Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1982 Nov 3 We
Margaret Thatcher

HC S: [Debate on Address]

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: House of Commons Speech
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [31/17-27]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1527-1610.
Importance ranking: Key
Word count: 5720
Themes: Agriculture, Civil liberties, Conservatism, Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Defence (Falklands War, 1982), Economy (general discussions), Employment, Industry, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Energy, Pay, Public spending & borrowing, Trade, European Union (general), European Union Budget, Foreign policy (general discussions), Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (development, aid, etc), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Health policy, Housing, Labour Party & socialism, Local government, Trade unions, Trade union law reform
[column 17]

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

I am happy to join the Leader of the Opposition in congratulating the mover and seconder of the Address. During his 29 years here, the House has listened to many notable contributions from my right hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir J. Eden). His speech this afternoon was one of outstanding quality, drawing on his experience as a Minister and on his conviction that free enterprise and competition are the customer's friend. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend's work as Chairman of the Select Committee on Home Affairs.

I have looked up my right hon. Friend's maiden speech in 1954. He spoke then of the Communist threat to the free world and called on us to be “spiritually determined people” . The House listened today to a speech by one of its most determined Members. To my regret, my right hon. Friend will not seek re-election at the end of this Parliament. I shall bear it in mind that, if this Parliament should run its full course, that, as he said, would enable him to equal the record of Bournemouth's longest-serving Member of Parliament.

I also pay tribute to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Ancram), who spoke with deep feeling about the growth of unemployment in Scotland. I am encouraged by his support for the measures that the Government are taking to secure a sustainable growth in output. My hon. Friend has a deep knowledge of the problems of Scotland, and the House listened to his speech with close attention.

My hon. Friend represented Berwick and East Lothian in the February 1974 Parliament. I like the story of how he was canvassing during that general election when a Labour voter said to him “You are quite the nicest conservative I have ever met” , and then went on to say “If you were the candidate instead of that terrible belted earl, I would certainly vote for you” .

The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) made his customary speech. It is difficult to say anything more about it than that, except perhaps two things. He mentioned the CBI survey and the CBI conference and some of its references to policies. I shall have something more to say about that later, but at the recent CBI conference Sir Terence Beckett is reported as having

“contrasted the CBI package with the £9,000 million boost demanded by the Labour Party, which he said was wrong and would be disastrous for the country. It would increase inflation, reduce Britain's international competitiveness, and would ‘blow the top off the economy’” .

That is what the CBI thinks of the right hon. Gentleman's policies—that they would be disastrous for Britain.

The second matter in the right hon. Gentleman's speech that I must mention is unemployment. Indeed, he devoted [column 18]a good deal of his speech to unemployment. I would agree with him that unemployment is a scar on our national life. I would agree with him that the tragedy of unemployment deserves the most serious and sustained response. But it is not enough to delve deeply into the surface of things, as the right hon. Gentleman has a habit of doing.

We owe it to the unemployed to make the most rigorous assault on tackling the causes and not just the symptoms of unemployment. [Interruption.] A major cause is the failure of the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. and hon. Friends to attack the roots of unemployment when they were in office. It is no service to the unemployed to build false hopes by making false promises, as the right hon. Gentleman did in so much of what he said today. it is no service to the unemployed to promise to spend huge sums of money that the right hon. Gentleman does not possess to create jobs whose short-lived existence would be paid for at the expense of the jobs of some of those now in work.

Mr. Jack Straw (Blackburn)

Will the right hon. Lady give way?

The Prime Minister

Not at the moment.

The extra spending that the right hon. Gentleman wants would have to be paid for by higher borrowing, higher interest rates, higher taxes and, inevitably, by higher inflation. But employers who face higher taxes and higher interest rates often find themselves forced to shed jobs. Surely the right hon. Gentleman understands that. His recipe for more jobs has just three ingredients—borrow more, and more again, in order to spend more; pay back the lenders in debased currency by printing money; and control nearly everything in an attempt to hide from economic reality.

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned several other matters, with some of which I shall try to deal later in my speech, but first, in spite of what he said, I want to set Britain's problems in the context of some of the harsh truths of the world economic scene which he tried to brush aside. [Interruption.] If Labour Members do not wish to make a measured or deep analysis, they will, of course, ignore these truths. [Interruption.] I have come to the conclusion many times that they do not want to get rid of unemployment. They wallow in it.

The 1970s world-wide saw the highest inflation rates in living memory. Even before the sharp increase in oil prices in 1973 and 1979, inflation had destroyed the fixed exchange rate system agreed at Bretton Woods. Inflation, and the oil price increases, ravaged the economies of Europe and North America. Growth in the major OECD countries, which in the late 1960s and early 1970s averaged 5 per cent. a year, has now fallen to nil. The recession has spared few industries and no country.

Unemployment has been rising in other countries, too. Recession has hit some of them later than it hit us. [Interruption.] I know that Labour members do not want to listen to facts. They wish to fashion their policies without them. But they are going to listen to facts. [Interruption.] At any rate, I am going to talk facts. Whether they wish to listen is up to them.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Leader of the Opposition had a good hearing.—[Interruption.] Order. It is no use hon. Members howling when there is an argument with which they disagree.—[Interruption.] Order. The House cannot function unless we allow free speech.

[column 19]

The Prime Minister

In the last 12 months for which figures are available, unemployment rose by 51 per cent. in Canada, 45 per cent. in Germany, 40 per cent. in the Netherlands, 17 per cent. in Italy, 15 per cent. in Belgium, and 10 per cent. in the United Kingdom. The figures are from the OECD standardised basis, seasonally adjusted.

If the answers to Britain's problems were as easy as the right hon. Gentleman thinks, why cannot the Governments——

Mr. Straw

rose——

The Prime Minister

I prefer to make my own speech. I have not yet had much opportunity to do so.

If the answers to Britain's problems were as easy as the right hon. Gentleman thinks, why cannot the Governments of those countries banish recession and unemployment?

The true answer has been given by responsible Governments throughout the world. It is that the reflationary policies which failed last time would also fail next time. Governments in most countries are convinced that

“a significant part of any stimulus to demand would increase public sector deficits and dissipate itself rather quickly as an increase in inflation” .

So said the OECD as recently as July this year.

There is no future in returning to the days when the Government's reputation at home and Britain's reputation abroad was that of a spendthrift and a supplicant. There is an ever wider international understanding of the need for an unremitting fight against inflation. Nevertheless, the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. and hon. Friends are always telling us that there is a shortage of demand in our economy. That just is not true.

Total money demand in the second quarter of this year was about 11 per cent. higher than a year earlier. Real demand was about 3 per cent. higher, but output here rose by only 1 per cent. The difference was met by higher imports. The trouble was not shortage of demand, but that the demand was not met by goods produced here.

During the first nine months of this year, out of every 100 new cars bought in Britain, 58 came from abroad, but the trouble was not shortage of demand. According to CBI estimates, had we retained the share of home and export markets that we had 12 years ago, there would now be 1½ million more jobs in Britain. The task of retaining those jobs rested considerably on management and the work force producing goods at the right price and the right design to sell.

Last year British industry became more competitive. We began to catch up with our rivals. Our productivity increase was a record. Our pay settlements were more realistic. But this year other countries have been improving their performance too. That should spur us on to greater efforts, instead of Labour Members urging people to increase pay claims and to increase strikes. That is why it is important to achieve lower pay settlements and to go on improving productivity. There are no rewards for doing better if others are doing better still.

I come now to the CBI survey, of which so much has been said recently. The proposals of the CBI have been constructive throughout.

Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Devonport)

Before the Prime Minister leaves trade unions, and in the light of the miners' ballot, will she explain why, having said in June that she hoped that before the election she would be able [column 20]to bring forward proposals for postal ballots, they are absent from the Queen's Speech? Why have they been excluded?

The Prime Minister

We brought forward proposals for postal ballots in 1980. I think that the right hon. Gentleman means secret ballots. There is plenty of time.

The proposals of the CBI have been constructive throughout. The CBI has consistently said that it wanted inflation down. It has come down. It is at its lowest for 10 years. When the Labour Government left office, it was 10.3 per cent. and rising, notwithstanding the Labour Government's panoply of controls. It is now 7.3 per cent. and falling. There is a good prospect of reaching 5 per cent. in the spring of next year. But even a 5 per cent. annual increase in prices halves the value of money in less than 15 years, so we must get inflation down still further.

The CBI has also said that it wanted interest rates down. Over the past 12 months they have come down 6½ points. That saves industry some £1,500 million a year.

The CBI said that it wanted help with energy costs. Sir Geoffrey HoweMy right hon. and learned Friend's Budget—in March, incidentally, not May—gave industry relief worth £160 million this year.

The CBI asked for a reduction in Labour's national insurance surcharge. We did that, too. It wanted help for small businesses. We introduced the best range of measures in the Western World. [Hon. Members: “Oh!” .] Of course, the Opposition are not interested in good news. They are not interested that we have the best record for getting down inflation, which is far better than that of the Labour Government. We have a good record for getting down interest rates. We have a good record for helping energy prices. If the Opposition would lend us a hand with getting coal prices down, electricity prices would come down further. But the Opposition are interested not in getting electricity prices down, only in trying to boost coal prices.

The CBI has also urged us to restrict public spending. The Government have completed this year's annual review of public expenditure. For next year expenditure will be held to the total of £120.5 billion announced at the time of the last Budget. That includes the cost of the Falklands campaign and garrison, a continued real increase in NHS expenditure, an increase of over £100 million in provision for law and order, and £950 million for youth training, including our new and ambitious youth training scheme, which starts next September. The point is that we have managed to do all that and hold the public expenditure totals to the amount that was announced last March. That is a considerable achievement.

Mr. Guy Barnett (Greenwich)

The Prime Minister will recall that one of the CBI's requests was that she should get the Brandt report off the shelf, give it a dust and see what could be done about it. Is she aware that, in addition to the campaign against inflation, there is also the campaign against world poverty? About 700 million people are living in absolute poverty. What positive steps has the right hon. Lady taken on the international scene to ensure that something is done about that?

The Prime Minister

One of the ways of helping to deal with international poverty is by keeping an open trade market. I shall come to that shortly.

The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale and many other hon. Members have over the months urged us to increase [column 21]capital expenditure especially on construction. I agree. We need more capital spending by local government and in the public sector generally. I agree that it is vital to maintain the nation's infrastructure, its roads, its buildings, its water supply and its drains.

Indeed, we are so much in agreement with those propositions that we earmarked last year and this year very large sums for precisely that purpose, all within our total public expenditure limits. What happened was that actual expenditure on water, housing, local authority capital and nationalised industry investment fell short of our allocation by a staggering £1,600 million. It is a sorry catalogue: housing underspend £500 million; local authority capital other than housing £200 million; water £70 million; nationalised industry investment £900 million.

What a difference it would have made if those capital expenditure plans had been fulfilled. Most of the authorities certainly spent the money, but not on the purposes for which it was intended. Some of them sacrificed investment and therefore jobs in order to finance higher pay awards. What clearer demonstration could there be that more pay for some means fewer jobs for others?

In the nationalised industries this year, we provided for capital investment 26 per cent. greater in cash terms than was spent last year. This year, too, many of these and local authorities seem to be underspending their capital programmes. I have therefore written to the local authority associations and to the group of nationalised industries chairmen urging them to make full and proper use of the sums we have allocated to capital—not, I stress, to increase their total expenditure but to make proper provision within that total for capital investment.

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Ardwick)

If the local authorities go ahead and carry out the Government's advice to increase their capital spending, will the Prime Minister guarantee that the servicing of the borrowing that is necessary will not mean that they will be penalised for overspending?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman cannot have heard what I said. He heard only part of it. I urged local authorities to spend on capital the sums allocated to capital within the total capital expenditure that we had budgeted for. Therefore, by virtue of that definition, no increase in borrowing would be required.

Mr. Kaufman

The right hon. Lady has not answered my question. Will she now say that the revenue consequences of the borrowing by the local authorities to carry out her advice will not count against spending targets and, therefore, they will not be subject to any penalty for overspending?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman has put his question on a false premise. I am talking about capital expenditure within the total amount that we have budgeted for. Therefore, no question arises of extra expenditure. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the local authorities can also spend some of their capital receipts from the sale of council houses, if more Labour authorities will sell council houses.

But if the control of public spending is important to our economy, so, too, is the health of the international trading system. With around 30 per cent. of our GDP exported we [column 22]are more affected than most other major industrial countries by a deterioration in world/trading conditions. When those conditions are as difficult as they are today, it is not surprising that those who seek an easy life look round for easy solutions. “Don't trouble to keep our costs down” , they say, “just keep low cost imports out. Protection will shield you from the chill wind of competition.”

For a time, the protection road is more comfortable, especially for the slow coaches, but there would be no surer way of destroying our own competitiveness. Why should companies exert themselves to reduce their costs and improve their products if their overseas competitors could be shut out of our domestic market? They would, instead, subside into a comfortable mediocrity—with poor design, outmoded technology, lower production, higher costs, poorer job prospects and the slow suffocation of effort and enterprise.

That would be the effect on producers. Consumers would pay higher prices for a more restricted range of poorer quality goods. They would be losers all round.

We have, and need to have, strict quotas for textiles and footwear and we have special arrangements for steel through the Community. We must have these to cushion the pace of change but if, as a general belief, we reject protectionist measures for ourselves, equally, and just as emphatically, we must oppose the efforts of those countries which raise protectionist barriers against us—especially those countries to whose products we offer virtually an open door.

The one-sided trade agreement of 1970 between the Community and Spain in which our tariff on cars is 4 per cent. and theirs is 37 per cent. is one obvious case where we have every cause to feel aggrieved. In the case of Japan, exports to our free and open markets have doubled in the past five years, but few British companies—despite determined efforts and first-class goods that have sold well elsewhere—have managed to surmount the obstacles which make the Japanese market so difficult to penetrate.

For example, in 1980 we sold £1,700 million worth of aerospace products world-wide, only £30 million of which were sold to Japan. Moreover, we sold more than £170 million worth of vehicle components to the United States, another £280 million worth to Germany, but only £7 million worth to Japan. That is clearly unfair and leads to a great imbalance of trade. We shall be pursuing these matters in the special GATT meeting this month and through the European Community.

We hope that those countries with unnecessarily protective markets will realise that it is in their own long-term interests to have a more equitable and open trading relationship with us and other nations. Our aim is to open up world markets. To do that we must fight the protectionism that is imposed by others.

The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale referred to some of the legislative proposals in the Gracious Speech. Many of them are designed to help industry to become more competitive, more efficient, and to take advantage of the opportunities offered by new technology.

The Bill to denationalise British Telecommunications will be the most ambitious measure of that kind ever to be presented to the House. It offers real opportunities for growth in the telecommunications sector.

We are opening up the electricity industry to competition and taking steps to introduce private capital into British Shipbuilders. [column 23]

We are encouraging British industry to exploit the latest technologies—the development of cable systems is an example. We shall be announcing our conclusions on this and on Lord Hunt 's report on cable television soon.

We are also introducing legislation on data protection. It will protect individuals and enable British firms to satisfy the international standards on data protection.

The programme will also contain measures to reduce bureaucracy and the overheads on industry through a simpler system of building controls—which is what the construction industry has always wanted—a simpler structure for the water industry, a transport Bill which will establish a reasonable and lawful level of subsidy and help to keep down the burden of rates on industry.

There is one other measure that I should like to mention. We shall be extending to 50,000 tenants of municipal leasehold property and to 80,000 tenants of charitable housing associations the right to buy their own homes. That will further extend the right that has already been exercised by one-third of a million families under this Government and which is available to many more.

Both management and unions are beginning to settle back into the habits of a nation with steady prices. For the first time in more than a decade we see trade union negotiators who are willing to put their signatures to pay deals that are last for two or even three years—because they are confident that inflation will not be allowed to get out of hand again, so long as this Government are in power. There could be no surer vote of confidence in our economic policy.

For their part, companies are beginning to return to the capital markets to raise fixed-interest stock—a practice which completely disappeared during the years of very high inflation.

Many of our critics have become reluctant converts to realism. Those who, only a few months ago, were bandying tens of billions as the minimum scale of reflation required have been sobering up recently. Even the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore) seems to have been a little less astronomical in his demands—or perhaps a little less explicit.

The Social Democrats used to call for £7 billion—or was it £8 billion?—reflation. [Hon. Members: “No.” ] Now their recipe for recovery calls for a mere £3 billion or £4 billion. The truth is that they know that it will not wash any more. The electorate is profoundly sceptical of the big spenders. The easy fix finds few takers.

In the trade unions, the membership have adjusted to an era of low inflation rather more quickly than some of their leaders.

Time and again, the secret ballot shows that a fair and reasonable offer is likely to receive a fair and reasonable response. High and accelerating rates of inflation—[Interruption.] The nurses are being paid more under the present Government than they were under the previous Administration. The Labour Government left the nurses with a promise to go to the Clegg commission. We honoured that, whatever the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) may say. His stewardship took us to the IMF as a supplicant. Moreover, he gave the nurses and the Health Service a far worse deal than they are getting now.

Time and again, the secret ballot shows that a fair and reasonable offer is likely to receive a fair and reasonable response. High and accelerating rates of inflation were to [column 24]blame for much industrial unrest and led to so many of the unreasonable pay settlements of the past 10 years.—[Interruption.] At no stage have I egged people on to demand increased pay. Nor have I ever supported a strike, unlike Opposition Members who do everything they can to support strikes. Nor, indeed, have I supported statutory incomes and wage controls. Without them, we now have lower inflation than at any time during the previous Administration and, indeed, the lowest inflation for 10 years. We shall take it down even further.

For the benefit of Opposition Members who do not want to hear, I shall repeat myself. Under this Conservative Government inflation is at its lowest level for 10 years. Interest rates are falling fast and the public deficit is under control. The Government go to the IMF as creditors, not supplicants and we have laid the foundations upon which enterprise and inventive genius can make good use of the opportunities. We have sufficient faith in British industry and the British people to believe that they will make use of those opportunities.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

Does the right hon. Lady admit that she has used unemployment to restrain wages?

The Prime Minister

That is simply not true. As the hon. Gentleman knows, Britain became uncompetitive largely because it paid itself 90 per cent. more during the 1970s for producing the same amount while other countries overseas paid themselves amounts very similar to the increase in output. If right hon. Members opposite will not recognise that, they will recognise nothing.

This Government have earned for Britain abroad a reputation for resolution in maintaining and defending the values of the free world, for reliability as an ally, for determination in honouring our obligations both close to home and across the world and for the firm pursuit of our legitimate national interests. We shall maintain that reputation.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)

Will the right hon. Lady give way?

The Prime Minister

No, I intend to go on now. I have given way a great deal. It is time that I continued my speech.

The principal threat to our security and our values has not changed. We remain committed to our four NATO roles—the central front in Europe, the eastern Atlantic, the defence of the home base and the strategic deterrent.

Mr. Dalyell

Will the right hon. Lady give way?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir.

We are also strengthening our capability to deploy out of the NATO area at short notice. No NATO Government find it easy to increase defence spending at a time of recession. We shall maintain our commitment to plan for 3 per cent. annual increases in defence spending in real terms, and we shall provide funds for the Falklands on top of that.

Mr. Dalyell

Will the right hon. Lady give way?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir.

We shall implement NATO's decision——

Mr. Dalyell

Will the right hon. Lady give way?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. [column 25]

We shall implement NATO's decision to install cruise and Pershing missiles from late 1985 onwards if the talks in Geneva on the zero option are not successful.

Mr. George Foulkes (South Ayrshire)

The Iron Lady.

The Prime Minister

The voices raised in favour of unilateral disarmament are music to Soviet ears.

Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)

rose——

The Prime Minister

That campaign is positively harmful to our search for a balanced reduction in the nuclear weaponry of both sides.

Mr. Healey

rose——

The Prime Minister

I shall give way in just a moment.

That campaign ignores the fact that the defence policies of the Western Alliance have preserved the peace for 37 years. Unilateralism would put at risk our security and our way of life. I give way to the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Healey

As I heard it, the right hon. Lady said that she planned to introduce cruise and Pershing from late 1985 onwards. That is two years later than the date that she had previously fixed. Was it a slip of the tongue?

The Prime Minister

I am sorry if it came out as 1985. It will be from late 1983 onwards.

Mr. Dalyell

Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister

I should prefer to get on now.

Mr. Dalyell

rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think that the Prime Minister has made it clear that she is not giving way. Like everyone else, the Prime Minister, or whoever is called to speak, has the right to decide when to give way.

The Prime Minister

Those who argue that the assumptions on which we have nuclear weapons are wrong, that the Soviet Union does not want to or could not invade Western Europe, or would not do so for fear of American retaliation, and that the nuclear deterrent is therefore not necessary, must ask themselves whether, if in Government, they would take the risk of assuming that their analysis was right. This Government will not put the nation's interests and security at risk in that way.

Mr. Dalyell

Will the Prime Minister give way?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must understand that merely jumping up constantly attempting to intervene makes it no more likely that he will succeed.

Mr. Foulkes

The right hon. Lady might change her mind.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Prime Minister must be allowed to continue if she is not giving way.

Mr. Foulkes

You never know. She might summon up the courage to change her mind.

The Prime Minister

The behaviour of the Soviet Union continues to cloud East-West relations. The Soviet arms build-up has not stopped, or even slowed down. This year alone, 132 SS20 warheads have been installed.

Soviet forces in Afghanistan have not been withdrawn but have been strengthened. Martial law in Poland, far from being lifted as the regime in Warsaw has repeatedly promised, has been used to declare illegal a trade union organisation which a year ago numbered 10 million members.

[column 26]

Mr. Dalyell

rose——

The Prime Minister

We want to build a safer and more co-operative relationship with the countries in the eastern half of our continent but, as I said in Berlin last week, that will require them to have more respect for international law and human rights than we have seen from them in recent years.

Mr. Dalyell

Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister

No.

In Europe, I have had two constructive meetings with the new German Chancellor——

Mr. Dalyell

rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is impossible for anyone to make a coherent speech when the hon. Gentleman is constantly rising in an attempt to intervene. He must not get up when it has been made clear to him that the Prime Minister is not giving way. I must ask him not to get up again.

The Prime Minister

I look forward to meeting President Mitterrand in Paris tomorrow.

I welcome the progress that the Community has recently made in settling some of its problems. We are now a short step from agreement on a common fisheries policy, which my right hon. Friend Peter Walkerthe Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has negotiated with such skill, and which our fishing industry has welcomed. I hope that the Danish Government will now join the other nine member States in implementing that policy.

Last week the problem of Britain's 1982 budget refund was also satisfactorily settled. With that behind us, the Government now look to their European partners to make a serious, fresh attempt to solve the more fundamental budget problem. Equity and commonsense demand that a long-term solution be found—and soon. The present situation cannot and will not continue.

The Gracious Speech refers to the Falklands, my right hon. Friend John Nottthe Secretary of State for Defence has just returned and has reported that the Services are doing splendid work in restoring conditions of life on the islands and in constructing the facilities necessary for their permanent defence.

A runway has been completed at Port Stanley to provide for an air link with Ascension and for air defence operations by Phantom aircraft.

A great deal of work is in hand to ensure that the difficult living conditions which our troops have had to endure since the re-possession of the islands will be substantially improved before the next Falklands winter.

Good progress has also been made on restoring essential services and on the immediate tasks of reconstruction. The Government have been studying the recommendations in the Shackleton report for long-term development and will take decisions in the near future.

Mr. Dalyell

rose——

The Prime Minister

The defences of the islands must be sufficient to deter and defeat any future threat. Everything possible will be done to create a secure and bright future for the islanders who have suffered so much and who have earned our admiration for their courage and their resilience.

Today marks the fourth Gracious Speech of this Parliament.

[column 27]

Mr. Edward Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil)

Will the right hon. Lady give way?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir.

Although there is a full programme of legislation, not all of it is entirely uncontroversial, I know that my right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary and the right hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Cocks) will do their utmost to get the legislative programme through expeditiously—preferably before the schools in Scotland break up for the summer holidays which, I understand, is at the end of June or the beginning of July.

Mr. Rowlands

rose——

The Prime Minister

By the end of this Session the Government will have completed nearly all of the programme that it placed before the British people three and a half years ago, but there will still be plenty of work to do before this Parliament runs its full term.

The programme contained in this Gracious Speech will continue on the consistent course that the Government have followed since May 1979: the restoration of honest money and sound finance; the control of public borrowing, lower interest rates and lower inflation; a realistic link between earnings and output; the creation of conditions in which Britain will become competitive again; the introduction of private capital into the public sector; freer and fairer world trade; replacing monopoly by competition; the extension of home ownership; an unrelenting war on crime; and a determination to strengthen our defences and to stand up for British interests throughout the world.

It is a programme which deserves, and which I believe will receive, the support of the House.