Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1976 Mar 10 We
Margaret Thatcher

HC I [Public Expenditure]

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [907/565-76]
Editorial comments: 2219-2304. MT spoke on a Point of Order after the Government was defeated (256:284) on its public expenditure policies. The Opposition amendment to the motion had also been defeated (274:304).
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 3211
Themes: Parliament, Public spending & borrowing, Labour Party & socialism
[column 565]

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher (Finchley)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Government have been decisively defeated and discredited on a matter central to their whole economic policy. Such a defeat is unprecedented in modern times. In the light of the decision of the House of Commons, I call upon the Government to resign, or to seek a vote of confidence on this issue forthwith. In the absence [column 566]of Harold Wilsonthe Prime Minister—[Hon. Members: “Where is he?]—I ask the senior member of the Government present forthwith to make a statement of his intentions.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Short.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Edward Short)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker——

[column 567]

Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I had called the Leader of the House. He is on a point of order. It is a very broad point of order.

Mr. Edward Short

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will consider the situation created by the voting tonight and announce his intentions in due course.

Mr. Thorpe

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Since this is a defeat for the economic strategy of the Government, which likewise fails to give endorsement to the alternative strategy of the official Opposition, are we to take it that this country now has no economic strategy at all? What will the Prime Minister do to remove the uncertainty, which will have a devastating effect not only on the pound, but on the economy of this country?

Mr. Donald Stewart (Western Isles)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the decisive defeat on this tremendous economic issue and in view of the points made by my hon. Friends today regarding Scotland, and as Scotland is ready for an election, I suggest that the Leader of the House should see his right hon. Friend to that effect immediately.

Mrs. Thatcher

The reply by Edward Shortthe Leader of the House, that a statement will be made in due course, is an insult to the House of Commons. The Government have been defeated by 28 votes. The least that we can expect is a statement tomorrow afternoon.

Mr. Edward Short

I have nothing to add to what I said, except to point out that the Opposition were defeated by 30 votes on their amendment.

Mrs. Thatcher

The Leader of the House adds insult to insult. If democracy meant anything in this country, it would already have gone by his highly dictatorial attitude. The Government have been defeated, and they were on trial tonight. We demand a statement tomorrow afternoon.

Several Hon. Members

rose——

[column 568]

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is clearly a matter on which I cannot rule. This argument will have to be continued tomorrow.

Mr. Peter Emery (Honiton)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. This is obviously a major constitutional matter. As the Prime Minister has been seen in the House, will you consider suspending the sitting in order that we may have the statement that the Leader of the House intimated would be given as soon as possible?

Several Hon. Members

rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Leader of the Opposition asked for a statement tomorrow. I think that I am correct in that. [Hon. Members: “Tonight.” ] My hearing is very good. Despite the excitement in the House on a major occasion, I do not believe that any advantage will be gained by continuing points of order. Clearly, serious decisions have to be taken.

Several Hon. Members

rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I have not yet resumed my seat. I was not indicating by whom those decisions would have to be taken. I am not taking sides. We should move on to the next business.

Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. If the life of the House of Commons means anything, it means that, as an Opposition, we have the right to challenge the Government. If we succeed in challenging and defeating the Government as decisively as we have tonight, traditionally we have the right to expect the Government to make an immediate response to the decision of the House of Commons. It is for that reason, no doubt, that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has demanded that the Prime Minister should state his position—[Hon. Members: “Tomorrow.” ]—because it is his Government's future that is at stake, and he should do so tonight as soon as he can be brought here.

On an occasion such as this the Prime Minister should have been in the Chamber. Failing that, he should be immediately readily available. I suggest that it is only courteous and right to give [column 569]him an opportunity to come down to the House—[Interruption.]—in order to—[Hon. Members: “He is behind the Speaker's Chair.” ]——

Mr. Speaker

Order. Hon. Members must try to control themselves. The right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) is addressing the House.

Sir D. Renton

In the nature of things, the Prime Minister cannot be far away. He will be either somewhere within the precincts of the House or two minutes' drive away in Downing Street. Even if he has gone to Lord North Street, he will not be too far away. Therefore, it is not physically an unreasonable request that we make for the Prime Minister to be present.

I see the Patronage Secretary standing by the side of your Chair, Mr. Speaker. I think that by now he ought to have got a message to the Prime Minister. It may be that we can simply await the right hon. Gentleman's arrival.

There is further business to be conducted tonight. It may not take long, but it will probably take long enough for the Prime Minister to get here. If I may respectfully make a suggestion, it is that the Leader of the House should assure us that the Prime Minister has been informed of the wishes expressed by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and that, if we proceed with our further business, the Prime Minister will come to the House and declare his intentions about the future of his Government.

Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. In the circumstances, I think that we would wish to be very patient and restrained. I wonder whether you would consider suspending the sitting for, say, a quarter of an hour so as to give the Prime Minister time to prepare himself and to make even a brief appearance this evening.

Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)

On a point of order——

Mr. Julian Ridsdale (Harwich)

On a point of order——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am already dealing with a number of points of order. [column 570]

I am not prepared to suspend the sitting at the moment because it has been said quite clearly that a statement will be given to the House tomorrow. As I understand it, the Leader of the House has said that the Government will make a statement tomorrow.

Hon. Members

No.

Mr. Edward Short

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. That is not what I said. But if it will help the House, I will certainly say that a statement will be made tomorrow.

Mr. Ridsdale

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the uncertainty in world financial markets, it would be wise for the Government to make an immediate statement rather than to procrastinate and let the pound fall further because of this situation.

Mr. Crouch

The House is used to sitting up late at night. The Government have suffered a severe reverse tonight and the people outside the House, including in my constituency, will not understand the workings of Parliament and democracy if we do not get a decision tonight. I earnestly ask you, Mr. Speaker, to suspend the sitting to give us time to see the Prime Minister tonight and to hear his statement.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South-West)

I reinforce what my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) has said. This situation is totally without precedent. The Prime Minister is skulking in the wings leaving his colleagues on the Front Bench. This means that we have to wait until 3.30 p.m. tomorrow for a statement. Will you suspend the sitting for quarter of an hour, Mr. Speaker?

Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Prime Minister is the senior Treasury Minister. The debate has been on a Treasury matter. Alone among all the members of the House you, Mr. Speaker, are the most senior and you have the right to command the presence of any Member of the House. It is the clear will of the House that you should command the attendance of the senior Treasury Minister after the Government have been defeated. As by now the Prime Minister has disappeared from behind your back, [column 571]I think that it would be appropriate for you to order him as the First Lord of the Treasury to be present in the House at 11 o'clock and for you to suspend the sitting until then.

Mr. George Strauss (Vauxhall)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. All the points of order so far raised on the Opposition Benches have been on the assumption that when a Government are defeated on a vote, it is their duty to declare their proposals and policy the same evening. But I am sure that you are aware, Mr. Speaker, that when Mr. Winston Churchill was defeated in this House on a vote, he announced that he would make his decision——

Hon. Members

He announced it himself!

Mr. Speaker

Order. The House should allow the right hon. Gentleman the Father of the House to finish what he is saying.

Mr. Strauss

The point, Mr. Speaker, as you will appreciate, is that the reaction of the Government was that time should be permitted for the Prime Minister to consider the matter, and a promise was given that an announcement would be made the next day about the Government's policy.

Mr. Ridsdale

What about the pound?

Mr. Strauss

The Leader of the House today in this House has exactly followed that precedent.

Hon. Members

No.

Mrs. Thatcher

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask Edward Shortthe Leader of the House to ascertain whether Harold Wilsonthe Prime Minister is present within the precincts and, if so, to bring him here at once?

Hon. Members

Answer!

Mr. Speaker

rose——

Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)

On a point of order——

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are reaching a stage now of argument rather than of points of order.

Mr. Goodhew

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker——

[column 572]

Mr. Speaker

Order. When I am on my feet, there cannot be a point of order.

My predecessor in the Chair, on similar occasions, when the defeat might not have been as great but when there was great excitement in the House over defeats, allowed two bites of the cherry on each side and then called it a day. I am going to do the same.

Mr. Goodhew

rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The House must play the game with me on this.

Mr. Cormack

So must the Prime Minister.

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is all right for hon. Members to be shouting from a sitting position, but it is out of order and very unworthy of the House to do so when I am on my feet.

We have had a statement from the Government Front Bench that a statement is to be made in the House tomorrow. That follows precedent. The question as to who makes the statement is not for me. A statement has been made by the Leader of the House on behalf of the Government. The next business is EEC Orders.

Hon. Members

No.

Mr. Goodhew

On a point of order——

Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)

On a point of order. With very deep respect to you, Mr. Speaker, I feel that there is no real precedent for what has taken place tonight, since the Prime Minister is not out of the country, and he is not out of the House: he is actually here.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I have made it clear that it is not a point of order for me to rule who is in the Chamber and who is not. That is perfectly clear. I am following well-established precedent. When a Government statement is made announcing that a statement will be made the next day, the House has hitherto always accepted it.

Mr. Walter Clegg (North Fylde)

No.

Mr. Speaker

It has.

I am now moving on to the next business.

Hon. Members

No.

[column 573]

Several Hon. Members

rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I may tell the House that I will not accept points of order on a matter on which I have already given a ruling.

Mr. Ridley

On a point of order——

Mr. Speaker

Unless the point of order that the hon. Gentleman wishes to raise is on a different matter, I am not prepared to accept it.

Mr. Ridley

On a totally different point of order, Mr. Speaker. According to the Order Paper, which I have here, the further business before the House is three Defence Votes, followed by a motion on Protein Deposit and Private Storage Aid Proposals. Then, of course, we have the Solicitors (Scotland) [Money] Resolution, to which we are all looking forward. As we did not approve the Government's proposals for public expenditure, it is not possible to debate these matters. For instance, we cannot decide about maintaining 78,000 officers, ratings and Royal Marines in the Naval Service if we are not going to approve of the defence apportionment——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is referring to items which are not to be called tonight.

Mr. Ridley

The same applies to the motion concerning Protein Deposit and particularly to the Solicitors (Scotland) [Money] Resolution. One of the reasons for my hon. Friends being particularly annoyed by the Public Expenditure White Paper was that there was so much money for Scottish solicitors. It is quite clear that we cannot proceed to discuss these two motions. It is futile and fruitless to discuss them if we are to proceed to dissolve Parliament and to have a General Election. [Interruption.] On our return to the other side of the House we may wish to make different provision for protein deposit as well as for the Solicitors (Scotland) [Money] matter. It would be wiser, I suggest, not to proceed with these items of business in view of the very great state of uncertainty about the Government's intentions.

It might be better if we could therefore in some way adjourn the House either until the Prime Minister can be found or until tomorrow, because it [column 574]clearly would not be fitting, in the mood of the House, to proceed to discuss these matters.

Mr. Speaker

The business of the day does not depend on the mood of the House, and I can only follow the Order Paper. The next business is the Prime Minister's motion. [Interruption]. [Hon. Members: “Where is he?” ] Order. The answer to the question is that I do not know. [Interruption.] Mr. Peart. [Interruption.]

Mr. William Whitelaw (Penrith and The Border)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker——

Mr. Speaker

I call the right hon. Gentleman on a point of order. Mr. Whitelaw.

Mr. Whitelaw

Would it not be sensible, in the interests of the House, to recognise that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has asked the Leader of the House whether the Prime Minister is on the premises and whether he will come here? There has been no response to that, so, clearly, the Leader of the House is refusing to do that. Very well. If that is the case and the Prime Minister will not come tonight, I do not believe that, in the mood of the House now, it is at all possible to proceed to further business. If the Leader of the House will not do the first, will he do the second, and withdraw all business tonight? That surely would be sensible.

Mr. Edward Short

In view of the mood of the House, that is a very sensible suggestion. Therefore, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture will agree not to move his motion, and the House will move on to the Adjournment.

ADJOURNMENT

Motion made, and Question proposed. That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Thomas Cox.]

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I distinctly heard the Minister of Agriculture move his motion. Therefore, he has to withdraw the Question before the House before the House can adjourn.

[column 575]

Mr. Speaker

If the hon. Gentleman heard the Minister of Agriculture say a word, he has remarkable hearing, because, at the same moment, the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) rose. I think that I am [column 576]right in saying that the Minister of Agriculture did not move anything.

I have declared the Adjournment of the House. Many hon. Members have now dispersed.

I call Mr. Whitlock for his Adjournment debate.