HC Deb 25 July 1978 vol 954 cc1359-61
Q2. Mr. Welsh

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

The Prime Minister

In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be holding meetings with ministerial colleagues and others.

Mr. Welsh

Will the Prime Minister consider today the United Kingdom's record of economic failure in Scotland, given our continual massive unemployment and emigration rates? Is it any wonder that there has been this continuing woeful neglect of Scottish economic interests, given that the Prime Minister does not consider the Secretary of State for Scotland worthy or fit to hold a place on his senior Cabinet committee on economic policy?

The Prime Minister

I do not know what the hon. Gentleman is referring to there. The Secretary of State for Scotland is involved in all decisions affecting the Scottish economy. The record on this is a good one, and, as the hon. Gentleman knows, when the Scottish National Party proposes that it should separate from the United Kingdom it is constantly and immediately rebuffed.

Mr. Spriggs

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that many of those who have declared psychological warfare on the Soviet Union should give more attention to the millions of unemployed in this country?

The Prime Minister

I do not know that the two things are necessarily related, but I hope that we shall pay attention to both.

Mr. Jessel

As the Post Office has just announced profits of £1 million a day over the past year, achieved by monopoly price fixing, may I ask whether the Prime Minister is aware of the countrywide dissatisfaction with postal services, such as the second-class post, which is supposed to take two days but normally takes the best part of a week? What will the Government do about it?

The Prime Minister

I was very happy to see that the Post Office had joined the gas industry, the nationalised electricity industry and British Airways in making a big profit. I know that it deprives the Opposition of a bone to chew on, but the plain truth is that we have introduced commercial considerations into the thinking on the boards of the nationalised industries in a way that the Opposition lamentably failed to do. These industries are now able to finance much of their own expansion instead of relying on the taxpayer. I am sorry that the Opposition are deprived of the argument, but we have put right what the Opposition failed to put right.

Mr. Watkinson

Returning to the question of unemployment, does not my right hon. Friend agree that the prospects for economic growth next year are not particularly bright in the Western world? In those circumstances, is it not necessary to turn to structural measures? Will he consider putting a new impetus behind the scheme to encourage earlier retirement so that the youth can gel to work? [Interruption.]

The Prime Minister

Opposition Members seem to forget that there is a scheme under which we can continue until we reach the age of 70 and, outside, get a larger pension. So they had better watch out. Apart from the frivolity, I agree with my hon. Friend that structural changes are taking place not only within the British economy but in the economies of the Western world.

On the subject of early retirement, I hope that we, in conjunction with our partners in the European Community and on a wider basis, can move on this matter. It is important that we should try to move together, because we cannot allow our competitive costs to deteriorate by comparison with others.

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