Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1990 Jan 23 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: House of Commons PQs
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [165/735-40]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2348
Themes: Parliament, Union of UK nations, Commonwealth (South Africa), Defence (general), Employment, Industry, Pay, Trade, European Union (general), Family, Foreign policy (Asia), Health policy, Law & order, Local government finance, Northern Ireland, Sport, Social security & welfare, Women

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. George Howarth

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 23 January.

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.

Mr. Howarth

Does the Prime Minister accept that the rebel cricket tour of South Africa is most certainly a breach of the Gleneagles agreement in spirit and in letter? Does she accept the words of Sebastian Coe, who described the players involved as nothing less than mercenaries? Will the right hon. Lady make contact with those players and tell them to pack their bags and come on home?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend Colin Moynihanthe Minister for Sport put the Government's views to those cricketers before they went on that tour. We had a duty to seek to persuade them not to go and we tried to persuade them not to go. However, their going is not contrary to the [column 736]Gleneagles agreement because it is a voluntary agreement. People were free to choose and to make their own decisions, and that is what they did.

Q2. Sir Julian Ridsdale

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 23 January.

The Prime Minister

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

Sir Julian Ridsdale

Is my right hon. Friend aware of how encouraged those who have been organising Expo 90 in Japan have been by the positive help that the Government have recently given to that project? Is my right hon. Friend further aware that Royal Horticultural Society, the horticultural industry and the industrialists who have helped with the project will redouble their efforts to make sure that this important environmental Expo, which will be attended by 40 Asian countries, will be a great success from the British point of view?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend has been assiduous in trying to persuade the Government to take part in the Osaka garden festival as part of Expo 90. Both Expo 90 and the garden festival are mainly for the private sector, but the Japanese have been keen that we should take part. In response to my hon. Friend, we have now agreed that there should be official British participation in the garden show. I understand from our Japanese friends that a commissioner-general is required to be in charge of the British participation in the garden show, and my right hon. Friend Douglas Hurdthe Foreign Secretary will shortly be writing to my hon. Friend to offer him the post of commissioner-general.

Mr. Kinnock

With business bankruptcies increasing and industrial output falling, would the Prime Minister say that her high interest rate policies are having the effect that she intended?

The Prime Minister

Of course, there are always some businesses that go out of business and close down, but we have many new ones starting up. May I point out that in 1978, the last year under Labour, there were 6,000—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Prime Minister must be given a chance to answer.

The Prime Minister

In the last year of the Labour Government, 6,000 more businesses closed than opened. In 1988, after some eight or nine years of Conservative Government, 64,000 more businesses opened than closed.

Mr. Kinnock

The right hon. Lady appears to be interested in references to the past. Does she recall that under her Government there were a record number of business failures—some 22,000—in 1984? Does she further recall that last year there were in excess of 18,000? Is she trying to break her own record?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman heard what I said. The critical test is how many more businesses open and flourish than go out of business. In Labour's last year in office—its most experienced year—some 6,000 more businesses closed than opened. In 1988, 64,000 more businesses opened than closed. In 1989 over 80,000 more [column 737]businesses opened than closed. That is a good Tory record, and it shows that the Tories are creating more jobs than ever before.

Mr. Franks

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the hallmark of a free and civilised society is the rule of law? Will she further confirm that the people who have power and authority are subject to that law and that all are equal before the law, no matter how high or how humble? Will she consult her Cabinet colleagues about the apparent assertion by the former Chief Constable of Northern Ireland that a man no longer remains innocent until proven guilty, and the apparent introduction by the chief constable of Greater Manchester of the concept of guilt by association?

Will my right hon. Friend reaffirm that no matter what happens in the rest of the world, in these isles justice and freedom from fear prevail?

The Prime Minister

Of course, I confirm that the rule of law and equality before the law are the hallmarks of a civilised society. They form the cornerstone of our society. My hon. Friend feels especially strongly about this matter. My right hon. and learned Friend David Waddingtonthe Home Secretary has already made it clear that he does not consider there to be a case for an inquiry. If Mr. Stalker has information that he thinks affects his case, he should make it available to the appropriate authorities as soon as possible. I do not understand why he has delayed doing that.

Q3. Mr. Ray Powell

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 23 January.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Powell

I warn the Prime Minister that my question has nothing to do with the Labour Government. We all appreciate her sentiments about democracy, which she preaches throughout the world. Is it not time that she considered democracy within her own party? Is it not amazing that within seven or eight weeks of the beginning of this Session of Parliament she was challenged for the leadership of her party? Is it not strange that within a matter of weeks that challenger was deselected in the constituency of Clwyd, North-West?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must ask about matters relating to the Prime Minister's ministerial responsibility—[Hon. Members: “Answer!” ] Order. I repeat, the hon. Gentleman must ask a question about the Prime Minister's ministerial responsibility.

Q4. Mr. Bellingham

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 23 January.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Bellingham

Although many small businesses support the new business rate in principle, many in Norfolk would like to see a longer phasing-in period. Does the Prime Minister agree that it would be a complete disaster if we adopted for small firms Labour's proposal to give back to local authorities the power to levy punitive business rates?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend that it would be disastrous for many businesses in the north if we gave back to Labour the power to levy punitive [column 738]business rates, which frightened many good businesses away from precisely the towns and cities which needed them. I understand that the north wants the transition period to be as fast as possible because it will gain some £900 million, while the south and midlands wish it to be much slower. We have to consider both. The present transition period is five years, but that is not an absolute figure and it could be extended if need be.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing

Has the Prime Minister had the opportunity to read in detail the speech in the House last week by the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) in which he pointed out that the Government had a clear obligation to treat each constituent part of the United Kingdom with parity? If she endorses that view, will she be encouraging the 35 rebels of last Thursday to do the same this Thursday when similar legislation for Scotland is debated, or will she continue to railroad through legislation which has the support of only 16 per cent. of the Scots?

The Prime Minister

If there were parity for each region of the United Kingdom, Scotland would not do anything like as well as it does. It is treated most generously both in regional issues and in general public expenditure per head.

Q5. Mr. Cash

To ask the Prime Minister is she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 23 January.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Cash

Has my right hon. Friend noted from the “Newsnight” poll last week that only 15 per cent. of people want more power shifted from Westminster to Brussels? Furthermore, did she note that in his speech to the European Parliament last week Mr. Delors placed a new and positive emphasis on national parliaments? Does she agree that this is a very welcome move not only in the light of our well-tried parliamentary system in Westminster but for the other countries in eastern and western Europe?

The Prime Minister

I welcome each and every recognition of the part that national parliaments play in democratic accountability in the Community. I noted that in the speech, and it was very welcome. Ministers meeting in the Council of Ministers reach decisions, and they are and must remain accountable to their national parliaments. That is how proper democratic control is exercised in the Community and it must continue that way.

Q6. Mr. Sheerman

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 23 January.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Sheerman

Is the Prime Minister aware that an ordinary family with a £20,000 mortgage is paying £50 a month more than it was only 18 months ago? Why is she so surprised that her policy of high interest rates leads to claims for higher wage rates?

The Prime Minister

When it comes to wage rates the important thing is to keep an industry competitive. There is no point in taking wage costs way above those of our competitors. The hon. Member will have seen that the average increase in earnings in industry over this time last year is 9.25 per cent. He will also be aware that our unit wage costs are going up much faster than those of our [column 739]competitors. If people are concerned to keep their jobs, as I am sure they are, they must have regard to the future competitiveness of industries.

Sir John Stokes

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I am in favour of the role of women in public and private life? Is she further aware that there is a growing demand for more women in the workplace? Does she agree that, admirable though that is, we must safeguard the institution of marriage and the bringing up of children?

The Prime Minister

Yes. As usual, my hon. Friend puts his finger on the right point. It is vital that we safeguard the institution of family life, and undoubtedly the mother has the most important role in bringing up the children. But we also believe that she, too, must have the chance to work, possibly part time outside the home, or full time in a career, if she wishes, and we try to do our best to accommodate those wishes.

Q7. Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 23 January.

The Prime Minister

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

[column 740]

Mr. Bennett

The Prime Minister will be aware that in his last days in office, President Reagan approved legislation to compensate veterans of nuclear tests in the United States who were suffering as a result of being too close to such tests. Does the Prime Minister now agree that British veterans who suffered as a result of being present at Christmas island and elsewhere during the early tests should receive similar compensation? Will she look favourably at the private Bill initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Clay) and give Government support to that measure?

The Prime Minister

The Government are ready to pay appropriate compensation wherever the Crown's legal liability is established and where there is firm evidence to show, on the balance of probabilities, that ex-service men have suffered ill-health as a result of exposure to radiation in the course of their duties as members of the armed forces. In the absence of any such evidence, special compensation arrangements for test veterans could not be justified.

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that current legislation allows for the consideration of the award of a war pension if there is reliable evidence of reasonable doubt that harm may be regarded as attributable to service factors.