HC Deb 16 December 1976 vol 922 cc1724-8
Q3. Mr. Tim Renton

asked the Prime Minister what his official engagements are for 16th December.

Q5. Mr. Ridley

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 16th December 1976.

The Prime Minister

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet. Later today I shall be having talks with the Prime Minister of Poland, and I have also been invited to be his guest at dinner. I hope that I shall be forgiven if, as a result, I am a little late in arriving back here for the final speeches in the debate.

Mr. Renton

From the Prime Minister's reading of today's newspapers at breakfast, does he recognise that every time a Marxist gets an official job in the Labour Party a bit more international confidence is knocked off sterling? To what extent does that help to reduce non-Marxists' unemployment?

The Prime Minister

I admire the hon. Gentleman's ingenuity, but it has very little to do with my official engagements for today. [Interruption.] With respect, I shall make my own answer, and it is simply that I have no responsibility to the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton), either as Prime Minister or as First Lord of the Treasury, for these matters which concern the Labour Party—none at all. But I shall go on to say if I am pressed that certainly Conservatives will be able to recognise any Trotskyist—certainly Right-wing Trotskyites—[HON. MEMBERS: "Who are they?"] I do not want to go into too much detail, but if I am pressed to name them there are many members of the Conservative Central Office who are aware of the authoritarian tendencies of the right hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher).

Mr. Ridley

In view of the Prime Minister's answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton), will he appoint a further number of Trotskyites and Marxists as organisers in the Labour Party, because that could only benefit the Conservative Party?

The Prime Minister

I realise how desperate the Opposition are about the difficulties in their own ranks—some of whom are sitting before us—when they constantly raise this smokescreen over them. I advise them to get on to what the rest of the country really cares about.

Mr. Buchan

Has my right hon. Friend had an opportunity in what is clearly a busy day to read the debates which have taken place in the House this week and, above all, to take note of the pressure from all sides of the House for a referendum? Has he yet given any further consideration to that?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. The Cabinet considered this matter at its meeting this morning. It reached its conclusions. I have authorised my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Privy Council Office to convey the Government's conclusions to the House, if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, as I hope he will, when today's debate begins. I heard the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) on this subject at Blackpool. It may be that he will not be disappointed at the end of the day.

Mr. Thorpe

When the Prime Minister is hurrying back after his dinner with the Polish Prime Minister, will he reflect upon the desirability of British-owned firms, either directly or through their subsidiaries, buying the defence bonds of any other country whose objectives may be at variance with those of Her Majesty's Government? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is reported that Barclays Bank has bought £6 million worth of defence bonds to assist the South African Government?

The Prime Minister

I have seen that report, and I think that Barclays Bank needs to show a considerable degree of sensitivity about this matter. As for my discussions with the Polish Prime Minister, I am glad to say that they are focusing on more direct matters. This morning we signed an agreement with the Polish Government for construction projects which is worth about £70 million, and I hope later today to make further progress on the issue of shipbuilding in conjunction with them.

Mr. Bidwell

When my right hon. Friend next attends meetings with the CBI and the TUC, will he explain what the Government's measures will mean if he fails to get the rate of industrial investment which is what the Government's measures are supposed to be about? How will the Government monitor that in the future?

The Prime Minister

I notice that the TUC says in its statement, a copy of which I have just been handed, that it challenges employers to make as positive a contribution to the future of the country as that already undertaken by trade unionists. The CBI has welcomed the new measures. We now need to see this translated practically in terms of an expansion in investment, output and jobs. It is my understanding that the leaders of the CBI, in the light of their last discussions with me, will be encouraging their members, especially in view of the statement yesterday, to go ahead with new investment as well as to get better productivity out of existing investment. But we as a Government have to follow that up by endeavouring to secure a larger growth in world trade, especially when the new American Administration takes office.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Since most of the money that we are getting from the IMF comes not from some vague international fund but from American and German taxpayers, did the Prime Minister inform the German and American Governments in advance about the defence cuts? If so, do those Governments approve of the defence cuts being made? Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that he has put at risk the good name of the British Government with our closest allies?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman can leave my relations with the American and German Administrations to me. I think he will find that they fully understand the position. In the light of the statement made yesterday, both the American and German Administrations have said that they support what was done in general.

Mr. Abse

Since the Prime Minister has been kind enough to indicate that he has given authority to the Secretary of State for Scotland on the issue of a referendum, has he made it clear that, if there is to be a genuine response to the reasoned amendment which appears on the Order Paper and to which the names of 151 hon. Members are now appended, that response will have to make it unequivocally clear that a referendum would have to come into existence, as the motion says, before any Bill came into effect?

The Prime Minister

Perhaps I went a little far in my previous answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew-shire, West (Mr. Buchan). I suggest that my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) awaits the statement which will be made by the Minister of State, Privy Council Office.

Mr. Hordern

Will the Prime Minister reflect that when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer he felt it necessary to devalue the pound and to borrow $1.4 billion, and he resigned? Since the present Chancellor of the Exchequer has borrowed more than twice as much, since the pound has fallen more than twice as far and since he has presided over a record level of unemployment and the fastest increase in prices in our history, is it not time that the Prime Minister asked the present Chancellor of the Exchequer to resign?

The Prime Minister

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has carried a heavier burden than any other Minister for a very long time, and he has served our country well. He has my full support in what he is doing, and I believe that his task is made infinitely more difficult by the attitude of the Opposition on a number of matters, including their attitude today on sterling, as well as what they did in the last Administration.

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