Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1989 Jun 13 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [154/698-702]
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2546
Themes: Executive, Union of UK nations, Employment, Industry, European elections, Monetary policy, Trade, European Union (general), Foreign policy (Asia), Community charge ("poll tax"), Race, immigration, nationality

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Barry Porter

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 13 June.

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 former President Reagan.

Mr. Porter

Will my right hon. Friend confirm, if confirmation be needed, her commitment to the European Community and her determination to fight for Britain and British interests within the Community? Will she accept from me that anybody who doubts that she will fight for Britain within the Community needs to have his head and his conscience examined?

The Prime Minister

Yes, we shall continue to fight for Britain's interests in a strong Community, which we believe is both in Britain's and in Europe's interest. We have fought successfully in the past and we shall continue to do so in the future.

Mr. Kinnock

Will the Prime Minister say what she intends to do to stop the crisis of confidence about the relationship between herself and her Chancellor of the Exchequer?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is talking nonsense—[Interruption.]—absolute nonsense. On Wednesday of last week, in the economic debate, out of which the Opposition came so poorly, Nigel Lawson the Chancellor set out the Government's position clearly and in some detail. He said:

“Our overriding” —

I repeat, overriding—

“objective is to bring inflation back down.”

We will not be diverted from that course. As the Chancellor went on to say:

“These are the policies that have successfully brought inflation down in the past, and will do so again.”

Mr. Kinnock

If there is no difficulty about the relationship, why is the pound falling?

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The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman reveals the depth of his ignorance.

Mr. Kinnock

Perhaps the Prime Minister will help everybody by saying what she thinks should be done now to stop the pound sliding against the deutschmark.

The Prime Minister

Had the right hon. Gentleman listened, he would have heard the answer—[Interruption.]—when I answered his first question. I would add that towards the end of his speech, Nigel Lawsonthe Chancellor, when tackling the right hon. Gentleman, repeated:

“Opposition leader asked what he would do. Opposition leader says, ‘to cut a long story short, we don't know’.” —[Official Report, 7 June 1989; Vol. 154, c. 264-65.]

Q2. Mr. Franks

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 13 June.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Franks

Having regard to Britain's success in creating more jobs than the rest of the Common Market combined, may I ask my right hon. Friend to agree that it might be more appropriate for the European Commission to be studying British policies rather than lecturing us on its proposals for a so-called social charter?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend. The social charter would mean more regulation and put heavy additional burdens on industry. It would make our industry less competitive and mean that we would be less able to create the many jobs that we have created, far exceeding the record of any other country in Europe over the same period, and would result in moving jobs from Europe to Asia. We have attracted a great deal of inward investment into this country by a policy of enterprise and deregulation, and they trust us to pursue a sound economic course.

Q3. Mr. Sillars

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 13 June 1989.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Sillars

Is the Prime Minister aware that in Scotland no single thing is more detested than she is, other than the poll tax, which is known in Scotland as Thatcher's poll tax? Is she further aware that 1 million Scots have not paid a penny and that that act of repudiation will be manifest on Thursday when her party is annihilated at the polls? Will she take a piece of advice and bring forward a Bill to repeal the poll tax, because her current legislation has no chance of working in Scotland?

The Prime Minister

Whatever the people of Scotland think, they have taken advantage of the policies that this Government have pursued and they have the second highest standard of living in the United Kingdom. The hon. Gentleman asked me to take advice from him. The answer is no, because he supported the Socialist policies that brought this country, including Scotland, to its knees. As he still supports those same policies I will never take advice from him. I believe that the people of Scotland are honourable enough to wish to pay a fair and reasonable amount towards the costs of local government through a community charge.

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Q4. Mr. Marlow

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 13 June.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Marlow

As it would be better—[Interruption.]—for all of us if the balance of payments deficit were slightly lower, and as the largest factor in the deficit—[Hon. Members: “Reading.” ]—is the aggregate of the individual decisions to buy foreign cars—[Hon. Members: “Reading.” ]—does my right hon. Friend agree that it is anti-social, selfish and unneighbourly to buy foreign cars when equally good British cars are available? What would she say to those self-centred economic vandals who in future persist, for reasons of bogus status or inverted patriotism, in buying foreign cars?

The Prime Minister

I agree that quite a bit of the adverse balance of payments deficit is due to the import of foreign cars. Britain's rate of growth has exceeded that on the Continent, which means that there is a good market for foreign cars in Britain. The current production of cars is above its 1979 level and is rising because we have attracted large overseas investment. It will continue to rise, not only for the companies already in this country but because of increased production at Nissan and Toyota. That will do the balance of payments a great deal of good because there will be more British-produced cars for people to buy.

Mr. Robert Sheldon

As the presence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer next to the Prime Minister is a sign of how seriously she is taking the foreign exchange movements in today's markets, is she aware that, for any given exchange rate, the level of interest rates must be set higher if there is uncertainty in the markets? Given the unprecedented relationship between the right hon. Lady and her Chancellor, is it not clear that she should end that uncertainty now by stating publicly whether she intends to back him or to sack him?

The Prime Minister

I have firmly indicated that my right hon. Friend Nigel Lawson the Chancellor's policies are the policies of the Government. Had the right hon. Gentleman listened to my previous reply he would have heard me precisely when I said that on Wednesday last week, in the economic debate—[Interruption.]If hon. Members do not listen they must hear it again, so that there is no room for doubt. The Chancellor set out the Government's position clearly and in some detail. He said:

“Our overriding objective is to bring inflation back down. We will not be diverted from that course.”

As the Chancellor went on to say:

“Those are the policies that have successfully brought inflation down in the past, and will do so again.” —[Official Report, 7 June 1989; Vol. 154, c. 264.]

I could read out my right hon. Friend's whole speech—it was extremely good—but it might take rather a long time.

Q5. Mr. Colvin

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 13 June.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Colvin

Will my right hon. Friend find time today to consider the 3¼ million Hong Kong Chinese who might wish to come to the United Kingdom if the Armageddon referred to by their Governor takes place? If those people are given the right of abode in the United Kingdom, will[column 701] that also give them the right ultimately to settle anywhere within the European Community? If so, does not that make the issue of Hong Kong and the Chinese as much a matter for our European partners as for this Government, and another very good reason for ensuring that there is the maximum Conservative representation in the European Parliament following the polls on Thursday?

The Prime Minister

On the particulars that my hon. Friend raises, right of abode in the United Kingdom would not in itself allow people to settle elsewhere in the European Community, whether before or after 1992. I very much agree with him that, as a matter of political co-operation, we should look to our European partners for the strongest possible support for Hong Kong and its democratic way of life and prosperity, and look to other democratic countries for support.

I agree wholly with my hon. Friend's last point. We want the strongest possible representations and turnout on Thursday for the European Parliament elections.

Mr. Ashdown

Will the Prime Minister give a few moments today to consider the plight of young Chinese students who, because of their faith in democracy, are hiding for their lives in Peking and are waiting for the knock on the door that will take them to gaol or before the firing squad? Will she now tell the House what she will say if, in eight years' time those scenes are re-enacted in Hong Kong and involve British passport holders to whom she and the Labour party have refused to give refuge?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman does not have a monopoly of strong feeling on this matter. I think that throughout the House we feel equally as shocked and appalled as he does. That applies to both sides of the House. Just because he has been to Hong Kong and finds it easy to say things, because he has no responsibility——

Mr. Ashdown

Dishonourable.

The Prime Minister

—no responsibility whatsoever, does not mean that he feels any more strongly than we do. While he was away, we indicated that we would be very happy to seek more flexibility in the arrangements that we already have, particularly for those who have worked for the British Government, that we would look at the other immigration rules, and that we shall be bringing forward proposals in due course. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that it is really in our interests to keep Hong Kong prosperous, capitalist and a free society, which is the way in which it will be most valuable in 1997 and the way in which the Chinese will need to keep it going.

Mr. Speaker

Did I hear the right hon. Member use the word “dishonourable” ?

Mr. Ashdown

I used the word “dishonourable” as I did——

Mr. Speaker

I ask the right hon. Member to withdraw that.

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Mr. Ashdown

I make it clear that that word was not—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member is a right hon. Member and the leader of his party, and I ask him to withdraw that remark.

Mr. Ashdown

The word was intended to refer to the Government's policy—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Whatever the right hon. Member meant, would he please withdraw that remark?

Mr. Ashdown

So far as it may have been misconstrued——

Mr. Speaker

There are other hon. Members who wish to participate in Prime Minister's Questions. Will the right hon. Member withdraw the remark in relation to the Prime Minister?

Mr. Ashdown

Naturally, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw any connotation of that word in relation to the Prime Minister. It was referring to her policy and not to the right hon. Lady.

Sir Hal Miller

Does my right hon. Friend accept that among people in Hong Kong there is a real sense of grief and shock at the loss of so many young lives, as well as a growing sense of insecurity about their personal future? Will she take an early opportunity to show that we share that sense of loss and grief as well as being determined and capable of remaining responsible for the administration of Hong Kong until 1997?

The Prime Minister

Yes, we gladly do so. In all parts of the House we feel exactly the same way about the people of Hong Kong, for whom we are fully responsible. We shall keep the administration going in the very best way possible until 1997. Then, as my hon. Friend knows, under the agreement we have reached, there will be a liaison committee that will continue for a further three years. In the meantime, we shall do all that we can to reassure the people of Hong Kong and to reaffirm our commitment to them and to their future.

Q6. Mr. Grocott

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 13 June.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Grocott

Is the Prime Minister aware that the whole House will have noticed her failure today to give unequivocal backing to her Chancellor? Is she further aware that in last week's vote on the honours system, the only Cabinet Minister to vote in favour of honours for political services was the Chancellor? Does she know something that we do not?

The Prime Minister

I shall answer the important part of the hon. Gentleman's question. I give full, unequivocal and generous backing to Nigel Lawsonmy Chancellor, of whom I am very proud.