HC Deb 13 December 1977 vol 941 cc270-2
Q3. Mr. Viggers

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 13th December 1977.

The Prime Minister

This morning, President Giscard and I completed our discussions at Chequers which began yesterday. I will, with permission, make a statement about this at the end of Question Time. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be holding further meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. This evening, I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty the Queen.

Mr. Viggers

As part of his official duties this afternoon, will the Prime Minister clarify the voluntary pay code? Since the Scottish Council of the Labour Party has rejected the 10 per cent. wage guidelines out of hand, how will he persuade it to volunteer anything?

The Prime Minister

I do not suppose I shall.

Mr. Ron Thomas

I wonder whether, in the midst of a very busy day, my right hon. Friend will spare a moment to consider the decision which was recently made not to allow Back Benchers to discuss the Supplementary Estimates on defence. We had to allow another £400-odd million to go through on the nod. May I appeal to my right hon. Friend to ensure that Back Benchers are not deprived of the opportunity to discuss Supplementary Estimates in future years?

The Prime Minister

In consultation with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, I shall look into the matter. How the House can control expenditure has been a difficult issue for as long as I have been here. Control may have slipped, in which case we should try to restore it. However, when matters of public expenditure arise, I feel that it is for the House to choose the subjects it debates. It would have been possible yesterday—although I realise that it was appropriate to debate a more interesting subject—for the House to discuss the matter.

Mr. Raison

Is the Prime Minister aware that under the Scotland Bill it would be possible for the Scottish Assembly to pay its servants substantially more than the United Kingdom Government were paying their servants? Does the Prime Minister think that that would make for a manageable incomes policy?

The Prime Minister

I have always understood that such issues were raised when a Bill was in Committee, not at Question Time.

Mr. Stan Crowther

Will my right hon. Friend be able to find time to congratulate the men who work on E furnace in the Templeborough melting shop in my constituency, who last week produced steel at what would be an averaae annual rate [interruption.]—hon. Members should try it—of 74.2 tonnes an hour, which is almost certainly a world record and far in advance of the latest Japanese figures? Is not my right hon. Friend as tired as I am of hearing from the Opposition how marvellous the Japanese are? Does he not agree that our steel workers are as good as the best in the world, given the opportunity?

The Prime Minister

As the Christmas spirit seems to be spreading rather ra- pidly, I cannot think of a better commercial on which to congratulate my hon. Friend. I hope that the whole House will join in congratulating the steel workers on the record that they have set up. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] If it will help, I shall be glad to send them a Christmas card.