Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1989 Jun 29 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 [155/1103-08]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2266
Themes: Conservative Party (history), Education, Employment, Industry, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Economic, monetary & political union, Health policy, Community charge ("poll tax"), Northern Ireland, Security services, Social security & welfare, Terrorism, Transport, Strikes & other union action
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PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Canavan

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 29 June.

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. Canavan

Does the Prime Minister recall that only a few years ago when the Wang Corporation announced that it was bringing 700 jobs to Scotland, she tried to take much of the credit for it personally, hailing it as splendid news on her birthday and a shot in the arm for Scotland? [column 1104]If the Minister is to avoid shooting herself in the foot with £4 million of taxpayers money being lost and, more seriously, shooting down the jobs of 240 Scottish workers, will she renew her personal interest in the case and demand an urgent meeting with company representatives with a view to discussing every possible means of Government intervention to stop the closure and to keep the jobs in Scotland where more than 250,000 people are still unemployed?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman probably knows, my right hon. and learned Friend Malcolm Rifkindthe Secretary of State for Scotland answered a private notice question on Tuesday about the closure. The closure comes as a shock because it is a comparatively new factory. The company has come across great market difficulties in selling its product and it has to rationalise. The company made it clear in the closure notice that the work force in Scotland has performed excellently. It also made it clear that it would do everything possible to assist in selling the factory to another occupant perhaps, to have as many jobs continuing there as possible. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland pointed out that in 1982 we were under the Labour system of grants. We had not changed the system then, so we are not in a position to demand part of the grant back. The system of grants was changed in 1984. Had the grant been given later, we would have been in a position to get some of it back.

Mr. Bill Walker

Has my right hon. Friend been informed of the situation in the National Union of Railwaymen, where delegates attending the conference about the strike are paid £70 per day, plus expenses, while the ordinary railwaymen who are on strike are paid £2 per day? Does that not show the cynicism within that organisation, with no care for the workers and even less care for the travellers?

The Prime Minister

I think that it is utterly deplorable—the inconvenience to which the travelling public are being put by the strikes. Many people are making splendid efforts to get to work because they will not be put off by such strikes. The double tragedy is that British Rail is virtually advertising, “We will not get you to your destination.” That is what a strike means for passengers and freight. More people will make other arrangements to get to work and more manufacturers will make other arrangements to transport their freight. It is a double tragedy of gross inconvenience for the public and for the future of British Rail.

Q2. Mr. Wray

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 29 June.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Wray

Is the Prime Minister aware that of the 10 million pensioners in Britain, 6 million are living below the poverty line? Does she realise that since 1986, when pensioners had their first increase, they have had increases of 40p, 85p and £1.65p, which amounts to less than £3 in three years? Is she also aware that thousands of pensioners are losing out because of Government guidelines which mean that if their date of birth falls after the first pay day they will lose a week's pension?

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The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, under this Government the basic pension has been inflation-proof, whereas the Labour Government were unable to stick to their promise to keep the pension in line with prices because when in 1976 prices went up by 21.5 per cent. the pension went up by only 15 per cent.

Q3. Mr. Riddick

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 29 June.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Riddick

Does my right hon. Friend agree that in the light of the present rail strikes we should be moving towards privatisation of the rail network and the removal of legal immunities in relation to strike action, particularly in public monopoly services? My right hon. Friend has already condemned the National Union of Railwaymen for holding the travelling public to ransom. Can she give any explanation for the failure of the Leader of the Opposition to condemn the NUR?

The Prime Minister

I hope that Neil Kinnockthe Leader of the Opposition will condemn the strike, which has given so much inconvenience to thousands of citizens, thousands of trade unionists and thousands of other people who seek conscientiously to get to work to carry out their duties. Privatisation is not an effective response to the situation. It is justified on its own as a policy. When the buses were on strike we saw that the privatised buses still ran. We are not yet ready to bring forward proposals for the privatisation of British Rail, which would require careful preparation, but I shall take my hon. Friend's comments on board. Privatised services are less likely to strike than public ones.

Mr. Ashdown

Has the Prime Minister noticed that last week President Gorbachev established for the Soviet Parliament just that system of scrutiny over the KGB which she refused this Parliament in relation to our secret services? [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Such interruptions take up a great deal of time, which is to no one's benefit.

Mr. Ashdown

If such scrutiny is good enough for the Soviet Parliament, why is it regarded as a dangerous over-extension of democracy here?

The Prime Minister

I had no idea that the right hon. Gentleman was so utterly naive. I shall take such comments from that direction with a sackful of salt.

Mr. Gow

Will my right hon. Friend mark the contrast between the nobility of character and patriotism of the late Airey Neave and the squalid opportunism of his critics?

The Prime Minister

Yes, and I gladly pay tribute to the late Airey Neave for his patriotism, his sense of duty, and his honour. The loss of his life was a tragedy for this country.

Q4. Dr. Reid

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 29 June.

The Prime Minister

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

Dr. Reid

Will the Prime Minister confirm the information that I have obtained from the Library that a [column 1106]63-year-old pensioner on a net income of £70.01p per week living in Southwark will pay exactly the same poll tax as a 63-year-old professional lady earning £1,000 per week who is married to a millionaire and living in Dulwich? Why does the right hon. Lady so strongly support such an unfair tax?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the community charge meets about 25 per cent. of local government expenditure. About another 25 per cent. is met by the business tax, and the remaining 50 per cent. is met by the taxpayer. Higher-rate taxpayers will, of course, contribute very much more to local authority expenditure than those paying a lesser rate.

Q5. Miss Nicholson

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 29 June.

The Prime Minister

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

Miss Nicholson

In her busy day, has my right hon. Friend had time to reflect on the current excellent provision of health care and, in particular, on the major investment in hospital building projects, 401 of which have been completed since 1979 at a cost of more than £1 milion per project, with a further 144 projects nearing completion? Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that that excellent momentum will be continued?

The Prime Minister

Yes, and I am delighted to hear my hon. Friend's comments. Labour's policies would cut expenditure on hospital building, whereas ours have greatly increased it. Our policy is one of trying to improve the Health Service in places where it was not so good, by constructing excellent new hospitals. A number of right hon. and hon. Members who represent London constituencies have had to stand back while that was done elsewhere, but we look forward to having new hospitals, too, under a Conservative Government.

Mr. Kinnock

Will the Prime Minister explain why Britain's inflation rate is nearly twice the European average?

The Prime Minister

It is at about the same level to which the last Labour Government would have loved to keep it down.

Mr. Kinnock

When does the Prime Minister expect Britain's inflation rate to fall to the European average?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend Nigel Lawsonthe Chancellor of the Exchequer will get the inflation rate down, and it will come down over the rest of the lifetime of this Parliament.

Mr. Kinnock

Does the Prime Minister recall saving that Britain's rate of inflation started to rise because we were following the deutschmark? During her recent visit to Madrid, did she not agree that her objective was to return to shadowing the deutschmark?

The Prime Minister

No, not shadowing the deutschmark, but joining the exchange rate mechanism when certain conditions are fulfilled. Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that Labour holds the record for inflation this century? Under Labour, it reached 27 per cent.—more than one quarter of the value of the pound—in one year. That was Labour's record when the right hon. Gentleman was a Member of this House.

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Q6. Mr. Thurnham

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 29 June.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Thurnham

Does my right hon. Friend agree with others that the standard of English in this country and the whole education of our children must be improved? Should not everyone support the Government's important reforms, which are designed to achieve that objective?

The Prime Minister

It is important that the standard of both English teaching and English education should be improved. We have set out specific curricular demands and attainment tests for that purpose. They will shortly be introduced in primary schools and then in secondary schools, to the great benefit of the children of this country.

Q8. Mr. Madden

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 29 June.

The Prime Minister

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

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Mr. Madden

Will the Prime Minister take urgent action today to help industry in Yorkshire? Will she ask Sir David Alliance, the chairman of Coats Viyella to keep open CV Carpets in Batley, which is now threatened with closure and the loss of 140 jobs? Will she also have a word with her hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Patnick), who is a director of Eversure Curtains where the staff are currently on strke in pursuit of trade union recognition? Will she urge him to grant recognition to that trade union and also to do something about increasing the wages of the machinists whom he employs, who are currently paid £61 for a 38-hour week?

The Prime Minister

On the hon. Gentleman's first question, no—closures are inevitably a matter for commercial judgment. [Interruption.] Yes, of course they are. The hon. Gentleman should be the first to recognise that Alliance Coats Viyella has done a very great deal to bring the textile industry right up to the latest best possible standards, both in investment and in design. We owe a great deal to it. It would be very good if some of those who criticise industry started up something themselves and made it succeed.