Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1976 Apr 8 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [909/629-36]
Editorial comments: 1515-30.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2284
Themes: Civil liberties, Trade unions
[column 629]

PRIME MINISTER

(BROADCAST)

Q1. Mr. Peter Morrison

asked the Prime Minister when he next plans to make a ministerial broadcast.

[column 630]

Q9. Mr. Tebbit

asked the Prime Minister when he next expects to make a ministerial broadcast.

The Prime Minister (Mr. James Callaghan)

I refer the hon. Members to the reply that I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond) on 6th April.

Mr. Morrison

Will the Prime Minister make immediate arrangements for a further broadcast so that he can explain to the nation how he reconciles his own statement on Monday night, that borrowing cannot go on for ever, with his Chancellor's statement just 24 hours later, that the nation's debt this year will be £12,000 million?

The Prime Minister

On the whole I think that one ministerial broadcast in a week is probably enough. The hon. Member might think that it was more than enough, although it seemed to meet with a certain amount of satisfaction. As for the borrowing requirement, of course it is true that we cannot go on borrowing indefinitely. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor made it clear, however, that in present circumstances the borrowing requirement, taken against the gross national product, has diminished and that he is capable of financing it this year out of the existing measures and by means of monetary control. In those circumstances the hon. Gentleman and others who think like him should declare whether they want us to cut down our borrowing requirement in order to increase unemployment still further.

Mr. Ioan Evans

If my right hon. Friend makes another ministerial broadcast, will he develop the theme of the need for greater equality, because that would have the by-product of a broadcast by the Leader of the Opposition, in which she could develop her theme of wanting greater inequality and getting back to the “Upstairs, Downstairs” society of the Tories?

The Prime Minister

There is no doubt that the concept of equality is extremely important. As our population changes, and with the enlargement of its freedoms in such matters as education, security in old age and decent housing, equality becomes more and more important. It is one of the modern concepts to which I believe society will become accustomed [column 631]and which will promote greater social cohesion.

Mr. Tebbit

Before the Prime Minister makes another broadcast, would it not be a good idea if he got his facts right? Did he not just say that the borrowing requirement for the year will go down in relation to GNP? Does he not mean that it is intended to go down in relation to what the Chancellor thinks the GNP may be? The Chancellor has never been right yet.

The Prime Minister

I would accept a correction that was formulated to mean that the borrowing requirement that the hon. Gentleman hopes will take place will represent a lower proportion of GNP than is likely to happen. If he used that formula I would accept it. That only goes to show how little care he takes in presenting these kinds of estimates.

Mrs. Thatcher

Does James Callaghanthe Prime Minister recollect that in his broadcast on Monday he spoke about rooting out injustice and cherishing individual freedoms? Is he therefore prepared to stand up for the right of an individual to keep his or her job even through he declines on grounds of conscience to join a union in a closed shop?

The Prime Minister

This argument has gone on for a long time, and I have held the same views for 40 years. They are that if those who go into an industry know that they are joining a closed shop, they know exactly the conditions under which they are joining. However, as regards the question of freedom generally, when she spoke in her reply to the Budget Statement I thought that the right hon. Lady was getting a little close to almost condoning the strikes that were taking place in a vital industry. I hope that she will deny that that is so.

Mrs. Thatcher

Is the Prime Minister aware that I tested what he said by reference to a specific case? His answer is “No” . Is he aware that that leaves what he said in his broadcast with a very hollow ring?

The Prime Minister

I am interested that the right hon. Lady should take that view, because it seemed to me that when she made her reply she was agreeing with all I had said. I thought it very wise of her to do so, though I wondered why [column 632]she wasted a ministerial broadcast on it in order to reply. The freedom in which she seems to be most interested is the one that she discussed the other day—the freedom to be unequal. When the right hon. Lady has been Leader of the Opposition longer—and she will be that for a very long time—she will appreciate that freedom has a much wider definition.

PRIME MINISTER

(ENGAGEMENTS)

2. Mr. Hoyle

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 8th April.

The Prime Minister

I held meetings with my ministerial colleagues and others during the course of the day. This evening I shall be giving a dinner at 10 Downing Street in honour of the Shahbanou of Iran.

Mr. Hoyle

According to Press speculation, my right hon. Friend has been busy in other directions. However, I ask him to consider the fact that many of us on the Government side of the House believe that the Budget of our right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer lacked direction in one respect. There was a lack of protection for vital sectors of British industry in relation to the volume of imports coming into Britain. Will my right hon. Friend consider introducing import controls for key sectors of industry, such as textiles, footwear and cars, and even, now, it appears, the shipbuilding industry——

Mr. Speaker

Order. There will be nothing left off the list.

The Prime Minister

I answered questions about generalised import controls on Tuesday. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor made clear in his Budget Statement, it is not the Government's view that a prescription of general and prolonged import controls, with all that that would mean in terms of import retaliation, offers any solution to our problems or any permanent increase in employment. As I said on Tuesday, we shall certainly study these matters. In certain cases, as my hon. Friend knows, we have announced several controls in recent months. We shall remain alert for other cases where they are appropriate. However, we must have regard for the balance [column 633]of international trade in this matter and for those of our people working in the export trades as well as those working in trades that are attacked by imports.

Mr. Grylls

Will the Prime Minister take time today to remind the Chancellor of the Exchequer that good government means governing on behalf of all the people, and that crucial as it is to have the TUC's support, it is also important to have the support of the broadcast possible cross-section of the whole of the British people for the counter-inflation policy?

The Prime Minister

I think that the Budget showed quite clearly that my right hon. Friend takes that view. I am not quite sure what the Opposition's view is about these discussions with the TUC. Perhaps we shall get it a little clearer as between what the right hon. Lady said and what the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) said on television last night. Although this is a serious problem, I cannot think that a circumstance in which the House of Commons would itself ultimately decide what are to be the levels of reliefs, and in which it will pass or reject the Finance Bill, can be constructed as a constitutional outrage.

Mr. Lipton

Reverting to my right hon. Friend's original reply, may I ask him whether he is aware that he dealt rather shortly with the dinner that he is giving tonight? Who is being invited?

The Prime Minister

I have rarely heard a more delicate way of inviting oneself to dinner. I am afraid that the guest list for tonight is complete, but I note my hon. Friend's point for later consideration.

Mr. Boscawen

Before the Prime Minister has his dinner tonight with his colleagues, will he make himself aware of the solemn commitments that his colleagues have given, time and again, to raise pensions to reflect the rise in prices or in earnings, whichever is the more favourable to them, on a historic basis, on the ground that it was the fairest method? Will he confirm that changing to a forward basis has breached the spirit of the Social Security Act 1975? Will he confirm that by breaching those commitments he is depriving the elderly, the disabled and long-term sick of about [column 634]onethird of the benefits of the commitments that were made earlier——

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is enough for the rest of the time.

The Prime Minister

The House will have the opportunity of debating the pensions proposals later, but it is my understanding that the increases will more than match any increases in earnings that are likely to take place this year, and will more than match the increase in the cost of living that is likely to take place this year. That being so, the present Government have, not for the first time—and not for the last time—increased the real value of pensions to the elderly. I hope that that is something that we shall continue to do.

CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER

Q3. Mr. Teddy Taylor

asked the Prime Minister if he will dismiss the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The Prime Minister

No.

Mr. Taylor

If the Prime Minister is not willing to dismiss the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose policies have been responsible for a disastrous and now almost daily slump in the value of sterling, will he at least himself try to arrest that decline by making it absolutely clear that under his premiership the Government will not introduce further acts of nationalisation?

The Prime Minister

There is no relationship between the value of sterling and nationalisation. [Interruption.] The value of sterling is dependent upon a number of factors, as hon. Members know, in relation to our—[Interruption.] The Opposition seem to be very tetchy at present. Are they frightened that I may call a General Election, or something? I am afraid that they will all have to contain their personal ambitions a little longer. [Hon. Members: “How long?” ] Until some time before 22nd October 1979.

However, to answer the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, the value of sterling depends not only on international movements and the attitude that foreigners take about our prospects; it also depends upon our competitive level. [column 635]What is essential is that this country increases its competitive capacity in order that it may sell goods at the right price at the right time. That is the major element, in the long run—not in the short run—that will determine the value of sterling. Therefore, it must be the Government's job to ensure that productivity is increased. In certain circumstances, nationalisation may help; in others, it will not. Nationalisation has helped to increase productivity in a number of industries. If the Opposition do not know them, they had better go away and start finding out.

Mr. Faulds

Will the Prime Minister ignore these silly suggestions? May I assure him, from contacts with many of my constituents, that his new appointment and the continuation in office of the Chancellor are both nationally warmly welcomed?

The Prime Minister

What I am quite certain of is that the country wants a period of stable government and that it recognises that a divided and faction-ridden Opposition has no alternative to offer.

Mr. David Steel

The Prime Minister told us that he is not going to dismiss the Chancellor. Will he say whom he is going to dismiss?

The Prime Minister

Not just now.

Mr. Heffer

Will my right hon. Friend accept from many of us our best wishes? As one who was never a 150 per cent. Harold man, or a 150 per cent. Callaghan man, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether, in these circumstances, the Government will now take this great [column 636]opportunity, with a new Government about to be formed, to move in the direction that many of us have been requesting and demanding for a considerable time—along the lines clearly laid down by the Labour Party conference and its decisions in relation to economic strategy? Will the Prime Minister say that we are now going to see new developments which have been long overwaited by the Labour Party?

The Prime Minister

I would not expect more than 100 per cent. support from my hon. Friend, and I know that I shall get that. The Government's economic policy was clearly stated on Tuesday. We shall continue to carry out the proposals in our manifesto, on which we fought the last two elections and on which we received the confidence of the people, so long as we maintain the confidence of our own party.