Correspondence

Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th January 1989.

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Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire 12:00 am, 12th January 1989

To ask the Prime Minister what is her policy as to whose signature appears on replies to letters she receives from members of the public dealing with matters of Government policy.

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

I receive several thousands of letters each week from members of the public. It is not possible for me to deal with all those letters personally and I must accordingly refer most of them to the Minister and the Department with responsibility for the policy in question. Others are signed by my staff at No. 10.

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire

Mr. George Flynn of 24 Amber Place, Holmgate sent a letter to the Prime Minister about his loss of £6·20 a week housing benefit. The reply came not from the Prime Minister's Office or from Social Security Ministers but from the transitional payments unit in Glasgow, and it was a political defence of the Government's policy. Should not the Government change their response entirely and ensure that civil servants are not instructed by them to act as their political hacks?

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

The hon. Gentleman is being totally unreasonable. He knows full well that I should never even be able to come to the House to answer questions if I spent all day opening letters—4,000 a week. The Opposition would not like that. The hon. Gentleman also knows full well that we went to great lengths to set up the unit to deal with those special problems. I can only say that I congratulate my staff on sending the letter to the appropriate place to get the right answer.

Photo of Mr Michael Latham Mr Michael Latham , Rutland and Melton

If I were to dictate and sign personally a letter to my right hon. Friend asking her to ensure that two popular rural maternity units in my constituency remained open, would she make it her business to dictate and sign personally a reply to me of a favourable nature?

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

No, I can make no such promises that I would automatically answer for my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Health.