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Mr. Foulkes : Is the Minister aware that there has been an exceptionally high increase in electricity sales by Northern Ireland Electricity? In view of that, when will the decision be made about funding the extension to Kilroot, which is vital not just for Northern Ireland, but for Ayrshire open-cast coal and the port of Ayr?
Mr. Needham : I understand the hon. Gentleman's constituency interest in this subject. We must consider carefully whether we should fit flue gas desulphurisation at Kilroot II and whether we could have an interconnection with Scotland, which would benefit Scotland also. I need to ensure that we do not import Ayrshire coal only to send it back to Scotland as acid rain. I accept that Kilroot II is important. Preliminary planning work is continuing and I shall make an announcement on it as soon as I can.
Mr. Haynes : Is the Minister aware that hon. Members on the mainland share the concern of hon. Members representing Northern Ireland about the problems associated with Northern Ireland? Outside the Education Reform (Northern Ireland) Order I would like to know whether the Minister shares my belief that there should be total integration of children in schools?
Dr. Mawhinney : First, it is one of the sadnesses of the education reform proposals for Northern Ireland that the majority of hon. Members representing Northern Ireland have expressed no views on them during the consultation process. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will welcome the fact that the Order in Council is likely to include specific proposals to promote and to facilitate integrated education in Northern Ireland.
The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher) : This morning I presided at a meeting in the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be having further meetings later today.
Mr. Franks : Will my right hon. Friend confirm that she would not have a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in her Cabinet and that the Conservative party is not in the business of perjuring and prostituting its principles and policies in the pursuit of power?
The Prime Minister : I gladly confirm what my hon. Friend seeks. Nuclear deterrence is a fundamental part of our defence strategy and also of NATO's defence strategy. I notice that the Opposition refused to elect their official spokesman on defence to their shadow Cabinet and instead elected a member of CND--doubtless to keep the Leader of the Opposition company.
Mr. Smith : Will the Prime Minister categorically deny that British military personnel have been involved in the Cambodian conflict through training forces now under the effective control of the bloodstained Pol Pot?
Dame Jill Knight : May I invite my right hon. Friend to use this opportunity to say a word of welcome for a document produced today-- "An Evolutionary Approach to Economic and Monetary Union"? Does she agree with me that it contains a far better suggestion for closer economic and monetary co-operation in Europe than anything put forward so far by Mr. Delors?
The Prime Minister : Yes, it is an excellent paper which shows that one can achieve closer economic and monetary co-operation much better and more rapidly by working with the grain of market forces than by setting up new bureaucratic and highly centralised institutions which are
Column 464not accountable to anyone. The paper honours the commitment which we gave at Madrid that we would put forward an alternative approach ; this document is that alternative approach.
The Prime Minister : There is no change in the status of the Bank of England proposed at the moment. The main objective is to reduce inflation. That is the Government's task. We shall not abdicate responsibility for it.
Mr. Kinnock : Will the Prime Minister confirm or deny the dependable report that she turned down this proposal because she felt that it would have been admitting defeat in the battle against inflation?
The Prime Minister : No. It is the Government's job to get inflation down. That task we shall carry out ourselves. We shall not abdicate responsibility. It is not our system to place that responsibility on the Bank of England.
The Prime Minister : The matter was not widely discussed. It is not on the agenda. I wonder if it is on the right hon. Gentleman's agenda. Does he propose to pass responsibility to the Bank of England, which would require legislation and to which its constitution is so totally unsuited? Does he or does he not?
Mr. Arnold : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the abolition of the national dock labour scheme has now been accepted by everyone in the port industry? Furthermore, has my right hon. Friend noted that in Gravesham a major wharf has already reopened, creating many dock workers jobs? In the light of that and other examples round the country, is it not the case that all who voted against the scheme's abolition should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves?
The Prime Minister : Yes, the abolition of the dock labour scheme has been a great success and will be of particular advantage to those ports which were previously subject to it. They will be very much more prosperous now that they are not so restricted. We must congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment on the skilful way in which the legislation was introduced and passed through the House.
Mr. Boateng : Will the Prime Minister take time today to reflect on the plight of 53,000 war widows who, because their husbands died before March 1973, receive a pension of between a half and a quarter less than those whose
Column 465husbands died after that date, and have a standard of living substantially below that of pensioners in Japan and Germany? Do we not owe these women a debt of honour and is it not time it were paid?
The Prime Minister : There are two pensions which war widows can receive. One is paid by the Department of Social Security. This is the war widow's pension which applies equally to all war widows regardless of the date on which they were widowed. The other is an occupational pension scheme which is run by the Ministry of Defence and which, like all occupational pension schemes, is not retrospective. Indeed, it could never have been introduced had it been retrospective. We try to help the older war widows who are not entitled to any help under the occupational pension scheme by an age allowance which gives them a higher pension as they get older.
Mr. Alexander : Will my right hon. Friend join me in expressing the sense of outrage by my rail commuting constituents at the prospect of an increase in rail fares of up to 21 per cent. for the second year running? Does she agree that the standard of timing is worse, the buffet service a joke and getting a seat a lottery? What will she do to help to have this proposal reversed?
The Prime Minister : As my hon. Friend is aware, the British Rail and London Underground decisions are to be announced later this afternoon. I think I should point out that investment in British Rail is at its highest for a quarter of a century. As my hon. Friend has said, perhaps there needs to be a good deal more investment, but it has to be paid for. Investment in the London Underground is also at record levels. I am afraid that that partly explains the increase in fares which are to come about.
Mr. Buchan : Will the right hon. Lady reflect a little more seriously on the deplorable answer that she gave my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith) about Kampuchea? Has it not been abundantly exemplified that British troops have been involved in the training of forces under Sihanouk which are involved with the Khmer Rouge coalition? Is not our support for the United Nations resolution which, by definition will involve Pol Pot forces, even more explicit? Will she deny that, and if not, will she investigate it and put the Foreign Office in its proper place?
Representation in the United Nations is done by the democratic alliance of Prince Sihanouk, which includes the Khmer Rouge. There has not been a vote on that since 1982, but the representation is that of the democratic alliance.
Column 466kind of slaughter of innocent victims-- especially of children--only stiffens the resolve of the British people-- [Interruption.] Wait for it, you rabble--
Mr. Conway : Will my right hon. Friend send these copies to the Irish Prime Minister with the message that the British people have the greatest resolve to stand behind their security forces against physical attack by the IRA or verbal attack by the Haughey Government?
The Prime Minister : Everyone in this House utterly condemns the murder by the IRA not only of the baby but of many other people. We are fully behind our security forces and we make that plain to the Government of the Republic of Ireland time and again. I fully endorse what my hon. Friend says about that.
Mr. Winnick : Do the Government intend to hold an immediate inquiry into the serious allegations of insider dealings? As a Cabinet Minister has been mentioned indirectly, will he make a statement to the House about the arrangements that he made with his stockbrokers?
Mr. Dunn : Does the Prime Minister agree that while it is right to promote the growth of democracy in the Eastern bloc, now is the time to promote it in some of the countries that are members of the British Commonwealth?
The Prime Minister : As my hon. Friend knows, not all members of the British Commonwealth are democracies. Some have military Governments and some have a different definition of democracy from ours. It is the purpose of the Commonwealth to help all countries to reach the objectives set out in the Singapore declaration of 1971--freedom under a rule of law and full democracy. We should sustain these countries through the intermediate period until they can attain that objective.
Column 467interest rates had to be raised in order to prevent young people being priced out of the housing market? Are Ministers so out of touch that they do not understand that high mortgage repayments are just as serious a barrier to home ownership as high prices?
The Prime Minister : I would not accept the interpretation put by the hon. Gentleman on my right hon. Friend's remarks. Interest rates were raised because monetary conditions were too loose and therefore it was necessary to get inflation down.
Mr. Foulkes : Will the Prime Minister now answer the question asked so eloquently by my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) in relation to Cambodia? This is a very serious matter and on two occasions in this Question Time the Prime Minister has dodged the issue. Now for a third time she has an opportunity to answer to the House. I hope that she will do so.
The Prime Minister : I note that the hon. Gentleman was taken by surprise, could not think up a question and had to repeat an old one. I will therefore repeat the answer that I gave. Our abhorrence of Pol Pot's murderous regime is well known and there is no question of our supporting the Khmer Rouge. I hope that the hon. Gentleman has got it clear now.
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