Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
Will the Prime Minister reaffirm that the Anglo-Irish agreement stands, regardless of what happens next Monday, and that no amount of violence, intimidation or paramilitary force will change the mind of the large majority of British people who are clearly in favour of the agreement? Is it not the case that if a power-sharing agreement had not been destroyed 12 years ago by the Unionists there would have been no need for such an agreement in the first place?
I leave any attacks on me aside—if one puts oneself in the front line in politics, one will get shot at, as we see every Tuesday and Thursday. I congratulate British Aerospace on the excellent order that it has received, and thank Saudi Arabia for the faith that it has placed in our factories, their management and those who work in them.
Is the Prime Minister aware that Customs and Excise has today raided around 30 premises, one of which is the headquarters of Johnson Matthey Bankers? Is she further aware that there have been some 12 arrests, that Customs and Excise is investigating as much as £7·25 million in gold bullion which, it appears, may have been smuggled into the country, and that the Bank of England has confirmed that Johnson Matthey Bankers is co-operating with Customs and Excise? In view of the fact that the Prime Minister on 2 August 1985 refused my request to set up a tribunal of inquiry on the very issue of the unsoundness of—[Interruption.] Some £185 million worth of this country's money has been given to Johnson Matthey Bankers. In view of the fact that the Prime Minister refused to conduct a tribunal of inquiry at the Governor of the Bank of England's insistence — [Interruption.]
No, Sir. I understand that Customs officers visited a number of premises today, including Johnson Matthey's. They visited those premises this morning in the course of investigating possible VAT irregularities involving gold. Johnson Matthey Bankers issued a press statement. The Customs officers were following the responsibilities laid on them by statute and, of course, such cases are not referred to Ministers.
Is the Prime Minister aware of the anger in my constituency among the 390 employees of British Airways Helicopters, based in my constituency, about the negotiations to sell the company to Coln Valley Investments? Is she further aware that Mr. Martin Meade is the subject of litigation over an alleged offence under section 330 of the Companies Act 1985, involving £18,000 of expenses? Coln Valley Investments last registered its accounts in 1982, when it made a loss of £40,000. Will the Prime Minister intervene and urge British Airways to break off negotiations with this cowboy operator, which has a record of asset-stripping and job destruction?
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the deep and deepening anger felt by a great many of us over the fact that in a part of the United Kingdom an agreement designed to improve the security of the whole of the United Kingdom is being undermined by actions, some of which are not even legal?
I have indicated our approach to this strike. I hope that it will not take place, but if it does, and if it takes place in the name of Unionism, it will lead to the erosion of support for the Union in the United Kingdom.
Mr. J. Enoch Powell:
Is it not desirable that this House should have the opportunity, for the first time, to debate the principle under which an external court purports to lay down what legislation may or may not be passed or must be passed by this House?
I assume that the right hon. Gentleman is referring to the decision of the European Court. That was a limited decision about the age at which women may retire from the public service. The decision was made under a law passed by this House and the consequences flow from it.
Before 7 o'clock, will my right hon. Friend look again at the Order Paper, on which there is an amendment tabled by the Procedure Committee, which is now supported by 150 hon. Members, right hon. Members, ex-Ministers, ex-Whips and even a senior ex-Chief Whip? Perhaps, as a birthday present to me, my right hon. Friend will follow the recommendations of her advisers that this amendment should be the subject of a free vote—really as a free vote—and will ensure that certain unknown influences—perhaps not so unknown—will not drum Ministers and Parliamentary Private Secretaries into the Lobby to vote against it?
I wish my hon. Friend a happy birthday and congratulate him on his assiduous work. I am sure that, at the end of the debate to which he referred, he will hear most excellent advice from my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal.
Yes, I support the Sunday trading Bill. I do not believe that the restriction of choice should apply to Sunday trading when it does not apply to so many other things on a Sunday. People must make their own choice.
In view of the Government's insistence that the miners should have held a ballot before their recent industrial action, why do the Government not support the Fleet street print workers, who held a ballot and voted 7:1 in favour of industrial action?
I notice that the hon. Lady referred to the miners. It is one year ago today since the miners' strike was ended—a strike which the Opposition supported through the bitterest, cold weather. The printers made their own choice on a ballot, and must take the reasonable consequences which flow from the choice which they freely made.
Yesterday, in another place, it was suggested that drug traffickers should be injected with their own poison and left out in the street to die. Despite what might be the initial attractions of that policy, does my right hon. Friend agree that a better policy would be to fight demand by effective education, to fight supply by international co-operation through intelligence and drug eradication programmes, and to fight the profits of drug trafficking by imposing long prison sentences, equivalent to those for premeditated murder, and by confiscation of the profits of drug traffickers?
I agree with my hon. Friend that we must fight drug trafficking through education, Customs, the police and the courts. I am sure that he ardently supports the Bill now before the House to enable us to confiscate the proceeds of drug trafficking, which I hope will be speedily set on its way so that we may carry it into action.
The Prime Minister said yesterday that she likes an upsurge of patriotism, but she likes it accompanied by action. Is her idea of action or, indeed, patriotism, selling off assets built up by the contributions of the British people? They have put up. Does she believe that they should shut up?
The right hon. Gentleman is aware that, by Tuesday, we shall have some idea of the numbers of people who wish to bid and an idea of the approximate amount. I can say no more until all those bids are in and have been properly and thoroughly discussed.
The Prime Minister reminds us that next Tuesday is the deadline. Does that not stand on their head her claims yesterday and previously that consortia of bids could be built up for an offer for which there is no prospectus, but for which there is a deadline? Does that not make her claims absolute nonsense and show that she was never serious about competitive tendering and bidding in any case?
No. The right hon. Gentleman is talking nonsense. Those who are interested in making genuine bids—the trade unions could have done the self-same thing—could have obtained the information from the Department of Trade and Industry or British Leyland.
That is another of Maggie's myths. Does she not know that the total combined assets of British trade unions are less than £500 million, and that it is nonsense to suggest that the trade unions could mount a bid for purchase? I ask her again: when the British people have bought and paid for a high technology company, many parts of which are turning into profit, why does she want to flog it off to foreigners?
If the right hon. Gentleman has such faith, he must know that there are many pension funds, with enormous assets belonging to the unions, which could purchase into that company. The right hon. Gentleman wants British Leyland to be a permanent pensioner on the pockets of his constituents. We do not—[Interruption.]
It would be our purpose to do exactly what my hon. Friend has said. It is no part of our policy to try to take an increasing proportion of people's earnings through income tax. We believe that they work harder so that they have more for their own families, not to pay more to the Government.