HC Deb 09 April 1981 vol 2 cc1110-4
25. Mr. Geraint Howells

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 9 April.

The Prime Minister

This morning I presided at 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.

Mr. Howells

Will the Prime Minister find time today to tell the British public that she is convinced that she will reform the common agricultural policy during her term of office?

The Prime Minister

Weshall make every effort to do so, and we shall make particularly strenuous efforts during our Presidency in the latter half of this year. It is an urgent matter.

Mr. George Gardiner

In view of certain press reports this morning, will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity today to reassure us that no Cabinet decision has yet been made on what action might be appropriate following the Green Paper on trade union immunities, and that no such decision will be made until the consultation period on the Green Paper is complete?

The Prime Minister

Of course no decision will be made until we have received the consultations on that very important paper. I am glad to reassure my hon. Friend.

Mr. Foot

Will the right hon. Lady take a very early opportunity today—namely, at the Dispatch Box now—to disown and condemn the Tory Action leaflet circulating in London under the title "Round Robin for March 1981", which is clearly racist and Fascist in its implications? Is she not eager to condemn that leaflet in the strongest possible terms?

The Prime Minister

I neither know nor have seen such a leaflet, but I gladly condemn all racism and Fascism.

Mr. Foot

The right hon. Lady may not have seen the leaflet—and I understand that—but, having expressed a desire to condemn racism of this nature, will she take immediate steps to obtain a copy of the leaflet and to secure the support of the so-called Tory immigration group to condemn the leaflet too? Surely the whole House would wish to condemn this form of racist propaganda.

The Prime Minister

I totally condemn racism and Fascism. I never condemn something that I have not seen.

Mr. Heddle

Will my right hon. Friend take time today to consider the growing impatience and frustration of tens of thousands of council tenants throughout the country, but particularly in 27 Labour-controlled council areas, who wish to exercise their democratic right to buy their own homes? Will she give some advice and encouragement to them today so that in the near future they may be able to do so?

The Prime Minister

Local councils should assist tenants to exercise their legal rights, including the legal right to purchase their council houses. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is in touch with a number of councils that seem to be delaying matters, and he will consider very shortly what action he should take if they do not comply.

Mr. Greville Janner

Will the right hon. Lady have time today to consider the serious problems created for the Marconi radar company by the threatened cancellation of orders for naval equipment, which is produced mainly in my constituency, and the substitution of orders for Dutch equipment, so that much unemployment will be caused? Will she investigate the matter and see whether it is possible to buy British equipment, the research for which has been carried out at public expense, and which has now been produced to the precise specifications of the Ministry of Defence?

The Prime Minister

We try to buy British wherever possible and make strenuous efforts to do so even on some occasions when it costs just a little more. But we also have to consider the expense. Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman will take up the case direct with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence.

Mr. Beith

Will the Prime Minister find an opportunity to explain why she sent the Solicitor-General to Strasbourg to defend the case brought by the three sacked British Rail employees? If she was so keen that he should go to Strasbourg, why did she not send him briefed to defend the three employees and to support their case, when they had been sacked from their jobs on a matter of conscience?

The Prime Minister

My hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General made it perfectly clear that the law under this Government was totally different from the law when that case arose. He would greatly resent what the hon. Gentleman has said, and so do I.

26. Mr. Neubert

asked the Prime Minister whether she will list her official engagements for 9 April.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Neubert

Will my right hon. Friend comment on the damage being done to the effectiveness of the Polaris force by a handful of civil servants during the current dispute? Does not their action strike at the heart of the nation's defences, and should not the possibility of such sabotage be excluded from their conditions of employment?

The Prime Minister

I do not think that the British people will think very much of a minority of public servants who choose to put personal gain above the safety of the realm. I make it clear that the nuclear deterrent is still effective, and will remain effective, and we shall take all steps to see that it does.

Mr. Bidwell

On her forthcoming visit to India, how will the right hon. Lady meet the criticism that the British Nationality Bill is anti-feminist with regard to the application of the present immigration rules? Will it not be difficult for the people of India to understand the position of Britain's first woman Prime Minister in this matter?

The Prime Minister

I do not envisage any particular difficulty.

Mr. Viggers

Will my right hon. Friend accept from one who represents a defence area that the action by civil servants to prevent the servicing of Polaris submarines is resented by many members of the Civil Service unions, many of whom are heartily sick of the action that is taken in their name?

The Prime Minister

I think that that action is both deeply resented and not understood. I have already commented upon it. I must make it clear, however, that just as we condemn those who seek to put defence and the nuclear deterrent at risk, so we should thoroughly applaud the vast majority of public servants who loyally stay at their jobs and take on extra duties so that the intelligence services and the safety of the realm shall continue.

Mr. James Lamond

Before the right hon. Lady takes up too much of her time today worrying about those council tenants whose legal right to buy their houses she believes is being thwarted, will she take time to consider the far higher priority of the hundreds of thousands of would-be council tenants whose human rights are being offended by the fact that the Government's policy will mean that no council houses will be provided in the next two or three years?

The Prime Minister

I shall do everything to see that the legal rights of council tenants to purchase their own houses are honoured. The hon. Gentleman should remember that more than 100,000 council houses are vacant, and have been for some time.

27. Mr. Gordon Wilson

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 9 April.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply which I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Wilson

Is the Prime Minister aware of the anger in Scotland at the proposed takeover of the Royal Bank of Scotland by two banking companies competing for it? Will she take time today to meet the Secretary of State for Trade and request him to refer the whole question to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission without delay?

The Prime Minister

I believe that the legal position is that the Director General of Fair Trading has to consider the matter and make his recommendation to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade, who in turn will make his decision about a reference to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission before the final day for the bid.

Mr. Bill Walker

Will my right hon. Friend, during her busy day, find time to discuss with her Cabinet colleagues the problems in Dundee, where we have seen a surge of anti-semitism, 'which is a direct result of the flying of the PLO flag and the twinning of Dundee with Nablus?

The Prime Minister

Of course, I condemn wholly and utterly any anti-semitism anywhere in the United Kingdom. The purpose of twinning is for the people of each town to get to know each other better. I am sure that many people in Dundee would wish that their local council would give attention first to local matters.

Mr. Hardy

One cannot expect the Prime Minister to send a greeting to the Labour movement's rally in Bradford on Saturday, but will she at least consider sending an appropriate message to the rally that is to he held in Hyde Park on Sunday, organised by all the national youth bodies and led by the Rotherham youth service? It is a rally that is to be colourful, responsible and nonpartisan. What message would the right hon. Lady can; to give that rally?

The Prime Minister

That the best way to create jobs in the future is to get British industry competitive, that that is already happening, and that one of the main ways to do that is to fight inflation, because unless we beat inflation we shall not get industry competitive or have the jobs here.