Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1988 Oct 25 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 [139/165-70]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2351
Themes: Conservative Party (organization), Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Energy, Pay, Taxation, Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Local government, Local government finance, Northern Ireland, Social security & welfare, Terrorism
[column 165]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Macdonald

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 25 October.

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 Prince Sihanouk of Cambodia. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty the Queen.

Mr. Macdonald

Given the Prime Minister's many previous answers to this question, does the right hon. Lady believe that it is right for the Bank of England to spend so much money on propping up the pound?

[column 166]

The Prime Minister

Nigel LawsonMy right hon. Friend's policy, with which I wholly agree, is to do every single thing to try to get down inflation. The action that he has taken is the action that will do that and it will also succeed in getting down the balance of trade deficit.

Q2. Mr. Curry

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 25 October.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Curry

In view of the recent series of visits by Western leaders to the Soviet Union, and Mr. Gorbachev 's manifest need of Western technology and finance to accomplish the economic reforms that he has promised, does my right hon. Friend believe that the provision of such aid by the West should be linked to progress on liberalisation in Eastern Europe and memorable progress on disarmament?

The Prime Minister

I agree that we very much want to encourage both economic and political reform in the Soviet Union. Indeed, we have been foremost among the nations doing so. I do not think that it is advisable to link that specifically to credits either to the Soviet Union or to Eastern Europe. First, I do not think that it would work; and secondly, we want to have as much influence as possible over them on human rights and such a link would be adverse to the maximum effects that we could have.

Mr. Kinnock

Last year, when the Prime Minister said that:

“child benefit will continue to be paid as now, and direct to the mother” ,

had she decided then that child benefit was to be frozen, or did the decision to deceive come later?

The Prime Minister

I indicated from this Box that that particular phrase, which is to be found in the Conservative manifesto, would be honoured. The right hon. Gentleman will have the same reply as he had last week. He knows full well that there will be a statement on all uprating. He knows that it will come comparatively soon, either this month or early next month, and he really must wait to see what that statement says.

Mr. Kinnock

The Prime Minister is dodging again. On this occasion I think that we can safely regard her silence as an admission of guilt. The Prime Minister is a cheat. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I did not hear the last word, but I hope that it was not unparliamentary. [Interruption.]

Dame Elaine Kellet-Bowman

Will my right hon. Friend—[Interruption.]

The Prime Minister

rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I did not hear the right hon. Gentleman's last word. I am certain that if it was an unparliamentary expression the right hon. Gentleman will rephrase it.

Mr. Kinnock

If you did not hear it, Mr. Speaker, the last phrase that I used was, “The Prime Minister is a cheat.” [Interruption.]

Dame Elaine Kellet-Bowman

rose——

[column 167]

Mr. Speaker

I must advise the right hon. Gentleman that I do not think that that is a parliamentary expression—[Interruption]—or one that we should use in the House. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to please withdraw it.

Mr. Kinnock

I respect your judgment greatly, Mr. Speaker, and on that basis I withdraw the word “cheat” . [Interruption. ]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I call Dame Elaine Kellet-Bowman.

Dame Elaine Kellet-Bowman

Will my right hon. Friend find time in her busy day to emphasise to her right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy that if a proposal were to be put to him to store spent fuel from advanced gas-cooled reactors throughout the country on the borders of my constituency, the paramount consideration would be that of safety? Would it not be infinitely more sensible for each AGR station to store its own spent fuel rods on its own site?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend is aware, a great deal of capital expenditure is being incurred at Sellafield in order to store spent fuel safely. Her proposal would be a fundamental change of policy which would have to be put to the appropriate authorities. I think that the present arrangements are the best.

Q3. Mr. Home Robertson

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 25 October.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Home Robertson

“Cheating” may be an unparliamentary expression but it seems uncommonly frequent in the conduct of this Government. If the Prime Minister will not answer in this Chamber the question put to her by my right hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock), will she come to Scotland to explain to 6,000 mothers in Govan why they should sacrifice again and see their child benefit frozen for the second year in succession in order to fund the £2 billion-worth of tax cuts that have been given to the richest 1 per cent. of people in this country?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman must wait until the uprating statement is made. May I remind him that last year a greater amount was spent on helping the poorest families by increasing their benefits than would have been spent on uprating child benefit as a whole. I should have thought that some Opposition Members would prefer a greater amount of money to go to young children, as happened last year. With regard to the future, the hon. Gentleman must await the statement which he knows will come.

Mr. Wilshire

As part of my right hon. Friend's ongoing, highly successful reforms of local government financing and service delivery, will she find time during the course of the day to send a message of support to the new Conservative administration on Bradford city council as it seeks to grapple with Socialist excess and Socialist waste?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I will gladly send a message of goodwill to that new administration. I hope that it will place the finances of that authority on a sound and[column 168] sustainable financial basis for the future, which will bring great credit to the new administration.

Dr. Owen

With the amounts of compensation for the Piper Alpha rig disaster very much under discussion, is it not time that something was done for the families of those who have lost their lives as a result of the IRA? Should not the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board be far more generous when we realise that the family of a Member of this House who lost his life four years ago in the Brighton bomb disaster was offered only £24,000 after three years? Does that not suggest that a lot more needs to be done for the victims of IRA bombings?

The Prime Minister

With regard to the right hon. Gentleman's point about Piper Alpha, as he knows, that has yet to be decided. I think that there is a delegation to my hon. Friend the Minister of State this afternoon to discuss the possible payment of costs on the inquiry. With regard to the IRA and the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, I take note of his point and will pursue it.

Mr. Robert B. Jones

Will my right hon. Friend find time during her busy day to have discussions with Ministers from the Department of the Environment about the plight of the innocent victims of Socialism in Brent, where teachers are being thrown out of work and services cut because of the council's mismanagement? Is not the verdict of the electorate—a derisory 3.8 per cent. of the vote for the Labour party in an election last week—just and deserved?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I entirely agree. If local authorities run their finances badly it is the ordinary people who will pay for the consequences, and I hope that that lesson will be learnt.

Q5. Mr. Winnick

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 25 October.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Winnick

Will the Audit Commission be asked by the Government to inquire how the freehold of Tory Central Office was purchased from Westminster city council, or does the Prime Minister take the view that if British Aerospace can make so much profit from privatisation there is no reason why the Tory party should not also make a killing from the public purse? Has Ivan Boesky anything to learn from enterprise culture and from members of her Government?

The Prime Minister

The short answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is no, not as far as I am aware. With regard to privatisation as a whole, it has been brilliantly successful and greatly to the advantage of most employees.

Q6. Mr. Gregory

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 25 October.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Gregory

As the tax and prices index has shown such a modest rise as 3.9 per cent., thanks to this year's cut in income tax, will my right hon. Friend urge employers to take that into account, and particularly to give a boost to profit-related pay?

[column 169]

The Prime Minister

I agree that that factor should be taken into account. As my hon. Friend will have seen from the latest figures, the increases in average earnings are such that our unit labour costs are not quite as competitive as they have been with those in Europe. It is therefore vital that increases should be taken in relation to the profit that has been made. I hope that my hon. Friend will point out to employers that my right hon. Friend Nigel Lawsonthe Chancellor made special provision for less tax to be paid on amounts that are distributed from profits than would have been paid on straight increases in earnings.

Q7.Mr. Beith

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 25 October.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Beith

Will the Prime Minister now address herself before it is too late to the merits of child benefit, not the least of which is that, because it is not withdrawn as income rises, it does not create the kind of poverty trap that the switch of that aid to other benefits is likely to produce? If it is important that those who are already rich have an incentive to work, is it not also important that those who are at the bottom of the scale receive the full advantage of their own efforts to better themselves?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, child benefit is composed of two factors: first, the old[column 170] family allowance, which was a plain, straightforward distribution to all families; and, secondly, the income tax allowance. The two were combined, and therefore child benefit has not only one quality.

The hon. Gentleman must wait for a statement on all upratings, including child benefit. Let me point out, however, that any indiscriminate benefit has a lot of what is called “churning” , in that it takes money from one pocket, puts it through a bureaucracy and it goes into the other.

Mr. Allason

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of my constituents who are victims of the Barlow Clowes affair are deeply grateful for the reported interest of my right hon. Friend in the report? Will she give her urgent support to the Department of Trade and Industry for the private sector's lifeboat to assist them?

The Prime Minister

Anything that the private sector decides to do will be welcome. There is, perhaps, some confusion when these matters are called lifeboats and are compared with what happened in the mid–1970s. At that time no taxpayers' money was ever involved. The Bank of England took action to put secondary banks into liquidity and the money was repaid. Alternatively, they were put into liquidation. That has absolutely nothing to do with the present circumstances. [Interruption.] I notice that Opposition Members are noisy. We remember how much many people lost when, under a Labour Government, the stock exchange crashed to 150.