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Prime Minister

Volume 87: debated on Tuesday 26 November 1985

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asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 November.

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

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Has she had time to note that the latest trade figures show a surplus of £400 million? Does not the hat trick of trade surplus, reducing inflation and increasing growth give the lie to opponents who say that my right hon. Friend's economic policy does not work?

Yes, and I thank my hon. Friend for pointing these things out so forcefully. This is the sixth year of balance of payments surplus. When one adds to that the optimistic CBI forecast yesterday and today, it augurs well for the future and for employment.

Will the Prime Minister find time in her busy day to acquaint herself with the widespread concern expressed by employers and trade unionists in the textile and clothing industry about the latest negotiations for the new multi-fibre arrangement? Does she appreciate that if the Government weaken their position in those negotiations and allow a flood of imports, the result will be even higher unemployment in areas where it is already well above average?

I am aware of that concern. A new multi-fibre arrangement is being negotiated. The hon. Gentleman will be aware of the possible knock-on effect on other industries and on export capacity. We have to take all those factors into account.

Will my right hon. Friend take the earliest opportunity to convey to the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe the deep sense of shock and loss felt in this country at the murder last night of the headmaster of Tegwani school and his English-born wife Jean? Will she also convey our sympathy to the Methodist Missionary Society? Does my right hon. Friend agree that terrorism and murder, wherever they occur, are an affront to the whole of mankind?

I shall gladly convey my hon. Friend's message and reinforce it with the Government's message. I agree wholly that terrorism is the enemy of democracy and that we must try to defeat it wherever it occurs.

Is the Prime Minister aware that the Conservative candidate in the Tyne Bridge constituency is on record as saying that the people of that area have been brainwashed into believing that they are deprived? Is that Government's policy and the view of the Prime Minister?

Perhaps I may reply with some facts and figures. In 1985–86 the Manpower Services Commission will provide 25,000 places on the youth training scheme, 27,000 places on the community programme by April 1986, funding for more than 3,600 people on the enterprise allowance scheme in 1985–86 and training for some 13,000 adults in 1985–86, an increase of 82 per cent. over the previous year. Those are the facts. I leave the hon. Gentleman to make up his own mind.


asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 November.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the failure of the Labour party in Liverpool to fix a rate for the past 10 months, its failure to observe the law, its use of a private army to intimidate those who oppose its views and the fact that it has displayed a monumental contempt for the democratic process, for the welfare of the citizens of that city and for the welfare of its 31,000 employees, shows that it would be a disaster for Britain if the Labour party were ever to be returned to national government with such members? Should not the Leader of the Opposition stop wringing his hands and denying their existence?


asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 November.

Is the Prime Minister aware that 415 pensioners have already died from cold this year? What will she do to stop that happening for the rest of the year?

The amount of money given for fuel allowance under the present Government greatly exceeds that given by any previous Government and greatly exceeds the increase in the price of fuel. It is an excellent record, and I commend it to the hon. Lady.


asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 November.

As the teachers' strike continues to inflict damage on our schools, does my right hon. Friend agree that there can be no lasting improvement until parents are given more choice and a greater say in school policy, and until headmasters are accorded the role of managing director, answerable to their boards and with authority to run schools properly, as is suggested in a recent and excellent pamphlet entitled "No Turning Back" drawn up by me and some of my hon. Friends?

My hon. Friend has been kind enough to send me a copy of his most excellent pamphlet. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science has also read it and will digest its contents. I am sure also that my hon. Friend will welcome the Education Bill announced in the Gracious Speech, which proposes a strengthening of the parents' voice in the running of schools and clarification of the roles of governing bodies, head teachers and local education authorities. I share my hon. Friend's and parents' concern that, although they are paying full taxes and rates, children are not at the moment receiving the education to which they are entitled, because of the teachers' strike.

I thought that the Secretary of State for Education and Science might have been writing a response to the hon. Gentleman's pamplet "No Going Back" entitled "No Going Forward". [Interruption.] It is rubbish.

The Prime Minister met President Reagan last Thursday after his welcome meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev. We have asked her to make a statement to the House. Why has she not agreed to do so?

I gave a very full reply to a written question. It would be strange to make a statement on a summit that I did not attend.

I think I can say on behalf of the House and of people outside that that is not good enough as an answer. The matters raised in this first summit for many years are of vital interest to us all, and the Prime Minister's reflections on her meeting with President Reagan are naturally important. Why could she give a full press conference but not make herself available for proper questioning by hon. Members who represent the British people?

Immediately after we had the NATO meeting, I rightly gave a press conference. I do not think it right to give a statement to the House on a summit meeting which I did not attend and in regard to which I could therefore not reply fully. I had already put the statement issued from the summit in the Library of the House.

Why a press conference on a summit that the right hon. Lady did not attend, and no statement to the House for cross-questioning on a summit that she did not attend?

Because the press conference was given on the NATO meeting immediately after that meeting, not on the summit. The press conferences given by President Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev and the official communiqué will give the right hon. Gentleman far more detail than anything that I could give.

Precisely. On that as on other things, there is "no turning back". The right hon. Gentleman got it wrong.


asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 November.

In recognising our support for the Local Government Bill, which is now going into Committee, will my right hon. Friend confirm that it will help to stamp out abuses, such as that of the GLC spending more money on supporting anti-police groups in London than the Labour party spent nationally throughout its general election campaign in 1983?

As my hon. Friend knows, following the recommendations of the Widdicombe committee, the Bill is designed to prevent local government money from being spent on party political propaganda. That committee has a continuing remit. If it makes further recommendations, we shall follow them up with further legislation.


asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 November.

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

Does the Prime Minister recall that in a recent television interview she told how Alderman Roberts, in his final speech, said that in honour he had taken up the gown and in honour he laid it down, and then she shed a little tear? There is no criticism of that, but how many tears will the right hon. Lady shed for the 700 miners at Herrington colliery who in honour took up the pick and shovel and in honour laid them down?

The hon. Gentleman is fully aware that there is a full and proper procedure for the closure of collieries—they were closed under the previous Labour Government—and that procedure will be followed.

Given the need for a far-reaching intergovernmental agreement this weekend in the EC, will my right hon. Friend assert that the Government will put their full weight behind developing a fundamental agreement that will really take the Community forward?

We are not aware of what will come out of the intergovernmental conference. If there are proposals for any treaty amendments, they will have to come before the House.

Is the effective cut in child benefit, which comes into operation this week, intended to be permanent, or temporary?

The right hon. Gentleman has heard the proposals for increases in social security which overall offer more than £2 billion. Child benefit has been increased substantially in recent years. For the future, the right hon. Gentleman must await further announcements.

Has my right hon. Friend noted the recent statement by the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) that the crime involving David Wilkie, which took place during the mining dispute, was not a crime? Will she condemn that disgraceful statement as an appalling example to our young people?

My hon. Friend will understand when I say that that is a matter for the courts, not for the Government. What Opposition Members say about it must be judged by the British people rather than by the Government.


asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 November.

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

May I jolt the Prime Minister's conscience about the disastrous effects that her monetarist policies are having in Scotland and, in particular, in Lanarkshire? Is she aware that Scotland's steel industry is in a dreadful state and that there are to be 200 more redundancies at the Clydesdale works in my constituency? The men are already working short time, and those redundancies will add considerably to unemployment in Scotland. What does the right hon. Lady intend to do about it?

From the CBI survey and the figures, the hon. Gentleman will know that this year output is up for the fifth consecutive year. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that production capacity greatly exceeds orders for steel. There is no way in which we can continue to keep everything open in such circumstances. The previous Labour Government had to close some things, but held up many closures which should have taken place. This Government allocated £130 million in order to purchase quota to keep Ravenscraig open. That was this Government's earnest of good faith in the future of Ravenscraig.


asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 November.

As the Prime Minister of a country that abhors terrorism and all that it stands for, will my right hon. Friend explain why the Tanzanian terrorists who came to Stansted have been given an amnesty and are to be allowed to stay in this country for a year when they have served their terms of imprisonment?

Because of terrorist activity, is it possible to prevent airlines flying to Greece, where arms have been taken on to planes at Athens airport?

We must await the inquiry into the events at Athens airport before determining precisely where the fault lies and reaching any conclusion.

On my hon. Friend's point about the Tanzanian hijack in this country in 1982, those involved were tried in our courts, found guilty and given considerable prison sentences. Some of them are now out of prison. An undertaking given at the time has been interpreted as our saying that the terrorists would not be returned to Tanzania. They have been refused asylum in this country, but will be allowed to stay for 12 months.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. During Question Time I asked the Minister of State for Defence Procurement what assurances he had given Dennis Ferranti about the purchase of CNC lathes to manufacture mortar shells currently made by the royal ordnance factory on Tyneside. The Minister replied—

Order. That is not a point of order for me. I cannot be responsible for what a Minister says.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am not asking you to be responsible for what the Minister said, but to rule whether it is in order for anyone to mislead the House. The Minister said—

Order. This is an extension of Question Time. There is a major debate ahead of us. I cannot be responsible for answers given from the Front Benches, any more than I can be responsible for the questions asked.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will recall that during Question Time the shadow Secretary of State for Defence made a statement to the House—

I must tell the hon. Gentleman that I cannot deal with his point of order because the matter that he raises is not my responsibility. What is the point of order for me?

Is it in order for an hon. Member to ask another hon. Member to write to him about a subject on which he has already written to him and to which he has already replied?

Statutory Instruments, &C


That the draft Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963 (Schedule 4) (Amendment) Order 1985 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.
That the draft Supplementary Benefit (Resources) Amendment (No. 3) Regulations 1985 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.
That the draft Agricultural Holdings (Fee) Regulations 1985 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.
That the Agricultural Holdings Act 1948 (Variation of Fourth Schedule) Order 1985 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.
That the draft Asbestos Products (Safety) Regulations 1985 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.—[Mr. Biffen.]