HC Deb 12 July 1983 vol 45 cc758-9
Q1. Mr. Dubs

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 12 July.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others, including one with President Burnham of Guyana. 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. Dubs

Is the Prime Minister aware that, as a result of cuts in National Health Service spending, the South London hospital for women, which is the only hospital in this country that provides a full range of acute services by women for women, is under threat of closure? Does not the right hon. Lady owe it to the women of this country to keep that hospital open? Will she arrange for central funding to enable it to survive?

The Prime Minister

As I told the House when I last answered questions, I expect that expenditure on the National Health Service as a whole will be no lower than that announced in the public expenditure White Paper. Indeed, it will he higher in real terms in 1983–84 than in 1982–83. With regard to any particular hospital, including the South London — the question of its closure was raised long before the statement by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer last week—the usual procedures are being followed and ultimately this matter will come to the Secretary of State.

Mr. Higgins

In view of the Government's consistent support for the Gleneagles agreement, and their clear obligation under that agreement to discourage sporting links with South Africa, will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity today to make it clear that she is opposed to an MCC tour of South Africa?

The Prime Minister

Yes. Such a tour would be contrary to Gleneagles. My hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for sport has already written to the MCC' to let it know the Government's views.

Mr. Wardell

Does the Prime Minister accept that there is unfair discrimination against the long-term unemployed, who form the only group in our society eligible for supplementary benefit yet not eligible for the long-term rate? If the right hon. Lady agrees that that is unfair, will she reconsider the matter and end that discrimination?

The Prime Minister

No. The long term rate is usually available only to those who are going into permanent retirement. The turnround in unemployment over the year is considerable—about 350,000 leave the register each month. We do not think that the hon. Gentleman's suggestion would be appropriate.

Mr. Hordern

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be a good idea if the reasons why local authorities apparently need to borrow so much money were made known earlier so that markets could know where they stand? When will the Government require local authorities to sell some part of the 100,000 acres of surplus development land that they own so that more houses can be built and the construction industry put to work?

The Prime Minister

I have great sympathy with what my hon. Friend says, especially about the disposal of land that has been in the hands of local authorities for a long time. They also have access to capital by virtue of selling council houses. My hon. Friend is right. We do not have the means of controlling local authority borrowing. The extent to which they are borrowing is one of the causes of over expenditure at the moment.