HC Deb 14 December 1976 vol 922 cc1180-3
Q2. Mr. Canavan

asked the Prime Minister whether he will list his official engagements for 14th December.

Q5. Mr. Cartwright

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 14th December.

Q8. Mr. Hoyle

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 14th December.

The Prime Minister (Mr. James Callaghan)

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet. This evening I hope to have an Audience of Her Majesty The Queen.

Mr. Canavan

Before my right hon. Friend goes off on his other engagements, will he comment on the negative contribution to yesterday's debate by the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition? Is is not becoming increasingly clear that the Opposition are being infiltrated by extremists—on the one hand, by unionist extremists in the Tory Party and, on the other hand, by separatist extremists in the national parties, and that the only realistic alternative, namely, devolution, is supported by the overwhelming majority of people in the Labour Party, including well-known moderates such as the Prime Minister and myself?

The Prime Minister

I have never found it difficult to agree with my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) on a great many problems, although not on absolutely every one.

As for the contribution made yesterday by the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition, I am sure that she was satisfied with it—[Interruption.] There was at least a difference, because I stated where the Government stood, although nobody could deduce from the right hon. Lady's remarks where the Opposition stood.

Mr. Cartwright

Following Cabinet discussions, will my right hon. Friend say when we shall see some progress towards the creation of 1 million new jobs in the next three years, which was the target set by this Government? Furthermore, will he say when some encouragement will be given to regenerate industry in South-East London, which has far too many unused industrial sites and empty factories?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. The basis of the Government's industrial strategy is to ensure that our manufacturing industry concentrates on the exports required, even though there may be spare capacity at the moment in, alas, some industries where capacity exceeds demand. As for South-East London, I agree with my hon. Friend that the nature of unemployment is changing. I drew attention to this topic in a speech last night. Many changes are taking place in the country at present, but the remedies that we applied in the 1940s, 1950s and the 1960s are perhaps not wholly appropriate today.

Mr. Hoyle

Will my right hon. Friend, in the small amount of time he has between engagements, turn his immense talents to the disarray and disunity in the Opposition ranks and use his good offices to bring together the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) and the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition? It is obvious that the Conservatives have been unsuccessful in their efforts. Perhaps my right hon. Friend could help.

The Prime Minister

I would have been delighted to act as a marriage broker if the right hon. Lady had not just celebrated the first part of what I hope will be a very much longer marriage. I wish her the very best of good fortune. If she will allow me to say so, I believe that the first 25 years are by no means the best; the next 25 years are far better. As for any slight differences there may be between the Opposition Front Bench and any of its former occupants, I am sure that the right hon. Lady will be able to overcome them. Whether she does so or not will not make much difference, because we shall still be in government and they will still be in opposition.

Mrs. Thatcher

The first 25 years have been all right, and I hope to be promoted in the second. May I return to some of the previous supplementary questions, and ask the Prime Minister whether he agrees with, or rejects, the views of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy, who said in a speech last weekend that the influence of Marxists is welcome in the Government Party?

The Prime Minister

I welcome the right hon. Lady's interest in the affairs of our National Executive Committee and the document published—[HoN. MEMBERS: "Answer."] I am answering. The right hon. Lady is referring to a document which has been, or is proposed to be, circulated to the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party. I am very glad to see that hon. Gentlemen, as well as the right hon. Lady, are paying such close attention to these matters. If they continue with their studies, they will one day be eligible to join the party, too.

Mrs. Thatcher

The Prime Minister is trying to dodge the question. I was referring to the speech made by the Secretary of State for Energy, which, I understand, Transport House refused to circulate. Is that correct? The Guardian did us a service by publishing a whole lot of that speech, in which the Secretary of State for Energy indicated, in effect, that the influence of Marxists was welcome in the Labour Party. Does the Prime Minister agree with this?

The Prime Minister

With the greatest respect to the right hon. Lady, the affairs of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party—[Interruption.] I repeat, the affairs of the NEC have nothing at all to do with her. On a simple matter of fact, I believe that this was not a speech which was refused transmission by Transport House, but that, again, is nothing to do with her or with anybody else on the Conservative Benches. If Opposition Members do not know where I stand on these matters, their eyes need testing, because they could see it very easily. I am sure that this is a very interesting diversion from the affairs of the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith). I do not propose, in this House, to answer any questions about the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party. I have said so about 17 times.

Mrs. Tatcher

I know that the Prime Minister is no good at answering questions—[Interruption.]. I am asking him about the views of a Minister of the Crown. Does he agree with those views or not?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Lady may ask as many questions as she likes. I may be no good at answering, therefore I rely on the time-honoured formula that I have no comment to make on these matters.

Mr. Michael Marshall

Will the Prime Minister take time today to re-read the script of the Labour Party political broadcast about Lord Algernon? Will he say that he finds this type of attack totally repugnant, and totally out of touch with the national mood?

The Prime Minister

I have no responsibility for any of these matters.