HC Deb 01 November 1979 vol 972 cc1444-9
Q2. Mr. John Townend

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her engagements for 1 November.

The Prime Minister

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and held meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be having further talks with Premier Hua at 4 p.m. and this evening I shall be holding a reception to mark the departure of the England cricket team for their Australian tour.

Mr. Townend

Since the Irish Government continue to refuse to make the changes necessary to enable terrorists to be extradited, will the Prime Minister take time today to discuss with her colleagues the possibility of changing the electoral law so that citizens of the Irish Republic who are resident in the United Kingdom have the same voting rights as citizens of the United Kingdom who are resident in the Irish Republic?

The Prime Minister

Irish citizens have a unique position in this country. They are not British citizens, except through history. They have a unique privilege in that they can vote in our elections. We have no proposals to change that.

Miss Joan Lestor

Will the Prime Minister find time today to meet representatives of parents who have adopted girl children born in other parts of the world—for example, Bangladesh and Vietnam? Will she explain to those parents the status of their girls in relation to the immigration legislation which we hear will prohibit them from bringing in foreign husbands?

The Prime Minister

I explained the proposal many times during the election campaign. We are carrying out that plan as we promised. Many Asian girls here will be very pleased indeed when we introduce this new legislation.

Q3. Mr. Robert Atkins

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her engagements for Thursday 1 November.

The Prime Minister

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I have just given.

Mr. Atkins

In the course of the Prime Minister's busy day, will she take time to read early-day motion 149 in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Mr. Major)? Does my right hon. Friend recognise that the 160 of her right hon. and hon. Friends who signed that motion express a strong sentiment in support of her strong and constructive stand during the negotiations in Bonn with her EEC colleagues?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful for the support from both sides of the House on this issue. Such support strengthens one's hand in the negotiations. The right way to go about the negotiations is to expect that we shall receive a just and reasonable reply to a just and reasonable case.

Mr. Winnick

Will the Prime Minister explain how she can bring hope instead of despair to the poor and elderly this winter, because they will not receive the benefits of the electricity discount scheme or the Government's pittance of a scheme? Why is it that only the rich and prosperous can benefit from this Government? Was it not rather cheeky of the Prime Minister to quote, of all people, St. Francis on 4 May?

The Prime Minister

We shall achieve increasing prosperity, a better standard of living and better social services not by protest but by more work, better output and better productivity.

Sir Paul Bryan

When the Prime Minister meets Premier Hua at four o'clock, will she ask him what steps he intends to take to curb the growing flow of illegal immigrants into Hong Kong?

The Prime Minister

I plan to raise that matter with Premier Hua. It is a source of great embarrassment that so many people are coming across the border from China into Hong Kong. We strengthened the garrison there, but the flow is still increasing. I shall speak to him about it.

Mr. Douglas-Mann

Will the Prime Minister consider the early-day motion on Cambodia which has been signed by 130 hon. Members calling for a reconsideration of the continued recognition of the Pol Pot regime because it is handicapping the aid programme? Will the right hon. Lady take the opportunity of explaining to President Hua that the withdrawal of recognition would accord with the normal practice of Great Britain of recognising those in de facto control and that such a step is urgent for humanitarian reasons?

The Prime Minister

I do not believe that recognition hinders the aid programme in any way. My hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office answered a question on this subject a short time ago. He pointed out that, certainly, our present criteria for recognition assume that the person whom we recognise is in charge of the whole country. Pol Pot certainly is not and we condemn his previous callous and cruel policies. My hon. Friend also pointed out that one could not possibly recognise Heng Samrin, who seems to be there as a puppet of the Vietnamese.

Mr. Shore

May I lead the right hon. Lady into a somewhat different position from that which the Government have adopted? If she has reached the conclusion that neither Pol Pot nor the present authorities in Vietnam are effectively and lawfully in charge of the country, why does she persist in recognising Pol Pot? Why does she not withdraw recognition?

The Prime Minister

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, we try to act in concert with the five Association of South-East Asian countries which still recognise Pol Pot. It is advisable for us to try to act together on these matters.

Q4. Mr. Adley

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 1 November.

The Prime Minister

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave earlier.

Mr. Adley

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the ballot at British Leyland is a great encouragement to those who hope that the health of British industry will improve? Does she agree that the sooner the work force at BL has a chance to be consulted about issues such as industrial disputes the more likely it is that the British taxpayer will receive value for money should the company come to the Government for further funds?

The Prime Minister

The ballot at British Leyland showed the great merit of a system under which the work force can be consulted and their views properly ascertained about matters which intimately affect their future. When it comes to deciding, should we receive an application for further funds, then we shall examine performance.

Mr. Maxton

Has the Prime Minister had an opportunity this morning to read the welcome crime figures for Scotland for 1978, which show that there has been an 8 per cent. cut in the overall crime figures and a 30 per cent. cut in the murder rate? Does she agree that the figures show that the divisive proposals that her Government are to make for increasing police powers in Scotland are now unnecessary? Will she instruct that they be withdrawn?

The Prime Minister

Of course I welcome the reduction in crime figures. But I believe that we are absolutely right to give increasing priority to law and order. In doing so we shall be able to reduce those figures further.

Mr. Churchill

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in view of the dramatic escalation in the Soviet military build-up, which has added more than 20,000 Hiroshima bombs in megatonnage to the weapons targeted against Western Europe, she will have the strongest support from these Benches for any serious measures that she takes to strengthen Britain's defences and to safeguard peace and freedom?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his support. We have honoured our pledge to increase the defence budget by 3 per cent. over the expected outturn for this year.

Q5. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 1 November.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave earlier.

Mr. Hamilton

Will the Prime Minister take time this afternoon to re-read the manifesto on which she was elected? Does she recall that it stated that it was not a Tory Government's intention to reduce expenditure on the National Health Service? Will the right hon. Lady also take time to read the recent debate on the National Health Service when her party was in opposition and the present Minister for Health said that nurses deserved the same treatment as the police and the Armed Forces? Will the Prime Minister seek to implement those two promises?

The Prime Minister

When the public expenditure White Paper comes out later the hon. Gentleman will discover that we have not reduced expenditure on the National Health Service. However, a problem is emerging. Many people are bargaining for wages and taking out a higher proportion of the available budget for wages and leaving less for equipment and other things that are needed.

Mr. Stanbrook

Will my right hon. Friend find time this afternoon to discover ways to speed up the preparation of the Housing Bill? Is she aware that thousands of council tenants living in Labour-controlled areas wish to take advantage of the promise to give them the statutory right to purchase?

The Prime Minister

I am very much aware of the many people who wish to exercise the right to purchase council houses, a right they would never have got from the former Labour Government. I expect that the Bill will be introduced here before Christmas.

Mr. Jay

As this Government have been in office for six months and as, according to the CBI, business confidence is falling, industrial production is falling, investment is falling and the pound is falling, does the Prime Minister feel that her policies are yielding results?

The Prime Minister

I was pleased to see what the CBI actually said after its survey came out and that it fully recorded its support for the Government.

Mr. Kershaw

Was not the announcement yesterday about the million or so home owners and tenants who will be able to receive improvement grants a typical example of help where it is needed? It will help the housing situation very much.

The Prime Minister

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. This is a valuable way of improving the circumstances in which people live.