Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1988 May 26 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 [134/514-18]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2500
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Defence (arms control), Employment, Industry, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Public spending & borrowing, Trade, Foreign policy (USA), Health policy, Housing, Religion & morality, Society, Trade unions
[column 514]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. O'Brien

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 26 May.

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. O'Brien

On the way to the Barbican yesterday, did the Prime Minister observe the new wealth and riches of the City of London? Did she at the same time see the new poverty and homelessness in the same area? For which of those two features does the Prime Minister hold herself responsible?

The Prime Minister

The City of London is earning more than £7 billion in foreign exchange for the whole of Britain. The enormous contribution that it makes to our balance of payments is greater than that of North sea oil at its peak, so it does no one any good to run it down. That is part of the process of creating wealth that will enable us to enjoy a higher standard of living. Yes, there is a problem—as the hon. Gentleman is aware—in building extra houses in the south-east, whether in the larger south-east or in filling the areas we have developed. A great deal of that is already happening, especially in the urban development corporations, which is excellent.

Mr. Dickens

Does my right hon. Friend take heart from the very good news from America today that its economy is once more on the move?

The Prime Minister

Yes, of course, because the state of the American economy affects the whole world. But, with due respect, the American economy has been growing at a very considerable rate for many years, and America has reduced unemployment because private business has been creating jobs very fast.

Mr. Kinnock

Is the Prime Minister aware that yesterday her right hon. and hon. Friends described the decision to allow bids for Rowntree to proceed without impediment as “regional assassination” , welcoming the gazumpers, deeply disappointing and “a dangerous signal” to predators? I and my hon. and right hon. Friends agree with them, and 60 of the right hon. Lady's hon. Friends also agree. Why does the Prime Minister not agree with them?

The Prime Minister

Lord Young Of GrafthamThe Secretary of State for Trade and Industry made his decision. He explained the full reasons for it. My right hon. and learned Friend announced it in this House. The future of Rowntree is now in the hands of the shareholders. The decision of my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry was not to intervene, and he made it on the advice of Sir Gordon Borrie of the Office of Fair Trading. That should be absolutely clear.

Mr. Kinnock

Does the Prime Minister realise that with this decision about Rowntree she has given the all-clear to foreign takeover predators in any industry? Does she not realise that, with this decision, she has put a “For Sale” notice on Britain?

[column 515]

The Prime Minister

No. Each bid is dealt with on competition grounds, and also with a residual public interest. I might point out to the right hon. Gentleman that, according to the latest 1987 figures, the United Kingdom has £94 billion worth of investment in overseas countries, and the world has £55 billion in Britain. The fact is that this country has done extremely well by having an open economy, being able to stand up to competition, and having got rid of exchange controls. That is why we have this standard of living. It is only if a country cannot stand up to competition that it must go back to the closed economy of which the right hon. Gentleman is such an ardent exponent, and which was such a calamity for Britain.

Mr. Kinnock

The Prime Minister is talking rubbish. Could she explain to us, as she preaches the virtues of competition, how competition is enhanced by the takeover of one of the major confectionery firms in Europe?

The Prime Minister

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will read both the statements of my—[Interruption.] We are dealing with competition against a European background. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to have companies here strong enough to stand up to it. I notice that his home constituency, Islwyn, has an advertisement in the magazine “Airport” which reads:

“If your business is expanding—[Interruption.]— “what does Islwyn mean to you?” The advertisement urges people to come to invest in Islwyn—which is excellent. But not from abroad—that is not what the right hon. Gentleman wants.

Q2. Sir Fergus Montgomery

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 26 May.

The Prime Minister

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

Sir Fergus Montgomery

Does my right hon. Friend welcome the summit between Reagan and Gorbachev in Moscow this weekend, which is taking place only because of the maintenance of sound defence by the West? Does she not agree that it would not be happening if Western Governments had unilaterally thrown away their nuclear weapons, as the leader of the Labour Party would have us do?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I believe that the summit is taking place only because of the background of strong and sure defence by this country, as well as by the United States, and because we are able to rely on the whole of NATO and on its nuclear arms, which the Labour party could not do. That party's decision not to decide for some particular time means that it is not behind NATO having nuclear weapons as part of its fundamental nuclear deterrent.

Mr. Faulds

In view of the Prime Minister's nauseating pretence about moral concern at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland—which makes her offence the worse—will she contemplate today what has fired her policies the more during her nine years of power: the careful computation of costs and profits that she learnt at her father's knee, or Christian concern, which she signally failed to learn?

The Prime Minister

As I made perfectly clear in that address—[Interruption.] May I just quote? [column 516]

“None of this … tells us exactly what kind of political and social institutions we should have. On this point, Christians will very often genuinely disagree, though it is a mark of Christian manners that they will do so with courtesy and mutual respect.”

That seems to be lacking in the hon. Gentleman.

Q3. Mr. Couchman

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 26 May.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Couchman

Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming the decision of the Trades Union Congress yesterday not to sabotage the new employment training scheme, in stark contrast to the advice from some Labour Members? Will she now lead a new initiative between state and industry and commerce to ensure that no one in future is unemployed for lack of a suitable training or retraining opportunity?

The Prime Minister

Yes, we very much welcome the decision of the TUC to support the training programme. I hope that the Labour party will now follow the TUC, as it usually does, and do the same. The programme is meant to provide training for some 600,000 unemployed people and to give them a skill. There are jobs which require skills and which employers cannot fill. It is hoped, therefore, that the programme will be very progressive in reducing unemployment. As my hon. Friend knows, for the younger age group—those between 16 and 18—the youth training scheme guarantees them training very shortly after leaving school for up to two years. Therefore, we are taking great steps to ensure that people who have been unable to get jobs will receive training to help them to do so.

Mr. Darling

Will the Prime Minister reflect on the fact that her policy of transferring wealth from poor people to rich people and then urging rich people to give it back to poor people by way of charity is complete nonsense? Will she also reflect on the words of St. Luke, chapter 18, verse 10–14, before she goes to bed tonight?

The Prime Minister

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will realise that wealth must be created before it can be distributed. Under this Government, far more wealth has been created and has been far more widely distributed. Figures published recently show that the poorer parts of the population have had greater increases than the average population.

Q4. Mr. Ashby

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 26 May.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Ashby

Has my right hon. Friend seen that the figure for the long-term unemployed has dropped by more than 20 per cent.? Is that not good news? Has my right hon. Friend seen that our record for dealing with unemployment is far better than that of Europe, and that it is the best in Europe? Is not the reason for that the fact that companies such as Rolls-Royce, which has just achieved an order in America worth more than £1 billion, are now able to compete free from trade union misrule and in a buoyant economy?

The Prime Minister

The answer to both parts of my hon. Friend's question is yes. The unemployment rate in [column 517]the United Kingdom has fallen faster in the past year than in any other major industrialised country. United Kingdom unemployment is now lower than the EC average and the news about long-term unemployment also falling fast in percentage terms and in absolute numbers is very good.

I take this opportunity to congratulate Rolls-Royce on the excellent order it has won. It brings great cheer not only to the work force there, but to those of us on the Conservative Benches. Because it was gained against great competition, it is a great boost for the confidence of Britain that Rolls-Royce once again is at the top.

Q5. Mr. Bradley

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 26 May.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Bradley

Will the Prime Minister explain to my constituents in Withington how her health care policies, presumably based on her interpretation of Christian morality, have led to a financial crisis in the south Manchester health authority? Will she personally intervene to stop further cuts in health care which next month will mean the closure of psychiatric beds at Withington hospital and the appalling closure of wards for the elderly at Burton house, Withington?

The Prime Minister

A few months ago the Labour party was asking for an increase of £2 billion in health care expenditure this year. There has been just about that £2 billion increase in health expenditure, and within that the biggest every pay increases for doctors and nurses, to raise morale. It is now reasonable to expect that that extra money will go into extra patient care and be used fully and properly because, of course, it is taxpayers' money.

Q6. Mr. Roger King

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 26 May.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. King

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Rover group in my constituency has announced another 1,500 new jobs, that last week Land Rover had its best production figures in over 15 years, and that every week[column 518] there are record numbers of job vacancies advertised in the local newspaper? Is that not evidence that in social and economic terms we are creating loads of new jobs through loads of investment, which produces loads of wealth, loads of care and loads of help for our community?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. I congratulate my hon. Friend and Rover on being able to take on so many people. That happened because its products are good, because it is able to compete with others and because it is taking the opportunity to thrive under the Government. It is particularly good news that industry is receiving orders for the aeroengines and for cars, because they were areas where we were not excelling before the Government returned to power.

Q7. Mr. Bill Michie

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 26 May.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Michie

I note that the Prime Minister appears to have seen the light and moved to the high moral ground. Is that a temporary aberration while she spends time rewriting the Bible, the Koran and purging the Church freethinkers—[nterruption.]

The Prime Minister

I was invited——

Mr. Cryer

Not next year.

The Prime Minister

I was invited, for which I was very grateful, by the Scottish Assembly to give an address. I gave an account of my personal beliefs. The hon. Gentleman may have it if he wishes. The Assembly received it extremely well and I was grateful for that. It issued a statement later saying that the account that appeared in the newspapers yesterday was totally unrepresentative—[Interruption.] Perhaps I might just say that an official statement yesterday said:

“It is a gross misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the decision of the General Assembly to represent yesterday's decision as being in any way a snub to the Prime Minister.
The Reverend James Weatherhead, Principal Clerk of the Assembly added, ‘I cannot believe that anyone who was present in the General Assembly and faithfully and honourably reported its proceedings could have been so grievously and irresponsibly mistaken.’”