Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1976 Oct 19 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [917/1109-16]
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2812
[column 1109]

Animals (Entry Control)

Q1. Mr. Adley

asked the Prime Minister if he is satisfied with the co-ordination between the Home Office, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Treasury and the Department of Health and Social Security over the control of entry of animals into the United Kingdom in contravention of the animal quarantine regulations; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister (Mr. James Callaghan)

Yes. I understand that the anti-rabies defences are judged so far to have been successful, but the Government are ready to strengthen them if this is found necessary.

Mr. Adley

Is the Prime Minister aware that the overwhelming majority of cases in England and Wales that come before the courts are heard by magistrates' courts, and that those courts do not have the power to imprison people? As the maximum fine of £400 represents a chance considered worth taking, especially by foreigners paying in devalued pounds, will the right hon. Gentleman accept the suggestion for another addition to his Queen's Speech, namely, a short enabling Bill to give magistrates the power to imprison people who commit this selfish crime?

The Prime Minister

I know that the hon. Gentleman's constituency is in the forefront on this matter. If he does not mind my saying so, I think that he is performing a public service by keeping this matter in front of the House from time to time by means of his Questions.

Mr. Marten

Make him a PPS.

The Prime Minister

No, thank you. There are far more people of quality behind me for that purpose. It is important that we should continually bring these matters to the attention of people in this country and overseas. As for the hon. Gentleman's specific suggestions, he may or may not have seen the consultation paper issued on 11th October. In addition to that, allow me to inform the House that the Home Office has just completed a review of penalties and matters of that sort. The hon. Gentleman would not expect me to anticipate the Queen's Speech, but that matter will come under [column 1110]consideration by the Government in due course. As for imprisonment and the other suggestions that have been made, they can all be taken into account in any conclusions finally reached.

Mr. Powell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that apart from rabies there is the gross disparity between the Irish and British green pounds? At present that is one of the major causes of entry of animals into this country in breach of the regulations and endangering animal health. A statement on this subject is urgently awaited in Northern Ireland.

The Prime Minister

I was under the impression that one of the consequences of the green pound was that animals that might have been slaughtered in Northern Ireland were being sent to the South. I hope that they are not getting any contamination from us. Maybe there is a two-way traffic with some gentlemen who are very concerned with private enterprise and who, having drawn the money in the South, find it not a bad idea to send it back to the North. I think that this matter would be better directed to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

WHITBY

Q3. Mr. Brittan

asked the Prime Minister whether he will pay an official visit to Whitby.

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to do so.

Mr. Brittan

Does the Prime Minister realise that if he were to visit Whitby many people there would tell him that if the Government wanted to show their determination to face economic realities they would not threaten the livelihoods of small ports such as Whitby by increasing costs and reducing flexibility of operation, but would, as a gesture of national unity and common sense, drop their ill-conceived, monstrously begotten, widely unpopular and grotesque Dock Work Regulation Bill?

The Prime Minister

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his well thoughtout supplementary question. It bears little relation to the state of public opinion in Whitby or anywhere else.

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Mr. Ron Thomas

Before my right hon. Friend makes any arrangement to go to Whitby, will he be good enough to deal with the serious situation at the other end of the corridor, where a group of non-elected people are doing their best to smash the legislation that has been passed by this Chamber?

The Prime Minister

I have noticed that demonstration of national unity. I have no doubt that the other place will continue with its self-appointed task of mutilating Bills that have passed through this House. No doubt in due course the House of Commons will want to reconsider this matter.

ECONOMIC POLICIES

Q4. Mr. Skinner

asked the Prime Minister whether he remains satisfied with the effectiveness of the Government's economic policies.

The Prime Minister

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley) on 12th October.

Mr. Skinner

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that one of the reasons why the Government are taking the wrong course of action, in my view, has to do with the constant over-selling of the public sector borrowing requirement? Does he accept that if the Government deficit were calculated in the way it is calculated in many of our competitor countries the percentage, as expressed in terms of gross domestic product, would be down to about 5 per cent. or 6 per cent.? On that basis, would it not be a sensible idea to abandon the public spending cuts and thereby reduce that £4,000 million which it is calculated is the cost to this country of 1½ million unemployed?

The Prime Minister

I am aware that there are different conventions for calculating these matters. My hon. Friend is correct in saying that if we were to adopt what is called in some other countries, but not universally, a general Government deficit, the figures would look much better than they do now. We calculate them on the basis of the public sector borrowing requirement. This is to a large extent because we include in [column 1112]our public sector borrowing requirement the capital needs of nationalised industries and other public concerns which are genuine investments. Of course, these must come from savings in one form or another, or from borrowings. It is to that central point that the Government are having to direct their attention. That is why the public sector borrowing requirement is now under such close scrutiny.

Mr. Pardoe

Would the Prime Minister care to confirm that the Government's policy is still to increase the money supply by only 12 per cent. this year, bearing in mind that it has already increased by 10 per cent.? Is it the Government's policy to increase it by only 2 per cent. for the rest of the financial year? Would the right hon. Gentleman spell out in clear and precise detail exactly what the consequences for the British people in terms of employment and living standards would be if the money supply rose by only 2 per cent. over the next six months?

The Prime Minister

I am not absolutely sure that the hon. Gentleman has got the figure right. Perhaps it would be better if he were to table a Question to the Chancellor. It is not my impression that the money supply has gone up by 10 per cent. this year so far overall. That figure can be corrected if the hon. Gentleman will table a Question. As to the general guidelines, the answer is “Yes, it is the Government's view that 12 per cent. is the appropriate figure for the rise in the money supply during the course of the current year” . It has increased rather more than that during the first six or seven months of the year. Success achieved in controlling this will have an impact on the sales of Government stock to finance the public sector borrowing requirement, among other matters. That, in turn, will have an impact, in due course, I hope, on interest rates.

Mr. MacFarquhar

In view of my right hon. Friend's clear interest in the rôle of education and its connection with the furtherance of the Government's economic policies, will he expand on the statement in his speech yesterday that there should be an improvement in relations between industry and education?

The Prime Minister

I have drawn the attention of hon. Members to this problem on many occasions. I am gratified to see [column 1113]that it is being taken up by both sides. I am not saying that the responsibility rests wholly on one side. There are certainly employers who feel that the education system is not producing people with the basic knowledge that they need when they are recruited. On the other hand, some parts of the education service feel that employers could do more to bring their requirements to the notice of the education service. I think I have succeeded in my objective of starting a debate—indeed, it started before I ever said a word, thanks, I think, to some infighting that went on somewhere, which I do not know much about. I hope that the discussions will continue. I am now considering ways in which we can focus them on some of these issues.

Mrs. Thatcher

As the Question refers to the whole range of economic policies, will James Callaghanthe Prime Minister give one of the key forecasts which he has so far with-held but to which he must have addressed his mind, namely, what is the peak level of unemployment that we are likely to face if he pursues the present policies of this Government?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Lady knows full well that from the days of Iain Macleod onwards no Minister of Labour or his successor has ever given a forecast of that sort. I do not propose to depart from that now.

Mrs. Thatcher

Is the Prime Minister aware that the Michael FootLeader of the House, when he was Secretary of State for Employment, gave such a forecast and said that unemployment would not exceed 1¼ million? I am afraid that the Prime Minister is out of date. Has he not addressed his mind to this question, or will he not give us the answer?

The Prime Minister

If the right hon. Lady is right—and of course I take it that she is—I certainly am out of date on that score. [Interruption.] And may be many more matters. I do not deny any of these things. Unlike Tory Members, I do not claim to be absolutely perfect on everything. There are always estimates of unemployment, as the right hon. Lady knows. Frequently, as with so many other forecasts, they are totally incorrect.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

Does my right hon. Friend accept that one sure way to in[column 1114]crease the level of unemployment would be to adopt the policies proffered by the Opposition? Does he realise that the level of national unemployment is disturbing, particularly in regions like Merseyside, and especially among school leavers? Will he say what specific measures will be taken in relation to the regions and in relation to school leavers in those areas?

The Prime Minister

I have no doubt—and I think that the Opposition have no doubt—that the adoption of Opposition policies would lead to substantially increased unemployment. If that is the case, the Opposition should be a little chary about some of their proposals. On the general question of unemployment, it is our view—I see no reason to depart from this—that if we are to secure the growth of new jobs our major task over the next three years is to overcome inflation—to reduce it below its present level despite the great difficulties arising from the depreciation of sterling and from increased costs of raw materials and commodities and problems of this sort. If we get inflation down we are on the way to overcoming the unemployment problem. As for school leavers, my right hon. Friends have announced a number of schemes to help them. We shall go on considering what more can be done.

Mr. Tapsell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that almost everyone in this country and overseas who has considered the matter believes that this nation of ours is drifting, day by day, steadily towards an economic disaster? When will the Government bring forward the comprehensive package of measures necessary to avert this?

The Prime Minister

I do not believe anything of the sort. When I visit factories and workshops throughout the country, as I do continually, and see the products emerging from them I realise that that sort of alarmist and scare talk totally misrepresents not only the truth but the spirit of the British people. We are faced with difficult and deep-seated problems that have arisen over a period of 30 years and the Government are now overcoming them, thanks to the full co-operation of the trade union movement, and I am glad to see that at last that remark does not arouse the jeers [column 1115]that it used to arouse from the Opposition. Provided we stand by the industrial strategy, provided we work as we must to overcome inflation, this country has a very good future. But we must stick by the policy that we are following.

Mr. Christopher Price

Reverting to my right hon. Friend's speech yesterday, when he suggested that our education system provided part of the cure for our economic ills, is he aware that some Government supporters have considerable concern and apprehension that we load on to our schools too much of an exclusively economic rôle? Does he not agree that it would be a pity if, in the debate that he has initiated, we started a movement which made the teachers in our schools, who are doing a very good job, the scapegoat for the nation's economic ills?

The Prime Minister

Nothing that I have said so far should lead to that conclusion. I have pointed out some worrying factors, namely, the large number of vacancies—I am told, 30,000 or so—for scientific and technical students in our universities and polytechnics. This is a very serious matter, which the nation should consider. I have pointed out the lack of co-ordination that seems to exist between industry and education. I have asked that there should be better linkage between the two, and I shall work to that. But I do not put anyone in the dock on this. We, as a nation, are too fond of trying to find scapegoats and of putting people in the dock. We have to discover what is wrong and to work towards putting it right.

Mr. Prior

How can the Prime Minister justify his remarks at a time when unemployment since the present Government came to office has gone from 2.7 per cent. to 6.1 per cent., when the pound has fallen from $2.40 to $1.65, and when inflation is rising faster than when he and his right hon. and hon. Friends first took office in 1974? Would it not be better for the Government, if they admit their failures, to change their economic policies or get out of office?

The Prime Minister

Any change to the Opposition's policies would raise unemployment, increase confrontation, and return us to the three-day working week. The interesting feature is that [column 1116]the Opposition know in their hearts that the policies that we are following are the only ones likely to save the country, and they know perfectly well that if some of their proposals were adopted the large increase in unemployment that would follow would result in serious confrontation and would increase social tension, perhaps beyond limits that are endurable.

Mr. Prior

What the House knows in its heart is that these levels of unemployment are not good enough for the British nation—[Interruption.] Furthermore, the House and the country know—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I cannot hear what the right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) is saying.

Mr. Prior

The House and the country also know that if the policies of cutting public expenditure had been taken at the right time, unemployment would not have risen to its present level.

The Prime Minister

I note that the right hon. Gentleman says that the level of unemployment is unacceptable, and I agree with him. However, I do not understand how he and his party can go on advocating policies designed to have the effect of increasing unemployment. If I may give just one example of this, if the Opposition's votes on the motor car industry had been carried, the industry would now be in a state of total disruption.