This morning I presided over a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be having further meetings later today.
As the hon. Lady is aware, those who fall into the definition of severe mental handicap are exempt. It has not been possible to have a particular definition at the time at which that occurs for Alzheimer's disease to bring everyone automatically into that definition.
My right hon. Friend drew attention during a recent visit to the north-east to the region's confidence. Does she agree that that confidence has shown an upswing in the whole of the area, and does it not demonstrate the hollowness of the so-called north-south divide?
I totally agree with my hon. Friend. In a visit to both the north-east and north-west last week one found that business is flourishing, business men are optimistic, unemployment is falling and the amount of reconstruction under the urban development corporation, particularly on the river front, is going excellently. I agree that the north-south divide has gone.
The right hon. Gentleman is referring to the average receipts for the general practitioner in the Health Service. My right hon. and learned Friend is absolutely correct in giving the figure for the average receipts.
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the very considerable concern which exists, for instance, in the Yorkshire area about river pollution and about the fact that the water authorities, which are themselves sometimes the guilty parties, have responsibility for the enforcement of pollution control? Does my right hon. Friend agree that, when ecological issues rightly have priority, it is important that we get rid of these anomalies as soon as we can?
I agree with my hon. Friend. When water is privatised, the duty of regulation and policing the standards of water and of rivers will come either under the National Rivers Authority or under the Director General of Water Services who will also be able to control the prices. That will be a great advance in addition to the extra efficiency that we will get from privatisation. It will be a good deal for the consumer.
Following the right hon. Lady's visit to Liverpool last Friday when she attacked the workers at Birds Eye—1,000 of whom have now been put out of work—and the city council which is collaborating with all the interests in the area, will she now apologise to the people of Liverpool and Merseyside and understand that the people in my area put compassion before profit, which is something which the right hon. Lady does not understand?
Apparently the hon. Gentleman does not understand that to satisfy the consumer—we are all consumers—companies must stay competitive and efficient. If workers in his area refuse to be competitive, efficient, or to accept high productivity, the investment will go to those many workers who are prepared to be just that.
In the short time which remains before my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer unveils his Budget proposals to the House, will my right hon. Friend reflect on the growing strength of the British economy? Will she confirm that in the past two years the growth in jobs has been greater than at any time since the end of the second world war? Does she agree that it is very gratifying to note that, to the end of last September, 60,000 of those jobs were created in manufacturing industry? Is it not, therefore, clear that those are the outward and visible signs of an industry which has now regained its competitiveness and the outlook for the economy is excellent?
The standard of living is higher than it has ever been. The number of people in work is higher than ever before and there are 1 million more people in work than in 1979. The number of people at work in manufacturing industry is growing. That is a very good record and the prospects for the future are good.
Is the Prime Minister aware of the distress, hardship and injustice which is often caused in Northern Ireland when the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland issues an order under section 42 in the national interest whereby companies are deprived of their contracts and employees of their jobs? Does she agree that natural justice demands that the accused know the accusation and have the chance to defend themselves? Will she make arrangements for an appeal procedure to enable those injustices to be eradicated?
With the Government's commitment to fundamental change in South Africa, will my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister endorse the recommendations of the judicial commission set up by the South African Government for the banning of apartheid, the abolition of all apartheid legislation, the adoption of a Bill of Rights and a national franchise to re-establish human rights in that country?
As I understand it, that particular commission—which we would agree with—insisted that apartheid must end by a process of negotiation and we fully support that. Some encouraging changes are taking place, not least with the independence of Namibia which is a great step forward. We are also doing our level best to help the further education of black South Africans and we are now spending some £10 million on assisting them to get a better education. There is a great deal of room for hope for South Africa.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that not only is British business creating more jobs than ever before within the United Kingdom economy but it is investing in and taking over four times as many overseas companies as any other western country? Does she agree with me that this indicates that our economy is very strong indeed?
Yes. As far as this country is concerned, business investment as a proportion of GDP is at an all-time high, in addition to which, being a very internationally minded country, we are investing heavily overseas—more than any other European country. We are in the lead by a long way; we are way ahead of the second country, which is France.
Will my right hon. Friend assure me that the reports that I have seen in the newspapers about delays that may take place in the reform of the legal profession are not right and that we shall get on as soon as possible in the next Session with the excellent reforms proposed by the Lord Chancellor and put them into practice as soon as possible?
The measures have been proposed in Green Papers which will be thoroughly debated. Then I hope that we shall be able to bring forward legislation as soon as possible, most likely next year.
We have raised the question of human rights in Turkey with Ministers who have come here. They have replied that they are doing everything possible to restore full human rights in Turkey and that the cases which are frequently raised date back some considerable time.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that where a monopoly does not reflect the realities of the market place it is not only the consumer but the supplier who suffers, because sooner or later the market place will reassert itself and if the supplier has not adjusted his services to meet that it will be unable to adapt? In those circumstances, will she give an assurance to those in the legal profession who seek its urgent reform that she is fully behind them?
Most people, I think, who have studied the Green Papers of my right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor about the reform of the legal profession are behind the overwhelming majority of his reforms. There are still some dissentient voices, particularly in the legal profession, but I think that, broadly speaking, what he proposes is right. We shall consider what is said in the debate very carefully and I hope that we shall be in a position to bring forward legislation.
Notwithstanding the resilience and sense of optimism which the Prime Minister will have found during her visit to the Albert dock in Liverpool and the housing co-operatives that she visited last Friday, does she agree that in an area in which 98,000 people are out of work, and some 18,000 have been out of work for the last five years, there is no point in just blaming the victims and that the Merseyside economy cannot stand to lose another 1,000 jobs? Will she personally do what she can to try to save those jobs?
I was questioned about that particular loss of jobs, and I indicated that it was because the company could not achieve competitiveness, could not get rid of some restrictive practices, and could not increase productivity in that particular factory. So it chose to invest in a factory where it could do so. The company is still investing, but not at that factory. I was questioned about that matter at a spot where it is proposed to create another 5,000 jobs, arising from some of the reconstruction that is being undertaken at the docks as an extension of the work of the urban development corporation. It seems to me that there are fresh opportunities there. The hon. Gentleman will know that the company is delaying the close-down, to enable its workers to obtain other jobs and other training before closure occurs.—[Interruption] The company must be competitive, and if the hon. Gentleman does not understand that, he is against the consumer and against every single worker.
Recently, my right hon. Friend sponsored an excellent conference in London, on the preservation of the ozone layer. Will she consider sponsoring a similar event to help ensure the preservation of the world's rain forests?
That aspect was, of course, mentioned at the conference on the preservation of the ozone layer. If my hon. Friend the Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack) consults my hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas development, he will learn that a considerable number of our grants and aid are already given with the preservation of the rain forests in mind, because that is very important to the preservation of the ozone layer as a whole.