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Engagements

Volume 14: debated on Thursday 3 December 1981

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Q2.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 3 December.

Has the Prime Minister seen the report inThe Times today about 97 young children having died while waiting for bone marrow transplants at Westminster hospital? Is that not the most tragic commentary of all on the operation of market forces and monetarism? Why does not the Prime Minister show some compassion for once and give a categoric assurance that sufficient money will go to the regional health authorities involved so that the doctors in those hospitals are not placed in the dilemma of having to choose one child to live out of every seven?

I saw that report and I was as concerned as the hon. Gentleman. I remind him that, since the time of his Government, spending on the National Health Service has increased. The number of doctors is up by 1,000. The number of nurses and midwives is up by 21,000. Nevertheless, as the hon. Gentleman well knows, a report by Professor Merrison on the future of the Health Service pointed out that one could spend just about the whole of the gross national product on health care, such is the great advance in technology and the expense of some of these operations.

Harder than ever? To have 21,000 more nurses and midwives and 1,000 more doctors is hard? We have much lower waiting lists for operations. How very hard Labour Members must have been.

I come back to the question that I was asked from a standing position. I am well aware of the excellent work done by Professor Hobbs at Westminster hospital. It is one of the few places where work on bone marrow transplants is done. We are looking at the future development of the service, and I am pleased to say Sir Douglas Black has agreed to chair the working party to consider the need for further bone marrow transplant units outside London so that this situation does not occur again. I hope that the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) will have the grace to be pleased—but I doubt it.

Since, tomorrow, the Army Board is due to consider the future of military bands, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the tremendous value of these bands, not only for Army morale and recruiting, but because of their role on Royal and other occasions in lifting the spirits of the nation? As these bands are the envy of the world and attract visitors here, thus helping the balance of payments, does my right hon. Friend consider it right that the entire cost should fall on the defence budget? Can that matter be looked at?

I wholly endorse what my hon. Friend says about the popularity and importance of Army military bands, and also their importance and popularity overseas. I should point out that they are also trained as medical orderlies. So they have another role. I shall draw the attention of the Ministry of Defence to what my hon. Friend says, so that in considering future expenditure on defence the matter may be borne in mind.

Has the Prime Minister's attention been drawn to the demand made by the Labour parliamentary candidate for Bermondsey that extra-parliamentary action should be taken to challenge the Government's right to rule? Does she agree that such an irresponsible demand should be condemned by all supporters of British parliamentary democracy and should not be condoned by craven silence?

I confess that I have not seen the remarks attributed to the honourable person who is standing for that seat. If those remarks are true, we in this House, who believe in parliamentary democracy, assume that anyone wanting to come here would also believe in it.

Since the matter has been raised, may I say that the individual concerned is not an endorsed member of the Labour Party, and, so far as I am concerned, never will be endorsed?[Interruption.] May I add that, as the Labour Party has played the leading part in the establishment and sustenance of parliamentary democracy, we do not need any instructions on the matter from skin-deep democrats on the Conservative Benches or defectors on this side?

Later——

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I understand that in the exchanges at the end of Prime Minister's Questions I used the term "not an endorsed member". It must be clear from the context that what I wished to say was "not an endorsed candidate". I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me to make the correction so that Hansard may record this statement as well as the remarks that I made previously.

Q3.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 3 December.

Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to congratulate the engineering workers and the tanker drivers on their acceptance of realistic pay settlements, by which action they have shown greater wisdom and common sense than has been shown in some of the views put forward by their trade union leaders?

Yes, Sir. I congratulate those workers. I note that the figures that were released by the CBI yesterday showed pay settlements of about 5 to 7 per cent. That is good news. It is only by moderate pay settlemments that we shall stay competitive and get more jobs in the economy.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As we have had such a good question hour without the aid of the digital clock, will you consider dismantling it, Mr. Speaker?

I deeply appreciate that conservative question. I shall give it my radical attention.