Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1976 May 27 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [912/625-31]
Editorial comments: 1515-30.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2138
[column 625]


Q1. Mr. Marten

asked the Prime Minister when he will next meet the Prime Minister of Italy.

The Prime Minister (Mr. James Callaghan)

I hope to meet the Italian Prime Minister at the next European Council in Brussels on 12th and 13th July.

Mr. Marten

Will the Prime Minister on that occasion raise with the Italian Prime Minister, and perhaps with other Common Market colleagues, the propriety of a Commissioner in the Community standing as a parliamentary candidate in the Italian elections? Now that we have evidence that a senior Commissioner, Signor Spinelli, is standing on the Communist ticket, perhaps the Prime Minister will initiate what his predecessor used to call a full, frank and searching inquiry to see whether there is any further Communist penetration of the Community by other Little Red Riding Hoods? This is very disturbing.

The Prime Minister

I understand that Commissioner Spinelli is standing as an Independent on the Communist Party list. It is not for me to reconcile these strange doctrines. He has withdrawn from all official duties in the Community for the moment. If elected he will resign, and there is some evidence that if he is not elected he will not wish to resume his functions. There has been no secret about Commissioner Spinelli. He was a member of the Communist Party many years ago, before he became a Commissioner. There is therefore no need for an inquiry to find out about secret Communists.

Mr. Dalyell

Will my right hon. Friend use his powers of persuasion to convince the incoming Italian Government that the best chances of technical success for the JET fusion project are at Culham, and that the Italians might do well to look for [column 626]other research projects for their understandable worries about Ispra?

The Prime Minister

The project at Culham is one of the most advanced in Europe. It is one that I pressed for consistently when I was Foreign Secretary. I know there is a great Italian interest in the matter. It is a Community project and there are no Community projects of that character established in the United Kingdom. I think it would be a very worthwhile opportunity both for Europe and the United Kingdom, especially as we have one of the best teams in the world assembled at Culham for this very new and exciting venture.

Mr. Watt

When the Prime Minister meets the Italian Prime Minister will he ask him to investigate the racket under which fat cattle leave this country, with a slaughter premium paid on them as they go, are transported to Italy, where they are slaughtered and subsequently shipped to Denmark, with monetary compensation amounts being paid as they cross each border? How can the common agricultural policy operate properly when such rackets are going on?

The Prime Minister

I do not think I shall be discussing that with the Italian Prime Minister, but the point raised by the hon. Member is important. The CAP does not operate to the benefit of this country, and it involves a great deal of money being spent unnecessarily. It is our intention on all occasions—and certainly before the next agricultural price review, in the spring—to raise these matters at the highest level in order to get an agricultural system better fitted to the needs of the consumer, as well as giving producers decent returns.

Mr. Heath

To return to the supplementary question of my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten), will the Prime Minister go further than he has been asked and take an initiative at the Heads of Government meeting to secure an agreement that once a Commissioner takes up his appointment he will remain in the appointment for the full agreed term, eschew party politics and not return for electoral purposes, or give notice of a return for electoral purposes, until his term, which he has accepted, is completed?

[column 627]

The Prime Minister

I think that there is something to consider here, but, as will be in the right hon. Gentleman's mind, this is not the first time that someone has given an indication that he wishes to return to politics in his own country before he finishes his term of office. I have thought of at least one recent occasion when perhaps it might have been rather convenient for that to be done, but I do not wish to particularise. On the general question, of course, we should consider what should be the position of Commissioners in these matters. On the whole, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that if they are appointed for a fixed term they should see out that term. If they wish to return to their national politics, they should do so after the end of the term.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

Does my right hon. Friend accept that at least the Italian Communists have some regard for the employment prospects of their countrymen, in sharp contrast to the callous and irresponsible attitude to the jobs and livelihoods of those employed in shipbuilding in this country, as demonstrated by the hypocritical shower on the Opposition Benches, which overshadows even the Leader of the Opposition's suggestion, in the United States, that in order to cut public expenditure she would stop issuing kidney machines?

The Prime Minister

I think I shall have more important matters to discuss with the Italian Prime Minister than the machinations of the Opposition, but I hope it is being borne in on them that there are a great many jobs at stake today—[Hon. Members: “Yours” .] If Conservative Members think that I care about this job, it only shows the lengths and the depths to which they have sunk. I must say that it is an interesting hors-d'oeuvre to the nature of the debate that we are going to have, if this is to be the level on which it is to be conducted.


Q2. Mr. Brotherton

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

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to do so.

[column 628]

Mr. Brotherton

Is the Prime Minister aware that Binbrook lies at the heart of the Lincolnshire agricultural land and that many of Binbrook's farmers are very concerned about the present value of the green pound? Will he tell the House whether the Government intend to revalue the green pound, to bring it back into line with the pound sterling?

The Prime Minister

I am sure that Binbrook is a very salubrious and charming hamlet. I imagine that every day its inhabitants discuss nothing other than the green pound. On the whole, we feel it would be wrong to revalue the green pound at present, because with the increased price of commodities that is not within our control. It is everybody's responsibility to try to keep the rate of inflation down as far as we can.

Mr. Fernyhough

Does my right hon. Friend readily agree that whatever the sufferings of the farmers from the devaluation of the green pound, members of the farming community, especially the Lincolnshire farmers, have never had such a bonanza as they have had from the price they have been getting for their potatoes over the past nine months?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I think that potatoes have done exceptionally well—[Interruption.] Unfortunately, I have no quota myself. But other commodities have not done so well. For the farming community generally, the spring has enabled the work to go ahead extremely well. There is now a shortage of rain, but the dairy industry is moving ahead. On the whole, I do not think that there is a bonanza, except in some commodities.

Mr. Blaker

Will the right hon. Gentleman suggest to his right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) that Binbrook would be a very suitable place to put out to grass Paddy the labrador, whose official career is now presumably over, and who must be surprised and disappointed, as we all are, that he has not appeared in today's Honours List?

Mr. Mike Thomas

If my right hon. Friend cannot visit Binbrook, will he visit Newcastle upon Tyne and talk to the workers and management of Swan Hunter Shipbuilders Ltd.? Will he explain to them how he is going to deal [column 629]with the problems that may be created this evening by the irresponsible exaggeration by Conservative Members of a genuine technical error and that may affect the livelihoods of the men and management in an industry which is now in the process of getting its fourth vesting day?

The Prime Minister

It is true that the shipbuilding industry faces the greatest crisis it has faced since the end of the war. That is true of the world situation, as I think Conservative Members know. Therefore, it is vitally important that we should get ahead as quickly as possible with the reorganisation of the industry, so as to save a great many jobs, although it will have to be faced that a lot of rationalisation is needed if the British shipbuilding industry is to be saved. No parliamentary successes by the Opposition will prevent that from happening.

Mr. Gorst

The Prime Minister mentioned a moment ago the revaluation of the green pound, but there is another form of revaluation that is long overdue. Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the creation of an honour that honourable men can honourably accept?


Q3. Mr. Tebbit

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

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to do so.

Mr. Tebbit

As Hounslow is one of the places that would have been affected by the Prime Minister's efforts to amend the Boundary Commission report in favour of the Labour Party a few years ago, would it not be a good place for the right hon. Gentleman to visit, so that he can explain to the people whether there are any limits to his willingness to alter the rules of the game to get the result that he wants?

The Prime Minister

The House will take a decision on the matters that are before it today. I am told that there is a majority of the House that is not composed of members of the Labour Government or of the Labour Party. There[column 630]fore, I assume it is the House that will reach its conclusions.

Mr. Grimond

Will the Prime Minister allow a free vote this evening?

The Prime Minister

I have no doubt that every one of my hon. Friends will be in the Lobby in support of the Government.

Mr. Bidwell

If my right hon. Friend is in the Hounslow district—he can easily go through it on his way to Chequers—will he bear in mind that Southall is quite close by? Will he stop off and speak to the indigenous and Indian communities of Southall, and assure them that it will be no part of the Labour Government's policies now or in future to deny families their proper family rights, in spite of the worry about immigration and the necessity to control it?

The Prime Minister

I have always been in favour of controlling immigration. Indeed, I introduced systems to that effect. There is a difference between controlled entry and the abuses that are taking place, to which attention has been directed. I believe it is in the interests of the communities themselves—it is certainly the desire of many of their leaders—that abuses and evasion of the law should not be practised.

Mrs. Thatcher

To return to the previous matter, on the basis of whose rule book will the decision tonight be taken—the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, as interpreted by Mr. Speaker, or the changing instructions of the James CallaghanPrime Minister??

The Prime Minister

It will be taken in the normal course by Members walking through the Lobbies as free Members of this House.

Mrs. Thatcher

Will the Prime Minister therefore undertake to accept the result of tonight's vote and not have another vote the week after next?

The Prime Minister

It will depend what the vote is about—[Interruption.] I have plenty of time. Hon. Members can shout as long as they like. It will depend what the vote is about the week after next. It will depend on the form in which it is put. As far as today is concerned, the House will reach a conclusion [column 631]and consequences will follow from that. We shall see the consequences when the vote has been declared.