This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be having further meetings with ministerial colleagues and others.
Will my right hon. Friend make my birthday today even happier by adding her good wishes to the sale, widely announced today, of British Aerospace shares? Will she draw particular attention to the generous special offers to employees and the preference expressed for small shareholding applications?
I congratulate my hon. Friend and hope that both he and his constituents are happy with the birthday present that he has been given. I hope that his constituents will take up the offer to which he referred. I also hope that we have not raised his future expectation of birthday presents too high, but, we shall do our best to follow that same path in future.
Has the right hon. Lady had a chance to study the serious and dangerous suggestion as some of us see it, that the United States Administration may wish to return to the development of the so-called neutron bomb? Does she not agree that one result, which would be extremely dangerous for everyone in Europe, is that it could lower the nuclear threshold? Does she not think that that should be an over-riding consideration? What steps will the Government now take to try to ensure that these and kindred weapons are never stationed in Europe?
It is clear that that is one of the possibilities which the new United States Administration may want to consider. So far, we have not been asked to look at any new proposal but, at his press conference the United States Defence Secretary said that the allies would be fully consulted before any decision was reached.
I am very much aware of the grave crisis facing the fishing industry in Fleetwood, as well as other ports in Scotland and England. My colleagues and I briefly considered the matter this morning and agreed that we must now look at both the timing and the level of help to the fishing industry.
Does the Prime Minister accept that people in countries with differing political systems must live together or die together? Will she tell President Reagan that if he wants to relax East-West tensions the use of words such as "cheats", "liars" and "criminals", and the deployment of the neutron bomb, are not the way to go about it, particularly as Russia would no doubt follow suit and introduce the neutron bomb?
I am certain that Russia has as many nuclear weapons as she wishes to have. She has put enormous resources into research and technology for all weapons of destruction in preference to raising the standard of living of her own society. The purpose of the neutron bomb is to attack massive concentrations of armour, which the Warsaw Pact countries have. Therefore, it is unlikely that such weapons would need to be based here.
In the light of what Shirley said to Bill and what Tommy is saying about Mike, may I ask whether any of them has presented my right hon. Friend with any more credible and viable ideas for controlling inflation than the policies that she is already pursuing?
When the Prime Minister goes to Washington to meet President Reagan, will she impress upon him that the people of this country and the whole of Europe are anxious about the increasing steps being taken towards nuclear weapons? Will she impress upon him the need to consider returning to SALT 2, and perhaps even SALT 3, as a much better way forward than devising yet another horrible weapon which threatens us all?
When I see President Reagan I shall tell him that I believe that the vast majority of the people of this country are anxious to have proper deterrents to the weapons which the Soviet Union possesses in such abundance, and that the first duty of a Government is to defend and protect their own people.
Does not my right hon. Friend agree with the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), who last week so accurately referred to the immoral earnings of the Labour Party? [Interruption] Is it not a scandal— [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes".]—and a denial of democracy that union bosses should be able to wield 90 per cent, of the votes at the Labour Party conference and additional votes through the abuse of the block vote system?
Now that European theatre nuclear weapons negotiations have just commenced, does not the Prime Minister agree that in her forthcoming visit to Washington she should urge President Reagan to make no decision about the deployment of the neutron bomb, put this whole issue into the European theatre nuclear weapons negotiations and hope that it may be possible to negotiate a substantial reduction of battlefield nuclear weapons in Europe?
We are all anxious to reduce the level of battlefield weapons and, indeed, of all armaments. As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, the problem is that if we agree we must be absolutely certain that all agreements can be effectively monitored; if not we shall lose the essential defence which a government must provide for their people.
Will my right hon. Friend today warn against the continuing damage of the seamen's strike, such as the immense loss of revenue, the loss of British ships to foreign management and ownership and the loss of future employment for British seamen?
I am happy to endorse everything that my right hon. Friend has said. If this strike continues, it will mean fewer jobs for our people and fewer ships flying our flag.
May I press the right hon. Lady on her last reply? Is she not aware that on two or three occasions I have asked the Government to make up their mind to intervene in this dispute? Will she not confirm to the House that the National Union of Seamen has said throughout the dispute that it is ready for the matter to go to arbitration? Will not the Government intervene to help to prevent the damage to which she referred?
Certainly not. It is for the employers and employees to sort out their own problems in their own way. The era is past when everything came to No. 10 Downing Street to be solved.