Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1989 Nov 2 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 [159/463-68]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2461
Themes: Commonwealth (general), Defence (arms control), Employment, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Trade, Economic, monetary & political union, Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (International organizations), Law & order, Northern Ireland, Social security & welfare, Terrorism, Transport
[column 463]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Franks

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 2 November.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I presided at a meeting in the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be having further meetings later today.

Mr. Franks

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that she would not have a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in her Cabinet and that the Conservative party is not in the business of perjuring and prostituting its principles and policies in the pursuit of power?

The Prime Minister

I gladly confirm what my hon. Friend seeks. Nuclear deterrence is a fundamental part of our defence strategy and also of NATO's defence strategy. I notice that the Opposition refused to elect their official spokesman on defence to their shadow Cabinet and instead elected a member of CND—doubtless to keep Neil Kinnockthe Leader of the Opposition company.

Q2. Mr. Andrew Smith

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 2 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Smith

Will the Prime Minister categorically deny that British military personnel have been involved in the Cambodian conflict through training forces now under the effective control of the bloodstained Pol Pot?

The Prime Minister

We are totally and utterly against Pol Pot and we have given no help whatsoever to him.

Q3. Dame Jill Knight

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 2 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Dame Jill Knight

May I invite my right hon. Friend to use this opportunity to say a word of welcome for a document produced today—

“An Evolutionary Approach to Economic and Monetary Union?”

Does she agree with me that it contains a far better suggestion for closer economic and monetary co-operation in Europe than anything put forward so far by Mr. Delors?

The Prime Minister

Yes, it is an excellent paper which shows that one can achieve closer economic and monetary co-operation much better and more rapidly by working with the grain of market forces than by setting up new bureaucratic and highly centralised institutions which are [column 464]not accountable to anyone. The paper honours the commitment which we gave at Madrid that we would put forward an alternative approach; this document is that alternative approach.

Mr. Kinnock

To be fair to herself, will the Prime Minister tell us why she rejected the former Chancellor's proposal for an independent Bank of England?

The Prime Minister

There is no change in the status of the Bank of England proposed at the moment. The main objective is to reduce inflation. That is the Government's task. We shall not abdicate responsibility for it.

Mr. Kinnock

Will the Prime Minister confirm or deny the dependable report that she turned down this proposal because she felt that it would have been admitting defeat in the battle against inflation?

The Prime Minister

No. It is the Government's job to get inflation down. That task we shall carry out ourselves. We shall not abdicate responsibility. It is not our system to place that responsibility on the Bank of England.

Mr. Kinnock

When the man whom she described as brilliant and unassailable made this proposition, why did she turn it down? Will she tell us candidly?

The Prime Minister

The matter was not widely discussed. It is not on the agenda. I wonder if it is on the right hon. Gentleman's agenda. Does he propose to pass responsibility to the Bank of England, which would require legislation and to which its constitution is so totally unsuited? Does he or does he not?

Q4. Mr. Jacques Arnold

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 2 November?

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Arnold

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the abolition of the national dock labour scheme has now been accepted by everyone in the port industry? Furthermore, has my right hon. Friend noted that in Gravesham a major wharf has already reopened, creating many dock workers jobs? In the light of that and other examples round the country, is it not the case that all who voted against the scheme's abolition should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves?

The Prime Minister

Yes, the abolition of the dock labour scheme has been a great success and will be of particular advantage to those ports which were previously subject to it. They will be very much more prosperous now that they are not so restricted. We must congratulate my right hon. Friend Norman Fowlerthe Secretary of State for Employment on the skilful way in which the legislation was introduced and passed through the House.

Q5. Mr. Boateng

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 2 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Boateng

Will the Prime Minister take time today to reflect on the plight of 53,000 war widows who, because their husbands died before March 1973, receive a pension of between a half and a quarter less than those whose [column 465]husbands died after that date, and have a standard of living substantially below that of pensioners in Japan and Germany? Do we not owe these women a debt of honour and is it not time it were paid?

The Prime Minister

There are two pensions which war widows can receive. One is paid by the Department of Social Security. This is the war widow's pension which applies equally to all war widows regardless of the date on which they were widowed. The other is an occupational pension scheme which is run by the Ministry of Defence and which, like all occupational pension schemes, is not retrospective. Indeed, it could never have been introduced had it been retrospective. We try to help the older war widows who are not entitled to any help under the occupational pension scheme by an age allowance which gives them a higher pension as they get older.

Mr. Alexander

Will my right hon. Friend join me in expressing the sense of outrage by my rail commuting constituents at the prospect of an increase in rail fares of up to 21 per cent. for the second year running? Does she agree that the standard of timing is worse, the buffet service a joke and getting a seat a lottery? What will she do to help to have this proposal reversed?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend is aware, the British Rail and London Underground decisions are to be announced later this afternoon. I think I should point out that investment in British Rail is at its highest for a quarter of a century. As my hon. Friend has said, perhaps there needs to be a good deal more investment, but it has to be paid for. Investment in the London Underground is also at record levels. I am afraid that that partly explains the increase in fares which are to come about.

Q6. Mr. Buchan

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 2 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Buchan

Will the right hon. Lady reflect a little more seriously on the deplorable answer that she gave my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith) about Kampuchea? Has it not been abundantly exemplified that British troops have been involved in the training of forces under Sihanouk which are involved with the Khmer Rouge coalition? Is not our support for the United Nations resolution which, by definition will involve Pol Pot forces, even more explicit? Will she deny that, and if not, will she investigate it and put the Foreign Office in its proper place?

The Prime Minister

As I said, we are wholly against Pol Pot. I have made speeches to that effect, as the hon. Gentleman knows, and Pol Pot must not return to Cambodia.

Representation in the United Nations is done by the democratic alliance of Prince Sihanouk, which includes the Khmer Rouge. There has not been a vote on that since 1982, but the representation is that of the democratic alliance.

Mr. Conway

Would my right hon. Friend consider sending 500 copies of today's edition of the Daily Mail to the Prime Minister of Ireland with the message that this [column 466]kind of slaughter of innocent victims—especially of children—only stiffens the resolve of the British people—[Interruption.] Wait for it, you rabble——

Mr. Speaker

Order. Remarks of that kind tend only to inflame tempers.

Mr. Conway

Mr. Speaker, if you could hear what this lot are muttering you would throw them out of the Chamber——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I must ask the hon. Gentleman to put his question.

Mr. Conway

Will my right hon. Friend send these copies to the Irish Prime Minister with the message that the British people have the greatest resolve to stand behind their security forces against physical attack by the IRA or verbal attack by the Haughey Government?

The Prime Minister

Everyone in this House utterly condemns the murder by the IRA not only of the baby but of many other people. We are fully behind our security forces and we make that plain to the Government of the Republic of Ireland time and again. I fully endorse what my hon. Friend says about that.

Q7. Mr. Winnick

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 2 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Winnick

Do the Government intend to hold an immediate inquiry into the serious allegations of insider dealings? As a Cabinet Minister has been mentioned indirectly, will he make a statement to the House about the arrangements that he made with his stockbrokers?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, my right hon. Friend made a statement and I have nothing further to add. I am amazed that the hon. Gentleman has raised the matter.

Mr. Dunn

Does my right hon. Friend agree—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order.

Mr. Dunn

Does the Prime Minister agree that while it is right to promote the growth of democracy in the Eastern bloc, now is the time to promote it in some of the countries that are members of the British Commonwealth?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend knows, not all members of the British Commonwealth are democracies. Some have military Governments and some have a different definition of democracy from ours. It is the purpose of the Commonwealth to help all countries to reach the objectives set out in the Singapore declaration of 1971—freedom under a rule of law and full democracy. We should sustain these countries through the intermediate period until they can attain that objective.

Q8. Mr. Cartwright

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 2 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Cartwright

Does the Prime Minister support the suggestion made on Tuesday by her Chancellor that [column 467]interest rates had to be raised in order to prevent young people being priced out of the housing market? Are Ministers so out of touch that they do not understand that high mortgage repayments are just as serious a barrier to home ownership as high prices?

The Prime Minister

I would not accept the interpretation put by the hon. Gentleman on John Majormy right hon. Friend's remarks. Interest rates were raised because monetary conditions were too loose and therefore it was necessary to get inflation down.

Q9. Mr. Foulkes

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 2 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Foulkes

Will the Prime Minister now answer the question—[Interruption.]

[column 468]

Mr. Speaker

Order.

Mr. Foulkes

Will the Prime Minister now answer the question asked so eloquently by my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) in relation to Cambodia? This is a very serious matter and on two occasions in this Question Time the Prime Minister has dodged the issue. Now for a third time she has an opportunity to answer to the House. I hope that she will do so.

The Prime Minister

I note that the hon. Gentleman was taken by surprise, could not think up a question and had to repeat an old one. I will therefore repeat the answer that I gave. Our abhorrence of Pol Pot's murderous regime is well known and there is no question of our supporting the Khmer Rouge. I hope that the hon. Gentleman has got it clear now.