Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1975 May 22 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: speeches
Document kind: House of Commons PQs
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [892/1608-17]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-30.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 3210
Themes: Employment, European Union (general)
[column 1608]

Referendum

Q1. Mr. Hoyle

asked the Prime Minister what engagements he has undertaken as part of the referendum campaign.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

I have already made a number of speeches in the country commending support for the Government's recommendation to continue Britain's membership of the European Community and I shall be undertaking further speeches of this kind before 5th June.

Mr. Hoyle

Will the Prime Minister consider cancelling those future engagements so that he will be in a more neutral [column 1609]position to carry out the wishes of the British people when they vote to come out of the Common Market?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his consideration, but the Government made a very clear recommendation in the House, and I am doing the same in the country.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

As a contribution to the referendum campaign, will the Prime Minister consider republishing and circulating widely his “Won't take ‘No’ for an answer” speech?

The Prime Minister

I should be happy to do so, Sir. I used that phrase in 1967 when General de Gaulle announced his veto on negotiations, to make clear that we would not take “No” for an answer but would press until we obtained negotiations. Negotiations were ultimately agreed to and carried out by the Conservatives when in government. We have renegotiated the terms, and what I said in 1967 has been abundantly justified by what has happened since.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Skinner.

An Hon. Member

Come on, Nelson.

Mr. Skinner

They tell me that Nelson was against the Common Market as well. When my right hon. Friend makes speeches explaining why we should stay in the Common Market, will he please refrain from using the truth-bending remarks that have been made by some of his colleagues? It has been said that one reason for Britain to stay in is to control multinationals. How farcical is such a remark, taken in the context of the multinationals pouring thousands of pounds into the “Keep Britain in Europe” campaign.

The Prime Minister

I sympathise with my hon. Friend on his affliction and express the hope that on this issue he will now see more clearly through one eye than he sometimes does through two. [An Hon. Member: “In the country of the blind the one-eyed man is king.” ] I am trying to be sympathetic to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Skinner

I am only suffering from your complaint.

[column 1610]

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend used the emotive phrase “truth-bending remarks” . I find that all those who feel strongly on one side of the Common Market case, whichever it is, regard a statement made by the other side as truthbending. The country will decide when it has heard the full arguments.

Mrs. Thatcher

Does Harold Wilsonthe Prime Minister recollect that when I asked him on Tuesday about the assertion of Tony Bennthe Secretary of State for Industry that 500,000 jobs had been lost through the European link he rejected the figure? Will he now reject the underlying contention that the link has led to any loss of jobs, bearing in mind that most companies take the contrary view?

The Prime Minister

This is a matter which is much argued. I do not agree with what my right hon. Friend said. As I made clear, no one can say that no jobs have been lost. Some have been lost. Equally, jobs have been gained as a result of a change in the movement of trade—[Interruption.] I am treating the right hon. Lady's question as serious, unlike some hon. Members sitting behind her. Inevitably, when a market is opened more freely to imports—by the removal of tariffs, or in other ways—there will be more goods coming in, which may throw British people out of work. Equally, because those markets are open to us there will be more jobs at home in Britain. I have no reason to think that the net result has been an increase in unemployment.

CBI And TUC

Q2. Mr. Michael Latham

asked the Prime Minister when he next expects to meet leaders of the TUC and the CBI.

The Prime Minister

I regularly meet leaders of both the TUC and CBI at the NEDC and on other occasions and, as I have told the House, I shall be chairing the next meeting of the NEDC on 17th June.

Mr. Latham

When the Prime Minister told the CBI last Tuesday that the Government would not nationalise Chrysler if it were bankrupted by industrial militancy, did he really expect to be believed?

The Prime Minister

I do not know what the hon. Gentleman thinks he is [column 1611]getting at with that rather silly question. However, I shall tell the hon. Gentleman what I said. I said that I would not be a party to a single penny of taxpayer's money being spent if the afflictions that beset Chrysler were caused by a strike which should be settled by appropriate constitutional means.

Mr. Mike Thomas

Will my right hon. Friend go further than that and explain to the TUC and the CBI, and perhaps to some of his right hon. Friends, that it is not in the interests of this country to fossilise our industrial structure by keeping men employed, seemingly for its own sake, when the goods they make cannot be sold at a profit?

The Prime Minister

Of course, my hon. Friend is right. There is no question of fossilisation as regards the future use of the NEB or any of these other matters. However, when there is a reasonable prospect that a firm can be profitable or viable in the future, and can maintain employment in the interval, I do not see any reason for objection to be taken by either side of the House. After all, that was surely one of the motives of the famous Sections 7 and 8 of the Conservative's Industry Act of 1972. That measure was supported at least by some Opposition right hon. and hon. Members, although I am not quite sure what their attitude is today.

Mr. Baker

Has the right hon. Gentleman had reported to him what occurred in Committee on the Employment Protection Bill this morning regarding postal votes, in that the Conservative and Liberal Parties——

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot have any reference on the Floor of the House to what happens in Standing Committee until the Committee has reported to the House.

Mr. Baker

I give notice, Mr. Speaker, that I shall seek to raise a point of order at 3.30 in view of the Prime Minister's statement on Tuesday.

Mr. Watkinson

Does my right hon. Friend accept that many of his hon. Friends are very concerned about the rising level of unemployment? When my right hon. Friend next meets the TUC and the CBI. will be discuss further the temporary employment subsidy scheme? Is [column 1612]it the Government's intention to restrict the scheme to development areas, or will it extend to other needy areas?

The Prime Minister

This problem is being continually discussed with both the TUC and the CBI, and it will no doubt be discussed at the next meeting of the NEDC to which I have referred. The temporary employment scheme will be debated in the House when full authority is sought from the House to introduce it.

Mr. Prior

At the next meeting of NEDC will the Prime Minister discuss with the TUC and the CBI the whole question of payment from Government funds for votes by post for trade union elections? Does the right hon. Gentleman still stand by the forthright and helpful statement that he made on Tuesday in answer to a question from me, in view of the fact that some Ministers of his Government do not seem to have got the message?

The Prime Minister

As regards discussing these matters at the NEDC, the right hon. Gentleman, who, I think, has held appointments that qualified him to attend the NEDC, will know that they are not the sort of things that are normally discussed. I have no doubt that other opportunities will arise in other forums and at other meetings. I should make it clear, as a point of order has been raised, that when the right hon. Gentleman asked me the question the other day, I said that I had had no report from the Committee. Of course, that was the position of the House. I have had no report, and that is still the position. The view I expressed is certainly my view. I want to see more postal voting. As we have not had those reports from Standing Committee it is not possible to give an answer on the subject of the provision of Government funds.

Mr. Grimond

Is the Prime Minister aware that many people think that the initiative of Mr. Jack Jones is of value, and welcome the Government's intention to follow it up, and hope that this will lead to fruitful discussions with all the parties concerned?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for what he said. When I addressed the CBI the other evening I spoke rather in the same terms as the right hon. Gentleman has [column 1613]used. I hope to have the opportunity to raise this matter in the debate this afternoon if, Mr. Speaker, I am successful in catching your eye.

Mr. Stallard

When the Prime Minister next meets the TUC, will he assure it that the Government have no intention of interfering with the internal balloting arrangements of any trade union?

The Prime Minister

I have expressed my view on this matter. I have expressed it in the House previously, and I have confirmed it today. What I said on Tuesday, and what I repeat, is that when we see the reports of the discussions that have taken place in Committee, and when we have heard the views of other people, we shall consider whether there is anything that the Government can do in this matter. We have taken no decision and we have had no collective discussions on the matter. I gave the answer as I felt it to be the right answer to give the right hon. Gentleman.

National Economic Development Council

Q3. Mr. Tim Renton

asked the Prime Minister whether he will take the chair at the next meeting of the NEDC.

Q4. Mr. Radice

asked the Prime Minister when he next expects to take the chair at the NEDC.

Q8. Mr. Stanley

asked the Prime Minister whether he will be taking the chair at the next meeting of NEDC.

Q10. Mr. MacGregor

asked the Prime Minister when he next intends to take the chair at the NEDC.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Members and my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, West (Mr. Horam) on 20th May.

Mr. Renton

Will the right hon. Gentleman now answer instead of evading the question which was asked of him by my hon. Friend the Member for Melton (Mr. Latham)? How does he expect strikers to believe that the Government cannot be forced into taking over their companies as long as he retains the Secretary [column 1614]of State for Industry as a member of his Cabinet?

The Prime Minister

I think that the hon. Gentleman is a little obsessive on this question. Indeed, the Conservatives all are, the whole lot of them. If only they would give a little more of their minds to forming a policy on industrial matters! Perhaps we shall get that this afternoon. I made it clear in January in my constituency, where there are many car workers, that we were not going to put money into the car industry in respect of continued strikes. I made that clear, and that is clear in the monitoring arrangements for British Leyland—the proposals for which the Conservative Party voted against last night.

As regards the Chrysler situation, I saw reports, and hon. Members saw reports—and I have now seen a further report—that there were some people—I am referring not to any individual shop steward but to some people of standing in the city's affairs—who looked forward to a certain situation being created, or who said that if the strike led to such a situation the Government would proceed to nationalise. I have made it clear that not one penny of Government money will go in to sustain a situation created by an unofficial strike of that kind.

Mr. Radice

Does the Prime Minister agree that if the NEB is to be more than a receptacle for “lame ducks” it needs to work within a carefully worked out industrial strategy, and a strategy that concentrates resources on those sectors which are most essential to our national survival? Does he accept that in this respect the NEDC, with all the planning work that it has done with representatives of both sides of industry, can play an important rôle?

The Prime Minister

Yes: I agree with what my hon. Friend said about the NEDC. As regards the NEB, the guidelines within which it should work, and its operations, these matters were set out in the White Paper which was published last year. I have made it clear that when the Bill emerges from Committee we shall go through it again and decide what, if any, amendments are needed on Report. However, it has an essential part to play in the regeneration of British industry. If I catch your eye this afternoon, Mr. Speaker—I am not canvassing [column 1615]you in any way—I hope to be able to deal with some of the points that have been made by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Stanley

Assuming that the Prime Minister was not speaking in a personal capacity on Tuesday, will he confirm that it is the Government's joint view that it is desirable in principle for trade union elections to be conducted by postal ballots?

The Prime Minister

I have made clear that we have had no effective discussions on this matter since the events in the AUEW over the weekend. I understand that action is being taken within the union. It would be inappropriate for me to comment on the matter now. I have expressed my view and I am sure that it is the view of many hon. Members in all parts of the House.

Mr. Noble

In view of the infancy of democratic practices in the Conservative Party, when the next election takes place for the replacement of the present Leader of the Opposition do the Government plan to make funds available for the conduct of a postal ballot in the Tory Party?

The Prime Minister

There is no ministerial responsibility now or in the future for anything affecting the leadership of the Conservative Party. My hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Noble) seems to be a little out of date in his references to the infancy of democracy in the Conservative Party. I thought that last night, at a late hour, when I was in the House, there were signs of incipient democracy breaking out in the party.

Mr. MacGregor

In view of the overriding importance at present of containing public spending, will the Prime Minister give to the next meeting of the NEDC, and today to the House, a firm assurance that the borrowing requirement for this year is still—and will continue to be throughout the year—not more than £9,000 million, as estimated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and not £10,000 million, which has been said to involve unacceptable risks?

The Prime Minister

These matters are not usually debated at the NEDC in respect of the Budget. I have no information that it is likely to come up at the [column 1616]meeting which I shall be chairing. It will undoubtedly come up this afternoon in the House in the debate on the economy, and I have no doubt that we shall all be dealing with the broad questions of the economic strategy.

Mr. Ashton

Before the Prime Minister gets too enthusiastic about postal ballots, will he cast his mind back to the days of the old ETU and to what happened when Communists gained control through irregularities in postal voting at a time when the Right Wing had control of the engineers through the ballot box? If it is acceptable for every hon. Member of this House to be voted in by personal visits to the ballot box, why should not the trade unions operate the same system?

The Prime Minister

I am sure that my hon. Friend and I are in total agreement that, whatever the system, we are opposed to the scandals which took place in the ETU some years ago, or, indeed, to any other scandals in any form of balloting, whether trade union or not.

Trade Unions (Ballots)

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Baker, on a point of order.

Mr. Baker

I appreciate your ruling earlier, Mr. Speaker, about reports of Standing Committee proceedings. I was seeking to elicit from the Prime Minister some clarification of the undertaking given at Question Time on Tuesday when in reply to a Question by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) he gave a clear impression that the Government's policy was to introduce postal voting from public funds as soon as possible. I appreciate that we cannot refer to the Standing Committee proceedings. The House is in some difficulty since the Committee proceedings cannot be read by hon. Members because they are not being printed. Therefore, hon. Members will not realise that there was a vote on this matter which——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has a clear way of making his point. On business questions he can say to the Leader of the House “In view of what happened in Committee upstairs this morning” —without referring to what it [column 1617]was that happened in the Committee— “has the Leader of the House a statement to make?” That is the proper way to go about the matter.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I thought I heard the hon. Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Baker) say that I gave an undertaking on Tuesday that there would be Government funds for postal ballots. I did not say that. I am sure what I said is in the recollection of the House, and it is recorded in the proceedings. I said that I had no report of the proceedings before the Standing Committee on Tuesday morning but that the Government would consider the position. That was the position then and is the position now. I understand that this was repeated not very far from here not many hours ago.