Skip to main content


Volume 134: debated on Thursday 9 June 1988

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


To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 9 June.

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be having further meetings later today, including one with the President of Tanzania.

Does the Prime Minister accept that many young people are becoming homeless to escape violence, sexual abuse, overcrowding or because of leaving care? Will she explain how, particularly in low-paid Bradford, young people can get together the £100, plus four weeks' rent in advance, which is required by most landlords? Will she explain to Sean Coles, who is 17 years of age, receives £19·40 per week and lives and sleeps in a rubbish skip, how he is to survive in her society? Are squatting or robbing the only alternatives?

Undoubtedly some young people do leave home for the reasons that the hon. Gentleman gave, but by no means all: many leave home voluntarily. The hon. Gentleman is well aware that there have been changes in the way in which homeless teenagers are provided for financially. Under the old system, they used to get money in advance; now they get it in arrears. It is a new system. Local offices have taken special steps to inform landlords and hostels in their areas about the changes. Claimants are provided with evidence of having made a claim to help them to secure accommodation. The early indications are that landlords are beginning to adjust to the new rules.


To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 9 June.

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

Will my right hon. Friend welcome today's decision by the French Government to follow our lead in dealing with sub-Saharan debt? Does she agree that it is a pity that they did not respond more positively to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's initiative a whole year ago?

Yes. A number of proposals have been received about how to deal with the debt problem. They all have one thing in common. They follow the initiative of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer of nearly a year ago. I agree that it would have been better if we had had a better response at that time. I hope that we shall deal with the matter effectively at Toronto. In the meantime, I make it clear that this country has already written off £1 billion-worth of debt.

In the light of today's reports from the Low Pay Unit and the Child Poverty Action Group, does the Prime Minister still believe that everyone has benefited from increased prosperity during the past eight years?

I have seen briefly the summaries of those reports. The right hon. Gentleman knows that the figures that were published in May, the low-income families statistics, which are the latest statistics and cover 1981, 1983 and 1985, confirm that people at all levels of income have been getting better off. They show that those on lower incomes have done better than the population in general and that there are fewer pensioners, in proportional terms, in the lower income bracket.

That answer, as anticipated, dealt with the period up to 1986. Will the Prime Minister now bring her own figures up to date? Will she confirm that this year more than one million families and households are worse off by more than £3 a week as a result of the combined impact of the Budget and social security changes? Will she confirm that a total of seven million households are about to suffer a fall in their standard of living?

I believe that the Child Poverty Action Group figures referred at the latest to 1985; of course ours go beyond that. The Child Poverty Action Group figures are related strictly to the outdated method of supplementary benefit, whereas we are on a wholly new benefit system now. With regard to the new benefits, as the right hon. Gentleman is aware, some 88 per cent. of people are on either the same or an improved rate of benefit—[Interruption.] Yes some others are on a lower rate.

That answer may or may not be accurate. [Interruption.] It suffers from the minor deficiency of being the answer to a quite different question to that which I asked. So I ask her again, will she tell us yes or no, whether the very large number of families I quoted will be worse off as a result of the Budget? If she goes on waffling with this answer as she did with the previous one, it will reflect not only on her compassion but on her integrity as Prime Minister.

No, I will not confirm the right hon. Gentleman's figures. The Budget was an excellent one. It has helped many people on lower pay because it has increased the allowances by twice the amount of inflation. It has also reduced the standard rate of tax which, at the time when the right hon. Gentleman was in power was 33p in the pound, and is now down to 25p in the pound.

Given our long-standing commitment to the independent nuclear deterrent, our recently announced support for the European fighter aircraft programme and our continuing full implementation of the armed forces pay review body recommendations, does my right hon. Friend agree that the Government's defence policies are intellectually well founded, firm and consistent, unlike the increasingly divided, indecisive and floundering policies of the Opposition?

Yes, our defence policies effectively safeguard the defence of this country and ensure that we are staunch allies of NATO, including its vital nuclear deterrent policy. I have not been able to make out the Opposition's policy. I do not believe that it has changed from having absolutely unilateral nuclear disarmament and no nuclear deterrent.

Does the Prime Minister share my concern for the welfare for the fishermen from the County Down coast who have suffered substantial losses of tackle, catches and equipment because of submarine activity in the Irish sea? Does she also share my concern about the unhelpful response from the Ministry of Defence, which said that such losses are due to natural underwater obstacles which have the unnatural ability to drag trawlers backwards at considerable speed? Will she take some action to alleviate their plight?

Of course I am concerned about the plight of fishermen, but I do not think that I am going to get involved in this one. The hon. Gentleman must take it up with the Ministry of Defence, in which I have the greatest possible confidence.

The Prime Minister will have seen the immensely disturbing reports this morning that Cuban forces are massing on the frontier of Angola and that the South African Government are calling up reserves. In view of the immense importance to the West of South Africa as a stable country, will my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister say precisely where we stand on this matter?

Yes, of course we have seen the reports that there are a comparatively large number of Cuban forces near the Namibian border and comparatively near a very important dam. I think it is important that talks which began in London about the Angolan position are taken further. There is some dispute about where the next round of talks should take place. I think it is important that the two sides should get together and resolve that problem. I think that the Soviet Union too is anxious for it to be solved.


To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 9 June.

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

The Prime Minister will be aware that the Welsh Office has consulted on the need for a new Welsh language Act and that the period of consultation ended in March 1987. Two thousand responded to the call for evidence and more than 90 per cent. were in favour. Does she now think that because of the obvious demand for greater status for the Welsh language in Wales an announcement should be made? If an announcement is to he made, will it include a commitment to legislate at an early date?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the original responses were varied, which is why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales decided to take further soundings. My right hon. Friend and the Minister of State are now considering measures to promote and protect the Welsh language, details of which will be announced shortly. There is, of course, no commitment to legislate.


To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 9 June.

Has my right hon. Friend seen the report of the tragic incident at a Manchester school in which an Asian boy was killed? Does she agree that that confirms that so-called anti-racist policies only strengthen race prejudice? Is it not now time for us to abandon policies which emphasise the differences between British citizens and to concentrate instead on those which promote the unity of this nation and pride in our achievements, irrespective of class, sex or race?

I agree with my hon. Friend that everyone who settles here permanently has the same rights and responsibilities, and I welcome all genuine efforts to remove discrimination and racism.


To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 9 June.

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

Was it the Prime Minister's decision to send the SAS assassination squad to Gibraltar?

We never discuss matters concerning security forces in this House.


To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 9 June.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that unemployment in my constituency of Beverley in the north of England has fallen by 22 per cent. in the past year? Is she further aware that male manual earnings in Humberside are higher than the United Kingdom average? Does that not suggest to her, that her economic policy works for the north of England as well as the south?

Yes, unemployment is falling in all regions, including Humberside which is now doing well. I agree with my hon. Friend that the overall policies of the Chancellor of the Exchequer are returning enterprise to all parts.

Has the Prime Minister had time to read today the report of the committee on medical aspects of radiation in the environment, which points to a direct link between Dounreay and an increased incidence of leukaemia, and recommends that increased monitoring, including full body monitoring, should be carried out? Will she confirm that this increased monitoring will apply not just to Dounreay but to every nuclear establishment in Britain?

The committee on medical aspects of radiation in the environment has completed its consideration of the incidence of leukaemia in under 25-year-olds living near the Dounreay nuclear plant in Caithness and its report is published today. As my hon. Friend the Minister responsible for health in Scotland said yesterday, the Government have accepted the report and are now considering how best to implement the recommendations contained in it. The report identifies a number of possible explanations for there being six cases of leukaemia where only one would have been expected. It does not point to any particular explanation and therefore considers that all possible explanations require to be investigated further. Recommendations for these further investigations are made and are accepted.

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 9 June.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that her welcome and support for the success of the summit last week has been widely echoed throughout the country? Will she confirm that further rapid progress in the improvement of relations between East and West will be made possible if there is rapid success in the negotiations relating to the elimination of chemical weapons and to the reduction of the imbalance in conventional forces in central Europe?

I agree with my hon. Friend in welcoming the ratification of the intermediate-range nuclear weapons agreement. The next step should he to complete the negotiations on reducing United States and Soviet strategic nuclear weapons by 50 per cent. After that. as my hon. Friend pointed out, we must get on with the negotiations preferably to abolish chemical weapons and those on conventional weapons, and we now have a mandate to do that.