Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1976 Nov 4 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [918/1614-21]
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2338
Themes: Public spending & borrowing, Media
[column 1614]

European Heads Of Government

Q1. Mr. Townsend

asked the Prime Minister when he next intends to meet his opposite numbers in Europe.

[column 1615]

The Prime Minister (Mr. James Callaghan)

I shall be visiting President Giscard d'Estaing on 11th and 12th November, and shall meet the Heads of Government of all the EEC countries at the European Council meeting in the Hague on 29th and 30th November.

Mr. Townsend

When the Prime Minister meets his colleagues, what will he be able to tell them about the likely trend in Anglo-American relations following the election of Mr. Carter? Will he discuss with the French President the danger to Europe of the Americans following his Government's line and cutting defence expenditure as Mr. Carter has promised?

The Prime Minister

Anglo-American relations, which have been good with the Republican Administration, will, I am certain, be equally good with the Democrat Administration, because our relations with that country transcend individual parties. Therefore, I shall expect to say to my colleagues that, whilst we shall certainly work to continue the relationship that exists between our two countries, we shall also hope that Europe as a whole will continue to maintain good, or even improved, relations with the United States, if that is possible. I believe that all countries must regulate their defence expenditure both according to the external threat that they see and also in a way that will maintain the strength of their internal economy.

Mr. Craigen

When the Prime Minister meets his opposite numbers, will he discuss with them the problem of youth employment, the serious threats that seem to be emerging, and how best the Community can tackle the immediate and longer-term problems involved?

The Prime Minister

I began a discussion on this matter when I was Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. I take the view that there are structural changes in the levels of employment in some of the industrialised countries that will make it very difficult to reduce unemployment in all our countries to the levels to which we have been accustomed during the past 20 years. I know, for example, that Chancellor Schmidt is concerned about this matter. He told me that he intends to make a detailed breakdown of statistics and groups. Because of the interdependence of our economies, this prob[column 1616]lem affects us all and perhaps can be met only by our all working together.

Mr. Lawson

If Chancellor Schmidt, Dr. Emminger and Old Uncle Fritz Cobbleigh and all are as full of admiration for the current management of British economic policy as the Chancellor likes to make out, why was it necessary for the Prime Minister to appear on television last week and threaten our allies in the most foolishly irresponsible fashion?

The Prime Minister

I dealt with that matter a week ago at Question Time. The hon. Gentleman is rather behindhand. If he would care to see the reaction to the broadcast, I shall be happy to send him the comments that Chancellor Schmidt made after the broadcast when he said that he fully understood both the basis on which I was approaching this matter and the way in which I had said it.

Mr. David Steel

Will the Prime Minister use these occasions to begin discussions on the steps the Community might take effectively to relieve us from our situation as a holder of a reserve currency?

The Prime Minister

I prefer not to go into detail on these matters at this time. I am aware that a number of statements have been made by Mr. Tindemans and others, which were intended to be helpful, but I do not wish to add to them this afternoon.

Prime Minister


Q2. Mr. Cartwright

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 4th November.

Q9. Mr. Rifkind

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 4th November.

Q10. Mr. Hoyle

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 4th November.

The Prime Minister

I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet this morning. In addition, I shall be having meetings with ministerial colleagues and others.

Mr. Cartwright

When the Prime Minister meets other Ministers this evening, will he draw their attention to today's [column 1617]news that British Leyland's sales in the United States are running at a figure of over £215 million a year? Are not these the first fruits of the Government's industrial strategy and do they not demonstrate the foolishness of the Conservatives, who would have let British Leyland go to the wall?

The Prime Minister

I am sorry that it is left to my hon. Friend to point to the success of British Leyland with its record sales in the United States. However, I cannot forbear to remind the House that if the Conservatives had had their way and had abolished the NEB, as they still threaten to do and continue to oppose it, the Midlands would now be a wasteland—and I hope that the electors of Walsall will remember that.

Mr. Rifkind

In advance of any election results from the three by-elections, will the Prime Minister agree that they should be treated as a verdict on the Government's policies? If they show a massive repudiation of those policies from both Labour and Conservative voters, will he undertake to withdraw his divisive policies, and in particular the obnoxious legislation which is now going through the other place?

The Prime Minister

I have no doubt that the necessary process we are going through at present, of regenerating British industry and controlling public expenditure after the profligate extravagance of the Conservative Party—[Interruption.] I know that the Government cannot expect to secure 100 per cent. support from the Opposition. We intend to carry on governing the nation, and we shall carry it through to success.

Mr. Hoyle

Will the Prime Minister please ensure that hon. Members are enabled to ask Questions about a private company that receives loans and grants from the Government, particularly a firm such as Courtaulds which received £40 million between 1970 and 1973? I am sure that he will agree that the public have a right to know who is dipping into the public purse. Should not all future loans and grants be channelled through the NEB so that there is complete public accountability?

The Prime Minister

There is a strong case for increasing the amount of re[column 1618]sources available to the NEB so that that body may assist with reconstruction or help some of our industries that find themselves in temporary difficulties. On the question of accountability, it is my strong desire, as is known to the leaders of the CBI, that the Government should work in conjunction with them on this policy agreed by all three parties—namely, the CBI, the TUC and the Government—in order to secure success. I understand that the CBI reciprocates those views and wishes to make a success of the policy.

Mrs. Thatcher

As one of James Callaghanthe Prime Minister's official duties on Thursday is to answer Questions and as he was so evasive to me on Thursday when carrying out that official duty, will he confirm Denis Healeythe Chancellor's warning on Tuesday night that the Government will have to take action in the next few weeks to cut borrowing requirements?

The Prime Minister

I fully agree that because of some of the measures which have been left to us to undertake as a result of what happened in the Administration of which the right hon. Lady was a distinguished ornament—I refer to the introduction of matters such as VAT and the bureaucracy that was introduced into the National Health Service and local government reorganisation—there are many reforms which the Government will need a full five years to undertake. As for any statements which have been attributed to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in connection with Press commentaries on what he is supposed to have said, I wish to assure the right hon. Lady that he said no more and no less than he said at Question Time.

Mrs. Thatcher

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we have come to regard official Press leaks as containing some truth—for example, in regard to the guillotine, which was leaked before the House of Commons knew anything about it? If there is no truth in the alleged statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it would be well if the Prime Minister were to deny it now; otherwise we shall assume that he will confirm it later.

The Prime Minister

As I am sure the right hon. Lady will discover one day, [column 1619]it is a well-established precedent in this House that it is not a ministerial responsibility to comment on Press leaks.

Mr. Michael McGuire

Is the Prime Minister aware that many of us have cause to be grateful to the Government for, if I may paraphrase my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Cartwright), picking a winner in British Leyland and thus preventing the West Midlands from becoming a desert? Will he assure me and my constituents in Skelmersdale that the Government will also help to pick winners there, and thus prevent Skelmersdale from becoming a desert?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is right to pursue this point because I know the assiduity with which he represents his constituents' interests. He and I have had an opportunity of seeing the work that is undertaken in that town. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry met Sir Arthur Knight of Courtaulds and we shall continue to review the matter. I shall be discussing the subject with my right hon. Friend, but I prefer not to give an undertaking until I have examined the situation.

Food Prices

Q3. Mr. Teddy Taylor

asked the Prime Minister if he is satisfied with the coordination of policy between the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and the Department of Prices and Consumer Protection on food prices.

The Prime Minister


Mr. Taylor

In view of what the Minister of Agriculture has been doing, will the Prime Minister agree that the Department of Prices and Consumer Protection has proved to be a costly and bureaucratic washout? If the abolition of the Department and its Ministers were announced among cuts in public expenditure, in what way would the consumer be any worse off?

The Prime Minister

The answer to the first part of the supplementary question is “No” . As for the second part, I think that there is a great deal of value in having a Department concerned with consumer affairs and whose job it is to [column 1620]ensure that the consumer gets a fair deal. The hon. Gentleman may take it that it is not my intention to get rid of that Department for the time being.

Mr. Pardoe

Will the Prime Minister say whether it is Government policy to reduce Britain's dependence on foreign food? If that is the case, does he think that this is more likely to be done by having high or low food prices? In particular, will he turn his attention to EEC subsidies on food? Does he consider that those subsidies on imported food into the United Kingdom are likely to strengthen or weaken Britain's ability to produce its own food?

The Prime Minister

What is important is that until CAP is revised and reformed, as we think it should be, there is every case for Britain to expand its agricultural system. Indeed, even when it is reformed, the case probably still exists for having these resources available.

The second part of the supplementary question, which is a much more technical matter, I must leave to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture to answer.

Mr. Greville Janner

Will my right hon. Friend take time off from answering the constant carping criticisms of Opposition Members to congratulate Mr. Carter on behalf of all of us on his election and to assure him that the criticisms which undermine the achievements of our economic recovery do not represent the true situation in this country?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. I have already sent a message to the President-elect, as, indeed, the Leader of the Opposition has. My hon. and learned Friend refers to the undermining of our position in the United States. I very much regret that that has been done, and done by members of the Conservative Party.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

Is the Prime Minister aware that food prices in Scotland are amongst the highest in the United Kingdom and that the Department of Prices and Consumer Protection has so far failed to do anything to aid the Scottish housewife? Will he issue a directive to the Department to get moving and to conduct an inquiry into the marketing and distribution of food in Scotland to see what can be done?

[column 1621]

The Prime Minister

I will look into that matter, but it is totally untrue to say that margins of food prices have not been restrained by the action of the Department of Prices and Consumer Protection. A very great deal has been done, and the Scottish housewife, like every other housewife in the country, has benefited from it.