HC Deb 17 November 1983 vol 48 cc981-4
Q1. Mr. Barron

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 17 November.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House I shall be having further meetings later today, including one with President Kyprianou of Cyprus.

Mr. Barron

Is the Prime Minister aware that yesterday the Common Market scored another victory over this country with the threat to doorstep milk deliveries? When will the Government send a representative to fight for this country instead of allowing us to be a Common Market punchbag?

The Prime Minister

The House voted decisively on the matter before it yesterday. I see no reason to fear a threat to doorstep deliveries from the type of milk involved.

Mr. Kinnock

Does the Prime Minister agree with the view expressed on Monday by the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry that the west midlands is between the work-shy North, where there seems to be an attitude of waiting for the Government to bail them out, and the materialistic South? What help is that kind of slander, even for the people of the west midlands, where unemployment has increased by more than 200 per cent. under the Conservative Government? Will the Prime Minister now disown those comments and require the Minister concerned to make a full apology, preferably to a large public audience in the north of England?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend regrets that his remarks, which were intended to extol the virtues of the west midlands, may have inadvertently caused offence to other parts of the country to the north and to the south and he wishes unreservedly to withdraw them.

Mr. Kinnock

Is the increase in unemployment in all those areas inadvertent or deliberate?

The Prime Minister

That is a very poor question. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the problem of unemployment will be solved when all companies produce efficiently goods which he and his constituents will buy.

Sir Edward Gardner

When my right hon. Friend considers the case of British Aerospace for £400 million of refundable launch aid for the new A320 airbus, will she bear well in mind that British Aerospace has just had an outstanding success in securing £200 million worth of orders for the 146 jet airliners? Is she aware that withdrawal from the European Airbus Industrie Consortium would inevitably put at risk about 20,000 jobs and do grievous harm to the future of British Aerospace?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. and learned Friend said, British Aerospace has had a great success in achieving a new order for 20 aircraft and an option on a further 25. The demand for the Airbus is considerable and worth £440 million. The request must be carefully scrutinised. I do not want another Concorde on my hands. We are anxious that the new aircraft should be a great commercial success. If it is, it will make my decision easier.

Mr. Steel

In view of the policy adopted by the Government in the United Nations on the Falklands issue, and as there is a current round of talks with China about Hong Kong, will the Prime Minister make it clear to the House whether the wishes of the people of Hong Kong are to be as paramount or less paramount than those of the Falklanders?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman has missed a fundamental point—the Falkland Islands are freehold, Hong Kong is leasehold. Under the treaty—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is a very important reply.

The Prime Minister

Under the treaty—which, of course, the Opposition may not wish to honour—about 95 per cent. of the land reverts to China in 1997. The existence of the lease is causing great problems in the sense that most of the people of Hong Kong would wish to preserve the status quo. Nevertheless, that treaty exists.

Q2. Mr. Montgomery

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 17 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Montgomery

Sometime during her busy day, will my right hon. Friend study events in the north west of England, especially the dispute between the Messenger Newspaper group and the National Graphical Association? Is she aware that the union is defying the law by its illegal picketing and that there is harassment and intimidation of workers? Would it not be refreshing if the Leader of the Opposition were publicly to condemn the union bullyboys, preferably at a public meeting in the north of England where the workers are picketing?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend knows that the Government utterly condemn all attempts by trade unions to impose membership on employees, either by blacking employers or by unlawful picketing. I understand that the Messenger Newspaper group is trying to enforce an injunction today, and, therefore, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further upon the matter.

Mr. Dalyell

Freehold or not, what will the Government do about last night's United Nations resolution?

The Prime Minister

We shall carry on as before. To honour the wishes of the Falkland Islanders would be wholly in keeping with the wishes of the Government. It used also to be in accordance with the wishes of the Opposition. I hope that it still is.

Mr. John Carlisle

As this is the last Question Time that my right hon. Friend will attend before going to the Commonwealth conference, may I ask her to assure the House that she will resist any attempts by other Commonwealth leaders to stiffen the Gleneagles agreement and will maintain the rights of British sportsmen to play wherever they wish throughout the world, including South Africa?

The Prime Minister

I expect the Gleneagles agreement to be maintained in its present form.

Q3. Mr. Alton

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 17 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Alton

Given that local expenditure has increased by 20 per cent. less than central Government expenditure since 1979, on what evidence does the Prime Minister base her oft-repeated claim that central Government are more efficient, better managed and less wasteful than local government?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have made strenuous attempts to cut down the bureaucracy in central Government. As he will also know, having heard it from this Dispatch Box many times, we now have fewer people in the Civil Service than at any time in the post-war period. That fact demonstrates the efforts that we have made. We hope that similar efforts will be made by local authorities.

Mr. Tapsell

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the world seems to have entered upon an exceptionally dangerous phase in its history? Will she consider, in these critical times, inviting Lord Carrington to resume his post at the Foreign Office?

Mr. Skinner

This question has been planted.

The Prime Minister

I know that my hon. Friend will be pleased to hear that there is an important international post in mind for Lord Carrington.

Mr. Cowans

Will the Prime Minister reflect on her answer to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, which will bring no consolation to the people of the north? Will the right hon. Lady further reflect that not so long ago she stood at the Dispatch Box and praised those people, who are now being called work-shy by one of her Ministers, for their efforts to get aircraft carriers to sea during the Falklands crisis? Although the right hon. Lady has made excuses for her hon. Friend, she has not withdrawn, on behalf of the Government, all of his remarks, nor has she dissociated herself from them. I plead with her to withdraw those remarks because they are an insult, not only to my constituents, but to her own constituents in the south.

The Prime Minister

If the hon. Gentleman had been listening, he would have heard exactly what I said. Those remarks were unreservedly withdrawn.

Mr. Canavan

Sack him.

The Prime Minister

When an apology is made in the House it is normally accepted gracefully.

Mr. Amery

When my right hon. Friend meets President Kyprianou, will she make it clear that while we deplore deeply the unilateral declaration of independence of Mr. Denktash, there is no question of Britain imposing sanctions on the Turkish Cypriots? Equally, it would be quite unrealistic to ask the Turkish Government to withdraw their recognition of the Denktash regime. Is it not our moral obligation to use our good offices to try to bring the two parties together?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my right hon. Friend. We are trying to do everything we can to bring the two parties together. We are directing our efforts to restoring a unitary state of Cyprus, which I am sure is what my right hon. Friend would wish, as he played so large a part in some of the early negotiations. It would not be helpful to go into other possibilities until we have seen whether we can achieve that most desirable purpose.