Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1990 Mar 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 [170/666-70]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2207
Themes: Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Education, Higher & further education, Public spending & borrowing, Taxation, Trade, Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Health policy, Labour Party & socialism, Law & order, Community charge ("poll tax"), Media, Northern Ireland, Social security & welfare, Terrorism, Trade unions, Trade union law reform
[column 666]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Hoyle

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

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. This evening I shall be speaking at the Anglo-German Koenigswinter conference dinner to be held in Cambridge.

Mr. Hoyle

Will the Prime Minister take time off from her engagements to investigate why the out-patient vehicle service in Cheshire has not been raised from the skeleton level to which it was reduced during the ambulance dispute? Is not it wrong that her Government are cost-cutting at the expense of the sick, the infirm and the disabled? Instead of the Prime Minister giving her usual outmoded and outdated statistics on the Health Service, will she take steps immediately to bring that inhuman treatment of patients to an end?

The Prime Minister

I shall refer the detailed matter to my right hon. and learned Friend Kenneth Clarkethe Secretary of State for Health. I do not give the House outdated statistics. This year, according to contemporary statistics, the taxpayer has contributed an extra £2.4 billion to the National Health Service and next year the taxpayer will be contributing a further £3 billion to the NHS. The total figure was £7.5 billion a year when I came into No. 10 Downing street: now the taxpayer will contribute £29 billion a year to the National Health Service.

Q2. Mr. Kirkhope

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

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Kirkhope

When my right hon. Friend sees Chancellor Kohl tomorrow, will she explain to him that the British people understand Germany's desire for unification, but that they want to be sure that it will strengthen Europe's security and stability and that it will mean the united Germany being a member of NATO, and the presence of British and American forces, with nuclear weapons, on German soil?

[column 90_083]

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is right. I am sure that he will be listened to carefully because I understand that he was one of the parliamentary observers at the recent East German elections. I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. Chancellor Kohl has been very firm in his support of NATO and of a united Germany being in NATO. He has also been very firm in his support for American troops and nuclear weapons being stationed on German soil. Those are vital for the future defence of freedom.

Mr. Kinnock

If the Prime Minister had her time again, would she still introduce the poll tax?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Kinnock

I am very grateful for that reply—[Interruption.] Does the Prime Minister think that if they had their time again, her hon. Friends would vote for the poll tax?

The Prime Minister

Yes. It is infinitely—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order.

The Prime Minister

It is infinitely preferable to a rating revaluation, which would put a colossal burden on half the people who reside in local authority areas, and it is infinitely preferable to Labour's roof tax and local income tax.

Mr. Kinnock

The Prime Minister must be just about the last person in the country who believes all that claptrap. The people of Britain know that from Sunday they will have imposed on them a tax of monstrous injustice and cost, and it will have been imposed by her Government. It is incompatible with democracy.

The Prime Minister

I notice that the right hon. Gentleman wisely keeps silent about his own policy of a roof tax plus a local income tax—[Interruption.] Of course he does, because the moment he enunciates a policy it is blown sky-high.

Mr. Ashby

My right hon. Friend will know that the whole House is deeply concerned about the discovery of nuclear triggers destined for Iraq, about which there will be a statement later. There has been a steady flow of defensive weapons and technology to Iraq over the years. Will my right hon. Friend get together with our European friends as a matter of urgency and institute a meeting to try to stop the flow of this technology and equipment to Iraq and to preserve peace in the middle east?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is right. The attempted spread of nuclear weapons is very serious and Customs are to be congratulated on having foiled an effort to spread them further. My right hon. Friend Douglas Hurdthe Foreign Secretary will be answering a private notice question, during which he will make a full statement. In the meantime, we shall urgently be contacting the signatories to the non-proliferation treaty and the missile technology control regime to see what we can do to prevent a repeat of this serious incident.

Q3. Mr. Barron

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

The Prime Minister

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

[column 668]

Mr. Barron

Does the Prime Minister think it right that over 42,000 student nurses in Britain on low incomes should have to pay the full rate of poll tax?

The Prime Minister

Before long, most student nurses—those who are not yet registered as full nurses—will be on Project 2000. That means that they will be paid a bursary and treated fully as ordinary students; therefore, they will pay only 20 per cent. of the community charge. Before long, most of them will be on that system. [Interruption.] In the meantime, some student nurses who are in receipt of a salary will be treated like all other trainees who are in receipt of a salary. If the salary were very low, they would be eligible for rebate, but most of them will be paying the community charge in full. That was taken into account in the recent pay award and the speed at which it was implemented.

Q4. Sir John Stokes

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

The Prime Minister

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

Sir John Stokes

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is considerable anxiety about the teaching of English history in our schools? Instead of teaching only what are called themes, why cannot we go back to the good old days when we learnt by heart the names of the kings and queens of England, the names of our warriors and battles and the glorious deeds of our past? [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am sure that the whole House wants to hear the reply.

The Prime Minister

As usual, my hon. Friend is absolutely right. What children should be taught in history is the subject of vigorous debate. I agree with him. Most of us are expected to learn from experience of history and we cannot do that unless we know it. Children should know the great landmarks of British history and should be taught them at school.

Mr. Hume

Will the Prime Minister recall with me that 16 years ago, 21 working-class people were having a quite drink in public houses in Birmingham when they were blown to pieces by the IRA? Does she agree that there is no greater injustice than an atrocity of that nature because it cannot be changed and those people cannot come out of their graves? Does she further agree that the wave of anger and emotion that swept Britain following that atrocity was both natural and understandable?

Does the Prime Minister agree that it is not understandable that that wave of anger and emotion should distort the course of justice and lead to the conviction of the wrong people? Given the overwhelming evidence that is emerging and the deep anxiety that has been expressed by respected national figures in Britain and abroad, will she now personally order an independent inquiry into the whole affair?

The Prime Minister

Most of us recall the scenes of that terrorist act, and the great tragedy will live with some families for ever. But we do not conduct trial by television. The place to put any new evidence is with the police. My right hon. and learned Friend David Waddingtonthe Home Secretary said that if there is any fresh evidence in the meantime, of course, it will be looked at carefully. The hon. Gentleman will be aware of investigations that are under way with the [column 669]chief constables of the West Midlands and of Devon and Cornwall to inquire into the latest evidence. Then it will be for the prosecuting authorities and my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary to decide whether any further action should be taken, bearing in mind that there has already been one rehearing by the Court of Appeal, which gave a very detailed judgment.

The hon. Gentleman referred to emotions. We must not let our emotions run away with us either. It is a matter of evidence before the courts, not of feelings.

Q5. Mrs. Maureen Hicks

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

The Prime Minister

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

Mrs. Hicks

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the need for her trade union electoral reforms was never more obvious than in recent weeks with the dubious electoral practices of the Transport and General Workers Union—the union which sponsors the Leader of the Opposition?

The Prime Minister

All our measures on trade union reform were well judged and have been of great benefit to ordinary members of trade unions. I hope that one day the Transport and General Workers Union will take a move to the right. It will be very welcome.

Mr. Mullin

Is the Prime Minister aware that this morning her press secretary quietly briefed the press that no new developments have occurred in the past few days in the Birmingham pub bombing case? Would not the appropriate course of action be for the Home Secretary to come to the House and say that out loud so that hon. Members can ask the many questions that arise?

[column 670]

The Prime Minister

No. A television programme alters nothing. We do not have trial by television, and the day we do, the rule of law will have left this country for good. The only thing that matters in a court of law is evidence and the only thing that matters in reopening a case is whether there is any fresh evidence. I am not yet aware that there is, but if there is, that matter will be fully taken into account by my right hon. and learned Friend David Waddingtonthe Home Secretary.

Q6. Mr. Beaumont-Dark

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

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

Does my right hon. Friend accept that she has many friends and admirers in this House? [Interruption.] Does she also accept that there was a need to change our system of local government finance? But the poll tax has become friendless even among those who gain most because they do not recognise it as fair or as based upon people's ability to pay. Can we set ourselves upon a path on which ability to pay plays a bigger part than where one happens to live, fortunately or unfortunately?

The Prime Minister

First, ability to pay is taken care of by the most generous community charge rebates this country has ever known. Every penny of those rebates is taken care of by the taxpayer. Secondly, the majority of expenditure of local authorities is met not by the community charge payer, but by the taxpayer. The taxpayer is part of a progressive system of tax under which, of course, the rich pay far more than the poor. Those are two facts. I can think of nothing more unfair than a system of rating that ensured that half the people who voted for local authorities did not pay a penny piece.