Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1975 Jul 10 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: speeches
Document kind: House of Commons PQs
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [895/735-42]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-30.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2815
Themes: Parliament, Economy (general discussions)
[column 735]

TUC and CBI

(Meeting)

Q2. Mr. Beith

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

Q3. Mr. Ashley

asked the Prime Minister when he next intends to meet the CBI and the TUC.

Q7. Mr. Atkinson

asked the Prime Minister when next he intends to meet the CBI.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

Later this afternoon, Sir.

Mr. Beith

Does the Prime Minister agree that even if the TUC General Council agreed unanimously to a voluntary policy on pay, it would not have the power to ensure compliance with it? Does he recognise that the people of this country face a reduction in their standard of living over the next months and that if they are to accept this they must have the confidence that a statutory policy will ensure that all bear the sacrifice equally?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I have frequently stressed that what is important is not only the guidelines, or whatever the right phrase is, but also compliance. On the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's question, I would advise him to wait for the statement I make in the House tomorrow and the White Paper supporting that statement.

Mr. Ashley

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the bedrock of any effective economic policy is the consent of the Trades Union Congress? As he has been effective in securing that consent, he therefore deserves the congratulations of the whole House. However, as it would be fatuous to pretend that a minority of mavericks does not exist, is my right hon. Friend aware that reserve statutory powers are vital to protect the interests of the trade unionists, whose word is their bond and who are realistic enough to recognise that if this policy is smashed [column 736]the living standards of all trade unionists will be smashed?

The Prime Minister

I am sure my hon. Friend will be prepared to wait another day to see what the White Paper has to say about the question to which he has referred. I agree with him entirely that it was worth while spending the time which was needed to obtain that extremely forward-looking statement by the TUC yesterday, which goes much further than the TUC has ever gone in peace time or in war time on these matters. [Interruption.] Although Conservative Members may laugh, this is essential to secure a successful attack on inflation.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Baker.

Mr. Baker

Does the Prime Minister agree——

Mr. Baker

rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. It may be that there are too many “Ls” about, but there was not one there.

Mr. Baker

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Does the Prime Minister appreciate that if the system of pay research for the Civil Service continues during this statutory policy, civil servants will be able to catch up retrospectively? If this breach of the statutory policy occurs, will he, as Minister for the Civil Service and, therefore, the employer in this case, bear the same sanctions as other rogue employers?

The Prime Minister

Although recognising the deep solicitude which the hon. Gentleman always shows for my well-being in every way, I must still ask him to wait for the White Paper tomorrow. I do not envisage the likelihood of any kind of sanctions being applied to the administration of the Civil Service, about which he is so worried.

Mr. Atkinson

Does my right hon. Friend recollect the time when he came to the House and explained that it was necessary to relax the application of the Price Code because it was creating serious difficulties in industry by way of cash flow problems? Will he, therefore, confirm that when he meets the CBI this afternoon he will explain why it is the Government's intention to go ahead with a much more severe restraint on prices [column 737]when it was not so long ago proved to the Government by the CBI, apparently, that continuation along that road was not possible?

The Prime Minister

What I shall explain to the CBI is the relevance, so far as it affects the CBI and its members, of the general line of the proposals we shall be making—though anything I say to the TUC or the CBI this afternoon will be governed by the prior requirements of the statement to be made to the House tomorrow, and it is to the House that this statement should be made.

Mr. Blaker

Does the Prime Minister recall that the Secretary of State for Employment said in the BBC “Newsday” programme on 16th September last that any Government who introduced a statutory wage policy in any form whatever would not have him as a member of it?

The Prime Minister

Now I understand, Mr. Speaker, why you wanted to get the “L” out of it when the hon. Gentleman rose earlier.

My right hon. Friend and I have made clear that what we have said all along in these matters refers to criminal sanctions against workers. The hon. Gentleman will no doubt be waiting, with his usual degree of patience, for the White Paper tomorrow dealing with this question.

Mr. Ashton

When the Prime Minister meets the CBI later, will he disregard the speculative Press reports about the Labour Government providing money for strike breaking? Will he resist introducing any policies which would give employers powers to break strikes by their unions against pay policies? Will he tell the CBI that the Labour Party insists that this is just not on?

The Prime Minister

What will be in the White Paper is what will be in the White Paper, on this and all other matters. I ask my hon. Friend to wait. I am sure that we shall have his comments quite quickly after the White Paper is published.

Mrs. Thatcher

Is Harold Wilsonthe Prime Minister aware that hon. Members have found it very difficult to get any information about what has been going on during this eight-or nine-day period, and that it would [column 738]have been very much more for the convenience of the House if the White Paper had been published and the statement had been made today, when more hon. Members are present? As we learn today for the first time that the Prime Minister is to make the statement tomorrow, will he also give us some other information about when the Boyle Report is to be published and who will make the statement on that?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. I myself join the right hon. Lady in regretting that it was not possible to make the statement today. She has been very patient on this over the last week or two. But she will know from her own experience the great importance of proceeding in agreement, as we have succeeded in doing, with the TUC. The TUC's General Council took place yesterday. It was right to take full account of the implications of the TUC's decisions in the White Paper. I wish that it could have been presented today, which is a more normal day, or that we could have waited until Monday. I think it is for the greater convenience of the House, which will wish, of course, to debate the White Paper, that we get it out before the weekend so that right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House can study it. I think that it would be the general practice in this case—it has been in the past, under successive Governments—that the Prime Minister makes the statement.

As regards the Boyle Report, a statement will be made early next week. As I indicated to the House last week, I cannot at this stage say who will be making it. I should think it will probably be the Leader of the House, who normally deals with these questions.

Mr. Faulds

Does the Prime Minister realise that the great majority of the country will support the toughest measures necessary to get the country through? Does he agree that any hon. Members who cannot support these necessary measures should stand down and put themselves to the electorate, whereupon we might well be shot of the rot of them?

The Prime Minister

Even my hon. Friend's unrivalled diction seems to have got into trouble as well. I think he meant “the lot” , and not “rot” , as he said. [Interruption.] Well, obviously I cannot speak for what right hon. and hon. [column 739]Members of the Opposition will say because we have not heard their policies on these questions. When my hon. Friend, who I know will wait——

Mr. Skinner

You want to say something about Andrew Fauld 's presence for a start. He is never here.

The Prime Minister

From my own experience in answering Questions, I know that that is certainly not the case. But my hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) will be waiting for the White Paper tomorrow, I know, I believe he will find that it has the right degree of what he called toughness. I hope that when he reads it he will also agree that what is important is not toughness for the sake of toughness; it must be effective and workable, and that is what we are aiming at.

Later——

Mr. Faulds

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can you tell me what comeback an hon. Member has to accusations such as were made earlier this afternoon by my hon. Friend the beast for Bolsover—[Interruption]—since most of us on the Government side spend every day of the week in the interests of our constituents rather than plotting in the Tea Room and in the House against the Government?

Mr. Skinner

rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. There are some occasions when my wig falls conveniently over my ears. I did not hear the exact description the hon. Member applied to his hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), nor did I hear his hon. Friend say anything about him, so there is nothing for me to rule upon.

Mr. Skinner

In relation to the last point of order made by the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds), perhaps you would convey to him, Mr. Speaker, that one of the ways in which he could get round the matter would be by writing expensive articles for The Times explaining what he wants to say. Perhaps the hon. Member might also assist in the matter, smashing the next incomes policy in the process, by getting more money than he did for the last one.

Mr. Speaker

Order. This sounds very much like a Tea Room argument.

[column 740]

The Borders

Q4. Mr. David Steel

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

The Prime Minister

As the House knows, I was in Scotland on Tuesday in connection with the State visit of the King of Sweden. I have no immediate plans for a further visit to Scotland but hope to be there later in the year.

Mr. Steel

If and when the Prime Minister comes to the Borders, as I hope he will, is he aware that he will find an area which produces a very high level of exports and has a very low level of industrial disputes but which, sadly, has below the national level of income? For that reason, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that my constituents are very concerned that the Government should take really effective measures to control inflation? What assurance can the right hon. Gentleman give them that the Government will act resolutely, take the necessary powers and not be found guilty of cowardice in the face of their friends?

The Prime Minister

I think the hon. Gentleman will be able to judge that, and I hope that with his customary fairness he will be able to give full support to the White Paper when he reads it. I am aware of the problems in the area he has described, including, of course, a lot of anxiety on the textile and clothing question, which he has raised previously.

Concerning Scotland as a whole, while unemployment is still far too high, the ratio of unemployment between Scotland—this is true of the Borders, too—and south of the border is at its lowest-ever level since figures were collected and has been falling rapidly as a ratio over the past few months.

Secretary Of State For The Environment (Speech)

Q5. Mr. Peter Morrison

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech by the Secretary of State for the Environment at Brighton on 25th June on expenditure levels represents Government policy.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir.

[column 741]

Mr. Peter Morrison

What would be the Prime Minister's attitude to councillors who increase wages and salaries above the 10 per cent. norm? Will he support them just as he supported the Clay Cross councillors?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Member will, I hope, await the White Paper tomorrow, because in the attack on inflation the question of local authority employment is obviously important. Local authority employment has increased considerably over recent years, under successive Governments, and of course inflation affects them particularly hard because they are so labour-intensive and have a high employment ratio. The hon. Gentleman will recognise that these are problems which must be tackled. I hope that he will approve what is suggested in the White Paper.

Mr. Heffer

If my right hon. Friend should go to the Borders, Brighton or anywhere else, would he care to explain to the electorate how it was that in the election manifesto of the Labour Party in October last year we said that we would not introduce any forms of legislation to deal with incomes? If to-tomorrow the White Paper indicates a back-up or any other type of system which means legislation would he then explain how this fits in with our manifesto policy? Would he also explain to the electorate whether during the election campaign my hon. Friends and his hon. Friends in the Government were knaves or fools?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend also will be awaiting the publication of the White Paper with anxiety. With his knowledge of the manifesto—and I think my knowledge is equal to his—he will remember that the important and key section of the manifesto said that the Government's highest priority would be the attack on inflation. [Interruption.] I think my hon. Friend was referring to the October manifesto. Even with his highly developed critical faculties, I think that he will feel that what we are proposing is of the highest relevance to that. Some of the other things he quotes or purports to quote from the manifesto are not exactly as he quotes them.

Mr. Charles Morrison

Given that in local government and in nearly every industry there are agreed wage levels, but [column 742]given also that regrettably there is bound to be considerable unemployment in the near future among school leavers, would the right hon. Gentleman say that it was better that schools leavers should remain unemployed or would he advise employers to employ them below agreed wage levels?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir, I do not give that advice. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that unemployment is a very serious problem which arises for school leavers at this time, as it did three or four years ago. He will again, I think,—I am sorry to have to give this answer once again—find it interesting to see what we say on this matter in the White Paper.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

If the TUC are voluntarily to restrain wages, will the Prime Minister say in what way the Government will control the incomes of those who are not members of or affiliated to the TUC, and in particular will he give an assurance to the House that this policy will not result in an expense account bonanza?

The Prime Minister

This Question refers to Brighton, and I am glad to be able to tell my hon. Friend that I shall be visiting his constituency tomorrow—the part that used to be in my own. [An Hon. Member: “Is that a promise or a threat?” ] As far as they are concerned, it is a promise. They seem to like having me in Kirkby. My hon. Friend will, I am sure, also be prepared to wait for the White Paper, which will have been published by the time I arrive in his constituency.