Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1975 May 20 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [892/1208-16]
Editorial comments: 1515-30.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 3085
Themes: Commonwealth (general), Employment, European Union (general)
[column 1208]

Tourism (Minister's Speech)

Q1. Mr. Tim Renton

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech by the Secretary of State for Trade on tourism on 30th April represents Government policy.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

I refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley) on 15th May.

Mr. Renton

Does the Prime Minister agree with the Secretary of State's comment in that speech that the Government should not expect to have to inject funds indefinitely into particular activities? What limit will he therefore put on the amount of public funds being sunk into unprofitable activities? What encouragement will he give to successful industries, such as insurance, which simply wish the Government to get off their backs?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend was speaking within the context of tourism. He was speaking about the need to channel money for encouraging tourism to areas which were in need of additional tourism and which had many natural attractions, especialy the assisted areas and areas of high unemployment. As regards insurance, the hon. Gentleman will have seen that we have introduced a valuable scheme to supplement [column 1209]the insurance undertaken by individuals within the tourist trade.

Commonwealth Prime Minister's Conference

Q2. Mr. Bean

asked the Prime Minister what reaction he has received from the other Heads of Governments at the Commonwealth Conference in Jamaica to his initiative on commodities.

Q3. Mr. Dykes

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the outcome of the recent meeting of Commonwealth Heads of Government in Jamaica.

Q5. Mr. Gow

asked the Prime Minister what representations were made to him at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference about the continued membership of the United Kingdom of the European Economic Community.

Q8. Mr. Ward

asked the Prime Minister what response he has had from the other Heads of Government at the Commonwealth Conference in Jamaica to his initiative on commodities.

Q9. Mr. R. C. Mitchell

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on Rhodesia following discussions at the Commonwealth Conference in Jamaica.

Q10. Mr. Kilroy-Silk

asked the Prime Minister whether, following the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, he will make a statement on Rhodesia.

The Prime Minister

I refer my hon. Friends and the hon. Members to the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) on 13th May and to the text of the communiqué of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, which has been issued as a White Paper (Cmnd. 6066).

Mr. Bean

I read the final communiqué of the Commonwealth Conference with interest. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the success of the commodity agreement. Does he agree that it is vital for the developing nations that there should be stable commodity prices but that it is also vital that there should be a policy to increase world food production? [column 1210]Does he agree that there is now an opportunity for Britain to take the lead in formulating a policy on increasing world food production and to develop a policy of controlling the distribution of fertilisers?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. I believe that that was a successful initiative. It received wide support, although not the 100 per cent. support of those Commonwealth countries which seek big changes in all world commodity, trade and financial arrangements. However, it received wide support from a large number of developing countries. We expressed the view that there should be a shift of resources and wealth from the advanced industrial countries to the poorer developing countries. The agreement places great emphasis on the expansion of production, especially food production, following the World Food Council. That matter will be further explored at a special session of the United Nations in the autumn and also during the forthcoming meeting this month of OECD which will be chaired by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on the first day and by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the second day.

Mr. Dykes

Since that other wellknown Socialist Prime Minister, Mr. Gough Whitlam, like other Commonwealth leaders, positively endorsed our membership of the Community at the recent Commonwealth Conference, will the Prime Minister explain what his reaction was when Mr. Whitlam made the astonishing recent utterance that he had received private messages from the Secretary of State for Trade and other anti-EEC Ministers begging him to denounce our membership of the Community, which he had been obliged to reject?

The Prime Minister

It is certainly the case that Mr. Gough Whitlam, on his visit to Britain before Christmas and again at the conference, strongly pressed his hope that the British people would vote for Britain to stay in the Community. As far as I am aware, he made no statement on the lines indicated by the hon. Genteman. Although I had a long discussion with him, he never raised the matter with me.

Mr. Gow

Is the Prime Minister able to confirm that no single Commonwealth [column 1211]Government asked the British Government to withdraw from the European Community?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. I spoke to practically all the Heads of Government there, and that was the strong reaction that I got. When the matter was raised by the Prime Minister of Guyana, supported by the Prime Minister of Canada and New Zealand, the Commonwealth Conference agreed that staying in the Market would not prejudice any Commonwealth country. On the motion of the President of Tanzania, supported by others, the conference was asked to include in the statement that it was a positive advantage, and some leaders of the Commonwealth said to me that if Britain were to pull out they would feel a sense of being let down regarding their own national interests and the wider interests of the Commonwealth. The statement went on to say that they took Britain's membership, with what we have been able to achieve there, as a sign, which was pleasing to them, that the Common Market was more outward looking than some of them and some of us had feared.

Mr. MacFarquhar

If there is a “Yes” vote in the referendum, will my right hon. Friend undertake immediately thereafter to summon a meeting of the Heads of Government of the European Economic Community to discuss his initiative on commodities in the light of discussions at the Commonwealth Conference?

The Prime Minister

We have already put to the Heads of Government of the Community the proposals that we made on commodities and have discussed them with other friends and allies in other parts of the world. These matters will be further discussed—and I think that most, if not all, Community countries will be represented there—at the OECD meeting at the end of this month to which I have referred. I understand that proposals are being worked out for a meeting of Heads of Government of Community countries sometime in July.

Mr. Thorpe

Will the Prime Minister accept my apologies for not being here on 13th May to hear his original answer? Is he aware that I was commending to the steel workers of Ebbw Vale [column 1212]acceptance of the Government's policies for remaining in the Common Market? Is he further aware that the local Member seems to have shifted somewhat in that direction?

May I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman—[Hon. Members: “Question.” ] If one is allowed by his back benchers to congratulate the Prime Minister, may I first congratulate him—[Hon. Members: “Question.” ] I hope——

Mr. Speaker

Order. It must be in the interrogative.

Mr. Thorpe

May I ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware that the initiative he took on commodities at the Commonwealth Conference was widely welcomed in the developing world, not least in the Commonwealth, as a positive initiative which is greatly valued?

Secondly, and finally, may I ask the Prime Minister, arising from the Lomé Convention, whether he will take the initiative after the referendum to see that the Nine, of whom many of us hope we shall continue to be one, summon a conference of the Heads of Government of the Community?

The Prime Minister

I tried to recall the terms of the communiqué and the discussions. I cannot remember that the movements of the right hon. Gentleman on 13th May were in any way discussed or regarded as of any importance by the Commonwealth Conference. I note that the right hon. Gentleman went to Ebbw Vale. Obviously, since he spoke there, he did not go by helicopter or he would not have got there.

Mr. Thorpe

Yes, I did.

The Prime Minister

I am delighted that he has had final success there.

I welcome what the right hon. Gentleman said on commodities. This is a matter of great importance, as he said, not only to Commonwealth countries but to other developing countries, both those which are fairly rich as a result of high commodity prices and those which are still very poor and affected by commodity and oil prices.

The Lomé Convention was wholeheartedly welcomed by the Commonwealth Conference. The right hon. [column 1213]Gentleman will see the reference in paragraph 38 of the communiqué. We all said that we should now ask the Eight to join us in building on Lomé in relation to Commonwealth Asian and other Asian countries.

Mrs. Thatcher

As the Commonwealth wants us to stay in Europe, will Harold Wilsonthe Prime Minister take the opportunity of repudiating the allegation by Tony Bennthe Secretary of State for Industry that the trade link with Europe has been the cause of the loss of half a million jobs here?

The Prime Minister

I do not agree with those figures. The Commonwealth wants us to remain in the Community for all the reasons that the Commonwealth countries have stated and which I have recapitulated this afternoon. Certainly there would be serious economic problems for the Commonwealth as well as for this country if we did not stay in. It is a fact, as the right hon. Lady will know, that Commonwealth trade with Britain was seriously prejudiced by the terms of entry which were originally negotiated—notably the sugar agreement and New Zealand. The ending of the CSA was very costly to Britain last year. The Commonwealth has made other arrangements, but we have restored some of its rights, particularly regarding New Zealand and the sugar agreement countries, as a result of the renegotiations, which clearly the right hon. Lady will welcome.

National Economic Development Council

Q4. Mr. Horam

asked the Prime Minister if he plans to chair the next meeting of the NEDC.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. I hope to do so on Tuesday 17th June.

Mr. Horam

Now that the NEDC is clearly recovering from the battering that it received from the last administration, does my right hon. Friend agree that it has a clear rôle in central planning and the encouraging of more open debate between the Government and both sides of industry? Will he therefore encourage it to play a more dynamic and decision-oriented rôle?

The Prime Minister

I have this afternoon criticised the previous administration [column 1214]for battering certain institutions, for example the Commonwealth, but I have no evidence that NEDC received a battering from the previous administration. Since NEDC was originated by the then Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer—yourself, Mr. Speaker—it has continued to progress. The significant developments in NEDC recently have been the serious study being given on a tripartite basis to the problems of industrial investment, the problems of nationalised industry investment programmes and now, increasingly, the tripartite examination of economic questions. In a recent television broadcast, which so delighted Opposition Members, I proposed further consultations in relation to the growth of product, incomes and expenditure and public expenditure. This work has been made easier by what has been done by NEDC over the past few months.

Mr. Baker

When he takes the chair at NEDC, will the Prime Minister ask it to discuss the industrial production figures for March of this year? If he considers those figures he will find that the output of British factories in March this year reached only the level it reached in the three-day working week. To what particular aspect of his stewardship of the nation's affairs does the Prime Minister attribute this starting recovery?

The Prime Minister

NEDC does not approach these problems from the political attitude of the hon. Gentleman. It is much more constructive. The hon. Gentleman will have noticed—NEDC is certainly aware, and the figures will be deployed in the next two or three days—that it is now clear that during the serious world depression in a number of countries the fall in production from the peak of last year ranges from 20 per cent. in Japan to 4 per cent. in Britain and that, at a time of world recession comparable with the 1930s, the fall in production in Britain under the Labour Government is lower than it is any other OECD country.

Mr. Roy Hughes

Will my right hon. Friend comment on today's report alleging that Sir Monty Finniston 's statement calling for over 20,000 redundancies in the steel industry was part of a preconceived plan to shop the trade unions? Bearing in mind the despondency that this has [column 1215]caused throughout the industry and in whole communities, particularly in Wales, does not the Prime Minister deprecate that sort of statement?

The Prime Minister

In answering Questions it is a tradition that there is no ministerial responsibility for nonsense appearing in the Press from time to time. I should have a full-time job in the House if I had to deal with all the nonsense that appears in the Press, including some comments which appeared this morning. For example, it was said that I shall speak in the debate on Thursday only because the reluctant debutante the Leader of the Opposition has finally agreed to speak. My right hon. Friend the Chief Whip will be aware that I told him to make no deal with the Opposition that would prevent me from speaking, whatever the right hon. Lady might finally decide to do.

Mr. Prior

In view of the dithering by Ministers this morning in Committee, will the Prime Minister make a clear statement that the Government will support—as many of his hon. Friends and the Opposition wish—the release of funds for trade unions which wish to hold union ballots by post? Will he give a firm undertaking that that is the Government's policy?

The Prime Minister

I have had no report from the Committee this morning. There has been no report to the House, but I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for bringing it to my attention. I certainly support postal ballots in these matters. We shall consider any suggestions made by the Committee or coming from any other source as to how that procedure can be facilitated.

Mr. Pardoe

Is the Prime Minister aware of the suggestion by the Director General of NEDC that stability of investment could be attained by bringing representatives of Opposition parties into NEDC? Does he accept the view of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection that this procedure would help, and is he aware that it is a splendid suggestion provided that, like Mr. Scanlon, the representative of the Liberal Party holds the balance of power?

The Prime Minister

The Liberal Party can give its views to NEDC by postal [column 1216]ballot arrangements. The remark that the hon. Gentleman attributes to my right hon. Friend is not correct. That was not what she said. There will always be time to consider whether the two major Opposition parties have anything to contribute to NEDC when we get the faintest glimmering from them of what is their economic policy.

Mr. Hordern

When the Prime Minister takes the chair at NEDC, will he take the opportunity to repudiate the proposals of the Secretary of State for Industry compulsorily to channel the savings of institutions into industry? Will he also take the opportunity to say that we as a country are living far beyond our means, and state what proposals he has to reduce public expenditure?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. We are to debate these matters in the House on Thursday, as I suggested last week. At least we are making quite sure that there will be adequate representation on the Opposition Front Bench in the debate. I hope that we shall hear on that occasion the Opposition's proposals about what areas of public expenditure they would cut. These matters can always be discussed in NEDC, and I assure the hon. Gentleman that when I chair the next meeting I shall discuss a fairly wide range of problems of macro-economics and also problems raised in relation to my right hon. Friend.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the funds of institutions. That suggestion has not been put forward on behalf of the Government, nor has it been put forward by my right hon. Friend. It is an idea that has been floated by a sub-committee of a sub-committee of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party. I have made clear that it is not Government policy.

Mr. Speaker

In spite of the Prime Minister's courteous reference to a former Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, I do not intend to ask a supplementary question.