Engagements

Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th May 1986.

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Photo of Gwyneth Dunwoody Gwyneth Dunwoody , Crewe and Nantwich 12:00 am, 6th May 1986

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her offical engagements for Tuesday 6 May.

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I have beeen asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend is attending the economic summit in Tokyo.

Photo of Gwyneth Dunwoody Gwyneth Dunwoody , Crewe and Nantwich

Can the Leader of the House reassure my constituents about radiation fallout? What is the size of the unit monitoring the effect on food and beverages? Is the evidence readily available? Are imported food and vegetables being monitored?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I am sure the hon. Lady will have all those points comprehensively and satisfactorily answered when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment makes a statement on the matter later this afternoon.

Photo of Mr Tom Sackville Mr Tom Sackville , Bolton West

Does my right hon. Friend agree that events at Wapping at the weekend were utterly disgraceful and that we now know that the real policy of the Labour party is to condone mob violence and attacks on the police?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

My hon. Friend makes an extremely pertinent point. The evidence was available for all who watched their television screens. Those scenes at Wapping were not only a shameful travesty of the true traditions of trade unionism, but underline how wise we are to have proceeded with trade union reform.

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

The hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Sackville) has raised a question which requires a response. The Labour party does not condone violence of any description by mobs or individuals in any circumstances.

Does the right hon. Gentleman share my concern about the lack of clarity in the information relating to the measurement of increased radioactivity in parts of Britain? Will he give an undertaking that the relevant Departments will today produce figures of the levels of radioactivity that they are candid and accurate and that they will be published in a form that can be clearly understood by the general public?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

As to the first point, of course I realise that the right hon. Gentleman, with total integrity, condemns the kind of violence outside Wapping at the weekend that was shown on our television screens. Whatever may have been said in the heat of the moment by others of his party, certainly I acquit him of having in any sense condoned what occurred. It was for that reason that I deliberately used the word "travesty". None the less, what happened at Wapping is a reminder of what can happen once those who stand behind trade unionism and who wish to manipulate it get out of hand and gain control.

On the point that the right hon. Gentleman made in respect of the measurement of radiation, as he will know, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment will be making a statement this afternoon. It will touch specifically upon measurement and the extent to which there is verifiable satisfaction that the matter is well within safe limits of tolerance. It would be a greater courtesy to the House if it was to get that information from my right hon. Friend.

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

I know that there will be a further statement, but there is an important issue. The right hon. Gentleman is answering for the Prime Minister, so may I put this point to him? Does he agree with Mr. Eddie Ryder, the Government's chief nuclear inspector, that after Chernobyl there will have to be a pause before any further decisions are taken about the future of nuclear power in Britain?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I would have thought that in the whole development of nuclear power—and this will be attested to by those who work, and work for a proud tradition, in that industry in the United Kingdom—we have never hurried these matters.

Photo of Mr James Couchman Mr James Couchman , Gillingham

If my right hon. Friend is in touch with the Prime Minister in the course of the day, will he pass to her congratulations on the successful outcome of the talks in Japan, the reports on which seem to be very favourable indeed?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I believe that my hon. Friend speaks for both Government and Opposition Members in applauding the successes that have been scored at the economic summit at Tokyo. I shall ensure that the message goes to the Prime Minister. The House will have a chance to learn direct from her on Thursday, when she will be making a statement.

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Chesterfield

Reverting to the events at Wapping on Saturday night and Sunday morning, does the Leader of the House recall that similar language was used about Orgreave and that every miner charged with riot was acquitted? Does he recall that the police video showed that six cavalry charges occurred before a single stone was thrown and that four hon. Members, including myself, who were present on that night saw a succession of baton charges by the police against innocent people? Will the Home Secretary make a statement so that he can be held to account for the action of the police on Saturday night?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I have to say to the right hon. Gentleman—and as he was there he might perhaps have reflected before making the statement that he has just made——

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Central Fife

The right hon. Gentleman was not there.

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

No, of course I was not. One hundred and seventy police were injured at Wapping on that evening and the wounds were not self-inflicted. If the House, like the nation, is to have any sense of balance about these matters, it will know that the police were acting under the most severe circumstances. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman could not have used the same language as the Leader of the Opposition.

Photo of Mr Jonathan Sayeed Mr Jonathan Sayeed , Bristol East

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the consequences of the nuclear disaster in Soviet Russia has been to show that the Soviet authorities are keener to save face than to look after their own people?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

There are many lessons to be learnt from the whole of that episode, one of which is the great dangers that attend an enclosed society that has nuclear power and a nuclear accident of this nature occurs. The way that we are reacting to it in the West—and that will be underlined by the statement later this afternoon—demonstrates that our main concern is to secure public confidence, which can be achieved only by a proper system of disclosure.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 6 May 1985.

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I have been asked to reply.

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

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

Bearing in mind what the Leader of the House has said about the need for proper public disclosure in the nuclear industry, and bearing in mind also that the minor explosion at Dungeness was kept quiet for a number of weeks and that my constituents have had a considerable job trying to prise any information out of the Atomic Energy Authority in preparing a case against the Dounreay expansion, has the time not come for us to review the whole ethos of secrecy that pervades the British nuclear industry? Should we not make a start by abolishing the Official Secrets Act?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

On the specific point about Dungeness, there has been no safety factor involved in that which has any relationship whatever to nuclear power, and the hon. Gentleman's implication is wholly unfounded. I dare say that quite soon we shall be able to arrange for a debate on nuclear power and, although I have no wish to usurp the authority of the Chair, I hope that the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) and himself will both be called so that we can hear their sharply contrasting views on the subject.

Photo of Mrs Edwina Currie Mrs Edwina Currie , South Derbyshire

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many Conservative Members represent coal miners and those who work in coal-fired power stations, particularly in Derbyshire, the smoke from which has been accused at most of damaging the health of a few trees? Therefore, will he encourage those Ministers concerned to ensure that we can look to the refurbishment and redevelopment of those power stations to help provide the energy needs of the future?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I shall certainly carry out that request.

Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell Chair, Treasury & Civil Service Sub-Committee

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 6 May.

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I have been asked to reply.

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

Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell Chair, Treasury & Civil Service Sub-Committee

When the Prime Minister recommended her economic policies as appropriate for adoption by the other Heads of State at the Tokyo summit, the economies of nearly every one of which has higher current and prospective growth, higher productivity and investment, plus lower unemployment, interest rates and inflation, can the Leader of the House tell us whether anyone laughed?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

No, but if the hon. Gentleman wants to play his contribution for laughs, I am sure that there is a by-election electorate which wants to consider Britain's achievement in terms of output, exports, falling interest rates and falling levels of inflation, and to contrast that with the policies essayed by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan), sustained by the leader of the Liberal party, which resulted in the debacle of Labour's defeat in 1979.

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

Does the Leader of the House recognise the profound impact that the Soviet nuclear explosion has had on British public opinion, leading people to recognise just how enormous the consequences of such an accident will be, however unlikely? Has he forgotten his own days as a nuclear rebel, when he voted with us and against the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) when he sought to expand Windscale?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

It is just possible that the sight of the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) caused me to scurry into the Lobby alongside the hon. Gentleman, but that episode demonstrates that I have always been open-minded and even-handed about nuclear power, arid one has never needed that more so than now, when certain forces in our society that want to undermine and destroy what benefits nuclear power can bring point to the Russian example to draw exactly the wrong conclusions. What the hon. Gentleman should be saying, I hope that he will be saying it on a future occasion, is how impressed he is by our nuclear industry's safety record and how wise we are to have the kind of planning procedures that attend its development.

Photo of Mr Patrick Nicholls Mr Patrick Nicholls , Teignbridge

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is bad enough that over 170 police officers should be attacked and beaten by a mob of Left-wing thugs, but what is infinitely worse is that Labour Members should use the occasion not to condemn lawlessness but to pillory the police? Can any political party that harbours such views seriously be fit for Government?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

Enough was seen on television to ensure that those who have taken the stand that they have this afternoon in making an attack upon the police demean themselves much more than they can be demeaned by any words of mine.

Photo of Mr Reginald Freeson Mr Reginald Freeson , Brent East

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 6 May

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I have been asked to reply.

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

Photo of Mr Reginald Freeson Mr Reginald Freeson , Brent East

Has the Leader of the House seen the reports on the Top Salaries Review Body proposals, which will probably lead to an increase of £100 a week for certain top brass in the Army, the Civil Service and judges? Will he give an undertaking now on behalf of the Government that when that report is formally received there will at least be a freeze on any proposals along those lines so that we do not have the obscenity of many people in Britain having to live on about £100 a week while it is proposed that people in certain positions should receive £100 a week on top of the high increases that they received last year?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

Yes, I can confirm that I have seen the newspaper reports of the reviews, and it is true that they have now been deposited with the Government. I have not seen those reviews, and I do not know what figures they contain, so I cannot comment upon the right hon. Gentleman's assertion,. but they will be treated in the appropriate prudent and measured way.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

Will my right hon. Friend find time today to read the Ealing Labour party election manifesto, which proposes the banning of sexist calendars——

Hon. Members:

Order.

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

Order. The hon. Member's question must relate to the responsibilities of the Leader of the House.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

I am asking my right hon. Friend to read that document. The Labour party will double the rates in two years. Would not the electors of Ealing be thoughtless if they voted for Labour on Thursday?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

My hon. Friend is quite correct to draw attention to that document, which he has otherwise called a treasure-house of absurdity — a masterpiece of understatement. My hon. Friend is wise to draw the attention of the House to the basic nature of the divisions in local authority that affect Londoners and others. People can either vote for a Government of proven experience and success, backed by their supporters, or for the uncertain Labour voices that appear to have only one thing in common, which, is a desire to, spend more public money, either ratepayers' or taxpayers'.

Photo of Mr Peter Hardy Mr Peter Hardy , Wentworth

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 6 May.

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I have been asked to reply.

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

Photo of Mr Peter Hardy Mr Peter Hardy , Wentworth

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that a major reason for the Government's espousal of the pressurised water reactor is that it will confer considerable industrial export opportunities upon Britain? In the light of the Russian experience, does the right hon. Gentleman now agree that the prospect of such orders should be viewed with much greater caution? Does he further agree that no country with an inadequate bureaucracy or insufficient technological capacity should be seen as a ready customer?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

The hon. Gentleman is a very fair and well-informed controversialist in these matters, and would agree that these are all factors for assessment and report in the Sizewell inquiry.