HC Deb 25 April 1978 vol 948 cc1173-7
Q2. Mr. Hordern

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his public engagements for Tuesday 25th April.

The Prime Minister

In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be holding meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. Later today I shall be addressing the fortieth anniversary rally of the Women's Royal Voluntary Service.

Mr. Hordern

In between those important engagements, will the Prime Minister take the opportunity to read the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary's recent speech at the Mansion House, in which he condemned both Russian and Cuban intervention in Africa? In the light of reports today that both Russia and Cuba intend to step up this level of intervention, what are the Prime Minister's views on this matter, and why does he not refer these interventions to the United Nations?

The Prime Minister

I shall study any reports that have appeared on this subject and get what information is available. I think that the Government's position has been clearly stated and is well known on the position of the Soviet Union in the Horn of Africa, together with Cuban irregulars or regular soldiers. As for referring the matter to the Security Council, the appropriateness of that course must be considered week by week and month by month.

Mr. James Lamond

Will my right hon. Friend have time today to begin considering the speech that he intends to deliver to the special session of the United Nations on disarmament? If so, will he include in part of the speech congratulations to President Carter on his decision to postpone the development of the neutron bomb, which has led to a better atmosphere at the SALT II talks in Moscow recently? Will he ask President Carter, therefore, to extend that decision a little from only deferring the development of the bomb to banning completely its development?

The Prime Minister

I have not been considering the speech today, but I have already started discussing the line that it should take. I had some discussion with Chancellor Schmidt about the general line that we should try to concert among ourselves on disarmament at the United Nations when he was here at the weekend. I think that it is known that we supported the decision of the President of the United States to postpone production of the neutron bomb. I observe that General Secretary Brezhnev has said that he intends not to produce it either, if the reports are to be believed. As for the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty talks, we should not assume that everything in the newspapers represents the real negotiating position between the two sides. I am hopeful that an agreement will be reached.

Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg

When the right hon. Gentleman addresses the fortieth anniversary dinner of the WRVS, will he explain why his Government's policy forced it to withdraw its staff in Germany, where it had been manning clubs for Service men for many years, because the Government refused to continue a public funding?

The Prime Minister

That is not included in the text of my remarks, but what is included is that the Women's Royal Voluntary Service operates on a voluntary basis and that only its expenses are met. If the hon. Gentleman cares to give me some more details about what he has just said, I shall have the matter investigated. I have had no complaint from the WRVS about that which he has raised.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

In view of the urgent necessity to get some stability into the world's exchange rates, will my right hon. Friend say what progress he was able to make this weekend on this matter in his talks with Chancellor Schmidt?

The Prime Minister

It is somewhat difficult to go into these rather technical matters in the course of question and answer. What I think is clear—the general principle that emerged was clearly stated—is that any new arrangements which are in the minds of anybody and which might be devised in Europe, or on a wider basis, should not be in opposition to the present role of the dollar but should be worked out in a way that will assist the dollar and not attack it.

Q4. Mr. Flannery

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his engagements for Tuesday 25th April.

The Prime Minister

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave earlier today to the hon. Member for Horsham and Crawley (Mr. Hordern).

Mr. Flannery

In the midst of my right hon. Friend's many commitments, will he give some thought to the serious situation now developing in respect of the amending Bills to the Employment Protection Act? Will he take into account the highly organised opposition of the Tories against these Private Members' Bills which are dedicated to trying to prevent the sort of events that occurred outside Grunwick and which the Tories are on record as being in opposition to but clearly would like to create throughout the country, and give us time to get these important amending Bills through the House? Will the Government take them over so that the sort of events on the streets that the Tories rejoice in will not need to be engaged in outside any further Grunwicks?

The Prime Minister

I know that there is a great deal of sympathy for the Bills to which my hon. Friend refers. However, the Government must be reluctant to take over Private Members' Bills. We are talking about Private Members' time and it should be regulated in that way, otherwise we may as well abolish Private Members' time. There would be an awful howl if we did that

Mr. Adley

I revert to the answer that the Prime Minister gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham and Crawley (Mr. Hordern) about the speech of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. Does not the right hon. Gentleman have any unease that the Secretary of State's policy on Rhodesia appears to revolve around giving his whole support to a group of men who have admitted that what they want to see in Rhodesia is the creation of a one-party Marxist State?

The Prime Minister

I have read some remarks made by Mr. Mugabe about this topic and I hope that when there is one man, one vote and one woman, one vote in Rhodesia, or in the new Zimbabwe, those concerned will take those views into account and vote accordingly. I would not find myself able to support Mr. Mugabe on that basis, and I hope that the voters will not do so either.

Mr. Radice

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the drop in unemployment levels announced today is especialy welcome in the Northern Region? Is he also aware that if unemployment levels are to keep coming down we must expand our own economy and ensure that the West German economy is expanded?

The Prime Minister

I was, as I am sure was the whole House, gratified to see that for the seventh-month running there has been another small fall in the number of unemployed and a rather larger increase in the number of vacancies, so that the seasonally corrected figure is now 5.7 per cent. I agree that an expansion of our economies generally will be of assistance in reducing the number of unemployed, but the Western countries are facing structural changes and structural challenges as a result of the transfer of technology to some of the newer countries.

Mr. Goodhew

Will the right hon. Gentleman try to find time today to see his Press Secretary and to ask him how it was that a letter on the subject of forthcoming changes at the head of the two intelligence services was wrongfully sent to the editor of the Morning Star? Will he ask him whether that was an error or whether it was done on purpose?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. I have seen the Press Secretary today. The letter that was sent informed newspaper editors of the reasons why the Government did not propose to announce the names of the two new appointments to particular posts. No newspaper has published the names, and I am very grateful for that. The Morning Star has not published the names. It has expressed the view that it does not wish to add to any possible physical danger to the holders of these posts, but it uses the letter to criticise the secrecy of the operations of the intelligence and security services. That, of course, is the right of the Morning Star in the free and democratic society in which it operates.

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