Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1988 Nov 29 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 [142/571-76]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2261
Themes: Arts & entertainment, Conservatism, Economy (general discussions), Industry, Monetary policy, Environment, Pay, Economic, monetary & political union, Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Health policy, Housing, Law & order, Northern Ireland, Religion & morality, Terrorism
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PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Winnick

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 29 November.

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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.

This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty The Queen.

Mr. Winnick

Why is it that after almost every speech by the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Prime Minister telling us that the economy is in good shape we hear news such as that of the massive trade deficit and even higher interest rates that penalise industry and home buyers? Are we not paying the price for the substantial decline of manufacturing industry in recent years while every encouragement has been given to the spivs, the financiers and the speculators in the City?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman omits to say that we have higher incomes than ever before, that we have a higher national income than ever before and that we have higher expenditure on social services than ever before. The nation is doing well, as I am sure the House will demonstrate tonight by a massive majority behind Nigel Lawsonthe Chancellor.

Q2. Mr. Kirkhope

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 29 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Kirkhope

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the failure of the Belgian Government to extradite Patrick Ryan was utterly shameful? Does she further agree that the apparently deliberate lethargy of the Irish Government in response to our requests for his extradition casts grave doubts on their commitment to the fight against terrorism?

The Prime Minister

I can well understand my hon. Friend's sense of frustration. Our request for Mr. Ryan 's extradition from Belgium was prepared with the active co-operation of the Belgian authorities to meet all the requirements of Belgian law. We are utterly dismayed by the Belgian Government's decision to refuse extradition.

As regards the Republic of Ireland, fresh warrants for Mr. Ryan 's arrest were obtained and transmitted to Dublin straight away last Friday night, together with all the additional documentation required by the Irish Attorney-General. Despite this, no action was taken by the Irish Attorney-General to serve provisional warrants or to endorse the original warrants.

The failure to secure Ryan 's arrest is a matter of very grave concern to the Government. It is no use Governments adopting great declarations and commitments about fighting terrorism if they then lack the resolve to put them into practice.

Mr. John D. Taylor

As the Government's policy appears to be to maintain stability of exchange rates between sterling and European currencies, why will the Government not join the European monetary system?

The Prime Minister

The main priority of the Government is to get downward pressure on inflation. One cannot have two principal priorities.

Mr. Mates

Further to what my right hon. Friend has said, will she please make the strongest representations today to the Irish Government about their abject surrender for short-term political gain when one of the [column 573]most wanted terrorists has been let free? Does this not show that despite the fine words that the Irish Government speak about the Anglo-Irish Agreement and about co-operation, there are many who will still believe that the Irish Republic is a safe haven for some terrorists seeking to escape the consequences of their actions?

The Prime Minister

As I said earlier, the Irish Attorney-General's failure to secure Ryan 's arrest is a matter of very grave concern to the Government. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that, although the Government of the Republic of Ireland make fine-sounding speeches and statements, they do not always seem to be backed up by the appropriate deeds.

Mr. Ashdown

While not wishing to subscribe to the overheated rhetoric that we have heard from Conservative Members—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. These interruptions take up time.

Mr. Ashdown

—may I ask whether the Prime Minister is aware that her concern over the handling of the Ryan affair is very widely shared by many hon. Members and by people in many parts of the country? Does she agree that this matter comes at a particularly disturbing time in view of the review of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, which many in Britain who wish Ireland well want to see operating successfully?

The Prime Minister

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that fighting terrorism requires combined action on the part of all Governments to try to bring those who are accused of grievous crimes before the proper courts for them to pronounce justice. I hope that we shall receive support for that from all parts of the House.

Sir Jim Spicer

Will my right hon. Friend give an undertaking that neither her Government nor any British Government will accept a ruling by any court anywhere that will hinder us in the fight against terrorism?

The Prime Minister

I think that my hon. Friend is indirectly referring to a judgment given by the European Court of Human Rights. I assume that from his question. The European Court of Human Rights accepted that the purpose of the arrests fell within the provisions of the European convention on human rights. That is an important and welcome decision. Where the court disagrees with the Government is over the length of time that a suspect may be held without being brought before a court. Obviously we shall consider the judgment carefully, and in doing so we shall consider the human rights of victims and potential victims of terrorism as well as the human rights of those suspected of terrorist involvement. We shall ensure that the police have the powers that they need to tackle terrorism vigorously.

Q3. Mr. Terry Fields

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 29 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Fields

Does the Prime Minister recall her effusive praise and that of her party for the hospital workers in the aftermath of the Brighton bombing? Midwives are now leaving the Health Service and nurses, sisters and auxiliaries are discontented with the review. She is [column 574]allowing her jackbooted Secretary of State for Health to trample all over the nurses. Is it not obvious that the review is phoney and needs to be overhauled in the interests of the Health Service and those who are employed in it?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, nurses have had a 45 per cent. increase in salaries in real terms during the lifetime of this Government. The hon. Gentleman spoke about nurses being in dispute. The vast majority of nurses and midwives are working normally and are satisfied with the generous award that they have received. This is hardly surprising, because it gives them an increase averaging 17.9 per cent. at a cost to the taxpayer of almost an extra £1 billion. I am proud to be able to take the credit for that extra pay for nurses.

Bexley

Q4. Mr. Evennett

To ask the Prime Minister if she has any plans to make an official visit to Bexley.

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to do so.

Mr. Evennett

Naturally, my right hon. Friend's reply will disappoint her many supporters in the London borough of Bexley. However, will my right hon. Friend ignore the whingeing and whining from the Opposition Front-Bench speakers on economic policy, because they do not understand economics? Will she come down to Bexley to see the successful results of her economic policy in action? Is she aware that in the past year unemployment in Bexley has fallen by 25 per cent?

The Prime Minister

I am glad to hear that the changes that the Conservative Government have brought about have given a considerable increase in prosperity to my hon. Friend's constituency—the more so because many years ago, in 1950 and 1951, I fought the constituency of Erith and Crayford, and it was nothing like as good then.

Q5. Mr. Nigel Griffiths

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 29 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Griffiths

Does the Prime Minister still think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is “brilliant” on mortgage rates, interest rates and the record trade deficit, because nobody else does?

The Prime Minister

I disagree with the hon. Gentleman. I think that Edinburgh is a flourishing city—more flourishing than it has been for years.

Q6. Mr. Shersby

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 29 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Shersby

Is my right hon. Friend aware that her leadership in calling for a world summit on the climate in London next March will be welcomed by everyone who is interested in the need to protect the ozone layer? Will she express the thanks of the House to ICI for its investment of £30 million in two new chemical plants to produce ecologically safe substitutes for chlorofluorocarbons?

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The Prime Minister

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. We have called another conference for 7 March in London to take further the previous decision on chlorofluorocarbons because of the effect that they are having on depleting the ozone layer. At the moment, the production of these chemicals has been taken down to 50 per cent. of its previous level and we wish to take it down much further—until we have only 15 per cent.—and eventually to eliminate it. It is complicated because, as my hon. Friend said, we must have proper scientific substitutes for the work that those chemicals do. I gladly join him in congratulating ICI on the great initiative that it has undertaken to find those solvents.

Mr. Kinnock

What advice has the Prime Minister to give to first-time home buyers—to those outside London who this year have had to find an average £40 a month extra in mortgage repayments, to those inside London who have had to find an extra £70 a month for their mortgage repayments and to those who dread the mortgage rises yet to come? As someone who, like me, is in favour of home buying, what does she advise them to do?

The Prime Minister

I find it difficult to believe the last part of the hon. Gentleman's question. I wonder why he fought so much against the sale of council houses. No one wishes to put up mortgage repayments. I point out that, except for those who recently purchased houses, the asset value of people's houses has gone up enormously in the past two years.

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Mr. Kinnock

Is it not obvious from that answer that the Prime Minister has only one thing to say to home buyers, “Tough luck, you are on your own” ?

The Prime Minister

Nonsense. Home ownership has gone up enormously under this Government and will continue to go up. As I am sure the right hon. Gentleman must know, people who have bought their houses have seen the asset value of those houses increase colossally.

Mr. Key

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the first duty of any dean and chapter of a cathedral is the maintenance of Christian worship? Does she also agree, however, that, as so many of our cathedrals are in need of substantial renovation to their fabric, they should at least be accorded the status given to parish churches and be eligible for restoration grants from the taxpayer?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend is aware, the Government make a good deal of money—or perhaps a certain amount of money—available for the restoration of parish churches and all of it is taken up. As my hon. Friend is also aware, a number of cathedrals have had special appeals and have been very successful in raising the money. I think that they have been stronger because they have raised the money privately, than they would have been if they had just had a grant from Government bodies. I hope that they will continue, but we would not like the amount of money available to parish churches to be less because of the demand from cathedrals.