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Volume 81: debated on Tuesday 25 June 1985

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asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 25 June.

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be having further meetings later today. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty the Queen.

My right hon. Friend undoubtedly shares the horror and frustration felt throughout the country at the recent spate of bombings at airports and on aircraft. When she goes to Milan this week, will she add another British initiative in this matter by raising with other Heads of Governments and perhaps with Governments and flag carriers the possibility of a co-ordinated effort to counter such acts of terrorism and horror, particularly at airports?

I agree with my hon. Friend. We all share the same horror at those desperate acts. I certainly will raise this at the European Council and I hope to discuss it with Vice-President Bush when he comes next week.

Is the Prime Minister aware that I and my right hon. and hon. Friends wish warmly to congratulate the police on the remarkable detective work and the success that they have achieved against the Provisional IRA? We believe that the whole nation has cause to be grateful. Can the Prime Minister give us an assurance that all necessary resources will be provided in order to ensure that the police can fully and quickly undertake the painstaking search that they now have to undertake of hotels and boarding houses in all the resorts mentiond by Commander Crawshaw?

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. As he knows, my right hon. and learned Friend will be making a statement on this matter shortly. We all warmly congratulate the police on preventing a disaster which was calculated to maim and kill many innocent people. All possible resources will be devoted to the task of the necessary search.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 25 June.

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

Does my right hon. Friend not agree that in a bad week, when terrorists have terrified the world, it is high time that everyone united in congratulating the police on their brilliant anti-terrorist operations? Is it not time that the GLC anti-police Bill was withdrawn and that the sour and obstructive attitude towards the police by many Members in the Labour party was brought to an end?

I agree with my hon. Friend, and indeed I have already indicated that we warmly congratulate the police on their success. I agree with him about the GLC anti-police Bill.

Can the Prime Minister give any explanation at all why the Tory candidate in the current by-election goes about as if he has never heard of her? What possible explanation can there be for that?

I am sure that we have a candidate who is concentrating on putting across positive, constructive policies—[Interruption.] Those policies are the policies of our party. The Labour party attempts to personalise politics because it has no constructive policies to put across.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 25 June.

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

Does the Prime Minister recall her speech to the Welsh Conservative party conference in Swansea in 1980, when she said that Welsh people who wanted work would have to move to find it? Is that still her advice to the people who live in Brecon and Radnor? If it is, where does she suggest they go? Surely she cannot be suggesting her constituency of Finchley, where 3,000 people are on the dole.

In that speech I said that movement was a part of finding a job—[Interruption.] That is also mentioned in the employment White Paper published many years ago.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the greatest blessing that a Government can give to the sick, the unemployed, the disabled and those on fixed incomes is — [HON. MEMBERS: "To resign".] — lower inflation? Will my right hon. Friend confirm to the House and to the nation from the Dispatch Box that that remains the paramount policy of Her Majesty's Government?

It is our policy to reduce inflation. Although at the moment it is higher than we would wish, it is lower than any level achieved by the Labour Government.

Why is the Government's representative in the European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg arguing so adamantly in favour of the power of a Labour Government to nationalise industries without adequate compensation? Does the Prime Minister really believe that the shares that she has sold to large numbers of the British public should be open to renationalisation at a knock-down price?

The European Commission on Human Rights has pronounced on the case and the matter has now gone before the Court. As the hon. Gentleman is aware, we accept the Court's decisions, whatever they may be.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 25 June

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

May I make an appeal to the Prime Minister's scientific mind? The expectation of an event occurring which is one divided by 10 to the power of 53 is small. Is that not exactly the position of the Scottish miners, because 413 men have been re-employed, but not one of the 203 men from Scotland has been re-employed? Are we therefore correct in assuming that human intervention is involved? Will the Prime Minister now instruct the National Coal Board to pay the same attention and give the same justice to Scottish miners as to miners in other areas, so that some at least of the 203 men who have been dismissed will be re-employed?

I told the House what the Coal Board said when I replied last time. The hon. Gentleman is the first to know that the correct procedure for miners who were dismissed during the dispute is to appeal to an industrial tribunal. If that tribunal finds that any miner was unfairly dismissed it can order compensation and recommend reinstatement. That is the correct procedure.

Will my right hon. Friend use the opportunity of the forthcoming European summit to strike a blow on behalf of millions of small businesses throughout the Community by trying to amend the sixth directive on value added tax to increase the threshold to above £50,000 a year so that small businesses can get on with the job of making a profit and creating new jobs rather than being weighed down by the enormous bureaucracy in the EEC?

I raised the subject of that directive at the previous meeting of the European Council. My right hon. Friend the Minister without Portfolio has also raised the matter. We shall continue to raise it. We believe that the level for VAT set in that directive is far too low and should be raised substantially.

Referring back to earlier barbarism and terrorism, will the Prime Minister tell us why British intelligence services, for which she is responsible, have blocked the release of information on Klaus Barbie held by American State Departments and being sought by special investigators trying to combat Nazi cells in America, and failed to provide information in connection with the Klaus Barbie trial, which is still to take place in France?

I have answered a question on that matter before. The answer has not changed. We try to release as many documents as we possibly can and to be as helpful as we possibly can, but there are sometimes reasons why documents cannot be released.

Is the Prime Minister aware that one of the issues that is emerging in Brecon and Radnor is the utter inability of the rate support grant formula to maintain an adequate level of services in areas of great sparsity of population? In view of the £50 million of help that she has given Scottish ratepayers and her promises to reform the rating system—[Interruption.]—when can the people of Brecon and Radnor expect some relief from their problems?

As my hon. Friends are saying, it is unlikely to come from the hon. Gentleman. The Government have done as much as they can to persuade local authorities to constrain expenditure and, if need be, to cap the rates. In many cases, that has been highly successful. I look forward to receiving the hon. Gentleman's support when we bring forward proposals fundamentally to change the rating system.