Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1975 Apr 10 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [889/1402-09]
Editorial comments: 1515-47.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2515
[column 1402]

Scotland

Q1. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Prime Minister if he will pay an official visit to Scotland.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) on 8th April.

Mr. Hamilton

Can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that he will visit Scotland in the course of the referendum campaign? Will he accept from me that he will get a particularly warm welcome in Glenrothes New Town, where virtually every industrialist will tell him that he desperately wants us to stay in the European Economic Community? Will he also tell them that two recent public opinion polls—one published this morning—show that about two to one of the British public want to stay in the EEC and that even in Scotland a majority of the people want to stay in?

[column 1403]

The Prime Minister

As to visiting Scotland in the course of the referendum campaign, my hon. Friend will know that when I addressed the Scottish Labour Party in Aberdeen—he may well have been there—I spoke on this question at some length. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he has told me about Glenrothes. It is true of a number of areas where a great deal of new industry has been established. I have always been extremely reserved about public opinion polls as being accurate forecasts, but I have seen both of those referred to by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

In view of last night's vote in the House, will the Prime Minister take an early opportunity to advise the Scottish people which Minister is responsible for explaining the Government's case and the advantages to Scotland of Britain's remaining in the EEC?

The Prime Minister

All Ministers, Sir.

Prime Minister (Speech)

Q2. Mr. Lawson

asked the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech at Taunton on 8th March on wages, prices and jobs.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Rost) on 14th March.

Mr. Lawson

Bearing in mind that on 18th December last year the Chancellor of the Exchequer told the House that 25 per cent. of the people who had settled since July had received increases outside the TUC guidelines, can the Prime Minister say, with or without the aid of his slide rule, what the comparable figure is now? In particular, can he say how it compares with the 43 per cent. of the Parliamentary Labour Party who were good enough to follow him into the Lobby last night?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman's supplementary question obviously flopped, did it not? No doubt it was very carefully prepared. The question of compliance with the guidelines is the subject of frequent statements by my right hon. [column 1404]Friends, myself and others. However, I have not noticed from the Conservative benches at any time—perhaps the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition will give a lead here—a desire to express satisfaction and pleasure when difficult industrial situations have been resolved, including that concerning the London dockers, who are facing great anxiety about the loss of dock employment.

However, on the general issue, I commend to the hon. Gentleman the very wise words of the Opposition Front Bench spokesman on financial affairs, the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell), who warned his party, including those on the Front Bench, about a neurosis—[An Hon. Member: “Reading” .] I can read actually. The hon. Member for Guildford warned his party about drifting into “a neurosis about trade union pay claims” and said that

“A Government which now tried to take on the unions purely over pay would be fighting the wrong battle in the wrong war.” I wonder whether the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson) and the Leader of the Opposition agree with their hon. Friend.

Mr. Noble

Since the social contract forms the cornerstone of the Government's economic policy—[Hon. Members: “Where is it?” ]—would it not be advisable if those who have sincerely observed it for so long were given some help in terms of job protection and if we had immediate quotas imposed on textile imports?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend knows that the question of textiles is being seriously considered. Successive Governments of both parties have imposed controls in these affairs when there has been dumping or unfair competition. We are examining this matter very closely indeed.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

Too slow!

Mr. Peyton

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that after the events of last night he would be well advised to avoid the use of phrases like “obvious flop” ?

The Prime Minister

Since the right hon. Gentleman was a distinguished Minister in, I think, the 1960s Government who was then relegated to the back benches and who spent half of the last [column 1405]Parliament on the back benches, I do not have to look far to see an obvious flop. It may be that this is one of his cyclical returns to the Front Bench. I assure him that it will not last long and that he is always better from the back benches. When he got up, I thought he was about to answer on behalf of his very shy right hon. Friend the leader of his party my question about whether the statements of its finance spokesman represent the policy of the Conservative Party.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

May I ask the Prime Minister whether he heard the announcement on the radio today that the Government have decided to make a further increase to the Civil Service above and outside of the social contract? If that be the case, may I ask him please not to follow the example of both Governments in recent years by announcing this during the forthcoming recess, because there are many hon. Members who would like to discuss this in the House?

The Prime Minister

I may be wrong but I have the impression this week that the House is anything but in recess. I did not hear the programme, but with regard to what appears to have been an incorrect statement broadcast this morning, this was taken from an equally incorrect statement in the Press. There has been no decision on the pay of the clerical, industrial and other grades. The negotiations are still continuing. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me the chance to correct any false impression that may have been created by incorrect reports.

Mr. Thorpe

Since the Prime Minister's excellent speech at Taunton dealt with jobs and full employment, and since the Prime Minister has powers of hiring and firing people——

Mr. William Hamilton

So have the Young Liberals.

Mr. Thorpe

Yes, but at least my problems are not in this House. Will the Prime Minister tell us, in the light of Monday's guidelines whereby Questions are likely to be transferred from politically unreliable Ministers to reliable Ministers, whether the 7 per cent. of Ministers will now have their Questions transferred to politically reliable Ministers, and, if so, whether he will put those other Ministers on half pay or whether he will declare [column 1406]them redundant and replace them with Ministers who can do a full day's work for a full day's pay in the national interest?

The Prime Minister

Unlike the former Leader of the Conservative Party a year ago, I never for a moment thought of hiring the right hon. Gentleman, even unpaid.

Mr. Thorpe

Thank God!

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman in referring to my speech at Taunton is straying a long way from the original Question. I have made clear the position of Ministers in reply to questions earlier. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to go on pleasing his party, which I am assured is delighted with him for his frivolity in deep political matters, that is something for his party. It does not concern the rest of the House.

Mrs. Thatcher

If Ministers stay in office when their views are rejected by a substantial majority of the House, how can they be said to be accountable to a sovereign Parliament?

The Prime Minister

We now know that the right hon. Lady stayed in office for three and a half years when she did not agree with a decision. If there were one or two other decisions, perhaps she will one day get up and say what they were.

Hon. Members

Answer.

The Prime Minister

I have answered this question a number of times already. I have made it plain that Ministers have a full job of work with their departmental responsibilities. Perhaps the right hon. Lady will now say whether she agrees with the hon. Member for Guildford.

Trades Union Congress

Q3. Mr. Golding

asked the Prime Minister when last he met the General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress.

Q4. Mr. Pardoe

asked the Prime Minister when he next plans to meet the TUC.

The Prime Minister

I met the General Secretary of the TUC yesterday and further meetings with the TUC will be arranged as necessary.

[column 1407]

Mr. Golding

Will my right hon. Friend say whether he discussed with Len Murray the undoubted improvement in industrial relations that has taken place over the past 12 months?

The Prime Minister

It is, of course, a fact that the figures for the number of days lost through strikes in the first two months of this year are better than for any year since 1969, when we were previously in office. It is also a fact that what has happened under this Government compares with the 24 million man-days lost in 1972—with the full support, I have no doubt, of the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition. I mentioned to representatives of the TUC last night that industrialists are coming to this country from the United States on a mission, which the Government will assist and facilitate, to try to persuade more Americans to invest in Britain and to start factories here. The reason they gave to me—this happened yesterday afternoon—was that there was much greater stability in industrial relations in Britain than in the United States.

Mr. Pardoe

Did the right hon. Gentleman ask the TUC leaders to study the latest report of the OECD on the British economy? Will he make clear whether that report, based as it is on the figures and calculations of the British Civil Service, represents the views of the Government? Will he confirm that the report shows that, apart from industrial relations, in every other respect the British economy is now far more dangerously placed than it was at the time of the November Budget or of the last election?

The Prime Minister

I did not discuss this with the General Secretary, who of course is very well briefed on all international and national documents about the economic situation. [An Hon. Member: “Including the Common Market.” ] Like everyone else in this country, the General Secretary is free to form his opinion on that. But whatever opinion he forms is not based on a lack of briefing.

With regard to the OECD figures, which the Conservative Party in the last election said were “cooked” by the British Civil Service, these are the organisation's extrapolations of historical figures produced by the Government for the time being, whichever party is in power, and they are indeed gloomy. They reinforce [column 1408]certain warnings we have given, although unemployment, while the unemployment situation causes great anxiety in this country, has increased considerably less than in most of our competitor countries. We have to do all in our power to keep it that way.

Mr. McNamara

Does my right hon. Friend realise that, although we welcome foreign investment which is likely to come to this country from the United States and we recognise the stability and hard work of the British working class and their ability to make goods, we resent any industry doing what Litton Industries did in putting 1,400 people out of work in Hull without notice and leaving them completely on the scrap heap?

Mr. Greville Janner

And in Leicester.

The Prime Minister

Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend. That firm, both in Hull and in Leicester, behaved deplorably. and not in accordance with the best standards of British industry. For whatever reason, the firm decided to close its factories without consultation with the workers. The purpose of current legislation before the House is to get the highest possible standards for all industrial firms in this country in relation both to consultation and to accountability, not only to those who work for them but to the nation as a whole.

Sir David Renton

Will the Prime Minister discuss with the TUC the question of avoiding in future the deplorable damage done to our economy by the recent dock strike? Is he aware that a small body of activists was able to keep out of work thousands of men who wanted to return to work? Why was no Minister prepared to intervene to help to bring that strike to an end and so avoid that damage to the economy?

The Prime Minister

I referred to the dock strike a few minutes ago. I agree about the damage. In common with other hon. Members on both sides of the House, I also represent a considerable number of dockers. One has to recognise that dock workers are extremely anxious about the posiiton. With the closure of docks and the development of the container trade inland, it is natural that they are anxious and can be worked on by militants. In this case, I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman [column 1409]would pay tribute to the courage shown by Mr. Jack Jones, the general secretary of the union——

Sir D . Renton

indicated assent.

The Prime Minister

—who also visited me last night. It is true that for a time the militants got control dishonestly and deceptively and gave false tallies of the numbers who were voting. As for a Minister intervening, I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman realises the deep sensitivity in the docks at present because of the ludicrously dangerous policy followed by the previous Government when they put five dockers in goal on ideological grounds.