Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1976 Jul 15 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [915/896-902]
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2506
[column 896]


Q1. Mr. Peter Morrison

asked the Prime Minister when he next intends to make a ministerial broadcast.

The Prime Minister (Mr. James Callaghan)

I refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson) on 27th April.

Mr. Morrison

When the Prime Minister makes a ministerial broadcast will he explain to the nation which Bills he intends to drop this Session as a result of the muddle brought about by the Leader of the House?

The Prime Minister

By the time I make my next ministerial broadcast those Bills will be well on the way through the House, so I shall not need to refer to them.

Mr. MacFarquhar

When my right hon. Friend makes his broadcast, will he make a more forthright reply to the Leader of the Opposition and tell her that if she is anxious to recommend the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) as one of the two Commissioners in Brussels he will give that suggestion earnest consideration?

The Prime Minister

I do not wish to make any mischief between Members of the Opposition. I have enough troubles of my own. Of course, I shall consider any suggestions that the right hon. Lady may wish to put to me in that regard, but having looked at the precedents since yesterday I find that on the last occasion an appointment of this sort was made it was made without any consultation with the Leader of the Opposition at the time.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

When the Prime Minister next broadcasts to the nation, will he mention the position of British citizens—business men and missionaries—in Uganda? Their safety is of paramount concern to the people of this country. Will he tell the House what representations he has made to the [column 897]President of Uganda and what representations have been made by other international bodies, such as the EEC, the United Nations and the Organisation of African Unity, about the safety of British citizens?

The Prime Minister

I have some personal experience of this matter, because a year ago I found to my astonishment that when I went to the High Commissioner's house 350 British citizens had assembled there at 24 hours' notice. I mingled with them and talked to them about their position, and I judge from that conversation that most of them are long-serving residents of Uganda who know the risks they are running. It is for them to assess those risks. Some will leave Uganda. Others will never leave, because they regard Uganda as their home. The time has come when I would say to British citizens “You know the risks, you know the limitations on our capacity to assist you when you are dispersed throughout the country. Please assess those risks as much as you can and take your own decision.”

What has happened in Uganda in recent days does not lead me to believe that any representations by me to President Amin would have any effect. I expect him to account for the death of Mrs. Bloch. It is right that he should carry out what he said to our High Commissioner when he was there. Every nation has the right to ask that the fate of one of its citizens should be known to the home country, in this case either Israel or ourselves. I do not regard President Amin as having carried out that obligation yet.

Mr. Greville Janner

Will my right hon. Friend also ask for a full inquiry from President Amin and, if possible, the return of the remains of Mrs. Bloch 's body to her family?

The Prime Minister

I do not propose at this stage to communicate with President Amin. We have a representative in Uganda, and he should make such representations as are necessary in these matters.

Mr. Fairbairn

In considering the fate of citizens who are arrested in Uganda, will the Prime Minister take steps, with other members of the Commonwealth, to ensure the safety and to discover the fate [column 898]of Kenyan citizens who may have been massacred by the Ugandan authorities as an act of spite?

The Prime Minister

Relations between Uganda and Kenya have been getting more difficult as the days have passed. I think that Kenya has been subjected to an unjustifiable campaign. I hope that in so far as we can give assistance to Kenyan citizens who need help we shall do so, but on balance I think that the Kenyan Government are best able to do that.

Q2. Mr. Canavan

asked the Prime Minister how many ministerial broadcasts he has made in the last month.

The Prime Minister


Mr. Canavan

In view of the annual estimate of at least £300 million of unclaimed supplementary benefit, will my right hon. Friend make a broadcast encouraging needy people to claim for benefits to which they are entitled? In view of the scurrilous, unsubstantiated allegations that 20 per cent. of claims are fraudulent and that half the unemployed are scroungers, and bearing in mind the estimate of at least £500 million annually which is stolen by rich tax evaders, would not that be a more worthwhile cause to be pursued by cheap Right-wing sensationalists, such as the Sproats and Knights of this world?

The Prime Minister

Inquiries have shown that a number of genuine claimants who should receive their entitlement do not do so. It would be a misfortune if those who genuinely need assistance were to be deterred from claiming it because of the activities of a swindler who has rightly been convicted and given a heavy sentence. We all know from our constituencies how our own people, in many cases honest, decent and hard working, deeply resent the abuses that take place, but I invite the House to keep this matter in proportion in relation to the benefits that the House has agreed that those in need should draw and not be driven into accepting a situation in which decent, honourable people are discouraged from making their claims.

Mr. David Steel

Since the cuts in public expenditure that the Government are now planning are bound to affect many Government Departments, will the [column 899]Prime Minister undertake to make a broadcast explaining them to the country and not leave that to the Chancellor of the Exchequer? When may we expect that broadcast to take place?

The Prime Minister

The decision on whether the broadcast should be made by the Chancellor or myself can be left for a little later. As for when we shall make the decision, I cannot go further than I have in response to previous questions by the Leader of the Opposition, namely, that it would be very convenient if we could reach a conclusion on this matter and inform the House before we rise for the recess.

Mr. Ioan Evans

Is my right hon. Friend aware that if he makes a ministerial broadcast it will give the Leader of the Opposition the right of reply? Is he further aware that if the right hon. Lady took that right we could then try to discover why the Opposition are calling for increased public expenditure in numerous ways, and especially for a heavy increase in defence spending, but are saying that we should cut it back in general?

The Prime Minister

I had not thought of that advantage in making my broadcast. My hon. Friend has certainly encouraged me to make it.

Mr. McCrindle

Will the Prime Minister consider making a broadcast that will make absolutely clear the position of the Government on the one hand and the Labour Party on the other about the nationalisation of the “big four” banks and the “big seven” insurance companies? Will he make an estimate of the effect on the balance of payments if invisible earnings from both those sources were to dry up?

The Prime Minister

No, I do not think that I shall make a broadcast on that matter. We are capable of settling it ourselves.


Q3. Mr. Skinner

asked the Prime Minister whether he intends to attend the TUC in September.

The Prime Minister

I do not plan to do so.

[column 900]

Mr. Skinner

When my right hon. Friend met the TUC yesterday, did he detect a certain reluctance by a large majority of its members to accept the current public expenditure cuts? Is not that to be expected when only three years ago just about the only advocate in this House, and possibly outside it, for cutting public expenditure was the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell)? Is my right hon. Friend aware that even at that time the right hon. Gentleman was attacked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who said, in a speech at Berwick on 7th November 1973, that inflation could not be got under control by cutting public expenditure? Is this not a strange road for the trade union and Labour movement to travel at this time?

The Prime Minister

I found as much reluctance among the TUC Economic Committee as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor and I feel in putting forward the proposals. No one should assume—and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) does not—that there is some masochistic pleasure to be secured in this. My hon. Friend made a significant point about the position three years ago. In the last three years public expenditure, in real terms, has increased by 20 per cent. while our gross domestic product has increased by only 2 per cent. Therefore, a speech that might have appeared totally unjustified three years ago might prompt different conclusions if made now.

Mr. Tim Renton

The Prime Minister is widely reported as having told the trade union leaders yesterday that public expenditure cuts are vital if he is to stay in office. Is that true? Did he say that? If he did, when will he make clear to his hon. Friends below the Gangway and the country at large this connection between public expenditure cuts and his job?

The Prime Minister

I assure the hon. Member that it is not so much a matter of my personal position; it is much more the case that I believe very strongly that only a Labour Government can at present carry this country through the economic circumstances that demand a difficult combination of asking the trade unions for sacrifices from their members at the same [column 901]time as we are restraining public expenditure, and getting a unique agreement from the CBI to encourage manufacturing industry. I believe that the Labour Government are the Government who can carry this through, and it is in that sense that I wish them to stay in office.

Mr. Hooley

When my right hon. Friend next meets the TUC, will he put to it the possibility that substantial increases in taxation on alcohol, gambling and tobacco, which would reduce the borrowing requirement, would be a more acceptable policy than cutting expenditure and, as a result, increasing unemployment, by 70,000?

The Prime Minister

I would prefer not to be drawn into details on these matters at this time. They are more questions for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, who has just endured 45 minutes of them.

Mr. Ian Lloyd

As the Prime Minister, in some interesting recent speeches, has invited investors and the CBI, as well as the TUC, to co-operate with the Labour Government, will he explain to the TUC and the country how the co-operation of investors can possibly be secured in the light of answers I received from the Chancellor today, which showed that at any rate of income and at any rate of investment the total return is negative?

The Prime Minister

That shows the absolute necessity of the Government continuing their policy to overcome inflation, on which there has been very great success in the last 12 months, with a reduction from about 27 per cent.——

Mr. Grylls

Who put it there?

The Prime Minister

If we are to go into the reasons for the rate of inflation being there, I shall give the answer in two words—Lord Barber.

To come back to the question, it is clear that if manufacturing industry is to invest it must be assured, after inflation, of a reasonable return on the investment. That is a basic lesson, whether one lives in a capitalist society, a mixed economy [column 902]or a totally Socialist economy. All economies discover the same thing in the end.

Mr. John Mendelson

Whether my right hon. Friend does or does not attend this year's TUC conference, his Administration has always attached the greatest importance to relations with the TUC and has derived great strength from that relationship. Is it not clear, therefore that any policy which, instead of reducing unemployment greatly by the end of this year, adds to the number of unemployed is bound to create serious problems between the Government and the trade union movement? Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are many supporters of the Government who will find it difficult to support such a course?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, I understand all these matters—at least, I hope I do. I have always based our policy, as indeed did my predecessor, upon close co-operation with the TUC. That is why I am engaged with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in consultation with others, in the perhaps unprecedented task of discussing these problems with the TUC. I do not wish to embroil the TUC in what must be Government decisions, but I want to make sure that the TUC understands whatever measures are taken, so that the social contract can continue and the basis upon which Britain's recovery can be achieved will not be destroyed.

Mrs. Thatcher

If the James CallaghanPrime Minister believes the economic diagnosis he gave in his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Havant and Waterloo (Mr. Lloyd), why did his Denis HealeyChancellor of the Exchequer, in the last General Election, boast that he had already got inflation down to 8.4 per cent?

Hon. Members


The Prime Minister

If I am given an opportunity, I shall do so. My right hon. Friend gave the figures for the previous quarter. Those figures have never been disproved. Statistically and arithmetically they were right, but unfortunately, when extrapolated, the trend did not continue.