Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [180/419-24]
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2058
Themes: Agriculture, Autobiographical comments, General Elections, Trade, European Union (general), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Northern Ireland, Terrorism
[column 419]


South Belfast

Q1. Rev. Martin Smyth

To ask the Prime Minister when she will next visit Belfast, South.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

I had a very successful visit to Northern Ireland on 16 November, but I have no plans to visit the hon. Gentleman's constituency in the immediate future.

Rev. Martin Smyth

You will understand, Mr. Speaker, that Ulster Unionist Members will have empathy with the Prime Minister because we know what betrayal means. May I assure the Prime Minister that if she visits south Belfast she will discover among the majority of my constituents sympathy for her views on Europe? Having suffered from centralised bureaucracy, we do not wish to have Brussels bureaucracy.

The Prime Minister

I hope to visit the Province many times in the future, perhaps in a slightly different capacity, [column 420]and I may then come to visit the hon. Gentleman's constituency. I believe that our policy on Europe appeals to most people in this country and I believe that it is right.


Q2. Mr. Marlow

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 22 November.

The Prime Minister

This morning I chaired a meeting of the Cabinet. At 12.45 pm I had an audience of Her Majesty the Queen. Later this afternoon I shall lead for the Government against the motion tabled in the name of Neil Kinnockthe Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Marlow

Does my right hon. Friend accept that those of us on the Government side of the House who share her objectives, whatever our roles may have been in recent weeks, believe that this is a time of sadness and happiness? It is a time of sadness for my right hon. Friend, bearing in mind the great well of affection for her that exists throughout the House, and a time of happiness in celebration of what has been, is and will remain the greatest peacetime political reign of this century. This will be a day of dedication to sustain and build on the achievements of the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.

The Prime Minister

I thank my hon. Friend. The same person, in a slightly different capacity, will be available to serve Britain in whatsoever way it happens.

Mr. Kinnock

May I pay tribute to the Prime Minister, and to the decision that she made this morning? By that, she showed that she amounts to more than those who have turned on her in recent days.

The right hon. Lady, I know, considers the principle of choice extremely important, and rightly so. Does she agree that the people of Britain should now be given the power of choice in a general election?

The Prime Minister

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his earlier comments. The reply to his later question is no—no more than we had a general election when Mr. Wilson was replaced by Mr. Callaghan.

Mr. Churchill

Is my right hon. Friend aware that she deserves the gratitude of the entire nation for her role in bringing to an end the Soviet part in the arms race, and burying once and for all the cold war between the super-powers? It is in that capacity that she will be remembered as the greatest peacetime Prime Minister this country has ever had.

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend both for his staunchness in defence and for his remarks. It was a great privilege to attend the CSCE conference in Paris and to sign some of the disarmament agreements. The new CSCE really ushers in a new order in Europe—and, I hope, a very successful, peaceful one.

Mr. Ashdown

May I say to the Prime Minister that many of us recognise that she had to make a very tough decision this morning? We believe that she made the right decision and made it with great dignity. May I also say to her that, however wide our political divisions—and they are, of course, very wide—no one can doubt the special style that she brought to the Dispatch Box or the courage, conviction and determination that she brought to her premiership? [column 421]

May I perhaps ask the Prime Minister to use this opportunity to offer the House any advice that she may have for a successor?

The Prime Minister

Apart from the last bit, I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his kindness. May I remind the House that I expect to be here on Tuesday afternoon, and possibly even on Thursday afternoon, so I hope that the House will be as kind then as it is today.

Agriculture Reform

Q3. Mr. Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

To ask the Prime Minister if she will raise at the next meeting of the European Council the implications of the agricultural reform plans agreed by the Agriculture Council on 6 November.

The Prime Minister

I raised this matter at the last European Council meeting. The Government have played a central role in supporting the European Commission's proposals and enabling the Community to table its offer at the talks in Geneva.

Mr. Taylor

Will the Prime Minister confirm that jobs and prosperity in Britain and throughout Europe may be seriously affected by an international trade war unless the EEC produces a meaningful reform of the absurd and costly common agricultural policy? Will she remind the bright chaps now standing for election that the average cost per household of the CAP is now £5.20 per week more than the total net cost per household of the poll tax?

Finally, will the Prime Minister accept the good wishes and gratitude of all Conservatives in Southend, East for the fantastic job that she has done for common sense, freedom and democracy?

The Prime Minister

I very much agree with my hon. Friend. Jobs and prosperity depend on obtaining freer trade and we played a prominent part in that recently at the last meeting of the European Council and in the tabling of proposals to GATT.

I will, of course, respond to my hon. Friend's invitation to remind my colleagues who are standing for election, but let me say this to him: I shall remind them whether they are standing for election or not.

Dr. Godman

With regard to the decisions made at that meeting, does the Prime Minister agree that it is essential for our hill farmers to be given the protection that they so manifestly deserve? In the light of assurances that she has given me in the past, does she also agree that those decisions contain an awful, serious warning for our fishermen vis-a-vis the changes that the Spanish and others wish to inflict on the common fisheries policy? If she will not be here to defend our fishermen, will she urge her successor also to be worthy of our defence?

The Prime Minister

I think that, for once, I can agree with the hon. Gentleman. Our hill farmers are vital to the health and the whole structure of those areas. We have tried to increase the grants available to them because we have recognised their importance not only to farming but to the rural areas.

The fisheries question has always been one of the most difficult in the Community. So far, we have had a pretty good deal for our fishermen and we shall continue to work [column 422]for that. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the vital question of fishing boats is pending and many people will be happier when that has been resolved, preferably to our advantage.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

Will my right hon. Friend accept from me the love and affection of millions of people in my part of the world who over the years have looked to her with the greatest admiration and delight?

The Prime Minister

I am especially grateful to receive that message from my hon. Friend. We were at college together, and I think that we have been together ever since.


Q4. Mr. Janner

To ask the Prime Minister is she will list her official engagements for Thursday 22 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Janner

May I be permitted to thank the Prime Minister for the many personal kindnesses that, over many years, she has shown to Back Benchers on both sides of the House? At the same time, however, I must say that my constituents are deeply concerned that she has left the place in such a shambles. Is she aware that they are desperately worried about the poll tax, the deepening recession, the health service, the education system, and the whole shambles——

Mr. Speaker

Order. Question please.

Mr. Janner

Will the Prime Minister say who she thinks should share the blame for what is, after all, a Conservative mess?

The Prime Minister

The hon. and learned Gentleman was always a good advocate and he can speak to any brief, but I do not believe that he believes a word of that.

Sir John Stokes

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the age of chivalry has gone and been succeeded by economists and calculators? Does not she look back with pride and satisfaction on all those years when she was leader of this country and a world statesman?

The Prime Minister

The age of chivalry will not have gone while my hon. Friend is a Member of this House. I certainly look back with some pride and some satisfaction on our achievements for our country over the past eleven and a half years.

Q5. Mr. Maginnis

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday, 22 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Maginnis

May I convey to the Prime Minister the gratitude of my constituents for her visit last Friday to Enniskillen and their admiration for her courage as she visited the frontier post at Derryadd, where sadly two of our soldiers were killed a short time ago? Is she convinced of the need to maintain such permanent patrol bases for the welfare of the community and also of the foolishness that it would be if they were removed and, therefore, more territory surrendered to the terrorists?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. Those vehicle crossing checkpoints are obviously important to the confidence of those who live in [column 423]the area. That checkpoint is an example of the dangers faced by the Army personnel who man them. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we are taking every possible precaution to learn lessons from that attack. As I went around the border areas, once again I could only be very impressed by the courage and bravery both of our soldiers and of our policemen who work in such areas.

Mr. Aitken

Has my right hon. Friend considered that the voice of a great former Prime Minister could be extremely influential on great issues of state such as our future role in Europe? [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker


[column 424]

Mr. Aitken

My question was directed to a great former Prime Minister.

Will my right hon. Friend assure her many friends in the House and the country that she will continue to champion the causes for which she has fought so valiantly, and will she continue to raise her voice in favour of a referendum on some of the great constitutional issues that may confront us?

The Prime Minister

What my hon. Friend says had in fact secretly occurred to me—that one's voice might be listened to after. I believe that we now have a policy for the future of Europe behind which we can all unite and I believe that many people in other countries in Europe believe in a Europe of nation states and in co-operation between those nation states.