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Engagements

Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15th December 1983.

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Photo of Mr Tim Smith Mr Tim Smith , Beaconsfield 12:00 am, 15th December 1983

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 15 December.

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 the House I shall be having further meetings later today.

Photo of Mr Tim Smith Mr Tim Smith , Beaconsfield

Has my right hon. Friend noticed the contrast between the responsible line taken by Mr. Len Murray and a majority of the TUC general council on actions in breach of the law and the blanket statement of support for the NGA issued by the campaign group of Labour Members, one of whom is the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher), who is a member of the Shadow Cabinet, and what conclusions does she draw from that?

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

Like my hon. Friend, I welcome the courageous action of the TUC general secretary and those who supported him. I hope that the Leader of the Opposition will unequivocally support the decision of the general council of the TUC.

Photo of Mr Neil Kinnock Mr Neil Kinnock Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

In view of the provocative and prejudiced action of the European Parliament this morning, will the Prime Minister now withhold the £547 million from our contributions in lieu of the rebate that rightfully belongs to the British people?

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

Like the right hon. Gentleman, I was greatly disappointed by the vote in the European Parliament this morning. So far, the Community is not in default with Britain. The right hon. Gentleman may recall that at this time last year the European Parliament rejected a budget containing United Kingdom refunds, but the refunds were nevertheless paid by the end of March.

Photo of Mr Neil Kinnock Mr Neil Kinnock Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

All that means is that we are 12 months nearer a crisis without resolving it. The condemnation and disappointment of the Prime Minister is nothing more than huffing and puffing. Does she not realise that lack of decisive action now will simply be read as further equivocation by her on this issue? Why is she so resolved to be irresolute? Why is she so wet about rebates? Will she take the lead on behalf of the British people and insist upon fundamental reform of the common agricultural policy so that we are no longer ruled by the convenience of others, not just next March or next autumn but at any time in the future?

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

The right hon. Gentleman repeatedly shows that I cannot rival him in huffing and puffing. At this time last year the European Assembly passed a similar resolution. Nevertheless, we got our full refunds on time. Therefore, we may on this occasion get our full refunds on time. If not, we shall have to take action to safeguard our position. I hope that that will not be necessary, but if it were we should have to take it.

Photo of Mr James Hill Mr James Hill , Southampton, Test

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Cunarder QE2, after its major refit in Germany, is suffering engine difficulties in Southampton Water? Does that not reflect on the work carried out in Germany? Is that not a reason for re-emphasising the quality of British ship repairs carried out in Southampton?

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

From what I have seen of the detailed report, it is difficult to allocate the blame between countries, and it would be very unwise to do so, except to express the view that all work everywhere should be well done.

Photo of Mr Jack Dormand Mr Jack Dormand , Easington

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 15 December.

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 Jack Dormand Mr Jack Dormand , Easington

Is the Prime Minister aware of the massive campaign against pit closures being launched in my constituency tomorrow by the local authorities, the trade unions, the Labour party, and many other organisations which have no direct interest in the coal industry? When will the Prime Minister realise that the closure of a pit means the deliberate destruction of a whole community? In my part of the country, that leaves no alternative employment. If the right hon. Lady recites how much money the industry receives from the Government, why do the coal industries of countries in the EEC get much more?

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

Under the "Plan for Coal", which was published when the Labour party was in office, the scheme was for investment in good pits to produce at competitive prices good coal, for which there is a great future. There were also agreements for the closure of pits and for increased productivity. The programme for the closure of pits is behind schedule and the investment programme is well up to schedule and has been fully honoured. We hope that productivity will eventually reach the target. Coal has a great future in this country. We want competitive coal and to sell it at a reasonable price with productivity which does not require the enormous subsidies which are at present given to the industry.

Photo of Mr Hugh Fraser Mr Hugh Fraser , Stafford

Will my right hon. Friend, as a gesture to the British public at this time of goodwill, suggest to other Heads of State and the Prime Ministers that, in view of the problems of the EEC, next year's elections should be postponed until it is quite clear on what we are voting?

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

I think that such a proposal would be far from welcome. I am not sure that to postpone the election to the European Assembly would be welcomed in the House. I think that it would be far better if it went ahead on time. I hope that Heads of Governments and States during their meetings before the election will make strenuous efforts to solve the problems which we did not solve at Athens.

Photo of Mr Donald Dixon Mr Donald Dixon , Jarrow

Does the right hon. Lady recall that in a speech at a Conservative rally in Swansea just over three years ago, when unemployment was 1·5 million, she advised the unemployed to be mobile? What is her advice now that unemployment has gone up to 4 million? What would she say to my constituents who took her advice then, moved away from Jarrow and are now unemployed hundreds of miles away from their families and friends?

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

Since then, Swansea has become one of the successful enterprise zones which is meant to draw more jobs into that area. The hon. Gentleman will know that South Wales——

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

—has been successful in attracting substantial inward investment into this country because we are a member of the European Community.

Among the efforts to reduce unemployment overall, the Government have introduced substantial training schemes, provided grants to help small businesses and done everything possible to encourage the creation of wealth through efficient industries that can produce goods of the right design and price, of the sort that the hon. Gentleman's constituents will buy in preference to those from overseas.

Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce , Gordon

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 15 December.

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 Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce , Gordon

Was it with the right hon. Lady's approval that early this morning two Government Whips went into the Lobby to persuade Conservative Members not to vote for the recommendation on the Committee of Selection? Is she satisfied that parties that represent nearly 8 million votes should not be represented on the Select Committees for Defence and Welsh Affairs and that the Social Democratic party has no representation on any Departmental Select Committee?

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

Whatever my right hon. Friend did, I am absolutely sure that it was absolutely right.

Photo of Mr Eric Cockeram Mr Eric Cockeram , Ludlow

Does my right hon. Friend recall that those who in the past have fought for personal freedom and opposed repression have been honoured accordingly? Will she therefore seek to give credit where credit is due and, in particular, note that the majority of the nation does not find acceptable the ennoblement of trade union leaders who have opposed personal freedom?

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

As my hon Friend will know, many people will stand up for personal freedom and the upholding of the law. It would be as well if we in the House did not go into questions relating to honours.

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

Is the Prime Minister aware that some of us are surprised that she has not informed herself about what happened in the early hours of the morning.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

The right hon. Gentleman missed the vote.—[Interruption]

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. I cannot even hear what the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) is saying.

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

You may, Mr. Speaker, not be aware of the fact that the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) suffers from a disease from which there is no cure—verbal diarrhoea.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. The hon. Member for Bolsover needs no encouragement.

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

Last night the Patronage Secretary and another Whip went into the No Lobby to take out——

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

I am informing the Prime Minister, since she seems to be unaware of what the Patronage Secretary was doing. It was a gross abuse of the House—[HON. MEMBERS: "Sit down."] I shall stay on my feet until I am heard. Is the Prime Minister aware that she has the responsibility to inform herself about what the Patronage Secretary was doing in the House and that it is an abuse of the power—[Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. We have a very busy day ahead of us. Will the right hon. Gentleman please come to a conclusion?

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

I shall stay on my feet until I am heard, Mr. Speaker.

Hon. Members:

Sit down.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. I am sure the House wishes to hear what the right hon. Gentleman has to say.

Hon. Members:

No.

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

There was a gross abuse of the House last night, of which the Prime Minister seems to be unaware. She comes to the House and jokes—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ask a question."] I am asking the Prime Minister whether she is not aware of the abuse. She is the repository of a so-called landslide majority[Interruption.] Twenty-six and a half per cent.—[Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. Has the right hon. Gentleman finished?

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson , East Lothian

Tell the right hon. Gentleman that he has finished.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. We may be getting very close to Christmas, but we must get through questions to the Prime Minister. Will the right hon. Gentleman bring his question to a conclusion?

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

I shall bring my question to a close when I am heard in the House, Mr. Speaker. The Prime Minister was asked a direct question by my hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce). She sought to make a joke of a serious question. [HON. MEMBERS: "Sit down".] We are determined to be heard in the House and I shall remain on my feet until I am heard. In view of the conduct of the Patronage Secretary last night, will the Prime Minister bring a motion to the House to enlarge the Select Committee on Defence to allow proper representation of the views of 26 per cent. of the people?

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

This is a matter for the Leader of the House who, I understand, opened the debate with his usual silver-tongued eloquence. I am not sure whether the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), who has just complained, was present to hear my right hon. Friend's speech. I am sure that had he been here he would have found it very persuasive.

Later—

Photo of Mr Bill Walker Mr Bill Walker , North Tayside

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I call the attention of the House to question No. 9 to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Apparently according to the Order Paper, my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) has been restored. to Scotland. We appreciate this very much because we miss him, but perhaps the mistake should be rectified.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

That is a fair point. I missed it myself. Clearly, it is a misprint.