Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [970/656-62]
Editorial comments: 1515-30.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 4089
Themes: Executive, Defence (general), Industry, General Elections, Monetary policy, Pay, Taxation, Housing, Media, Race, immigration, nationality, Science & technology, Terrorism, Trade unions, Trade union law reform
[column 656]


Q1. Mr. Meacher

asked the Prime Minister when she expects next to meet the TUC.

[column 657]

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

No dates have yet been arranged.

Mr. Meacher

Is the right hon. Lady aware that, in the light of the deflationary oil price rise, her emphasis again yesterday on strict monetary targets as a top priority is an exact replica internationally of 1930s beggar-my-neighbour deflation? Does she not understand that that is the exact opposite of what is needed, which is to expand the economy plus a planned growth of imports, which with the present under-usage of men and machinery would not be inflationary?

The Prime Minister

Unless we tackle the money supply problem there is no hope of beating inflation in future years. On that at least Denis Healeythe former Chancellor of the Exchequer was with me rather than with the hon. Gentleman.

As the hon. Gentleman knows, there is no shortage of demand in this country. The trouble is that it is being met by imports and not sufficiently by home-produced goods.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

When my right hon. Friend next meets the Trades Union Congress and its leaders, will she advise them that she does not believe it democratic for bodies representing workers to indulge in party political strikes, and that it is the view of Her Majesty's Government will assume, and will introduce legislation to assume, that the trade union movement will pay the families of strikers a certain sum per week so that the long-suffering taxpayer does not have to subsidise official political action?

The Prime Minister

We have no immediate plans for legislation on that matter. Our immediate plans are for legislation on the matters contained in the consultative document. I think that most people will agree with my hon. Friend that the function of trade unions is to look after the interests of their members and not to engage in politics.

Mr. Norman Atkinson

Now that Britain practises the toughest immigration controls anywhere in the world, when the right hon. Lady meets trade union leaders next week, will she reassure them that their complaints about the deportation of trade unionists from this country, [column 658]many of whom have worked consistently here for many years and who are now being deported, will be heeded and that she will give to those trade unionists the same compassion that she is asking to be given to refugees who are entering the United Kingdom?

The Prime Minister

I do not accept that Britain operates the toughest immigration controls anywhere in the world. If the hon. Gentleman is referring to cases of which I know nothing, perhaps he will let me have details.

Mr. Bulmer

If when my right hon. Friend next meets the leaders of the TUC they make it plain that they will offer outright opposition to the Government's industrial relations proposals, will she draw their attention to the recent ORC poll which indicated that a majority of trade union leaders and Labour Party supporters would support the Government against the trade unions if they frustrated reform? Does she believe that the majority of trade union members support her proposals because they represent an extension of individual worker rights?

The Prime Minister

I do not believe that the TUC leaders will offer outright opposition to the proposals that we put to them. Those proposals received a wide welcome. They will help to improve the individual's rights, sometimes against the trade union itself. We carried out the widest possible consultation on these matters in the recent election.

Q2. Mr. Stoddart

asked the Prime Minister when next she plans to meet the TUC.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Member to the reply which I have just given.

Mr. Stoddart

How can the right hon. Lady ask ordinary trade unionists for wage restraint, as she did last weekend, when the Minister of State, Treasury admitted that 30 per cent. of income tax reliefs in the Budget would go to the richest 5 per cent. of the population?

The Prime Minister

That leaves 70 per cent. to go to the rest. [Interruption]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The House is being unreasonable. Hon. Members must listen to the answers.

[column 659]

The Prime Minister

Taxation reliefs cannot go to those who do not pay tax. Greater reliefs are bound to go to those who pay the most tax.

Mr. Tapsell

When my right hon. Friend next meets the leaders of the TUC, will she point out to them that while a wages-prices spiral is different from an inflationary problem and requires a different response, neither will be solved without a substantial increase in productivity?

The Prime Minister

I totally agree with my hon. Friend. The best way to get increases in real wages is to get real increases in output.

Mr. David Steel

When the Prime Minister discusses with the TUC the question of her election mandate and election commitments, about which she feels strongly, will she make it clear whether the election commitments entered into by individual members of the Shadow Cabinet will be honoured regardless of whether those individuals now occupy places in the Cabinet?

The Prime Minister

We shall try to honour each and every commitment in our election manifesto.



Q3. Mr. Neubert

asked the Prime Minister whether she will list her official engagements for 12 July.

The Prime Minister

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet. In addition to duties in this House I shall have further meetings with ministerial colleagues and others, including one with the Secretary General of the United Nations, Dr. Kurt Waldheim.

Mr. Neubert

Will my right hon. Friend confirm the report in The Guardian today that before the end of the summer the Government plan to introduce a standard of living index? Would not such an index give a much fairer and more accurate assessment of the effects of the Budget on average families? Would it not also demonstrate that the claim made by Moss Evans yesterday, that pay negotiations would need to take the retail price index as the starting point, was bogus and unwarranted?

[column 660]

The Prime Minister

Alongside the present retail price index we are planning to introduce a standard of living index, which will give a much more accurate reflection of the direct tax reductions that have been made. After all, the tax that one pays is the price for education, roads, defence, and so on. When that price goes down, the reduction should be included in the retail price index. Unfortunately, it is not.

Mr. McElhone

Will the Prime Minister find time today to discuss with Scottish Members of Parliament their concern about the dispersal of Civil Service jobs to Scotland? Will she accept that if she reneges on the long-standing promise of two previous Governments there will be a resurgence of nationalism in Scotland, and that the Scottish Tories will suffer most from that?

The Prime Minister

I have received a number of representations on this matter from my Scottish colleagues. The dispersal programme is under review. I have no statement to make about it.


Q4. Mr. Ian Lloyd

asked the Prime Minister if she will appoint a Minister of Cabinet rank with specific responsibility for the overall co-ordination of science policy.

The Prime Minister

I do not consider that such an appointment is necessary. There is already full consultation between the Ministers and Departments concerned.

Mr. Lloyd

Although all Members of Parliament assume that my right hon. Friend's sympathies are with the importance of science, is she aware that within the OECD area there are 10 countries which appoint a Minister of Cabinet rank with specific responsibility for science and technology? Is she further aware that if we are to meet our energy aims and ambitions, that will depend entirely upon the scientific and technological community? Can she give it some encouragement that the Government agree with that view?

The Prime Minister

The person who has most responsibility for the future of science and technology is Mark Carlislemy right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science. There is a [column 661]junior Minister who is responsible for science education. I do not think that it would be an advance to appoint a specific Minister for science and technology. Attention to scientific and technological matters should run through each and every Department, and should not be allocated to one specific Department.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Reverting to the question of science, will the Prime Minister say where and when she received a mandate for the figures revealed today which show that a housewife who paid £25 last month for her groceries now pays £28.25?

Mr. Speaker

Order. That comes under the open type of question. That is stretching imagination beyond even what a Welshman can take.



Q5. Mr. Canavan

asked the Prime Minister what are her official engagements for 12 July.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave earlier.

Mr. Canavan

Will the Prime Minister find time today to consider the report of the Royal Commission on the distribution of income and wealth, which points out that the richest 5 per cent. of the population own almost three-quarters of the land in this country? Will the Prime Minister also consider the recommendation of the Northfield committee to extend the public ownership of land and introduce a comprehensive register of land ownership, which would reveal that the Conservative Party chairman owns 44,000 acres of land in Scotland, but that he is a mere pauper compared with the Duke of Buccleuch, who owns more than 250,000 acres of land?

The Prime Minister

The report of the Royal Commission on the distribution of income and wealth refers to the distribution of wealth in the lifetime [column 662]of the Labour Government. I trust that wealth will be much more widely distributed when the Conservative policy of selling council houses has taken effect. It will make many people property owners for the first time in their lives.

Mr. James Callaghan

Will the Prime Minister say how it is possible to sell council houses when people cannot obtain mortgages?

The Prime Minister

Is it not beyond the financial wit of man to transfer the payments which the local authorities make to the tenants to make as mortgage repayments, instead of as rent.

Mr. du Cann

Will my right hon. Friend consider today what action might be taken under the law in respect of a recent television programme that gave great offence to Members of Parliament on both sides of the House and people outside, namely, the interview with the alleged assassin of our late colleague Mr. Airey Neave?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General is considering the matter raised by my right hon. Friend. Having seen the transcript of the programme, I am appalled that it was ever transmitted. I believe that it reflects gravely upon the judgment of the BBC and those responsible for the decision.

Mr. Robert C. Brown

Does the Prime Minister recall that several weeks ago I wrote to her about an order for 77 Chieftain tanks at Vickers works at Ellesmere? Is she aware that, following the closure of the Scotswood works in my constituency, with the loss of 750 jobs, there is grave anxiety in the area? Will she take a few minutes off from her busy programme today to have words with her right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence so that a decision may be made on the contract?

The Prime Minister

I know the hon. Gentleman's concern. No decision has yet been reached on that matter. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we are seeking further orders to replace those that we lost from Iran.