Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1988 Nov 8 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 [140/167-71]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2110
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Education, Privatized & state industries, Environment, Pay, Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (USA), Health policy, Northern Ireland, Social security & welfare, Terrorism, Trade unions
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PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Sir Hugh Rossi

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 8 November.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning, I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. I was present at Victoria station to mark the arrival of the President of Senegal. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later today.

Sir Hugh Rossi

Did my right hon. Friend have the opportunity of observing the enormous damage to the environment during her most successful visit to Poland, on which my right hon. and hon. Friends would wish warmly to congratulate her? Is she aware that during her absence the United Nations published a survey of tree damage in 22 European countries, among which Great Britain appears to be one of the greatest sufferers? In the light of this new and alarming evidence, will she accelerate the Government's response to the latest report of the Select Committee on the Environment on air pollution, which has been outstanding for about six months?

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The Prime Minister

I thank my hon. Friend for his supplementary question. I did not observe tree damage in Poland although I saw a number of chemical factories in the distance and became aware of the problems that Poland is having. I know of the report to which he has referred. We should like to see the entire report, because we think that the summary does not tell the whole story. I am aware of the work that my hon. Friend undertakes as the Chairman of the Select Committee on the Environment, and I shall make further inquiries to ascertain when we can expect to have the reply ready. I shall do my level best to accelerate the process. I am well aware of the important work that is carried out by the Committee. Similarly, my hon. Friend will be aware of the £1 billion programme on which we are embarking to try to reduce acid rain, to which our coal-fired power stations contribute. It is unfortunate that our coal contains a large amount of sulphur, and it is expensive to get rid of it.

Mr. Kinnock

Does the Prime Minister agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that only a minority of pensioners have difficulty in making ends meet?

The Prime Minister

Pensioners' incomes have increased enormously during the lifetime of the Government. Every pensioner has a basic pension, and most have a second pension. Those who do not have a second pension have income support. The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that the increases in income support were announced last week.

Mr. Kinnock

The House and the country will note the Prime Minister's refusal to answer my question about the Chancellor. Can she tell us whether her refusal is because she agrees with the Chancellor, or because she disagrees with him?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman obviously tries to ask very selective questions and thus to avoid discussing the enormous improvement in the incomes of pensioners during the lifetime of this Government, and the fact that Britain's spending on the elderly is the third highest in Europe as a proportion of gross domestic product. Pensioners now have more security in their basic pensions, and in the increases in those pensions than they ever had under the tricks of the Labour party.

Mr. Kinnock

Does the Prime Minister agree with the Chancellor that only a small minority of pensioners have difficulty in making ends meet, or is she as ashamed of him as she should be?

The Prime Minister

If it had not been for the excellent stewardship—[Hon. Members: “Answer.” ] I shall answer questions in my own way. If it had not been for the excellent stewardship of my right hon. Friend Nigel Lawsonthe Chancellor of the Exchequer, we should not now have the highest standard of social services, including pensions, that this country has ever known; nor should we have been able to make up some of the shortfalls in pensions for which the Labour Government were responsible.

Rev. Ian Paisley

In view of the agreement entered into——

Mr. Faulds

The anti-Christ.

Mr. Speaker

Order.

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Rev. Ian Paisley

I am glad that my message has got across.

In view of the agreement entered into in Dublin yesterday by the Foreign Secretary about the standing of the territorial waters between Great Britain and the Irish Republic, what is now the standing of the territorial waters around Northern Ireland and Rockall? Dublin made it clear last night that those waters were not covered by the agreement. Can the Prime Minister affirm that her Government reject the Dublin claim over those territorial waters and that she will maintain and defend them as British waters?

The Prime Minister

The position on the territorial waters is the same as it was before the hon. Gentleman asked his question. I am aware of no change.

Mr. Ashdown

Is the Prime Minister aware that a decision is expected imminently from the Government on the future of North East Shipbuilders Ltd. on Wearside? In view of her welcome support for the unions at the Lenin shipyard in Gdansk, will she now take her fur hat to Wearside and express an equivalent solidarity with the workers, the unions and the community there?

The Prime Minister

An announcement will be made about the shipyard in Sunderland when my right hon. Friend Tony Newtonthe Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is ready. He is not yet ready, or he would have made such an announcement. Let me point out that Solidarity is a great deal more than a trade union. As a matter of fact it is not recognised as a legal trade union—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Prime Minister must be given an opportunity to reply.

The Prime Minister

It is not recognised as a legal trade union, and obviously it would wish to be.

Solidarity is the only expression of opposition to Communism and Socialism in Poland. Solidarity wishes to have a plural society of the kind that we have, and is very much against the kind of Communism expressed by some people in this country. The hon. Gentleman will be delighted to know that its members did not raise with me in any way the position of the shipyard. They are more concerned to have a plural society and to get their trade union legally recognised.

Q2. Mr. David Nicholson

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 8 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Nicholson

As today is the first anniversary of the Enniskillen bombing, as we approach Remembrance Sunday, and as we recall that Private Jason Winter from my constituency was one of those killed in the recent coach bombing, will my right hon. Friend pledge that she and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will continue their excellent work in explaining to the American people and the new Administration what our forces are trying to achieve in Northern Ireland?

The Prime Minister

The House expressed its sympathy at the time that those brave people were killed in that terrible, atrocious incident. Yes, I will gladly take up my hon. Friend's invitation to try to do my best once again to explain to the people of the United States that our forces [column 170]are in Northern Ireland as an aid to the civil power, to see that the rule of law is upheld, that the terrorist does not win, and that the terrorists cannot achieve by bombing and bullet what they cannot achieve by the ballot. It would be terrible if they were able to do that and, if the forces were not there, it would mean that the terrorists had won.

Q3. Mr. Sheerman

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 8 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Sheerman

Is the Prime Minister aware that in this country life expectancy at 65 is now significantly below 21 other comparable countries, including Cuba, Uruguay and Sri Lanka? Does she think that the widespread poverty of a third of our pensioners has anything to do with that? After 10 years, when will her Government do something about it?

The Prime Minister

I saw the report to which I think the hon. Gentleman is referring. It is not life expectancy at birth. I think that if he looks into the question of life expectancy at the age of 65, and takes into account life expectancy at birth, he will find a very much better result for this country.

Mr. Alexander

Has my right hon. Friend had time to read the report of the private notice question yesterday to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and especially the contribution from the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field)? Is it not clear from those exchanges that the Opposition are far less interested in getting extra benefits for those who need them than in making—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Not again. The hon. Gentleman must ask questions for which the Prime Minister has responsibility.

Q4. Mr. Janner

To ask the Prime Minister is she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 8 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Janner

Does the Prime Minister agree that the statement made yesterday by the Minister of State, Department of Health—that there is no point in further negotiations with the nurses because that would be a continuation of the lobster quadrille—is offensive and disgraceful? Does she not see that the porpoise right behind her and treading on her tail is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has this week led the Government, her, the country and the pensioners a merry dance?

The Prime Minister

It was because of my right hon. Friend Nigel Lawsonthe Chancellor of the Exchequer's excellent running of the economy that the nurses were able to have an increase in pay which cost the taxpayer—not the Exchequer—£928 million extra and which gave the nurses an increase in pay in real terms of 45 per cent. more than they had had under a Labour Government.

Q5. Mr. Thurnham

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 8 November.

The Prime Minister

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

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Mr. Thurnham

Will my right hon. Friend welcome the overwhelming vote by the parents of children at St. James' church school in south-east Bolton to opt out of local authority control? Does that not prove that this Government offer the radical policies that the great majority of the people in this country want?

The Prime Minister

Yes. I saw the report in the press this morning of the overwhelming vote by the parents of St. James' school. I think that it is quite clear that most of the parents in this country welcome the extra choice that they have had under my right hon. Friend's policies and wish to be much more involved in their children's education. My hon. Friend is aware that my right hon. Friend Kenneth Bakerthe Secretary of State will make the final determination on this matter.

Mr. Litherland

How does the Prime Minister summon up the appalling gall to go to Poland to preach freedom and democracy when she is doing exactly the reverse in this country.

The Prime Minister

What absolute nonsense—utter and complete nonsense. What the Opposition cannot stand is that I had such a very warm welcome in all parts of Poland.