Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1976 Jun 8 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [912/1191-97]
Editorial comments: 1515-30.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2094
Themes: Industry, Public spending & borrowing, Labour Party & socialism
[column 1191]

CBI and TUC

Q1. Mr. Forman

asked the Prime Minister when he last had discussions with the CBI and the TUC.

Q2. Mr. Brittan

asked the Prime Minister when he last met the CBI.

Q10. Mr. Arnold Shaw

asked the Prime Minister when he last met the heads of the CBI and TUC.

The Prime Minister (Mr. James Callaghan)

I refer the hon. Members and my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker) on 27th May.

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Mr. Forman

When he had his discussions with the CBI and others, did the Prime Minister take the trouble to get hold of a copy of the MORI Survey into the attitudes of working people, which showed that 86 per cent. of those polled favoured living in a free enterprise society and that the same percentage favoured wider profit sharing as an incentive to increase productivity?

The Prime Minister

I did not get hold of a copy of the survey. Responses can depend on the way questions are framed. I have not had an opportunity to examine this questionnaire, but I dare say that it is as valuable as a great many others, including those which forecast the results of General Elections.

Mr. Shaw

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the recent Financial Times survey of business forecasts, which showed the recovery in the economy to be in full swing? [Interruption.] Is he aware that this contained high investment intentions, although unfortunately, investment has been flagging? [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member speaks even slower than I do.

Mr. Shaw

In view of the unstinting contribution of the TUC, will my right hon. Friend nudge the CBI to encourage its constituent members to improve investment?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend has made a most valuable point, on which the House should reflect. Investment has been sluggish so far, but there is reason to believe that it is now improving. Certainly the Department of Industry survey, which was published yesterday, suggests a sharp rise in investment in 1977. If that is true, it wil probably be the first time that British industry has taken advantage of an export-led boom before the consumer cycle has taken full effect. The fact that the Government have made available several hundred million pounds through the accelerated capital projects scheme will encourage industry to go ahead with further investment. We ask them to do so.

Mrs. Thatcher

When theJames CallaghanPrime Minister next meets the TUC and the CBI, will he tell them that the Denis HealeyChancellor's statement yesterday represents not a victory for the Government but a defeat for their policies? When he next addresses the CBI, will he tell it that his only policy [column 1193]is to put Britain deeper into the red, to keep the red flag flying here?

The Prime Minister

I still have hopes that one day Question Time will be a serious period, without Members just thinking up clever phrases in advance and then shouting them across the Dispatch Box.

I think that the general opinion held about the credit that was advanced yesterday—I agree that that opinion is not shared by the Leader of the Opposition, but the right hon. Lady is in a somewhat isolated position in this matter—is that it was a valuable reinforcement of the international monetary situation.

A collapse of the international monetary situation would do no good to anyone in the western industrialised world. It was mainly for that reason that the central banks got together to ensure that a currency that, in their view, was undervalued should not be attacked in a way that would destroy the bastions of the monetary system. The right hon. Lady says that that represents a defeat for the Government's policies. All I can say to her, in the immortal words of one of my predecessors, is that if she believes that she will believe anything.

Mrs. Thatcher

Does the Prime Minister realise that he had to borrow from the central bankers—capitalist central bankers—because they had not got enough confidence in his Government's policies to purchase sterling?

The Prime Minister

The central bankers do not purchase sterling in this sense, although they may intervene from time to time. This is normal, standard practice, under which central banks give assistance to each other by means of swap facilities. I am sure that one day the right hon. Lady will understand these things a little better.

Mr. Bidwell

Has my right hon. Friend noticed that the Trades Union Congress has called for the strongest anti-racist laws to emerge from this place? Will my right hon. Friend comment on the present situation, having regard to the anxiety about immigration generally? Will he confirm that it is the Government's policy to prosecute policies to develop racial harmony in this country?

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The Prime Minister

I have not discussed this matter with the TUC or CBI, but my hon. Friend and the whole House will deplore the events that took place in his constituency at the weekend. It would be wrong for me to comment in detail on the murder, or on the demonstration, as criminal charges will come before the courts, but perhaps the House will allow me to say that race relations in this country have been good over the years, thanks to the good sense and moderation of the vast majority of our people of all communities.

I think that the House will deeply regret the murder that took place at Southall but will want to pay tribute to the stand against violence taken by the leaders of the Asian and other minority communities in that area. I think that the House will also want to thank the police for the work that they did. I urge everyone not to allow passion to destroy our reputation as a tolerant, cohesive and unified society.

The Government have taken a determined stand against racial discrimination in any form, and we shall continue to do so. The Race Relations Bill, which is now before the House, has received support from all parties. When, as I hope, it goes on to the statute book, with the support of all parties, it will be an indication to the minorities in our midst that they can live here as free and equal citizens with everyone else.

Mr. Grimond

As the Prime Minister now consults the CBI and the TUC, will he think of consulting others, as well? As the Chancellor has now bought us some more time with these standby arrangements, will the right hon. Gentleman sound out the various parties in the House, of which there are six, on the question whether there is any common ground for supporting the sort of measures that will need to be taken if we are to avoid another crisis in a year or two?

The Prime Minister

I notice that the right hon. Gentleman said “in a year or two” That is sufficient unto the day in some ways. But I would put that—[Interruption.] If hon. Members would only contain themselves, they might sometimes hear the end of a sentence without interruption. I would put that as too distant a perspective for any measures [column 1195]that need to be taken. No doubt we shall be discussing the real problem in due course. I have read that, after hours of anxiety, a motion is to go on the Order Paper, although I have not yet had the advantage of reading it. I have no doubt that we shall be discussing these matters, and that will be the opportunity to take counsel together to see what is necessary.

I have stated the main problem, as I see it, on many occasions—namely, that with the upturn in investment to which my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Shaw), referred, there will be what, in the vernacular, I call two buckets put into the same pool of savings. This will cause problems not only to the Government but to the country as a whole if we are to avoid inflation. I go on saying that, because I think that those are the steps that need to be taken.

ISLE OF GRAIN

Q3. Mr. Ovenden

asked the Prime Minister if he will pay an official visit to the Isle of Grain.

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to do so.

Mr. Ovenden

Is the Prime Minister aware of my disappointment that he will be unable to visit the area where the first shipment of British North Sea oil was landed, thereby missing an appropriate opportunity to make a statement about the Government's oil policy? Will he take the opportunity today to tell the House whether he is satisfied with the progress being made towards achieving the Labour Party manifesto commitment of a majority public stake in all North Sea oil exploration?

The Prime Minister

I am sorry not to be able to visit the area. Somehow I do not think that my hon. Friend or I would get a pair if we were to ask for it at the moment.

Mr. Lipton

There are plenty of pairs to be had.

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is too cynical about the intentions of Opposition Members.

The oil policy is working out broadly as we had hoped and intended. The stake [column 1196]that the Government are taking is now being worked out in negotiation. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy has made a full statement on the matter. I am sure that even among the faint-hearts on the Opposition Benches it will be a cause for rejoicing that the import of our own oil from the North Sea this year is likely to save us about £1 billion on the balance of payments. That is another source of strength in which the whole nation can rejoice.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

As the benefit being gained by the British or English economy this year is of the order mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, will he indicate whether he is intent upon giving to the Scottish Assembly the oil revenues that the Assembly will need to improve the standard of living in Scotland?

The Prime Minister

The question of the revenues that the Scottish Assembly will control will no doubt be thrashed out in the course of devolution debates that we shall have. But if the United Kingdom is to remain as an integrated whole, the answer will undoubtedly be that no revenues can be hypothecated to one particular part of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Dalyell

If my right hon. Friend rightly concerns himself with the decisions of trade union conferences, while we are on the subject of the East Coast will he bear in mind that at Scarborough UCATT came down against devolution?

The Prime Minister

UCATT was one of the few conferences that I did not attend. Perhaps that is the reason.

Mr. Ridley

If the Prime Minister does not visit the Isle of Grain, will he have time to have a word with his hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry), who broke his word not to vote on the day before we rose for the recess? Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to keep the hon. Gentleman as a member of his Administration when it is quite clear that he is not able to discharge an honourable obligation to the House?

The Prime Minister

I note what the hon. Gentleman said, but I am afraid that there will not be a vacancy for him after all.

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Hon. Members

Answer the question.

The Prime Minister

rose——

Mr. Skinner

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Mr. Skinner, to raise a point of order.

Mr. Skinner

I wonder whether you, Mr. Speaker, would care to rule on the situation that has recently developed in the Chamber. The hon. Member for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman) is sitting underneath the right hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Macmillan).

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am afraid that I am no expert in such matters.