Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1988 Dec 6 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 [143/167-72]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2380
Themes: Agriculture, Executive (appointments), Union of UK nations, Secondary education, Employment, Environment, Pay, Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Health policy, Housing, Labour Party & socialism, Local government, Social security & welfare, Terrorism, Transport, Trade unions
[column 167]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Bradley

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 6 December.

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 the Prime Minister of Iceland. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty The Queen.

Mr. Bradley

In the light of the evidence published today by Barnardo's that children leaving local authority care face abject poverty because of the cuts in their benefits, what advice would the Prime Minister give to a 16-year-old living in my constituency who is trying to survive independently on less than £20 a week? In this season of good will, will the Prime Minister support the introduction of a special benefit allowance for teenagers leaving local authority care, as recommended by Barnardo's?

The Prime Minister

We have only just received the report and John Moorethe Secretary of State for Social Security will study it carefully. Ministers have given assurances that the reformed benefit will be monitored in detail. This [column 168]monitoring will include all income support recipients, including the young people covered by the report. Once that exercise has been completed we shall consider what, if anything, needs to be done. About 80 per cent. of 16 to 18-year-olds live with a family and they will have seen a real increase in their benefit, so we are talking about a small minority of young people who are living independently. It must be emphasised that they receive maximum help with rent and rates.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the accidental discharge of 100 tonnes of crude oil into Milford Haven in my constituency has seriously polluted the area? Will she join me in congratulating the staff of local agencies and volunteers who have been tackling the disaster? Will she arrange for the Department of Transport to investigate the matter?

The Prime Minister

I understand that the harbour authority, Texaco and the local authorities are working together effectively to deal with the problem. The situation is being closely monitored by the Department of Transport and an officer of that Department's marine pollution control unit is at the Haven today, carrying out an on-site survey. The district inspector of fisheries is also keeping a close watch on the effect on fisheries, particularly fish farms. I gladly join my hon. Friend in thanking the staff of local agencies and the volunteers for tackling this disaster.

Mr. Kinnock

On another subject affecting young people, has the Prime Minister seen the official figures showing that the Government have allowed teacher shortages of 20 per cent. in mathematics, 17 per cent. in physics and 23 per cent. in technology, with worse to come in future? Does she think that this is the way to prepare Britain's young people for the economic and social challenges of the 1990s?

The Prime Minister

We shall have enough secondary teachers overall, but we shall need more teachers in some subjects, including technology, science subjects and modern languages and fewer in some other subjects. The Government plan to build on our successful campaign to recruit teachers in the shortage subjects. They can do that because of the change of structure in teachers' pay to ensure that schools have the teachers that they need to deliver the national curriculum.

Mr. Kinnock

As it is obvious, even from the Department of Education and Science figures, that shortages will remain, and will intensify in the 1990s, is it not clear that, rather than taking effective action to make up shortages, the Government are trying to shift the curriculum so that fewer young people will have the opportunity to study science? Would the Prime Minister put up with that for her own children?

The Prime Minister

Because of the changing structure of teachers' pay, we are able to offer teachers in shortage subjects more than we would otherwise have done. We are way ahead with the problem. On the science curriculum, it is possible that children can take the double curriculum, or we have been asked if they could take the single one. My right hon. Friend Kenneth Bakerthe Secretary of State for Education and Science is looking at that.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the devastation caused to the livelihoods of many people in the poultry industry by the reckless and uninformed [column 169]statement by a junior Minister with an uncontrollable tongue and an insatiable desire for self-advertisement? As my right hon. Friend is responsible for the composition of her Government, what action does she intend to take about it?

The Prime Minister

Edwina Currie I understand my hon. Friend's concern, but the answer to his question is no, Sir. I read very carefully the statements by the chief medical officer, first, on 21 November and, secondly, on 5 December. Having read them carefully, I decided to have scrambled egg on toast for lunch, and I enjoyed it.

Q2. Ms. Walley

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 6 December.

The Prime Minister

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

Ms. Walley

In the course of her busy day, will the Prime Minister find time to meet the nurses who have come to lobby Parliament today and who are concerned about the long-term future of the National Health Service? Does she agree that nurses are being downgraded? Will she take the initiative to comply with their request for binding independent arbitration within the National Health Service?

The Prime Minister

No. It is under the Labour Government that nurses were downgraded, and downgraded very much indeed. They were not merely downgraded, but their pay was severely cut. It is under this Government that they have been upgraded, and it is under this Government that they have had a 46 per cent. increase in real pay, due to the excellent record of the Royal College of Nursing in always putting the patient first.

Mr. Dunn

Is my right hon. Friend aware that her comment in the House on 1 November that we do not have the same need for a Channel tunnel fast rail link will bring much comfort to many thousands of Kentish men and women who oppose the four options as proposed by British Rail? If my right hon. Friend is so against it, and so am I, why are we proceeding with that ghastly and unnecessary scheme?

The Prime Minister

Those comments caused joy in some areas and less joy in others. British Rail is considering taking a long-term view, but there are no immediate plans for that development.

Mr. Matthew Taylor

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 6 December.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Taylor

Is the Prime Minister aware that Torbay council is presently engaged in selling off its entire housing stock, despite a petition signed by more than half its tenants, objecting to the plan and calling on the House to ask the Secretary of State not to allow the sales to go ahead? Will she offer any advice and comfort to those tenants to the effect that their wishes will be respected?

The Prime Minister

I believe that that proposal is at present before my right hon. Friend Nicholas Ridleythe Secretary of State for the Environment, who will consider all matters before making a decision.

[column 170]

Q4. Mr. Baldry

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 6 December.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Baldry

Will not the reeds rustle at Runnymede if we as a House do not take every action to uphold the rule of law and defeat terrorism? To that end, will my hon. Friend ensure that Hansard is more widely available so that the whole nation can see the names of those Members who last night voted against the declaration against terrorism and who tonight may vote against the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Bill? By their actions do they not unwittingly assist the IRA and give comfort to terrorists?

The Prime Minister

I recognise my hon. Friend's quotation from Kipling and I agree with him that people will believe that everyone is serious about fighting terrorism only when the Opposition Benches join this side in voting for the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Bill.

Mr. Wilson

Does the Prime Minister accept that her reply to the question about the Barnardo report is hypocritical and unconvincing? Far from being a novelty of information to her, the precise consequences wrapped up in that report were inevitable as a result of the decision by her Government to withdraw all benefit from 16 and 17-year-olds. Does she accept that the “guarantee” of YTS places, on which the withdrawal of all benefits to 16 and 17-year olds was based, was and is a lie? [Interruption.] I am quoting from the press release issued by the Department of Employment, which used the word “guarantee” . On the basis of that lie in the Department of Employment press release, every penny of legal income has been removed from at least 20,000 young people. Does the Prime Minister accept personal, moral responsibility for the fate of those 20,000 youngsters?

The Prime Minister

The YTS guarantee is being met [Interruption.] There are many more YTS places than young people applying for them in all regions. On 31 October, the latest figure available, there were 120,000 unfilled YTS places. Those not capable of YTS are entitled to income support at all times. Others guaranteed an offer of a YTS place if living away from parents after leaving care will be entitled to income support for a short period while awaiting a YTS offer. If living in board-and-lodging accommodation or a hostel they will normally be entitled to income support while on YTS.

Q6. Mr. Knapman

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 6 December.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Knapman

In the course of her busy day, will my right hon. Friend consider a recent report that appeared in Pravda and was reprinted this morning in the Financial Times, which states that over the past nine years my right hon. Friend has lifted the country out of its depressed state, privatised ailing industries and sacked incompetent people? Does she agree that the journalists of Pravda are more likely to grasp reality than Members of the Opposition parties in this House?

[column 171]

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. All round the world Socialists are abandoning their dogma because they know that it does not work and brings neither prosperity nor dignity. The only Socialist party that is to the far Left of the Communist party is the one that sits opposite.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing

Has the Prime Minister today had an opportunity to look at the opinion polls in Scotland and to consider their implications? Against that background, can she tell us at what stage, either in the percentage recorded in opinion polls, votes cast at a general election or seats lost at a general election, she will decide that she has no legitimacy whatever to implement her policies in Scotland?

The Prime Minister

I note, as I have noted before, that the people of Scotland are doing far better under this Government than under any previous Government and we shall continue with the same policies. I hope that most of us in the House still believe in the United Kingdom, and it is the majority of the United Kingdom that forms the Government. I also point out, as I have done before, that there have been times when the Labour party has not had a majority in England, but because it has in the United Kingdom we have abided by that result.

[column 172]

Q7. Miss Emma Nicholson

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 6 December.

The Prime Minister

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

Miss Nicholson

Has my right hon. Friend had time to note the Western Morning News report of yesterday that the Royal College of Nursing—[Hon. Members: “Reading.” ]—is now recruiting at five times its normal membership rate and it is not in the lobby today? Does my right hon. Friend agree that that reflects the RCN's regarding policy of using the appeals procedure in cases of dispute rather than working to grade, which can harm patient care?

The Prime Minister

Yes, the appeals procedure is there should there be any dispute, and it should be used. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that we owe much to the Royal College of Nursing. It was the devotion of its members to patients and the fact that they have never gone on strike that led us to set up a pay review body. It is due to the nurses' devotion that they now have a bigger pay award than they have ever had before. I am delighted to hear that the Royal College of Nursing is fast recruiting people from other unions.