Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1975 Jun 10 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [893/233-40]
Editorial comments: 1515-30.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2579
Themes: Monetary policy, European Union (general)
[column 233]

European Community

Q1. Mr. Tim Renton

asked the Prime Minister when he next plans to meet the EEC Heads of Government.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

Arrangements are being made for a meeting of Heads of Community Governments in Brussels on 16th-17th July.

Mr. Renton

At that meeting in July, how does the Prime Minister hope to convince his European counterparts of his intention to play a full and constructive part in Community policies when at least three of his Secretaries of State most directly involved—namely, those of Trade, Energy and Industry—have made public their hostility to the Community? Surely, for the right hon. Gentleman's Government to be credible in Europe at least the pack needs to be shuffled and redealt.

The Prime Minister

Unfortunately for the arguments of the hon. Gentleman, which describes a situation which ended last Thursday, the Heads of Government of the Community countries do not agree with his assessment of the position in this country. I think they have got it [column 234]rather more clear in their minds than he has in his.

Mr. Watkinson

Will my right hon. Friend raise with the French President the question of his recent speech in which he advocated a two-tier structure in the EEC, echoing the comments of ex-Chancellor Brandt? What is the Government's attitude to this policy line of the French President? Will my right hon. Friend say that he is opposed to it?

The Prime Minister

I have made clear all along that decisions are taken in the EEC at the Council of Ministers or at Heads of Government summits. There are no two-tier arrangements. Should the question of any speech of a Head of Government appear on the agenda, I shall make appropriate comments on it.

Mrs. Thatcher

When Harold Wilsonthe Prime Minister next meets the EEC Heads of Government, will he confer with them about how they have been able to reduce the rate of inflation in their countries, whereas under this Government the value of the Wilson pound in the pocket has fallen faster than ever before and is now worth less than 80p in the pound?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, and I think they will probably tell me that they do not have Oppositions which put forward inflationary policies every day of the week.

Mrs. Thatcher

Is it not more likely that they will tell the Prime Minister that they have effective Heads of Government who can take action?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. If I were to press them further, as the right hon. Lady suggests, they would say first that unemployment had risen a great deal more in their countries than in ours and that the level of national production had fallen more in the world depression than in this country. They would also note that the policies of the right hon. Lady are directed to more unemployment.

Q2. Mr. McCrindle

asked the Prime Minister what recent discussions he has had with the Heads of Government of EEC countries.

The Prime Minister

The last meeting of EEC Heads of Government was in March, but I met most of them at the [column 235]ministerial meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels on 29th and 30th May. This meeting enabled members of the Alliance to reaffirm convincingly their commitment to NATO. We had a valuable discussion on a wide range of current issues. My visit also provided a welcome opportunity for bilateral talks with a number of allied leaders. Copies of the communiqué issued after the meeting had been placed in the Library of the House.

Mr. McCrindle

Turning perhaps a little more to the future, is not the Prime Minister dismissing all too airily the need, after last Thursday's vote, to reassure our European partners of our determination to play a full part in Europe? Is it not desirable that we should now be encouraging British firms to invest in Europe and vice versa? How can three of his Secretaries of State—who were, to say the least, unenthusiastic about the policy endorsed by the British people—continue to play a leading part in the Labour administration? Does not this indicate that the Prime Minister is seeking to placate the Left in his party rather than to reassure our friends in Europe about our future intentions?

The Prime Minister

To take the serious parts of what the hon. Gentleman put before the House—namely, the first two of his three points—it is certainly the fact, as I emphasised yesterday, that we intend to play a very full part in the co-operation within the Community, and we are strengthened in so doing by the historic vote last Thursday.

I referred to the question of investment in a statement on Saturday to the Nottinghamshire miners and I referred to that matter again yesterday in the House. I agree that it is a serious point, and there will be a two-way investment process. We look forward to a great increase in investment in this country by the EEC and by third country investors.

Mr. Whitehead

So that Europe may now expand and not stagnate, will my right hon. Friend take up, if he has not already done so, with the other EEC Heads of Government the question of the admission of Portugal to the EEC, since that is the expressed wish of the democratic parties of Europe and would be [column 236]the best protection for the Portuguese people against totalitarianism on the Left or on the Right?

The Prime Minister

When my hon. Friend refers to stagnation in Europe, I would remind him that the stagnation in industry has occurred more seriously across the Channel than here. This is due to the biggest world depression—a depression caused largely by the oil crisis—since the 1930s. We are discussing within Europe and more widely how we can act internationally to deal with these questions.

Mr. David Steel

Will the Prime Minister confirm that at his previous meetings with Heads of Government his reservations about direct elections to the European Parliament were related solely to the fact that at that time the referendum had not taken place, and that the Government have no other reservations on this question?

The Prime Minister

I dealt with this question yesterday and intimated that while the Parliamentary Labour Party had reservations about membership of the European Assembly, that is now over and the matter will be decided very quickly by a democratic vote of the Parliamentary Labour Party, as I made clear yesterday.

The question of direct elections is an entirely separate matter and must be considered. I was interested in the remarks of the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Kirk), who leads the Conservative delegation to the European Parliament, in his broadcast this morning, but this will be a matter for the House as a whole to decide.

Commodity Marketing

Q3. Mr. Bates

asked the Prime Minister if the group of Commonwealth experts examining the proposals for a general agreement on commodities have yet reported.

The Prime Minister

The group of Commonwealth experts have not yet reported. They are meeting for the first time today. They are expected to submit an interim report in time for a meeting of Commonwealth Ministers in August.

[column 237]

Mr. Bates

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a widespread welcome for the initiative in the communiqué to transfer real resources from the developed to the developing countries by international co-operation in trade and in primary commodities? Since, despite our present difficulties, we have remained one of the richest nations in the world, will he be assured that Labour Members will give widespread support for this type of programme? With which other international groups is he pursuing such initiatives on commodities?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. As he knows, this initiative was warmly welcomed by the Commonwealth and has been referred to the study group to which I referred in my main answer. It has also been warmly welcomed by the United States, and particularly by the United States Secretary of State. The French and other Governments have given it a fair wind and it has been warmly received by the OECD. This is an important initiative—indeed, one of the most important for a very long time—in terms of world trade and the relations between developed and developing countries. I hope that before long there will be a chance to debate the matter in the House. I hope that we shall get a similarly warm reception from the Opposition in favour of a scheme which has been so widely adopted and supported throughout the world.

Mr. Ian Lloyd

Is not the new economic international order, with its galaxy of commodity agreements to which the Prime Minister committed this country in Jamaica, far more far-reaching in its economic effects on the United Kingdom than anything the Commonwealth is likely to do? How soon will the House have the chance to discuss this matter in detail?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that the matter is of fundamental importance. It is important to us as consumers of imported commodities because we have not gained any more than have the primary countries from boom and bust in commodity affairs. This is a very important matter for this country, but I hope the hon. Gentleman will recognise that this initiative has been warmly supported by advanced as well as by developing countries.

[column 238]

Referendum

Q4. Mr. Canavan

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the result of the Common Market referendum.

The Prime Minister

I did so yesterday, Sir.

Mr. Canavan

Will the Prime Minister re-emphasise that the referendum was on Common Market membership only and that the result cannot in any way be interpreted as a victory for certain minority factions who are now demanding various insane policies—such as coalition, a statutory wage freeze and separatism—as well as conducting a disgraceful witch-hunt against some of our most successful Socialist Ministers simply because they were anti-Market?

The Prime Minister

I am happy to find myself in agreement with my hon. Friend. The ballot paper which I completed, after due consideration and study of the arguments and speeches, including my own, contained a simple question requiring a “Yes” or “No” to our remaining in the Common Market. That was all the country voted on. Those who have read into it other things are quite wrong, although my hon. Friend might be forgiven a little for taking the view that it was repudiation of one very noisy faction north of the border.

Mrs. Bain

In view of the fact that reference has been made to separatism, will the Prime Minister agree that many people in Scotland seek separate representation for the people of Scotland in any European body since it will affect the welfare of the Scottish people? Will he accept that in the absence of a head of Government of Scotland, the people regard him, at least on a pro tem basis, as the head of such a Government? Will he therefore concede the policy of the Scottish National Party involving direct representation by the people of Scotland in Europe?

The Prime Minister

Flattery will get the hon. Lady nowhere, but I am happy to feel that I made two speeches, in Aberdeen and Glasgow——

Mrs. Winifred Ewing

Not many came, Harold.

[column 239]

The Prime Minister

It seemed to me that the general vote in Scotland was in favour of what I was advocating there. With regard to separatism, the hon. Lady will be aware—and I am surprised she has not made more of the point—that two Scottish regions voted against membership. However, it seems to me—and others take this view—that this was more a repudiation of the desire to be linked with an independent Scotland than with anybody else.

Mrs. Bain

Come up to Stornoway.

Mr. Hordern

Now that the referendum is over, when can we expect the Prime Minister and the Government to take action to deal with our serious economic situation? Does the Prime Minister appreciate that it is a question not only of replacing those Ministers whose attitude towards the EEC was a contrary one but of their competence in dealing with these economic matters? Does he agree with the Home Secretary that it is difficult to understand how the Secretary of State for Industry can be taken seriously as a Minister dealing with economic affairs?

The Prime Minister

As to the last part of that question, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not wish to become more of a bore than the Almighty originally made him.

With regard to the serious part of the hon. Gentleman's question—I always try to deal with the serious parts of these matters—this action is going on all the time. He will know that it was fully set out by the Chancellor and myself in a recent economic affairs debate. If he was present on that occasion, as I think he was, he knows that not a scintilla of a new policy emerged from the Opposition Front Bench on that occasion.

Mr. Wellbeloved

In view of the decisive referendum result and the probability that the Parliamentary Labour Party might take a reasonable decision and agree to full and enthusiastic participation in the European Parliament, will my right hon. Friend ensure that mercy is tempered with justice by arranging for a fair proportion of ex-anti-Marketeers [column 240]to be consigned to the European Parliament?

The Prime Minister

I am not quite sure about the use of the word “consigned” . I said yesterday that I hoped there would be a decision now so that the House could be fully represented at the Assembly. I also expressed our hope that those responsible for the selection of Members would ensure that they represented all points of view. Yesterday I paid a tribute to the Conservative Party. In selecting its representatives, the Conservative Party did not confine itself to those who were wholeheartedly in favour of membership of the Community.

Mr. Wigley

In view of the desire of the Prime Minister for the people of Wales and Scotland to play a constructive part within the EEC, will he say specifically what steps he intends taking to give Wales and Scotland representation on bodies within the EEC, such as the Commission, the European Parliament and the Economic and Social Committee?

The Prime Minister

I am not quite sure what the hon. Gentleman means when he refers to these institutions, the Commission or other bodies. If he refers to the Assembly, these are obviously matters which must be considered. I want that body to be representative of the House as a whole. We must take account of the fact that the membership of the House as elected is very largely distributed between the two major parties, which must be adequately represented.