Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1975 Dec 9 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [902/224-32]
Editorial comments: 1515-30.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2828
[column 224]

DEVOLUTION

Q1. Mr. Watt

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a ministerial broadcast on devolution.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

I refer the hon. Member to the reply that I gave to the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) on 25th November, Sir.

Mr. Watt

Now that the results of the by-elections in Bishopbriggs and Bo'ness have shown clearly that the people of Scotland want meaningful devolution, will the Prime Minister tell those people whether he will persist in denying them the right to control their own agriculture, fisheries and industry? Will he, further, tell they why he considers them fit to run their own higher education service but unfit to have control of their universities?

The Prime Minister

I have long made it a practice not to comment even on Parliamentary by-elections, good or bad, so I shall certainly not comment on local government by-elections. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party has sometimes been misled by parliamentary by-elections. The fact that the party which the hon. Gentleman represents believes that we have not gone far enough—and, if I am right, I believe that the Tory Party thinks that we have gone too far—suggests that we have probably got it just about right.

Mr. Anderson

The White Paper concludes that there is a “clear popular [column 225]demand in … Wales” for devolution. My right hon. Friend, who always reacts sympathetically and promptly to public opinion, must know that this is not now the case. Therefore, will he draw the necessary conclusions and allow the people of Wales to express their own views on the issue?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend may know that when he was unavoidably not a Member of this House, between two very valuable periods of service, the whole Welsh Parliamentary Labour Party produced an agreed document, which we have followed in the proposals that we have made.

Mr. Rifkind

Does the Prime Minister realise that the proposals in the White Paper, if implemented, would make the Assemblies the only single-chamber Parliaments anywhere in the Western world? Does he agree that it is necessary for this House to have a regular right of review, not merely to ensure the sovereignty of the United Kingdom Parliament but also to ensure a higher quality for all Scottish legislation?

The Prime Minister

If the hon. Gentleman is proposing the abolition of another place within this building, that is a matter to which, of course, we shall give attention. We shall consider the matter and consult all parties on it. This is a very full White Paper. Hon. Members have had a chance to read it. We called for a great debate, which has begun, and as soon as the House returns after the Christmas Recess it is intended that there will be a major debate on this matter, in which all hon. Members who are called by you, Mr. Speaker, will be able to express their views.

ECONOMIC POLICY

(MINISTER'S SPEECH)

Q2. Mr. George Gardiner

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech by the Secretary of State for Energy in Bloomsbury on 23rd November, on economic policy, represents the policy of the Government.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Gardiner

How can the Prime Minister reconcile the call made in the [column 226]speech by the Secretary of State for Energy, for higher priority for nationalisation, with the call of the Secretary of State for the Environment for less, or his attack on expenditure cuts in contrast with the speeches made by the Chancellor, or his attack on the financial system with the Government's own use of it? Do these contradictions within the Cabinet explain the current drift and indecision on so many urgent economic matters, from import controls right through to the expenditure programme?

The Prime Minister

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman feels better for having put that supplementary question. Public ownership was very clearly explained in the manifesto. We are following the manifesto. I am not sure whether the hon. Member supported us in the Lobby in fulfilment of that manifesto, which was approved at two General Elections.

As to financial policy, my right hon. Friend said:

“Financial orthodoxy solemnly presented by men like Sir Keith Joseph and embraced by the Conservative party and urged every day in the Press and on television, would lead to an unparalleled act of national self-destruction.”

He went on to say that

“Labour policy is based on realism”

as it is.

Mr. Lawson

While the Prime Minister is explaining the Government's economic policy, will he explain the intellectual process by which he himself has claimed great credit for the Government's policy to abolish gas and electricity subsidies while at the same time castigating the Opposition for recommending a similar fate for the subsidies on cheese and tea?

The Prime Minister

I draw some distinction between the latter items. It was certainly right for us to introduce food subsidies and rent subsidies if we were to get the agreement, which we got from the whole country. Indeed, it has been reinforced by the vote, yesterday, of the second biggest union in this country.

I think that all I have said as regards the public industries' prices is that the present Government said that they were going to do it. The previous Conservative Government announced it. They never did it. The cost of doing it escalated, in consequence. We have had to do what they said they would do.

[column 227]

Mrs. Thatcher

Is Harold Wilsonthe Prime Minister aware that on economic policy we have been led to expect, for two or three weeks now, statements on import controls, on Chrysler and on expenditure cuts? Is he aware that in the absence of these, we have government by rumour, and now we have reaction by rumour? We seem to be making a new enemy just about every week. When may we expect these statements?

The Prime Minister

We shall certainly make a statement on import controls as quickly as possible. The right hon. Lady will recall that she was pressing the same kind of question on incomes and on counter-inflation policy in June and July. We thought it more important to get it right than to respond to her importunate questions.

With regard to Chrysler, I am sure that the right hon. Lady will realise that on a matter of this importance, where, as I have said previously, very devastating proposals have been made by the Chrysler company, it is right that the discussions should continue. They are now in a very important state. I would not like to forecast the result. But the House will certainly be told at the earliest possible moment—I hope later this week or early next week.

INDUSTRIAL DEMOCRACY

Q3. Mr. Dodsworth

asked the Prime Minister what is the division of responsibility between the Department of Trade, the Department of Industry and the Department of Employment concerning the Government's proposals on industrial democracy.

The Prime Minister

The Government's proposals for a radical extension of democracy in British industry have wide-ranging implications. My right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Trade, Employment and Industry are all closely involved, as well as other Ministers.

Mr. Dodsworth

Is the Prime Minister aware that the principal resource of our nation is the skill and ability of the people of this country working in voluntary co-operation? Will he make sure, by the use of the secret ballot, that the dangers of coercion are avoided when [column 228]preparing proposals for co-determination in industry?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman will not, I think, have been too disappointed about the result of certain decisions of certain unions, which showed greater courage, when deciding matters of inflation, for instance, than did some Opposition Members. On the question relating to industrial democracy, the hon. Gentleman was quite right to stress what he did. This is designed to ensure that the knowledge, experience and inventiveness on both sides of industry should be fully mobilised, on a united basis, to avoid problems that we have had in this country for 30 years. In the matter of industrial democracy, we are still a long way behind some of our continental competitors—irrespective of Government complexion—as we all realise, on both sides of the House. We have got to get it right. Hence, the inquiry was set up.

Mr. Radice

Does my right hon. Friend accept that though the delay in setting up the committee has been a matter of concern on the Government side of the House, the Government have finally come up with a pretty impressive list of names? However, will he confirm that it is still the Government's intention to legislate in the 1976–77 Session?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. The committee is being asked to report within 12 months. It is our intention that this will lead to legislation in the 1976–77 Session.

LORD MAYOR OF LONDON

Q4. Mr. Cryer

asked the Prime Minister when he next expects to meet the Lord Mayor of London.

The Prime Minister

On 12th December, Sir, when I shall be receiving the Honorary Freedom of the City.

Mr. Cryer

Does my right hon. Friend accept that it is repugnant to the majority of the trade union movement and the Labour movement to see a Labour Prime Minister receiving the Freedom of the City of London and attending dinners at such an institution? Does he further accept that a Socialist economy demands control of the huge funds now under [column 229]the control of the City? Does he not feel that, far from accepting the Freedom of the City, he should be attempting to erode the last “rotten borough” in this country and to ensure that the funds controlled by the City are used by the people of this country in accordance with our manifesto in shifting the wealth of the country to working people?

The Prime Minister

I regard this matter as an honour. My hon. Friend refers to Labour Prime Ministers. I do not recall any of my hon. Friends criticising Clement Attlee on a similar occasion in 1953.

My hon. Friend talks about City funds. He will recognise that the City of London, as represented in Guildhall next Friday, is not the same as the particular financial institutions there.

My hon. Friend talks about dinners. The Lord Mayor of Bradford and her guests at the civic dinner at which I was entertained last week were very disappointed that my hon. Friend did not see fit to be present on that occasion.

Nevertheless, taking my hon. Friend's question in the same generous spirit in which he has put it, I assure him that when he receives the Freedom of the City of London I shall be the first to leap to congratulate him.

Mr. Tugendhat

Although, unfortunately, I have a prior engagement on 12th December and will not be able to be present when the Prime Minister receives his Freedom, may I assure him of the very great pleasure that his presence in the City will give to everyone, and how pleased the City is to receive him on many occasions? I am sure that the City benefits from his visits and that he will agree that he has, from time to time, benefited from the conversations and other exchanges of view that he has had in the City of London.

The Prime Minister

While thanking the hon. Gentleman, I would be the first to say that I know that some of the speeches that I have made in the City—for example, the Guildhall speech—have not been universally acclaimed by those present or by the City as a whole.

[column 230]

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND

(PRIME MINISTER)

Q5. Mr. Marten

asked the Prime Minister when he will next meet the Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland.

The Prime Minister

I met Mr. Cosgrave at the European Council Meeting in Rome last week. I have no immediate plans for a further meeting with him.

Mr. Marten

If the Prime Minister should meet the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic, will he discuss with him the somewhat historical oddity that the citizens of Southern Ireland have the right to vote at General Elections in this country? Will he also bring that subject into the review of citizenship that is now taking place?

The Prime Minister

Perhaps I ought to declare a constituency interest in this matter. There are many matters for discussion with the Irish Government. Discussions are continuing all the time. I think that the hon. Gentleman will be willing to pay tribute to the courage of the Irish Government not only in the recent confrontation in which terrorists were involved but also for the fact that they have introduced, as a result of discussions between the two countries, the Republic's Criminal Law Jurisdiction Bill, involving apprehension by them of those who, on the other side of the border, are regarded by us as potential criminals who should be put on trial.

Mr. Marten

Will the Prime Minister answer the question?

The Prime Minister

It is a matter for discussion between the two Governments, but there is a long tradition of understanding between our two countries on the right to vote.

Mr. Fairbairn

While discussing these matters with the Prime Minister of Ireland, will the Prime Minister advise him that it is not the desire of anyone in Scotland that citizens of the Republic of Ireland should be entitled to sit in the Assembly?

The Prime Minister

The hon. and learned Gentleman claims to speak for all the citizens of Scotland. These are [column 231]matters that can be discussed in the debates on devolution.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

I welcome the cordial relations that now exist between London and Dublin, and hope, as the Prime Minister does, for the speedy passage through Dail Eireann of the Criminal Law Jurisdiction Bill. Will the Prime Minister ensure that there are no further muddles as there was over the Mary Kearney case, in connection with extradition? Will he ensure that the Director of Public Prosecutions and others concerned have their machinery clearly defined, and that there is the closest co-operation between the two Governments and all concerned in the matter?

The Prime Minister

With regard to the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's question, I do not think that it would be helpful for me to comment on a matter that is essentially an operational question for the police forces concerned. Even on the question of the recent terrorist act affecting a Netherlands citizen, there was the closest co-operation between our police forces. We are in regular contact with the Republic about the enforcement of the criminal law. We look forward to introducing, as soon as possible, joint arrangements for extending extra-territorial jurisdiction over fugitive offenders.

The hon. Gentleman welcomed the closer relationship between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the Republic. It is only fair to say that the improvement began in the period in office of my predecessor as Prime Minister. A big step forward took place in those years.

Mr. Heffer

Does my right hon. Friend recall that during the last war many thousands of citizens of Eire came to this country, joined our Armed Forces and died fighting for this country and its beliefs? Is he aware that great cities such as Liverpool would not have been built without the efforts of ordinary Irishmen? Is it not stupid for hon. Members to begin this sort of opposition to the citizens of Eire because of an immediate problem concerning the IRA?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. I entirely agree with the wise words of my hon. Friend on this question. It is [column 232]certainly a fact that many thousands of Irish citizens took part in fighting against the Hitler terror, and many of them died. This stems from a belief in democracy common to our two countries. Over hundreds of years we have had a close relationship with them—a love-hate relationship. There was sometimes more hate than love in the past, when, for example, they were part of the United Kingdom. I believe that in recent years the efforts of successive Governments have helped to create a much more co-operative relationship with them. As for what my hon. Friend said about Merseyside, we are both Merseyside Members, and I entirely agree with him.