Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1990 Jun 28 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 [175/482-88]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2736
Themes: Executive, Privatized & state industries, Energy, Environment, European Union (general), Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (development, aid, etc), Foreign policy (Middle East), Law & order, Community charge ("poll tax"), Terrorism
[column 482]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Couchman

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 28 June.

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, including one with the Governor of Hong Kong.

Mr. Couchman

Does my right hon. Friend agree that properly enforced tough controls on dangerous dogs and their owners offer far greater security and reassurance to the public, and particularly to children, than a bureaucratic dog registration scheme of the kind currently obsessing the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the upshot of which would be that responsible owners would register and irresponsible owners would not?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend. It is not the identification of the owner which has been the problem, but to make certain that owners control their dogs properly. Yesterday further significant proposals were announced to toughen the law. Our proposals will strengthen the powers for dangerous dogs to be seized and, if necessary, destroyed. They will create new powers to allow courts to have dogs muzzled. We are also looking at the possibility of banning certain dog breeds all together.

Mr. Kinnock

Since the Prime Minister has publicly admitted that she was, in her own words,

“aware of the … terms and conditions of the arrangements reached with British Aerospace”

in relation to the sale of Rover, will she confirm that her knowledge of those arrangements included details of the £44 million sweeteners of which Parliament was never to be told?

The Prime Minister

As I indicated on 14 December 1989

“I was kept aware throughout of the progress of the negotiations with British Aerospace and … of the basic terms and conditions of the agreements reached” .—[Official Report, 14 December 1989; Vol. 163, c. 770.]

[column 483]Our priority at the time was to safeguard the interests of the company, the employees and the taxpayer. That objective was secured and billions of pounds of future state aids and taxpayers' money was thus saved.

Mr. Kinnock

On 30 November last year I asked the Prime Minister twice if she knew of all the arrangements about the sweeteners. She dodged the question then, and she is trying to dodge it now. Will she give a straight answer to a straight question? When she says that she knew of the arrangements, did her knowledge include, or did it not include, knowledge of the sweeteners of which this Parliament, the European Community and the British people were never to be told?

The Prime Minister

rose——

Hon. Members

Yes or no?

Mr. Speaker

Order.

The Prime Minister

I answered the question on 14 December 1989. I was kept aware throughout of the progress of the negotiations at British Aerospace under the basic terms and conditions of the agreements reached. [Hon. Members: “Yes or no?” ] Our main objective was to secure the privatisation of this company which was utterly bankrupt and broke and on which the taxpayers—[Hon. Members: “Yes or no?” ]—had already spent £3.5 billion in aids and a further £1.6 billion in contingent liabilities. We successfully privatised the company and it is profitable, but that means nothing to the right hon. Gentleman. [Hon. Members: “Yes or no?” ] The right hon. Gentleman would probably have preferred to have the company nationalised so that taxpayers could continue to be fleeced.

Mr. Kinnock

What does mean something to me, and should mean something to the Prime Minister, is the integrity of the right hon. Lady herself. Did she know, or did she not know, that £44 million of illegal sweeteners was part of the deal?

Hon. Members

Answer!

The Prime Minister

I answered the hon. Gentleman in the reply that I gave on 14 December 1989. May I say how very much the Opposition have changed their tune—[Interruption].

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Prime Minister has been asked a series of questions and she wishes to reply.

The Prime Minister

The Opposition have changed their tune from the line which they took on 14 July 1988 when——

Hon. Members

Yes or no?

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is intolerable that when the Prime Minister has been asked a question she is not given an opportunity to reply. [Hon. Members: “She will not answer.” ] Order. I call the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister

On 14 July 1988 my right hon. and learned Friend Kenneth Clarkethe Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, as he then was, informed the House of the results of the negotiations and what had taken place. The hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould), replying to my right hon. and learned Friend——

Hon. Members

Answer—yes or no?

[column 484]

Mr. Speaker

Order.

Mr. Allen

She has had three chances.

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is the House of Commons and we listen to the answers given to questions.

The Prime Minister

The hon. Member for Dagenham, replying to my right hon. and learned Friend and referring to my right hon. and learned Friend's latest visit to the Commission as going cap in hand to Brussels to beg for concessions said, if the House is quiet enough or interested enough to hear——

Mr. Allen

rose——

The Prime Minister

The hon. Member for Dagenham said——

Mr. Allen

She has taken seven minutes.

Mr. Speaker

Order. If the hon. Gentleman continues to shout, of course it will take time.

The Prime Minister

When my right hon. and learned Friend the then Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was announcing the result, the hon. Member for Dagenham said of the Commission:

“How is it that an unelected official can tell the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry that his terms are non-negotiable?” —[Official Report, 14 July 1988; Vol. 137, c. 613.]

That is what the hon. Gentleman said, but the Opposition have changed their tune.

Mr. Jessel

On the occasion of the most welcome visit of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association delegates from India, led by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, will my right hon. Friend confirm the Government's policy as being to continue to uphold Britain's excellent relations with India?

The Prime Minister

Yes. I was not aware of that visit, but we have excellent relations with India. We give it priority with our aid, and have recently agreed to help it each year to enable it to keep its rain forests.

Mr. Ashdown

Now that we know that nuclear power is twice as expensive for the consumer as any other form of power, and that it is less cost effective than energy conservation in protecting the environment, why does the Prime Minister insist that every electricity consumer should pay a special nuclear tax amounting to £25 on the average electricity bill to meet the cost of her obsession and her Government's bungling over nuclear power? Have not Sizewell B and the right hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Parkinson) already cost the nation too much, and should not the right hon. Lady pull the plug on both of them?

The Prime Minister

I will take the question on Sizewell B first. Sizewell B will cost more than originally expected because the original order was for four nuclear power stations of a particular design. However, now that only one is definitely to be built—Sizewell B—all the original design and development costs will have to be added to the cost of that one station, instead of being spread over four. It is not unusual for the costs to increase. If we had four nuclear power stations, the cost of Sizewell B would not be great.

In the right hon. Gentleman's second question, he said that nuclear power cost more. We know the costs for the disposal of the fission products of nuclear power. When [column 485]that is compared with the cost of obtaining electricity from coal or oil, the problem is that we do not know the costs of dumping carbon dioxide in outer space, which could be much worse in the long run than those of nuclear power. The right hon. Gentleman may remember that France has a good record on reducing carbon dioxide emissions because the majority of her electricity is generated from nuclear power.

Lebanon

Q2. Mr. Latham

To ask the Prime Minister whether she will make a statement on diplomatic contacts designed to achieve the release of British citizens held captive by Iranian-backed terrorist groups in Lebanon.

The Prime Minister

The plight of the British citizens held hostage is constantly in the minds of all of us. We have raised the matter with a wide range of Governments and organisations which might have influence on the hostage holders. We shall continue to use every contact and follow up every lead that we believe might bring results.

Mr. Latham

Will my right hon. Friend press the Iranian Government to abide by normal decent standards of international behaviour and bring about the release of those entirely innocent people in Lebanon forthwith? Will she also press that Government to do something about the absolutely abominable human rights situation in Iran?

The Prime Minister

Our position on hostages is well known. We take precisely the view that my hon. Friend has just expressed. Any nation that has any information, or any influence on those who are holding hostages, should do all in its power to secure their release, as that is the only norm of civilised behaviour. We ask Iran to do that as well. My hon. Friend knows that our ambassador in Lebanon is actively following up every lead.

With regard to human rights in Iran, we welcome the decision by the Iranian Government to invite the United Nations special representative on human rights to pay a second visit to Iran. We hope that he will be given full facilities to investigate thoroughly all aspects of human rights there, and any breaches of those rights by the Iranian Government.

Mr. Brazier

rose—[Interruption].

Mr. Speaker

Order. I believe that the hon. Gentleman has recently returned from the Lebanon.

Mr. Brazier

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, while we must have the greatest sympathy for the hostages and their families, we must never do anything to undermine her strong stand against international terrorism? We must remember at all times that these groups are backed on the one hand by Iranians who have condemned a British citizen to death and on the other by the Syrians who continue to shelter the principal suspects of the Lockerbie bombing.

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. As he knows, we broke off diplomatic relations with Syria because of its part in helping to place the bomb on the E1 A1 aircraft. Diplomatic relations could not possibly continue in those circumstances. We do not think it right to restore those diplomatic relations yet, but we plead with Iran and Syria to do all in their power in the modern world [column 486]to secure the release of hostages. That is the only way for civilised nations, which expect to be welcomed into diplomatic international circles, to behave.

Engagements

Q3. Mr. Marland

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 28 June.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Marland

As my right hon. Friend knows, Gloucestershire country council is run by the soggy hand of the Liberal Alliance and has spent millions of pounds over an already excessive budget, which is causing great anxiety to many of my constituents. In her review of the working of the community charge, will my right hon. Friend seek to ensure that some mechanism is introduced to curb such profligacy?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is quite right about Gloucestershire. This year it has increased its expenditure by twice the rate of inflation. In our review of the community charge we are certainly bearing in mind that chargepayers want to be protected against the excessive spending of such councils. We shall bring forward proposals before the House rises.

Q4. Mr. Haynes

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 28 June.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Haynes

rose——

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Haynes

rose—[Interruption].

Mr. Speaker

Order. Let us give the hon. Gentleman a fair chance.

Mr. Haynes

Mr. Speaker, Sir. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear” ] Is the Prime Minister aware that the crime figures presented today are appalling? Is she also aware that the morale of the police force in the various constabularies across the country is at its lowest ebb? Is she also aware of the fiddle that has been going on about Aerospace? How does she expect British citizens to behave themselves when the Government go on like that? Is she aware that the Government sanction——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think that the House has now been made aware of two questions—that is enough.

The Prime Minister

In so far as I was able to hear the hon. Gentleman, yes, the crime figures out today are extremely disappointing, although we must remember that violent crime in this country occurs on a very much lesser scale than in some other countries. The overall figures show that 25 per cent. of all crime is car related, and my right hon. and learned Friend David Waddingtonthe Home Secretary intends to have talks with car producers to see if we can reduce that figure.

I do not accept that the morale of the police is low. They have had a very good deal on pay—so good that everyone else wants to emulate them—and they have had full support from the Government in their most important work. [column 487]

With regard to British Aerospace as my right hon. Friend Nicholas Ridleythe Secretary of State for Trade and Industry explained in his statement on 30 November 1989, the relative items of which the hon. Gentleman was speaking were included

“in the estimates and reports to Parliament. Full details were made available to the Comptroller and Auditor General “—[Official Report, 30 November 1989; Vol. 162, c. 859.]

Finally may I point out what the Commission says in its report——

[column 488]

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Did you know?

The Prime Minister

The Commission said that the price of £150 million represented a reasonable purchase price, given all of the circumstances of the sale.

Mr. Haynes

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I want to make it clear to you——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I will take points of order later.