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Yes, I believe that the National Coal Board is to be congratulated on securing a contract that will amount to about 400,000 tonnes of coal from a Durham mine. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that that contract will depend upon the first delivery of coke made from the coal being made by the end of May. It is worth reminding people that sales, rather than strikes, save jobs.
Does the Prime Minister think that the money spent by the DHSS in supporting the families of striking mine workers, the money spent by the CEGB to generate electricity from oil, the money spent by local authorities on policing the dispute, or indeed the money that the dispute is costing the NCB—far in excess of that required to keep open the pits that the NCB wants to close—is money well spent?
I believe that it is right to spend money to enable those who wish to go to their place of work to do so. That is what has happened, and it will continue. As the previous question noted, jobs are waiting for those who work in the coal industry, if they wish to go to work and dig the coal to secure the contracts.
Is the Prime Minister aware that her comments on Sunday about the Government's signals intelligence were deeply damaging, because they drew further attention to the operation of GCHQ, and that what she said was deeply unconvincing as a reason for not having a full inquiry into the Libyan affair? Will the right hon. Lady give more mature consideration to holding a full inquiry into that affair?
GCHQ was not mentioned on Sunday. The point that I was seeking to make in my interview was the danger of commenting on specific intelligence. The incident took place in the House and was reported and commented upon. It is fully in the public domain and there is nothing fresh to say.
Will my right hon. Friend remind the House, on the day when Her Majesty the Queen opens the Thames barrier, that a Conservative GLC under Lord Plummer gave the go-ahead for the scheme? Secondly, will my right hon. Friend remind the House that more than three quarters of the finance has come from the Government, which makes nonsense of the claim that if there were no GLC there would be no Thames barrier?
The decision to go ahead with the Thames barrier was taken in 1974. It was felt to be important that a barrier should be built. I am afraid that the work has taken much longer than we expected and the cost has risen, but my hon. Friend is right to say that 75 per cent. of the money came from Government sources —the taxpayer— through the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
Does the Prime Minister recognise that, given the background of mass unemployment, the cost of closing pits is greater than that of keeping them open? Will she bear in mind the social consequences of destroying thousands of jobs in areas in which the majority of school leavers have no hope of permanent work? Is she aware that, in Scotland and elsewhere, miners who have been treated as industrial gipsies are not prepared to see themselves and their children thrown on the scrap heap of mass unemployment?
The taxpayer already pays about £1x00B7;3 billion a year in subsidies to the NCB. That means that many taxpayers are finding nearly £1 per week with which to subsidise coal. Some other taxpayers have had to learn that they will continue to have jobs only if they produce goods that please the customer. The NCB will have a good future only if it is able to have high volume, low-cost coal that can be sold not only in Britain but in the export markets. Exports are there, if people will work to produce them.
May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her courageous initiative in inviting the Prime Minister of South Africa to Britain? [Interruption]. Will she suggest to her more vociferous critics that they should examine—[Interruption].—some of the actions taken by some of the self-styled colonels, generals and comrades north of the Limpopo, which have been catalogued by Amnesty International in its most recent report, and compare them with some of the remarkable things done recently in South Africa, despite apartheid, such as the Pace school in Soweto?
The Prime Minister of South Africa is visiting Bonn, Lisbon and Berne. I thought it right to invite him to this country in order to discuss matters concerning southern Africa with him. Many changes are taking place in southern Africa, and I hope that interview will be useful. We do not, of curse, approve of the system of apartheid and will repeat that point again.
I doubt whether Mr. Botha would do it in quite the language that the right hon. Gentleman has used—[Interruption.] He will naturally say that the internal affairs of a country are for that country. He is very well aware that we adhere to the Security Council resolutions, that we do not export arms to South Africa, and that we adhere, as a Government, to the Gleneagles agreement. Internal affairs are a matter for the internal Government, but it is quite possible for other Governments to hold opinions on those affairs, and to express them.
With critics like the right hon. Lady, Mr. Botha does not really need any friends. Since the phrase that I employed earlier is frequently repeated by Mr. Botha, what earthly advantage can result for British people, or for the advance of human rights in South Africa, from accommodating Botha in this country as a result of the Prime Minister's invitation? Why is she allowing herself to be used for no other purpose than to support the South African Government's propaganda effort to prop up apartheid in its own country and its aggression against other countries?
Has my right hon. Friend had an opportunity to read Mr. Arthur Scargill's claim that the coal stocks at power stations will last for only eight weeks? Does she recall that he made almost the same claim three months ago, on 6 February? Will she assure the House about the position of coal stocks?
I was aware of both those facts. I assure the House that there are sufficient coal stocks at the power stations for many months to come.
Is the Prime Minister aware that the decision to deport Mrs. Begum, who is 20 years old, and her little girl to Bangladesh shows incredible pitilessness and will reduce considerably the United Kingdom's reputation in Asia? Will she institute a thoroughgoing inquiry into immigration adjudication procedures?
No, Sir. Many procedures must be followed before such a decision is taken. Immigration rules are made to be kept, and there are ample occasions for an appeal. I would not criticise the decision of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that her defence of British interests in Europe and the attack on the Government by the leaders of the SDP-Liberal alliance—the Tweedledoc and Tweedledee of British politics—for the abandonment of the national veto in Europe means that she is on the right track?
I trust that the Prime Minister does not take joy from what she sees in my constituency of Mansfield. The miners there are as much against her policies and those of Mr. MacGregor as any miners. They are involved in an internal union affair. Will she use her great office to bring some of those people round the table to talk. as they soon must do?
The hon. Gentleman knows of the agreement to release those who have been detained, and we hope that they will be released shortly.
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the deep concern in the farming community about the future of farming in the next few years, especially among dairy farmers, who are worried that they do not yet have the full details of the milk quota scheme, which is to be allocated on an individual farm basis? Will she take an early opportunity to reaffirm her firm support for our farming community in the tremendous job it does now and intends to do?
I accept that our farming industry, as is the case in all Western industrialised countries, must have support if it is to be prosperous. I accept its fantastic record on both productivity and investment, and acknowledge its great success in helping us with our balance of payments by increasing our food supplies. I recognise that farmers, especially dairy farmers, are having a difficult time because we must reduce the surpluses in Europe. The farming community recognises that and is fully prepared to co-operate. However, it is anxious to know the details of how the quotas, which it has had, will be put into effect. We are awaiting further details from the Commissioners about that and will do our best to speed them up.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that some of my constituents—parents with children at school—find that, as a result of the latest strike action by teachers, they cannot send their children to school because headmasters and headmistresses have advised them that the lack of lunchtime facilities means that the children should not attend? Is it not extremely sad that parents, and, worse still, children, should be in that position, and will she join me in regretting this latest example of public sector action that is disadvantaging the weakest members of society?
I agree with my hon. Friend, and I think it quite wrong for teachers to take action that harms the education of their pupils. It could damage them for life, and I am glad that many teachers would not dream of going on strike or refusing to carry out their duties in that way.