Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1976 Mar 2 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [906/1090-97]
Editorial comments: 1515-30.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2467
[column 1090]

NEW ZEALAND (PRIME MINISTER)

Q1. Mr. Marten

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on [column 1091]the visit of the New Zealand Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

My colleagues and I look forward to Mr. Muldoon 's visit to London from 11th to 15th April, and to exchanging views with him over a wide range of matters of mutual interest, as we did with the New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister during his visit to London in February, Sir.

Mr. Marten

Will the Prime Minister discuss with the New Zealand Prime Minister the proposition that as next year is the Queen's Silver Jubilee year it should also be designated “Commonwealth Year” , for which he might consider appointing a Foreign Office Minister to concentrate specifically on the Commonwealth?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that at the Jamaica Conference my Commonwealth colleagues agreed that the next Commonwealth Conference should be held in London during the peak of the Silver Jubilee celebrations. I have already made arrangements for a very senior ex-Commonwealth Office official to prepare all the necessary arrangements in consultation with Commonwealth countries.

Mr. Spearing

As the Prime Minister will not have seen Mr. Muldoon since the conference in Jamaica, when he next meets him will he take the opportunity of suggesting that Commonwealth experts and Ministers should get together before the UNCTAD Conference in Nairobi, so that the initiative that the Prime Minister started in Jamaica may be continued at that conference?

The Prime Minister

Yes. As my hon. Friend will be aware, Mr. Muldoon was not at the Jamaica Conference. We have kept in close contact with our Commonwealth colleagues over the commodity initiative that Her Majesty's Government put forward at Jamaica, both in preparation for the special session of the United Nations, where we work together closely, and also in preparation for the UNCTAD Conference.

Mrs. Winifred Ewing

Will the Prime Minister discuss the mountains of butter and skimmed milk that have been established in the EEC? As skimmed milk is [column 1092]almost a straight substitute for fish meal, will he and the Commonwealth bring to bear whatever influence they can on their friends, the Danes, to stop the decimation of the important protein fish stocks of the North Sea?

The Prime Minister

When the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand visited this country we had a full discussion, lasting about an hour, on the question of the butter and cheese arrangements that were discussed and about which instructions were given at the European Council Heads of Government Summit in Dublin a year ago. Some progress, although not as much as we should like, has been made on butter. Cheese is also being discussed.

NATIONALISED INDUSTRIES

(CHAIRMEN)

Q2. Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

asked the Prime Minister when he next expects to meet the chairmen of the nationalised industries.

The Prime Minister

I am ready to meet the chairmen of the nationalised industries whenever necessary, as I did last July, Sir, but, apart from those I hope to meet at NEDC tomorrow I have at present no plans to meet them as a group.

Mr. McNair-Wilson

When the Prime Minister meets them will it not be necessary to discuss the Trades Union Congress's important statement over the weekend that top salaries should not be more than £20,000, in view of the excessive salaries paid to some chairmen and part-time chairmen of these industries?

The Prime Minister

I and my right hon. Friends are in touch with the CBI, the chairmen of the nationalised industries and the TUC on these matters.

Mr. Cryer

Will my right hon. Friend explain how the appointment of Sir Richard Dobson—currently earning £58,000 a year, and with an £80,000 goodbye present—to a part-time, three-days-a-week job as chairman of British Leyland, will inspire British Leyland workers with the belief that publicly-owned industries will be more democratic in the future?

[column 1093]

The Prime Minister

I think that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry was answering Questions yesterday from my hon. Friend and others on this matter. It is true that I met Sir Richard Dobson after he had been appointed by the Board—I did not interview him, as has been stated—following the consultations with the National Enterprise Board. Indeed, all the relevant Ministers were involved before that appointment was made, including myself. [Interruption.] You want the facts; you are getting them—through you, Mr. Speaker, of course.

With regard to the inspiration of British Leyland workers, my hon. Friend will have been delighted to see the very big improvement in productivity and the faster move than many expected towards profitability. As from 1968 until very recently there had been only four days in the history of British Leyland when there were no strikes, my hon. Friend will be glad to see, and will, I am sure, do all that he can to encourage, the recent improvement in industrial relations.

Mr. Pardoe

The Prime Minister will recognise that some people, even on the Opposition side of the House, have sympathy with limiting the level of top salaries. However, why it is proving so difficult to obtain the services of younger men to head up these industries? Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that there has been some unfavourable and perhaps unfair—[Interruption]. Is the Prime Minister aware that that is not actually one of the jobs that I am looking for? [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. We shall never hear what job it is.

Mr. Pardoe

Before that ribald interruption I was asking the Prime Minister whether he could make sure that these jobs were widely advertised to recruit those with qualifications other than that of being geriatric.

The Prime Minister

As to the hon. Gentleman, I shall be prepared to consider it if he will send me a note of his qualifications—an octavo sheet will do, as I think most of his hon. Friends would agree. Concerning the wider question raised by the hon. Gentleman some time ago, in the case of British Leyland, as he will know, it was decided that the [column 1094]main weight of leadership would fall on the chief executive—who, I should have thought, is conducting his operations very successfully—and that one wanted a rather wise, elder industrial statesman in the chair, but not to interfere with the work of the chief executive.

PRIME MINISTER

(SPEECH)

Q3. Mr. Ovenden

asked the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech on the Civil Service at the Civil Service Department on Monday 16th February.

The Prime Minister

I did so, Sir, on 17th February.

Mr. Ovenden

In view of my right hon. Friend's quite proper concern with morale in the Civil Service, will he give an assurance that the scaling down of Civil Service manpower proposed in the public expenditure review can be carried out without a deterioration in the standards of service provided to the disadvantaged members of the community such as the services provided by the Department of Health and Social Security?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. I refer my hon. Friend to the very full statement made by my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Civil Service Department, in the debate on 5th February. Since then, as my hon. Friend will know, the Public Expenditure White Paper has been published, which shows the extent of the proposed reductions, expressed in financial terms.

Mrs. Thatcher

Does Harold Wilsonthe Prime Minister recollect that in that speech he referred to coins jingling in pay packets? Will he confirm that nevertheless it is his Government's policy to increase the burden of tax on the taxpayer?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Lady was kind enough last week to forecast all that the present Government will do in the next four years, which will be well into the next Parliament, [Interruption.] Oh, yes, she conceded it. During those four years, as the right hon. Lady will know, we have set out very fully—the House will shortly be debating them—all the implications of the expenditure policy. However, the right [column 1095]hon. Lady will realise, of course, that one problem here, for us and for the House, is that we do not intend to finance them as her Government did, by the vast printing of money through the printing presses.

Mrs. Thatcher

The right hon. Gentleman has therefore confirmed that it is his policy to increase taxes. The only remaining question is, by how much?

The Prime Minister

I confirmed nothing of the kind. I referred to the White Paper which the House will be debating. In that debate the right hon. Lady will no doubt tell us what, additionally, she would cut—apart from all her recent statements calling for increased expenditure.

Mr. Skinner

During the next four years, will my right hon. Friend change the current language of his Government's policies—Socialist policies, may we say?—and change from a policy of rescuing the secondary banking system as a first priority to one of scaling down the figure of 1½ million people who are currently on the dole?

The Prime Minister

If my hon. Friend is not satisfied with the Government's language, I shall look at that. However, I can tell him that any replacement will not involve using his language.

CABINET MEETINGS

Q4. Sir J. Langford-Holt

asked the Prime Minister whether he will require Members of Her Majesty's Government to sign an official undertaking that they will not take notes of proceedings or notes of their recollection of any proceedings in or relating to the Cabinet.

The Prime Minister

There is no need for a general rule of this kind, Sir.

Sir J. Langford-Holt

As the Government have spent quite a lot of public money persuading the Attorney-General to try to suppress the Crossman Diaries, what will the Prime Minister do to raise the standard from what he and I must both agree, presumably, is at a very low level?

The Prime Minister

I agree very much. Indeed, I have informed the House of the Government's acceptance of the Radcliffe Report. The Radcliffe Commit[column 1096]tee considered all these matters. The Government have accepted its Report. I do not want to go too much into some of the things that have been said, but there were many statements in those diaries which I know to have been not only not true but not even possibly true, because they could not have fitted in with the dates when things were stated to have happened.

Mr. Dalyell

On the narrow aspect, to be fair to the memory of Dick Crossman, is it not a fact that practically everyone around the Cabinet table knew precisely what he was up to?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. We knew that he was taking a considerable academic interest in constitutional questions. He made that clear. However, as paragraph 99 of the Radcliffe Report makes clear, while it is possible that members of successive Governments of the last 200 years have tried to keep their memory fresh by making notes afterwards—that was before tapes were usable—this was assumed to be for nemonic purposes, to help them to write more accurately any book that they might wish to write. What no one could have forecast was that Dick Crossman—my late right hon. Friend—would die and that these things would be put out without his editing.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether Mr. Crossman 's observation in his diaries, to the effect that none of the Cabinet understood the Land Commission Act 1967, applies also to the Development Land Tax Bill at present?

The Prime Minister

It does not apply. It did not apply then. But our good friend Dick, who spent a lot of time on other things, very often did not understand complicated legislation of that kind.

Mr. Heffer

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of us believe that the late Richard Crossman did a first-class job in tearing away the veil—the so-called secrecy of government? Is it not clear that rather than stopping the discussions from being publicised, in the interests of open government it would be far better if all the discussions were publicised, so that all of us would know precisely what was going on, what the real decisions [column 1097]were and how they were arrived at, rather than have the present position, of a pretence that no disagreements occur?

The Prime Minister

No. It is well recognised that in successive Governments there have been disagreements, and are disagreements. As we have read today, there are even disagreements within the Shadow Cabinet. My hon. Friend is very experienced in these matters, and as a fellow member of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party I hope he does not seriously suggest that the Cabinet should operate on the same basis as the NEC as regards open discussion.

Mr. Aitken

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain how he reconciles his remarks about Mr. Crossman 's diaries with the continual flow of leaks which completely violated Cabinet secrecy at the time of the Chrysler affair, especially the repeated verbatim briefings of journalists by senior Cabinet Ministers?

The Prime Minister

I have already expressed my views on that matter. I think that that was a most unfortunate set of circumstances. Although I do not think that it was the intention, it even gave help to the Opposition Front Bench. However, the Opposition are now having to explain why they voted to close down Chrysler as well as British Leyland.