HC Deb 03 August 1976 vol 916 cc1430-2
Q3. Mr. Peter Morrison

asked the Prime Minister what are his official engagements for 3rd August.

The Prime Minister

I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet this morning and will be holding other meetings throughout the day.

Mr. Morrison

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, whatever his official engagements today, I wish him a very pleasant holiday free of such official engagements? For those of us taking our holidays at the end of September, can he give an assurance that he will not be calling an early General Election and wrecking our plans?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful for the hon. Member's good wishes, which I reciprocate. As for his comments about the end of September, I suggest that he should cultivate his constituency a little carefully.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Will my right hon. Friend make it a resolution for today to inform the country that, as the CBI treacherously stabbed him in the back after he extended the hand of friendship it is more important than ever vigorously to pursue industrial investment through organisations like the NEB?

The Prime Minister

From my discussions with Lord Watkinson, it is clear that on the second occasion when I saw him he was accurately reflecting the views of CBI members who were deeply upset by the imposition of increased national insurance contributions. However, it is also clear that Lord Watkinson is anxious that relations between the Government and the CBI should not be exacerbated.

I was very glad to see today that the CBI's forecast of investment intentions shows that they are still improving, Figures due to be published today—I am sure that the Opposition will be pleased to hear this—indicate an increase in the volume of investment to be undertaken by British industries of between 10 and 15 per cent. in the 12 months to September 1977, compared with the previous 12 months.

Mr. Lawson

In the context of investment intentions, will the right hon. Gentleman give a straight answer to a straight question and say whether the Government are committed to the introduction of a wealth tax in the next Session of Parliament?

The Prime Minister

I suggest that the hon. Gentleman should await the Queen's Speech.

Mr. Ron Thomas

Will my right hon. Friend be good enough to spare a few moments in his very busy day to look at the up-to-date figures of increasing penetration of finished and semi-finished manufactured goods, the outflow from our capital account and the increased cost of our military expenditure overseas, with a view to providing alternative policies?

The Prime Minister

All these matters are of considerable importance. During recent years there has been a growing import penetration by overseas goods, especially from Germany, which does not reflect well on the capacity of our own industries to sustain competition. Our overseas military expenditure has grown substantially because of the relative decline in the offset arrangements with Germany which occurred between 1970 and 1974. We shall have to take up this matter in due course in order to get a better acknowledgement of the mutual advantage received by both NATO and the United Kingdom from the present arrangement.

Mr. Montgomery

Does not the Prime Minister feel that perhaps today he could spare some time for the Parliamentary Labour Party, to teach some of its Members the facts of life, particularly as regards who was to blame for bringing sick Members to vote in the House last week? In view of the charges made against my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, will the right hon. Gentleman tell his Friends that the Liberal Party offered to pair with very sick Members and that the hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Sir A. Broughton) wishes to resign but that the Labour Party will not let him? Will the right hon. Gentleman also put the blame where it firmly belongs, with his right hon. Friend the Government Chief Whip?

The Prime Minister

I am not sure how much of that question is worth a reply. I have yet to learn that any hon. Member is unable to apply for the Chiltern Hundreds as a result of the activities of either Chief Whip, if he wishes to do so. I am not sure how relevant that matter is.

As for arrangements for sick Members, I went to the Parliamentary Labour Party meeting last Thursday and listened to a very interesting discussion—I am sure that the Opposition will be interested to hear this—about the arrangements that should be made in order to avoid bringing sick Members to the House. I hope that at an appropriate opportunity there will be the prospect of discussions between the two sides of the House in order to avoid these problems.

Mr. Swain

Will my right hon. Friend consider rearranging his programme for this Saturday? In my village we are holding a village gala, at which one of the highlights is the burning of an effigy of the Iron Maiden.

Back to