Engagements

Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th March 1989.

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Photo of John Battle John Battle , Leeds West 12:00 am, 7th March 1989

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 7 March.

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

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. I also attended the closing session of the ozone layer conference. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall have further meetings later today. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty the Queen.

Photo of John Battle John Battle , Leeds West

Does the Prime Minister think that the EC was right to refuse to allow her Secretary of State exemption from the legal requirement to provide pure water? Is not the real protector of the environment in Britain proving to be the EC, not the rhetoric of her Government?

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

We are wholly committed to achieving compliance with the EC drinking water directive as soon as is practicable. Obviously, a great deal of capital investment—which Labour cut and we have increased—is involved. For the purpose of accuracy, may I say that we know of no change with the EC from that previously reported? Matters are still under consideration.

Photo of Mrs Marion Roe Mrs Marion Roe , Broxbourne

Will my right hon. Friend find time today during her busy schedule, to consider the press publicity surrounding the libel court case brought by two of my constituents—Mrs. Warby and Mrs. Chastell—against Tesco in relation to an alleged shoplifting offence in 1984, of which they were acquitted in 1985? Will my right hon. Friend urge the Lord Chancellor to respond swiftly to my letter to him asking him to investigate the case and the associated legislation? There is no doubt that there is grave concern amongst the general public that the people who sought to clear their names are suddenly finding themselves liable to pay substantial sums in costs to the unsuccessful party.

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

I understand my hon. Friend's concern about this case. However, as she knows, we are totally unable to interfere with a judicial decision. As she will be aware, the costs are at the discretion of the courts. The Lord Chancellor will consider the issues raised by this case. My hon. Friend will know that some of the proposals which he put forward in the Green Paper might be of assistance in such a case.

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

May I congratulate the Prime Minister on speaking for the whole country on Saturday morning, when she attacked her Secretary of State for the Environment?—[Interruption.] When is the Prime Minister going to sack him?

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

May I advise the right hon. Gentleman to listen to an interview that I gave to Channel 4, in which I pointed out that our Secretary of State for the Environment—[HoN. MEMBERS: "Our?"] My right hon. Friend, ours on this side—[Interruption.]

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

I pointed out that he is one of the people most fitted for the job—whether it be in architecture, art or in the fact that he is a civil engineer, and therefore knows a good deal more about the subject than the Leader of the Opposition. My right hon. Friend has a superb record. I am so grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the chance to point out that my right hon. Friend is absolutely first class in every way.

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

Obviously, we are not amused. If the right hon. Gentleman is one of the best Secretaries of State for the Environment that we have ever had, why does the Prime Minister feel it necessary to take charge herself?

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

The right hon. Gentleman is not expected to be amused; he is expected to recognise outstanding talent when he sees it. For his information, I have not taken charge of water privatisation. It is we who have put forward money—[Horn. MEMBERS: "We?"] Yes, we on this side of the House. This Government have poured money into investment in water. It was the Labour party that cut it.

Photo of Mr Gwilym Jones Mr Gwilym Jones , Cardiff North

Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming the NATO proposals for reductions in conventional forces in Europe which were tabled yesterday by our right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary? Will she wish the Vienna negotiations every success?

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

Yes, I welcome the proposals that were tabled by my right hon. and learned Friend yesterday. They would set equal ceilings for NATO and the Warsaw pact on tanks, artillery and armoured troop carriers. They would require the Warsaw pact to make greater reductions than NATO, because the pact has far higher numbers of these weapons. Even after the unilateral reductions announced by Mr. Gorbachev at the United Nations, the Warsaw pact's superiority will still be of the order of two to one. We shall need to continue to keep weapons—conventional and nuclear—up to date to ensure effective deterrence.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan , Heywood and Middleton

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 7 March.

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 James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan , Heywood and Middleton

Is the Prime Minister aware that if basic old-age pensions had been uprated in line with earnings since 1979, a single person's pension would now be £48·80 instead of the present £41·15, and a married couple's pension would be £78·15, instead of the present £65·90? Will she therefore instruct the Chancellor, when he produces his Budget speech, to uprate pensions instead of giving away millions of pounds to rich people in tax handouts?

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

In the last uprating that the Labour Government did before 1979, they did not uprate pensions in line with earnings. It was left to us to do that. Although that Government put the discretion to do so into their legislation, they introduced a national incomes policy which cut earnings and even cut the real wages of many people in the public services. We have done much better, by keeping pensions uprated in line with the retail prices index.

Photo of Mr Anthony Nelson Mr Anthony Nelson , Chichester

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 7 March.

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

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

Photo of Mr Anthony Nelson Mr Anthony Nelson , Chichester

Following my right hon. Friend's speech to the closing session of the conference on protecting the ozone layer, would it not be an appropriate time for me to add—and I believe that I share this view with other Conservative Members—my congratulations to my right hon. Friend and the Government on taking the initiative in calling and organising the conference? I hope that my hon. Friend recognises that it has attracted a considerably larger commitment of nations to the Montreal protocol and has also drawn acceptance that there is a shared environmental responsibility among all nations, not just some.

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

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The conference was extremely successful and surpassed all expectations. It was stimulating and was enjoyed by everyone present. When we began, 33 nations had signed the Montreal protocol. In the course of the conference, 20 other nations agreed to sign it and 14 more, including China, are considering that seriously. Altogether, it was a very successful operation which made it clear that the co-operation and action of all nations and all peoples is required.

Photo of Nigel Griffiths Nigel Griffiths , Edinburgh South

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 7 March.

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 Nigel Griffiths Nigel Griffiths , Edinburgh South

When does the Prime Minister plan to visit Glasgow Royal infirmary?

Photo of David Evennett David Evennett , Erith and Crayford

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 7 March.

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

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

Photo of David Evennett David Evennett , Erith and Crayford

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Opposition's attempts to make political capital out of the recent rail tragedies are deplorable and will be deplored by the vast majority of people? Does she agree that people should wait for the report of the independent inquiry before making comments on those tragedies?

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

All three recent accidents caused great personal tragedies and great concern to everyone, especially those who work for British Rail. As for trying to find the causes of the accidents, we must await the official inquiries and not attempt, in any way, to postulate the causes. As my hon. Friend knows, I have visited the hospitals in both Clapham and Purley and I very much regret that I shall be unable—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"]—under present plans to visit the third one.

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

Order. Interruptions take up a lot of time.

Photo of Mr Paddy Ashdown Mr Paddy Ashdown Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Leader of the Liberal Democrats

Does the Prime Minister agree that if we are to build on the welcome success of the ozone layer conference, worldwide action is needed and that that will require an understanding of the special problems of developing countries in ending the use of CFCs? Will the Prime Minister commit her Government to being equally active in putting together the co-operation of the industrial nations to provide the resources necessary for the Third world countries, especially India and China, so that they can sign the Montreal protocol as soon as possible?

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

I indicated that China is thinking of signing the Montreal protocol. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, at present our own industries are finding more ozone-friendly chemicals. They are either ozone-friendly and less damaging than the present CFCs or ozone-benign and eliminate that particular problem altogether. There are few chemical concerns that sell them, so they will have the main sales. There are some factories in other countries that have started on that production, but I see no reason why the substitute chemicals should cost very much more than the present ones. With regard to our multilateral aid programmes through the World Bank and through Europe, we shall have regard to environmental considerations in deciding our priorities. The same will be true of our bilateral aid programme.

Photo of Mr Irvine Patnick Mr Irvine Patnick , Sheffield, Hallam

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 7 March.

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

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

Photo of Mr Irvine Patnick Mr Irvine Patnick , Sheffield, Hallam

Will my right hon. Friend welcome the announcement by Guy's hospital that it is considering applying for self-governing status? Will she confirm that self-governing hospitals will remain an integral part of our Health Service?

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

I confirm that self-governing hospitals will remain part of the National Health Service. They are not opting out; they are self-governing within the National Health Service, financed by the taxpayer according to the services that they perform. I believe that under that different system of administration doctors and nurses will have more freedom to harness their skills and dedication and to improve services to patients.

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin , Glasgow Springburn

Is the Prime Minister aware that the Glasgow train accident took place in my constituency? I find it rather sickening that she is not prepared to visit the Glasgow royal infirmary, where the victims of the crash now are, although she has visited other hospitals with the cameras rolling. Surely she should stop ambulance-chasing and get on with doing something for public safety.

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

The hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. I have gone to the scene of every accident when it has been possible for me to do so. I was able to go to Piper Alpha, and twice to Lockerbie. I must, however, have regard to my other engagements. I very much regret that on this occasion I have no plans at present to go to Glasgow, but I fully understand the tragedies that have been brought about. As the hon. Gentleman knows, my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is on hand to visit patients.

Photo of Mr Graham Riddick Mr Graham Riddick , Colne Valley

Does my right hon. Friend agree that membership of a trade union should be on a purely voluntary basis? If so, does she think that it is about time that we did away with the iniquitous closed shop?

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

In principle, I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment is considering whether any further legislation is advisable.

Dr. Thomas:

Will the Prime Minister join my colleagues and me in condemning the recent escalation in arson attacks on properties in Wales? Will she ensure that adequate resources are available to the North Wales and other police forces, so that those responsible for these dastardly crimes are apprehended before anyone is killed?

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

I gladly join the hon. Gentleman in condemning those attacks utterly. We shall do all that we can to ensure that the necessary police forces are there.