Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1989 Feb 9 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 [146/1123-28]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2555
Themes: Agriculture, Union of UK nations, Conservatism, Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Higher & further education, Monetary policy, Taxation, European Union (general), Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (International organizations), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Health policy, Law & order, Northern Ireland, Science & technology, Social security & welfare, Terrorism
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PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Nicholas Bennett

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 9 February.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

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. Bennett

Has my right hon. Friend seen the report published yesterday by the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs on inward investment which shows that Wales, with 5 per cent. of the population. attracted nearly 20 per cent. of all inward foreign investment to the United Kingdom in 1987? Does she think that Wales would have succeeded in attracting such investment had power been devolved to two or three regional assemblies, as suggested in the latest U-turn by the Leader of the Opposition?

The Prime Minister

The direct and immediate answer to my hon. Friend's question must be no. I agree that Wales has a remarkable record in attracting inward investment, which has been very good for Wales and for jobs. It shows that people have confidence in this Government when they invest in the United Kingdom. That confidence comes from the Government's policy.

Mr. Kinnock

When will the Prime Minister clear up the salmonella shambles in her Government?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friends seek the advice of their professional advisers on the facts on research. When they receive advice, it is given out freely. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, further advice was given out last week on other matters such as unpasteurised milk. There will also be further advice later today on mineral hydrocarbons. When we get advice from the Food Advisory Committee on the recommendations for research, we take it. That is the right way to proceed.

Mr. Kinnock

On advice, does the Prime Minister recall that back in 1980 her Government rejected the proposals of the Labour Government that licences should be limited only to those processing plants that had the means of killing salmonella? That was nine years ago when salmonella poisoning was one seventh of what it is now. When will the Prime Minister do her duty by the consumer?

The Prime Minister

The salmonella enteritidis is a new strain, as I believe the right hon. Gentleman knows. We are trying to find out all the latest facts. During the past 10 years there have been enormous changes in food technology. All these, plus the habits and customs of people and the way they cook, must be taken into account. We shall shortly be issuing a leaflet based on the best advice that we can gather about food hygiene from professional advisers. We shall make it available to housewives, schools, and shops and offices generally.

Mr. Kinnock

Does the Prime Minister think that the defeat of the new strain is helped or hindered by closing the [column 1124]only research facility into it? Does she recall that when the proposals were rejected at the beginning of the decade it was because, as the Government said:

“In the present economic climate the industry should itself determine how best to produce”
? Nine years have elapsed. Salmonella is officially described as an epidemic. We are told that the economy is transformed. When will the Government do their duty by the consumer?

The Prime Minister

The more questions that the right hon. Gentleman asks, the more I am convinced that he knows less and less about the matter. That research establishment had completed its particular line of research. He knows full well that when we are dealing with these problems, the best course of action is to seek professional advice on further research. As he is well aware, the code of practice announced by the Ministry of Agriculture has been in preparation since last August, which is why the Ministry was absolutely ready to announce it following the Chief Medical Officer's advice on salmonella.

Mrs. Ann Winterton

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the importance of national reconciliation through a pre-independence constitutional conference in Namibia, if civil war and genocide are not to follow elections in that country? Will my right hon. Friend actively pursue this possibility during her forthcoming visit to Africa?

The Prime Minister

I know that my hon. Friend feels strongly about this and believes there should be a sort of national constitutional convention before elections. As she is aware, Security Council resolution 435 has been agreed by everyone and is now being implemented. The elections would include elections to such a convention, to decide the future constitution and government of Namibia. There is not much chance of changing that proposal now.

Mr. McCusker

Will the Prime Minister tell us whether the Government raised with the Government of the Irish Republic yesterday the case of Father Ryan? Did they discuss whether he would be tried under the extraterritorial legislation? Were they assured that Father Ryan was still within the jurisdiction of the Irish Republic?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman must pursue those matters with my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Patrick Mayhewthe Attorney-General, who is the proper person to answer such questions.

Q2. Mr. Patnick

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 9 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Patnick

Does my right hon. Friend agree that bacteria have always been present in food and that proper cooking, storing, chilling and preservation of food are therefore essential? Is it not true that, while the public are aware of the present epidemic of food-related illnesses, the media have been hyping it up far too much?

The Prime Minister

Of course, bacteria and other organisms have always been present in food. There is a problem now with a number of bacteria, and many new factors are coming to the fore with the introduction of new materials, processes, habits, customs and technology. We have completed the first phase of recommendations on the food hygiene programme, upon which, as I said earlier, we [column 1125]are taking advice. We shall make that advice available to the public at large as soon as we can. We must obtain professional advice and the facts in order to do so.

Q3. Mr. Allen Adams

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 9 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Adams

Does the Prime Minister agree with her right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, who has apparently told the Scottish media that he is in favour of retaining the vet school in Glasgow? Will she also tell the House whether she agrees with retaining the vet school in Cambridge?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, a committee of the University Grants Committee under, I believe Sir Ralph Riley, made the proposal. It is considering provision for veterinary education throughout the United Kingdom. There will be a period of consultation and, at the end of that time, the Universities Funding Council will make its decision. I fully agree with my right hon. and learned Friend Malcolm Rifkindthe Secretary of State for Scotland, who is deeply concerned because that school carries out a great deal of valuable research that applies to both animals and human beings and a good deal of which is privately funded. We believe that that should be taken into account in the consultation and the decision.

Sir Charles Morrison

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Opposition and the sillier sections of the press are getting the salmonella problem completely out of perspective, while the Government are entirely right—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has as much right to be heard as every other hon. Member.

Sir Charles Morrison

The Government are entirely right to treat the problem seriously, because, if the silly campaign about salmonella continues we shall be importing far more foreign foods, over which we have far less control than we have over home-produced foods.

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend is aware, the Chief Medical Officer has given advice which has been widely publicised and should be followed. My hon. Friend John Macgregorthe Minister of Agriculture has produced codes of conduct, and has taken steps to see that eggs do not get to the market from farms that we know are infected, until they are fully and properly cleared. I believe that although there is a problem, solving it depends on the good common sense of the public, as well as very close monitoring of the flocks of this country.

Norway

Q4. Mr. Cryer

To ask the Prime Minister when she next expects to pay an official visit to Norway.

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to visit Norway.

Mr. Cryer

Is the Prime Minister reluctant to visit Norway because the Norwegians do not allow nuclear weapons on to their soil, although they are members of NATO and signatories of the United Nations nuclear non-proliferation treaty, which calls on the United [column 1126]Kingdom to get rid of nuclear weapons? Which does the right hon. Lady think is the morally superior attitude: that of Norway, or her warmongering policy that continually threatens the world with extermination on a scale that would make Hitler and Pol Pot look like boy scouts?

The Prime Minister

I had a very good visit to Norway some time ago and went to have a look at some of their military installations, and talked to some of their military. Norway is a faithful member of NATO and adheres firmly to the NATO nuclear policy.

Engagements

Q5. Mr. Watts

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 9 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Watts

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the proposals from the European Commission for withholding tax of 15 per cent. on investment income is yet another example of the wrong-headed attempt of the Commission to complete the internal market by imposing uniform regulations on the European economies, rather than deregulating as we have done in order to release the dynamic of the economy?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend. This country has instituted freedom of capital movements and has not found it necessary to have a particular withholding tax, or to ask for a uniform withholding tax throughout the Community. Indeed, to do so would be a way of alienating capital from this country and from Europe, and sending it overseas. We shall oppose any such proposals by the Commission.

Mr. McGrady

Is the Prime Minister aware that one of the consequences of the development of the Social Security Act, introduced on 11 April last year, is that young widows between the ages of 40 and 45 are deprived of the widow's pension? Is she further aware that young widows who were in receipt of pensions, even widows with families, have had their pensions withdrawn? Will she take immediate personal action to correct this piece of legislation, which is so draconian to those young widows who are least able to afford it, as this society can well afford to pay them a widow's pension?

The Prime Minister

The purpose of that Act, as the hon. Gentleman is aware, was to concentrate the higher widow's pensions on older widows, and of course widowed mothers, and not so much on the younger widows. That piece of legislation also gave newly bereaved widows a sum of £1,000 to be paid immediately, so that they should not have immediate worries.

With regard to widows of 44 to 45, there is a case going through the statutory authorities at the moment. The initial adjudicating officer said that that particular widow was not entitled to a pension. It went to the next layer of appeal, who said she was so entitled, and now there is an appeal up to the commissioner, for him to decide. We believe that, as a whole, that piece of legislation was justified, and well founded in concentrating extra help on the older widow.

Q6. Mr. Neil Thorne

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 9 February.

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The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Thorne

Will my right hon. Friend find time to consider the serious situation that is arising in Belgium as a result of that country's reluctance to take effective measures against terrorism? If it becomes necessary will she use her influence to ensure that the centre of the European Community is removed from Brussels?

The Prime Minister

As I said earlier this week, it is vital that, in respect of terrorism, we obtain full co-operation from all our European partners, as well as from other countries. In the main, we do, but there are exceptions. I am sure that my hon. Friend would like the European Community's headquarters to be located in his constituency, but that is not in the gift of this Government.

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Mr. James Lamond

Is the Prime Minister aware that her right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence boasted on Tuesday that, since 1979, the Government have reduced the number of nuclear warheads in this country by 2,400 or 35 per cent? As negotiations on international disarmament have been going much better since the right hon. Lady made that unilateral arms cut, will she abandon her argument that one must negotiate from strength before achieving any success?

The Prime Minister

No. There were reductions in the number of very small nuclear warheads on the central front in Europe, but that decision was taken by NATO and did not affect the effectiveness of our nuclear deterrence. It is vital that we maintain effective nuclear deterrence, and my right hon. Friend George Youngerthe Secretary of State for Defence was quite right.