Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1988 Jul 7 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 [136/1187-91]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2313
Themes: Executive, Parliament, Defence (general), Employment, Industry, Energy, European Union (general), Foreign policy (Middle East), Housing, Law & order, Local government, Northern Ireland, Social security & welfare, Terrorism, Transport
[column 1187]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Mathew Taylor

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 7 July.

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. This evening I shall be presiding at a dinner in honour of the recently retired secretary general of NATO Lord Carrington.

Mr. Taylor

The Prime Minister will be aware of the great difficulties facing young people looking for housing in areas such as Cornwall. Does she agree with the comments in Building Today of her Secretary of State for the Environment in relation to his two new papers on rural housing, when he said:

“I don't see this as making a major contribution to solving the housing problem.” ?

The Prime Minister

I fully support Nicholas Ridleymy right hon. Friend's most excellent paper, which is designed to ensure an increase in the life of rural communities by attracting more industry and light industry, and by providing more housing of a kind that will persuade these young people to stay in rural areas.

Mr. Ian Bruce

Will my right hon. Friend find time in her busy day to send a message of encouragement and thanks to our naval personnel in the Gulf on the Armilla patrol? All their families and friends and, indeed, the whole House will wish them well in the difficult job that they have been doing these past eight years.

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend and will certainly respond to his invitation. Our naval personnel have been doing their task extremely well, quietly and efficiently, regularly accompanying many ships up the Gulf. The whole House will wish to join my hon. Friend in his good wishes and thanks.

Mr. Kinnock

May I fully endorse the Prime Minister's sympathy for those who have lost loved ones and who have been injured in the horrific accident in the North sea oilfield. May I join her in commending those in the rescue services who have shown bravery and skill. Mindful of the scale of this disaster and aware of the memory of other disasters and the implications for families who have been bereaved and suffered losses or injury, may I ask the Prime Minister whether she will now give further consideration to establishing a system of no-fault compensation, which would at least provide immediate support and future financial security for people hit by horrors such as these?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend Peter Morrisonthe Minister of State, Department of Energy, is in Aberdeen, and I spoke to him at lunchtime. There will be a full statement after questions, but my right hon. Friend wished to say that the rescue services, always good, had on this occasion absolutely excelled themselves. We should all be very grateful to them for that, although we know the enormous tragedy with which they were faced.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about no-fault compensation. I cannot undertake to introduce statutory no-fault compensation, for reasons that the right hon. [column 1188]Gentleman will know—the matter has been debated and discussed for a very long time—but he will have heard at previous Question Times that a number of voluntary no-fault compensation schemes are being introduced and that I agreed to look at them.

Sir Richard Body

Has my right hon. Friend seen a report of the speech made by the President of the EEC at Strasbourg yesterday in which he estimated that, with the Single European Act in place, in 10 years' time 80 per cent. of social and economic decisions now made by national parliaments will be made in Brussels? Does she agree with that estimate of 80 per cent. and if it is some other percentage will she tell the House?

The Prime Minister

I heard the reports of what was said in Brussels and I do not agree with what was said on the occasion.

Q2. Mr. Wall

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 7 July.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Wall

Will the Prime Minister explain why her Government abolished independent provision for safety in the North sea in 1980? Does not the transfer of that function to the Department of Energy leave the Government open to accusations that huge profits are more important than safety and human lives? Will she further explain why provision for independent safety representatives has been opposed for nine years by the Government and the oil industry? Does not this tragedy show the need for working people in the North sea to have the right to statutory provision to bring safety aspects to the notice of authorities on all occasions?

The Prime Minister

As I said earlier, there will be a full statement after questions. In the meantime, it is obvious that we all wish to express our deep sympathy with the people concerned—those who have been injured and the bereaved of the very many whom we seem to have lost. My right hon. Friend will be referring in his statement to safety and to the recent inspections on the rig, and it would be best if we waited for that statement.

Q3. Mr. Couchman

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 7 July.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Couchman

We are all acutely conscious of the tragedy in the North sea today, but may I turn to the continuing tragedy in Northern Ireland? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that our troops, to whom she has so often paid tribute, will remain in Northern Ireland as long as law and order demand? In that context, has my right hon. Friend been approached by any other party leader for advice on how to deal with a Front-Bench spokeswoman who has broken the bipartisan approach by demanding the withdrawal of troops?

Mr. Speaker

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

The Prime Minister

May I answer my hon. Friend's main point. In thinking of other tragedies we perhaps do not remember often enough some of the daily tragedies that occur in Northern Ireland. Our troops will, of course, [column 1189]stay there as long as the situation requires them to do so and I hope that all hon. Members will join me in paying tribute to their courage and dedication as well as to that of the RUC.

Mr. Vaz

Does the Prime Minister agree that it is one of the fundamental principles of our democracy that all our citizens should have equal access to the law and to proper legal advice? If she does, how does she square those sentiments with the proposals in the Legal Aid Bill, which seeks to deny citizens the right to select the lawyer or legal adviser of their choice? Is she not deeply ashamed, especially as she is a former lawyer, that hers is the first British Government in history to put justice out to competitive tender?

The Prime Minister

The fundamental principle is, I believe, that all people are equal before the law. As they come before the courts their rights are absolutely equal. Under this Government the amount spent on legal aid has made that budget one of the fastest rising budgets of all. We have spread opportunity ever more widely.

Q4. Mrs. Gillian Shephard

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 7 July.

The Prime Minister

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

Mrs. Shephard

Will my right hon. Friend find time today to consider the encouraging improvement in employment in south-west Norfolk, especially in Thetford, where unemployment has fallen during the past year from 11 per cent. to less than 6 per cent.? Does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be a great encouragement to those successful companies in Thetford, which in expanding have taken advantage of the Government's economic policies, if the Department of Transport were to increase its investment in the dualling of the A11, so that sooner rather than later Norfolk will be linked convincingly by a dualled road network to the rest of the United Kingdom?

The Prime Minister

I am delighted to hear the figures on the fall in unemployment in Thetford, which has been brought about by greater prosperity. Advantage has been taken of that prosperity by more small businesses starting up. I know my hon. Friend's views on the A11/M11. I think she will agree that when the present works are finished about 80 per cent. of the road will be dual carriageway all the way up to Norwich. I shall carefully consider my hon. Friend's comments on further improvements.

Mr. Boateng

Is the Prime Minister aware that there are more people homeless and sleeping rough on the streets of our capital city than in any other capital city in Europe, with the exception of Istanbul? Is the right hon. Lady aware that for every £4 that the Government spend on the homeless £10 was spent under the last Labour Government? Is she aware that last night the city of Westminster agreed to close a hostel for the homeless to make way for studio flats for the well-to-do? We know that the Prime Minister has no compassion, but has she no shame? What will she do for the homeless?

The Prime Minister

This point came up a few weeks ago and the same allegations were made. Inquiries were carried out. According to the figures, and as far as we are [column 1190]aware, there has been no increase in the number of people in difficulty in the capital and some places are available in hostels which are not taken up every night. Young people can benefit from a number of our measures—[Interruption.] More than 14,700 places have been approved since April 1981 to benefit the young single homeless and others. We made it easier for council tenants to sub-let so that they can take in people who need lodgings. We are increasing the programme of grants to voluntary bodies concerned with homelessness.

Q5. Mr. Holt

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 7 July.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Holt

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the events surrounding the Cleveland child sex abuse scandal must not be allowed to happen again? Does she agree also that those who are charged with the responsibility of taking action arising out of the scandal must do so quickly and allow the people of south Cleveland to build their lives on the prosperity which has been laid down so well during the past five years?

The Prime Minister

I listened carefully to yesterday's statement in the House and to the response by many hon. Members. It will now be for the authorities to take such further action as they think fit in the light of the report. I agree with my hon. Friend. We all utterly condemn child abuse and violence against children. We must do everything we can to protect children from that, but at the same time we must make certain that false allegations are not made against parents or children who may be innocent. It is easy to draw the line; it is not always as easy for social workers, neighbours and others to see the right side. Paramount protection must go to the child.

Q6. Mr. Campbell-Savours

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 7 July.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Why, when representatives of the Westminster Association of Relatives went to see the Prime Minister in her surgery some 10 days ago about the scandalous sale of Westminster cemeteries, was she both insensitive and indifferent to their plight and, indeed, upset them? Why did the Prime Minister refuse point-blank to condemn Lady Porter and Westminster city council for selling, for £1, assets worth at least £5 million to £7 million? Was not that sale, which is now the subject of an investigation by the fraud squad, the unacceptable face of privatisation?

The Prime Minister

When my constituents wish to see me—and I am sure the same applies to the hon. Gentleman—I do not refuse to see them, although I sometimes have to explain that, when matters are being investigated by the fraud squad, independent auditors or by the Ombudsman, I am in a position only to listen to what they say. I am not in a position to pronounce, especially when they are asking for such things as a statutory inquiry, which my right hon. Friends have no power to give. In accordance with my custom, they came and I listened to them for a very long time. One could not possibly be unsympathetic to what they were saying—no one could be. They knew that I [column 1191]could not reply and it would have been totally wrong if I, in the position of Prime Minister, replied on something to which my right hon. Friend may have to pronounce.