HC Deb 26 January 1978 vol 942 cc1593-5
Q4. Mr. Brotherton

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 26th January.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave earlier today to my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Corbett).

Mr. Brotherton

In view of the good news coming from Salisbury, Rhodesia, today, can the Prime Minister find time to talk to the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary about the need for the right hon. Gentleman to do his best to help secure a solution to the Rhodesian problem? Will he point out to the right hon. Gentleman that the company of moderates is much to be preferred to that of murderers?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary made yesterday a series of replies on this matter which I thought met with considerable satisfaction in the House. It would indeed be very gratifying if after all these years Mr. Smith were to be adopting some of the Six Principles laid down first by the Opposition, when they were in Government and then accepted by us when we became the Government. But the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. I should like to see some details and see what will happen.

Mr. Noble

Does my right hon. Friend accept that there is continuing concern about the fact that we have not yet had a statement on temporary employment subsidy? The earlier remark of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer that a statement might be made soon, indicating adjustments, will continue to cause concern unless the scheme announced is at least as good as the present one.

The Prime Minister

I have regularly answered questions about this subject, and the answer today is no different. The Government are aware of the concern about these matters. We must undertake negotiations on them. These negotiations are actively in train. As I have said on previous occasions, we shall do our best to make sure that the scheme—whether the old scheme, a new scheme or a modified version of the old scheme—meets the needs of the situation.

Mr. George Gardiner

During the course of the day, the Prime Minister must have had some discussions on what happened in the House last night when his right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Harrison) and the Scottish National Party Members for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) and Banff (Mr. Watt) appeared to be lingering in the Division Lobby, with the possible effect of denying the Committee a vote on a matter upon which it clearly wished to vote. Does the right hon. Gentleman condone that practice?

The Prime Minister

If the hon. Gentleman will wait for about half a minute, he will find that he will get a statement from my right hon. Friend the Lord President.

Mrs. Hayman

Will my right hon. Friend discuss with colleagues today the threatened further increase in school meal charges? Is he aware of the grave concern that such an increase could seriously damage the Government's policy of family support?

The Prime Minister

Yes, we have constantly to take these matters into review. I can promise my hon. Friend and others who are interested that this matter has come to my attention in particular, and that we shall be considering it very carefully before the Budget Statement is made.

Mr. John Davies

I revert to the supplementary question of my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton). Does the Prime Minister realise that the answers given yesterday by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs did not give satisfaction in the House? May I say that the Prime Minister would do very well to employ some of his day convincing his right hon. Friend of the need to help towards a peaceful settlement in Rhodesia and not to hinder it?

The Prime Minister

That is an unworthy charge to be made. [HON. MEMBERS: " Hear, hear."] If Mr. Smith had picked up 10 years ago the ideas and propositions that were then being put forward by the Government of which the right hon. Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies) was later a member, there would not be this controversy today. It does not lie with the right hon. Gentleman or with his colleagues to defend Mr. Smith on these matters.