HC Deb 21 December 1976 vol 923 cc455-8
Q1. Mr. Pardoe

asked the Prime Minister what reply he has given to a letter he has received from Mole Valley Farmers Limited on the subject of national government.

The Prime Minister (Mr. James Callaghan)

The letter to which the hon. Gentleman refers proposed that I should form a National Government comprising hon. Members from all parties. It was acknowledged on my behalf and the authors were informed that their views had been noted.

Mr. Pardoe

Does the Prime Minister recognise that the organisation is not a subterranean, subversive, political group, as the name might imply, but a highly responsible organisation of anxious farmers? The Mole Valley Farmers, independent of any political line, have come to the conclusion that the failures of the British economy are due more to the failures of our party political system than to anything else. Will the Prime Minister accept that that is the view not only of the farmers but of the growing majority of his countrymen?

The Prime Minister

I read the letter with very great interest. The Mole Valley Farmers rehearse a number of reasons for thinking that a National Government, led by me—[Laughter.] I do not want the hon. Gentleman to get any false ideas. If the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) got into the Government, that might be the way in which the hon. Gentleman could lead the Liberal Party. The letter contained very interesting ideas, but the first proposal that a National Government might help the green pound devaluation is not perhaps the most suitable foundation on which to base a National Government.

Mr. Dalyell

Has the Prime Minister any reflection to make on the behaviour of the national Government of France, who seem to have frustrated any prospects for the European JET fusion project, which is our power source for the future?

The Prime Minister

The Mole Valley Farmers do not suggest that as a reason for the formation of a National Government. I do not want to be too derisory, because the farmers wrote a very interesting letter. I hope that the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) will convey to them my thanks for the sentiments they express, which contain many interesting thoughts.

As to the JET project, proposals of this kind go through several phases. I do not regard the JET project as dead. Indeed, I go further and say that I believe that Britain—with its facilities at Culham, the team that is assembled there and the industrial and scientific take-up that could be found—undoubtedly provides a very suitable venue for the development of a most valuable scientific innovation in nuclear fusion, as distinct from nuclear fission. We shall certainly press Britain's case. When I add to that list the fact that Britain is the only member of the Community that does not have a Community project, it seems to me that Britain would be the most suitable venue for the JET project.

Mrs. Thatcher

Will the Prime Minister explain to the Mole Valley Farmers that the reason why we have inflation on the Healey basis at 20 per cent. per annum, and unemployment rising on average 750 a day for every day of the Labour Government, is his Socialist policies? Is not the right way to deal with Socialists and their policies not to put them in a coalition but to defeat them at a General Election?

The Prime Minister

One of my difficulties in answering the letter was that I was not quite sure from which Conservative Party I was supposed to form a National Government. I was not sure whether it was with the right hon. Lady or the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), whether it was with those who believe in devolution or those who are opposed to it, or whether it was with those on the Opposition Benches who believe in an incomes policy or with those who are opposed to it. I was not sure whether I was to link up with the Piltdown Man, the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson), who believes that boys should become chimney sweeps at the age of 14.

Mrs. Thatcher

Does the Prime Minister accept responsibility for the inflation and unemployment that he has created, or, is he still blaming his predecessor?

The Prime Minister

No. What we are doing is trying to ensure, with the aid of both sides of industry but without any help from the right hon. Lady, that there is stability in our currency, that we have an industrial strategy that will ensure that exports come first and that we can base full employment upon a good industrial base with the social contract. That is a long-term policy. I do not expect to get any support from the right hon. Lady, but at least she might try to recognise the facts sometimes about the situation and not put her lust for office above everything else.

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