Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1988 Dec 15 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 [143/1078-84]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2812
Themes: Agriculture, Executive (appointments), Defence (arms control), Employment, Energy, Environment, Trade, European Union (general), Foreign policy (Middle East), Health policy, Law & order, Northern Ireland, Social security & welfare, Terrorism, Transport
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PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Day

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 15 December.

The Prime Minister

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.

Mr. Day

Will my right hon. Friend agree to convey to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland the warm congratulations of the House on his blunt demand that the Irish Government review their extradition procedures? Does she agree that the fight against terrorism demands the wholehearted support of all parties in the House—not the often half-hearted attitude manifested by the Opposition?

The Prime Minister

Yes, it will give me great pleasure to congratulate my right hon. Friend Tom Kingthe Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. We have also had a clear assurance from Charles Haugheythe Taoiseach, repeated in the Dail this week, that the Irish Government's extradition procedures will be looked at again if they prove unsatisfactory, as they clearly have done.

I very much agree with my hon. Friend about the performance of Opposition Members. It is a great pity that we cannot rely on their support in the fight against terrorism.

Mr. Kinnock

The Under-Secretary of State for Health says: [column 1079]

“most of the egg production in this country is … infected with salmonella” .

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food says:

“it is not the case that most eggs are infected.”

Will the Prime Minister clear up the confusion and tell us which of her Ministers is right?

The Prime Minister

We are aware of the deep problems facing the egg industry. We think that we have a duty to give greater publicity to the advice that the Chief Medical Officer has already given, which I repeated to the House at Tuesday's Question Time. We are already taking measures under the new code of practice of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to tackle the new strain of salmonella. We are also urgently considering the representations that have been made to us.

Mr. Kinnock

Is it not obvious from that answer that the concern expressed by the Prime Minister's right hon. and hon. Friends, as well as by Opposition Members, is well founded? Is it not also obvious that £500,000 is much too little to repair the damage done to the egg industry, and much too much to spend on saving the face of the Under-Secretary of State for Health?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman knows from the answer that I gave last time that there is a problem, and that salmonella is connected with and has been traced to eggs. There have been about 49 cases affecting more than 1,000 people. It is our bounden duty to give the Chief Medical Officer's advice to everyone in a way that can be clearly understood. As I indicated, we are also considering other matters.

Q2. Dame Jill Knight

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 15 December.

The Prime Minister

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

Dame Jill Knight

Following yesterday's statement by Mr. Yasser Arafat, in which he recognised Israel's right to exist and unequivocally renounced violence and terrorism, does my right hon. Friend share the hope that the way is clear for an international conference to settle the problems of the middle east?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. I believe that Mr. Arafat 's latest statement justifies our insistence since 1985 on three conditions being met before the PLO could enter into negotiations. They are, first, that the PLO recognises United Nations resolutions 242 and 338; secondly, that it recognises explicitly Israel's right to exist behind secure borders; and, thirdly, that it unconditionally renounces violence and terrorism. It seems that all three have been met, and I join my hon. Friend in hoping that that will enable negotiations to go forward within the framework of an international conference, which proposal we have also supported for a considerable length of time.

Mr. Ashdown

Has the Prime Minister read the report stressing once again the dangers of global warming that was published last week? [Interruption.] Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister did not hear me. I asked whether she has read the report once again stressing the dangers of global warming. Does she recall that a little over a month ago—[Interruption.]

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Mr. Speaker

Order. These interruptions take up a lot of time.

Mr. Ashdown

Does the Prime Minister recall that a little more than a month ago, she agreed with me that there is an urgent necessity for an energy conservation programme? Does she recall setting a target of 2 per cent. for energy conservation in Britain? Will the Prime Minister say now what the Government will do about that?

The Prime Minister

Yes, we recognise the dangers that could arise from the greenhouse effect. We acknowledge that joint efforts to tackle it are required on the part of all nations. It is only partly a matter of energy efficiency; it is also a matter of preserving tropical rain forests, which use up carbon dioxide better than anything else, and of replacing some coal energy production by nuclear energy. Yes, it is important to achieve energy efficiency. Most people are aiming to do that, because it leads to lower costs. However, it is not the only factor, and many additional aspects must be tackled jointly with other countries. The subject is also tied up with chlorofluorocarbons, which can aggravate the greenhouse effect. We shall have a conference on that aspect in this country next March.

Mr. Bowis

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it will be widely welcomed if she is able to announce that her Government will make a contribution to the mayor of Wandsworth's appeal for the victims of the Clapham Junction rail disaster and their families?

The Prime Minister

I understand that the mayor of Wandsworth has set up a disaster fund. Her Majesty's Government will contribute to it the sum of £250,000. We hope that that will encourage others to make further contributions.

Grangemouth

Q3. Mr. Harry Ewing

To ask the Prime Minister if she has any plans to visit Grangemouth.

The Prime Minister

At present, I have no plans to do so.

Mr. Ewing

If the Prime Minister does not want to visit my constituents, may I, in all seriousness, ask if two of my constituents may visit her at 10 Downing street? Both have been widowed for a long time, and I wrote to the Prime Minister about one of them. Neither of them will be allowed to transfer from the widowed mother's allowance to the widow's pension. Both have to live on £35 a week less than they did before the recent changes in social security regulations. As I admit to complete failure in my attempts to tell them how to survive on £35 a week less, may I have those widows meet the Prime Minister—so that she may tell them how their families can survive over Christmas on £35 a week less than they had in the past?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman knows that a decision on any particular case is made not by the Government but by independent statutory authorities within the framework of legislation passed by the House. He is also aware that the guarantee that those pensions will be protected against inflation is now firmer than at any time in history, and that more generous income support has been provided than ever before. I hope that he will tell that to the lady concerned.

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Q4. Mr. Carrington

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 15 December.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Carrington

Is my right hon. Friend aware how much pensioners in my constituency are now looking forward to Christmas? They received their Christmas bonus last week, and are secure in the knowledge that heating costs for the winter are included in their income support. If we have a particularly cold spell this winter, more people than ever before will receive additional assistance to pay their heating costs.

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is correct. The Christmas bonus is now an annual event, as it was not under the last Labour Government, when pensioners did not always receive their bonus. The uprating of benefits in line with inflation is now not only annual but related specifically to the RPI, and is more assured than ever before. The heating allowance has now been included in income support, so pensioners can be sure of receiving it, and there is a better severe weather payment than ever before. That is all because increasing prosperity has enabled us to be more generous to such people.

Mr. Sillars

May I refer the right hon. Lady to the Government's political guarantee to 16 and 17-year-olds that they will obtain YTS places? If they do not do so, they are rendered penniless. Why does the right hon. Lady not make that political guarantee a legal guarantee, and thus give 16 and 17-year-olds real rights?

The Prime Minister

In my answer to a question a few days ago, I made it perfectly clear that there are more YTS places than there are applicants for them. As that is true in all regions, I cannot see what the hon. Gentleman is complaining about. He must be hard put to find a critical question.

Q5. Mr. Nicholas Bennett

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 15 December.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Bennett

Has my right hon. Friend seen today's announcement of the latest substantial fall in unemployment, which brings the figure down by 1 million from July 1986? It is down for the 28th consecutive month. Has she also noticed that in Wales, which has had 20 per cent. of all inward investment, the figure has fallen faster than in the United Kingdom as a whole?

The Prime Minister

Yes, unemployment is indeed falling everywhere, but, as my hon. Friend says, Wales is doing particularly well, as are the west midlands and the north-west. The position relating to the long-term unemployed is particularly encouraging, with a record fall of some 450,000 in the past two years, and there are more people at work than ever before.

Q6. Mr. Buchan

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 15 December.

The Prime Minister

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

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Mr. Buchan

In the course of her busy day, has the Prime Minister had a chance to read the statement issued by the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen), in which he calls into question her nuclear policies and, among other things, describes her mean-minded response to Mr. Gorbachev 's offer of unilateral reduction last week as “a bronchial whisper” ? Will she shout her response a little louder?

The Prime Minister

I had a chance to read the statement, and the hon. Gentleman will not be surprised to learn that I disagree with it. As he is aware from the figures on conventional weapons that I gave last time, the Soviet Union still has between two and three times as many tanks and weapons as we have. It has reduced its weaponry by about 10 per cent., but its superiority is still enormous.

We shall keep our independent nuclear deterrent. We remember when we gave up chemical weapons unilaterally and the Soviet Union stepped up chemical weapon production, both in modernisation and amount. Hope is not a basis for a sound defence policy.

Q7. Mr. Bill Walker

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 15 December 1988.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Walker

Has my right hon. Friend seen the interesting and very acceptable news from Europe about whisky: that 40 per cent. is to be the correct proof for whisky throughout Europe? Is not that, in conjunction with the Scotch Whisky Act, clear evidence that this Government and the Conservative party are the best custodians of Scotland's interests?

The Prime Minister

Yes. The recent agreement in Brussels, after six years of detailed and difficult negotiations, mark a major step forward for the Scotch whisky industry. The regulation provides a clear definition of whisky and minimum alcohol strengths for all spirits, including the 40 per cent. alcohol by volume for all whisky that was sought by the Scotch Whisky Act, which was sponsored by my hon. Friend in the last Session. I agree with him that this shows the Government's determination to safeguard this major exporting industry.

Mr. Ernie Ross

Will the Prime Minister go a little further than she went when she replied to her hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame J. Knight)? Given that the American Administration is to meet the Palestine Liberation Organisation at ambassadorial level, and given also that the PLO has met all the commitments that the right hon. Lady set down, will she now instruct her right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary to meet the Palestine Liberation Organisation at that level to encourage the process of moderation that will eventually lead to the resolution of the middle east conflict?

The Prime Minister

We have no immediate plans to do so, but I remind the hon. Gentleman that my hon. Friend the Minister of State recently met the PLO representative because he had already accepted the three points that were later accepted by Mr. Arafat. I agree that this is a considerable step forward, and we most certainly wish to encourage it.

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Mr. Speaker

Business questions.

Mr. Dennis Skinner

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

No. I shall take points of order after business questions.

Mr. Skinner

My point of order relates to a Home Office question.

Mr. Speaker

I shall take it after business questions.

Mr. Dobson

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) is seeking to raise a point of order that arises directly——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I know, because the hon. Gentleman has told me about it.

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Mr. Skinner

rose——

Mr. Speaker

I shall take points of order later. [Interruption.] We take points of order after Question Time. These are business questions.

Mr. Skinner

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Dobson

I understood, Mr. Speaker——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The same rules must apply to every hon. Member. The House knows that points of order are taken after Question Time and business questions. [Hon. Members: “Not always.” ] The Secretary of State is here.

Mr. Skinner

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

I shall not take it until after business questions.