HC Deb 09 November 1982 vol 31 cc423-6
Q2. Mr. Joseph Dean

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

The Prime Minister

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House I shall be having further meetings later today. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty the Queen.

Mr. Dean

Will the Prime Minister reflect today on the statement made yesterday in the House by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and explain why the three most disadvantaged groups in our society—the old-age pensioners, the sick and disabled, and the unemployed—are apparently being called upon to make the most substantial financial contributions or sacrifices to pay for the Falkland Islands exercise?

The Prime Minister

An increase in those benefits of 11 per cent. at a time when many of the working population are obtaining much less means that those groups in our society are receiving preferential treatment, paid for by the working people. I note that the hon. Gentleman wants to put his hand deeper into the pockets of the working population.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

On what basis of economic logic or whatever does the Prime Minister disclaim responsibility for unemployment and take full credit for the decline in inflation?

The Prime Minister

The decline in inflation can in large measure be governed by what Governments do about the money supply and by what they pay to their employees. The level of unemployment largely depends on the type of goods that are produced by our factories and whether they are of a design and price that will ensure that they are bought by the working population. I am amazed that the right hon. Gentleman should even ask that question.

Sir Charles Fletcher-Cooke

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in only a few weeks' time the law of the sea treaty is due to be signed in Jamaica and that we still do not know whether the Government will sign it on behalf of the United Kingdom? Will my right hon. Friend ensure that one of her colleagues makes an early statement on this important subject, because divided views are held and there will be serious results whichever way the decision goes?

The Prime Minister

I am well aware of some of the clauses in that treaty. There is no doubt that the clauses on mining the sea bed would be very disadvantageous to this country, although there are other clauses, such as those concerning freedom of navigation, that would help us. We must consider carefully the balance of advantage before deciding whether to sign the treaty. At the last meeting, we did not vote for it.

Mrs. Renée Short

Is the Prime Minister aware that the Minister for Health recently told me that he intended to see a report about the proposed closure of the breast cancer screening clinic at the Royal Marsden hospital? Will she make it her business to see the report and give an undertaking to ensure that the comparatively small amount of money—about £100,000 per annum—that is needed to keep the clinic going will be provided, so that many women can be cured of breast cancer and so that even more can be relieved of anxiety?

The Prime Minister

I am not privy to the conversations between my hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Health and the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short). I know of the problem of that hospital and it is under consideration at the Department of Health and Social Security.

Q3. Dr. Mawhinney

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

The Prime Minister

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

Dr. Mawhinney

Has my right hon. Friend seen the report in today's edition of The Times, saying that members of the National and Local Government Officers Association are threatening mass resignations against the union's hard-line unilateral nuclear disarmament policy? Does that not once again confirm that the British people want their Government to work vigorously for world peace, but on the basis of multilateral disarmament?

The Prime Minister

I wholly agree with my hon. Friend. One-sided disarmament by this country would be an extremely dangerous step. It would imperil peace and jeopardise the freedom and justice that are essential to our way of life. This Government will never enter into one-sided disarmament. They require disarmament to be multilateral, as that is the only way of gaining peace and security.

Mr. Stoddart

In the light of the American vote in the United Nations on the Falkland Islands, and of the CIA's gun-running activities with the IRA, does the right hon. Lady really consider the United States, of America to be so reliable an ally that we should have cruise missiles in Britain from the end of 1983? Will she now cancel the programme?

The Prime Minister

I understand that there is no truth in the assertions about the CIA and the gun-running activities. With regard to the United States' vote on the United Nations resolution, I have made clear my views and disappointment at the action that they took, but it would be a mistake to fail to recognise that the United States is the final guarantor of peace and freedom and justice on our Continent of Europe. That peace and freedom and justice are safeguarded by the NATO alliance as a whole.


Mr. Allen McKay

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I listened carefully to the Prime Minister's reply to the question of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) about pensioners. Is it right that the Prime Minister should—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman knows that he must not involve me in arguments between the two sides of the House on matters of policy.

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