Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1976 Jul 27 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [916/244-50]
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2229
Themes: Pay, Taxation
[column 244]

Ministerial Broadcasts

Q1. Mr. MacGregor

asked the Prime Minister whether he intends to make a ministerial broadcast on his Government's economic policy.

Q3. Mr. Ashley

asked the Prime Minister how many ministerial broadcasts he has made since he took office.

Q5. Mr. Michael Latham

asked the Prime Minister whether he is now able to announce the date for his next ministerial broadcast.

Q10. Mr. Stott

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

The Prime Minister (Mr. James Callaghan)

I have made one ministerial broadcast and will make another at an appropriate time.

Mr. MacGregor

When he does so, and bearing in mind the importance of local authority expenditure in relation to the Government's economic policy, will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear that in relation to possible cutbacks in local authority grants next year he will not allow the Secretary of State for the Environment to pursue a policy of hitting [column 245]prudent local authorities instead of spendthrift authorities, which include many Labour-controlled ones—for example, Haringey? Would it not be wholly unfair that the prudent should suffer for the sins and actions of the spendthrift?

The Prime Minister

I shall bear in mind the hon. Gentleman's suggestion for a broadcast, but I am not sure that that complicated subject will be best disposed of in the course of such a broadcast. There is a problem here, in that the Government have control, through loan sanction, over capital expenditure but not over local authority current expenditure. The word “spendthrift” is hardly the correct one to apply, because in many cases the local authorities concerned are meeting desirable and necessary social needs. However, it is clear that it some local authorities attempt to keep within the Government's recommended limits and others do not, a general block grant will bear unfairly on those who keep within the limits. That is the real problem that we should consider. Between now and next April my right hon. Friend will be able to have discussions about remedying it.

Mr. Ashley

In his next broadcast, will my right hon. Friend take time off from refuting the economic nonsense talked by Opposition Members and by some of my hon. Friends and refer to the plight of one of the most underprivileged groups in Britain, namely, the single-parent families? Does he realise that there are no fewer than nine Ministers grappling with the 230 recommendations of the Finer Report, and that they are not doing very well at it? In fact, I believe that they are butchering the report, and that my right hon. Friend's personal intervention is required so as to get the nine Ministers to undertake collective action to try to help single-parent families.

The Prime Minister

I am obliged to my hon. Friend. I have not personally looked at this matter, but I undertake to do so in the long weeks of the recess that lie ahead, when I shall have a chance to reflect on more constructive aspects of Government policy than we hear from Opposition Members.

Mr. Latham

Has not the existing scheme, under which building societies [column 246]are supposed to make up the Government cut-back in local authority mortgages, proved a complete farce? Why, therefore, are the Government doing it all over again? Why does not the Prime Minister make a broadcast to tell the simple truth, which is that the Government have cut the housing programme?

The Prime Minister

The Secretary of State for the Environment and the building societies had a meeting last week and, I believe, issued a joint statement on the way in which they will try to help wouldbe house owners. As I read the statement, it seemed to me to be very satisfactory, and I hope that the building societies will carry it out.

Mr. Bidwell

Does my right hon. Friend agree that for supporters of the Labour movement the real test of the economic management of Britain is whether the Government can get down the present rate of unemployment and, if necessary, engage in greater public expenditure to tackle it, as capitalism and non-Socialist measures certainly cannot?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is right in saying that we regard the present level of unemployment as too high. I hope that before the House rises my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment will be able to bring forward further measures for tackling unemployment, so as to help the situation.

Mr. David Steel

Will the Prime Minister explain, in a broadcast or by some other means, why the increased payroll tax will not be regionally varied to take account of the different unemployment position in different parts of the country?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir, I do not think that I shall be able to explain that in a ministerial broadcast. The Cabinet took a decision that it should apply nationally.

Mrs. Thatcher

As James Callaghanthe Prime Minister's Government have just announced a payroll tax of £1,000 million, at a time of record unemployment, will the Prime Minister in his next ministerial broadcast tell the nation who it was who said that such a payroll tax would both intensify the depression and increase the growth of unemployment? Does he still agree with that view?

[column 247]

The Prime Minister

I rather suspect that that is a catch question. I might have said it myself some time ago.

Mrs. Thatcher

indicated dissent.

The Prime Minister

Thank heavens for that. I thought that one of my past misdeeds as Chancellor of the Exchequer was coming out. I shall wait with bated breath to hear who said it, and then I shall know what value to place upon it. The Chancellor put forward the proposal because he thought that it was the best way of meeting the objective that has been pressed upon us by the Opposition, namely—[Interruption.]—Hon. Members have not yet heard what the objective is—namely, to reduce the borrowing requirement, and this is one way of doing it.

Mrs. Thatcher

If I may put the Prime Minister out of his misery, the words were said by the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) when he was shadow Chancellor, shortly before the Prime Minister took over from him as shadow Chancellor, at a time when unemployment was only 321,000, under a Conservative Government. Now, unemployment is nearly 1½ million. Surely, when he imposes a payroll tax at that level the Prime Minister cannot escape the charge of his party being the natural party of unemployment?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Lady is too young to be living in the past like this. It is all very well for me to reminisce, but it is not for the right hon. Lady to do so. [Hon. Members: “Answer.” ] That is only the hors d'oeuvre; we are coming to the meat. On the serious part of the supplementary question about the level of unemployment, the right hon. Lady has a real point of substance when she says that no Government should be proud of the level of unemployment in this country, a problem that is shared—I do not use this as an excuse, but it is a factor that should be taken into account—throughout the Western industrial world. We are struggling to overcome it, and I trust that we shall do so. But there are always conflicting objects and objectives of any policy. My aim and that of the Government is that we should endeavour, by means of the combined approach we are making with other Gov[column 248]ernments and by our own actions, to reduce unemployment to 3 per cent. by 1979—and I hope that we shall get general support for that policy.

Bradford

Q2. Mr. Cryer

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

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to do so.

Mr. Cryer

Does my right hon. Friend accept that he would be very welcome, especially in Keighley? Will he say how the proposed public expenditure cuts will affect Bradford, whose textile industry is already deeply troubled because of the lack of proper import controls? Will he also explain how expenditure cuts will help to regenerate British industry when the announcement has caused the CBI to announce a strike of capital? What will my right hon. Friend do to answer the CBI?

The Prime Minister

I know the position of Bradford; I looked it up specially in anticipation of this supplementary question. It is true that the textile and clothing industries are being protected both by EEC agreements negotiated over the past 18 months under the GATT Multi-Fibre Arrangement and by others. We have reinforced these agreements in particular cases by our own controls against cotton yarn from Portugal, Spain, Greece and Turkey, and woollen suits from Eastern Europe. I am told that this means that virtually all disruptive imports of textiles and clothing from lowcost sources are now subject to control.

The Chancellor indicated in his statement that either he or the Secretary of State for Trade would be very willing to discuss this matter further with the industry. I wish to emphasise that there should be no ideological objection to import controls in the present situation. They stand under the general lines of policy that we have indicated before. We do not refute them as a matter of ideology, although we believe that, on balance, the world is better off if it can do without them.

In reply to the second part of the supplementary question, I was disappointed with Lord Watkinson 's reaction on the [column 249]question of investment by industry. I had thought that we should get a different response from him, but I hope to be having conversations with him about it.

Mr. Baker

Will the Prime Minister tell the House—as he is now a latter-day convert to open government—what in any event we shall learn from the Treasury in two or three months' time, namely, how much standby credit has been used to support the pound?

The Prime Minister

I am not overly a convert to open Government. I think that it has its place. For example, there are secrets that are better kept within the family, for several reasons. On the general issue—I am sorry, what was it?

Mr. Baker

Standby credit.

The Prime Minister

I wanted to dismiss it from my mind. It was a clear case of a Freudian slip. As the hon. Gentleman knows, these matters are published under well-defined rules, and it does not help the position of currencies that are under attack—whether it be the franc, sterling or any other currency—for day-to-day attention to be concentrated on them. What is needed now is a period of steadiness in the money market.

Mr. MacFarquhar

Whether or not my right hon. Friend goes to Bradford, will he spend the Summer Reces totting up the suggestions for public expenditure cuts made by the Conservative Party, to see which is the natural party of unemployment from the consequences of those suggestions?

The Prime Minister

On the whole, I do not think that Question Time is a fruitful time in which to attack the Opposition. It is their job to attack me.

This afternoon in Question Time I listened to demands for additional expenditure on at least three different objects. The child benefit scheme was one. [Interruption.] The Opposition cannot speak for those who ask the questions. I was here during Question Time. Some of those who now interrupt me were not present then.

Invalidity benefit was another object of the proposed increased expenditure. The third escapes me for the moment, but there were at least three proposals this afternoon. [column 250]

I add to that the speech that we are promised by the Leader of the Opposition at the weekend, calling for additional defence expenditure. I am waiting with great interest to read that. I add to that the fact that the Opposition spokesman for research policy is in favour of a much larger amount of unemployment. I think that the nation will soon be able to draw its own conclusions about the hypocrisy of the Opposition.

Mr. Prior

Will the Prime Minister give guidance for his view that the Conservative Party spokesman for research is in favour of high unemployment, in view of the fact that my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) told the Government in 1974 that if they did not cut public expenditure unemployment would go up? Since that time, unemployment has doubled.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir; the evidence is contained in the right hon. Gentleman's speech, which was reported in the Sunday Telegraph.

Several hon. Members

rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. Question Time is now over.