Engagements

Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th February 1981.

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Photo of Mr Robert Atkins Mr Robert Atkins , Preston North 12:00 am, 5th February 1981

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 5 February.

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

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.

Photo of Mr Robert Atkins Mr Robert Atkins , Preston North

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?

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

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.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

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?

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

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.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

Will the right hon. Lady give an assurance that the House will be fully consulted before she makes up her mind?

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

That is not wholly a matter for me, but I have no doubt whatever that the matter will arise in the House on many occasions.

Photo of Sir Walter Clegg Sir Walter Clegg , North Fylde

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the grave crisis facing the British fishing industry, including the port of Fleetwood? What steps will the Government take to help?

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

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.

Photo of Mr Frank Allaun Mr Frank Allaun , Salford East

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?

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

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.

Photo of Mr Robert Adley Mr Robert Adley , Christchurch and Lymington

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?

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

No, but what I have watched seems a strange demonstration of brotherly and sisterly love.

Photo of Mr Alfred Dubs Mr Alfred Dubs , Wandsworth Battersea South

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her public engagements for 5 February.

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply which I have just given.

Photo of Mr Alfred Dubs Mr Alfred Dubs , Wandsworth Battersea South

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?

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

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.

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Stretford

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?

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

What my hon. Friend has said is true. I am glad that we Conservatives are nobody's creatures.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

I shall take any points of order after questions. I have called the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen).

Photo of Dr David Owen Dr David Owen , Plymouth, Devonport

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?

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

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.

Photo of Mr Graham Page Mr Graham Page , Crosby

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?

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

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.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

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?

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

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.