Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1975 Oct 28 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [898/1285-94]
Editorial comments: 1515-30.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 3097
Themes: Economy (general discussions), Labour Party & socialism
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ECONOMIC POLICY

(MINISTER'S SPEECH)

Q1. Mr. David Steel

asked the Prime Minister if the public speech given by the Secretary of State for Employment at Blackpool on Wednesday 1st October, on economic policy, represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

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The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

My right hon. Friend did not speak from a prepared script, but in the light of the Press reports and television recordings of extracts from his speech which I have seen, the answer is clearly “Yes, Sir” .

Mr. Steel

Is the Prime Minister aware that I had the advantage over him of being present at the Tribune rally on that occasion? I greatly enjoyed the speech in question, but I found it remarkable. The Secretary of State's message was that the Labour movement should rally behind the present Government until they have an adequate parliamentary majority to introduce public ownership on a vast and unimagined scale. If that is the Government's policy, how does he think it will affect their current appeals to private industry to invest? Is it not like saying to a man “We are going to shoot you, but will you please lay in good food supplies for the future?”

The Prime Minister

I accept that the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) had the advantage over me. I think that all parties welcomed his presence in Blackpool with the BBC on that occasion. All the reports I have seen justify the answer I have given. The Government are carrying out the manifestos on which we fought the last two elections. Anything beyond that is a question for the manifesto for the next election, which we shall win as well.

Mr. Tomlinson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the major deficiency in our economic policy has nothing to do with the Secretary of State for Employment, but with the failure of the Opposition to come clean and tell us what they are going to do by way of the public expenditure cuts they keep telling us about?

The Prime Minister

Since the Opposition are concentrating mainly on public expenditure, I am still awaiting a message from the Leader of the Opposition to say what they would cut.

Mrs. Thatcher

Is the Harold WilsonPrime Minister aware that under his Government we have had record inflation, record unemployment, record borrowing and record taxation? Why, then, does he [column 1287]display record complacency and record incompetence?

The Prime Minister

It must have taken most of the morning to draft that—[Interruption.] I can answer these important questions only if I can be heard, in view of the mechanical defects which exist today. The right hon. Lady will know from the record of her Government, from which she dissociates herself on almost every question, that the decline in industrial production began under that Government—and she never complained about it then—and that her own newspapers were saying that they should go to the country in January last year because of an expectation of 18 per cent. inflation that year.

SCOTTISH ASSEMBLY

Q2. Mr. Rifkind

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make an official visit to the proposed site of the Scottish Assembly.

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to do so, Sir. My right hon. Friends the Lord President of the Council and the Secretary of State for the Environment visited the site last month.

Mr. Rifkind

Is the Prime Minister aware that there is deep concern in Scotland over the progress of the Government's devolution policy? Will he now give a categorical assurance, in the name of the whole Cabinet, that the Government will move to introduce the necessary legislation to establish the Assembly early in the next parliamentary Session? Will he give a further assurance that unless there is evidence of deliberate and continuing filibustering, there will be no suggestion of any guillotine being applied, bearing in mind that this is the most major constitutional legislation since the Act of Union of 1707?

The Prime Minister

I give the assurance for which the hon. Gentleman asks. I want to make it quite clear that the Government are resolved on proceeding in this matter and that the White Paper is at an advanced stage of preparation and will be introduced into the House in the next few weeks. While we shall, of course, be more than ready to listen to any public debate upon it and to have [column 1288]consultations upon it, we are already starting, and, indeed, have started, on the drafting of legislation.

On the question of a guillotine, that matter does not arise, because the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition and the Conservative Party are in support of the White Paper that we have published. [Interruption.] The White Paper we are drafting is intended—[Interruption.] The White Paper, on which we fought and won the election last year, has been supported, I understand, in general terms by the Conservative Party. The White Paper on which we are working clothes that White Paper with a great deal of detailed proposals, on which we shall be glad to have the views of the House.

I hope that there would not be any question of even having to consider a guillotine—though there is a very powerful precedent which I would not want to follow, namely, the application by the right hon. Lady's Government of a guillotine on the EEC legislation.

Mr. Dalyell

If we have Edinburgh Government, how, in conscience or logic, do we deny Northern Ireland at least an extra 10 Members?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend's views on this matter are well known and deeply respected, but they do not represent the view of the Labour Party, as stated in the manifesto on which we fought the election. I do not agree with him. The situation in Northern Ireland, which the whole House has deep regret in recognising, is entirely different from the situation on this side of the water. All of us hope that with good statesmanship in Northern Ireland we shall find a solution.

Mr. Donald Stewart

Is the Prime Minister aware that the Royal High School referred to would be a picturesque ruin before any decision-making came back to Scotland if he listened to some of the reactionaries on his own benches and on the Conservative benches? Is he also aware that, contrary to what has been said, the Chairman of the Scottish Conservative Party has given a guarantee that if the Government meet with any trouble from their own backwoodsmen, the Scottish Conservative Party will support them on a guillotine motion?

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The Prime Minister

I do not know what the Chairman of the Scottish Conservative Party—for whom, I hasten to add, there is no ministerial responsibility—has said. I was not sure whether the hon. Member meant that the Government or the Opposition would introduce the guillotine motion. I do not accept the opening part of what the hon. Gentleman said. We are proceeding with all reasonable speed in this matter. We shall at all times, from now on, from the publication of the White Paper, be ready to listen to what is said in consultations. The White Paper represents the views of the Government. Subject to consultations or any comments made in public debate, we would propose to proceed on that basis.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Taylor.

Mr. Stokes

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is there not to be an opportunity for an English Member to raisé his voice?

PRIME MINISTER (VISITS)

Q3. Mr. Teddy Taylor

asked the Prime Minister when he next intends to visit the west of Scotland.

The Prime Minister

As the House knows, I shall be in Scotland next Monday to attend the ceremony to mark the inauguration of BP's Forties Field, but I have at present no plans to visit the west of Scotland again this year.

Mr. Taylor

Is the Prime Minister aware that the people of the west of Scotland would deplore the break-up of the United Kingdom, which, apart from other evils, would destroy thousands of jobs in the Glasgow area in Government offices such as the Post Office Savings Bank? In particular, will the right hon. Gentleman explain the very worrying slippage in the agreed timetable for the transfer of 1,000 Foreign Office jobs and 7,000 defence jobs to Glasgow? Will he give an assurance that the go-slow is not because of fears of Ministers and others that the devolution plans, if badly constructed, might precipitate the break-up of Great Britain?

The Prime Minister

On the hon. Gentleman's point, he will realise that there is no question in our proposals of any break-up of the United Kingdom. Indeed, [column 1290]the measures we are proposing—this has become clear from many debates in the House in the present Parliament—are for a devolution of areas of control over the national life and economy of Scotland, but not separatism. We are convinced that the people of Scotland do not want separatism. I hope that that is clear, and that the hon. Gentleman will support it.

On the second part of the question, about Civil Service redeployment, I shall be glad to look into the matters that the hon. Gentleman has raised and either to write to him about them or have the information conveyed to him.

Dr. J. Dickson Mabon

In view of the assurances on the second part of that answer, and leaving aside the matter of jobs, may I revert to the question of the timetable for devolution? Will my right hon. Friend confirm—in view of the reports in the Press in the past five days and the suggestion that it would take us 28 days on the Floor of the House to pass the Bill and, therefore, that it might run into the sands of time rather than be passed through the House—that the Bill will be introduced in January and not in March?

The Prime Minister

There is no ministerial responsibility for the various comments that I have been reading, which bear no relation to the facts. We shall introduce the legislation at the earliest possible moment. It is complicated. [Interruption.] We shall introduce it at the earliest possible moment—or the day before. I cannot be more specific than that. The House will want to consider the White Paper. This will come within the next few weeks. The legislation, as I have said, is already in course of preparation. It will be introduced at the earliest possible moment. There will be no avoidable delay, and certainly none of the kind that I have seen foreshadowed in the Press in recent days, for whatever reason.

EUROPEAN REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT FUND

Q4. Mr. Tom Ellis

asked the Prime Minister if he is satisfied that there is adequate co-ordination between the Foreign Office and the Welsh Office in respect of the European Regional Development Fund.

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The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Ellis

In view of the relative failure of a succession of regional development policies over 40 years—it is relative failure if one considers the demographic trend—and in order to obtain a truly European regional development, does my right hon. Friend agree that it is essential to mobilise and develop the political will which exists in the region and, therefore, that it is important not only to establish an elected Assembly—important though that is—but to ensure that existing institutions, such as local authorities, for example, have direct access to the European fund's administrators?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend about the need to mobilise all the resources of Wales—material, human and labour resources. He will be aware that several of my right hon. Friends and I had an important meeting with the Welsh TUC, in which were raised many of the questions which I know are in his mind. We have now sent the Welsh TUC further information, and discussions will be continued by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State. I agree with my hon. Friend—as in Scotland, so in Wales. An important contribution to what he and all of us have in mind is not only pushing on with the White Paper but turning it into reality.

Mr. Thorpe

In the context of Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom, do the Government regard money from the European Regional Development Fund as being in addition to the amount of money that the Government would have spent, or in substitution for it? Is the Prime Minister aware that a previous answer we have had on this matter is not clear?

The Prime Minister

When European funds are used for projects which would otherwise have been supported by the Exchequer, funds are freed to enable us to support regional development in other ways; for example, through the advance factory programme recently announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. Had it not been for the European contribution it would have been much more difficult for us to devote money to a project such as that.

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Mr. Wyn Roberts

Will the Prime Minister either confirm or deny a report in the Economist that, whereas Italy, Ireland and France were quick off the mark in applying to the Regional Development Fund, we were rather late in applying and, as a result, Italy received £36.2 million whereas the United Kingdom received only £8.8 million?

The Prime Minister

I have no ministerial responsibility for reports in the Economist, but I would wish to comment on this. It is certainly not true that we were slow off the mark. I recall that during the referendum campaign many accusations were made, which have since been falsified, that there was a speeding up of regional aid from the Community until, it was suggested, 4th June. Those accusations have since been disproved by the substantial increases in regional disbursement, certainly to Wales—of which I gave figures to the Welsh TUC—and to other parts of the United Kingdom in need of regional development.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Mendelson.

Mrs.Kellett-Bowman

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hope that the hon. Lady will not pursue her point of order. I intend to call her for a supplementary question after the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson).

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

I want to raise a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

By doing so the hon. Lady may lose her chance to ask a supplementary question. I deprecate points of order at Question Time. As I said, I shall call her for a supplementary question after the hon. Member for Penistone.

Mr. Mendelson

With reference to the availability of funds for regional development, has the Prime Minister noticed a recent unfortunate development, in that certain members of the EEC have refused to make available additional sums on the ground, well-argued during the referendum campaign, that the excesses of the common agricultural policy demand larger and larger sums for useless policies, with the result that regional policies suffer? Will my right hon. Friend join forces with those Governments in putting a stop to [column 1293]the wasteful policies being pursued under the heading of the common agricultural policy?

The Prime Minister

That does not arise out of a Question about Wales. I agree with my hon. Friend that it is an important matter, but it raises wider issues, on which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has answered Questions. I go along with any proposal, from wherever it comes, to eliminate waste in the expenditure of EEC funds, as, I am sure, does the House. My hon. Friend will have seen the initiative I took and the proposals I made in the European Assembly on the introduction of a system approaching our own Public Accounts Committee in the financial mechanism of the EEC.

Mrs. Kellet-Bowman

Is the Prime Minister aware that local authorities in England are concerned about the lack of information on the criteria used by the Government when submitting schemes to Europe for assistance from the Regional Development Fund? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in Lancaster, which has an unemployment rate of 7.3 per cent. and an employment job vacancy ratio of 41.4 per cent., much help is required? Is he further aware that the answer he has just given to the House is inaccurate, in that the United Kingdom was behind Italy, Ireland and France in its application? That information was given to us in Europe last week, and we were told that we could use it.

The Prime Minister

I am aware of the hon. Lady's concern, not only for European questions but for the area which she represents. The Question relates to Welsh matters. If the matters raised by the hon. Lady are raised at Question Time with my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, I am sure that she will be satisfied with the answer.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

The right hon. Gentleman's answer was wrong.

Mr. Speaker

I am sorry about the acoustics. I seem to be able to hear everyone except the person who is speaking from the Treasury Bench. Whether or not that is an advantage, I do not know; it is not for me to say. I shall try to have the matter put right.

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Mr. Atkinson

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. If whoever is addressing the House from the Dispatch Box would move three yards to the left, everyone would hear. I am sure that the Prime Minister is sufficiently flexible to be able to address the House from that position.

The Prime Minister

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Some of us learnt to speak in public in the days before microphones. I know how anxious are Opposition Members always to hear what I have to say. That is why they barrack so much. If this mechanical defect occurs again, I hope that I shall be in order in standing on this Bench and addressing the House.