Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1989 Jan 10 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 [144/682-86]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2545
Themes: Conservatism, Defence (arms control), Economy (general discussions), Industry, Monetary policy, Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Law & order, Community charge ("poll tax"), Media, Northern Ireland, Social security & welfare, Terrorism, Transport
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PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Chris Smith

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 10 January.

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.

Mr. Smith

Many families in this country are this month facing increases in their mortgage repayments of between £50 and £100 a month. For how long will millions of home owners have to suffer as a result of the Chancellor's blind determination to use one weapon and one weapon only—interest rates—to control the explosion of credit which the Government have themselves helped to generate?

The Prime Minister

Nigel LawsonThe Chancellor puts as top priority the reduction of inflation—[Interruption.] I notice that this question is asked by a member of a party which during its term in office never got inflation below 7.4 per cent. The top priority must be the reduction of inflation, and the interest rate weapon is the main one. I should also point out that the Chancellor has a more than balanced budget—unlike the position under Labour Chancellors—and that, too, is a significant feature in his fiscal stance.

Q2. Mr. Hanley

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 10 January.

The Prime Minister

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

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Mr. Hanley

Those affected by the tragic air disasters that have occurred in the last few weeks, in Scotland and in the east midlands, will be grateful for the interest and compassion shown by the Prime Minister in visiting the sites so promptly. Will she do all she can to guarantee to keep the skies as safe as possible for those who travel by air and for those who live under the flight paths?

The Prime Minister

I thank my hon. Friend for his remarks. Of course I went to the scene in all cases of recent tragedies and of course we all thank most earnestly the wonderful emergency services—the ambulances, doctors, nurses, police and armed forces who have been helping. They are different teams on each occasion. They are all excellent.

The most difficult thing, as my hon. Friend points out, is giving condolences to the bereaved. There is very little one can do to comfort them, except to be there and know that they realise how much we feel for them. We all want the skies to be safe. There will be a fuller statement on both these matters later, after Question Time.

Sir Russell Johnston

Returning to the question of interest rates, will the Prime Minister reflect on the fact that interest rates in West Germany, which has no oil reserves, are at 3.5 per cent. as against our 13 per cent. plus? Surely part of the reason for this must be related first to an imprudent budget and secondly to our continued failure to join the European monetary system.

The Prime Minister

No. It is due to years and years of discipline in the German financial system, with the German people accepting that they must, above all, have policies which keep inflation down and that they must watch their unit labour costs accordingly.

Sir Hector Monro

Will my right hon. Friend accept that the people of Lockerbie and bereaved families from many countries deeply appreciate her two visits to the town and her support and comfort to all concerned? Will she accept that the visits of her Ministers to the town were also welcome, and that the fact that right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House attended the memorial service was also much appreciated? Meanwhile, the thoughts of Lockerbie are with Kegworth and the British Midland casualties.

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Those of us who went had the greatest possible respect and admiration for the way in which the people of Lockerbie and the local services met the appalling tragedy which befell them one evening, and similarly, for the excellent way in which the people of the east midlands tackled their great tragedy. It is almost impossible to think that we should have two such tragedies in such a short time. If anything was obtained from the disasters it was the marvellous spirit that arose in tackling the problems.

Q3. Mr. Cohen

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 10 January.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Cohen

Will the Prime Minister explain her honour to Mr. Evelyn de Rothschild whose main contribution was to set up in Switzerland to pay less United Kingdom tax?

Mr. Speaker

Order. We do not ask questions about the honours list in the House.

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Mr. Cohen

Will the Prime Minister comment on her new proposals for the poll tax? We all know that folk are about to be hammered and hounded for the poll tax. Why should they not resist when the message from the Government's supporters, honoured by the Prime Minister, is “Can pay, won't pay” ?

The Prime Minister

I quite understand that the Opposition oppose the community charge because they do not want readily available criteria by which Labour local authorities can be judged on their extravagant expenditure.

Mr. Curry

As John McCarthy spends his 1000th day in captivity, will my right hon. Friend reassure the families of British hostages held in the middle east that the Government will use all honourable means, eschewing contact with terrorists, to guarantee their release?

The Prime Minister

Yes. Our thoughts are very much with the British hostages and their families, particularly at this season. As my hon. Friend knows, we follow up every possible lead on their whereabouts. Our ambassador in Beirut is particularly active in that, but he knows that it is not easy to find answers to those most difficult subjects. My right hon. and learned Friend Sir Geoffrey Howethe Foreign Secretary, during his visit to the Gulf has made it quite clear that we think that the hostages should be freed and that now is the time to do it. The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave) did the same at his recent meeting with the Iranian Foreign Minister. As my hon. Friend said, we shall not pay ransoms or do deals for hostages. Any civilised nation should do the utmost to see that hostages are released.

Mr. Kinnock

First, I strongly commend the efforts so far made on behalf of Mr. McCarthy and others and urge upon the Prime Minister further similar efforts to achieve the result which every civilised person must want.

Secondly, is the Prime Minister willing to allow GEC to fall into foreign hands?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman will know precisely what is the law passed by this House on any proposed merger. [Hon. Members: “Answer the question.” ] I must act in accordance with the law passed by the House. Under the provisions of the Fair Trading Act 1973, the Director General of Fair Trading has a legal responsibility to advise the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on whether a merger should be referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is required to take into account the advice of the director general in reaching a decision on whether to refer a bid to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. The right hon. Gentleman should be very much aware that we have to follow the law passed by the House.

Mr. Kinnock

I am well aware of the law and the interpretation which the Government have successively put upon the law. I am also aware of the activity of Sir Gordon Borrie. Surely the Government have a view about an issue of such strategic industrial and technological importance. Will the Prime Minister give us the Government's view? Does she consider that it would be in the national interest for GEC to fall into foreign ownership?

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The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is inviting me to prejudge the result of a legal process which, by law, we must undertake. Is it his policy that we should be able to override the law passed by this House just because he asks us to do so?

Mr. Page

As it is impossible to wipe out the knowledge of how to make nuclear weapons, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether, if every country with nuclear weapons were persuaded to remove that capability and if a conventional war broke out and we were winning, she could give a guarantee that the opposition would not use that knowledge of how to make a nuclear weapon to redress the balance—[Interruption.]——

Mr. Speaker

Order.

Mr. Page

If my right hon. Friend cannot give that guarantee, is not the best solution for the security of this nation a small, powerful nuclear deterrent?

The Prime Minister

History has shown that conventional weapons are not sufficient to ensure the defence of freedom in this country. If ever they were totally abolished and a conventional war were to break out again, the race would be on to see who could gain nuclear weapons first and we should be back in the same kind of position that we were in at the end of the last war. Nuclear weapons have kept the peace for 40 years. We should not abandon them until we are sure that we have something even safer to protect us and to deter any aggressor.

Q4. Mr. Boyes

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 10 January.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Boyes

Does the Prime Minister share the concern of Opposition Members that the Government's target take-up of 60 per cent. for family credit has not been reached and that the take-up is currently below 40 per cent.? What do the Government intend to do about that? Will the Prime Minister look especially at form FCI, which has 16 pages, 13 sections and almost 200 questions? That form is unacceptable, unnecessarily complex and should be simplified as a matter of urgency.

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman is aware—we have debated this subject before—that it is our intention to do everything possible to increase the numbers of those who can claim family credit to obtain it. We have looked carefully and recently at the numbers of people who do not claim family credit. Generally we found that those families that could expect a substantial amount from family credit claim it and that those who do not claim are those who are only on the margin. That is the broad, general conclusion. We do our level best to see that all who are entitled can claim.

Mr. Conway

During the course of her busy day, will my right hon. Friend take time to speak to the chairman of the anti-British Broadcasting Corporation about the “Panorama” programme that was screened last night, which showed a Sinn Fein spokesman, with an actor's voice dubbed over, attempting—pathetically—to justify [column 686]the murders of Light Infantry soldiers last year? Will my right hon. Friend ask the chairman of the BBC when the widows and children of those murdered are likely to get a right of reply?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend has made his own point effectively and I have no doubt that it will be noticed in the appropriate quarters. I well remember the letter that I received from the mother of a soldier who has been murdered. Referring to the electronic media she stated:

“They talk about the freedom of the press and the media. Where is freedom of my son?”

Q6. Mr. Pike

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 10 January.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Pike

Does the Prime Minister recognise that in the first seven months of this financial year, the Burnley office has used only 17.1 per cent. of the money available in community care grants under the new social fund and that that figure is higher than the figures for some other offices? Does she further recognise that many people in this country are suffering extreme poverty and deprivation as a result of the new system? Will she also acknowledge the words of her right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services to the Select Committee on Social Services just before Christmas and undertake to hold an urgent review of the procedures and the rules to ensure that such people get the help to which they are entitled as speedily as possible?

The Prime Minister

We are anxious that people should get the help to which they are entitled. That is the way in which the local offices discharge their duties and the appropriate appeal procedures. The hon. Gentleman will be aware of the enormously increased resources that have been made available for all the social security services, going up from about £17 billion 10 years ago to £50 billion this year—an increase of 38 per cent. in real terms. That is what the Government have been able to do to increase the amount of money available for the poorest section of our community.

Mr. Brazier

As my right hon. Friend comes towards the end of her first 10 years as Prime Minister, will she confirm that during that time we have had exactly 10 Budgets—not one more—and that the reason we enjoy so much greater prosperity today is precisely that the Government have consistently stuck to clear, long-term aims, rather than bending to the latest fashion in economics?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I warmly endorse that. We shall keep the reduction of inflation as the top priority. I am the first to accept that it is the steady and right economic policies which have greatly increased the prosperity of the people of this country and the amount going to the social services, and which have kept us with a staunch and sure defence.

Mr. Cryer

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, in relation to Question Time.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I shall take it after the statements.