Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1976 Jul 1 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [914/644-50]
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2222
Themes: Parliament, Union of UK nations, Privatized & state industries
[column 644]

TUC AND CBI

Q1. Mr. Lawson

asked the Prime Minister when he next intends to meet the TUC and CBI.

Q3. Mr. Gow

asked the Prime Minister when he next intends to meet the TUC.

Q4. Mr. Skinner

asked the Prime Minister when he next plans to meet the General Council of the 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.

Mr. Lawson

When the Prime Minister meets the TUC and the CBI will he give an assurance that the massive public expenditure cuts for next year which are now well advanced in their preparation will be announced and debated before the House rises for the Summer Recess? And will he this time answer the question I have put instead of, as last Tuesday, [column 645]answering a totally different question which he seemed to get from some scrap of paper?

The Prime Minister

I answered the Question the hon. Gentleman has put today last Tuesday.

Mr. Skinner

I wonder whether my right hon. Friend would tell me and the TUC which element of the investment relief monitoring device which was announced yesterday will be used in cases where firms apply to put up their prices and at the same time employ non-union labour. How will he explain to the TUC General Council why these cheapskate firms can put up their prices and retain non-union labour while at the same time cuts of £1,000 million or more in public expenditure will mean that trade union labour finishes up in the dole queue?

The Prime Minister

It has always been my view that those employed, whether in private industry or in public service, should belong to a trade union. They escape their obligations if they do not join.

This is a consultative document which is being published, and the TUC—or any other organisation—may make representations about it. In my view, however, it would not be particularly useful at this stage in the investment cycle to pursue this point. I hope that everyone in industry will join the appropriate trade union.

Mr. Gow

Has the Prime Minister read the document “Social Contract 1976–77” in which the TUC states that it is opposed vigorously to any further cuts in public expenditure? Despite the misuse of the word “further” , will the Prime Minister confirm that he will make whatever cuts in public expenditure he and the Government believe are justified, whatever the views of the TUC?

The Prime Minister

There is a certain Pavlovian attitude among Conservative Members on this matter. This public expenditure matter is one of a whole series of factors in the Government's economic policies, some of which are being carried forward with great success and others without success. We shall try to get a combination of all factors in appropriate proportions in due time.

[column 646]

PRIME MINISTER

(ENGAGEMENTS)

Q2. Mr. Ridley

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 1st July 1976.

The Prime Minister

I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet this morning, and I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty the Queen this evening. Apart from my duties in this House and some meetings with hon. Members, I shall also attend a reception being held in honour of the retiring Staff Side Secretary of the National Whitley Council.

Mr. Ridley

Is the Prime Minister aware that it is a pity that he did not find time to attend some event celebrating Free Enterprise Day? Is the fact that in his 12 weeks as Prime Minister the pound is down 9 cents the factor that makes him write in the latest White Paper published yesterday that it is

“no good paying ourselves in confetti” ?

The Prime Minister

If it is Free Enterprise Day, I think that free enterprise had better do a little more advertising, because, I regret to say, I was not aware of it. As for the strength of sterling, I draw attention to what was said in the Bundestag yesterday:

“The encouraging progress in Britain on the way to a new social consensus between Government, trade unions and employers, which was noted with applause in Puerto Rico, justifies the signs of increased confidence in the British Pound” .

What a pity that has to come from the German Chancellor and not from the Opposition.

Mr. David Steel

When the Prime Minister finds himself with a spare 10 minutes in a busy day, will he take the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection by the arm and go outside to buy an ice cream cone or a soft drink? They will both then see what visitors to this country and local residents are having to pay for these products in the heat wave.

The Prime Minister

I have not pursued my inquiries that far, but if the hon. Member would like to help me, I will go with him to do so.

Mr. Fernyhough

Since this is not only Free Enterprise Day but, we understand, [column 647]Free Enterprise Week, will my right hon. Friend have published in Hansard the number of applications received by the various Government Departments this week for aid so that we may see just how free that enterprise is?

The Prime Minister

I think that would be a work of supererogation. But I believe that there is a clear case for private enterprise standing on its own feet and making an adequate profit. It is important, however, for the Opposition to remember that a great deal of socalled free enterprise is coming to the State for continuing aid because of the impossibility of sustaining itself or, because of the size of its enterprise, of raising sufficient capital in other directions.

Mrs. Thatcher

As the James CallaghanPrime Minister will presumably have seen theEric VarleySecretary of State for Industry this morning and as that right hon. Gentleman has agreed that nationalisation of shipbuilding will involve some closure of shipyards and some redundancies, will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the agreement reached between the Government and the Scottish and Welsh Nationalists on Tuesday night involved any change in the distribution of jobs or redundancies between shipyards?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Lady is a little out of date. I went to Largs in Scotland the week before Whitsun when I was invited to address the annual conference of the Boilermakers Society. It represents a very important element in Scottish shipbuilding. I said there that the shipbuilding industry would need to be contracted. There was therefore no doubt in the mind of any Scottish nationalist or anyone else of what I had said in Scotland or of what the position is.

Mrs. Thatcher

The Prime Minister has ignored the pith of the question. Did the agreement involve any change in the pattern of redundancies or jobs in shipyards?

The Prime Minister

I cannot answer that question——

Mr. Burden

Open government!

The Prime Minister

I am not prepared to be batted between the Scottish nationalists and the Tory Party's hatred [column 648]of them. As far as I know—and I do not have the Conservative Party's briefing this week and am, therefore, at a disadvantage—the only undertaking that was given was that made by my right hon. Friend the Lord President when he wound up the debate. The Scottish nationalists found it convincing, much to the disappointment of the Conservatives, who must learn to bear these things with fortitude.

Mr. Flannery

When my right hon. Friend is extolling free enterprise, will he remind the Conservatives that many, if not the majority, of the difficulties of British industry are due to the lack of investment because Conservative supporters will not invest in their much vaunted British industry, but invest in foreign industry instead? Will he ask them once again to put money into British industry?

The Prime Minister

I hope that as a result of the consultative document on the Price Code published yesterday and the very strict arrangements being made for monitoring prices, but in the light of the concessions which have been made, industries will invest more in order to create new jobs. Overseas investment is a complicated matter. Frequently a continuing investment overseas has to be made in order to maintain plant and machinery from profits which are not remitted to this country. But, having put that point, I do not take the view that there is no unnecessary overseas investment. Companies should review their overseas policies to see whether it is necessary to invest in those activities to maintain their share in overseas markets.

Mrs. Winifred Ewing

Is the Prime Minister aware that the Third Reading of the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill has yet to be faced? Is he aware that the Scottish National Party expects the creation of a Scottish division autonomous beneath the Scottish Development Agency as a firm commitment from the Government?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Lady will not expect me to go any further than my right hon. Friend the Lord President. These will be matters for discussion during the remaining stages of the Bill when I am sure that we shall have a series of short, sharp and informative debates, as we had on the Education Bill yesterday.

[column 649]

PRIME MINISTER

(TELEVISION INTERVIEW)

Q5. Mr. Adley

asked the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a transcript of his interview on ITN News on 15th June on the state of the nation.

Q6. Mr. Michael Latham

asked the Prime Minister whether he will place in the Library a transcript of the text of the interview which he gave on “News at Ten” on Independent Television on 15th June.

The Prime Minister

I did so on 16th June.

Mr. Adley

Is the Prime Minister aware that many people will welcome his remarks in that speech about people having to solve or not solve their own problems? Does he not recognise, however, that a pre-requisite of that situation is that workers, savers and entrepreneurs should be able to work within a taxation system that offers them some incentive?

The Prime Minister

I think that the taxation system must offer incentives, but the Conservatives frequently do not give the correct picture of the levels of British taxation by comparison with other countries. A more detailed and careful scrutiny will show that general taxation in this country is not out of line with that in others.

Mr. Corbett

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the first priority is to get people to work so that they can pay tax? Will he go out of his way in his current discussions to encourage the investment we need in British manufacturing industry?

The Prime Minister

I hope that at the meeting of the NEDC at which I shall be taking the chair next Wednesday I shall have further discussions with both sides of industry about this matter. Lord Watkinson has already said that the price increases are not sufficient, but he has given general encouragement to his members to make more investment in order to create more jobs.

Mr. Latham

Is the Prime Minister aware that while he replied earlier to my hon. Friend the Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson) he did not answer him on the subject of public expenditure? Since [column 650]the television broadcast dealt specifically with public expenditure, will the right hon. Gentleman now confirm that massive cuts are being prepared in Whitehall?

The Prime Minister

I have nothing to add to the answer I gave 10 minutes earlier to the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson).

Mr. Pavitt

Following what my right hon. Friend said about people solving their own problems, will he refer to the central price review body the question of cutting private expenditure as a possible way of making up the investment gap? Does he recall that last year we spent £22,790 million publicly, but more than three times as much privately? Might it not be possible to solve our problems by cutting expenditure in the private as well as in the public sector?

The Prime Minister

The level of consumption in the private sector has been falling and the standard of life of our people has not been increasing, at any rate in terms of private consumption, though their social wage has been increasing. I do not think that this would be the right moment to cut people's standard of life in terms of private consumption any further.