HC Deb 05 April 1984 vol 57 cc1110-2
Q4. Mr. Willie W. Hamilton

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 5 April.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Hamilton

Will the Prime Minister now give a simple yes or no answer to the following question? When she went to the palace of the Sultan of Oman to discuss the Cementation contract, was she then aware that her son was working for Cementation? Will she confirm or deny that the fee of £85,000 was paid to Mark, as reported in the press last Sunday?

The Prime Minister

I have answered many questions about my visit to Oman, the Oman university project and official meetings and discussions with representatives of the Government of Oman and others connected with the project. I have nothing further to add to those answers.

Mr. Rathbone

Will my right hon. Friend spare a moment today to plan with the Foreign Secretary a follow-up of British initiatives on the banning of chemical weapons and support for the new American initiatives in that sphere?

The Prime Minister

We welcome the recent initiatives by President Reagan to table further proposals. That initiative was foreshadowed in a speech by Mr. Shultz at the Stockholm conference recently. As my hon. Friend knows, we had previously tabled an initiative on chemical warfare, including the right to challenge inspection. We warmly support President Reagan's present initiative. At a time when chemical weapons have been used, it is extremely important that we should secure a comprehensive ban on their manufacture, stockpiling and use.

Mr. Steel

In standing up for British interests, how does the Prime Minister justify the sudden severe cut in milk production inflicted on Britain, when we are less than self-sufficient, whereas the French, who overproduce, will have only one third of those cuts? Is she aware that that policy could spell financial disaster, especially for small dairy farmers?

The Prime Minister

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, we are self-sufficient in liquid milk and almost self-sufficient in dairy products, perhaps more so when one takes into account the imports that we have in support from New Zealand. I had thought, perhaps mistakenly, that the right hon. Gentleman was in favour of the European Community and the common agricultural policy, although I would not necessarily have deduced that from what he has said today. I hope he will agree that the recent decisions to reduce the overall surpluses are in the interests of the Community and especially of those who pay for so many of the surpluses to be subsidised and sold cheaply to other countries.

Q5. Mr. Nicholas Winterton

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 5 April.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Winterton

My right hon. Friend has an outstanding reputation for visiting all parts of the United Kingdom. Will she try to find time in the not-too-distant future to visit some of the dairy farmers in my constituency and explain to them why the full burden of the irresponsibility of successive Governments and of the European Community is being placed on their shoulders? Bearing in mind that schemes have been introduced for the coal industry and the steel industry, in which restructuring has taken place, will the Government introduce a United Kingdom Government-funded scheme to help dairy farmers——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must not make a speech.

The Prime Minister

Other dairy farmers in other Community countries are taking just as big a cut in production as we are. In fact, in Germany and Holland the cut is slightly larger. I am sure my hon. Friend will agree that it was necessary to try to reduce the surpluses that have been produced year after year and have been stockpiled. For example, there is nearly a year's stockpile of butter in the Community.

There are schemes to help farmers. For example, the European Community has agreed to continue for two years the income aid for small dairy farmers. In addition, there are pension or lump sum aids for farmers who want to give up farming, and various grant schemes for those who want to invest to change the nature of their farming. I hope that these schemes will help. I recognise that it is diffcult for farmers, but I think they recognise that action had to be taken.