Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1975 Oct 30 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [898/1747-58]
Editorial comments: 1515-30.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 3959
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TUC, CBI AND NEDC

Q1. Mr. Gould

asked the Prime Minister when he next expects to meet the leaders of the TUC.

Q3. Mr. Watkinson

asked the Prime Minister when he next plans to meet the TUC.

Q5. Mr. Ashley

asked the Prime Minister when he next proposes to meet the TUC and the CBI.

Q10. Mr. Molloy

asked the Prime Minister when he next expects to meet the TUC and the CBI.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

I shall be meeting representatives of the TUC later today to hear [column 1748]their views on the issues which will be discussed at the meeting of Heads of State and Governments on the international economic situation in Paris on 15th November. I had a similar meeting with the CBI on Monday and as the House knows, I shall be meeting both the TUC and the CBI when I take the chair at the next meeting of NEDC of 5th November.

Mr. Gould

Will my right hon. Friend suggest to the TUC leaders when he meets them that they could learn a good deal about the reasons for our current economic difficulties from a close study of the operations of Slater Walker? Does he agree that the Conservative Party might also learn from such a study, and that it might conclude it would be better employed in supporting the Government's efforts to promote genuine investment and productive industry than proclaiming the supposed virtues of the squalid, unproductive and irresponsible profit taking which is practised by its own high priests?

The Prime Minister

As far as I understand it, having studied what my hon. Friend has said, neither Mr. Slater nor the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) is a member of the TUC.

Mr. Ashley

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the TUC is far more interested in the general level of public expenditure than in financial whizz kids, and that it is eagerly awaiting with bated breath the massive shopping list of public expenditure cuts that will be handed to my right hon. Friend shortly by the Leader of the Opposition? In view of the right hon. Lady's recent speeches, does my right hon. Friend agree that when she publishes her massive shopping list of public expenditure cuts she will make a significant contribution to a basic human right that she has enthusiastically propounded—namely, the right to be unequal?

The Prime Minister

There is not a great deal of ministerial responsibility or any other kind of responsibility so far as these pledges are concerned. I have made inquiries—I do not know whether it is due to postal delays or some other cause—but I have not seen the list to which my hon. Friend refers.

Mr. Hordern

Bearing in mind the right hon. Gentleman's talks with the [column 1749]TUC, will he confirm that it remains the Government's intention to reduce public expenditure by £1,200 million next year?

The Prime Minister

The figure announced by my right hon. Friend in the Budget for the 1976–77 expenditure year remains the policy of Her Majesty's Government. I think that the hon. Gentleman will confirm that the figure announced in the Budget was slightly smaller, but that is the Government's policy.

Mr. Molloy

Will my right hon. Friend tell the House, notwithstanding the curious ailment that afflicts some Conservative Members who want public expenditure cuts, except in their own constituencies, where they want an increase, what representations have been made to him by the CBI, the TUC and the Leader of the Opposition for cuts in public expenditure generally and the National Health Service in particular?

The Prime Minister

I suppose that question arises out of my hon. Friend's reference to ailments. I have had, as have other Ministers appearing at this Dispatch Box, demands from Conservative Members for vastly increased expenditure. I have had no specific propositions for reductions in expenditure from the Opposition, apart from some ideological preoccupation with nationalisation, where there is no addition to expenditure in real resources, and the proposals of the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition in respect of food and housing subsidies, which would merely increase the cost-of-living index and make more difficult the acceptance by the country of the counter-inflation policy on wages, about which the right hon. Lady could not even vote.

Mrs. Thatcher

When Harold Wilsonthe Prime Minister sees the TUC today, or at any other time, will he point out that, according to his right hon. Friend Denis Healeythe Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Government will be borrowing even more next year than this year and that a large part of the cost of that borrowing will have to be borne out of the pay packets of its members?

The Prime Minister

If it is so necessary to answer that question, my reply is “Yes, Sir” , but every member of the TUC heard my right hon. Friend explain [column 1750]these matters with great courage at the Labour Party Conference, and this was fully understood there. We did not have a similar degree of courage from the right hon. Lady when she addressed her own conference.

WEST OF SCOTLAND

Q2. Mr. Rifkind

asked the Prime Minister whether he will pay an official visit to the West of Scotland.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) on 28th October, Sir.

Mr. Rifkind

Is the Prime Minister aware that the Chrysler Linwood factory, which provides 6,500 jobs, is in the West of Scotland? Is he further aware that throughout the United Kingdom more than 25,000 jobs might be put in jeopardy if Chrysler decided to move out of the United Kingdom? Will he inform the House what representations the Government are making to try to prevent what would be, on any calculation, a devastating blow to employment prospects if the company were to move out?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman has not exaggerated the seriousness of any possible move of that kind. It has been known for some time that the financial situation of Chrysler (UK) has been causing anxiety. The Government, including myself, in meetings with the Detroit heads, have been in continual touch with the corporation, and we were given assurances by the corporation in line with the assurances previously given on the occasion of the merger with Rootes in 1968. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry has written to Mr. Riccardo, Chairman of the Chrysler Corporation, asking for a full appraisal of the situation. I understand that the corporation had in any event intended to have discussion with my right hon. Friend in the very near future. I have informed myself very fully of the situation so far as the discussions with Chrysler are concerned. No decision has been taken. I can give the House an assurance that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry and I would expect to meet the corporation before any decision affecting Chrysler [column 1751](UK) was taken. I can give the House the firm assurance that at this stage it is too early to speculate as to what that decision might be.

Mr. Les Huckfield

May I, on behalf of my constituents, thank my right hon. Friend for the reply that he has just given? Is he aware that to those who represent other constituencies, apart from those in Scotland, the announcement by the Chairman of Chrysler Corporation also represents a serious situation? Does he agree that this is a complex situation, including the factors of model ranges, market capacity, and a whole range of other problems? Is he able to give the House more information about the undertaking that he personally was given in connection with the Chrysler Corporation when he visited America earlier this year?

The Prime Minister

As far as I am aware, no decision has been announced. I think that some phrases have been used in the United States, but I do not regard them as a decision and I have confirmed that that is true equally of Chrysler International.

I agree with my hon. Friend. There are many problems here with model ranges and so on. Concerned as he and I are with his constituents and with those of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) and others, let me say in reply that this afternoon my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry will be meeting a number of my hon. Friends who are involved with Chrysler, and he wanted me to say particularly that if any hon. Member in any part of the House wishes to have a meeting with him about the anxieties over Chrysler, he will be glad to arrange that at the earliest possible moment.

There are other problems, and my hon. Friend is aware of these from his constituency, as is the hon. Member for Pentlands. There is also the question, from the point of view of our exports, of the enormous programme of shipments to Iran from Chrysler (UK) Limited, and in anything that is discussed we shall all be concerned with maintaining that flow of exports.

Mr. Buchan

rose——

Mr. Speaker

The next Question is No. 4.

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Mr. Buchan

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As mine is the constituency under discussion, I had hoped to be called to ask a question.

Mr. Speaker

If the hon. Member bides his time, he may get a chance to do so.

STATE OF THE NATION

Q4. Mr. Norman Lamont

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a ministerial broadcast on the state of the nation.

Q6. Mr. Blaker

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a ministerial broadcast about the state of the nation.

Q7. Mr. George Gardiner

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a ministerial broadcast on the state of the nation.

Q9. Mr. Peter Morrison

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a ministerial broadcast on the state of the nation.

The Prime Minister

When I think it appropriate to do so, Sir.

Mr. Lamont

Will the Prime Minister take an early opportunity to explain the inexplicable—the Government's attitude to public spending? Has he seen the warning, recently given by certain eminent economists, that unless public spending is cut there will not be enough cash to finance any revival of industrial activity, and unemployment will therefore rise still further? Is he aware that every time the Chancellor of the Exchequer's gramophone needle gets stuck and he says that cuts in public spending mean higher unemployment, that only confirms the impression that he does not know what he is doing?

The Prime Minister

Every time the Conservative needle gets stuck it is at the point just before the Opposition tell us what cuts they would make. My first point on this is to refer to the way in which for three and a half years members of the present Opposition cheered every challenge to the Leader of the Opposition by the then Prime Minister, and then to challenge them to tell us whether they would, for a start, cut the financial resources of the National Health Service. When I get an answer on that from the [column 1753]right hon. Lady I shall begin to take Opposition Members seriously.

Mr. Buchan

I welcome the solicitude of all hon. Members for my constituency and the assurance given by my right hon. Friend about the discussions that are taking place between Members and the Secretary of State this afternoon. May I make this simple point—[Hon. members: “No.” ] May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he is aware that the town of Linwood in my constituency depends entirely upon the continuation of Chrysler in Britain and that we should be faced with a mini-Jarrow if anything went wrong? If money were not forthcoming from the Government, or from other sources, would my right hon. Friend accept that the state of this nation would impel us to take other means of dealing with the Chrysler multinational company in this country in pursuance of the undertakings that we have been given?

I suggest that if the money that we seek—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Will hon. Members please keep quiet? It is for me to decide whether the hon. Member is out of order.

Mr. Buchan

Does my right hon. Friend agree that if the money that we seek this afternoon does not come forward in support of the Chrysler Corporation, the Government will have to adopt other measures to deal with the situation, not stopping short of nationalising it?

The Prime Minister

I am glad to have from my hon. Friend a really serious and important question affecting the livelihood of many thousands of workers. The reaction of the Conservative Party to that question was, of course, typical. I have said in answer to an earlier question today that we are trying to get a full appraisal of this situation: my right hon. Friend has asked for it. I have asked for, and I think I am in a position to say that I have received, an assurance that no irrevocable decision will be taken before there is a possibility of my right hon. Friend and myself discussing with the heads of the Chrysler Corporation the whole situation, the appraisal and any possibilities which it or anyone else may have for solving this problem. It is very difficulty. I would not want to under-rate its gravity today.

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Mr. Blaker

Would it not help the people to understand the causes of our present economic situation if the Prime Minister were to give a talk about the merits of public ownership as demonstrated by results in this and other countries? Could he not explain, for example, how it is that the Soviet Union, which has nearly a third of its work force engaged in agriculture and vast areas of farmable land, is constantly having to buy large quantities of wheat from the United States, only 4 per cent. of whose population is so engaged?

The Prime Minister

There is no ministerial responsibility for these international grain situations, or any comparisons with this country. However, the hon. Member, who, I know, is one of the most fair-minded Members—he would, I am sure, wish to study the record over the years—will know that, as Lord McGowan said, if we had not nationalised coal, we should have had a total coal famine in this country year after year. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will wish to applaud—he voted for the decision of the Government of which the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) was a member, and she has not dissociated on this matter, so far as I know—the success of Rolls-Royce engines under public ownership, under nationalisation proposals carried through by the Conservative Government.

Mr. Cant

Returning to the general economic state of the nation, what importance does my right hon. Friend attach to the growing propensity to save among the higher income groups, with the result that 13½ per cent. of disposable income is being saved? Does he feel that he should send out to the nation a clear message that everyone who is embarking on this saving binge should buy a car and buy a house in order to raise aggregate demand and reduce unemployment?

The Prime Minister

Knowing the expertise of my hon. Friend, but not knowing the figures that he has quoted, I naturally defer to his great knowledge of these matters. I am sure that he would understand if I were to ask for a little time to study his figures or, better still, to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to do so.

Mr. Gardiner

Will the Prime Minister recognise that, in the national interest, he [column 1755]cannot go on ducking the question put to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Lamont)? Although we recognise that it is very hard for him to enlighten the nation on these matters when the Chancellor of the Exchequer is himself in the dark, would he tell us why we have not yet received the full promised statement from the Chancellor on the Government's spending programme and the level of the public sector borrowing requirement, and when we shall get it?

The Prime Minister

The statement referred to by my right hon. Friend was made, as I said it would be made, at the Mansion House, and he has answered many questions about it here. However, if the hon. Member is concerned with the actual figures for the PSBR, as I understand him to be, they rose from minus £4 billion to £6,325 billion, a turn-around of £10,325 billion, under the Conservative Government.

Mr. Cyril Smith

rose——

Hon. Members

How long?

Mr. Speaker

Order. There are still one or two hon. Members with Questions linked to this one.

Mr. Smith

When the Prime Minister makes a ministerial broadcast on the state of the nation, would he particularly deal with two aspects—first, the fact that already, much as we are concerned about Chrysler, more than 25,000 people in the textile industry have lost their jobs, and what he proposes to do about it; secondly what the Government's post-August 1976 policy on incomes will be?

The Prime Minister

In my answer to the previous question I said “billions” when I should have said “millions” . On the first question by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith); he is absolutely right. Hon. Members of all parties have pressed this on the Government. We have made it clear that, although we do not believe in the introduction of general import controls for balance-of-payments reasons, or other broad economic reasons, we are closely examining certain industries. The hon. Member will have seen a very important statement made by the Secretary of State for Trade in the last 24 hours on this question. I cannot say more on this question.

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Mr. Atkinson

Would my right hon. Friend accept that his recent answer about Chrysler now makes it imperative that he concedes to the TUC leaders their request for the introduction of import controls? Will he not accept that the introduction of such controls would be a contribution towards raising the level of world trade and the recovery of employment in this country? Would he not therefore agree that if we are, as a party, moving towards a planned economy, it would be contradictory to omit something like £20,000 million-worth of trade from that planned economy?

The Prime Minister

I have said that my right hon. Friends and I are meeting the TUC this afternoon to hear its views—as the CBI gave its views—on what particular lines we should be taking at the forthcoming Heads of Government economic meeting. I would not automatically accept from my hon. Friend that swingeing and sweeping and generalised import cuts would automatically, at he hopes, increase the level of world trade. All past experience suggests that they would reduce it.

He has referred to motor cars—Chrysler and so on—in this context. All leaders of the motor car industry—I am speaking only of that industry since he referred to it—believe that to introduce import restrictions on motor cars would lead to a fall in motor car production because of the effect on our exports and, indeed, because of the remarkable record in exports by the British motor car industry over the last month or two.

Mr. Morrison

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the nation expects him, as Prime Minister, to answer and not avoid questions, as he has done today? Does he or does he not agree that he and his Government have borrowed about £175 on behalf of every man, woman and child this year? If that is so, does he not think it right to tell the nation that that is so?

The Prime Minister

The problem of PSBR has been much discussed in the House and no doubt will be again when we come to the debate on the Gracious Speech. It is clear that it can be reduced only by increased taxation, which I do not think the Conservative Members are proposing, or by cuts in Government [column 1757]expenditure. But not only the Government have a duty here: the so-called alternative Government have a duty, too. We have not had one whisper out of them about how to save Government expenditure.

Mr. Faulds

As the Prime Minister has at last set his feet on the road to Mecca and as he has made no statement to the House about the agreement with the Saudi Arabian Government, which is so crucial to our economic well-being, would it not be advisable to include this matter in his next Prime Ministerial broadcast, whenever it may be, so that people can get to know the tremendous opportunities under a number of headings that that agreement presents to Britain?

The Prime Minister

I agree about the opportunities presented by the successful discussion we had with the Saudi Arabian Government last week. On Middle East policy generally, it may be a disappointment to my hon. Friend, but the position described to the House by the Foreign Secretary and myself has not changed in any way on these matters. Incidentally, if I were ever to set out on the road to Mecca, I am not sure that I would go along with my hon. Friend on that pilgrimage.

Mr. Peyton

If the Prime Minister does decide to intrude upon the nation's entertainment time, perhaps he would steel himself to the really unpalatable and answer the question relating to the borrowing power which my hon. Friend the Member for Chester (Mr. Morrison) asked him just now: does he or does he not see dangers for the nation in this indefinite practice of attempting to borrow our way out of trouble?

The Prime Minister

To answer that question properly would intrude for more than the 14 minutes during which I have intruded into the time of public business. This matter has been fully debated in the House. [Hon. Members: “Answer.” ] My right hon. Friend and I have repeatedly said in economic debates in the House and elsewhere that the size of the public sector borrowing requirement is a matter of considerable anxiety. My right hon. Friend has described to the House the very painful cuts which have been made in the coming year's expenditure, [column 1758]out of which the Opposition will seek to make the most political advantage—[Hon. Members: “Oh.” ] Oh yes, they will—and local authorities—everyone. The whole thing will come out. I should like the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition to repudiate it when they do.

I have said, because successive Governments have found this to be a fact, that a decision on the right level of expenditure on public sector borrowing requirements is best taken two or three years ahead. We are doing it in relation to the PESC discussions, as they have been known to successive Governments. The results will be made known to the House at the proper time.