Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1988 Jul 26 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 [138/250-54]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2392
Themes: Executive, Executive (appointments), Employment, Privatized & state industries, Energy, Environment, Pay, European Union (general), Foreign policy (Africa), Health policy, Law & order, Northern Ireland, Science & technology, Terrorism, Trade unions, Strikes & other union action
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PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Franks

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 July.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House I shall be having further meetings later today, including one with Mr. Paul Obeng, chairman of the Committee of Secretaries of Ghana.

Mr. Franks

I take this opportunity to thank the Prime Minister, who, in stark contrast to the Leader of the Opposition, once again when abroad batted for Britain and for Barrow to try to secure the Canadian submarine order. After almost eight weeks on strike, pending further negotiations to settle the dispute, is it not time that local unions in Barrow balloted their members for a return to work?

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The Prime Minister

I have great sympathy with what my hon. Friend said. I understand that management and unions are meeting today, and I hope that the dispute will be resolved. I share my hon. Friend's view that the strike is damaging to Britain and to our prospects of getting more orders from abroad. It is particularly damaging to Vickers, and it could even be damaging the prospect of getting more home orders, too.

Mr. Kinnock

Does the appointment of a new Secretary of State for Health mean that the Government are now ready to provide the actual cost of the nurses' pay award and the grading review?

The Prime Minister

Dividing the DHSS is something that many people have thought should have been done for some time. I was in the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance when it was mooted that the two Departments should be put together. The two Departments together were more than one person could legitimately undertake. The burden was very great indeed, so we have separated them.

With regard to nurses' pay, as the right hon. Gentleman is aware, we have provided the full amount of £803 million estimated by the review body. We believe that that should be sufficient for a fair implementation of the new structural pay agreement, and we hope that regional health authorities and districts will get on with making that structural arrangement.

Mr. Kinnock

The pay review body said:

“the actual cost of our recommendations may well differ from our estimates” .

Will the Prime Minister now give a specific undertaking that if the actual costs are higher than the estimates she will make up the difference, or is she again to betray nurses and patients?

The Prime Minister

We believe that the £803 million is sufficient to reach a fair implementation of the structural pay agreement. It is for the regions to determine how to allocate the funds to the districts. The main allocation of the central funds has already been made to the regions. It is for the regions to determine how to allocate funds to districts, because they are best placed to take account of local factors that may affect the outcome of the grading exercise. One of the problems is that the local health authorities are not getting on sufficiently rapidly with the regarding and, therefore, the nurses do not quite know where they are.

I remind the right hon. Gentleman of the cuts to nurses pay under the last Labour Government.

Mr. Nicholas Baker

Do my right hon. Friend and her newly enlarged Cabinet plan to introduce legislation to abolish oaths of allegiance being sworn to the Crown and to replace them with democratic oaths? Does she not regard such a proposal as disloyal, if not treacherous? Is she surprised that a Bill has been introduced by a group of Members of the Labour party who expect that their candidate will win the next Labour leadership election on that basis?

The Prime Minister

I think that my hon. Friend has made his own point very effectively indeed.

Dr. Owen

In view of the deplorably short sighted decision not to give any further financial support to the HOTOL project, will the Prime Minister agree, first, to [column 252]declassify the patents and, secondly, if any other Government are prepared to come forward in a collaborative project, that this Government will also support HOTOL?

The Prime Minister

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the HOTOL project is only in its very early research stages, but I think that a contrary impression may have been given in certain newspapers. It is a concept of a space plane to reduce the cost of launching satellites. There is no question of this country being able to finance the research or production of such an enormous project, which would be in the order of £4 billion to £6 billion. We think that our research moneys could far better go to many other projects which would help our own people far more.

Mr. Alexander

Following my right hon. Friend's recent involvement with the Tidy Britain Group, will she consider turning her energies towards the problems of noise in our streets? Does she agree that some of the noise coming from open car windows and transistors in the streets is deeply offensive and that legislation should now be considered to reduce that noise to much more acceptable levels?

The Prime Minister

I agree—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. We should hear the answer.

The Prime Minister

Answering from this Dispatch Box, I agree with my hon. Friend about noise and how very difficult it can be to make oneself heard.

With regard to a clean Britain, if people did not throw things down, had more personal pride and responsibility for their villages, towns and cities, and made less noise and objection to such an unexceptionable statement, we might have very much cleaner towns and cities.

Q2. Mr. Andrew Welsh

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 July.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Welsh

As the Prime Minister in her reshuffle has now made the Secretary of State in charge of the Department of Health and Social Security half the Minister that he once was, will she now sort out the mess in the Scottish Office? Is she aware that, on the one hand, there is no Law Officer or Agriculture Minister who can participate in debates in the House and, on the other, the one-man band from Stirling, for example, is responsible for education, for health, for social work, for sport and so on? He is not very good at it. To those have now been added agriculture, forestry and fishing. Will she turn her attention to a sensible and organised form of government in Scotland, for the first time in decades?

The Prime Minister

The Scottish Office works extremely well under Malcolm Rifkindone of the best Scottish Secretaries of State that it has ever had. It has an excellent team—[Interruption.] I point out to the hon. Gentleman, if I can be heard through the noise, which is such an awful example to schoolchildren, that the Scottish earnings are the third highest in Britain.

Q3. Mr. Andy Stewart

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 July.

The Prime Minister

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

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Mr. Stewart

Does my right hon. Friend recall that, when she visited the Nottinghamshire coalfield in 1976 output stood at 2 tonnes per manshift? Today, under the leadership of the Union of Democratic Mineworkers, output has reached over 5 tonnes per manshift. Recently, the Black Diamond of Sherwood Thoresby colliery broke the European weekly record for deep-mined coal, at 61,700 tonnes. Will my right hon. Friend take time in the next year to visit Nottinghamshire to see for herself how the Notts miners are preparing to meet the challenge of privatisation of the electricity industry?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. The record that my hon. Friend mentions is quite outstanding and it is a great tribute to the UDM and all of those who work in the coal mine. It puts miners in a very good position to meet the challenges of the next decade. I shall certainly try to come up next year and give them my personal best wishes on their marvellous record.

Mr. McAvoy

Is the Prime Minister aware of the widespread anger in the country at her appointment of the right hon. and learned Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Brittan) as European Commissioner? Is she further aware that that appointment is regarded by the overwhelming majority of people as a pay-off for silence during the Westland affair?

The Prime Minister

The nomination—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I ask the House to listen to answers.

The Prime Minister

The nomination of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Brittan) is an excellent one——

Mr. Skinner

Why did the right hon. Lady sack him then?

The Prime Minister

I believe——

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is only fair that, when the Prime Minister has been asked a question, she is given an opportunity to answer it.

The Prime Minister

The Opposition cannot debate—they can only shout. That is why they shout. The nomination of my right hon. and learned Friend, Leon Brittanthe former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, is an excellent one. I believe very strongly that we should put to Europe those who have had considerable experience of Cabinet office. My right hon. and learned Friend served in the Treasury as a Cabinet Minister, he served in the Home Office as a Cabinet Minister and he served in the Department of Trade and Industry as a Cabinet Minister. He will be very well placed to represent Britain at an extremely difficult and important time for the future of Europe and of the Commission. I hope that the Opposition will see fit to put up names that are as distinguished.

Q4. Mr. Neil Hamilton

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 July.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Hamilton

As the secretary of the ANZAC group, may I wish my right hon. Friend a successful visit to Australia at the end of the week? Will she confirm that [column 254]while she is there she will not make any speeches critical of the Leader of the Opposition, that she will not make any tasteless jokes about his wife, that she will not swear at any Australian soldiers and that she will behave with a dignity that will forever elude the Leader of the Opposition?

The Prime Minister

I have no difficulty in giving the confirmation that my hon. Friend seeks.

Q5. Mr. Wallace

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 July.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Wallace

The Prime Minister will be aware that although the closure of Dounreay is being phased over many years the job loss implications are worrying for the north of Scotland. Is she aware that we will not be satisfied by being fobbed off with the idea of a nuclear dump in the north of Scotland? Indeed, it might discourage many of the employment opportunities that we shall now have to develop in that part of the country.

The Prime Minister

I hope the hon. Gentleman appreciates the strenuous efforts that we have made to phase out those job losses over a long period, because we are well aware of the problems of getting extra jobs in that area. I did not know that the hon. Gentleman was such an enthusiast for nuclear energy. With regard to Nirex, we have not yet received a report from that organisation about the disposal of some of the waste.

Foreign Terrorist Organisations

Q6. Mr. Hunter

To ask the Prime Minister what is Her Majesty's Government's policy with regard to foreign terrorist organisations known to be in regular contact with the IRA having offices in the United Kingdom.

The Prime Minister

The IRA is a prescribed organisation in this country, and anyone who has a meeting with members of the IRA may be liable to prosecution under section 1 of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1984.

Mr. Hunter

Since the IRA, the ANC and SWAPO, as exemplified by the statement made by Mr. Sam Nujoma in Dublin last November, not only show interest in one another but support one another's tactics, and bearing in mind that the ANC is responsible for the murder of 600 black South Africans in the past two to three years, is it right that London should be an open haven for South African terrorist organisations, which are the self-confessed friends of the IRA?

The Prime Minister

The information that my hon. Friend has given about the links between those organisations will, of course, be investigated. As he knows, the other organisations that he has mentioned are not proscribed in this country. Therefore, the tradition is that anyone is free to express his political views, provided that he does so within the law. Of course, we condemn violence from whatever quarter it comes in South Africa. The only way in which progress can be made is by peaceful negotiation. The current talks on Angola and Namibia are encouraging in that respect.