Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1981 Jun 2 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: House of Commons PQs
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [5/772-76]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-30.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2421
Themes: Executive (appointments), Union of UK nations, Defence (general), Economy (general discussions), Employment, Industry, Pay, Foreign policy (Asia), Housing, Labour Party & socialism, Law & order, Local government, Race, immigration, nationality, Social security & welfare
[column 772]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Needham

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 2 June.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House I shall be having further meetings later today, including one with the Sultan of Brunei.

Mr. Needham

Has my right hon. Friend had an opportunity today of reading the London Labour Briefing of yesterday, a leading light of which, I believe, is Mr. Kenneth Livingstone? The chairman of the Lambeth community affairs council said in it, about the Brixton riots, that the Metropolitan Police were an intimidatory army of occupation and that on some occasions insurrectionary methods were necessary. Does my right hon. Friend believe that such articles will do anything to help the relationship between the police and the immigrant communities?

The Prime Minister

I saw the publication to which my hon. Friend refers. Such language and attitudes are totally irresponsible and dangerous and are tantamount to encouraging anarchy. I hope that they will be rejected by most Labour Members. I am sure that they are repugnant to most people in Britain. Fortunately, responsibility for the Metropolitan Police lies with William Whitelawthe Home Secretary and it will stay there.

Mr. Foot

Will the right hon. Lady take the first opportunity on the House meeting after the recess to tell us what are her latest views about the so-called upturn in the economy, which she has sometimes prophesied? Will she tell us when she last made this prophecy and say how she squares the appalling unemployment figures published a few days ago and the figures about continuing falls in production with her own prophecies about an upturn? When is the upturn going to take place? When will the unemployment figures begin to fall?

The Prime Minister

I think that most of the recent forecasts agree about two things—first, that the level of inflation will continue to fall and, secondly, that the recession has just about reached bottom——

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Mr. Skinner

Again?

The Prime Minister

I would have thought that Labour Members would find that encouraging. Of course, forecasts do not wholly agree about when the expansion will come for the simple reason that when the expansion comes depends on how far we take advantage of the opportunities that are available. Much depends on how far wage increases go hand in hand with productivity increases and, therefore, what proportion of orders we get on the home market and the export market.

Mr. Foot

Will the right hon. Lady be more specific in translating her statement about the turn-round which is about to happen—I forget the exact term that she used—into some effect on the unemployment figures? Does she agree with the extraordinary statement made by the Secretary of State for Employment to the representatives of the People's March for Jobs, when the right hon. Gentleman tried to pretend that unemployment was nothing to do with him and his Government? How can she make that accord with the fact that unemployment has been going up more severely in this country than in any other industrial country?

The Prime Minister

As the right hon. Gentleman made such a point of comparing unemployment and jobs in this country with those in Europe, may I point out to him that in this country a higher proportion of the population are in jobs, in work, than in any other country in Europe save Denmark?

Q2. Mr. Freud

asked the Prime Minister whether she will list her official engagements for 2 June.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply which I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Freud

Does the Prime Minister accept that her Government have done even less than previous Governments to publicise information about available DHSS benefits? Would she consider the comparative villainies between people trying to claim benefits to which they are not entitled which costs the country £40 million, and withholding sufficient information for people to claim benefits to which they are entitled, which saves the country £500 million?

The Prime Minister

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's premise in any way. This Government are operating the benefits which are available to ordinary people in the same way as previous Governments. I trust that the hon. Gentleman will agree that if people wrongly claim benefits to which they are not entitled that reduces the amount of money available for people who are really in need.

Mr. Hordern

Does my right hon. Friend agree that if, during the last five years, the unions had not demanded, and employers had not conceded, increases in manufacturing earnings, which have doubled in five years while production has declined, many more people would be at work today? Does my right hon. Friend also agree that if the Opposition's policies were carried out they would inexorably lead not only to rip-roaring inflation but to even greater unemployment?

The Prime Minister

I wholly agree with my hon. Friend. In this country over the last five years pay has doubled, whereas output has slightly fallen. That is totally different from the position with many of our competitors. [column 774]Pay in those countries has gone up hand in hand with productivity. Consequently, they have the jobs and we have a larger proportion of the unemployment.

Mr. Varley

Will the right hon. Lady tell the House at what period during the remainder of this Parliament unemployment will fall to the level that she inherited?

The Prime Minister

The future course of unemployment will depend upon the advantage which is taken of the opportunities available. A very important matter is the level of pay in relation to the level of output. The right hon. Gentleman may shake his head but it is because he tried to run away from the realities that the decline in industrial production was so sharp.

Sir Charles Fletcher-Cooke

When my right hon. Friend meets his Highness the Sultan of Brunei later today, will she give him an assurance about the future of the battalion of Gurkhas after final independence in 1983?

Mr. Skinner

That is a handy diversion.

The Prime Minister

That battalion is an excellent part of our defence forces. I shall, of course, discuss that matter with the Sultan.

Dr. Summerskill

During her day, will the Prime Minister bear in mind that when she last visited Halifax it was during the general election campaign to try to persuade people to vote Conservative? Will she now pay another visit and explain to the people of Halifax why, under her Government's policies, unemployment has risen by 175 per cent. and the whole manufacturing base of the town is being gradually eroded?

The Prime Minister

I have been trying to give an explanation to the House. One of the reasons is that in the past five years we have continually paid ourselves more for doing the same amount of work. If prices go up, the order go elsewhere.

Mr. Dickens

Notwithstanding the way in which they were released, will the Prime Minister find time today, or on some subsequent day, to consider whether this country could give political asylum to a handful of former Pakistani Members of Parliament who are stranded in Damascus, Syria, seeking to come to this country?

The Prime Minister

That is a matter for my right hon. Friend William Whitelawthe Home Secretary. As my hon. Friend must remember, many people have been waiting to come into this country for a long time.

Mr. Stoddart

Does the right hon. Lady recall describing the level of youth unemployment as tragic? Does she realise that she could do something about it by persuading her right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment that he should alter the job release scheme to bring down the age limit to 60 for men and 55 for women, since that is the most cost effective way of providing jobs for young people?

The Prime Minister

Anxious as I am, and anxious as the hon. Gentleman is, to reduce the level of unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, that suggestion would not be at a low cost. It would be extremely expensive because of the amount of social security benefits which would have to be paid to those whose jobs are released, particularly if the age limit were brought down to 60 for men and 55 for women. Instead, James Priormy right hon. Friend is trying to work towards a scheme [column 775]under which young people will be in full-time education, in jobs or in training, so that unemployment is not an option.

Q3. Mr. Temple-Morris

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 2 June.

The Prime Minister

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Temple-Morris

Will my right hon. Friend re-emphasise today that, much as we all deplore the appalling increase in the rate of unemployment, that is due, no more and no less, to self-inflicted wounds under successive Governments? Does she agree that the answer does not lie in throwing money at the problem for the simple reason that we do not have that money in the first place? Does my right hon. Friend further agree that the only answer—and there is an increasing acknowledgment of this—lies in every working man making himself more productive and more competitive to help his unemployed colleagues?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend. The answer to unemployment lies in people giving good value either for products or services—such good value that the British housewife will buy those products or services in preference to foreign goods.

Mr. Maclennan

In at least four previous answers to questions on unemployment the Prime Minister has referred to the level of incomes. Does she believe that her hectoring on that subject is any substitute for a properly worked-out incomes policy?

The Prime Minister

It has been an incomes policy that has led to people demanding more pay regardless of extra productivity.

Mr. Myles

Will my right hon. Friend take time today to commiserate with the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart), who lost the fight for the presidency of the SNP and also now leads a party which no longer believes in democratic Government but in civil disobedience?

The Prime Minister

Donald StewartThe right hon. Gentleman can perhaps look after himself.

Q4. Mr. Stephen Ross

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 2 June.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply which I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Ross

Will the right hon. Lady spend a little of today considering the problems of private tenants, in [column 776]London in particular, and long leaseholders, who are facing traumatic demands for an increase in rents and repairs of about 3½ or four times? Does she agree that the Secretary of State's housing policy is in total ruins and that it is time she replaced him and did something to help people to obtain a home at a reasonable rent or at a reasonable price?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. Michael HeseltineMy right hon. Friend's housing policy is excellent and is bringing the benefits of home ownership to many people who have never had that opportunity. It has also made houses available for those who wish to move from one area to another. With regard to people who have to suffer increased rents, as the hon. Gentleman knows, those who are the poorest and who cannot afford them can obtain rent rebates. The hon. Gentleman is fully aware of that.

Mr. Amery

Will my right hon. Friend find time to consider the serious constitutional implications of depriving the individual Services of their political chief? Does she agree that, with the best will in the world, a Minister of State and his Under-Secretary will find it extremely difficult to be as accessible to middle rank officers in the way that previous Service Ministers were?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. A long time ago we changed from a three-Service Ministry to one Ministry of Defence. That reorganisation had not been completed. We and the Service chiefs are interested in a policy for the defence of the realm, and all the Services are involved.

Mr. Harry Ewing

The Prime Minister said that the Secretary of State for the Environment had made houses available for people who wanted to move from one area to another. Does she recall that a constituent of mine took her advice and moved to Guildford to get a job? Does she recollect that he could not obtain a house, so I wrote to her, and her reply was to the effect that the fact that my constituent could not find a house in Guildford after taking her advice had nothing to do with her?

The Prime Minister

There would be something very wrong with Government if every Prime Minister took on the responsibility of getting a job for every person. It would be ridiculous to get a particular job in a particular way. Michael HeseltineThe Secretary of State for the Environment introduced a scheme under which local authorities make a certain proportion of houses available for people who move from one area to another. That scheme is working and it is the first time that such a scheme has been introduced.