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Engagements

Volume 113: debated on Tuesday 26 May 1987

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Q4.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 26 March.

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

Will you be telling Mr. Gorvachev that you are totally wedded to cruise and Trident missiles—

Will the Prime Minister be telling Mr. Gorbachev that she regards cruise and Trident missiles as inevitable in this country and that she wants to see Britain as a permanent nuclear weapons state? Will not her commitments on this issue hinder the disarmament process? What will be broken—her commitments or the disarmament process?

I will be making it perfectly clear that the nuclear deterrent has deterred not only conventional war but nuclear war. I think it vital that this country retains its independent nuclear deterrent, which is but a very small percentage of the enormous number of intercontinental ballistic missiles that the Soviet Union possesses.

When my right hon. Friend meets Mr. Gorbachev, will she express her utter condemnation of the bombing raids launched from Afghanistan on Pakistan territory this week, which resulted in the death of many innocent civilians, including Afghan refugees? Will she urge him to use his influence to bring a halt to these murderous missions?

Yes, of course the subject of Afghanistan must be raised. Afghanistan is an occupied country, and the only satisfactory conclusion is for the Soviets fully to withdraw their occupying forces and leave Afghanistan to determine her own future and to choose her own Government. The matter will be raised with the Secretary General.

Q5.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday, 26 March.

Will the Prime Minister reconsider the announcement on Monday that "Lord UB 40" intends to introduce economic conscription on to YTS? Will she also accept the answer given to me on the same day by her Employment Minister, which shows that allowances on YTS have been cut by £18·50 compared with the rise of average earnings over the last nine years? Will she finally recognise that today's lunchtime demonstration of hundreds of London school students will spread like wildfire over the next 10 days unless these proposals for conscription are dropped?

No. We have successfully met our guarantee each year of a place on YTS for all 16-year-olds, and we have extended the guarantee this year to 17-year-olds. We believe that there is no need for anyone under 18 to be unemployed, because everyone has the choice of a place at school, college or on YTS, or a job. I would have hoped that the hon. Gentleman would also recognise that YTS gives an excellent training for young people who would not otherwise have it and will help them to get jobs. I hope that he will welcome that.

Q6.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 26 March.

Has my right hon. Friend had a chance to study the international employment figures, which show a general and continuing decline in traditional manufacturing jobs, balanced by increases in other sectors? Does she agree that the constant denigration of service jobs by Opposition Members is resented by the millions of employees in distribution and transport, communications, health and research, who make a vital contribution to the national economy and whose numbers have gone up by well over 1 million since my right hon. Friend took office in 1979?

I agree with my hon. Friend that international figures show that a smaller proportion of working people are employed in manufacturing industry, which, nevertheless, is producing far more in output because of advances in technology. That is a characteristic of all Western industrialised countries. A further characteristic, as my hon. Friend says, is that an increasing number of people are employed in services, which also make a tremendous contribution to our balance of payments surplus. Services are a valuable supplier of jobs in this country and others. I agree with my hon. Friend that the prospects for the future in this country are very healthy, both in manufacturing and in service jobs.