Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1989 Jul 6 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 [156/465-70]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2468
Themes: Union of UK nations, Industry, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Foreign policy (Africa), Private health care, NHS reforms 1987-90, Housing, Labour Party & socialism, Northern Ireland, Social security & welfare, Terrorism, Transport, Strikes & other union action
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PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Bill Walker

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 6 July.

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. Walker

Has my right hon. Friend read the report in the Scottish Sunday Express about the crisis of confidence throughout Scottish business—[Hon. Members: “Reading.” ] and the risk of job losses and a reduction of investment in Scotland—[Hon. Members: “Reading.” ]—which is the direct result of the Opposition and the Scottish media supporting the—[Hon. Members: “Reading.” ]—flawed, fraudulent and unworkable proposals for an assembly or parliament in Scotland, leading to—[Hon. Members: “Reading.” ]—increased risk of separation of the kind that we expect from the Socialists—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member must make his question brief.

Mr. Walker

Has my right hon. Friend realised that the benefits of the best financial climate that Scotland has enjoyed since 1945, due to her policies and leadership, is now at risk? What can she do to help the Scots?

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The Prime Minister

I saw the report to which my hon. Friend refers, which said that half the Scottish companies interviewed would either cut local investment or move their headquarters south if devolution or independence came to pass. Scotland has done well on inward investment and during the period of Conservative Government, more jobs have been created and it has the second highest rate of earnings in the whole of the United Kingdom. I hope that Scotland will see fit to keep this prosperity and good prospects for the future.

Mr. Kinnock

Will the Prime Minister update the House on all the constructive efforts she has made since Tuesday to resolve the rail dispute?

The Prime Minister

As I told the right hon. Gentleman, the rail dispute is a matter between the board of British Rail—[Interruption.]—and the unions. As he knows, the national tribunal is meeting today to hear and consider the matter referred to it by the Transport Salaried Staffs Association. Alas, it is not also considering the NUR and ASLEF issues because they have not referred their matter to that arbitration panel.

Mr. Kinnock

I think that the words the Prime Minister was searching for when answering my question were, “None, Sir.” If the Prime Minister ever used the railways or the tubes, she would know that travellers constantly suffer dirt, delays and discomfort because of under-investment. How does she think that yesterday's threat to cut investment will help to resolve the current dispute or help to improve services for those travellers?

The Prime Minister

Has not the right hon. Gentleman forgotten one fundamental thing, which is that the unions are driving the customers away—[Interruption.]—because they are not operating the railways? The right hon. Gentleman will have heard John Majorthe Chief Secretary in Treasury questions pointing out that investment in British Rail has increased under Conservative rule, particularly in the electrification of lines—the investment of the last two years is the biggest programme we have ever had and the prospects for the next four years are good. It is the unions which are driving their customers away, both passengers and freight. It is a tragedy that railway men will lose their jobs if they go on like this.

Mr. Kinnock

There was not a single word of truth in the Prime Minister's answer. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order.

Mr. Kinnock

Will the Prime Minister confirm, for the sake of honesty, that under her Government investment in railways has been 25 per cent. lower in real terms than under the last Labour Government, that the best level of investment ever achieved by her Government was lower than the worst level of investment ever achieved in real terms under a Labour Government, and that the claims made yesterday by the Chancellor of a 50 per cent. increase is an increase from the lowest level of investment in railways in post-war history?

The Prime Minister

I do not know how the right hon. Gentleman can believe that people or freight can travel on railways—[Interruption.]—when the railways are on strike. Of course they cannot. Railway men are depriving themselves of jobs. [column 467]

On the question of investment, the Government have spent in real terms half as much again each year on rail electrification as the Labour Government. With regard to overall investment, in terms of 1989–90 prices, the greatest years for investment in British Rail were 1987–8 at £594 million, 1988–89 at £629 million, and 1989–90 at £781 million.

Mr. Barry Field

Does my right hon. Friend agree that even the average reader of “Thomas the Tank Engine” understands that it is not possible, on the one hand, to call on the Government to defeat inflation and, on the other to call on the Government to give in to the rail strikers' pay demands without stoking up inflation? Will my right hon. Friend recommend a serious economic policy to the Leader of the Opposition or send Mr. Controller to have a word with him?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend that the Labour party will complain about the level of inflation and then support every strike to get increased wages.

Q2. Mr. Kirkwood

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 6 July.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Kirkwood

Has the Prime Minister yet had time to study the findings of the British Medical Association-commissioned Gallup poll on the National Health Service which shows that the vast majority of the British public, including many members of the Conservative party, are opposed to and will not accept the far-reaching structural changes to the NHS that the Prime Minister is suggesting in “Working for Patients” and in the new general practitioners' contract? Would it not be wiser to stand back and abandon the big bang approach to changing the NHS in favour of a much more considered evolutionary process which seeks to build on the very many strengths of the existing National Health Service?

The Prime Minister

No. I never know whether we are being accused of not running a good enough Health Service so that it needs reform or whether we are being accused of running such a good Health Service that no reform is needed. Hon. Members ask for one course of action one day and ask a different question on another. We are running a very good Health Service—the best that we have ever had. We are hoping to improve it still further. Many of the improvements that we have introduced have been opposed at the time, but they have resulted in releasing increased resources for the patient and better patient care. This reform will be no exception. It will result in great improvements for the patient.

Q3. Mrs. Peacock

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 6 July.

The Prime Minister

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

Mrs. Peacock

Has my right hon. Friend had an opportunity today to read the report in The Daily Telegraph which says that the Governor of the Bank of England feels very uncomfortable with the aggressive advertising techniques of the financial institutions? Does she agree that the use of aggressive advertising to persuade people to borrow money to spend is of grave concern?

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The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I tend to share Robin Leigh-Pembertonthe governor's concern and I dislike seeing so many temptations for people to spend more than they can really afford. I hope that they will resist such temptations. It is not wise to spend more than one can really afford.

Mr. Foot

Can the right hon. Lady give us any explanation—maybe it must be a psychoanalytical one—of why she should always be at her most dogmatic or strident on subjects such as the railways, football or the National Health Service about which she knows least?

The Prime Minister

Having been opposite the right hon. Gentleman for many years I would not say that he was the person who knew mostest about anything.

Q4. Mr. French

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 6 July.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. French

Will my right hon. Friend find time to consider the merits of the rents into mortgages scheme recently propounded by the Scottish Minister responsible for housing? Does she agree that such a scheme would find a welcome in other parts of the United Kingdom, including the south-west?

The Prime Minister

Yes. I greatly welcome the rents into mortgages trial scheme that is being run in Scotland because there are a number of houses there where the Government are the landlord and we thought that it was a good way in which to try out such a scheme. I hope that many people will take advantage of it to purchase their houses and that the percentage of owner-occupation in that country will go up. Credit on housing is a very good investment indeed.

Rev. Martin Smyth

Is the Prime Minister aware of the growing concern in Fermanagh about the recent decision to open the Lackie bridge, which has been closed for some time to protect the citizens there? At a time of growing bombing in the Province, will she provide the security that the people need?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman knows, there was a decision some time ago to close certain checkpoints because we thought that the soldiers involved at those checkpoints could be better deployed in the area to give greater protection to the people. That decision has now been implemented because we believe that it represents a better use of the armed forces for the protection of the people.

Q7. Dr. Goodson -Wickes

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 6 July.

The Prime Minister

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

Dr. Goodson -Wickes

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the recent accord between the MPLA and UNITA in Angola is a most welcome step towards peace in that country after a civil war that has lasted 14 years? Will she assure the House of the Government's persisting aim to achieve stability and prosperity in that region, not least by holding the next South African President to his pledge to hold to sensible progress towards democracy in his country?

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The Prime Minister

I join with my hon. Friend in hoping very much that the recent accord in Angola will be implemented and that it will lead to free elections. That will be the crucial test of whether it is working. If it is, that, together with independence for Namibia, will augur very well for the future of southern Africa. We have yet to see if that particular accord will result in free elections.

Q8. Mr. Gareth Wardell

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 6 July.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Wardell

What advice could the Prime Minister give to my constituents and hon. Members about elderly people who, without asessment of any kind, enter private nursing homes and then find that their families cannot afford to pick up the bill for the difference between what the DSS pays for keeping that person in the home and the price charged by the home?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, under the income support scheme, there is provision for people to enter private nursing homes. A maximum amount is payable and homes are available which fall within that amount so that people may enjoy those facilities. Of course, people should inquire about the price before they go in, and it is impossible for the DSS to pick up every single bill for every residential home, no matter [column 470]how expensive. That could not be done under any Government. There are more people in residential homes now than there have been for a long time. Therefore, more people are enjoying a standard of comfort which was previously not available to them.

Q9. Mr. Thorne

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 6 July.

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 remarks made by Mr. Russell Hopkins, the general manager of University hospital of Wales, Cardiff when speaking at the BMA conference at Swansea? He accused the BMA of spreading fear, apprehension and uncertainty among the chronically sick, elderly and infirm through its disgraceful publicity campaign. Will my right hon. Friend denounce such behaviour?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I am glad that some doctors and managers have the courage to speak out against the scare tactics which are frighening a number of patients totally unnecessarily. This year the Government have spent three times the amount of money that was spent 10 years ago. In our 10 years in power we have also increased the number of nurses and doctors. The reforms are intended to bring about even better patient care. When we put them into operation, they will do just that.