Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1975 Oct 14 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [897/1127-33]
Editorial comments: 1515-30.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2515
[column 1127]

PRIME MINISTER

(OFFICIAL ENGAGEMENTS)

Q1. Mr. Michael Latham

asked the Prime Minister whether he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 14th October.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

I shall be holding a number of meetings with ministerial colleagues and others and I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty The Queen this evening.

Mr. Latham

Is there not still time today for the Prime Minister to impress on all his Ministers the need for them to bring forward as a matter of urgency their proposals for immediate and substantial cuts in public expenditure?

The Prime Minister

The Question relates to the engagements I am having, not the engagements I am not having.

PRESS (ROYAL COMMISSION)

Q2. Mr. Lawson

asked the Prime Minister whether he has yet submitted his evidence to the Royal Commission on the Press; and, if so, if he will publish it.

Q7. Mr. Blaker

asked the Prime Minister whether he has yet presented his evidence to the Royal Commission on the Press, and if he will publish it.

The Prime Minister

My evidence is in an advanced state of preparation and I hope to submit it to the Royal Commission shortly. Subject to the agreement of the Commission, it is my intention to publish the evidence as soon as issues which are currently the subject of legal proceedings are settled.

Mr. Lawson

Is the Prime Minister aware that in one of his more excitable—some might say more paranoid—moments during the last Election campaign he said that whole cohorts of distinguished journalists were combing the country to find matters, true or false, with which to smear the Labour Party? Is he also aware that a year has now elapsed since he announced that he would give to the Royal Commission evidence, if such evidence exists, to support this allegation? Why has he taken so long?

[column 1128]

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman will have the fullest opportunity when, as I hope, this is published to find an answer to the question which he puts and also justification for the statement that I made on that occasion.

Mr. Blaker

Is it not extraordinary that after 13 months the House still has no idea about the subject in the Prime Minister's mind when he made those accusations? He said that the reason for the fact that his submission has not yet been made to the Royal Commission is connected with police inquiries. Will he say whether those inquiries are inquiries into the one matter to which we know the Prime Minister has referred the police, namely, the alleged loss of private papers from his London home in Lord North Street? If that is so, how could that matter be detrimental to the Labour Party?

The Prime Minister

It is not one burglary but eight into which the police are inquiring. In reply to the other point, the hon. Gentleman will obtain full satisfaction shortly, when, as I hope, he sees the evidence, but there are certain legal proceedings to be completed first.

TUC, CBI AND NEDC

Q3. Mr. Lawrence

asked the Prime Minister when he will next be meeting the TUC.

Q4. Mr. Beith

asked the Prime Minister when he next expects to take the chair at a meeting of the National Economic Development Council.

Q5. Mr. Cyril Smith

asked the Prime Minister what recent consultations he has had with representations of the TUC and the CBI.

Q6. Mr. Ashley

asked the Prime Minister how many times he met the TUC and the CBI during the recess; and if he will make a statement.

Q8. Mr. Tebbit

asked the Prime Minister if he has met the TUC during the recess.

The Prime Minister

I am frequently in touch with leaders of both the TUC and the CBI at NEDC and on other occasions, and meetings are arranged as necessary. I shall be meeting the TUC [column 1129]at the Liaison Committee on 27th October and, as the House knows, I shall be taking the chair at the next meeting of NEDC at Chequers on 5th November.

Mr. Lawrence

Will the Prime Minister confirm on 27th October the words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer recently that the Government have not the faintest idea what their borrowing requirements will be for the forthcoming year, and explain what implications that will have for the Government's future anti-inflation strategy?

The Prime Minister

I do not know what will be on the agenda on that occasion. My right hon. Friend has followed the practice of every Chancellor of the Exchequer, to make forecasts of these matters at the appropriate times in the House, but under successive Governments there have always been changes which have falsified some of the estimates.

Mr. Ashley

In view of the fact that words used by Conservative spokesmen, and by journalists who support them, have been devoted to the wishful thesis that the concordat on the £6 pay policy between the Government and the trade union movement is a bogus public relations exercise, will my right hon. Friend say whether that claim is true or whether it is itself a bogus public relations exercise?

The Prime Minister

I am very happy to feel that in the bracing air of Blackpool, over two weeks, not only have some hon. Friends of mine, who voted against the procedures, now accepted the Government's policy, but that Her Majesty's Opposition, who abstained on the vote and on the legislation, have now, I understand, at least from the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition at Blackpool—[Interruption.] This is a very serious matter. I am referring to the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw.) He, at any rate, stated at Blackpool that his party—or whatever section of it he represents—supports the policy of the Government on which the Opposition sat on their hands when Parliament had to decide.

Mr. Beith

Will the meetings which the Prime Minister is to have with both sides of industry include discussion of the continuation of some form of incomes restraint beyond the £6-a-week period, especially now that he has gone so far [column 1130]as to accept the view we pressed on him that incomes restraint was necessary? Will he take note that in the pursuit of this policy, and any further policy beyond the end of the period of the £6 limit, if last night's voting figures are anything to go by, he need not fear even the most purposeful and determined opposition from the Conservative benches?

The Prime Minister

I missed the last few words. I hope I got the drift of it. I do not fear anything from that lot, anyway. On the whole, it seems that their absenteeism is more purposive than their abstention.

Concerning the serious part of the hon. Gentleman's question, it has been said by my right hon. Friends and myself—and by leading trade union leaders—that clearly during the next 12 months starting with the acceptance by Parliament of the legislation, or well before the end of that period, we shall have to consider the legislation for the next year and for succeeding years. It is premature to start to speculate about that at this time.

I might tell the hon. Member, on a wider economic issue than those raised—this does arise out of the Question—that I have invited both the TUC and the CBI to meet me before the meeting of Heads of States and Governments on the international economic situation takes place in Paris on 15th November. The TUC and the CBI have both accepted that invitation and will be meeting separately with me in order to give me their views.

Mr. Atkinson

Will my right hon. Friend acknowledge that the Government have now accepted totally the bankers' advice, knowing full well the effects that that advice will have in raising the level of unemployment? Does he agree that the Government's intention over the next two years is to cut the public sector borrowing requirement by £3,500 million, and that by raising the bank rate by 1 per cent. they are also cutting the private sector borrowing requirement? Will he now appoint advisers who can put before him some of the alternative solutions, making it possible to bring down the rate of price inflation, while at the same time taking measures to reflate the economy immediately, and so start to do something about the unemployment in this country?

[column 1131]

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is quite wrong in saying that this is a question of accepting any sectional advice of any kind. What we have done in these matters, both on the anti-inflation policy and on unemployment, is to act responsibly and announce our policy to the country. It has not been universally accepted, but I think that my hon. Friend, or the group of which he is a member, has now accepted——

Mr. Atkinson

No.

Mr. Skinner

No.

The Prime Minister

I am very sorry to hear it. It looks as though my hon. Friend's public relations is not as good as it used to be. At any rate, there is now a wide acceptance of our policy by a very large proportion of the country, unanimously at the Labour Party conference and now, we understand, by the Conservative Party conference—and it very large numbers of people. The policy against which my hon. Friends voted in August is now acceptable to the Labour Party conference and, indeed, to the Conservative Party conference—and it is not against the manifesto either.

Mr. Tebbit

When he next sees the TUC, will the Prime Minister establish just what this agreed policy is, and will he tell the House whether the £6 is a limit, up to which negotiations may take place, or whether it is, as the TUC and many of his hon. Friends maintain, a universal flat-rate entitlement for all wage earners?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman, like a number of others—not only in his own party—is becoming utterly pathetic in trying to pretend that there are disagreements where there are not. [Interruption.] I can contain my side as long as the Conservative Front Bench can contain theirs. Concerning the question, the answer was given in the White Paper, approved by Parliament. The Conservative Party did not vote on that approval and abstained on the legislation. The answer is to be found there. The answer is that the £6 is a pay limit.

Mr. Tomlinson

Will my right hon. Friend agree that, now that the decision of this House has received the overwhelming endorsement of both the Trades Union Congress and the Labour Party [column 1132]conference, he really ought to be spending his time in trying to drag out of the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition exactly what her priorities for public expenditure cuts would be?

The Prime Minister

There will be plenty of time for that in the weeks that lie ahead. We know that the Conservative Party is committed to heavy cuts in public expenditure. Apart from cuts in food and housing subsidies, which would increase the cost of living, it has been totally unspecific. Now that we have all benefited from the bracing air of Blackpool, I hope that the House of Commons will be told of the cuts in expenditure to which the Conservatives are committed in order to realise the target set by the right hon. Member the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer at Blackpool.

Mrs. Thatcher

Are we to understand from what Harold Wilsonthe Prime Minister said that he has absolutely no plans for further cuts in public expenditure? Bearing in mind that the interest rate rose on the day that the Labour Party conference ended, how much further must it rise before the Government moderate their spending?

The Prime Minister

Before I answer the Question, I hope that the right hon. Lady, will allow me for one moment to express our congratulations—[Interruption.] There used to be courtesy before the Conservative Party became so split. I am sure that the whole House would wish me to express, with retrospective effect, our congratulations on her birthday, yesterday. I hope it was a very happy birthday.

As for the paint problem, the answer is to try turps——

Mr. Rost

Cheap!

The Prime Minister

Yes, it is very cheap! I could not understand why she did not buy any.

Concerning the very serious question about public expenditure, before the recess I told the House, in answer to a Question—I think by the right hon. Lady—that, in relation to the normal consideration of a five-year rolling programme of expenditure, we are now hard at work on the expenditure estimates. Those for the coming year have been announced and even the right hon. Lady would not [column 1133]want to cut public expenditure at a time of world-wide trade depression and cause more unemployment. We are looking at this matter for the later years, and the figures will be announced to the House in the proper manner at the proper time.

I am not quite clear what point the right hon. Lady was trying to make concerning interest rates. She will know that these matters are determined by the financial authorities, and she will know the particular circumstances which led to that decision.

Mrs. Thatcher

The Prime Minister knows full well that the Government are having difficulty in borrowing money, because of their spending programmes. What I think the right hon. Gentleman has just said is that he would rather print money or let interest rates rise than reduce his expenditure programme.

The Prime Minister

That rendering of what I said was about as perverse as the right hon. Lady's reference at Blackpool to what I had said about Labour being the natural party of government, when she attributed all kinds of arguments which had never been considered by any of us. [Interruption.] There are one or two who might be a little unhappy about that, I agree. But I said what I did because we were in office in 11½ years out of 15 years, and that is a pretty good argument to support what I said. The right hon. Lady is quite wrong to say that I said that we would print money instead of dealing in a responsible manner with public expenditure. She knows from her own experience when in government—she cannot go on running away from responsibility for it—that these matters must be planned two or three years ahead and that if there are cuts in a given year they are usually totally uneconomic. In this case, if that is all that the right hon. Lady is pressing for, it would lead to vastly increased unemployment.