Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1980 Jul 10 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: House of Commons PQs
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [988/750-57]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-30.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2361
Themes: Union of UK nations, Defence (general), Education, Employment, Industry, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Pay, Housing, Labour Party & socialism, Law & order, Local government, Media, Northern Ireland, Race, immigration, nationality, Terrorism
[column 750]

PRIME MINISTER

(ENGAGEMENTS)

Q1. Mr. Alton

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 10 July.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet. In addition to [column 751]my duties in this House, I shall be having further meetings with ministerial colleagues and others.

Mr. Alton

Will the Prime Minister today take time to discuss with her right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment his statement that he believes in the introduction of compulsory work for the unemployed and his subsequent retraction of that scheme? Will the right hon. Lady tell the House whether she or he make Government policy and whether that scheme is Government policy?

The Prime Minister

James PriorMy right hon. Friend did not say that he believed in compulsory social work for the unemployed, so there was never any need to retract a statement which he did not make. What he said was that he believes that there are a number of young unemployed people who, as well as getting something out of the system, would very much like to put something in, and would feel it very much better to spend some of their time doing social work until they could get a job. We have had preliminary suggestions to that end and we are pursuing them.

Mr. James Callaghan

As every young unemployed person would like to be at work, and as it is costing the Government and the State between £5 billion and £10 billion a year to keep them unemployed, why not expand the economy and give them real jobs and real wages?

The Prime Minister

I can no more guarantee jobs for everyone than the right hon. Gentleman. It was he who substantially increased unemployment. Had he left us with numbers of unemployed equivalent to those that we left him—which were very much lower—the number of unemployed now would be very much lower than it is.

Mr. Callaghan

Does the right hon. Lady regard the increase in redundancies, which have more than doubled over the past 12 months, and the short-time working, which has more than quadrupled during the past 12 months, as evidence of the success of her policy, or is it nothing to do with her?

The Prime Minister

I am afraid that it is the inevitable consequence of having to deal with some of the appalling situations [column 752]which the right hon. Gentleman left me with. The right hon. Gentleman is now asking me to print more money in order to spend our way out of inflation. He knows that we cannot do that. If we were to go for increasing inflation we would also go for increasing unemployment. We will not do it.

Mr. Callaghan

What does the right hon. Lady mean when she says that in such an event we should go for increasing inflation? Does not she realise that it is possible to keep inflation under control, and to have a diminishing and decreasing unemployment level, provided that she adopts the correct economic policies? When will she take responsibility for this scandal, for which she is responsible?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is asking—[Hon. Members: “Dodging.” ] I do not dodge the issue. I remember very well the right hon. Gentleman saying that one cannot spend one's way out of inflation. He is asking us to do precisely that by printing more money or borrowing more money and putting up the interest rate. [Interruption.] If we were to do that——

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is difficult for me to hear what the Prime Minister is saying. [Interruption.] Order. Whatever it is, the Prime Minister is entitled to say it.

Mr. Peyton

Does not my right hon. Friend think that it is odd that so innocent a remark and suggestion as that made by her right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment should have provoked quite such a hysterical reaction from those hon. Members who are normally so enthusiastic about giving something for nothing?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. We are anxious to help some of those young unemployed, and if we can do so by assisting them to do some social work, we shall take that opportunity.

Mr. James A. Dunn

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The right hon. Lady is not addressing the House, and we cannot hear her.

Mr. Speaker

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and I hope that all hon. Members will co-operate to try to ensure that we can hear everything that is said.

[column 753]

Q2. Mr. Geraint Howells

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 10 July.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Howells

Will the Prime Minister take time today to discuss Welsh broadcasting and television services in Wales with the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Wales? What plans has she to save Mr. Gwynfor Evans, president of Plaid Cymru, from starving to death in October?

The Prime Minister

I deeply regret Mr. Gwynfor Evans's threat. Neither he nor any responsible person can ever expect a Government to respond to that sort of action. My right hon. Friend William Whitelawthe Home Secretary has already made a speech from this Dispatch Box on Welsh broadcasting, and he pointed out that if the arrangements that he has already made do not prove satisfactory he is prepared to look at them again.

Mr. Aitken

Is my right hon. Friend aware that all the indignation from the Opposition Benches this afternoon is in sharp contrast to the scene at the Select Committee on Employment yesterday afternoon, when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made his proposal? Is she aware that Labour members of the Committee did not ask a single question—hostile or otherwise—because it was clear that the Secretary of State was simply putting forward an optional scheme to relieve the tedium of unemployment?

Mr. Cryer

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not contempt of the House for proceedings of a Select Committee to be disclosed—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. This matter arose yesterday, and I explained that when a Select Committee is held in public no secret is revealed.

The Prime Minister

With regard to my hon. Friend's question, the work of the Community Service Volunteers is greatly admired. They assist with a number of schemes under the youth opportunities employment programme, and it is apparent from what is happening in the House this afternoon that many young [column 754]people have far more ideals than Opposition members.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

During the Prime Minister's heavy day will she please do something that every hon. Member will support? Will she send a letter or telegram to John and Harriet Orton, who are 104 and 102 years of age respectively, congratulating them on having achieved 80 years of happy, married life? May I say, even though I may be out of order when I say it, that I know they are staunch Methodists, and perhaps you, Mr. Speaker, may also like to send them a message.

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making that suggestion. I have already sent a personal telegram, and I would be only too happy to send a telegram on behalf of the House. I am happy with the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that I should join the House's most distinguished bachelor in doing so.

Mr. Speaker

I merely tell the House that I have sent a telegram. It is my ambition to emulate the couple.

The Prime Minister

Hope springs eternal, Mr. Speaker.

DUDLEY

Q3. Mr. Blackburn

asked the Prime Minister if she has any plans to visit the metropolitan borough of Dudley.

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to do so.

Mr. Blackburn

If my right hon. Friend were to visit the fine industrial town of Dudley she would find a Conservative-controlled local authority working within the guidelines of central Government and producing the lowest rate in the West Midlands. Is she aware of the excellent co-operation between unions, management and the local authority which is planning the future economy of the town? Is not this an example to the country?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend appears to represent an admirable constituency, with excellent industrial relations, which I know has in it a wonderful private steelworks which accounts for about a quarter of our steel exports. He represents a marvellous local authority, [column 755]and I congratulate it on having the lowest rates in the West Midlands.

PRIME MINISTER

(ENGAGEMENTS)

Q4. Mr. R. C. Mitchell

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 10 July.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Mitchell

Will the Prime Minister find time today to telephone the leader of the Conservative group on the Hampshire county council and ask him to withdraw the proposals to cut £10 million from the education budget, which, among other things, will lead to the sacking of 1,000 teachers by Christmas? Is the Prime Minister aware that the chief education officer of Hampshire has said publicly that if these cuts go through, the education committee will no longer be able to fulfil its statutory duties?

The Prime Minister

The short answer is “No, Sir” . I must leave these matters to the local education authority. Like the Government, I expect that it has members making great demands on a limited purse, and it has somehow to match the two.

Mr. Geoffrey Johnson Smith

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Some hon. Members—it may apply to both sides of the House—are having some difficulty in hearing some of the answers. It may have something to do with the accoustical system. Could not those responsible for the amplification of our proceedings do something about it?

Mr. Speaker

I hope that whoever is responsible has heard that.

Mr. Shersby

Will my right hon. Friend take time to consider the judgment of the Court of Appeal today in the case of Hillingdon borough council v. Streeting, the result of which is to compel local authorities to provide accommodation for people from overseas who have no connection with any local authority in the United Kingdom? Will she discuss this matter with her right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, with a view to amending [column 756]the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act to ensure that homeless persons from overseas do not have priority in housing over the indigenous population?

The Prime Minister

I saw that judgment, and it obviously will be of concern to many people who are seeking housing. We must consider it in detail, and decide whether that Act needs amending.

Mr. Wellbeloved

In view of the breach of faith in respect of the Boyle Commission report, will the Prime Minister confirm that she will honour the recommendations of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body in respect of the pay of the Armed Forces?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Will the Prime Minister take time today to read some of the 1,000 letters that were delivered to her by the four widows from Fermanagh, whose husbands were murdered by the IRA? Is she aware that the people of Northern Ireland were grateful for the fact that she was able to meet those widows and hear at first hand some of the current fears of the womenfolk of Ulster?

The Prime Minister

I saw the four widows. It was obviously a very distressing experience for us. I learnt more from them by seeing them than I could ever have learnt from reading any number of papers or letters. They brought a large number of letters from people who live near the border. I have already seen a very considerable number of them.

My right hon. Friend Humphrey Atkinsthe Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and I put security at the top of our list of priorities for Northern Ireland.

Mr. David Watkins

Has the Prime Minister yet considered the petition about Consett that was presented yesterday for her attention, signed by more than 20,000 people? In considering that petition, will she bear in mind that the steelworks at Consett is meeting all the criteria that she has repeatedly laid down in this House for survival, in that it is both profitable and highly productive? Will she recognise that its loss would devastate an entire community?

The Prime Minister

I received the petition. I can understand the hon. Gentleman's concern about the loss of a [column 757]main steelworks such as Consett and the effect that this has on the community. With regard to the point that is continually made that Consett steelworks is profitable, I must correct any impression that it has been profitable for a long time. From 1975 to 1979 it made annual losses varying from £3.5 million to over £17 million. It was profitable for only one quarter of last year, when it made something like £½ million. It is, I regret to say, again now in a loss-making position.