HC Deb 26 October 1982 vol 29 cc886-7
Q2. Mr. Pawsey

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 October.

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.

Mr. Pawsey

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a new trade union has been launched today to safeguard the interests of nursery nurses and that that new trade union is pledged not to strike? Will she compare that responsible attitude with some of the actions of the trade unions involved in the National Health Service dispute?

The Prime Minister

No-strike rules in rule books are to be welcomed, and the new organisation is to be congratulated on the stance that it has taken. It follows the example of a similar union for professional teachers, which has stated that it will not strike. It is refreshing to find people who put the requirements of their job and their duty to children before their own selfish needs.

Mr. Foot

In view of the terrifying problems of the steel industry, will the right hon. Lady explain why she refused to receive a deputation from Scotland dealing with the steel industry this morning? Will she give us a clear assurance that, now that the matter is being dealt with by the Government, there will be no closure at Ravenscraig or any of the other main plants that are being threatened? Will she now go back on the statement that she made last Thursday about not wishing to introduce import controls to deal with this problem, and a similar problem in the motor industry?

The Prime Minister

The petition was handed in to No. 10 this morning by people working in the steel industry, and was received there. The right hon. Gentleman asks me to give undertakings about the future of particular plants. Yes, there is a serious problem in the steel industry here, in Europe and the world over. That problem is being reviewed by the British Steel Corporation. Any decisions about any major plants will be taken not by the British Steel Corporation alone but with the Government. We prefer to look at the figures and the proposals placed before us before reaching a decision.

With regard to imports, the right hon. Gentleman will have seen the statement by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry the other day. We are pressing the Commission for stronger measures of voluntary restraint with regard to importing steel into the Community. We are pressing the Community to uphold the agreements between the countries in the Community about quotas.

Mr. Foot

Will the Prime Minister say when some action will be taken to stop the flood of imports which threaten the future of the whole of British Steel and of other sections of industry, such as the motor industry? On the question of the major plants, does the right hon. Lady know that Mr. MacGregor has already said that the future of Ravenscraig and the other plants rests with the Government? When will the Government make a statement to the effect that these plants will be sustained in the interests of British industry as a whole?

The Prime Minister

I have already told the right hon. Gentleman that arrangements for the import of steel into the Community are made through the Community by way of voluntary restraint arrangements, and we are urging the Community to tighten those arrangements. Total import penetration of the United Kingdom steel market remains significantly lower than in a number of our European competitors. It is, nevertheless, very serious. However, action must be taken through the Community.

With regard to imports of cars, it would be wrong to put a protective barrier around the United Kingdom car industry. That would lead to inefficiency and loss of export markets. We try to have voluntary restraint agreements, such as the one with Japan, between motor car industries. The real protection, if I may put it that way, is for the industry to he competitive and to produce excellent cars.

Sir Bernard Braine

Despite her busy schedule, has my right hon. Friend's attention yet been drawn to the discovery in Argentina, in unmarked graves, of hundreds of victims of the Argentine junta? Is she aware that some 15,000 people at least disappeared from 1976 onwards? Is she taking any steps to ascertain whether, among these people, there have yet been found any bodies of the British subjects who disappeared during that time?

The Prime Minister

As I believe my hon. Friend knows, we have been in touch, for a number of years, with the Argentine Government, asking about the fate of certain British subjects. We are only too painfully aware of the human rights record of the Argentine Government, which is why, I believe, neither our country nor the House hesitated to free our own people in the Falklands from this tyranny.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

If British industry is now becoming so much more streamlined and competitive, as the Prime Minister claims, why are we now more vulnerable to imports than ever before?

The Prime Minister

British industry has become very much more competitive over the past year, but one year's improvement does not catch up with the many years of enormous increases in pay over production of the kind that took place when the right hon. Gentleman was in office.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

Has the right hon. Lady noticed that those consequences of the Northern Ireland Act that were feared and predicted by those who, like herself, were opposed to it, have not been slow to appear? What are now her intentions?

The Prime Minister

The Act was a Government measure. The people having been elected under its provisions, the Assembly must be set up.

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