Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1976 Jun 17 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [913/731-37]
Editorial comments: 1515-30.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2341
Themes: Pay, Public spending & borrowing
[column 731]

HONOURS LIST

Q1. Mr. Skinner

asked the Prime Minister whether he will set up a committee to examine the abolition of the Honours List.

Q6. Mr. Gow

asked the Prime Minister what proposals he has to strengthen the Political Honours Scrutiny Committee.

The Prime Minister (Mr. James Callaghan)

I shall keep all aspects of the honours system under review. But I am not at present satisfied that a committee should be established to review the system, or that additional powers are needed to strengthen the Political Honours Scrutiny Committee.

Mr. Skinner

Does my right hon. Friend agree that perhaps the most sensible and democratic thing to do would [column 732]be to abolish the Honours system altogether? Does he agree that the last list of the ex-Prime Minister shows that where there is patronage and no accountability it will always be property speculators first and Labour door-knockers last?

The Prime Minister

The cohesion of our society certainly does not depend upon the Honours system. I do not claim that it is in every way a perfect system, but it is a useful way for society to recognise the contribution that individuals make to our national life. If I may judge from the letters that I receive from hon. Members on both sides of the House making recommendations to me on behalf of others who have performed a service, it is clearly widely recognised as such in the House. I am bound to say that from my own experience it gives a great deal of satisfaction to a great many people who do voluntary service in many ways.

As regards the list of my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson), it is not the custom of the House to comment on individual awards. However, I recommend that my hon. Friend makes a close study of the list. If he does so, I do not think he will find his strictures justified.

Mr. Gow

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the very criteria that he mentioned—namely, a reward to those to whom reward is due—has been breached in the most shameful fashion by his right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson)?

The Prime Minister

No, I do not accept that. I doubt whether many of the people making these accusations have read the whole list.

CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (INTERVIEW)

Q2. Mr. Blaker

asked the Prime Minister whether the interview given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on BBC television on the “Money Programme” on Friday 21st May on economic policy represents Government policy.

Q3. Mr. Norman Lamont

asked the Prime Minister whether the interview by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on BBC Television's “Money Programme” on [column 733]21st May on economic policy represents Government policy.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Blaker

How can we expect the world to have confidence in the Chancellor when the Leader of the House and the Secretary of State for Energy have both made it clear in public that they do not regard him as fit to be Treasurer of the Labour Party?

The Prime Minister

I did not know that they had said such a thing, and the hon. Gentleman is misrepresenting the situation when he puts it in that way. They are entitled to say whom they would like to see as Treasurer of the Labour Party. On the whole, I believe that they would all prefer to see me continue, but as they cannot have that pleasure, in a democratic party such as ours a choice must be made and will be made by the votes of the constituencies and by all the others who make up the Labour Party Conference.

Mr. Atkinson

Does my right hon. Friend accept that his successor, whoever he may be, will have to show tremendous expertise to gain a balance in Labour Party funds, which show a tremendous debt this year—in fact, almost double the previous year—and that that person will have a great responsibility on his shoulders? Does he also accept that whoever takes on the job of treasurership of the Labour Party will find his job much easier if those trade unionists who yesterday took the decision to sacrifice their living standards to prevent any further cuts in public expenditure—[Interruption.] Will the Prime Minister now say that the Government do not intend to go back on their word, reiterated repeatedly over the last 12 months, that our primary function will be to safeguard the level of public expenditure?

The Prime Minister

I take note of my hon. Friend's election address. There is in fact no governmental responsibility for the finances of political parties—our own or any others. It is clear from the financial results that have been published that all voluntary organisations have been hit very hard by inflation. It would be a very sad thing if the level of political activity, voluntarily financed, were to be reduced because of the effects [column 734]of inflation. I hope that, in pursuance of his campaign, my hon. Friend will throw his full support behind the Government's successful efforts to reduce inflation, so that whoever succeeds me as treasurer will have a much easier task.

Mr. Lamont

Is it not the case that in the past there has been a connection between the level of public expenditure and inflation? If so, is not any deal with the TUC, purchased at the price of agreeing not to cut public spending, likely to prove pointless and self-defeating, and to lead to a further weakening of the pound?

The Prime Minister

No. In economic matters I have never believed in isolating one factor and placing all the weight on it. Other considerable weight should be placed upon issues not of public expenditure but of the level of wage increases in any year. Of course, as the hon. Gentleman knows full well, the level of the money supply under the Government that he supported was at an incredibly dreadful rate, from which this country has not yet recovered.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

Whilst in no way under-estimating the remarkable achievement of the TUC yesterday, does my right hon. Friend agree, as he seemed to indicate, that there are many other influences on inflation in this country, as was ably demonstrated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the last Administration—for example, by the oil sheiks and by the money markets over recent weeks? Does he agree that it might be wise, therefore, to make clear to trade unionists and their wives that despite yesterday's remarkable achievement, there are many other battles to be won before we see the end of this war?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. I agree with my hon. Friend. Indeed, I think that the Chancellor, both this afternoon, when I heard him answering questions, and on other occasions, constantly reiterated the theme, as I have reiterated it, that voluntary restraint on wage increases is not the only issue that affects the fortunes of this country or the future prosperity of our people. It is upon all factors, not on any single one in isolation, that we have to concentrate.

Mrs. Thatcher

Is the James CallaghanPrime Minister aware that we would agree with him that [column 735]too much weight should not be attached to any one factor for economic recovery? It is because we take that view that we think he is putting too much weight on pay restraint alone. May I urge upon him the view urged by my hon. Friends on the Denis HealeyChancellor of the Exchequer, that pay restraint is not enough, that pay restraint plus the standby loan is not enough, and that, until the Government face their responsibility and reduce the Budget deficit, the sacrifices in pay restraint and in increased taxes which have been made will be wasted?

The Prime Minister

That is a repetition of questions and answers made on many previous occasions. [Interruption.] I have nothing to add to the answers that I have given to similar questions on previous occasions. My view is clearly on the record and will remain on the record.

CBI

Q4. Mr. Arnold Shaw

asked the Prime Minister when he next plans to meet the CBI.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Shaw

In view of yesterday's magnificent response by the TUC to the needs of the nation, will my right hon. Friend, when he meets the CBI, press upon industry the need for an equal response, particularly on investment and prices?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. I agree with my hon. Friend that the trade unions' response yesterday by such an overwhelming figure is illustrative of the fact that by this policy they are trying to place first not only the national interest, but, as I have constantly pointed out, their own interest.

I have discussed this matter with the leaders of the CBI and impressed upon them—I think they accept it—that there is now a need for new investment. As the level of wage costs is pretty well known, if this agreement is adhered to until the spring of 1978—because a lot of wage agreements are not negotiated until the spring—they have a considerable period ahead in which to plan new investment with confidence. I believe that [column 736]Lord Watkinson and his colleagues accept this, and discussions are going on to see how it can be achieved.

I should like to re-emphasise that studies have shown that, apart from shortages of orders, which means that machinery and plant stand idle, still not enough use is made of the plant and machinery that we have. Perhaps we could get a lot more out of our existing investment if we were to plan and use it properly.

Mr. Paul Dean

When the Prime Minister meets the CBI, will he admit to it that the cost of the Government's expensive nationalisation programme means that they are abandoning their social programmes?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir.

Mr. Kinnock

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, unlike the TUC, there is no discipline of solidarity among employers or members of the CBI to ensure that they deliver the undertakings that they give in respect of price restraint and other matters? Does he further agree that that indicates an elementary necessity not for the relaxation of Government control in these matters but for the extension of that control, including major controls over the export of capital, which we need for a reinvestment programme?

The Prime Minister

The export of capital has been dealt with by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I have nothing to add to what he said.

I agree that the CBI does not have the same influence over individual firms and companies as the TUC has over its members. That is inevitable, as individual firms and companies take decisions based on their expectations for the future. It is for us to let them see that in the Government's strategy there is a real prospect of reducing inflation by the end of 1977 to a level that will be no greater than that of our major competitors and that we want to see them prosper in order that manufacturing industry can produce the goods out of which the social dividend will be paid. That is the policy that the Government will follow.

Mr. Tapsell

As today's issue of the Bank of England Quarterly Bulletin clearly states that this Government must either cut public expenditure or raise [column 737]taxes which of those alternatives will the Prime Minister suggest to the CBI?

The Prime Minister

I have nothing to add to the replies that I have given on numerous occasions on this matter. I do not intend to gild the lily. My position on this matter is quite clear.

NEW TOWNS

Q5. Mr. Moonman

asked the Prime Minister if he will consider making an official tour of Great Britain's new towns, including Basildon.

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to do so, although I hope to visit Redditch New Town in September.

Mr. Moonman

With the passage of the New Towns (Amendment) Bill only yesterday, and as the new towns have proved themselves in so many ways, will my right hon. Friend give some consideration to the question of stimulating the development of further new towns?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, I am aware of my hon. Friend's great interest in this matter. We are at present giving careful consideration to the Thirteenth Report of the Expenditure Committee on these matters. My hon. Friend was a member of the Committee. There has been no doubt about the success of the new towns. We are currently considering their future.

Mr. Tebbit

When the Prime Minister does visit a new town, will he take care to talk to many of the tenants in order to find out how many would welcome a return to the scheme under which, under the previous Conservative Government, tenants were enabled to purchase their houses at advantageous prices, and will he then attempt to persuade his colleagues to reintroduce such a scheme?

The Prime Minister

There is no universal and permanent right and correct ratio between housing for rent and housing for owner-occupation. The ratio will continue to be kept under review in the light of demands and need. The Government's first priority has been to increase the provision of rented housing to meet the very high demand that was apparent when we first took office.