Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1976 Jun 22 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [913/1355-60]
Editorial comments: 1515-30.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2110
Themes: Executive, Media
[column 1355]

WESSEX

Q1. Mr. Adley

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

The Prime Minister (Mr. James Callaghan)

I have at present no plans to do so.

Mr. Adley

Will the Prime Minister tell the people of Wessex and the House what he would say if he were Leader of the Opposition coming to Prime Minister's Question Time on the day when the Government announce unemployment figures in excess of 1,300,000?

The Prime Minister

I would say to the people of Wessex what I would say to the rest of the country, namely, that the figures are unacceptably high, that they are the consequence of economic policies which allowed our monetary system to get out of control, that it is important that we should overcome inflation, and that we should use all possible opportunities through training for our young people to get these figures down as low as possible. If I were Leader of the Opposition, I would go on to say that I therefore give full support to the efforts of the trade unions in their attempt to introduce an incomes policy.

Mr. Bryan Davies

Will my right hon. Friend agree that one of the last people to make regular official visits to Wessex was King Arthur, head of the workers' co-operative of Knights of the Round Table? Was it not his function in life to bring light to dark areas of Conservative England?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, and I think that another frequent visitor was King Alfred. He burnt the cakes, and I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition would never do that.

Mr. Prior

What has happened since October 1974, when unemployment was said by the Government to be coming under control, to lead to the devastating [column 1356]and intolerable figures that the Government have announced today?

The Prime Minister

I think that what has happened is that in September 1973 the increase in the money supply had reached the never before achieved level of 28.5 per cent. under the M3 system. That was inevitably bound to lead to inflation of an unprecedented character. It has done so, and we have now started as a country, I am glad to say, to correct the errors of the last Administration.

Mr. Prior

Will the Prime Minister answer my question, which referred to October 1974?

The Prime Minister

I am giving an answer to the right hon. Gentleman, but I cannot give him an understanding.

Mr. Ward

Has my right hon. Friend seen the Conservative publication Free Nation for 11th June, which puts forward immediate and enormous public expenditure cuts of over £16,000 million? Would my right hon. Friend like to say what effect such cuts would have on our unemployment situation?

The Prime Minister

The cutting of public expenditure now would, of course, lead to additional unemployment. I have made this clear time after time, and I have spoken of the dilemma that will face the country in 1977 and 1978, when it is expected that investment will increase very considerably, thanks to returning confidence. The latest forecast is that companies hope and expect to increase their private investment in new plant and machinery by 15 per cent. If that is so, it will have certain consequences for Government policy.

Mr. Norman Lamont

If the Prime Minister meets the people of Wessex, what does he think they will think of a Chancellor of the Exchequer who persuades the trade unions against the child benefit scheme on the ground that the Cabinet is against it, and then the very next day persuades the Cabinet against it on the ground that the TUC is against it? Is not this, even by the Chancellor of the Exchequer's standards, an extraordinarily low piece of double-dealing?

The Prime Minister

Personal attacks of this nature are becoming characteristic of the Opposition. The way in which [column 1357]the discussions on this matter have been held and the approaches made involve no criticism of my right hon. Friend or anybody else. The Government have taken their decision after perfectly sensible and fair discussion.

ECONOMIC POLICY (PRIME MINISTER'S SPEECH)

Q2. Mr. Ashley

asked the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech on economic policy to the General and Municipal Workers' Union in Bournemouth on Monday 7th June.

Q7. Mr. Wyn Roberts

asked the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a copy of the public speech on economic policy to the General and Municipal Workers' Union in Bournemouth on 7th June 1976.

The Prime Minister

I did so the same day.

Mr. Ashley

Does my right hon. Friend recall that in his speech to my union's annual conference, a speech that won a standing ovation, he rejected demands for the decimation of the public expenditure programme, but also rejected demands for increased public expenditure without regard to the cost involved? Is he aware that he will be warmly supported in walking this economic tight-rope, but that if the Government are prepared to economise on the child benefit scheme—one of the great weapons against family poverty—they will be making a serious mistake that they will long live to regret?

The Prime Minister

The Government have introduced a new benefit for children of £1 per week with an additional 50p premium for single-parent families. That is the beginning of the introduction of the scheme and we shall go on to fulfil it in due course. However, as the total scheme at the rates proposed would have cost more than £300 million next year, it would not have been possible to introduce it.

Mr. Roberts

Can the Prime Minister say what could happen over the next six months to make unnecessary an extension of the £3 billion standby credit [column 1358]arrangement, further borrowing from the International Monetary Fund, increases in taxation, or cuts in public expenditure?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir.

Mr. Atkinson

Is not my right hon. Friend in danger of being misunderstood in the argument which he used at Bournemouth and in reply to his first Question today? He says that the Government cannot reflate the economy until the rate of inflation has been reduced. Does that not suggest that the Government are using unemployment as an economic regulator? Could he not put the record straight by advising local authorities and others involved in public expenditure that they must not cut back at the expense of jobs?

The Prime Minister

We have asked local authorities to keep in line with the figures they agreed before the beginning of the year. That is not unreasonable. I trust that they will do it.

Mrs. Thatcher

As the Bournemouth speech was largely on economic policy, will not James Callaghanthe Prime Minister agree that confidentiality within the Government is vital for the conduct of economic policy? Since the right hon. Gentleman made his statement about an isolated leak last week, W. Pricethe Parliamentary Secretary to the Privy Council Office has issued a statement, on his ministerial responsibility, saying that there have been premeditated leaks over a wide range of Cabinet business in the past 18 months. Does that speech represent the view of the Government?

The Prime Minister

I read my hon. Friend's speech with very great interest. Probably the only mistake he made was to talk about the last 18 months, because I am afraid that this has been going on for rather a long time. I have a list here. I do not think I shall read it, but those who live in glass houses should not throw stones—otherwise they might find trouble.

Mrs. Thatcher

The Prime Minister is trying to throw off this matter very lightly. Is he not aware that many people read that speech not merely with interest but with the greatest possible alarm? Is he aware that if it represents the true course of events, there can be no confidentiality of Cabinet proceedings and no confidence in the country about the conduct of defence, security or economic matters? [column 1359]Does he not think that he should completely repudiate that speech?

The Prime Minister

I am aware of the seriousness of this matter. As I said last week, we should be very careful about the way in which we conduct our affairs in relation to briefings. I am especially concerned about the actual reproduction of Cabinet minutes, but it is no good the right hon. Lady adopting this “holier than thou” attitude. Perhaps I should refer her to the investigations into leaks on defence matters on 14th January, 3rd May, 23rd May and 12th November 1971, 19th March and 19th April 1972 and into the leak about the purchase of American missiles on 24th July 1973, every one of which was concerned with leaks by the Ministry of Defence. Anybody can throw stones. The point is that the Government and Ministers should take defence, foreign affairs and other issues very seriously in order to ensure that these leaks do not take place. But I cannot have one side of the House hurling accusations at the other.

Mr. Heath

Does not the Prime Minister agree that what he has just said shows that the last Conservative Government took this matter seriously? Can he tell us when the minutes of a Cabinet meeting were last published in public just a short time after the meeting took place?

The Prime Minister

This has never happened to my knowledge.

Mr. Whitehead

As it was under the Administration of the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) that, in the words of Mr. Harold Macmillan, the Think-Tank first started to leak, can my right hon. Friend say how many major leaks there were under the last Conservative Administration?

The Prime Minister

There were 37 leaks and 30 inquiries into them. As far as I can see, we are just about par for the course at present and it is about time the situation was improved.

Mr. MacGregor

Will the Prime Minister confirm what he appears to have told the TUC and Labour Party Liaison Committee yesterday—that further public expenditure cuts cannot be ruled out, bearing in mind his remark about two buckets dipping into the pool of [column 1360]savings? Does he agree with the statement by the Governor of the Bank of England that if the borrowing requirement is to be reduced, there should be a presumption against further increases in taxation and therefore in favour of spending cuts as soon as possible?

The Prime Minister

I have made my position on this matter quite clear at every Question Time. I have nothing to add to it.

Mr. Whitelaw

The Prime Minister has referred to track records, but will he not address himself to the point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) and confirm that this is the first time Cabinet minutes have been directly leaked? Is this not a very serious matter and does it not follow that the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Price), who is one of the right hon. Gentleman's own Ministers, has indicated a very serious difference between the current situation and what has happened under any previous Government?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman should keep himself up to date. I set up an inquiry into this matter last Thursday because of the gravity with which I regarded it. I suggest that we should wait until the result of that inquiry is known. I hope that it will have better results than some of the inquiries which took place under the Administration of which the right hon. Gentleman was a member.

I surely made my position quite clear to anybody who was here on Thursday. It is utterly reprehensible that the minutes of Cabinet meetings, which are distributed to a limited number of people, should be reproduced accurately in public. People may not like the rules, but they should seek to change them and not break them because they do not like them.