Engagements

Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th April 1983.

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Photo of Mr Lawrence Cunliffe Mr Lawrence Cunliffe , Leigh 12:00 am, 26th April 1983

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

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

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

Photo of Mr Lawrence Cunliffe Mr Lawrence Cunliffe , Leigh

If the right hon. Lady really wants the "Buy British' campaign to succeed, why does she not publicly back the British-made ALARM system—the air-launched anti-radar missile—which is far superior to its competitors and is understandably the best, as it is British technology and British made? Is she aware that it will save or create 1,600 jobs? Does she agree that it would be an act of criminal folly and a gross betrayal of British interests if the contract were to go to the American HARM missile company, which, we believe, is favoured by the Ministry of Defence? Will she give instructions to the Secretary of State for Defence to consider this matter carefully?

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

In defence, we buy British whenever possible, whenever it is most suitable for the job required and when it is best value. We shall continue to do that, but each contract must be considered individually.

Photo of Mr Roy Jenkins Mr Roy Jenkins , Glasgow Hillhead

—take lime today to tell the Minister for Consumer Affairs to stop undermining the invaluable work of the citizens advice bureaux, by announcing that the grant for this year will be paid in full?

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

No grant has so far been withheld. The citizens advice bureaux have received a grant for half the year. A review is to be set up, but it is doubtful whether the review could report before the next half-year's grant is due. It is, therefore, highly likely that the next half-year's grant will come along in the ordinary way.

Photo of Mr John Biggs-Davison Mr John Biggs-Davison , Epping Forest

Does my right hon. Friend know that the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) is after her job? Is not a Prime Minister-designate unknown to the constitution since we are a constitutional monarchy, not a presidential republic? Therefore, is not the right hon. Member for Hillhead a constitutional enormity?

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

I cannot excel the genius in my hon. Friend's question.

Photo of Mr Arthur Newens Mr Arthur Newens , Harlow

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 April.

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 Arthur Newens Mr Arthur Newens , Harlow

In view of the growing wave of concern in the United States over the determination of President Reagan to press ahead with nuclear escalation, is the right hon. Lady still content to allow cruise missiles to be deployed in Britain, especially when there is no effective British veto on their use? Will she recognise that the smokescreen of smears put out by the Secretary of State for Defence will not conceal a bankruptcy of argument?

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

I would have said that the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question was a smear on President Reagan. He has, after all, made proposals substantially to reduce the number of intercontinental ballistic missies. He is the only Head of Government who, supported by the rest of us, has put forward a zero option for INF. The President has put forward those two bold measures of disarmament, but the weakness is that the Soviet Union has taken up neither.

Photo of Mr John Hannam Mr John Hannam , Exeter

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 April.

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

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

Photo of Mr John Hannam Mr John Hannam , Exeter

Has my right hon. Friend seen the commitment in the Labour party's policy document to abolish the right of council tenants to buy their own homes? Does she agree that the number of council tenants who have purchased their own homes since 1979, and of those in the process of buying their own homes, show that most council tenants would prefer to own their own homes rather than be tenants?

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

Yes. About 500,000 tenants have purchased their houses either from councils or other parts of the public sector, such as new towns. Those 500,000 would never have had the opportunity to do so under a Labour Government. It seems that the Labour party does not want them to have the dignity of owning their own homes by purchasing from local authorities. Another 200,000 applications are in the pipeline. I hope that in our next period of Government there will be many more.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

If the right hon. Lady would like to comment accurately on the policy document, I shall send her a copy and she can study it. Has she had an opportunity to read the answer given recently to my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price), which shows that capital spending on housing in England has sunk to no more than one sixth of the level achieved under the Labour Government? How many fewer houses has that meant, and how many building workers has that policy thrown out of a job?

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

Is the right hon. Gentleman denying that the Labour party manifesto states that a Labour Government will terminate the right to buy — [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."]

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

What about the right to work?

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

The Leader of the Opposition will be delighted to know that the construction of new housing is considerably up on a year ago, and that improvement grants are running nearly as high as they were in 1973.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

Obviously I should like to give the right hon. Lady the opportunity to read the entire document instead of only parts of it. When she talks about restoring the rate of building as an excuse for having cut it to one sixth of the level that was achieved under the Labour Government, does she agree that even with the higher figures to which she referred, and the much-vaunted improvement of the past two months, construction is at half the level that prevailed under a Labour Government? Will she also consider what she has done to council house tenants? Why has she more than doubled their rents over the past four years?

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

The right hon. Gentleman knows that there was a period when the Labour Government were in office when council house rents were about 40 per cent. of council house costs. That could not continue. The difference had to be borne by the ratepayer. Of course, rates are at their worst under local authorities. The Labour Government never reached the levels of home improvement grants that we have reached and which were reached under previous Conservative Governments.

Mr. Foot: The right hon. Lady is really saying that we tried to keep council house rents down and that she has succeeded in pushing them up.

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

No. The right hon. Gentleman was always prepared to put the burden of council house rents on the ratepayer.

Photo of Mr Robert Atkins Mr Robert Atkins , Preston North

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

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

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

Photo of Mr Robert Atkins Mr Robert Atkins , Preston North

Has my right hon. Friend seen the CBI's quarterly survey, which was published today, which shows that both output and demand have risen over the past four months and are expected to rise over the next four months? Does she think that that is encouraging evidence in support of the policy that she and my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer have been pursuing over the past four years?

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

I saw the CBI survey earlier today. It shows improved business optimism, improved order books, output expectations, investment intentions, export orders and deliveries. All these things are very good news and, added to other signs in the economy, give grounds for cautious optimism about recovery.

Photo of Mr Barry Jones Mr Barry Jones , Flint East

Will the right hon. Lady please tell the House how many people are out of work this month in Britain?

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

I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the precise number unless he waits just a moment. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we were left with nearly 1½ million unemployed — [Interruption.]—which was well over double what the Labour Government inherited. The latest figure is 3,172,390.

Photo of Mr David Trippier Mr David Trippier , Rossendale

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements on 26 April.

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

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

Photo of Mr David Trippier Mr David Trippier , Rossendale

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in August 1981 the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) stated that the refusal to allow America to base its nuclear weapons in Britain would make war more likely, not less likely? Does she find that a strange comment to make when it appears that the right hon. Gentleman is supporting a document which proposes a policy which, to use his own words, would make war more likely?

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

The right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), to whom my hon. Friend refers, previously supported NATO, including its nuclear deterrent. He supported, therefore, a nuclear deterrent, which is an inherent part of the balance of NATO forces. Without that inherent balance and deterrent, war would be more likely. I find it difficult to understand how the right hon. Gentleman can support the Labour party's document, which rejects all nuclear bases and nuclear weapons in Britain.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke , Coatbridge and Airdrie

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

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 Tom Clarke Tom Clarke , Coatbridge and Airdrie

Is the right hon. Lady aware that the young trainees invited to join the "Lads Army", under the scheme is being introduced by the Secretary of State for Defence will be paid £19 a week less than ordinary soldiers and yet be subject to military discipline? Is this not the most crass exploitation of young people? When will the Prime Minister and the Government provide the real jobs that she promised during the 1979 election campaign?

The Prime Minster:

I expect that there will be many more applicants to receive a very good training in the army than there are places. It is, of course, totally voluntary and so far we are able to provide only some 5,000 places. Except to the Labour party, the scheme has proved and will prove to be very popular indeed.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

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

The Prime Minsiter:

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

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

Is my right hon. Friend aware that two-headed lambs seldom survive for long? Will she give a prognosis on what is likely to happen to the rather sickly creature that is trying to struggle to its feet in our political pastures?