Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1976 Feb 26 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [906/614-20]
Editorial comments: 1515-30.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2384
Themes: Defence (general), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states)
[column 614]

PRIME MINISTER (BROADCAST)

Q1. Mr. Rost

asked the Prime Minister when he expects to make his next Ministerial broadcast.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

I refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Mr. Stanley) on 25th November, Sir.

Mr. Rost

As an all-party Select Committee has today unanimously condemned the Government for the folly of their defence cuts, which are a threat to our security, and as Moscow is doing a marvellous public relations job to promote the Leader of the Opposition as the wicked witch of the western world because she has the courage to warn the nation of the dangers——

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is Prime Minister's Question Time. Half the House wants to get in.

Mr. Rost

As my right hon. Friend has warned the nation of the dangers of appeasement and disarmament, when is the Prime Minister going to tell the nation where he stands?

The Prime Minister

I am glad that when the hon. Gentleman put down his Question two weeks ago he had information about what might appear in yesterday's Select Committee Report, which will be studied very seriously by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. There is no ministerial responsibility here for what is said in Moscow. Moscow made a typically humourless reaction to the discovery that the Leader of the Opposition has now discovered that the Berlin wall was built 15 years ago. In regard to defence policy, I notice that in the right hon. Lady's “Panorama” broadcast——

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

It was damned good—far better than the Prime Minister's.

The Prime Minister

It was very good. The right hon. Lady said that she was not querying 94 per cent. of the defence cuts, but only the last 6 per cent. That will not be enough to tear down the Berlin wall.

[column 615]

Mr. Bidwell

When my right hon. Friend makes his next ministerial broadcast, will he do me and himself a lot of good by explaining to our people how we are to bring about a fundamental and irreversible shift of wealth and power in favour of working people and their families? Does he think that it will be brought about by—?

Mr. Speaker

Order. Let us have one question at a time to the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister

Since I have said that I have no plans for a ministerial broadcast, it is wasting the time of the House to give advice on what I should say in a broadcast I am not going to make. If my hon. Friend had been where I was last night, he would have had a very full answer from the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mrs. Thatcher

When will Harold Wilsonthe Prime Minister concentrate on seeing that this country is properly defended and concentrate his diplomatic policy on seeing that people can fly to freedom from Communist tyranny if they so wish?

The Prime Minister

This country is much better defended within the 94 per cent. of defence expenditure cuts which the right hon. Lady accepted in her broadcast. As for people flying from the Soviet Union, or any other Communist country, I never like to say these things in public, but if she will inquire she will find out how many people have come out of the Soviet Union over the last 20 years as a result of my requests and pressures. I would refer to the statement by Moshe Dayan that Ruth Alessandrovich was let out in response to my requests. Hon. Members opposite may laugh, but this is a serious matter. The Israeli ambassador said that the Panovs were released as a result of certain action taken by me. On returning from Romania the right hon. Lady was stupid enough to publish the list of the people she had asked for. I am happy to say that a much larger number have been released this week as the result of my representations.

PRESS COUNCIL

Q2. Mr. Brotherton

asked the Prime Minister when he next expects to meet the Chairman of the Press Council.

[column 616]

The Prime Minister

I have no plans to meet the Chairman of the Press Council, Sir.

Mr. Brotherton

When the Prime Minister meets the Chairman of the Press Council, will he discuss with him the continued refusal of his Press Office to communicate fully with The Times newspaper? Does he agree that it is a disgrace that these people, who are paid by the taxpayer, should be selective in how they discharge their duties?

The Prime Minister

I have already said that the question of legal proceedings arises here, which the hon. Gentleman, as a former employee of The Times, should know all about. I am happy to tell the hon. Gentleman what, with his contacts, he should have known—The Times gets exactly the same treatment from No. 10 as any other newspaper. even if it does not always deserve it.

Dr. Edmund Marshall

If my right hon. Friend meets the Chairman of the Press Council, who happens at the moment to be Lord Shawcross, will he remind that gentleman of his words in the House on 2nd April 1946?——

Mr. Speaker

Order. If the hon. Gentleman is about to quote, I can save him from temptation.

Dr. Marshall

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker. Will the Prime Minister remind Lord Shawcross of what he said in the House on 2nd April 1946 in winding up for the Government the Third Reading debate on the Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Bill—namely, that we are the masters now?

The Prime Minister

I am aware of my then right hon. and learned Friend's political view, but I think his views have changed a little.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

He has seen the light.

The Prime Minister

Nevertheless, I feel that one of the most distinguished legal pundits of our time, as he must be acknowledged to be by everyone, will be the first to realise how wrong it is to press questions of this kind when legal proceedings are pending. In any case, I do not want to bother my noble Friend—if he still is—Lord Shawcross, because I know that he will have seen the motion [column 617]about the treatment by a certain newspaper of an hon. Member who was interviewed on the telephone and then said to have written an article for that newspaper. As the motion asks for a reference to the Press Council, I am sure that action will be taken.

PRIME MINISTER (VISITS)

Q3. Mr Graham

asked the Prime Minister if he will pay an official visit to Edmonton.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Graham

Does the Prime Minister recall that when he opened the new Thorn lighting laboratory last year he met a number of my constituents, members of the work force, who expressed to him their deep concern about the developing situation in the television industry? Bearing in mind the recent improvements in the unemployment figures, what assurances can the Prime Minister give to my constituents in the light of subsequent developments at Skelmersdale, bearing in mind that London has lost more than half a million manufacturing jobs in the last few years?

The Prime Minister

Skelmersdale—which was in my constituency, but is no longer, although many of my constituents work there—was a great tragedy which has been the subject of statements and answers——

Mrs. Kellet-Bowman

Highly unsatisfactory.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The House is only wasting time.

The Prime Minister

—by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry. As the House will be aware, this was a very difficult matter. Every effort was made to save these jobs but the position was made impossible by the withdrawal of the American firm which was in partnership. It was a great tragedy. I do not underrate it and I am well aware of the consequences in my hon. Friend's constituency.

Mr. Norman Lamont

If the Prime Minister does visit Edmonton, will he ask the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Prices and Con[column 618]sumer Protection what is the point of a bogus price check scheme consisting of a thin list of items which anyway would not have gone up in price by 5 per cent. over the next six months? Is it not an action calculated to take in only the smallest Chinese minds?

The Prime Minister

There are not many precedents for asking on a Question about a visit to a particular constituency supplementary questions to another Minister through his Parliamentary Private Secretary. It is a total waste of the time of the House when more important Questions are on the Order Paper. My right hon. Friend has answered these questions in the House and if the hon. Gentleman wishes to take her on again, I shall be glad to pick up the bits when she has finished with him.

CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (INTERVIEW)

Q5. Mr. Michael Latham

asked the Prime Minister if the interview given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the economics correspondent of The Guardian, published in the newspaper on 12th February 1976 on economic matters represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Latham

Is it not clear from that interview that the only views which are likely to matter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in forming the next stage of the incomes policy are those of the TUC? Why does he persist in such a one-sided and prejudiced attitude?

The Prime Minister

I have read the article carefully. The Government have decided, and were elected on the proposition, that agreement and consensus and not confrontation with industrial workers is the right way to proceed, and that has been proved by the full acceptance by the country of the counter-inflation policy. Although I have said that I have no plans for a ministerial broadcast, were I to give one I might like to answer the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question by pointing out that the last Tory ministerial broadcast informed the country of the inestimable advantages to the country of a three-day week. That is the difference between us.

[column 619]

Mr. Noble

Has my right hon. Friend seen the report in the Financial Times on Tuesday relating to investment in the regions? What justification have the Government for retaining development area status for Aberdeen, which is now booming, when the North-West is given no additional aids and has the worst record of public investment in the country?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend will be aware of our scheduling of certain areas within the North-West during our period of office. The question of the de-scheduling of Aberdeen might be a matter of some controversy in the House, and I ask my hon. Friend to address his question to my right hon. Friends who have responsibility for regional matters.

Mr. Tim Renton

Will the Prime Minister explain why the Chancellor of the Exchequer is giving hints about tax cuts when it is clear from the White Paper on Public Expenditure that he will not be able to afford any tax cuts? Is the Chancellor acting like a “silly Billy” ?

The Prime Minister

In reply to that pathetic supplementary question—obviously rehearsed all morning—I say to the hon. Gentleman in time-honoured terms that I cannot anticipate my right hon. Friend's Budget Statement. Many Opposition hon. and right. hon. Members have been asking for some time for different treatment of tax matters. My right hon. Friend on the day after the interview made a speech—to which I have referred in the House and which is in the Library—which deals with some of these questions. Naturally, none of us can anticipate his Budget Statement. It will be extremely difficult for my right hon. Friend if he listens to the advice of Opposition hon. and right hon. Members to increase public expenditure, as they advice him to do regularly every week.

Mr. Moonman

On a related theme, will the Prime Minister say when he expects to receive the report on the newspaper industry, in view of the distress which is being suffered by two or three newspapers at present?

The Prime Minister

The House knows that, following the Government's request to the Royal Commission to prepare an interim report on the economic position [column 620]of newspapers, the two sides in the newspaper industry, including most of the principal unions, got together for the first time in history. I believe that they are in agreement and have produced a forward-looking document. That document is being urgently studied by the Royal Commission, which I understand hopes to report within a very short time. I cannot anticipate the report. I do not know what will be in it. But whatever report the Royal Commission makes will be for the Government and the House to study.

Mr. Henderson

May I revert to the Prime Minister's answer about Aberdeen? Is he aware that if there is any attempt to give way to an English backlash to the detriment of other areas, there will be opposition in the House and outside?

The Prime Minister

There will be no giving way to ignorance whether from England, Scotland or anywhere else. While it is true that North Sea developments have had a significant effect on economic activities in certain parts of Scotland, there is anxiety about the rigs programme because of the timing.