Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1975 Jul 15 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [895/1260-68]
Editorial comments: 1515-30.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2979
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Economic Affairs

(Prime Minister's Speech)

Q1. Mr. Hurd

asked the Prime Minister whether he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech on economic matters at the Royal Agricultural Show at Stoneleigh on 30th June.

Q2. Mr. Skinner

asked the Prime Minister whether he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech at the Royal Agricultural Show on 30th June on economic matters.

Q3. Mr. Peter Morrison

asked the Prime Minister whether he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech on economic matters at the Royal Agricultural Show at Stoneleigh on 30th June 1975.

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Q5. Mr. David Steel

asked the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech on economic matters made at the Royal Agricultural show on 30th June.

Q10. Mr. MacGregor

asked the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech on economic and agricultural matters at the Royal Agricultural Show at Stoneleigh on 30th June 1975.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

I did so later that day, Sir.

Mr. Hurd

Does not the Prime Minister agree on reflection that in that terrible speech and its successors he once again missed a great opportunity? Is he aware that many millions of people in this country who now realise the seriousness of our situation are not in the least interested in his manœuvres and compromises as Leader of the Labour Party but are still waiting desperately to hear the authentic voice and language of a Prime Minister addressed to the nation as a whole?

The Prime Minister

If the hon. Gentleman thinks that I failed to speak out on that occasion and on several others in that fortnight, I should remind him of what I said. I said:

“The Government will take whatever action is necessary to fortify the efforts which industry is so plainly making, as we have witnessed by the deep sense of urgency shown in this past week and more from the management confederation and from the Trades Union Congress.”

I then rejected the kind of solutions that have been put forward in some quarters, though not by the Conservative Front Bench. I said:

“The solutions we apply, and they will not lack courage and determination, must above all be workable.”

That is what we did last Friday.

In relation to manoeuvres I was concerned—despite the chivvying of Conservative Members—to get something broadly acceptable throughout industry. That is what we have achieved.

Mr. Skinner

Why was it that my right hon. Friend changed his mind so suddenly after making his speech at the Royal Agricultural Show? Was it because a group of politically motivated sheikhs was threatening to withdraw its Arabian [column 1262]gold? Is it not sad—tragic—that we have a Labour Government headed by my right hon. Friend who are prepared to travel the same dismal, dreary course that was travelled between 1966 and 1970? Faced with either changing the system or propping up capitalism, is it not a fact that the Government have now decided to placate once again the natural enemies of the Labour movement?

The Prime Minister

We did not change the policy. The policy announced last Friday was what we were working on. We wanted to get agreement on it. My hon. Friend said that we are prepared to travel the same course as was travelled between 1966 and 1970. It was very clear from my statement last Friday that we are travelling the same course as the organised trade union movement of this country. I am not sure whether my hon. Friend is travelling the same course.

Mr. Morrison

How does the Prime Minister reconcile his rejection of the use of unemployment as a weapon against inflation with the passage in the White Paper which states that

“excessive pay settlements will affect unemployment in the industry concerned” ?

The Prime Minister

Because we reject the deflationary proposals of the monetarists on the benches opposite who may or may not have a majority of influence in the Conservative Party. We have rejected the idea that has been put forward—not specifically by leaders of the Conservative Party—in sections of the Press that we deliberately ran down the economy to a low level of employment. The whole world is facing an increase in unemployment today. Unemployment has risen less in Britain than in most other countries. We reject it as an instrument of policy.

Mr. Steel

Will the Prime Minister explain one part of the White Paper which was foreshadowed in the speech and has since appeared before the House, namely, what happens if a firm refuses to pay more than £6 a week in increased wages to its working force and then has industrial action taken against it?

The Prime Minister

I made plain last week that the firm would have the whole organised trade union movement on its side. [Interruption.] Some hon. Members may laugh about that, but if [column 1263]they had paid a little more attention to getting such an arrangement a few years ago there might have been a very different situation today. Secondly, as I said in my statement last Friday, if there were a real threat to the policy which we have announced, we would not hesitate to introduce the statutory powers—we would do so with great regret, and I think that is true of many Opposition Members—that we would feel to be necessary.

Mr. Tomlinson

Does my right hon. Friend agree that in the last few weeks the trade union movement has moved further towards voluntary agreement than ever before and that the trade union movement and the country would not deal lightly with Opposition Members who seek to exploit the nation's economic difficulties for partisan advantage?

The Prime Minister

Sir, it is certainly true that the TUC General Council last week went further than the TUC has ever gone in peace or in war, as I said on Friday. The TUC has done that, and I should have thought that hon. Members on both sides of the House would recognise that achievement. Opposition Members who laugh about this are beneath contempt. The whole country, including many who voted for Opposition Members, will be shown to support the policy announced by the Government last Friday, and they will be as anxious as we are to see what alternative policies the Opposition can agree upon.

Mr. Tapsell

Has the right hon. Gentleman noted that the speech in which he rather obliquely foreshadowed the White Paper which has subsequently been published was greeted almost universally at home and abroad with some satisfaction as re-establishing the credit of sterling internationally but also with the feeling that the Government's policies would be immensely strengthened if they were accompanied by the announcement of cuts in public expenditure?

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Gentleman to what is said about public expenditure in the White Paper, which I hope the House will be debating next week. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to pursue that matter and catches your eye, [column 1264]Mr. Speaker, I am sure he will have some valuable considerations to put before the House. Opposition Members at the weekend talked about cutting expenditure. What we should like to see in advance of the debate is some thought being given by the Opposition to precisely what expenditure they would cut.

Mr. Torney

I have read the speech which the Prime Minister made at Stoneleigh in which he expounded at great length on the subject of the expansion of home food production. Will my right hon. Friend please inform the House what steps he proposes to take to ensure that adequate financing is available to support what he said at Stoneleigh about the expansion of food production in Britain?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend, who is chairman of an important agriculture group in the purlieus of the House, is absolutely right. The main part of my speech was about agriculture. I was referring to the White Paper which was published by the Government earlier this year and to the help to be given under that White Paper. The House debated these matters yesterday.

Mrs. Thatcher

May I ask Harold Wilsonthe Prime Minister about a reply which he gave to a supplementary question by the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel)? Are we to understand that if an employer is driven out of business because he carries out Government policy on the £6 pay limit, he can expect no protection whatsoever from the Government?

The Prime Minister

I made clear that if the policy is in danger—we hope that it will not be—we shall not hesitate to take legislative action. The right hon. Lady will be aware that there has been some discussion in the Press about the possibility of co-operative action among employers on this matter. I do not know what will come of that, but I have made clear that if there is a concerted attack against the policy announced in the White Paper, the Government will not hesitate to introduce further legislation to deal with the situation.

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Truro

Q4. Mr. Penhaligon

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

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to make an official visit, although, as the hon. Member knows, I am able to keep in close touch with Cornish problems.

Mr. Penhaligon

It will come as a disappointment to the people of Cornwall that the Prime Minister cannot make an official visit. If he had been able to come, I should have liked him to meet many parents in the country who are extremely concerned at the state of the country's primary schools, the vast majority of which were built during the Gladstone era. Will the Prime Minister use his influence to secure that some of the money to be spent on super dual carriageways within 20 and 10 miles of Land's End is spent instead on a major modernisation programme for the country's primary schools?

The Prime Minister

Not all Cornish schools were built in the Gladstonian era. I remember on one day in October 1966 opening seven schools. My sister was the headmistress of one of them. The hon. Gentleman knows that I have very close contacts with the problems of primary education in Cornwall for that and other reasons. I believe that the Cornish local authority, which for a time was regarded as not one of the most advanced, has proceeded very much faster in recent years under successive Governments, but there are still many problems.

As for the balance of expenditure between roads and schools, hon. Members who represent Cornish constituencies are always pressing for improvements in the roads, including bypasses.

Mr. Penhaligon

indicated dissent.

The Prime Minister

Some are. The balance is a question of public expenditure, and I think that the hon. Gentleman would be fair enough to say that in our review of priorities in public expenditure we have cut back sharply on roads in the interests of education and other priority programmes.

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European Security and Co-operation

Q6. Mr. Maurice Macmillan

asked the Prime Minister whether he will take personal initiatives to secure unity of purpose and policy among the nine member States of the European Community in advance of the summit meeting of the European Conference on Security and Co-operation.

The Prime Minister

I shall be discussing the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe with my colleagues at the European Council later this week. I hope very much that it will be possible to conclude the conference at the summit at the end of the month. I do not think any new initiative is necessary now to secure what has already been widely remarked on: the unity of purpose and policy which the Nine have displayed throughout the preparation for this conference.

Mr. Macmillan

Does the Prime Minister accept that most of us in the House would regard unity of policy and purpose among the nation States of the Community as a very important part of the conference? Will he assure the House that in the follow-up of basket four he will take steps to see that that unity is maintained, particularly in the defence aspect of the conference, which has so far proved to most of us to be somewhat unsatisfactory?

The Prime Minister

I thank the right hon. Gentleman. During the period of preparation for this conference there have been close discussions between the Council of Foreign Ministers and members of the summit, now that we are having regular summit meetings. At Dublin in March, although the discussions were mainly about renegotiations in relation to Britain, we had a special meeting on the evening of the first day to discuss the preparations. That has been carried forward further in the NATO Heads of Government conference and I can tell the right hon. Gentleman, although no agenda is published on these occasions, that it is highly likely that this week, tomorrow and on Thursday, we shall be discussing the runup and preparations for the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe. As to the follow-up, the conference itself [column 1267]has still to decide its mechanism, timing and so on, but the Nine are already discussing this at Heads of Government level and we shall hope to reach the common purpose and unity of purpose referred to by the right hon. Gentleman.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Will my right hon. Friend be good enough to make clear to the House whether he intends to withdraw the Government's objections to those parts of the Bertrand Report relating to defence when he meets his colleagues later in the week, because that is a policy which has not been discussed in the House and which carries considerable implications for all of us?

The Prime Minister

I congratulate my hon. Friend on her return from her first attendance at the European Parliament. If I interpret rightly what she says, I think she is expressing the view which I have often expressed, and which is the policy of the Government—that we regard the EEC as exactly what it is and what the country has approved in relation to Britain's membership. We do not regard it as having a defence capability.

Mr. Tugendhat

Does not the Prime Minister agree that his own recent experience with the Soviet Union suggests that we ought to be even more cautious than was previously the case in accepting that country's assurances? He came back from the Soviet Union after his visit telling us all that he had established a new and much better relationship and that there was an altogether improved atmosphere between the two countries, and yet one of the very few countries which actually supported President Amin during the Hills matter was the Soviet Union, and Pravda wrote editorials in support of that action. Does not the Prime Minister agree that this is quite contrary to the understanding he gave the House on Anglo-Soviet relations on his return from Moscow?

The Prime Minister

Not at all. I naturally regret any articles of that kind. There is no ministerial responsibility in this country at any rate for what appears in Pravda, and there is no ministerial responsibility for what appears in the British Press. I reported to the House on the width of the agreement which had been signed, including in particular the [column 1268]economic co-operation and trade agreements. Since that time what I said in the House then has been abundantly justified and extended in that Mr. Gvishiani, when recently visiting this country, told us that there will be still greater participation by the Soviet trade corporations in the kinds of details I mentioned. He also mentioned some new extended deals and said that on the occasion of his vist he was signing four memoranda of agreement with prominent British firms. That was in full support and extension of what I told the House last February.

Members of Parliament

(Pay)

Mr. Ogden

On a point of order. With respect, Mr. Speaker, may I seek your guidance, because you are are the guardian of every back bencher in this House in helping us to conduct our duties in this place.

The way in which we can conduct our duties in this place or outside depends to a degree on the financial security of a Member of Parliament. We have been told over a long period that it is the intention of the Government to publish, and to make their recommendations on, the report of the Boyle Committee, which, as I understand it, was handed to the Government on 30th June. I want to ask you, Sir, or my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who is listening to this, how we might get this report—which is, after all, the property of the House of Commons, not only of the Government—and discuss and debate it, so that this saga does not drag on and on and on. Let us have a decision one way or the other.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

Further to that point of order In order not to have to invoke your protection, Mr. Speaker, of the very real interests of hon. Members of this House, may I say that the report will be published tomorrow, together with the Government's recommendations to the House. When Parliament as a whole has had time to consider those recommendations, I hope there will be an opportunity next week for the House to debate them and come to a decision upon them.