I believe that the Scottish people are best served by the present arrangements—the United Kingdom in the European Community and the continuance of the European Community as an organisation with maximum co-operation between sovereign nations.
May I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend on her successful meeting with President Bush at Camp David last Saturday? Will she tell the House that there is agreement between Britain, the United States and our European allies on the best approach to the historic changes taking place in eastern Europe?
Yes, Mr. Speaker. For four and a half hours last week we had excellent discussions with President Bush at Camp David which showed a substantial identity of view on the way ahead for East-West relations. It is most important to secure democracy in all east European countries and throughout the Soviet Union, and not to raise the question of borders until that is complete. When it is complete there will be a different world and all sorts of things will be possible. Meantime NATO must be kept intact, our defence sure and negotiations between the Warsaw pact and NATO on the reductions of armaments must continue, giving us a basis of security for the enormous changes to take place to advantage.
The hon. Gentleman is aware that if young people are in difficulty they can claim income support and housing benefit—[Interruption.]
For those between the ages of 16 and 18 there are more youth training places available than young people to fill them. The Government believe that it is better for young people to take up training than to be idle. If young people are in difficulty or facing hardship, special grants are available.
What advice would my right hon. Friend give to the Vauxhall car workers at their plant in Ellesmere Port in Cheshire who, because of the action of Labour's acolytes—the Transport and General Workers Union—face the prospect of losing a £200 million engine plant development as a result of a damaging, selfish inter-union dispute on working premises?
Good jobs and good prospects come from working with and investing in equipment to its maximum extent. It is time for restrictive practices to go out of the window so that our labour costs become lower and our productivity higher, and so that we can compete with car manufacturers in Europe, Japan and the United States. Most ordinary trade unionists know that and I hope that they will pass that message on to their trade union leaders.
Can the Prime Minister tell the House whether she thinks there is a positive advantage for Britain in joining the exchange rate mechanism?
I refer the hon. Gentleman to my speech at Madrid which laid down specific conditions to be met before we join the ERM. The first is that inflation must be got down. The second is that stage 1 of Delors with the necessary directives, together with the freeing of financial services, the freedom of capital movements plus the abolition of foreign exchange controls, must be met by other member countries, as they are being met by us. Moreover, we must get fair competition between countries. Hon. Members in most parts of the House accept that that is the right and proper way to proceed.
In response to some fancied labour shortage, the Government appear to want to encourage more mothers of young children to go out to work. Would it not be wiser—for the sake of the care, happiness and fostering of our children and of society—for mothers of young children to be encouraged to stay at home?
My hon. Friend is aware that it is for mothers themselves to decide. We do, indeed, need many more women at work, but it is for mothers to decide whether they can make full and proper arrangements for their children or whether they should wait until later, when their children are off their hands, to return to work. My hon. Friend knows that from next April, the taxation of married women will change and that they will be taxed separately. That will be a great advantage to them and will enable them to make their own choices.
Will the Prime Minister comment on recent developments in which the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland looked forward to entering discussions with Sinn Fein, whose aim is the British withdrawal from Northern Ireland, and on the weekend statement by Cardinal Ó Fiaich who asked for that intention to be declared?
As the hon. Gentleman is aware, Northern Ireland is, and remains, part of the United Kingdom. That is the wish of the majority of her people and could be changed only if the wish of the majority changed and they did not want to stay with the United Kingdom, in which case it would be a matter not only for them but for hon. Members of this House. I hope and believe that Northern Ireland will remain a part of the United Kingdom.