Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1976 Dec 14 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [922/1180-86]
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2247
Themes: Autobiography (marriage & children), Labour Party & socialism
[column 1180]

PRIME MINISTER

(ENGAGEMENTS)

Q2. Mr. Canavan

asked the Prime Minister whether he will list his official engagements for 14th December.

Q5. Mr. Cartwright

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 14th December.

Q8. Mr. Hoyle

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 14th December.

The Prime Minister (Mr. James Callaghan)

This morning I presided at [column 1181]a meeting of the Cabinet. This evening I hope to have an Audience of Her Majesty The Queen.

Mr. Canavan

Before my right hon. Friend goes off on his other engagements, will he comment on the negative contribution to yesterday's debate by the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition? Is is not becoming increasingly clear that the Opposition are being infiltrated by extremists—on the one hand, by unionist extremists in the Tory Party and, on the other hand, by separatist extremists in the national parties, and that the only realistic alternative, namely, devolution, is supported by the overwhelming majority of people in the Labour Party, including well-known moderates such as the Prime Minister and myself?

The Prime Minister

I have never found it difficult to agree with my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) on a great many problems, although not on absolutely every one.

As for the contribution made yesterday by the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition, I am sure that she was satisfied with it—[Interruption.] There was at least a difference, because I stated where the Government stood, although nobody could deduce from the right hon. Lady's remarks where the Opposition stood.

Mr. Cartwright

Following Cabinet discussions, will my right hon. Friend say when we shall see some progress towards the creation of 1 million new jobs in the next three years, which was the target set by this Government? Furthermore, will he say when some encouragement will be given to regenerate industry in South-East London, which has far too many unused industrial sites and empty factories?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. The basis of the Government's industrial strategy is to ensure that our manufacturing industry concentrates on the exports required, even though there may be spare capacity at the moment in, alas, some industries where capacity exceeds demand. As for South-East London, I agree with my hon. Friend that the nature of unemployment is changing. I drew attention to this topic in a speech last night. Many changes are taking place in the country at present, but the remedies that we applied in the 1940s, 1950s and [column 1182]the 1960s are perhaps not wholly appropriate today.

Mr. Hoyle

Will my right hon. Friend, in the small amount of time he has between engagements, turn his immense talents to the disarray and disunity in the Opposition ranks and use his good offices to bring together the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) and the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition? It is obvious that the Conservatives have been unsuccessful in their efforts. Perhaps my right hon. Friend could help.

The Prime Minister

I would have been delighted to act as a marriage broker if the right hon. Lady had not just celebrated the first part of what I hope will be a very much longer marriage. I wish her the very best of good fortune. If she will allow me to say so, I believe that the first 25 years are by no means the best; the next 25 years are far better. As for any slight differences there may be between the Opposition Front Bench and any of its former occupants, I am sure that the right hon. Lady will be able to overcome them. Whether she does so or not will not make much difference, because we shall still be in government and they will still be in opposition.

Mrs. Thatcher

The first 25 years have been all right, and I hope to be promoted in the second. May I return to some of the previous supplementary questions, and ask James Callaghanthe Prime Minister whether he agrees with, or rejects, the views of his right hon. Friend Tony Bennthe Secretary of State for Energy, who said in a speech last weekend that the influence of Marxists is welcome in the Government Party?

The Prime Minister

I welcome the right hon. Lady's interest in the affairs of our National Executive Committee and the document published—[Hon. Members: “Answer.” ] I am answering. The right hon. Lady is referring to a document which has been, or is proposed to be, circulated to the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party. I am very glad to see that hon. Gentlemen, as well as the right hon. Lady, are paying such close attention to these matters. If they continue with their studies, they will one day be eligible to join the party, too.

[column 1183]

Mrs. Thatcher

The Prime Minister is trying to dodge the question. I was referring to the speech made by the Secretary of State for Energy, which, I understand, Transport House refused to circulate. Is that correct? The Guardian did us a service by publishing a whole lot of that speech, in which the Secretary of State for Energy indicated, in effect, that the influence of Marxists was welcome in the Labour Party. Does the Prime Minister agree with this?

The Prime Minister

With the greatest respect to the right hon. Lady, the affairs of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party—[Interruption.] I repeat, the affairs of the NEC have nothing at all to do with her. On a simple matter of fact, I believe that this was not a speech which was refused transmission by Transport House, but that, again, is nothing to do with her or with anybody else on the Conservative Benches. If Opposition Members do not know where I stand on these matters, their eyes need testing, because they could see it very easily. I am sure that this is a very interesting diversion from the affairs of the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith). I do not propose, in this House, to answer any questions about the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party. I have said so about 17 times.

Mrs. Thatcher

I know that the Prime Minister is no good at answering questions—[Interruption.]. I am asking him about the views of a Minister of the Crown. Does he agree with those views or not?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Lady may ask as many questions as she likes. I may be no good at answering, therefore I rely on the time-honoured formula that I have no comment to make on these matters.

Mr. Michael Marshall

Will the Prime Minister take time today to re-read the script of the Labour Party political broadcast about Lord Algernon? Will he say that he finds this type of attack totally repugnant, and totally out of touch with the national mood?

The Prime Minister

I have no responsibility for any of these matters.

[column 1184]

KINGSTON, JAMAICA

Q3. Mr. Newens

asked the Prime Minister if he will seek to pay an official visit to Kingston, Jamaica.

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to do so.

Mr. Newens

Will the Prime Minister none the less take this opportunity to make it clear that no British agents whatsoever have been involved in covert intelligence operations designed to influence the outcome of the Jamaican general elections? [Interruption.] Does the Prime Minister not agree that covert intervention by the CIA or any other intelligence organisation, as has been rumoured, is something which we would utterly condemn?

The Prime Minister

I do not know why the Opposition find that so amusing. I do not think they would relish it if they thought that foreign agents were in this country—[Interruption.] As I was saying, I do not think they would like it if foreign agents were in this country trying to influence the results of our elections. Although we do not comment generally on security matters of this sort, I would regard it as very improper if foreign agents were attempting to influence the outcome of the Jamaican elections. Such a practice certainly would not have my approval.

Mr. Grimond

As the Prime Minister is not going to Jamaica, will he consider coming to Orkney and Shetland instead? It may cost just as much, even though it is not so far, but as we are the possessors of the most valuable asset in the hands of Britain, namely, oil, is it not time that the Prime Minister came to see us?

The Prime Minister

I would welcome a return visit to the Orkneys, where I have not been since I visited the right hon. Member there a few years ago. On that occasion, he sent me home with two live lobsters. I welcome that hospitality, together with the special malt whisky which I believe is brewed there. However, I think we should leave it for a while, and then he and I will establish contact.

[column 1185]

Mr. Hooley

Does the Prime Minister agree that reports that there have been attempts to destabilise the political situation in Jamaica, following the techniques that were used in Chile, are disturbing? Does he further agree that this matter might be discussed with other Heads of Commonwealth countries when he next meets them?

The Prime Minister

If there is any desire on their part to do so, I shall discuss the matter. Other than that, I have nothing to add to what I have already said.

Mr. Wigley

As the Prime Minister is not going to Jamaica, will he use the time to study the opinion poll in the Western Mail last week, which showed that 33 per cent. of people in Wales were satisfied with the proposals for the Welsh Assembly, but 35 per cent. thought that that Assembly should have additional powers? Will the Prime Minister give a commitment that if there is a referendum on devolution there will be a question that will enable people to say whether they want more powers for the Assembly?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Member is jumping too far ahead. I did study the poll in the Western Mail. We shall be making further statements on referenda. In my constituency, there is a considerable degree of satisfaction that the Government have moved in this direction.

SWITZERLAND

Q4. Mr. Viggers

asked the Prime Minister whether he has any current plans to visit Switzerland.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir.

Mr. Viggers

Is the Prime Minister aware that if he were to visit Switzerland he would find financial prudence and frugality which are much more in key with the majority of British people than the attitude of the present Government? Does he accept that if he followed these virtues it would not be necessary for the Chancellor to make a statement tomorrow rectifying the damage done by the Government over the last two and a half years?

The Prime Minister

The Government have introduced a great many controls [column 1186]on public expenditure. The programmes that were planned have been reduced for the next three years; cash limits were introduced and are being adhered to rigidly for the first time in the history of post-war days; and the local authority rate support grant has been reduced. As the hon. Member knows, there will be a further statement tomorrow. Against that background, it seems the height of impudence that anyone on the Tory Benches should talk about financial prudence and frugality.

Mr. Heffer

If the Prime Minister cannot manage to go to Switzerland, perhaps he will come to Merseyside instead, and look at unemployment there, particularly among construction workers. Will he indicate whether tomorrow's announcement will mean further unemployment in the construction industry, or will he give a categorical assurance that this will not happen?

The Prime Minister

I recommend that my hon. Friend wait until tomorrow. I cannot promise that the statement will please him or many other people. It is not a statement which, in present circumstances, can be made to please people. But we must live through this period and see the country to the other side, and this is what we intend to do.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

Will the Prime Minister return to a policy of sound money—and in replying will he not refer to the mistakes of the last two years of the last Conservative Government?

The Prime Minister

I am delighted to hear that confession from a sinner come to repentance. Even that belated admission that mistakes were made by the last Conservative Government is welcome. Let me assure the hon. Member that since his profligate Government left office the increase in money supply has been reduced drastically and has continued in that direction. I hope that, with the support of Opposition Members, we shall continue to do that in future.