Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1976 Dec 21 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [923/456-62]
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2545
[column 456]



Q1. Mr. Pardoe

asked the Prime Minister what reply he has given to a letter he has received from Mole Valley Farmers Limited on the subject of national government.

The Prime Minister (Mr. James Callaghan)

The letter to which the hon. Gentleman refers proposed that I should form a National Government comprising hon. Members from all parties. It was acknowledged on my behalf and the authors were informed that their views had been noted.

Mr. Pardoe

Does the Prime Minister recognise that the organisation is not a subterranean, subversive, political group, as the name might imply, but a highly responsible organisation of anxious farmers? The Mole Valley Farmers, independent of any political line, have come to the conclusion that the failures of the British economy are due more to the failures of our party political system than to anything else. Will the Prime Minister accept that that is the view not only of the farmers but of the growing majority of his countrymen?

The Prime Minister

I read the letter with very great interest. The Mole Valley Farmers rehearse a number of reasons for thinking that a National Government, led by me—[Laughter.] I do not want the hon. Gentleman to get any false ideas. If the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) got into the Government, that might be the way in which the hon. Gentleman could lead the Liberal Party. The letter contained very interesting ideas, but the first proposal that a National Government might help the green pound devaluation is not perhaps the most suitable foundation on which to base a National Government.

Mr. Dalyell

Has the Prime Minister any reflection to make on the behaviour of the national Government of France, who seem to have frustrated any prospects for the European JET fusion project, which is our power source for the future?

The Prime Minister

The Mole Valley Farmers do not suggest that as a reason for the formation of a National Government. I do not want to be too derisory, [column 457]because the farmers wrote a very interesting letter. I hope that the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) will convey to them my thanks for the sentiments they express, which contain many interesting thoughts.

As to the JET project, proposals of this kind go through several phases. I do not regard the JET project as dead. Indeed, I go further and say that I believe that Britain—with its facilities at Culham, the team that is assembled there and the industrial and scientific take-up that could be found—undoubtedly provides a very suitable venue for the development of a most valuable scientific innovation in nuclear fusion, as distinct from nuclear fission. We shall certainly press Britain's case. When I add to that list the fact that Britain is the only member of the Community that does not have a Community project, it seems to me that Britain would be the most suitable venue for the JET project.

Mrs. Thatcher

Will James Callaghanthe Prime Minister explain to the Mole Valley Farmers that the reason why we have inflation on the Healey basis at 20 per cent. per annum, and unemployment rising on average 750 a day for every day of the Labour Government, is his Socialist policies? Is not the right way to deal with Socialists and their policies not to put them in a coalition but to defeat them at a General Election?

The Prime Minister

One of my difficulties in answering the letter was that I was not quite sure from which Conservative Party I was supposed to form a National Government. I was not sure whether it was with the right hon. Lady or the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), whether it was with those who believe in devolution or those who are opposed to it, or whether it was with those on the Opposition Benches who believe in an incomes policy or with those who are opposed to it. I was not sure whether I was to link up with the Piltdown Man, the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson), who believes that boys should become chimney sweeps at the age of 14.

Mrs. Thatcher

Does the Prime Minister accept responsibility for the inflation and unemployment that he has created, or, is he still blaming his predecessor?

[column 458]

The Prime Minister

No. What we are doing is trying to ensure, with the aid of both sides of industry but without any help from the right hon. Lady, that there is stability in our currency, that we have an industrial strategy that will ensure that exports come first and that we can base full employment upon a good industrial base with the social contract. That is a long-term policy. I do not expect to get any support from the right hon. Lady, but at least she might try to recognise the facts sometimes about the situation and not put her lust for office above everything else.


Q2. Mr. Robinson

asked the Prime Minister when he last met the CBI.

The Prime Minister

I refer my hon. Friend 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. Robinson

When my right hon. Friend next meets the CBI, will he put to it in a constructive spirit that the social contract should be accompanied by an industrial contract from the employers giving a firm commitment to increase investment and employment as a necessary continuation of an incomes policy?

The Prime Minister

The CBI, with which we are having regular discussions on these matters, understands that industry should try to make a response to what is being done at present. I notice that the TUC called on employers to make as positive a response to the future of the country as that already undertaken by trade unionists, who have given 100 per cent. support to the £6 policy and the 5 per cent. policy. The CBI welcomed the new measures. As the TUC said, we need to see that translated practically in terms of expansion in investment, in output and in jobs. I shall convey what my hon. Friend has said to the CBI, but my understanding is that the leaders of the CBI are as intent on securing an increase in investment as are the Government and everyone in the country, I believe, except the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition.

[column 459]

Mr. Tebbit

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain two things to the CBI? First, will he explain why he never answers Questions at Question Time? Secondly, will he explain why it is that the longer the Government stay in office the further away they get from their objectives of lowering unemployment, which is rising, of lowering inflation, which is worse than when the Government took office, and of increasing production, which is still stagnant at the levels that prevailed when the Government came into office?

The Prime Minister

I dare say that it is a little discouraging to the hon. Gentleman that the CBI and ourselves are able to discuss these matters in a rational atmosphere and that the CBI is as aware of the problems as anyone else, although it does not place the same construction on these matters as the hon. Gentleman does for party reasons. As for particular issues, I have already said that in my view inflation will continue to come down next year after a period if we——

Mr. Tebbit

The right hon. Gentleman said that last year.

The Prime Minister

I did say it last year and it halved, if the hon. Gentleman followed it. It has come down from 27 per cent. and has halved, and it will continue to go down if we can maintain yet another round in wage increases within reasonable margins. I have always tried—I shall always try, despite the jeers of Opposition Members—to put the position as straight as I can. That is the first thing. The second point is that, because of the impact of these policies—I repeat what I have said before if it is any comfort to the hon. Gentleman—I fear that unemployment is going to rise next year. I have tried to put that as straight as possible. However, we shall overcome these difficulties not by jeers or gibes but only by following the long-term policy that the Government intend to carry out.

Mr. Ashley

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the House will be deeply disturbed to learn that unemployment will rise? When he next discusses unemployment with the CBI, will he bear in mind that the Government's concern for the unemployed is in stark contrast to the [column 460]crocodile tears shed by Opposition Members, who regard the unemployed basically as scroungers? Will he try to explain to the House how the Government can justify giving £120 million to reduce unemployment and taking away £150 million in terms of the regional employment premium?

The Prime Minister

To answer my hon. Friend's last point first, there will be an opportunity to debate these matters but it is the Government's view, shared, I think, by many in industry, that the redistribution of the assistance that is given by the Government is better than clinging to the old system, which was useful in its time but which we think has now outgrown its usefulness. As for my hon. Friend's first point, we all know the policy that the Conservative Opposition would like us to follow, which would produce a much greater degree of unemployment than is likely to arise now.

Mr. Prior

Perhaps the Prime Minister will find time during the course of the rest of the day to explain to the country why the Secretary of State for Energy remains in office at a time when the Minister for Overseas Development has to leave it.

The Prime Minister

The Minister for Overseas Development does not have to leave office. He can choose for himself whether he decides to stay, but I have not sacked him.

Mr. Watkinson

Will my right hon. Friend consider the fact that world expansion, especially in the industrial West, is now foundering? Will he undertake to initiate talks with Western leaders in the new year to stimulate world trade?

The Prime Minister

I regard this as extremely important because, although the Opposition will always try to blind the country's eyes to it, in fact unemployment is growing throughout the world and is a disease of the Western industrial system at present. The policies that will be followed by the new American Administration will be extremely important in this matter. I shall take an early opportunity of exchanging views with them to try to get a recovery both in confidence among those who invest in new plant and machinery throughout the world and in expansion of the American economy.

[column 461]



Q3. Mr. Corbett

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 21st December.

Q5. Mr. Ridley

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his engagements for 21st December 1976.

Q6. Mr. Skinner

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 21st December.

The Prime Minister

In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be holding meetings with ministerial colleagues and others.

Mr. Corbett

May I express the hope to my right hon. Friend that his heavy round of public duties today will allow him to go to the party at Transport House tonight, where they are doing what I think is described as a historical epic— “Treasury Island” ? If he gets there, will my right hon. Friend take advantage of any break in the proceedings to give the name of one country that has followed the advice of the International Monetary Fund and has made a success of its economy?

The Prime Minister

I certainly hope to look in at the party for a few minutes tonight among the other social rounds that I have. Somehow, I do not think that I shall be discussing the International Monetary Fund on that occasion. I have a feeling that the lads and lasses at Transport House will have many other and more jolly things on their minds.

Mr. Ridley

Will the Prime Minister find time today to have a short meeting with the First Lord of the Treasury? Will he discuss with him the iniquities of the system known as the 714 certificate, whereby self-employed builders are being prevented from pursuing their work? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that 20,000 of them have been refused tax certificates, which could result in 100,000 losing their jobs without any appeal whatsoever? Is he aware that this is a scandal that he should look into?

The Prime Minister

I fear that there are a number of things that need looking [column 462]into, including why the hon. Gentleman is backing the National Association for Freedom. I should like to inquire what support the hon. Gentleman has given and what action he has taken in connection with the Grunwick dispute.

Mr. Skinner

Will my right hon. Friend spend a few moments today reading more extensively the revelations in the Press about the way in which the National Association for Freedom has got on to the Tory Front Bench and how the CIA assists in running the association? Is it not ironic that the director of the association, Robert Moss, apart from having books published by a subsidiary of the CIA, also acts as speech writer for the Leader of the Opposition?

The Prime Minister

I have commented before on the infiltration of the Tory Front Bench, and we are now getting some practical examples as the names of members of the association become known.

Mr. Churchill

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker——

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I want to hear what the hon. Gentleman has to say.

Mr. Churchill

Before the Prime Minister indulges further in any McCarthy-type smears, perhaps he should be told that I understand that writs are being issued in respect of the unfounded allegations made on the BBC and in The Guardian.

Mr. Speaker

That is a point of order that never existed.

Mr. Dykes

After those dramatic exchanges, will the Prime Minister be frank and honest and tell us whether he would prefer to abolish first Mr. Bevan, the Secretary of State for Energy or Transport House as a whole?

The Prime Minister

I see that the Christmas spirit has arrived a little early. On the point of order, which was not a point of order and which I would not dream of pursuing, I hoped when I dangled the bait, to catch a good-sized fish. Unfortunately, I attracted only a tiddler.