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Prime Minister (Engagements)

Volume 977: debated on Thursday 31 January 1980

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asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 31 January.

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet. In addition to my duties in this House I shall be having further meetings with ministerial colleagues and others.

Between her meetings I wonder whether the Prime Minister would care to drive down Ebury Bridge Road and to try, if she can, to enter a building marked "P.O./T.H.Q. O.P.D/E.D.D." so that she can tell the House exactly what is going on?

The answer is "No, Sir." I have nothing to add to the excellent replies given earlier by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on this matter.

Having regard to the report that yesterday in Cheshire a lorry driver was struck in the face by a stone thrown from a picket line, will my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister take the opportunity today to confirm the excellent statement by the Secretary of State for Employment on television last night, in which he said that tougher proposals would be brought forward to control picketing? Will she confirm that that is Government policy?

I think that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment was last night referring to proposals that arose out of the judgment in the McShane case, its effect upon trade union immunities, and his intention to bring forward proposals because he felt that trade union immmunities went too wide at the moment. With respect to my right hon. Friend, I think that most of the proposals on picketing are already in the Bill as it stands.

Are not the allegations on telephone tapping that are contained in the press reports disturbing? Is there not a need for the right hon. Lady to satisfy the House that there is effective political control over the security services?

I am happy to say that there is effective political control over the security services. I have made that clear in previous debates. There is also effective ministerial control over the subject of telephone interception.

Has the Prime Minister studied recent reports to the effect that there is a shortage of staff in the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, and is she worried that that may delay the recently announced nuclear programme? Will she arrange, if necessary, secondment of staff from other Departments?

As my hon. Friend knows, the work done by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate is highly specialised. I was not aware that there was a shortage of staff. Its work is extremely important, and we would never go ahead with a particular nuclear power station or system without safety clearance from the inspectorate. I shall look into the points that my hon. Friend raises.

Will the right hon. Lady assure us that telephones of right hon. and hon. Members are not tapped?

It is exactly the same practice that was announced under the Prime Ministership of the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson). All Governments have followed that practice since. There has been no change whatsoever.