Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1976 Dec 16 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [922/1722-28]
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2302
[column 1722]

CBI

Q2. Mr. Michael Latham

asked the Prime Minister when he next expects to meet the CBI.

The Prime Minister (Mr. James Callaghan)

I refer the hon. Member to the reply which my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council gave on my behalf to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) on 30th November.

Mr. Latham

How can the CBI or anybody else be expected to have confidence in a Government whose party machine, against the express wishes of its own Prime Minister, appoints a Trotskyist to high executive office?

The Prime Minister

I understand that yesterday the CBI had a Press conference—[Hon. Members: “Answer the question.” ] I am answering the Question. I was asked when I am expected to meet the CBI, and I am replying to that Question. I understand that, although CBI leaders have warned that they will reserve final judgment, they broadly welcome my right hon. Friend's measures as a boost to business confidence, although they criticise many aspects of them. Therefore, in conjunction with the TUC, which also has certain criticisms to make, there seems to be a much better reception among those who really know than among those who are just here to criticise.

Mr. Whitehead

Will my right hon. Friend tell the CBI to tell its friends in the international monetary community that they must not think that they can ratchet into another round of public expenditure cuts which have been the subject of discussions in the Cabinet, that this has happened for the last time and that we do not wish to see this country put at the mercy of the monetarists on the Opposition Benches, with the chaos that that would bring to the conduct of our affairs?

[column 1723]

The Prime Minister

When the representatives of the CBI came to see the Chancellor, they were opposed to further substantial measures of deflation because of the effect on industry. For that reason they have been critical of the measures taken in the construction industry. I think that the whole House—or, at least, I hope the whole House—will agree that, in view of the present state of British industry and the general level of the economy, it would be a bad thing if there were any further cuts in public expenditure. It is our belief, looking at the package as a whole, that when the world has had time to examine it clearly, instead of taking these things off the tapes, there will be a substantial boost to confidence and that that will go towards a reduction in interest rates.

Mrs. Thatcher

Yesterday Denis Healeythe Chancellor said that his measures would generate more jobs. How many?

The Prime Minister

With respect to the right hon. Lady, we have just had 45 minutes of Questions to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor on these matters. What he said yesterday was that some of the offsetting measures he proposes to take would have this effect on jobs. He did not say that unemployment would not rise next year, as the right hon. Lady knows. I have said myself that it will rise. It will go up, but the measures my right hon. Friend has taken on the temporary employment subsidy, job creation and the additional investment made available through the provision of funds will have a substantial offsetting effect. That is what my right hon. Friend said.

Mrs. Thatcher

The figures must have been before the Cabinet at its many meetings. Why is the Chancellor afraid to give them to the House?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Lady should not attach all that importance to forecasts which are bound to be inaccurate. [Interruption.] When we know that two forecasts produced by two reputable bodies differ by a figure of £3 billion in terms of the public sector borrowing requirement, I believe that the right hon. Lady is making a fetish of this matter. There was a former and reasonably successful Tory Chancellor who said that in the end one had to fly by the seat [column 1724]of one's pants. When he had examined all the forecasts, he made his best judgment. That is what has been done here. The thought that one can produce exact figures of the increase in unemployment next year shows a hobgoblin of a little mind.

Mr. David Steel

Since the withdrawal of the regional employment premium in development areas, coming on top of the increase in employers' national insurance contributions, will make a substantial difference to the financing of employment in development areas, when will the right hon. Gentleman spell out the alternative measures which the Government will take to promote employment in those areas?

The Prime Minister

This was examined and, as far as it is possible to see, the abolition of the regional employment premium will not make all that substantial a difference. We would not have taken the step if we had thought that it would. When we introduced it 10 years or so ago, it was a quite significant proportion of the weekly wage bill. It is no longer that. A great many of the companies that receive it do not need it. Therefore, we thought it better to have a more selective form of aid to industry, which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer spelt out in some detail yesterday, through the operation of the National Enterprise Board and through the operation of the Welsh Development Agency, the Scottish Development Agency and other institutions of that kind.

PRIME MINISTER

(ENGAGEMENTS)

Q3. Mr. Tim Renton

asked the Prime Minister what his official engagements are for 16th December.

Q5. Mr. Ridley

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 16th December 1976.

The Prime Minister

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet. Later today I shall be having talks with the Prime Minister of Poland, and I have also been invited to be his guest at dinner. I hope that I shall be forgiven if, as a result, I am a little late in arriving back here for the final speeches in the debate.

[column 1725]

Mr. Renton

From the Prime Minister's reading of today's newspapers at breakfast, does he recognise that every time a Marxist gets an official job in the Labour Party a bit more international confidence is knocked off sterling? To what extent does that help to reduce non-Marxists' unemployment?

The Prime Minister

I admire the hon. Gentleman's ingenuity, but it has very little to do with my official engagements for today. [Interruption.] With respect, I shall make my own answer, and it is simply that I have no responsibility to the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton), either as Prime Minister or as First Lord of the Treasury, for these matters which concern the Labour Party—none at all. But I shall go on to say if I am pressed that certainly Conservatives will be able to recognise any Trotskyist—certainly Right-wing Trotskyites—[Hon. Members: “Who are they?” ] I do not want to go into too much detail, but if I am pressed to name them there are many members of the Conservative Central Office who are aware of the authoritarian tendencies of the right hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher).

Mr. Ridley

In view of the Prime Minister's answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton), will he appoint a further number of Trotskyites and Marxists as organisers in the Labour Party, because that could only benefit the Conservative Party?

The Prime Minister

I realise how desperate the Opposition are about the difficulties in their own ranks—some of whom are sitting before us—when they constantly raise this smokescreen over them. I advise them to get on to what the rest of the country really cares about.

Mr. Buchan

Has my right hon. Friend had an opportunity in what is clearly a busy day to read the debates which have taken place in the House this week and, above all, to take note of the pressure from all sides of the House for a referendum? Has he yet given any further consideration to that?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. The Cabinet considered this matter at its meeting this morning. It reached its conclusions. I have authorised my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Privy [column 1726]Council Office to convey the Government's conclusions to the House, if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, as I hope he will, when today's debate begins. I heard the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) on this subject at Blackpool. It may be that he will not be disappointed at the end of the day.

Mr. Thorpe

When the Prime Minister is hurrying back after his dinner with the Polish Prime Minister, will he reflect upon the desirability of British-owned firms, either directly or through their subsidiaries, buying the defence bonds of any other country whose objectives may be at variance with those of Her Majesty's Government? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is reported that Barclays Bank has bought £6 million worth of defence bonds to assist the South African Government?

The Prime Minister

I have seen that report, and I think that Barclays Bank needs to show a considerable degree of sensitivity about this matter. As for my discussions with the Polish Prime Minister, I am glad to say that they are focusing on more direct matters. This morning we signed an agreement with the Polish Government for construction projects which is worth about £70 million, and I hope later today to make further progress on the issue of shipbuilding in conjunction with them.

Mr. Bidwell

When my right hon. Friend next attends meetings with the CBI and the TUC, will he explain what the Government's measures will mean if he fails to get the rate of industrial investment which is what the Government's measures are supposed to be about? How will the Government monitor that in the future?

The Prime Minister

I notice that the TUC says in its statement, a copy of which I have just been handed, that it challenges employers to make as positive a contribution to the future of the country as that already undertaken by trade unionists. The CBI has welcomed the new measures. We now need to see this translated practically in terms of an expansion in investment, output and jobs. It is my understanding that the leaders of the CBI, in the light of their last discussions with me, will be encouraging [column 1727]their members, especially in view of the statement yesterday, to go ahead with new investment as well as to get better productivity out of existing investment. But we as a Government have to follow that up by endeavouring to secure a larger growth in world trade, especially when the new American Administration takes office.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Since most of the money that we are getting from the IMF comes not from some vague international fund but from American and German taxpayers, did the Prime Minister inform the German and American Governments in advance about the defence cuts? If so, do those Governments approve of the defence cuts being made? Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that he has put at risk the good name of the British Government with our closest allies?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman can leave my relations with the American and German Administrations to me. I think he will find that they fully understand the position. In the light of the statement made yesterday, both the American and German Administrations have said that they support what was done in general.

Mr. Abse

Since the Prime Minister has been kind enough to indicate that he has given authority to the Secretary of State for Scotland on the issue of a referendum, has he made it clear that, if there is to be a genuine response to the reasoned amendment which appears on the Order Paper and to which the names of 151 hon. Members are now appended, that response will have to make it unequivocally clear that a referendum would have to come into existence, as the motion says, before any Bill came into effect?

The Prime Minister

Perhaps I went a little far in my previous answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan). I suggest that my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) awaits the statement which will be made by the Minister of State, Privy Council Office.

Mr. Hordern

Will the Prime Minister reflect that when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer he felt it necessary to devalue the pound and to borrow $1.4 [column 1728]billion, and he resigned? Since the present Chancellor of the Exchequer has borrowed more than twice as much, since the pound has fallen more than twice as far and since he has presided over a record level of unemployment and the fastest increase in prices in our history, is it not time that the Prime Minister asked the present Chancellor of the Exchequer to resign?

The Prime Minister

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has carried a heavier burden than any other Minister for a very long time, and he has served our country well. He has my full support in what he is doing, and I believe that his task is made infinitely more difficult by the attitude of the Opposition on a number of matters, including their attitude today on sterling, as well as what they did in the last Administration.