater by a good deal than in 1979.