Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1975 Jul 17 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [895/1713-31]
Editorial comments: 1515-30.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 3007
[column 1713]

PRESS (LEGISLATION)

Q1. Mr. Aitken

asked the Prime Minister if the broadcast by the Secretary of State for Employment on legislation affecting the Press on 15th June represents official Government policy.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Edward Short)

As the House knows, my right hon. Friend is in Brussels attending the EEC Heads of Government meeting [column 1714]and in his absence I have been asked to reply.

Yes Sir.

Mr. Aitken

Is the Lord President aware that in that broadcast the Secretary of State for Employment again championed legislation which would make it possible for one union to gain a powerful monopoly position over all areas of public communication? Does he realise that that monopoly will inevitably be exercised at the expense of all those who want to have access to the media but are not members of the monopoly National Union of Journalists? As the right of access to the media is such a fundamental one, should it not be protected by proper legal safeguards—not by codes and charters—and, best of all, by dropping the Bill altogether?

Mr. Short

No, Sir, I do not agree with that. The Employment Protection Bill contains recognition provisions which will help the small unions, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will look at those provisions.

Mr. Moonman

Will my right hon. Friend say what discussions have taken place with trade unions and employers concerning the important problem of access? In view of the vulnerable state of two newspapers in Fleet Street, will my right hon. Friend give instructions, through the chairman, to the Royal Commission on the Press to produce a shortened report? We are now running into a second year.

Mr. Short

I shall pass on to the Prime Minister my hon. Friend's last suggestion. In reply to the first part of the supplementary question, my right hon. Friend has had numerous and continuing discussions on this matter over the past few weeks, but I cannot enumerate them off the cuff.

Mr. Ashton

Is my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister aware that there is no valid reason why there should be one industrial relations law for the Press and another one for the rest of industry? Is he aware that many of us are fed up with the Government kowtowing to pressure from the Press and neglecting pressure from their own back benches? Will he tell the Press to take notice of its own editorials on law and order, and that if this law is passed by [column 1715]the House of Commons the Press will have to obey it?

Mr. Short

There is complete unanimity between my hon. Friend and myself today. If what a large number of Opposition Members are advocating were done, there would be unfair discrimination against the newspaper industry.

Mr. Prior

As the Bill was regarded by the Government as urgent as long ago as last February and we still have not discussed the Lords amendment, would it not be better if the right hon. Gentleman accepted the view of the hon. Member for Basildon (Mr. Moonman) and allowed the matter to go before the Royal Commission on the Press so that a satisfactory arrangement could be reached which might even satisfy the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton)?

Mr. Short

No, Sir. As I said, over the past few weeks my right hon. Friend has spent a great deal of time in discussions about the Lords amendment with many people in an effort to reach agreement. The Labour Government try to reach agreement on these matters, unlike Conservative Governments.

TUC AND CBI (TALKS)

Q2. Mr. Radice

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his most recent discussions with the TUC and the CBI.

Mr. Edward Short

I have been asked to reply.

I refer my hon. Friend to the statement which my right hon. Friend made to the House on 11th July.

Mr. Radice

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the support of the NUM Executive for the Government's anti-inflation policy is welcome news? Does he accept that a reduction in the level of unemployment, particularly in the regions, is crucial to the success of the Government's economic policies? Will the Government take a fresh look at all their regional policies?

Mr. Short

I agree with what my hon. Friend said. I am sure that all hon. Members on both sides of the House will welcome the decision made by the miners this morning. In reply to my hon. Friend's second point, I agree with him that the [column 1716]whole object of our policy is to try to cure inflation without inducing mass unemployment.

Mr. Maurice Macmillan

Will the Leader of the House tell the House whether the talks with the TUC and the CBI have touched on matters concerning the Employment Protection Bill, relating to exemptions from employees' rights similar to the exemptions from contract obligations in the White Paper, which may be necessary if the policy is to be carried out successfully?

Mr. Short

I am afraid that that is a question which the right hon. Gentleman must address to my right hon. Friend. I am afraid that I do not know.

Mr. Watkinson

Will my right hon. Friend tell the House the Government's plans regarding the temporary employment subsidy scheme? When will it be introduced, and when shall we know the full details of the scheme?

Mr. Short

This is a matter which I imagine will be relevant—subject to your ruling, Mr. Speaker—to some of our debates which I am shortly to announce for next week. At the moment these powers are in the Employment Protection Bill.

Mr. Biffen

Was the CBI consulted and did it give its agreement to the rôle of monitoring wage settlements jointly with the TUC, as allotted to it in the White Paper?

Mr. Short

That rôle has not been allotted to the CBI. That is not putting the matter quite correctly. As I understand it, the TUC and the CBI agreed to try to work out arrangements for monitoring settlements and informing the Government of them. I understand that it was an agreement in which both sides acquiesced—namely, to set up a monitoring body.

PRIME MINISTER

(ENGAGEMENTS)

Q3. Mr. Rost

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 17th July.

Q8. Mr. Golding

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 17th July 1975.

[column 1717]

Q9. Mr. Pattie

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 17th July.

Mr. Edward Short

I have been asked to reply.

As the House knows, my right hon. Friend is attending the EEC Heads of Government meeting in Brussels today.

Mr. Rost

If the Prime Minister's evasive double-talk at the Brussels Summit is as damaging to Europe as his contribution over the past 17 months to rising unemployment, inflation and the national disaster at home, would not it be better if in future all the Prime Minister's official engagements were confined to a lush pasture where he could be put out to grass?

Mr. Short

I do not really feel called upon to answer that question. I just wonder—not only today but for some time past—exactly what the hon. Gentleman has brought to our deliberations in the House. He has certainly not brought good parliamentary manners. However, I still have hopes that he will learn them.

Mr. Tom Ellis

Does my right hon. Friend agree that an urgent step towards the full democratisation of the European Parliament would result from direct elections? Is the Prime Minister making the British Government's position clear in Brussels?

Mr. Short

Yes, certainly. I take it that my hon. Friend is referring to Mr. Tindemans' report, which has not yet been produced. The Council may well discuss its approach to the report. We have not committed ourselves in any way to anything on which Mr. Tindemans may report. We shall study the report with great care.

Mr. Pattie

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that the Prime Minister should seek an early meeting with the BBC in view of the corporation's astonishing admission yesterday that it has recently transmitted raw Communist propaganda to listeners in Portugal?

Mr. Short

I am dealing with a Question about the Prime Minister's engagements today. The supplementary question that the hon. Gentleman has raised has no relation to my right hon. Friend's engagements.

[column 1718]

Mr. Greville Janner

When my right hon. Friend is in Brussels, is he proposing to discuss with his fellow Ministers a problem which I understand is plaguing all Common Market countries, namely, unemployment among young people, and, in particular, school leavers? Will my right hon. Friend discuss this matter in order to see whether there is some way in which we can all employ young people in community service projects instead of leaving them unemployed and rotting away?

Mr. Short

As I understand it, discussion of the general position in the Community takes place at these summit meetings. No doubt unemployment is the sort of issue which could arise in such a discussion.

Mrs. Thatcher

The report to which my hon. Friend the Member for Chertsey and Walton (Mr. Pattie) referred, concerning the BBC, appeared today, and the Question is about the Prime Minister's engagements today. Will Edward Shortthe right hon. Gentleman give consideration to the substance of what my hon. Friend asked, and see whether the Government, or members of it, will meet the BBC to discuss this important matter?

Mr. Short

I understand, Mr. Speaker, that this is something in the nature of a point of order—[Interruption.] There is a rule that there must be ministerial responsibility for the substance of parliamentary answers. This question is an innovation. I think that this is the second or third time that is has appeared. I will not go outside the limit of the Question, which is about the Prime Minister's engagements today. I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend will be pleased to answer the question about the BBC when he returns.

GOVERNMENT POLICIES

Q4. Mr. Tim Renton

asked the Prime Minister whether he remains satisfied with the progress towards achieving the measures contained in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech.

Q6. Mr. Adley

asked the Prime Minister if he remains satisfied with the progress made by Her Majesty's Government towards achieving the measures [column 1719]outlined in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech.

Q10. Mr. Blaker

asked the Prime Minister whether he remains satisfied with the progress towards achieving the measures contained in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech.

Mr. Edward Short

I have been asked to reply.

No, Sir—[Interruption.] I am sorry; I read the wrong answer, Mr. Speaker. The answer is “Yes, Sir” .

Mr. Renton

May I say how disappointed I am that the Lord President did not stick to his unusually frank and honest original answer? Will he re-read the commitment in the Gracious Speech to provide more homes for rent? In view of the continuing shortage of public funds, what action will the Government take to drop their doctrinaire approach to housing, so as to stimulate home-ownership and provide more rented homes by allowing a form of short-term lease that does not confer long-term security?

Mr. Short

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman has raised this matter. It is something that I did not anticipate. The hon. Gentleman seems not to have studied the housing figures. There has been an enormous increase in the number of new houses built.

Mrs. Renée Short

Will my right hon Friend consider the matter and return to his first reply? Is he aware that we are all concerned about our commitment—it has been given over and over again—to maintain full employment? Is he aware that in my constituency the firm of NVT is very alarmed at the non-publication of the report that, I understand, has now been presented to his right hon. Friend? We are anxious to have a debate on the report as soon as possible. Will my right hon. Friend take this matter on board and see whether some undertakings can be given?

Mr. Short

On my hon. Friend's last point, I shall bear in mind what she says. I shall try to make such an arrangement as soon as possible. On my hon. Friend's first point, it is basic to this party's whole existence that we try to prevent unemployment. We bend all our [column 1720]policies towards that end. However, the overriding consideration at present is to cure inflation. It is clear that inflation is now the biggest enemy of employment and the biggest cause of unemployment. I hope that we can count on the support of my hon. Friend in all our measures to try to reduce the rate of inflation. That is the surest and most certain way of preventing unemployment.

Mr. Adley

As the right hon. Gentleman has just said that preventing inflation and unemployment are the Government's prime targets, as they featured so large in the Gracious Speech, and as the now defunct social contract was advertised in that speech as the cure of all these problems, will the right hon. Gentleman not now agree that the Prime Minister, as the architect of that policy, was either responsible for perpetrating a deliberate fraud on the electorate at the last election or guilty of a stupefying level of political naivety? Which was it?

Mr. Short

The social contract is still very much alive—[Interruption.] Of course, many right hon. and hon. Members in the Conservative Party have been dead for years. The recently announced anti-inflation policy is a development and evolvement of the social contract. Over the coming months the Opposition and the country will see that the social policy is working.

Mr. Roy Hughes

In his original answer my right hon. Friend said that he was not satisfied with the situation. Since the Labour Party Manifesto contained a proposal to take the ports into public ownership, will he ensure that this is contained in the next Queen's Speech and is given the utmost legislative priority?

Mr. Short

I hope that my hon. Friend heard me correctly when I said that I was very satisfied with the progress we had made. Originally, I read the wrong answer. The manifesto on which he and I fought the election was for a five-year Parliament. So far we have had only 18 months of it.

Mr. Blaker

Has the right hon. Gentleman observed that one person who so far does not appear to have been over-enthusiastic about helping the Government to pursue pay and prices policies is Mr. Scargill? Has that Mr. Scargill [column 1721]any connection with the Mr. Scargill who, when trying to break the pay and prices policy of the Conservative Government, received the enthusiastic and whole-hearted support of the Labour Party, including the Prime Minister?

Mr. Short

Fortunately, I have no responsibility for Mr. Scargill.

Mr. Heffer

Surely my right hon. Friend read the right answer—though not for the reasons which the Opposition are putting forward. Does he agree that we have retreated somewhat from our original proposals—based on pressure from the CBI, the City of London and the Tory Party? Will he give an assurance that there will be no further retreat, that we shall ignore completely the demands from the Opposition that we should withdraw our nationalisation and public ownership proposals, and that we shall carry them out as part of our campaign to combat unemployment?

Mr. Short

I entirely agree with the last part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question. What the Opposition are saying in this respect is utter nonsense. In reply to the first part of his question, I must tell the House that there has been no retreat. We have listened to what people have said on the progress of the Bill and have made amendments which we thought would command public support.

Mr. Renton

In view of the satisfactory original answer, may I inform the House that I do not wish to raise the matter on the Adjournment?

Mr. Speaker

No, the hon. Gentleman may not say that.