HC Deb 21 May 1985 vol 79 cc851-4
Q2. Mr. Penhaligon

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 21 May.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others, including one with 26 leading industrialists to discuss their role in the Government's policy to increase the number of engineering and technology students. In addition to my duties in this House I shall be having further meetings later today, including one with the Prime Minister of Finland. This evening I shall be giving a dinner for the Prime Minister of Finland.

Mr. Penhaligon

Is the Prime Minister aware that a current Ministry of Defence order for 11,000 artillery shells is being fulfilled by a Belgium-based company which appears to be using Soviet TNT because it is cheapest? Can the Prime Minister let the House know what assurances have been given of continuity of supply in the event of hostilities between East and West?

The Prime Minister

The Department has a policy of introducing greater competition into — [Interruption.] Tenders are sought only from recognised and established sources of manufacture, predominantly within western Europe. We do not procure any ammunition direct from the eastern bloc. PRB, which got the order, is a Belgian state company with a high international reputation in the supply of ammunition, explosives and propellants. It is PRB which occasionally gets some of its explosives from eastern Europe.

Mrs. Ann Winterton

Has my right hon. Friend noted today the publicity surrounding the 15-year-old girl who has been made a ward of court in order to have an abortion, expressly against the wishes of her mother? Will my right hon. Friend join me in deploring this most unhappy event, and will she agree with me that, in the best interests of the family, parents must be responsible for their under-age children?

The Prime Minister

That is normally so, but understand that in this case the matter came before the court, and it would not therefore be appropriate for me to comment.

Q3. Mr. George Robertson

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday, 21 May.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Robertson

Will the Prime Minister give us the latest update on her feud with the Chancellor of the Exchequer over the solution to handling the rates promises that she has given? After the ignominous backdown in Scotland, the panic reaction in the face of the Scottish rebellion, and the £50 million buy-off which has only brought more problems for those whom she did not help. can she tell the House now who is winning the Cabinet battle to save her face?

The Prime Minister

I notice that I am constantly asked questions about the results of reviews which are still under way. The hon. Gentleman must contain his patience a good deal longer.

Mr. Butterfill

Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating the workers of London Transport on their enormous good sense in refusing to join in a strike about which they had not been consulted? Does she share with me the sense of achievement that the industrial relations legislation passed by the Government is seen to be working most satisfactorily?

The Prime Minister

I do share my hon. Friend's views. The industrial legislation which the Conservative Government passed in the teeth of Labour opposition has given rights to ordinary members of trade unions which enable them to have a decisive say in strikes and matters affecting their future. I note that any future Labour Government—which I hope there will never be—would attempt to repeal that legislation.

Mr. Steel

In contemplating last month's rise in inflation and the steady rise in unemployment, do any of the right hon. Lady's advisers ever suggest that what needs changing is not her voice but her policies?

The Prime Minister

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will note that the Government whom he supported through thick and thin, and whose existence he prolonged, never reached as low a level of inflation as 6–9 per cent.

Mr. Patrick McNair-Wilson

Will my right hon. Friend find time today to encourage the chairman of the National Coal Board to give permission to that group of miners who wish to invest their own money to finance and work their own pit? Does she agree that, as they will be producing mainly for the domestic market, there can be no logical reason for stopping that sensible extension of private enterprise?

The Prime Minister

I read the reports that a number of miners in Emley Moor colliery wanted to set up a miners' co-operative. I am sure that the NCB will consider carefully any proposals that the group may put forward. The Secretary of State for Energy and I recognise that some miners may want a more direct stake in their collieries, and that is a development that we would welcome in principle. We shall do everything to help.

Mr. Kinnock

As the Prime Minister said, the inflation rate is 6. per cent. Does she still think that it will go down to her promised target of 3 per cent?

The Prime Minister

As I said, the inflation rate is 6. per cent., which is below — [HoN. MEMBERS: "Answer."] It is below the lowest that the previous Labour Government ever managed to achieve. As the Chancellor of the Exchequer has already said, we expect it to be back at just over 5 per cent. by the end of the year, and then to continue its further route downwards.

Mr. Kinnock

May I ask the Prime Minister again: does she still think that the inflation rate will reach her promised target of 3 per cent., and if so, when will that occur? What changes in policy will the Prime Minister bring about to try to promote that, or is she really once again trying to con the country on inflation, as she tried to do on unemployment?

The Prime Minister

As I said, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has already said that we expect the rate to reach around 5 per cent. by the end of the year, and to be lower still in 1986. [Interruption.] Yes, I do want it lower still. Yes, I do want it at 3 per cent., and below. It is the right hon. Gentleman whose policies would take it right up to 27 per cent., which was the record reached under Labour.

Mr. Kinnock

When is the rate going to reach 3 per cent., or is the right hon. Lady copping out on this one again?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is talking his customary nonsense. We have a target of getting inflation down. The right hon. Gentleman's target would take inflation beyond the 27 per cent. that the previous Labour Government reached.

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