Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1988 Oct 20 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 [138/1007-12]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2269
Themes: Industry, Local elections, Monetary policy, European Union (general), Economic, monetary & political union, Health policy, Labour Party & socialism, Community charge ("poll tax"), Media, Northern Ireland, Security services, Social security & welfare, Terrorism, Trade unions
[column 1007]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Beaumont-Dark

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 20 October.

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, including one with the Premier of the State of South Australia.

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the television and radio strictures upon Sinn Fein, the propaganda arm of that evil machine the IRA, have been widely welcomed in the country, as it has in the House, among thinking and feeling people? Will my right hon. Friend also accept that that is only one step on the road to [column 1008]its defeat, because anybody standing for public office in the United Kingdom should have to swear an oath renouncing violence and upholding the primacy of Parliament and the ballot box?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend and agree that the measures announced yesterday have been widely welcomed in the country by people who do not wish terrorists to have direct access to the broadcasting media. On the second point about those who wish to stand for local elections taking an oath to renounce violence, a similar proposal was put forward previously by my right hon. Friend Tom Kingthe Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. If we go ahead with it, we shall do so by way of legislation and introduce it at the earliest opportunity.

Mr. Kinnock

In the argument between those who want to raise child benefit and those who want to freeze it, on which side is the Prime Minister?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman knows full well that child benefit is reviewed every year. He knows that there will be an anouncement at the proper time. He knows what the proper time is, and he must await it accordingly.

Mr. Kinnock

Child benefit was reviewed last year and resulted in its being frozen. I am not asking for detail from the Prime Minister, I am asking for a statement of principle from her. Does she want to raise child benefit, or does she want to freeze it? How can a Government give £3 billion to top-rate taxpayers and not give an undertaking to increase child benefit?

The Prime Minister

This year, as the right hon. Gentleman is aware, we directed £200 million in net extra resources to families in income-related benefits, especially for the children. That was against the £120 million that uprating child benefit this year would have cost. If the right hon. Gentleman wants a general increase in child benefit, it would also go to the topmost people on top tax.

Q2. Mr. John Greenway

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 20 October.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Greenway

Is my right hon. Friend aware that her recent remarks in Bruges and in Brighton last week reflect the opinion held by the overwhelming majority of people in this country and, if the truth were known, throughout Europe? Does she agree that other European Heads of Government would do better to concentrate on practical measures towards economic progress and their agriculture policies rather than harp on about ideological European union ideas?

The Prime Minister

Yes. The speech was greeted by an avalanche of support, as well as some criticism. I firmly believe that the best way to secure forward movement in the European Community is by active co-operation between sovereign states. Furthermore, we have concentrated on practical measures, and in doing so have often been way ahead in achievements—beyond those who talk in woolly terms about European union.

Mr. Ashdown

Inflation is now running at four times the level of that in West Germany and is 50 per cent. above the [column 1009]EEC average. Interest rates in Britain are nearly twice as high as they are in France and three times as high as in West Germany. Wage rates in Britain are rising two and a half times as fast as in France, and as an average are 50 per cent. higher than in the EEC. What grounds can there be for the Government's smug complacency about the economy?

The Prime Minister

I understand that the hon. Gentleman put a lot of work into his question, but he seems, at one and the same time, to be criticising both higher inflation rates and higher interest rates. Does he not know that the way to get inflation down is by higher interest rates?

Q3. Mr. Burt

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 20 October.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Burt

Does my right hon. Friend agree that no responsible Western Government would allow the right to strike or trade union activity to interfere with the security services? Bearing in mind the disruption caused at GCHQ and the genuine efforts that the Government have made to deal with legitimate trade union concerns, is my right hon. Friend aware that the overwhelming majority of British people will fully support the necessary action that has recently been taken by the Government at GCHQ?

The Prime Minister

Yes. The original decision that we took on GCHQ was upheld by the highest court in the land and the European Court of Human Rights. As my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, said in the House yesterday, about 10,000 man days were lost at GCHQ in the period 1979 to 1981 as a result of industrial action that had nothing to do with GCHQ. We have made strenuous efforts to accommodate those who did not uphold the new conditions of service. Only about 18 did not, while 7,000 people accepted those conditions. The action that we have taken is correct.

Ms. Short

Will the Prime Minister please explain what will seriously be achieved by not allowing the British people to hear and understand why both communities in Northern Ireland engage in violent conflict? At the time of the Anglo-Irish Agreement she promised reforms to reduce the alienation in Northern Ireland, but we have not seen them. We are now promised a series of measures that many of us believe will increase the conflict. Does she have a strategy to remove the causes of the violence, or will she allow it to rip under a blanket of censorship?

The Prime Minister

It would be a great help if we received full support for the measures that we have taken against terrorism, including the support of the Labour party for the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

Mrs. Roe

Following the Labour party's abject failure over the Dundee episode, does my right hon. Friend agree that Ford's recent announcement of investment at Bridgend shows that foreign firms believe in this country, which is good for jobs and for Britain?

The Prime Minister

Yes. We all welcome Ford's decision to site its main engine investment in this country. We were very concerned when forces in the trade union movement—though not in Scotland—stopped Ford from [column 1010]going to Dundee. I am delighted that it has decided to make much investment in this country, which is a vote of confidence in the United Kingdom Government.

Q4. Mr. Roy Hughes

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 20 October.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Hughes

Will there be any reconsideration of the Government's proposal to impose charges for eye tests? Does the right hon. Lady appreciate that there is particular worry about the plight of pensioners who, because of charges, will be deterred from seeking tests? Is she also aware that, because of that, there is a serious risk of an increase in the number of cases of glaucoma? Does the right hon. Lady realise that there is considerable concern on this issue among her Back Benchers? Bearing in mind the right hon. Lady's eye affliction some time ago, can she tell the House whether she shares that concern?

The Prime Minister

Those on low incomes will not have to pay the charge, as the hon. Gentleman is well aware. It seems reasonable that those who can afford to pay should pay about £3 twice a year on dental charges or up to £10 on spectacles, although competition among opticians may result in virtually no charge. The hon. Gentleman is aware of the enormous increase in prosperity this year. Indeed, the Labour party voted against tax reductions, including some that would have affected older people. It would seem reasonable that those who can afford it should pay this small, modest charge for something that is fundamental to their health.

Mr. Paice

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that if she were to undertake a 10-day speaking tour she would do so during the recess? Does she assume that the only reason why the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) waits until we reassemble is——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member can ask questions only about the Prime Minister's responsibility. She is not responsible for that matter.

Q5. Mr. O'Brien

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 20 October.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. O'Brien

The Prime Minister is well aware of the unfairness and cruelty that will be inflicted on people on low incomes when the poll tax is introduced. Is she aware of the unfairness and cruelty that will be inflicted on a pensioner couple when they will have to pay twice the poll tax while their income will be only 50 per cent. more than that of a single pensioner? Will the right hon. Lady do something to arrest this cruelty that will be inflicted on people on low incomes?

The Prime Minister

Community charge is the way of paying for a part of local government services. It is therefore an obligation that falls on all citizens unless they are unable, because of low income, to afford the whole amount, in which case they will get an 80 per cent. rebate. In the last resort, they will get an average of 20 per cent. of the community charge on their social security benefit to enable them to pay it. The hon. Gentleman loses sight of [column 1011]the fact that it is a citizen's duty to pay towards the cost of local income and that there are full rebates for those on low incomes.

Q6. Mr. Stanbrook

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 20 October.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Stanbrook

Will my right hon. Friend consider the suggestion that the ultimate solution to the problems of Northern Ireland lies in a re-drawing of the border, generous resettlement grants, its restriction to those British who wish to remain British, and thereafter its treatment on exactly the same terms as any other region of the United Kingdom?

The Prime Minister

We have not considered that approach. I do not think that it would work. There have been countries and incidents where it has worked in the past—for example, with Greece and Turkey after the first world war—but previous efforts to do this in Northern Ireland have failed. We must carry on with our present pledge to the people of Northern Ireland, which is that there will be no change in their status, except at their wish [column 1012]and through their express consent and the express consent of the House. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and must be governed in that way.

Q7. Mr. Haynes

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 20 October.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Haynes

Does the Prime Minister remember lecturing the nation—something that she does quite regularly—on spending money that it does not have? Why, then, do she and her Chancellor encourage people to spend money that they do not have?

The Prime Minister

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on being able so frequently to secure the last question at Prime Minister's Question Time. I do not know quite how he does it.

I do not think that it is right to encourage people to borrow more than they can afford—nor, I believe, does the hon. Gentleman. The steps that we have taken on interest rates will reduce borrowing and increase saving, and that is necessary both to get inflation down and to reduce the trade deficit. It is the right step to take.