Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1975 Oct 23 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [898/707-13]
Editorial comments: 1515-30.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2472
Themes: Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries
[column 707]

PRIME MINISTER

(OFFICIAL ENGAGEMENTS)

Q1. Mr. Norman Lamont

asked the Prime Minister whether he will list his engagements for 23rd October.

Q3. Mr. Canavan

asked the Prime Minister whether he will list his official engagements for the remainder of 23rd October.

Q6. Mr. Les Huckfield

asked the Prime Minister whether he will list his official engagements for 23rd October.

Q8. Mr. Skinner

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 23rd October.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

I chaired a meeting of the Cabinet this morning and will be holding further meetings with my ministerial colleagues and others. This evening I hope to have an Audience of Her Majesty The Queen.

Mr. Lamont

Why has the Prime Minister no plans to meet the Governor of the Bank of England, who last week expressed his deep concern about the size of the Government's public sector borrowing requirement? Is it not as a direct consequence of our need to borrow these huge sums of money that our interest rates are now about 5 per cent. higher than in the United States or Western Europe? What does the right hon. Gentleman think that that will do to employment?

The Prime Minister

These Questions refer to the engagements that I have today, not to those that I do not have. I met the Governor at Downing Street on Monday.

Mr. Canavan

Does my right hon. Friend agree that his most important engagement today is Question Time in the House? Will he try to impress that [column 708]upon his Cabinet colleagues, especially my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who hardly ever appears at Question Time, and who has been given the important job of negotiating the oil participation? When will he conclude that important task? The negotiations have been going on for almost 12 months, and only five out of 20 companies have come to an agreement.

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend has answered many questions, but if there is dissatisfaction it is a matter for discussion through the usual channels. It does not arise out of Questions relating to my engagements today.

Mr. Michael Latham

The Prime Minister had a meeting with the Cabinet this morning, which he can hardly deny was an engagement today. Did he discuss with the Cabinet the question of public expenditure? If so, what did the Cabinet do about it?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman, with his long experience in the House, will know that questions about what is considered at Cabinet Committees are never allowed in the House.

Mr. Skinner

When my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister sees Her Majesty later today, will he remind her——

Mr. Speaker

Order. Exactly the same convention applies with regard both to Cabinet meetings and to Audiences of Her Majesty. They are not subject to question in this House.

Mr. Skinner

As my right hon. Friend will be seeing Her Majesty this evening, will he consider the possibility of putting to her——

Mr. Speaker

Order. If the hon. Gentleman wants to ask a supplementary question, it must not be directed to an Audience of Her Majesty the Queen.

Mr. Skinner

Instead of going to the Palace, perhaps my right hon. Friend will do something much more useful, and take a trip down the corridor to the House of Lords——

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

And stay there.

Mr. Skinner

—and take account of the antics being performed by the Tory geriatrics in that place? Will he also take [column 709]note of the fact that the Leader of the Opposition is unable to keep her troops here late at night, and is using the other place in order to frustrate the will of a democratically-elected Government?

The Prime Minister

Apart from the fact that I am answering Questions only about engagements that I have today, there is, in respect of the House of Lords and in respect of the attendance and other performances of Conservative Members, no ministerial responsibility, I am happy to say.

Mrs. Thatcher

Will Harold Wilsonthe Prime Minister today take action on the report of the Price Commission which is out today and which shows very graphically that price increases in the nationalised industries are far greater and are occurring far faster than in the private sector, and that this has nothing to do with the reduction of the deficit, which is slightly higher now that it was? Will he therefore take time to point out to the public what a bad bargain they are getting from the nationalised industries?

The Prime Minister

I am interested that the right hon. Lady, in her study of this matter—which does not arise out of my engagements today, but I shall do her the courtesy of replying to her question—has not drawn attention to the many other very interesting facts in the report. Perhaps, at subsequent Question Times, she will take the opportunity of doing so. It was, of course, the policy of her Government—a policy from which she has not yet so far dissociated herself, and which was announced on 17th December 1973 in peremptory terms by the then Chancellor, who is no longer with us—that the publicly-owned industries should set charges at a level to reflect expenses and costs. We are seeing that this is done, and the right hon. Lady is trying to make capital out of the fact that we are carrying out policies to which she was committed.

LOUTH

Q4. Mr. Brotherton

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

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to do so.

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Mr. Brotherton

Is the Prime Minister aware that if he were to visit Louth he would find an overwhelming majority of the electorate who believe that capital punishment should be reintroduced for crimes of terrorism? Will he therefore afford us time to debate this matter again at the earliest possible opportunity? Will he give a lead to the House and to the nation by saying that he has now changed his mind and is himself in favour of capital punishment for these crimes?

The Prime Minister

I have made clear, in relation to questions whether I will visit particular places, that it is not my task to go around Conservative constituencies finding out what people think because their views are not adequately represented by their own Members in this House. The hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton), with his long experience in this House, will know that over very many years all decisions in this House on capital punishment have been left to a free vote of right hon. and hon. Members. There seems no reason to change that. It is only a very short time since we had a debate in this House and since a clear decision was taken on a free vote.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND

(PRIME MINISTER)

Q5. Mr. Biggs -Davison

asked the Prime Minister when he proposes to have an official meeting with the Taoiseach.

The Prime Minister

I expect to meet the Taoiseach at the next European Heads of Government meeting in Rome on 1st and 2nd December.

Mr. Biggs -Davison

I welcome that reply. Is the Prime Minister aware that my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) and I will be seeing the Taoiseach in Dublin tomorrow? May we, in so doing, humbly convey from this House an expression of its admiration for the courageous and determined efforts being made in the Irish Republic against the atrocious terrorism which is the common enemy of us all, on both sides of the Irish border and the Irish Sea?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, and from all I have heard of visits to Northern Ireland by the hon. Members for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) and Epping Forest (Mr. Biggs -Davison). I know that they will [column 711]show the same sense of responsibility south of the border as they do on their visits north of the border. I believe that their visits have been extremely helpful, and I am sure that this visit will be, too. Certainly, while we are always trying to improve relations, particularly on border matters and such things, we in this House know the great agony that the Taoiseach and his colleagues are going through in this matter. They know, as their police know, that any help that we can give, arising from the parallel problems we face here, we shall give.

Mr. McNamara

Is my right hon. Friend aware that when he meets the Taoiseach many people will wish him to congratulate the Taoiseach on the firm attitude he has taken on terrorism in the Republic and also on the particular case which is exciting all our imaginations and anxieties at the moment? Will he remember to inform the Taoiseach that settlement of the Northern Ireland problem is not an issue which exists only within this island or within our country, but that it is a question, also, of a common frontier and the common interest that we have in achieving peace within that island?

The Prime Minister

I thank my hon. Friend for the tributes he has paid to the Taoiseach and to the relations which exist and have existed between successive British Government and the Irish Government during these very difficult times. It certainly is the case, to use the phrase invented by the previous Government, that there is an Irish dimension in these matters. However, the Southern Irish Government have shown great moderation and great responsibility on all questions concerning Northern Ireland.

Mr. Churchill

Since the Irish American community is today the principal source of finance for terrorism in Northern Ireland, will the right hon. Gentleman, when he next meets the Taoiseach, please convey to him the thanks of this House and of the British people for the very courageous and stouthearted stand of successive Ministers of the Dublin Government when they have visited the United States? They have made absolutely clear to the Irish American community where these resources go, and our concern that the [column 712]political leaders of that community have not thus far had the courage to speak up in similar terms.

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to the hon. Member. What he said is right, and justified by what has been said in North America by representatives of the Irish Government. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I made the point when we met the Foreign Affairs Committee of both Houses of Congress and pressed this issue strongly on them. I know that hon. Members in all parts of the House have pressed this issue in relation to the United States and one or two other places. It is help with money and munitions that is perpetuating terrorism in these islands.

SCOTTISH OFFICE

Q7. Mr. Teddy Taylor

asked the Prime Minister when he proposes to appoint a further Minister to the Scottish Office.

The Prime Minister

I announced the appointment of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Queen's Park (Mr. McElhone) as an Under-Secretary of State at the Scottish Office on 12th September.

Mr. Taylor

Is the Prime Minister aware that in spite of that the Secretary of State for Scotland is fast losing the confidence of the people of Scotland? Is he aware, too, that when in opposition the Secretary of State claimed that when Scottish unemployment reached 100,000 the honourable course for a Scottish Secretary was to resign? Does he know that the right hon. Gentleman is now supervising an economy where 120,000 are unemployed and where the figure is rising at the rate of over 1,000 per week? In these circumstances, will he explain why the Secretary of State, in a full day's debate on Tuesday, was unable to give us any idea how much cash would be available to the much-publicised Scottish Development Agency in its first year?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Member made exactly the same point about my right hon. Friend a year ago, after which there was a General Election in which the Tories were decimated.

[column 713]

Mr. Pardoe

Not by you.

The Prime Minister

We held our numbers extremely well. The Scots were looking for a decent Opposition, just as the people south of the border are today. Unemployment is serious, and it has been very fully debated in this House. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) knows the consequences for many countries of the world recession and of the oil price rise. He will also know that at no time since statistics began to be collected has the ratio between unemployment in Scotland and that south of the boarder been so low as it is today.

Mr. Grimond

May we have an assurance that when the Government produce their White Paper on the future of Scottish government it will deal with the position of the Scottish Secretary and other Ministers, and with the Civil Service which serves them?

The Prime Minister

Yes, it will.

Mr. Reid

Before considering the introduction of a further Scots Minister, will the Prime Minister study reports in The Times today and The Scotsman yesterday, which confirm widespread fears in Scotland that the Assembly Bill will be subject to delay and prevarication? In view of the Government's clear commitment to the people of Scotland that they will have a meaningful Assembly, will he take this opportunity to confirm that the Government intend to press ahead with the introduction of the Bill forthwith, after publication of the White Paper?

The Prime Minister

I can assure the hon. Member that these matters will be fully dealt with in the White Paper. There is no ministerial responsibility for what may appear in the newspapers north or south of the border. At the moment, I am more concerned with seeing whether there is any means of saving a very good Scottish paper which is in danger of extinction.