Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1990 May 3 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 [171/1203-08]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2542
Themes: Local elections, European Union (general), Economic, monetary & political union, Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Health policy, Community charge ("poll tax"), Terrorism
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PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Carrington

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 3 May.

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. Carrington

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the voters of Hammersmith and Fulham are very grateful to the Government for having cut their community charge by £99? Does she also know that my constituents are outraged that the Labour-controlled council is spending community charge payers' money taking the Government to court to try to put the charge back up again? Will she join me in assuring the voters of Hammersmith and Fulham that if they vote for a Conservative-controlled council today the capping will stay and every community charge payer will be £99 better off tomorrow?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Hammersmith and Fulham has for years been a very high-spending council. In 1987–88 it put the rates up by 127 per cent., and it has increased its budget significantly in recent years, so that this year it has set a charge of £424. The council has been capped because its budget was excessive—nearly £300 per adult over the standard spending assessment. The proposed cap gives a £99 reduction in the charge and, as my hon. Friend says, the [column 1204]voters have every cause to be grateful to the Conservative Government. Labour-controlled councils cost you more and Conservative-controlled councils cost you less—and give a better service.

Mr. Kinnock

rose—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order.

Mr. Kinnock

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for reminding Members on the Conservative Benches that they are still in Parliament.

Hon. Members

Where are the Opposition?

Mr. Speaker

Order. Such interruptions take up a lot of time.

Mr. Kinnock

Several of my hon. Friends are out ensuring even bigger gains for the Labour party in today's elections.

When the Prime Minister first decided to impose the poll tax, did she realise that all across the country, regardless of which political party has control of councils, three times as many people would lose through the poll tax system as would gain from it?

The Prime Minister

If that is so, the enemy is not the community charge but high-spending Labour-controlled councils.

Mr. Kinnock

By now the Prime Minister knows very well that is absolutely not true. Why does she not heed the words of her fellow Conservatives in places like Redbridge, where the large Conservative majority on the council passed a resolution calling upon the Government

“to desist from misleading the public and to accept its own overriding share of responsibility for the level of community charge” ?

Why does the Prime Minister not accept the inescapable truth of that statement from her Conservative colleagues and, just for once, come clean?

The Prime Minister

Because it is local councils which set the community charge—I trust that the right hon. Gentleman does not argue with that—and, as he knows, the top 50 overspenders are all Labour-controlled councils. [Interruption.] The top 50 overspenders are Labour-controlled or councils with no overall control. The difference is well exemplified by my authority which, after safety net, has a community charge of £268 but which is top in the education stakes. The Labour-controlled authority where the right hon. Gentleman lives has a community charge after the safety net of £408 and is 74th in educational performance.

Mr. Kinnock

Does not the Prime Minister realise that councillors of all parties, including her own, deeply resent the way in which she is trying to blame them for that which is her fault? Why will she not stand up and accept her own guilt?

The Prime Minister

Labour councillors are expected to take responsibility for the community charges which they set. If they cannot take responsibility, they should not be there. The fact is that under Labour people pay more for poorer services and for spending on things that they do not want. Conservative-controlled councils cost less and provide a better service.

Q2. Mr. Patrick Thompson

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 3 May.

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The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Thompson

Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that every kind of diplomatic pressure is being brought to bear to secure the release of the hostages in the middle east? Does she agree that it would be wholly wrong to enter into direct negotiations with terrorists or those who are their sponsors?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend. Obviously we very much want to get our hostages out and every day we are trying to do something to that end. May I point out that our embassy staff have remained in Beirut throughout a very dangerous and difficult period? One of their main purposes in being there is to try to find out any information that they can about any hostages.

Yes, we are using diplomatic contacts and pressure, but there are certain obstacles—for example, the fact that Iran broke off diplomatic relations with Britain over the Rushdie affair. We maintain a dialogue with Iran through our protecting power, which is Sweden, and through other contacts, and we shall continue to do that. We are also in touch with the Americans and, like them, we welcome the role that Iran and Syria played in securing the freedom of the two American hostages. I agree with my hon. Friend that it would be wrong to make deals with those who take hostages and we shall not do that.

Mr. Allen

This is a statement. It is an abuse.

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is a matter which is of grave concern to the whole House.

The Prime Minister

It is wrong to make deals with those who take hostages. We shall not do that, and nor does the United States. R. RuncieThe Archbishop of Canterbury has this morning reaffirmed his view that the Government's policy is sound and that one should never reward hostage-taking because to do so would encourage more of it.

Q3. Mr. Wilson

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 3 May.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Wilson

Will the Prime Minister comment on the collusion which has been exposed today between the Tory-appointed chairman of Lothian health board and the Scottish Health Minister, the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth), for the purpose of suppressing until after today—and I quote:

“to avoid political embarrassment to the chairman of the Scottish Conservative party”

—the proposals of that hand-picked Tory health board to close four hospitals and to cut nursing and paramedical services in order to meet a deficit? In how many other corners of Britain are similar plans being suppressed until today is out of the road? Does the Prime Minister realise that the people of Scotland will never accept the dual role of the hon. Member for Stirling as Scottish health Minister and as chairman of the Conservative party in Scotland in manipulating the Health Service for shameless political ends?

The Prime Minister

I know of no such collusion whatsoever. I point out to the hon. Gentleman that my hon. Friend Michael Forsyththe Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State [column 1206]for Scotland has done wonders for the Health Service in Scotland. There are more hospitals, more nurses, more doctors who are better paid and more patients being treated than ever before. It would be kind of people could pay a tribute to the Under-Secretary who has had a good deal to do with that.

Q4. Mr. Rathbone

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 3 May.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Rathbone

Will my right hon. Friend, following her statement last Tuesday, give greater reassurance to the House that the Government will introduce positive and persuasive ideas for co-operative evolution in the European Community? Will she apply her undoubted leadership qualities to breed cohesion among Community leaders to ensure that the Community develops in a way that benefits everyone in Europe?

The Prime Minister

Yes. In the next few weeks we shall present ideas to make the institutions of the Community work better, on the basis of sovereign states working through national Parliaments and through the Council of Ministers in the Community in a way that benefits everyone. We shall also be introducing some different ideas for economic and monetary union—bearing in mind the approach of the House, which is not to move in anything like the Delors direction, as that would rob us of our powers. We think that our ideas would go further to ensure the co-operation of the Community states to benefit everyone.

Mr. Ashdown

Has the Prime Minister read the reports in today's newspapers about the Dudley man who was sent a bill for £1.91 poll tax for the last two days of his wife's life? Does she not see that that adds shame to the verdict of inefficiency and injustice that is being passed on the poll tax at the ballot box today? How powerful must the vote of protest against the poll tax be before the right hon. Lady will listen?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for referring to that action by Dudley Labour council, which was not under an obligation to collect that sum from the deceased person's estate. [Interruption.] The relevant regulations provide only that sums owing may be recovered in the administration of the person's estate and from his executor or administrator. The Department of the Environment has been advising authorities that if a person dies shortly after 1 April they should consider writing off any outstanding amount. Furthermore, there is no doubt that in this case the cost of billing Mrs. Wood 's estate exceeded the amount of the charge.

Q5. Mr. David Shaw

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 3 May.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Shaw

Will my right hon. Friend tell the House whether she has any information about local authorities which provide good services at reasonable cost, as opposed to those which provide poor services at extortionate cost?

The Prime Minister

I gladly comply. My hon. Friend will know the answer. It is Conservative councils which [column 1207]give good value for money, cost less and give excellent services. It is Labour councils which cost people more, offer poorer services and often spend money on things that people do not want. The object lesson is clear—elect Conservative councils.

Q6. Mr. Eadie

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 3 May.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Eadie

Will the Prime Minister sack the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth)—the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland—because he instructed Lothian health board to withhold its programme of hospital closures until after today's regional elections? Does she agree that that is typical of the hon. Member for Stirling and that the Scottish people have had enough of him because of his sustained attacks on their welfare?

The Prime Minister

No, I will pay tribute to the work of my hon. Friend Michael Forsyththe Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for the Health Service in Scotland for the excellent way in which the service is run, to the great benefit of most of the people in Scotland—who, I am sure, are much more satisfied with it than the hon. Gentleman is. I noted that the hon. Gentleman did not ask me a question about the community charge, possibly because the level of community charge set by Lothian is the highest of any authority in Scotland.

Mr. Eadie

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker——

Mr. Speaker

I will take it in a minute.

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Q7. Mr. Gale

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 3 May.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Eadie

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

What is the point of order?

Mr. Eadie

Should not the same strictures apply to the Prime Minister as apply to other Members of the House when they deal with matters not contained in the question?

Mr. Speaker

I cannot be held responsible for what is said in answer to questions.

Mr. Gale

There is probably no one in the House who cares more than my right hon. Friend about the plight of the hostages in the middle east, but in the light of her earlier answer will she reaffirm that the only result of giving in to terrorists is, in the long run, the taking of more hostages, and that the only way forward must be through quiet diplomacy?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend. If we ever give in to blackmail it results in the taking of more hostages, which is why neither we nor the Americans will make deals of that kind. We both try and will continue to try, through our contacts, through the protecting power, and through other contacts that we have, to do everything possible to bring about the release of the hostages, about whom we are very concerned. We note that America has done no deals—it is through quiet contacts that her hostages have been released.