Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1976 Jan 13 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [903/197-205]
Editorial comments: 1515-30.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2781
[column 197]


Q1. Mr. Frank Allaun

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

[column 198]

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) on 25th November, Sir—[Vol. 901, c. 660].

Mr. Allaun

Has the TUC or the Labour Party ever agreed to the drastic cuts in public expenditure now being demanded, which are bound to cause unemployment? If the Government are prepared to safeguard the jobs of car workers, will they save the jobs of building workers, home helps, teachers and nurses, who perform equally important and valuable services?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend is aware, the public expenditure figures for the coming year—the period of anxiety that he mentioned—have already been announced and have not been varied. The normal discussions have been going on and will be announced at the proper time for expenditure in 1977–78, which is a different period and a different situation.

As for construction workers, my hon. Friend will have rejoiced—though I am not sure whether it was in public—that whereas in 1974 there were 30 per cent. more starts in public sector house building and 20 per cent. more completions, for the first 11 months of 1975 starts are up further by 16 per cent. on 1974, with completions 27 per cent. up, in addition to an increase in the private sector. A good job has been done in lifting the house building programme from the low level that we inherited.

Mrs. Thatcher

When Harold Wilsonthe Prime Minister next meets the TUC, will he discuss with its representatives what has happened to his new industrial strategy, and will he tell us what has happened to it?

The Prime Minister

Tomorrow, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be chairing the meeting of the NEDC dealing with these matters, which were laid down at the earlier meeting at Chequers and will be taken a great deal further at the meeting of NEDC. The industrial strategy announced at that time remains the policy of the Government, the TUC and the CBI.

[column 199]


Q2. Mr. Blaker

asked the Prime Minister whether he has now completed his evidence for the Royal Commission on the Press; and when he proposes to submit it.

The Prime Minister

I shall be ready to submit and to publish my evidence as soon as the civil legal proceedings, referred to in my answers of 14th and 20th October to the hon. Member, have been completed.—[Vol. 897, c. 1127; Vol. 898, c. 14.]

Mr. Blaker

Does the Prime Minister recall that in September 1974, in the course of the last election campaign, he made the serious allegation that cohorts of distinguished journalists were combing obscure parts of the country in search of anything, true or fabricated, that they could use against the Labour Party? Does he also recall that when he told the House, last October, that there had been eight burglaries affecting premises owned by him and some of his colleagues, a statement was issued from 10 Downing Street saying that this carried no implication that any journalists had been involved? That being so, does he still stand by his serious allegation in 1974—or would not it be better for him to drop it?

The Prime Minister

I stand by it entirely, and when the evidence can be submitted it will substantiate what I said then. I did not then or at any other time refer to any journalist being involved in burglaries. The hon. Gentleman is already aware that the break-ins and thefts now proved by the police discoveries are not the kind of legal proceedings that are in any sense an impediment to this evidence. The problem about submitting evidence relates to civil matters that are the subject of legal proceedings. When they are complete the evidence will go in straight away.

Mr. Grocott

In any evidence to the Royal Commission on the Press will my right hon. Friend refer to the question of the accuracy of Press reports? Will he note the typically penetrating editorial in yesterday's Sun newspaper, which, amongst other things, called on the Government to withdraw their controversial Land Bill? Will my right hon. Friend [column 200]agree that any newspaper so woefully inaccurate in its presentation of factual material must be pretty misleading in its political judgment?

The Prime Minister

I was not proposing to deal with those subjects in my evidence, which relates specifically to the points raised by the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker), who tabled the main Question. Certainly the evidence would be much longer if I went into the kind of subjects referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Grocott). My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence has shown, for example, that only today, on the most sensitive matter affecting people's lives, there has been the most criminal misrepresentation of facts and, if it is in order to say it—not about hon. Members—lies about what has been done in Northern Ireland.



3. Mr. Hurd

asked the Prime Minister whether he will list his public engagements during the recess.

The Prime Minister

It is not in accordance with previous practice to do so, Sir, but if the hon. Gentleman has a specific point on my official engagements during the recess I shall be glad to answer him.

Mr. Hurd

Yes, indeed I have, Sir. Does the Prime Minister recall, among those engagements, the radio broadcast that he made between Christmas and the New Year in which, once again, he threw away the unique opportunity that he has as Prime Minister to tell people the facts as they really are? Should he not have anticipated in that broadcast, for example, the Transport House document that we have just seen, and explained that his party's commitments to spend and to nationalise simply cannot be honoured without further increase in taxation that its own supporters would find intolerable?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Member may have seen the particular document to which he has referred. However, it did not arise during this broadcast when, as the hon. Gentleman will know, I was dealing with major national issues. On [column 201]the question of any document emanating from Transport House, I do not know to which one the hon. Gentleman is particularly referring. I have read references to such documents only in the Press. Whether they have been issued I do not know. However, they do not represent Her Majesty's Government's policy. That is the duty of the Government, for which we are responsible to this House.

Mr. Heffer

During the Christmas Recess did my right hon. Friend have occasion to visit his own constituency on Merseyside and discuss with the people there the high level of unemployment, which is 10.6 per cent. for the whole of Merseyside? Did he consider the answers to the problem of unemployment? Will he announce to the House what further measures the Government intend to take to deal with the most important issue before us, namely, the fact that too many thousands of people are unnecessarily out of work?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend will be aware that visits to one's constituency do not technically feature as public engagements. Of course, I have recently been to my constituency, as my hon Friend will know, and, of course, the unemployment question has been constantly discussed by my constituents and myself. We have also discussed certain recent cut-backs, for example, in the Post Office programme, and matters of that kind. The unemployment policy was debated fully in the House immediately before Christmas. I have nothing to add to what my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Employment and the Chancellor said then, or what my right hon. Friend the Chancellor said yesterday in the House.

6. Mr. Stanley

asked the Prime Minister whether he will list his engagements during the recess.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Member to the reply that I gave earlier today to the hon. Member for Mid-Oxon (Mr. Hurd).

Mr. Stanley

Will the Prime Minister confirm from his recent discussion with trade union leaders that the Government have now reversed their policy towards the steel industry and are giving tacit approval to large-scale redundancies in [column 202]the British Steel Corporation? Will he now be frank with the House and tell us what level of redundancies the Government are willing to see in the British Steel Corporation in 1976?

The Prime Minister

In fact, I have had no meetings with the trade unions during the recess. However, I did meet leading representatives of the TUC on the question of steel and transport while the House was still sitting in the last week before Christmas. We discussed fully the steel situation. Some of the statements and fears that were expressed were shown not to have been real. However, the Government said that they had made no decision on this matter and that the relevant trade unions in the steel industry should have discussions with the British Steel Corporation. Those discussions are now taking place.

Mr. Skinner

It would be interesting to know how many engagements some of the hon. Members who have asked questions have had during the recess. Be that as it may, will my right hon. Friend take some time, now that we are all back at work, to examine the activities of the Lifeboat Committee? Is he aware, for example, that his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is unable to answer questions about how much is being lost, arising out of tax liabilities, by those participating in the Lifeboat Committee in their activities for arranging the rescue of the secondary banking system? Will he look into this matter and tell us how much is being lost to the Chancellor of the Exchequer arising out of these actions?

The Prime Minister

On the first part of my hon. Friend's question, there is no ministerial responsibility for engagements fulfilled during the recess or at any other time by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. I have enough troubles without having to be responsible for them.

On the second part of the question, the Lifeboat Committee, as my hon. Friend called it—the whole House knew what he had in mind—is doing extremely valuable work where there has been a loss or breakdown of confidence affecting a considerable number of banks in which the public have invested money and are entitled to such protection as can be worked out when there has, in some [column 203]cases, been improvident investments in property and in other ways. The whole problem goes back to the lavish and extravagant creation of bank money by the Conservative Party when it was in government. They printed money in the most lavish way. They will have seen much tighter control over the money supply under this Government.

Mr. Prior

When the right hon. Gentleman visits his constituents, how will he explain that under a Conservative Government a figure of 1 million unemployed is unacceptable but under a Labour Government it can go to 1.2 million or even 1.5 million and still be all right?

The Prime Minister

Peering at the right hon. Gentleman through a rather large wig—I did not know that he had been demoted that much; he really should come up nearer the Dispatch Box—my answer to him is that, as he will know, industrial expansion had stopped before he went out of office. I think that the right hon. Gentleman was Secretary of State for Employment. [Interruption.] Was he not?

Mr. Whitelaw

indicated dissent.

The Prime Minister

I am sorry. The right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) was Secretary of State for Employment. The right hon. Gentleman, unlike some of his colleagues, has accepted collective responsibility for the actions that they took. At that time, as he knows, a world recession was developing. When we came into office, as the right hon. Gentleman also knows, had we listened to the Opposition's proposals for immediate cuts in public expenditure there would have been 2 million unemployed.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. We must get on.


Q5. Mr. Canavan

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make an official visit to West Stirlingshire.

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to do so, Sir.

Mr. Canavan

Will my right hon. Friend please try to arrange a visit to [column 204]West Stirlingshire and to include in his programme a visit to Lennox Castle Hospital, where he will see at first hand the excellent work being done by a dedicated staff of doctors and nurses in caring for about 1,500 mentally handicapped patients, including children? Does he realise that there is grave concern amongst the staff trade unions about proposed staffing cuts, which may mean not just a loss of jobs at this and other hospitals but a possible cut in essential services to mentally handicapped patients? Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that any cut-backs in public expenditure will not affect essential services to the most under-privileged members of the community, such as the mentally handicapped?

The Prime Minister

Yes. Without even going to the area, I am aware of this hospital's problems. Although I cannot anticipate the White Paper, I can say that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is taking full account of the needs of the mentally handicapped generally in Scotland, and any expenditure programme would, of course, be the subject of consultation between the health board and the regions concerned. I understand that this is a matter for the Glasgow Regional Health Board and that there will be no difference in treatment, so far as the Government are concerned, between the hospital that my hon. Friend has mentioned and any other hospital in Scotland.

Mrs. Bain

If the Prime Minister does manage to visit West Stirlingshire will he bear in mind that the problem raised by the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) is not just a local one but is felt throughout Scotland? Will he use this as an opportunity to explain to the Scottish people why the Labour Government have consistently failed to deal with unemployment in Scotland? Is he aware that estimates show that 200,000 people in Scotland could be unemployed by the end of this year—and that is not counting the skilled redundancies? Does he accept that it is unlikely that the Labour Party, whichever wing of it may stand in constituencies in Scotland, can expect to gain any support from the Scottish people?

The Prime Minister

On the first part of the hon. Lady's question, I thought I made clear that there was no question [column 205]of discrimination concerning a particular hospital and that it was a general problem, which was the responsibility of the Scottish Health Service Planning Council, the Advisory Council on Social Work, and the regional health board.

On unemployment, as the hon. Lady has fairly said, Scotland has been seriously affected, as has the whole of Britain and the industrial world, by the events of the past two or three years. The hon. Lady will be aware that the ratio of unemployment between Scotland and the rest of Great Britain has fallen considerably, month by month, since this Government took office.

Mr. Fairbairn

When the Prime Minister considers the problem of unemployment in the west of Scotland will he note that despite the efforts of the Scottish National Party to preserve jobs at Linwood. 500 more Linwood workers have volunteered to be made redundant than the 2,000 proposed?

The Prime Minister

That sounds very interesting, but what the relevance of it is to a visit to West Stirlingshire, or what the hon. and learned Member, with his always rather elliptic approach to the serious matters of this House, meant by it, I shall need a little more time to work out.