Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1976 Feb 5 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [904/1407-14]
Editorial comments: 1515-30.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2342
[column 1407]

PRIME MINISTER (VISITS)

Q1. Mr. Townsend

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

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

I have at present no plans to [column 1408]do so, Sir, although as the House knows I have arranged a series of meetings on industrial problems in Scotland in the spring.

Mr. Townsend

When the Prime Minister next decides to visit the east coast of Scotland will he take a personal interest in the defence plans for Britain's vital and vulnerable North Sea oil/gas platforms, because those plans have been criticised by numerous independent defence experts? Will he try to achieve better co-ordination between the numerous Government Departments, the four separate police authorities and the commercial operators involved? Secondly——

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is not fair to other hon. Members if the hon. Gentleman puts half a dozen supplementary questions.

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman has raised an important point. As he will know, the Government's policy on measures for the peacetime protection of our offshore oil interests was announced in the House on 11th February 1975 by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence. During subsequent debates there have been further additions to the information already available to the House. New Royal Navy ships will begin to enter service and a number of other protection methods are being added. It is of course the fact that the Home Secretary—in Scotland the Secretary of State for Scotland—is responsible for dealing with onshore terrorism, but I think the hon. Gentleman will find that the offshore position has been fully explained by my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

Will the Prime Minister bear in mind when he eventually makes a visit to the east coast of Scotland that, because of the Government's economic failure, expenditure on the social services, old folks homes, home helps and other services of that sort has been savagely cut back in the Tayside region? Will he further bear in mind that, because of the temperature differences in Scotland compared with the South-East of England, in Scotland it costs 14 per cent. more to heat houses to the temperature level of houses in the South-East? What will he do about dealing with that situation?

[column 1409]

The Prime Minister

These questions are very much in the mind of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I do not accept at all what the hon. Gentleman has said about the cutback in the social services in the Tayside region, because since this Government came into office there has been a substantial increase. We have had to rein back further increases. However, in view of the proclivity of the Scottish National Party to vote with the Conservatives, who want to cut back the social services by several billion pounds, I think the hon. Gentleman might study his own record in this matter.

Dr. M. S. Miller

When my right hon. Friend visits the east coast of Scotland will he also take his official car to the west coast of Scotland and visit the constituency and town of East Kilbride? I am sure that he will receive a very warm welcome in that town, which nurtured William and John Hunter, who contributed so much to medicine and——

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is all very interesting and I am willing to learn, but this is Question Time.

Dr. Miller

With all due respect, Mr. Speaker, I should like my right hon. Friend to visit the town—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Let the hon. Gentleman now ask a Question.

Dr. Miller

The question is: will my right hon. Friend visit the town of East Kilbride?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. My hon. Friend knows that I have done so very many times. It does not strictly arise from the Question, because even I know that East Kilbride is not on the east coast of Scotland, but it arises perhaps out of my Answer. I said that I had

“arranged a series of meetings on industrial problems in Scotland in the spring” .

and they will be principally in West Scotland.

CHANCELLOR OF THE FEDERAL GERMAN REPUBLIC

Q2. Mr. Arnold Shaw

asked the Prime Minister what plans he has to meet the Chancellor of the Federal German Republic.

[column 1410]

The Prime Minister

I have invited the Chancellor to talks at Chequers on 7th February, Sir.

Mr. Shaw

As France at this time is so firmly committed to one side of the Arab-Israeli dispute, when he meets Herr Schmidt will the Prime Minister endeavour to secure his co-operation within the EEC for an even-handed commitment concerning the Middle East?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary and I have repeatedly had the opportunity of discussing with the Heads of Government and the Council of Ministers matters concerning the Middle East. Regrettably, there have been differences when these matters have come up—for example, at the United Nations. We have done our best consistently to work for a joint contribution by the Nine in the search for a just settlement in the Middle East. I shall be surprised if we do not discuss this matter on Saturday as we have on previous occasions when I have met the Federal German Chancellor.

Mr. Jasper More

When the Prime Minister meets the German Chancellor, will he draw his attention to the recently reported statement of the Belgian Defence Minister—that Western European countries must either do more about their own defence or risk losing American protection? Will he assure the German Chancellor that the United Kingdom Government will increase rather than reduce defence expenditure?

The Prime Minister

I have not said that we will increase defence expenditure. This comes badly from a party pressing for thousands of millions of pounds of cuts at this time. I have told the House—the Federal German Chancellor is well aware of what is said in this House—that any reductions, any economies, will not fall on our contribution to the teeth element in NATO.

Mr. Roy Hughes

Would it not be more appropriate for the Prime Minister to visit Italy, bearing in mind that that founder member of the Common Market is now nearly bankrupt in both financial and leadership terms? If the——

Mr. Speaker

Order. How on earth the hon. Member links that question with the Chancellor of the Federal German Republic I do not know.

[column 1411]

Mr. Hughes

I shall try.

Mr. Speaker

If we are to wander all round the globe on a specific subject, the House will get nowhere.

Mr. Hughes

I was about to suggest that if we further integrate our economy with that organisation, we could eventually suffer the same fate.

The Prime Minister

At least my hon. Friend, unlike the chunnerers opposite, will note the significant improvement in economic prospects announced by the CBI and the Financial Times as well as by other indices. If I am to meet the Federal German Chancellor on 7th February, I cannot be in Italy at the same time. Neverthless, as I have made clear, there are plans for a meeting of the so-called European Summit—the European Council—in Luxembourg at the end of April.

Mr. Amery

Will the Prime Minister explain to the German Chancellor that the recent attack by a British official, Ambassador Ivor Richard, on a retired American official, Ambassador Mr. Moynihan, was unprecedented, regrettable and will not be repeated? Will he also explain to the Chancellor that our German Allies need not fear that their representatives will be treated with such a gross lack of diplomatic propriety at any time?

The Prime Minister

The Federal German Chancellor has no responsibility for what might have been said by Mr. Moynihan or by Her Majesty's Ambassador at the United Nations. I certainly intend to give no explanation of these matters to the Federal German Chancellor. Our Ambassador was entitled to say what he did in this matter. Obviously we all appreciate the frankest possible speaking at the United Nations and elsewhere, but it is not necessarily my view that that kind of speaking is good for either the Western Alliance or the United Nations.

TUC

Q3. Mr. Skinner

asked the Prime Minister when he last met the TUC; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave him on 25th November, Sir.

[column 1412]

Mr. Skinner

Will my right hon. Friend remind the TUC that he is currently leading an army of 1½ million unemployed workers which is costing £1 billion in unemployment and related benefits and another £1 billion in lost tax? Will he take its half muted advice to impose import controls on a wide range of goods and direct investment to stop this degradation of 1½ million workers?

The Prime Minister

The TUC, when it meets myself or my right hon. Friends, is always capable of briefing itself and of deciding what it will say to us. I am sure that if my hon. Friend sent the TUC any supplementary briefs, it would consider them very carefully, though it might want him to get his figures right the first time round.

My hon. Friend will be aware that the TUC is repeatedly on record as being against any general system of import controls of the kind proposed several times by him both in the House and outside.

Mrs. Thatcher

Will Harold Wilsonthe Prime Minister discuss with the TUC the enormous increase in the amount of tax taken out of the pay packet by this Government? Is he aware that this year the average household in Britain will pay £335 more in income tax than in 1974? Is not this the intolerable cost of Socialism?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Lady will know that these figures have been referred to by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer both inside and outside the House and that he has expressed his anxiety and even given some hints as to his intentions in these matters. However, she will know that the figures she quotes would have to be much increased if we increased defence expenditure by £4.8 billion, as she has been advocating. There would also be a further very big increase if this Government were to fulfil the frivolous election promises which she made in 1974 regarding mortgages.

Mr. Duffy

Has the Prime Minister noticed that the indications that the Government are getting inflation more under control continue to strengthen business confidence and that this revival in optimism is due not only to a feeling that the recession is bottoming out, but as this [column 1413]week's Financial Times survey of business forecasts points out, to the more favourable response of the trade unions to the economic situation, a response of which we have just been given an indication?

The Prime Minister

In an earlier answer I referred to both the CBI and the Financial Times monthly survey being the most optimistic since the middle of 1973 when the Conservative Government were in charge. They also confirm absolutely what the Opposition always deny—that the sheer fall in production, productivity, turnover, profitability and capital investment began in the summer of 1973, which was even before increased oil prices and the three-day week. That destroys the whole of their argument.

Mrs. Winifred Ewing

In any discussions with the TUC will the Prime Minister give high priority to the growth of unemployment among the young as reported in an EEC Commission Report published yesterday, which shows that in Britain 35 per cent. of the unemployed are between 15 and 25 years of age?

The Prime Minister

We are all concerned about the percentage of the young unemployed. In Scotland, where there is a different school-leaving pattern from that south of the border, it is particularly acute. The hon. Lady will be aware of the proposals and the decisions announced and now put into effect by my right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Employment at the turn of the year about help specifically for school-leavers.

Mr. Atkinson

Does my right hon. Friend recollect that the last time he met TUC leaders to discuss general economic matters he assured them that resources would be made available for the manufacture of capital goods for stock? Will he reflect on the debate on unemployment when the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that there was a continuing argument with the EEC Commissioners about whether Britain would be allowed to do that? Therefore, will he announce to the House his determination to ensure that these resources will be made available in line with his promise?

The Prime Minister

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has informed the House of his intention to do more in regard to [column 1414]taking stocks off the market. He has indicated that he will make a further announcement in the very near future about further action—not on the basis of a general, wild reflation, but on relevant measures to help with employment—and I had better not anticipate anything he may say.