Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1976 Oct 26 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [918/268-73]
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1971
Themes: Defence (general), Public spending & borrowing, Foreign policy (general discussions)
[column 268]

SCOTTISH TRADES UNION CONGRESS

Q1. Mr. Reid

asked the Prime Minister when he will next meet the STUC.

The Prime Minister (Mr. James Callaghan)

I hope to meet the STUC again before the end of the year.

Mr. Reid

In view of today's depressing rise in Scottish unemployment, will the Prime Minister explain to ordinary Scottish trade unionists why, when our oil is keeping the United Kingdom afloat and the IMF happy, the Scottish Assembly should not have its own revenue access to that oil to help cure unemployment north of the border?

The Prime Minister

I am glad to say that, as in the remainder of the United Kingdom, unemployment among school leavers is very much better this month. I am sure that the hon. Member is pleased to note that it has fallen from about 15,300 to 10,600 this month. I am glad to say that there has also been a reduction in short-time working. A short while ago the number affected was 16,000, but this number has been reduced to 2,400. There has also been a fall in redundancies. I think, therefore, that the Scottish nation is still heavily against the SNP's demand for independence.

Mr. Corbett

When my right hon. Friend next meets the TUC will he be in a position to discuss with it the reported plans to give the National Enterprise Board some of the powers and responsibilities of the former Industrial Reorganisation Corporation to assist with much-needed mergers and to help with the reinvigoration of British industry?

The Prime Minister

Yes, we need to use all of those agencies, especially the Scottish Development Agency, which is a very useful weapon in the armoury for encouraging Scottish development. I am sorry to note that when the Leader of the Opposition went to Scotland she did not explain why she thought it necessary for the Conservative Party document to advocate weakening the powers of the SDA and removing some of its powers for encouraging industrial projects.

Mr. David Steel

When the Prime Minister next meets the STUC will he discuss with it its critical views, which are [column 269]widely shared in Scotland, about the lack of any economic or fiscal content in the Government's devolution proposals?

The Prime Minister

This matter will come before the House when all the issues are debated. I have discussed them with the STUC. Basically it broadly agrees with the Government's proposals as put forward in the White Paper, and I would have thought that that was a very good start to the debate.

Mr. Robert Hughes

When my right hon. Friend meets the STUC will he remind it of the very great efforts made by the Government to save the jobs of Chrysler workers and shipyard workers in Scotland, and say that the benefits to the people of Scotland of that approach are meaningful? Will he reject the attitude of the SNP Members who do not care about Chrysler workers in England?

The Prime Minister

Young as the SNP is, it has a past that is already beginning to catch up with it. To judge from The Scotsman today, Scottish opinion is catching up with it very fast. There is no doubt that the SNP will have to retreat from its demand for independence or the Scottish electors will soon see through its Members. I understand from Scottish opinion and I believe that the best way for us to proceed is to preserve the unity of the United Kingdom and that the measures produced by the Government, with whatever changes may be made as a result of deliberation in this House, should go through and provide widespread devolution.

Mr. Tapsell

When the Prime Minister next talks to trade union leaders will he explain to them how it is that when he took the opportunity on television last night to refer to the vast German currency reserves he failed to point out that they had been accumulated as a result of social and economic policies entirely different from those pursued by this Socialist Government?

The Prime Minister

There have been many differences between the German economic system and our own, including the total destruction of the German industrial system and the rebuilding of the trade union movement on an entirely different basis which does not fit our history. But one conclusion that I draw [column 270]and recommend to employers in this country and perhaps to the Opposition is that the system of industrial democracy in Germany is working extremely well, and that is why we propose that similar measures should be introduced here next Session.

HARROW

Q2. Mr. Dykes

asked the Prime Minister what plans he has to pay an official visit to Harrow.

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to do so.

Mr. Dykes

Should not the Prime Minister come to Harrow to explain to my constituents just how much encouragement is being given to forces opposed to this country by his talk about NATO and his party inviting dubious characters from the Soviet Union?

The Prime Minister

I shall leave it to the hon. Gentleman to do that.

Mr. Atkinson

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider the answer in which he suggested that in the Queen's Speech in the next Session there will be an item about workers' democracy? Can he assure the House that once the Bullock Report is published trade unions will have adequate time for consultations before the Government set out on a Companies (No. 3) Bill to restructure management in industry, deal with the whole subject of worker directors and the whole business of moving towards a German concept of industrial democracy?

The Prime Minister

Adequate consultation about industrial democracy is important. I hope that when the Bullock Committee reports it will enable us to focus our discussion and that we shall be able to proceed to action in due course.

Mrs. Thatcher

May I return to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Horncastle (Mr. Tapsell)? James CallaghanThe Prime Minister will be aware that he made some very serious statements on television last night. May I ask him a straight question? Was he serious when he threatened to pull our troops out of NATO if he did not get more of other countries' money on his own terms?

[column 271]

The Prime Minister

If that is the right hon. Lady's idea of a straight question, I should like to know when she asks a crooked one. I suggest that the right hon. Lady reads the Question. I was dealing with an important matter that does not often appeal to the Opposition, namely, the fact that this country has a position of very great influence and importance in Europe. Because of this and because of the strength and stability that we give to central Europe through the important contribution of the British Army of the Rhine, attempts to disrupt the sterling system—or, indeed, our rate—and the consequences of such attempts or other adventitious factors due to the overhang of the sterling balances can lead to this country's influence being weakened.

The Federal Republic has reserves of $35 billion to $40 billion and more. If the Opposition wish to preserve Britain's political influence, which they very much value—and this is not a cheap party point but a very important issue—they should have regard to it in relation to the overhang of the sterling balances. It could be that the deutschemark value of sterling is heavily depreciated because of these factors. If the right hon. Lady reads the Question and Answer she will see that I was discussing how Britain's influence in central Europe can be maintained, not removed.

Mrs. Thatcher

The Prime Minister was not maintaining Britain's influence; he was degrading the whole of Britain's standing in the world. He not only debauched the currency but debased Britain. So long as he is there, the country's only prospect is debt and decay, and the best thing he can do is to go.

The Prime Minister

I am not sure how long it took the right hon. Lady to think that out, but, despite her tenacious attempt to gain power, I promise that I shall be here with this Government for a very long time.

CITY OF LONDON

Q3. Mr. Ridley

asked the Prime Minister if he will pay an official visit to the City of London.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to my [column 272]hon. Friend the Member for Thornaby (Mr. Wrigglesworth) on 19th October.

Mr. Ridley

Will the Prime Minister go to the City and explain what he meant when he said that IMF policies would cause the British economy to go into a downward spiral? Is it not correct that it is his policies and those of Socialism that have put the British economy into the present downward spiral? Will the Prime Minister do something to cut public expenditure and save the country's currency instead of trying to bite the hand that feeds it?

The Prime Minister

We have applied to the IMF for a loan. All sorts of stories are coming from apparently well-informed journalists but we have not yet begun discussions with the IMF.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

Why not?

The Prime Minister

We shall have to see what conditions it puts forward at the appropriate time.

As to cutting public expenditure and growth, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that we should go for a period of sustainable growth, and therefore it would not be right to accept conditions on such a loan that would prevent us from going for that sustainable growth.

Mr. Ashton

Does my right hon. Friend remember that on 11th March the Government took notice of the Opposition and cut £1 billion off public expenditure and the pound fell? Then, in July, they cut £2 billion off and the pound fell even more. Does he not think that he could save £600 million by pulling the troops out of Germany? That would be warmly welcomed by the Labour Party, Labour Members and the people of the country.

The Prime Minister

I do not think that my hon. Friend's figures for March and July are correct, but it is true that the cuts in public expenditure have not, as the Opposition said they would, had the effect of restoring confidence in sterling. [Hon. Members: “They are not enough.” ] I see that hon. Members think that they are not enough. In that case it would be as well if we could have a straight answer from the Opposition about how much they really think would be enough.

[column 273]

Mr. Baker

Three weeks ago Helmut Schmidt said that the pound was undervalued. Why is it that in the past three weeks the Federal Government of Germany and the Bundesbank have not bought pounds since this would have driven up the price of sterling? Is it that Helmut Schmidt has decided that he no longer has confidence in the Prime Minister and his policies?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman knows better than that. The Federal Republic is in the fortunate position of not having a reserve currency and it will do its best to prevent itself from becoming a reserve currency country. Our situation is a relic of the sterling area days and it is a burden that we bear. The hon. Gentleman knows that the monetary policy of the Bundesbank is not a question for me.