HC Deb 18 February 1986 vol 92 cc183-6
Q1. Mr. Gould

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagments for Tuesday 18 February.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be having further meetings later today, including one with the Prime Minister of Turkey.

Mr. Gould

Will the Prime Minister confirm what she appeared to say on television last night— that a firm such as Land Rover must choose between being British and being successful? Is it this despair about the future of British industries which makes her so keen to act as a broker for American interests in the proposed sale of Land Rover?

The Prime Minister

I am anxious that there should be good jobs here in companies here which have a great future. I am anxious that Land Rover and Freight Rover should have as big a market and as big a distribution service as possible, and I believe that we must consider the bids that have been made.

Sir Julian Ridsdale

Will my right hon. Friend find time today to congratulate Balfour Beatty on the successful conclusion of a joint venture with Japan to build a hydroelectric plant in Sri Lanka? Is this not a way forward in which we can balance our substantial trade imbalance with Japan and help the developing world?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend knows that this will be the second dam project with which we have assisted in Sri Lanka. The earlier project on the Victoria dam was extremely successful. The present one has been assisted by overseas aid and will bring great prosperity to Sri Lanka. I hope that it augurs well that we are cooperating with Japan.

Mr. Steel

As it now seems clear that going ahead with the Trident missile programme means jeopardising a successful deal between the United States and the Soviet Union on nuclear weapons in Europe, will the Prime Minister tell our American allies that she is willing to give up this expensive and unilateral escalation of British nuclear firepower?

The Prime Minister

No. I think that the right hon. Gentleman has fallen for Soviet Union propaganda. There is no question of Britain giving up her independent nuclear deterrent, and there is no question of the Trident programme being involved.

Mr. John Carlisle

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, as hon. Members enjoy freedom of speech and the right to reply in this place, that same right should be allowed to hon. Members in universities and places of further education?

The Prime Minister

The whole House will sympathise with my hon. Friend on the nasty incidents that he has experienced. I believe and hope that the whole House agrees that upholding freedom of speech in our institutions of higher education is vital and that we would like to express our view to that effect. I hope that the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals will make strenuous efforts to ensure that that right is upheld, so that hon. Members can speak freely at universities. Freedom of speech consists of being able to say things that are not acceptable to everyone.

Q2. Mr. Meadowcroft

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 18 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Meadowcroft

Does the Prime Minister recognise that what is happening in the British computer industry, in Westland, and perhaps even in British Leyland are not isolated events, but are part of a determined effort by American industrial power to influence what happens in British industry? Have the Government any policy to counter that?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman has referred to the British computer industry, I hope he realises that the Government have done a good deal to help ICL during its days of difficulty. I hope he will also recognise that many American companies have provided jobs, especially in development areas. I hope he will do nothing to stop that process.

Mr. Hayes

Will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity to condemn the violence and intimidation that are occurring on the picket lines at Wapping, particularly against the police? Will she try to persuade the leaders of SOGAT '82 and the National Graphical Association to take a leaf out of the book of the Leader of the Opposition and root out some of the extremists in their organisations?

The Prime Minister

Yes. We totally condemn the violence that has been occurring, and which we saw on the television screens on Saturday night, arising from the demonstrations outside Wapping. We understand that the majority were not thought to be printers. Nevertheless, it is disgraceful that they should attack the police. We totally support the police.

Mr. Kinnock

In condemning violence wherever it occurs, will the Prime Minister also acknowledge the contribution made by the leaders of SOGAT and the NGA to try to stop violence, and the way in which they have roundly condemned those who bring their unions and their activities into disrepute? When seven years of the Prime Minister's continuing policies have brought record and rising unemployment, record real interest rates, a record manufacturing trade deficit and a record tax burden, and when she tells the country that she will not change, is she not showing complete contempt for the people?

The Prime Minister

I recognise what the right hon. Gentleman said, and I am glad that he totally condemns violence — I hope on each and every picket line or demonstration where it occurs. I should be grateful if he would confirm that. I also point out that this Administration have carried out policies that have led to a record standard of living, record production and output, record expenditure on and a record number of patients treated under, the Health Service and a record standard of living for pensioners.

Mr. Kinnock

Looking at all of industry and at unemployment, is not the biggest record that of the wreckage that the right hon. Lady has brought?

The Prime Minister

In the last two years, as the right hon. Gentleman will have heard from questions shortly before Prime Minister's Question Time, a record number of jobs have been created. We have a better record than any other country in Europe, with 700,000 jobs in the last two years. That, together with efficient industry, is the way to get more jobs.

Mr. Nicholas Baker

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Argentine Members of Parliament who are visiting Britain should be made to feel extremely welcome, but told that sovereignty is not available for discussion, and that the way forward between our two countries is to negotiate the commercial exploitation of the area around the Falkland Islands?

The Prime Minister

I understand that Argentine Members of Parliament are in this country. We have done our best as a Government to restore commercial relations with Argentine to a normal basis, but our efforts have not met with reciprocation from the Argentine. I wish to make it absolutely clear that the sovereignty of the Falklands is not negotiable and that the wishes of the Falkland Islanders are and will remain paramount.

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