Engagements

Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th July 1981.

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Photo of Mr Michael Brown Mr Michael Brown , Brigg and Scunthorpe 12:00 am, 9th July 1981

Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 9 July.

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 and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House I shall be having further meetings later today.

Photo of Mr Michael Brown Mr Michael Brown , Brigg and Scunthorpe

Will my right hon. Friend be able to consider further today the question of the maintenance of law and order? Does she accept thet, with the bandwagon effect of violence that has continued to spread during this week, it might be necessary for the Government to recognise that the use of water cannon in addition to CS gas might be necessary to prevent the arson, looting and unprecedented attacks on the police recently?

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

I am wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend and his desire fully to support the police and to see that they have every facility available that they need.

Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell Opposition Whip (Commons)

They have to, with policies like the right hon. Lady's.

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

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary fully endorsed the action of the use of CS gas on Merseyside. We are now considering what other equipment the police may need. The use of water cannon is certainly not ruled out.

Photo of Mr Joe Ashton Mr Joe Ashton , Bassetlaw

Will the Prime Minister find time to tell us today what is the logic in spending £5,000 million on Trident missiles to protect us against the Russians, who have not as yet smashed one shop window, while our cities are being flattened by gangs of marauding unemployed youths and she is not spending an extra tuppence ha'penny to find work for them?

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

That is an absurd question for a person who has sat behind a Government who put in hand Chevaline and who, during all of their period of office, believed in an independent nuclear deterrent.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley , Greenwich Woolwich West

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether there has been any indication from the Opposition about the level of pay settlements that they regard as compatible with reducing unemployment during the next 12 months, or are they just willing to say that unemployment is bad but they will encourage pay settlements to make it worse?

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

I have seen no evidence from the Opposition that they wish people to reduce pay settlements as a means of getting more jobs. There is a direct relationship. Higher pay settlements mean fewer jobs and fewer opportunities for the young.

Photo of Mr Robert Kilroy-Silk Mr Robert Kilroy-Silk , Ormskirk

Will the Prime Minister consider today that, however bad they may be, prison conditions in Northern Ireland are considerably superior to those in England and Wales where there is now a record number of prisoners and record overcrowding, with 17,000 prisoners—two and three to a cell which was built for one in Victorian times—who are often locked up for 23 hours a day? Will she now take steps to reduce the prison population and improve conditions, or would she suggest that prisoners in England and Wales should involve themselves in a hunger strike so that they can negotiate with the Government?

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

The shortage of prison accommodation in Britain has not suddenly come about. The hon. Gentleman's Government were as much responsible for the present state of prison accommodation as are this Government. I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman that the conditions in the Maze are among the best in the whole of the United Kingdom. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has taken every possible prudent step to reduce the prison population.

Photo of Mr Ian Lloyd Mr Ian Lloyd , Havant and Waterloo

Since, as every hon. Member who has recently visited a country in which there is real and grinding poverty will attest, there is no necessary or convincing correlation between poverty and the rioting and looting that we have had in the last week, should we not seek an explanation for those deplorable events in some of the seditious, sociological claptrap that is passed on in our schools as education?

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

I very much agree with my hon. Friend. There are many poor societies that are scrupulously honourable in everything they do and would not sink to some of the things that we have seen in Merseyside in recent days. I agree with the leader in the Daily Mirror headlined: A spree of naked greed". The leader went on: The latest night of mob violence in Liverpool had nothing to do with the city's problems of bad housing and unemployment.It was a spree of naked greed. I believe that the reasons go very much deeper and that such occurrences are not merely caused by poverty, as some people suggest.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

I am sure that the right hon. Lady is fully aware that all of us in the House condemn looting and violence in the way in which it has occurred, and we do so in the strongest possible terms. Has she had the chance to study last night's debate on higher education and its relevance to these matters? In the light of this situation, is it the intention of the right hon. Lady and her colleagues to proceed with the proposed reduction in the number of university places, which is an act of barbarism? Will she not at least tell the House and the country that she will put that policy into reverse?

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

I must take issue with the right hon. Gentleman when he suggests that the latest reductions in provision for university education—which total about 3 per cent.—have any relevance to the present situation. Just a few moments ago, my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State, Home Office said that crime had increased by about 500 per cent. since 1960. But, equally, university places have increased enormously since that time. We have had the whole of the Robbins expansion. There is just no connection between the two.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

Is not the right hon. Lady aware that there are more than 10 engineering places in Japanese universities for every one in Britain? Does she not think that that has some relevance to economic performance? Do the Government really intend to cut 20,000 further places, which will happen under their proposals for dealing with the higher education programme?

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

The latest programme of the UGC, decided by the UGC, provides for an overall increase in science and technology places. In that respect, the right hon. Gentleman's point is fully met. In addition, there are a considerable number of places in polytechnics, and the polytechnics were meant to take charge of vocational training to a very much greater extent than the universities.

Photo of Mr Hugh Fraser Mr Hugh Fraser , Stafford and Stone

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many people outside the House of Commons feel that we are not paying sufficient attention to the immediate problem of law and order? Some Opposition Members seem to be condoning violence—[Interruption]. To suggest that people are rioting in Liverpool because there are more places for higher students in Japan is quite ridiculous. Will my right hon. Friend also bear in mind that many people feel that we are not taking seriously enough the question of support for the police? The fact is that once the State loses the monopoly of violence, other people will take it. That is the issue today, and it is felt that the Government are not exhibiting sufficient will to ensure that law and order are maintained.

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

I hope that no hon. Member, certainly no Conservative Member, either condones or excuses violence on the scale that we have recently seen. It is totally inexcusable and unjustifiable, and I am sure that the vast majority of right hon. and hon. Members agree.

The Government, especially my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, have given every support to the police—I reiterate that—as well as our thanks for the way they carry out their arduous and dangerous duties. We have also increased the numbers in the police force in England and Wales by about 6,000, and thank goodness we did. Morale is good and the police are carrying out their duties superbly. I agree with my right hon. Friend that we must support them to the hilt. In addition, we must discover the causes of this violence and try to bring home to each and every citizen his duty to obey the law.

Photo of Mr Ron Leighton Mr Ron Leighton , Newham North East

Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 9 July.

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

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

Photo of Mr Ron Leighton Mr Ron Leighton , Newham North East

Does the right hon. Lady accept that it was entirely predictable, and predicted, that if society sent half our younger generation straight from school to the dole queue it would cause grave damage to our social fabric? Does she also agree that if society rejects those young people and says that it has no use for them, they are likely to reject society and act in an anti-social way? Unless the Government provide our young people with employment, they will create a situation in which the police will be asked to contain the impossible.

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

It is because our young people are unemployed that we give priority to the youth opportunities programme. As the hon. Gentleman is aware, in the area where violence and rioting has occurred a good deal of it has been carried out by children of school age, some of them aged between 9 and 16. That has nothing whatever to do with the dole queue.—[Interruption.] Of course we try to provide as many jobs as possible, but the history of labour relations in that area does not encourage firms to go there—[Interruption.] I am sorry, but it does not. That is why we must put so much emphasis on the provision of, and increase in, small businesses.

Photo of Mr James Pawsey Mr James Pawsey , Rugby

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the recent breakdown of law and order in some of our cities calls for a more positive reaction than the supply of helmets to the police? Will she consider the reintroduction of corporal punishment for under-18-year-olds for a trial period of three years?

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

We have no plans to do that. However, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is looking at all possible means of assistance to the police by way of equipment. We are also looking at any changes in the law that may be necessary. We are also looking at ways of getting compensation as quickly as possible to those whose properties have been gutted and whose businesses have been destroyed.

We shall also consider everything we can to try to improve the general environment in the area. The irony is that this has occurred in an area where a great deal of money has been poured in through urban programmes. A lot of money has also gone into housing, housing which many of us would like to live in. We must use the money better and in a much more humane way than it has been used in the past.

Photo of Mr Robert Brown Mr Robert Brown , Newcastle upon Tyne West

Does not the right hon. Lady accept that the policies that she is pursuing are ripping away the fabric of our society? Is she aware that she has been protrayed as the biggest vandal in the country in that the Government are regularly mugging the British taxpayer? There was another example of that yesterday in respect of the gas industry. Does not the right hon. Lady see any connection between that and her portrayal of Top Cat—people do watch television?

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

That is a ridiculous and absurd question. No one is more anxious to get genuine jobs than I am, but nothing is more irritating than people who have jobs striking for more pay—[Interruption.]—knowing full well—[Interruption.]

Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell Opposition Whip (Commons)

The right hon. Lady has created a million more unemployed.

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

I am concerned about unemployed—[Interruption.]—and if hon. Members will listen—[Interruption.]

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. It is impossible for me to hear the Prime Minister. Hon. Members must listen, even to points that they do not wish to hear.

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

I shall finish the sentence that I started. Those who are frequently on strike for more pay know full well that, in the absence of increased production, more pay can be given only at the expense of someone else. They are actually pre-empting for themselves the money which could otherwise be used to provide jobs for others. It is Labour Members who do not always wish, in practice, to increase jobs in this country.

Photo of Mr John Peyton Mr John Peyton , Yeovil

Does my right hon. Friend think that some of the contributions made during questions to her on this subject have been more closely connected with the Warrington by-election[Interruption.]

Mr. J. Enoch Powell:

Hysterical men, terrified of what is happening. [Interruption.]

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. [Interruption.] Order. I am on my feet. A right hon. Member is asking a question.

Photo of Mr John Peyton Mr John Peyton , Yeovil

May I repeat what I said? Does my right hon. Friend agree that many of the contributions made to her during this question session have been more closely related to the Warrington by-election than to any desire on the part of those who have made them to make a positive contribution to a serious and grave problem?

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

I agree with my right hon. Friend. The questions have certainly not been directed towards providing new genuine jobs. That can be done only by providing goods and services at a price that people in this country and overseas will pay. No amount of yowling and scowling will get over that fact.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Prime Minister attacked on three occasions the people—

Hon. Members:

Bogus.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. The hon. Gentleman knows that he can only raise with me a point of order and not a point that he wishes to register. It must be a point of order connected with "Erskine May", or our Standing Orders, on which I can rule.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to raise a matter over which you have power. The Prime Minister referred three times to the people of Liverpool. She attacked them—

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. I know that I did not call the hon. Gentleman earlier in Question Time, but he must take his turn with everybody else.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do not care whether you call me or not, but you did not call any hon. Member from Liverpool.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. The hon. Gentleman's remark is a very great help and I shall bear it in mind.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. I will take the point of order of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). I am waiting to see whether it is a genuine point of order. We shall see.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

In that case, Mr. Speaker, why have you stopped me every time I have tried to make my point of order?

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. I will tell the hon. Gentleman why. It is because a point of order to me cannot possibly include criticism of another right hon. or hon. Member. The hon. Gentleman's point of order to me must be a point of order and not an attack on anyone else.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

May I put this point of order to you, Mr. Speaker? Is it legitimate for a right hon. Member to attack communities and the constituents of other hon. Members without those hon. Members being allowed to say one word in defence of their constituents?

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. It is clear that my original presumption was correct.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Point of order, Sir Frederick Burden.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. I must request the hon. Member to resume his seat. I am taking a point of order from the hon. Member for Gillingham (Sir F. Burden).

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

On a further point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. Let me tell the hon. Gentleman that I am taking a point of order from the hon. Member for Gillingham. I shall return to the hon. Member for Walton.

Photo of Sir Frederick Burden Sir Frederick Burden , Gillingham

Do you agree, Mr. Speaker, that perhaps there would be less hooliganism on the streets, if there were less frequently—

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. That is not a point of order for me either.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Prime Minister attacked the city and people of Liverpool. There are plenty of hon. Members from Liverpool—I am not talking only about myself. Why was not one hon. Member from Liverpool called to refute the Prime Minister's allegations?

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

The hon. Member knows as well as I do that there are several hon. Members for Liverpool seats. It so happens that I did not call them this afternoon. They had been called earlier when the Liverpool issue had been very much to the fore during questions to the Home Secretary.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

My hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk) does not represent a Liverpool seat.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

I did not call only the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk). Other Liverpool Members were called.

Photo of Mr Andrew Faulds Mr Andrew Faulds , Warley East

On a genuine point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have always understood that a certifiable condition was a debarment from membership of the House. Is there not a case for the House collectively to examine the lunatic utterances of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) both inside and outside the House?

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. Making a personal attack under the guise of a point of order is very unfair.