Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

HC S: [Economic Censure]

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [72/427-38]
Editorial comments: 1629-1712.
Importance ranking: Key
Word count: 5645
Themes: Conservatism, Conservative Party (history), Economic policy - theory and process, Employment, Industry, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Energy, Pay, Public spending & borrowing, Taxation, Trade, Economic, monetary & political union, Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Health policy, Housing, Labour Party & socialism, Strikes & other union action
[column 427]

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

I beg to move, to leave out from “House” to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof,

‘supports Her Majesty's Government in its firm action to maintain the sound financial conditions and medium-term strategy which have brought about the lowest level of inflation since the 1960s, nearly four years of sustained economic growth, record output, sound exports, record investment and record living standards, and which provide the best long-term prospects for a fundamental improvement in the performance of the British economy and for the creation of new jobs.’

We have heard from Neil Kinnockthe Leader of the Opposition his customary speech. It was distinguished by a paucity of argument. I noted a number of the things that he said. He began with some comments about British Telecom. home owners and privatisation. In regard to privatisation. I would rather listen to the millions of our citizens who bought shares in British Telecom, to the many employees of the British Freight Corporation who made such a success when that was privatised and to the millions of council house tenants who, under this Government, had an opportunity, that they never would have had under Labour, to purchase their houses.

The right hon. Gentleman went on at length about my right hon. and noble Friend the Earl of Stockton. I remember his policies vividly. He kept public expenditure down; he kept income tax rates world competitive; he turned back the tide of nationalisation; he began the process of leading Britain into Europe; and all in the teeth of the then Labour Opposition. In his maiden speech in another place, he pointed out that President Mitterrand, who had started off with a Labour policy, had had to turn to ours. I noted what the right hon. Gentleman said about exchange control.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

Can the Prime Minister explain to the House why, if privatisation and giving shares to millions of people has been so successful, unemployment has continued to rise?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman knows that the two are not connected. I am amazed that he would deny working people shares in their own industry and not let them have independence. Socialism is the doctrine not of independence but of dependence of people under the control of Socialist Governments.

The right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) also spoke about exchange control. I remind him that, even under the most rigid exchange control, there were currency speculators moving around the world because no amount of exchange control can prevent many billions of currency from moving around the world. Not even he can stop the telephones or the computers, about which ridiculous comments have been made.

The right hon. Gentleman referred to strikes. I remind him that when in power a Labour Government complain about strikes, but when in opposition, the Labour party does its level best to support every one of them.

The right hon. Gentleman's speech was empty of any serious analysis of recent events or of any convincing alternative policies which his party would pursue. I shall deal with both analysis and policies. First, I should like to spend a moment looking at the Labour party's credentials for bringing the motion before the House.[Interruption.] Of course, Opposition Members will not want it. It exposes what happened when they put their policies into practice.

The Labour Government's first act on taking office in 1974 was to introduce the same quack remedies as the Opposition advocate today. In their first year they increased public spending by £15 billion in today's money. [column 429]By August 1975 inflation reached the record level of 26.9 per cent. Record inflation—the record held by the Socialist Government. Did that extra expenditure and extra inflation cause unemployment to fall? Of course not. One year later they had more than doubled the unemployment level that they had inherited. What they have to prove now is why, if those policies had that effect then, they would not have a similar effect if put into execution today.

Mr. Jack Straw (Blackburn)


The Prime Minister

I shall give way when I have finished this point; as the hon. Gentleman knows, I customarily do.

By the autumn of 1976 the Labour Government's credit was exhausted. No one would lend them money and they had to go to the International Monetary Fund for help. That was their policy in practice. Record inflation, and it doubled unemployment.

Mr. Straw

The Prime Minister must know that, compared with the other six major industrial nations in the world, unemployment under the Labour Government was the average for those seven and that our inflation was also average. The Prime Minister must know that that was the reality in 1974 and in 1979. She must also know that inflation today is still only the average of the OECD seven, but that unemployment is the worst of any of those countries. Will she explain that difference?

The Prime Minister

Twenty seven per cent. was never the average of European inflation. That was the Socialist record.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned unemployment. Unemployment has again doubled in Britain, but, according to the European Commission—I do not use my own figures—unemployment has also doubled in Europe. [Interruption.] If hon. Members request me to answer questions I shall, of course, answer them. If I am to give way, there is no point in doing so unless I answer the questions. The hon. Gentleman cannot stand the answers because they are right. That is his trouble.

What happened when the Labour Government followed that policy? After they had gone to the IMF, the next year they had to cut spending by £10 billion in today's money—the biggest single cut ever known. Those are the credentials of the party which now brings this censure motion on our economic management.

The House deserves a more serious analysis of the causes of recent increases in interest rates than it received from the Leader of the Opposition. Let me say at the outset that it is no use the right hon. Gentleman deriding the operation of the markets. The markets are part of the world we live in and we cannot escape their operation any more that his Socialist predecessors could. As a major trading nation it would be disastrous for this country, of all countries, to turn its back on the markets of the world.

The right hon. Gentleman scarcely mentioned the real reasons for the recent speculation against the pound and upward pressure on interest rates. Incidentally, he urged us to bring back the minimum lending rate. I thought part of his complaint earlier in the week was that we actually used it. It clearly did not suit the right hon. Gentleman's [column 430]purpose to examine the real reasons for recent speculation, for none of them substantiates either his speech or his motion.

There have been three reason for the recent speculation against the pound and the upward pressure on interest rates. First, the dollar has been very strong against every other major currency. Since May 1979 the dollar has risen against the Swiss franc by 36 per cent., against the deutschmark by 40 per cent., against the French franc and the Italian lira by 55 per cent. and against sterling by 46 per cent.

That process cannot go on indefinitely. It is distorting the pattern of world trade, making it more difficult for debtor countries to service their loans, and rekindling protectionist pressure in the United States. It is perhaps for those reasons that the G5 countries in Washington reaffirmed their commitment, made at Williamsburg, to undertake co-ordinated intervention as necessary. That agreement has already helped to check the rise of the dollar against the rest of the world. That was very largely the initiative of my right hon. Friend Nigel Lawsonthe Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The second reason has been uncertainty over oil prices, and particularly the Geneva meeting of OPEC.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Is the Prime Minister aware that there is one central weakness in her argument about the pound being affected by dollar domination and oil? During the course of previous Governments, including those of Mr. Macmillan and her other predecessors and Labour Governments, at all times the Italian lira traded at a discount against the pound. This week, for the first time since the end of the war—ever since the right hon. Member or most Members in the Chamber have been in politics—the Italian lira was trading at a premium against the pound. As the man on the Clapham omnibus said to me this morning, “What a load of wallies!”

The Prime Minister

I think that “What a load of wallop” would describe the hon. Gentleman's intervention about the state of the dollar. What he said does not accord with the facts in my speech about the strength of the dollar, when I explained the way in which the dollar has risen against the Italian lira by 55 per cent. and against sterling by 46 per cent.

The second reason is the uncertainty about oil prices, and particularly the Geneva meeting of OPEC. That was certainly a major factor affecting sterling in the last week or two, but it is hardly rational, because oil represents only 5 per cent. of our GDP. The effect of a $1 fall in the oil price would in itself reduce Government revenue by less than half of 1 per cent. So oil remains a major asset to the British economy.

If we were to exercise powers for depletion of oil in the North sea—the Leader of the Opposition will remember the Varley assurances that he would not do so and the assurances from us that we would not do so—investment and exploration in the North sea would not take place. Investment and exploration is vital for jobs in that part of Scotland. If we used that power, we should put down the possibility of creating more jobs in that part of Scotland. That would be the result of the right hon. Gentleman's policy.

The third factor which has affected the recent fall in sterling was the fear that the Government were weakening [column 431]in their resolve on inflation and sound finance. That fear, however unreasonable, could not be dispelled by words of reassurance alone. If my right hon. Friend Nigel Lawsonthe Chancellor had resisted the upward movement in market interest rates, it would have given a totally wrong signal to the markets and would, indeed, have led them to believe that their fears were justified.

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can tell us, since he has made criticisms, what he would have done. [Interruption.] He has specifically refused to do that. When the Opposition criticise, they are supposed to put forward an alternative. The right hon. Gentleman does not have one. So far as we can deduce from previous policies, he would do everything possible to damage confidence in the country's future direction.

The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) recently commented on the sterling exchange rate. I gather that he did not say that he thought that it was right, but that it “may” be right. One thing is clear. If an element in the speculation against sterling has been market fears about the Government's resolve to contain inflation, the Opposition have no remedy whatever to offer. Their policies would make the prospects for inflation infinitely worse.

Of course we do not wish interest rates to be high, even for a short period; but, if they are necessary to protect the long-term strategy, we shall not hesitate. These high interest rates emphasise just how important it is to exercise the tightest control on Government spending and borrowing. Had we not done so, interest rates would have had to be even higher.

What the right hon. Member for Islwyn is complaining about is that the Government have had the guts to take the measures necessary to maintain our strategy. The response of the market has shown that. The Opposition, by contrast, have lost no opportunity to talk inflation up.

Does the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook recall saying during the last election:

“Despite all claims that inflation has been conquered, there is no doubt that inflation will be in double figures by the end of the year if this Government remains in office.” ?

That is what the right hon. Gentleman said in May 1983. In December 1983, inflation was 5.3 per cent.

The right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) is no doubt similarly disgruntled. Does he recall that on 24 July last year he predicted that inflation would be 7.5 per cent. by the end of 1984? The outcome, of course, was 4.6 per cent.

This Government believe that a prosperous and competitive economy requires both a clear financial framework and a Government with the resolve to stick to it.

Mr. Chris Smith (Islington, South and Finsbury)

How many times over the last four years has the right hon. Lady and her Ministers predicted that unemployment would start coming down immediately?

The Prime Minister

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman can find one prediction—[Interruption.] I do not think that he can find one prediction from me about unemployment. I challenge him to find one from me. He will not be able to find one, because for years when I stood at the Opposition Dispatch Box I watched Ministers in the Labour Government refusing to predict, and I thought, “How wise.” Do not blame me for being wise.

Mr. Chris Smith


[column 432]

The Prime Minister

For many years the financial discipline required for a stable economy came from the system of fixed exchange rates under the Bretton Woods agreement, but rising inflation throughout the world brought about the collapse of the Bretton Woods system.

Today it is recognised, not only in Britain but throughout the industrial world, that the only foundation is the discipline that the Government impose upon themselves—unless, like Labour, they yield their very sovereignty to international bailiffs.

It has been suggested many times that Britain should join the exchange rate mechanism of the European monetary system. We have on many occasions said that we are ready to join when the circumstances are right, and I said that again this afternoon. Of course the position is reviewed regularly, but I should make it clear that joining the EMS is not a way of avoiding a rise in interest rates. It is a mechanism which yields benefits only if the Government are ready to accept the financial discipline that it entails, including a rise in interest rates, if necessary, to maintain the agreed parity, reductions in public expenditure, if necessary, and all the other things that discipline involves and to which other countries have had to agree.

The EMS is not a way of escaping discipline or rises in interest rates. It is a way of saying that if certain relationships obtain, one must put into effect rises in interest rates or changes in public expenditure.

Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough)

No one is arguing with the Prime Minister's thesis. We are arguing that, because there is no exchange rate policy, she has given sovereignty on the exchange rate policy, she has given sovereignty on the exchange rate to the market, to OPEC in Geneva, and to the next crank who comes along.

The Prime Minister

I do not know how the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell) would stop large sums of money moving around the world. He cannot do so. It is a ridiculous argument. No Government can stop large amounts of money moving around the world. When there are fixed exchange rates, we have to change the exchange rate in very sharp steps. Even in the EMS there are times when there has to be a realignment. Indeed, Socialist France has already had them.

Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Devonport)

Will the right hon. Lady give way?

The Prime Minister

I shall gladly give way. I enjoy it. However, I give notice that my speech will take longer if I do, because I have certain things which I wish to say. On that understanding, of course I give way.

Dr. Owen

Everybody in the country is pleased that inflation has been kept to the low levels that the Prime Minister mentioned. But will the Prime Minister admit that if the exchange rate during her period in office had not oscillated up to $2.40 and down to $1.10, many more people would now be in employment? One of the arguments for exchange rate stability and entering the EMS is that it will allow us to have higher levels of stable employment.

The Prime Minister

The EMS has nothing to do with the dollar rate, as the right hon. Gentleman ought to know. When the dollar was very weak, he said that deprived us of jobs because we got a lot of American imports. If he takes the reverse of that argument, when the dollar is [column 433]strong we should have the opportunity of creating jobs and making a lot of exports. But the right hon. Gentleman seems to be wrong all along the line.

The Government have set their own disciplines, for that is the only basis for the creation of wealth, prosperity and jobs.

Although Governments—and I want to make this very clear—can create the financial framework, they alone cannot create jobs. Jobs come when enterprise has the freedom and vigour to meet the demands of the market, to produce the goods and services that people want and are prepared to pay for. The right hon. Gentleman does not like that.

I shall read what the Opposition said when they were in government, because they said almost the same thing. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said:

“The only answer to the economic problems which have dogged Britain ever since the war is to improve the performance of our manufacturing industry. That means higher productivity, better design, more vigorous salesmanship, more reliable delivery and servicing. That means good management, good relations and co-operation with trade unions and management, and fewer strikes and better delivery dates.”

That, of course, was what the then Chancellor said when Labour was in power.

We have to compete in the markets of the world, not on the basis of national self-esteem but in the eyes of people making hard-headed decisions about the design and the value of the products that we offer. The problems of the economy lie not in insufficient demand, for every category of spending is at record levels. Nor is it a lack of public spending which now takes 10 per cent. more of GDP than it did 20 years ago when unemployment was a fraction of what it is now. Nor is it a neglect of the infrastructure, since spending on major roads has increased by 25 per cent. in real terms under this Government and investment in water is increasing by 9 per cent. next year. Infrastructure investment must, however, like all other investment, be justified by its return. It is not a cheap route to more jobs.

Those who genuinely want more jobs must address the deep-seated problems of the economy, such as the amount that we pay ourselves in relation to the amount that we produce. If we pay ourselves more in relation to what we produce than our competitors, the jobs go elsewhere. When we resist change by restrictive practices while others get ahead, they get the jobs. One does not build an enterprising economy by imposing high taxation, as the Opposition wish to do.

The message of today's unemployment figures is that we have not yet resolved those three problems, and until we do we shall not create the jobs that we need.

If there were easy choices, we can be sure that other nations with governing parties of different political persuasions would be pursuing them. Although unemployment in Britain has more than doubled since 1978, it has also doubled across Europe. In the Netherlands and Belgium the rate is higher even than here. Of the major economies, Japan and the United States have done best in holding down unemployment. It is no coincidence that those economies have an excellent record on unit wage costs, because unit wage costs in Japan have actually fallen by 5 per cent. over the past year while our unit labour costs have risen by 5 per cent.

Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)


[column 434]

The Prime Minister

Unless right hon. and hon. Gentleman pay attention to these things, they will not help to get more jobs in the country.

We are often urged to adopt one particular policy from abroad, but one cannot pick and choose one policy and leave out the others.

Those who urge us to follow United States fiscal policy forget that the size of the deficit is causing great concern in America. In December Mr. Donald Regan, the United States Treasury Secretary, said:

“Deficit reduction is by far the most serious problem facing the United States, the Administration and the Congress. Reducing the deficit is the number one priority.”

Those who urge us to follow that path forget that in the United States the state and local authorities run a surplus, not a deficit, as mostly happens in our local authorities. They forget that the United States accepts the discipline of monetary targets and has experienced high real interest rates—even higher than our present rates. They forget that public expenditure takes 10 per cent. less of national output than it does here.

What about Germany, France or the Netherlands? They have taken some tough decisions which I wonder whether the House would be prepared to face. Between them, those countries have seen cuts in social services, delays in pensions increases, boarding charges for hospital patients and cuts in public sector pay.

Germany has kept its interest rates half our own, despite the rising dollar. One reason is that it has kept its inflation rate at about half of ours. It is no good yearning for the advantages of other countries and ignoring the strict disciplines by which they have been achieved.

The Opposition motion conveniently ignores all the good things about the performance of the British economy. They will not want me to state them, so I shall do so. Despite the coal strike and the most determined attempt since the war to inflict damage on the economy by denying power and light to our homes and industries and despite all that Opposition Members could do, output is at an all time high. The proportion of people of working age in employment in Britain exceeds that of nearly all other industrial countries, and employment is growing. Profits have recovered dramatically and in consequence total investment is at record levels and still growing. Despite the heavy cost of the miners' strike and all that Opposition Members could do, our current account has remained in surplus for the fifth year in a row.

The terms of the Opposition motion single out the deficit on manufactured trade. What matters, of course, is not a surplus or deficit on any particular part of our trade, but the overall balance, and that is what the Opposition cannot get away from.

Our oil surplus has enabled us to import more manufactures and invest more overseas. But Opposition Members are against both. Yet again, they wish to repeal the laws of arithmetic. What would they do to improve the balance of trade in manufactures—impose import controls? I can think of nothing more guaranteed to damage efficiency and close export markets.

What of their attitude to overseas investment? Since 1979, Britain's net foreign assets have risen from £13 billion to £70 billion. These will provide a stream of income to the country for years to come because of the policies of the Government. As domestic capital expenditure is at a record high, this has clearly not been at the expense of domestic investment at home. [column 435]

Why does the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook wish to penalise companies which invest abroad to earn profits for Britain or the financial institutions which invest abroad to improve the retirement incomes of millions of pensioners? I will tell the House why. It is because the more wealth that the right hon. Gentleman can bring under the power of politicians and bureaucrats, the happier he will be. He wants to invest not where the return is highest, nor where it meets the needs of consumers, but where it furthers the political ambitions of Socialism—a Socialism that the people reject.

Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)

The right hon. Lady has devoted a great deal of time and attention to interest rates and money. Would she care to say a little about the plight of the ordinary people in the country, particularly the unemployed?

The Prime Minister

If the right hon. Gentleman was listening, he would have observed that I pointed out that the only way in which we can increase the number of jobs in the country is by pursuing policies which will increase enterprise. Otherwise, the only way is to distribute what there is, and that would not help to further enterprise in the country.

The Leader of the Opposition scarcely mentioned the coal strike. Never in this country has a strike been so unjustified. Never has a strike been called by such blatant manipulation of trade union rules. Never has a strike been pursued by such tactics of violence and intimidation. In 1978–79, when the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan) was Prime Minister, democracy and the rule of law were under attack by trade union extremists in the winter of discontent. The then Conservative Opposition offered the Labour Government the necessary support to take whatever measures were required. Contrast that with the Labour party today: today it supports political strikes which totally disregard democratic values and the rule of law.

By encouraging the leadership of the NUM to believe that the Government and the National Coal Board could and would concede its impossible demands, the Opposition have helped to prolong the strike and the suffering that it has caused for miners and their families. By prolonging the strike and the suffering, they have seen to it that on average, each miner has suffered an £8,000 loss of wages, the industry has lost 52 coal faces and the union is now divided against itself. Which half does the Labour party support? It supports not the working miners, but those on strike against democracy and the rule of law.

Throughout the strike, the right hon. Gentleman has had the choice between standing up to the NUM leadership and keeping silent. He has kept silent. When the leadership of the NUM called a strike without a ballot, in defence of union rules, the right hon. Gentleman stayed silent. When pickets tried by violence to close down pits in Nottinghamshire and elsewhere, against the democratically expressed wishes of the local miners, the right hon. Gentleman stayed silent. When the NUM tried to impose mob rule at Orgreave, the right hon. Gentleman stayed silent. Only when Norman Willisthe general secretary of the TUC had the courage to tell the leadership of the NUM that its tactics were unacceptable did the right hon. Gentleman take on the role of Little Sir Echo.

Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse (Pontefract and Castleford)

Will the Prime Minister give way?

[column 436]

Mrs. Thatcher

I shall give way when I come to the end of this section.

The Leader of the Opposition knows that the demand made by the NUM leadership, that no pit shall ever close on economic grounds, is an impossible demand and that it has never been accepted by any Labour Government. The last two Labour Governments enshrined in their own Acts of Parliament grants to assist the “elimination” of uneconomic colliery capacity. That is what the Labour party put into law when it was in power. The right hon. Gentleman knows that three independent inquiries—by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission and by Select Committees of both Houses—have endorsed the principle that uneconomic pits should be closed.

Mr. Nellist

Will the Prime Minister give way?

Mrs. Thatcher

The Leader of the Opposition knows that the offer to the miners is the best since nationalisation.

Mr. Lofthouse


Mrs. Thatcher

I shall give way in a moment.

The offer to the miners is the best since nationalisation. It offers the best pay, the best investment, the best guarantee against compulsory redundancy, the best early retirement terms and the best colliery review procedure. Yet never once has the right hon. Gentleman urged the NUM to accept that offer. Never once has he urged it to accept the agreement negotiated by NACODS. An agreement on exactly the same terms is available to the NUM. If the right hon. Gentleman really wants an end to the strike, as I do, I challenge him to urge the NUM to accept the NACODS agreement.

Mr. Lofthouse

Is the Prime Minister aware that we have heard all this before? Is she further aware that it is unprecedented in industrial relations for one side to demand the terms in writing before the talks begin? Does she admit that it is she and her Government who are insisting on those terms and that they do not want a settlement of the strike?

Mrs. Thatcher

It is nonsense to say that we do not want a settlement, because we do. We never wished the strike to begin. That is why the very best terms to be offered by any Government since nationalisation have been offered by this Government. We did not wish the strike to start. It started because the NUM refused to observe democratic values, and it has been maintained by violence and intimidation. Seven rounds of talks have foundered on the same points. Unless the NUM is prepared to discuss the closure of uneconomic pits in accordance with the NACODS agreement, the next round of talks will founder as well. I do not wish the talks to founder.

I challenge the Leader of the Opposition. Will he urge the NUM to accept that agreement or will he not? [Hon. Members: “Answer!” ] He will not answer, because he dare not answer. The right hon. Gentleman spoke today free from the cares of office and from any serious prospect of office. Nothing underlines the irresponsibility of the Labour party more than the way in which it has abandoned in opposition so many of the lessons that reality and circumstances forced it to learn in government. In office, the right hon. Member for Leeds, East said that it was

“the responsibility of unions not to throw the members of other unions out of work in pursuit of a dispute” .

The Labour party and the NUM have no such qualms now. In office, the Labour party recognised that uneconomic pits must close, put that principle into legislation and [column 437]implemented closures on economic grounds. In opposition, Labour Members pretend that that never happened.

The Leader of the Opposition attacks us on monetary policy and calls it a doctrine, but the right hon. Member for Leeds, East boasted that the last Labour Government had

“really given monetary policy the importance it deserves” .

Labour Members chant about “cuts” . They should know, because their party made the biggest cuts ever. The last Labour Government cut public spending in real terms on the education and science budget, on the industry, energy, trade and employment budget, on transport and on housing, in Scotland and in Wales. Now that the Labour party is in opposition, it claims to be the guardian of the National Health Service, but in two of their five years in office the Labour Government actually cut real resources for the National Health Service.

Mr. Nellist


Hon. Members

Give way.

Mrs. Thatcher

I will give way in a moment.

Over their whole period of office, the Labour Government cut capital investment in the Health Service by 35 per cent. What has the hon. Gentleman got to say to that? [Interruption.]

Mr. Nellist

There are 5 million people outside for whom this is no laughing matter. How can the Prime Minister maintain the fiction that at the beginning of the coal strike her intention was to save £275 million worth of uneconomic capacity when in the past 11 months the Government have spent between 20 and 25 times that amount trying to destroy the NUM? If it was really about saving money, the strike could have been over within three weeks of starting.

The Prime Minister

Year by year, the amount of subsidy to the coal industry was increasing. In the last practising year it was £1.3 billion. We are pouring money into new pits. As the three independent reviews said, we cannot go on pouring money into investment in new pits and still retain all the old uneconomic pits. If we do, we shall put up the price of coal and electricity for every other industry and create unemployment. That is my answer to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley)


The Prime Minister

I shall not give way. I am nearly at the end of my speech. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman wishes to catch your eye later, Mr. Speaker.

The Leader of the Opposition and the Labour party do not have even the beginnings of an alternative economic strategy. That is not just my view. It seems that a Labour party document somehow found its way to the New Statesman. I hope that no Opposition Member will complain about that. The Labour document apparently says:

“Labour has lost the economic argument.”

It went on to say that the Labour party

“has little credibility on policies for dealing with the economy.”

And so say all of us.

The purpose of the Leader of the Opposition in tabling this censure motion is not to help the unemployed, because he has nothing to offer them; nor is it to strengthen the [column 438]economy, because he has no strategy for it; and nor is it to win confidence, because his prescription would destroy it. This censure motion is bogus. It deserves to be, and will be, overwhelmingly defeated.