Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1989 Feb 7 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 [146/796-800]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2471
Themes: Union of UK nations, Conservatism, Education, Privatized & state industries, Taxation, European Union Budget, Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Health policy, NHS reforms 1987-90, Law & order, Local government, Local government finance, Media, Terrorism, Voluntary sector & charity
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PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. David Porter

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 7 February.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others, including the Spanish Foreign Minister. In addition to my duties in the House I shall be having further meetings later today, including one with the Soviet Deputy Prime Minister. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty the Queen.

Mr. Porter

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the widespread concern about fraud; about reports of the siphoning off of EEC funds to the IRA and the Mafia and about often poor policing of basic EEC rules? How does my right hon. Friend intend to protect the interests of the British people in general and the taxpayers in particular?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend that the extent of fraud in the use of EC funds revealed by the Court of Auditors is a matter of great concern. Some of the remedies are in national hands, but we believe that the rules applied by the Community must be tightened up and any suspect cases investigated vigorously. The Parliament has also raised this matter with the Commission, and I shall hope to raise it at the next European Council.

Mr. Kinnock

Will the Prime Minister say why, in meetings with the water companies, the Government have given the green light for huge increases in water charges?

The Prime Minister

There are two aspects of the water companies. The water companies as such are the privatised section; the water authorities are being denationalised. The water companies—as the right hon. Gentleman will see if he looks at the record for the last four years—have had both lower price increases and have charged for the last four years much lower prices per household than have the water authorities.

Mr. Kinnock

With an answer like that, I wonder why the right hon. Lady's Ministers say that these huge rises are unjustified. Will the Prime Minister confirm that at a meeting at the Department of the Environment on I December it was agreed with the private water companies that they should

“raise their tariffs to the maximum permitted”

and that they were further

“strongly advised not to suggest that privatisation as such makes their tariff increases necessary”
? Why that advice and why the deceit?

The Prime Minister

The facts I have given to the right hon. Gentleman—[Interruption.]—he can get from the tables. They show that the water companies have been charging for the last four years prices below those of the nationalised statutory authorities. Several statutory companies have announced increases in prices. The amount under regulation that they will be able to charge will depend on the cost of the service that they provide and their reasonable profits. Therefore, there is virtually no point in putting up their prices now.

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Mr. Kinnock

The Prime Minister is now telling us that those rises are justified. Why did the Leader of the House tell us yesterday that those rises were not justified?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman did not listen. I said that the increase in prices—if they are trying to start from a higher base—will have virtually no effect because we are introducing a better—[Interruption.] He should listen.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Prime Minister has been asked a question and must be given the opportunity to answer it.

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman clearly does not like the facts. We are introducing a better system of regulation for water companies, under which they will need to satisfy the Director General of Water Services, introduced under the Bill, that the proposed increases are justified. At the moment, their prices are below those of the nationalised authorities.

Q2. Mr. Harry Greenway

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 7 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Greenway

Has my right hon. Friend seen that shares in the National Freight Corporation were quoted for the first time on the stock exchange yesterday, and that its employees saw the profits from their small shareholdings in that privatised company rise enormously? Is she aware that if the Labour party had had its way, those employees, instead of receiving that profit for their families would now be working for a sterile nationalised industry?

The Prime Minister

Yes. The privatisation of the National Freight Corporation has been very successful, both for consumers and for those who worked extremely hard in the industry to make it successful. Hard work has given them an excellent reward; they have been able to build up capital, which they would never have been able to do under a Labour Government. We wish them well and thank them for their great endeavours.

Q3. Mrs. Mahon

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 7 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mrs. Mahon

Will the Prime Minister give a guarantee to the House that, under the health review, existing district health authorities will retain their accident and emergency departments? Since this is a life and death issue, will she answer yes or no?

The Prime Minister

The district health authorities and the self-governing hospitals will have to retain their accident and emergency departments because that is a fundamental core service. Either the district health authorities or the self-governing hospitals will have to run effective accident and emergency services.

Sir Peter Emery

Will my right hon. Friend tell the House whether she has extended—and if not, whether she will consider extending today—an official invitation to [column 798]visit this country to President George Bush, to ensure that the alliance between Great Britain and America stays as strong as it has always been?

The Prime Minister

President Bush knows that he will be welcome in this country at any time when he is able to come. He might have other matters on his mind at the moment. He will be visiting Europe for the economic summit in July and there is a possibility of a NATO Heads of Government meeting. We need have no fear about the special relationship. It will continue as staunchly in the future as it has in the past.

Q4. Mr. Vaz

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 7 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Vaz

The Prime Minister has spent the past 10 years lecturing the nation on law and order. Is she aware that in Leicestershire violent crime has risen by 73 per cent. during that period? In his miserable attempt to deal with the problem, the Home Secretary has announced an increase of only an extra 18 police officers, despite the request by the chief constable for an extra 89 officers. When will the Government end their conspiracy with the muggers, rapists and others who survive to destroy society because of this Government?

The Prime Minister

Of course, I reject totally what the hon. Gentleman has said. A Government who have increased the numbers of police enormously, the amount of money enormously, the amount of equipment enormously and the amount of training enormously and have received a great deal of co-operation from the public, a Government who support the prevention of terrorism Act, and a Government who have increased maximum sentences, are a Government who have been fighting crime. We wish that we had the full co-operation of Opposition Members.

Mr. Yeo

Will my right hon. Friend convey to her ministerial team at the Treasury the warm thanks of the charity world following yesterday's announcement that charitable expenditure on new construction work is largely to retain its existing zero rating for VAT purposes?

The Prime Minister

Yes, of course. Yesterday the new VAT regulations following the judgment of the European Court were published. We have taken full advantage of the latitude that is permitted to give a very good deal to charities and also to provide transitional arrangements for others who will be adversely affected. A very good job has been done.

Q5. Mr. Simon Hughes

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 7 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Simon Hughes

Given that it is Government policy that before a school moves out of local authority control there should be a vote by parents, and before housing moves out of local government control there should be a vote by tenants, why is it not explicit Government policy that before a hospital such as Guy's in my constituency moves out of local authority control—[Interruption.]—[column 799]local health authority control, there should be a vote by the users of that service, namely the patients in the Lewisham and North Southwark district health authority area? Will the Prime Minister give an undertaking that those people will have a vote, and, if not, why not?

The Prime Minister

Schools come under local authorities, as do council houses, so it is very obvious that parents and tenants should have a vote. But hospitals, as the hon. Member knows, do not.

Mr. Hayes

Will my right hon. Friend express her deep concern to the Dutch and Belgian authorities about their failure to prosecute two Irishmen who were found in possession of weapons allegedly used in the murder of two British service men? Does she agree that international terrorism will be beaten only by international co-operation?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I agree wholeheartedly with that proposition, and from most countries we get such co-operation. As my hon. Friend is aware, there are times when we do not succeed in getting people extradited, but for the most part we get increasing co-operation, particularly among the police and the security services, in the fight against terrorism.

Q6. Mr. Harry Barnes

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 7 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Barnes

Has the Prime Minister seen the league table that was published in Hansard on 11 January showing that the Derbyshire county council, which is Labour-controlled, has the best staff-pupil ratio of any shire county? It is top in special education, top in secondary education, and second, by a hair's breadth, in primary education. Will the right hon. Lady congratulate the Derbyshire county council on this achievement?

The Prime Minister

I understand that it also has very, very high spending. But I am very glad if it has excellent education; the hon. Member must be very pleased with Conservative education policy.

Mr. Hayward

Will my right hon. Friend consider the monopoly that currently operates with the BBC and ITV in terms of the prior publication of programmes, particularly since we now have Sky TV's competing channels?

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The Prime Minister

Yes, but the whole of broadcasting is, in fact, changing because of the speed of new technology and, of course, because of the alternative channels. I think that we shall soon have the debate on the White Paper, when we shall be able to consider these matters and how to deal with them in legislation.

Q7. Mr. Buchan

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 7 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Buchan

Has the Prime Minister yet had the chance to reconsider her grossly offensive speech in Scotland on Friday? Has no one told her that she united practically the entire Scottish population with her objectionable views? Does she not realise that the stupidity of her declared veto is as dangerous as the stupid separatism of Scottish Nationalists? Are they in consort with each other?

The Prime Minister

If I may say so, in the place where I gave the speech before 675 people, many of them journalists, it was very well received. I pointed out that under a Conservative Government, Scotland is doing better than ever and that Scotland could not possibly have achieved that response to Conservative policies without being in tune with them, even though many people, like the hon. Gentleman, find it difficult to admit it.

Q8. Mr. Adley

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 7 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Adley

Now that the Russians are leaving or have left Afghanistan, the Cubans and South Africans have left Namibia, and the Vietnamese are leaving Kampuchea, will my right hon. Friend join me in hoping that ere long the Israelis will leave the occupied west bank and Gaza?

The Prime Minister

The Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan is a great tribute to the resistance who never let up in their fight for their country. Also, it is a great tribute to Pakistan which has received so many refugees. We are very pleased that the withdrawal is virtually complete. I join my hon. Friend in hoping that we shall soon see negotiations begin on a settlement to the middle east problem.