Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1981 Jun 25 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 [7/373-78]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-30.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2329
Themes: Executive, Economy (general discussions), Employment, Industry, Pay, Trade, Foreign policy (general discussions), Foreign policy (USA), Local government, Local government finance, Media, Northern Ireland, Terrorism, Strikes & other union action
[column 373]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Adley

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 25 June.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later today. This evening I am giving a dinner for George Bushthe Vice-President of the United States.

Mr. Adley

Will my right hon. Friend please tell the Vice-President that there is both concern and anger in the House and in the country that money from the United States is still reaching the IRA? Will she invite the Vice-President to find some way of ensuring, in the light of ill-informed and biased reports that the American people receive from their media, that the true position is put across to the people, perhaps including an explanation that the people of Northern Ireland are just as entitled to choose their own constitutional arrangements without intimidation as, for example, are the people of Puerto Rico?

The Prime Minister

I think that the first thing that I will say to Vice-President Bush is how grateful we are for the firm stand that the United States Government have [column 374]taken over Northern Ireland matters. They have made it quite clear that Northern Ireland matters are matters for the United Kingdom. I think that we should show our appreciation of that fact.

Of course, I share my hon. Friend's concern that money from the United States should be finding its way to the PIRA. All those who contribute to NORAID fully recognise its connection with the PIRA, which was established by a recent court case. Indeed, by virtue of a recent court case NORAID has had to be registered as an agent of the IRA. I hope that that will be understood.

We are constantly trying to find effective ways of getting our message and our case across to the people of the United States. We think that we have got it across to both Government and responsible commentators, but I agree with my hon. Friend that we must find every possible way of getting the message across and showing everything that is being done.

Mr. Foot

Will the right hon. Lady find time today——

Mr. Marlow

Let us have a joke.

Mr. Foot

—to meet the representatives of the footwear industry who are in London today? They represent an important industry which is in a near-desperate situation. It is an important industry that is threatened partly by the Government's failure to act and partly by the Government's actions. Will the right hon. Lady undertake to meet its representatives?

The Prime Minister

I am afraid that the answer must be “No” . I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the industry has grave problems. Certain voluntary arrangements are conducted on a bilateral basis with the countries concerned which put so many imports into this country. I know that my right hon. Friend John Biffenthe Secretary of State for Trade is much concerned about this. I am sure that he will see the representatives if they are here.

Mr. Foot

Will the right hon. Lady give full consideration to their proposals for controlling imports and take urgent action on the matter?

The Prime Minister

I cannot go further than I have. I know that my right hon. Friend is very concerned. We have a series of bilateral arrangements. I am sure that he will listen to any proposals that they have to make and give them urgent consideration.

Mr. Rippon

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that no consideration will be given today or in the immediate future to any reductions in the BBC's overseas services, which I am sure she will agree are an essential part of British foreign policy?

The Prime Minister

I think that a question is being answered today about BBC external services. We are anxious to switch expenditure from current to capital account. In the last two years some expenditure has been switched the other way. In our view, it is better to have some 33 language services properly heard than to have 40 language services inadequately heard.

Mr. David Steel

In the Prime Minister's continuing review of the Government's economic policy, will she heed the speech that her right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food made in America earlier [column 375]this week, when he said that the Government's political and economic approach should not be based on the doctrines of any one group of economists?

The Prime Minister

I am sure that my right hon. Friend was referring to the fact that none of us should ever listen exclusively to the Keynesian school of economists. The report that I read, as I am sure my right hon. Friend will confirm, said:

“Mr. Peter Walker, the Minister of Agriculture, yesterday gave an optimistic account of the economic achievements of the Thatcher Government” .

I am delighted.

Mr. Best

Will my right hon. Friend continue to press the need for industry to improve its productivity, and will she welcome the fact that in the 12 months to the first quarter of 1981, output per man hour increased by 2½ per cent., and since January unit labour costs, in comparison with those of our main competitors, have fallen by 6 per cent?

The Prime Minister

It is absolutely vital that British industry should compete, and to that end we must watch wage increases during the next round. I confirm that there have been great advances in output per man hour. In January this year, output per man reached an all-time record, and we should warmly congratulate everyone involved—management and work force alike.

Q2. Mr. Geoffrey Robinson

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 25 June.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Robinson

Will the Prime Minister find time today to consider again the question that I put to her in the debate yesterday, to the effect that of those under 25, no fewer than 917,000 are unemployed, and that of males over 30 who should be employed, have been unemployed for nearly one year? No other country in Europe or in the world would accept that level of unemployment. Will the Prime Minister tell us now, not later, what she intends to do about it?

The Prime Minister

It is as well that I did not go any further than I did in answering the hon. Gentleman last night, because the figures that he asks for are not compiled. The figures for the average length of unemployment are not and never have been available.

Mr. Robinson

I have them.

The Prime Minister

I am sorry, but I would not necessarily accept the hon. Gentleman's figures. I shall give him the figures that we have, which I think are the real figures about which he is concerned. The figure for those who have been unemployed for longer than a year is now just over half a million—515,913. Of course, we are concerned to do something about unemployment, but the question that we should really ask ourselves is why more people in this country do not buy British goods—[Interruption.] Hon. Members are very touchy and tetchy again today—and why so many constituents of Labour Members—and, indeed, of some Conservative Members—prefer to use their pay packets to buy foreign goods.

Mr. Canavan

The right hon. Lady is leaning on a foreign Dispatch Box.

[column 376]

The Prime Minister

I must have made a good point there, as Labour Members are so touchy.

Mr. Henderson

Is not my right hon. Friend somewhat nauseated at the way in which certain elements in the Civil Service trade unions are positively gloating at the prospect of giving added misery to those sections of the community that the House and the nation have approved as requiring special help? Does she accept that, if the Civil Service unions cause the nation great expense, that fact should be taken into account in future wage settlements?

The Prime Minister

I am well aware that a large number of people are suffering from the Civil Service strike. Nevertheless, the great majority of civil servants are loyally continuing to carry out their jobs. That is something that we must bear in mind at the same time. I hope that those who are on strike realise the damage that they are doing to the very people from whom they are seeking higher payments. I hope that they will soon end the strike and return to duty.

Mr. Sheerman

Will the Prime Minister ponder the fact that her Government's lack of initiative over youth unemployment causes much anxiety? She may talk about people buying British, but in West Yorkshire and many other constituencies, the British Movement is campaigning and recruiting among school leavers and school unemployed. Does she accept that her Government will be responsible for this problem?

The Prime Minister

This Government are very, very concerned about the numbers of young people who are unemployed. We are doing everything that we can to make it easier for them to stay in education or training or to have some work experience with a company, either in industry or commerce, or with a public authority. At present, we provide some 440,000 places under the youth opportunities programme. That may not be quite enough. We have received a letter from the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission asking for a number of things, including the power to increase the number of places. We shall consider the matter urgently and sympathetically.

Q3. Mr. Bob Dunn

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 25 June.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Dunn

Will my right hon. Friend comment on the reluctance of local authorities, whether Labour or Conservative, to consider putting their functions and services out to private enterprise?

The Prime Minister

I heard my hon. Friend make that point in his excellent speech yesterday. I agree with him that it would be far better if more local authorities put some of their services out to private companies. I agree that it would often be cheaper, as has happened in Southend, where the services are cheaper and where the rates have been reduced by 1p in the pound. I hope that more authorities will follow the example of Southend.

Mr. Litherland

Will the Prime Minister find time in the near future to intervene in the dispute in Laurence Scott Electromotors (Manchester) Ltd, where workers and constituents of mine are staging a sit-in to preserve their jobs? Will she try, where local Members of Parliament [column 377]have failed, to open a dialogue with the management which, judging by its letters and actions, is the epitome of the unacceptable face of capitalism?

The Prime Minister

I must say “No” to the hon. Gentleman, as he would expect. It is not for me to settle disputes, but for those who are party to them to come to a negotiated settlement.

Q4. Mr. Hill

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 25 June.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Hill

Would my right hon. Friend reflect and agree that the constant calls for protectionism and import controls are simply the expression of stark fear on the part of those who have little faith in the traditional ability of the United Kingdom to export, as it has done throughout the generations? Does she not agree that protectionism cannot safeguard our standard of living and will increase unemployment?

The Prime Minister

Apart from one or two industries, including textiles, footwear and cars, where we have voluntary or negotiated arrangements for import controls, [column 378]I agree with my hon. Friend that general import controls would be highly damaging to a number of jobs in this country, because there are a tremendous number of jobs in exports, and we should do nothing to harm their chances of success. Moreover, general import controls considerably put up the cost of living and do nothing to enhance the competitiveness of our industries, which would shelter behind a wall of protectionism.

Mr. Heffer

As the Prime Minister said that people in Britain should buy British, will she undertake to ensure that a survey is carried out among Conservative Members, including Ministers, to find out how many of them have British and not foreign cars, and how many of their relatives have foreign, not British, cars?

The Prime Minister

I shall carry out no such survey. It is a matter for hon. Members themselves. If we inquire why more people do not buy British, we shall find that in some cases it is because overseas goods are better value. We then get straight back to the competitiveness, value and service of British industry. [Interruption.] However much Opposition Members yowl and scowl, in the end we must have competitive British industry producing the sort of goods that we want to buy.