HC Deb 27 July 1978 vol 954 cc1790-3
Q1. Mr. Viggers

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 27th July.

The Prime Minister (Mr. James Callaghan)

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be holding further meetings with ministerial colleagues and others.

Mr. Viggers

As part of his duties today, will the Prime Minister explain why, in the debate on Tuesday, he took as his example a family man earning £75 a week when, as a result of his policies, there are trained and skilled industrial civil servants who are taking home £45 a week, and some are taking home as little as £30 a week and might even be better off unemployed?

The Prime Minister

There is a dispute going on because industrial civil servants, whose pay year starts on 1st July, have not accepted the offer that was made within the 10 per cent. guidelines for this current year. They are unfortunately at the end of the queue. There are meetings tomorrow on the matter between Ministers and the various national officials, and I think that we should see how those negotiations go.

Mr. Canavan

Will my right hon. Friend find time today to reconsider the granting of an export licence for the return of Chilean aero engines at East Kilbride in view of the real possibility that the Chilean Government may attempt to use force to remove the engines, with the resultant risk of physical confrontation with the trade union movement?

The Prime Minister

The Government's attitude to Chile and to the subject of human rights is well known, and we have made it clear not only by words but by our action in accepting a great many Chilean refugees.

The issue of the licence cannot be reconsidered. It was issued a week ago and cannot now be taken back. The removal of the engines is a matter of commercial concern between the Chilean Government and Rolls-Royce. I hope that no subterfuges will be entered into to try to remove the engines. Equally, I hope that the legal responsibility will be properly observed and that these engines, which now belong to the Chilean Government, when they are paid for, should be removed.

Mrs. Thatcher

Doubtless the Prime Minister has had time to see the Chancellor of the Exchequer today. Will he therefore confirm that the assumption on which his Government are working is that the figure for unemployment for the rest of this Parliament will be 1.55 million?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has just told me that the figure has been revised downwards.

Mrs. Thatcher

The Prime Minister said that it had been revised downwards from 1.7 million last week. He did not give the figure to which it had been revised. If it is 1.55 million under Socialist policies, will he say so, bearing in mind that he inherited only some 600,000 unemployed and that the result of his efforts and those of his predecessor has been to add some 600 men and women to the dole queue every day his party has been in office?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Lady is, of course, right to focus on the problem of unemployment. Inflation and unemployment are the two biggest problems that the country has to face. Certainly there has been a substantial increase in unemployment, for reasons which have often been explained in this House. But, when I hear the cheers of the Conservative Party about these matters, I can only reflect that if the Conservatives had been in power and had adopted their own policies, with the abolition of grants and subsidies which has been so consistently suggested by the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph), the misfortune that has fallen upon us as a result of the world recession would have been very much greater and there would have been far more people out of work. As the right hon. Lady knows—I have explained this before—an assumption in technical terms is not the same as a forecast. The Government's policy is to return to full employment as soon as we can.

Mrs. Thatcher

What is the revised working assumption? Will the Prime Minister answer the question?

The Prime Minister

The revised working assumption was published last May at 1.55 million, as I informed the right hon. Lady at Question Time a week ago.

Q2. Miss Joan Lestor

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 27th July.

The Prime Minister

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I have just given to the hon. Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers).

Miss Lestor

In his very busy schedule, will the Prime Minister find time today to contact President Carter to express to him the extreme disquiet felt by large numbers of us over any suggestion that sanctions against Southern Rhodesia will be lifted? Will he make it perfectly clear to him that this can happen only with the full agreement of Britain and all other countries involved when Southern Rhodesia is free and has a democratically elected majority Government?

The Prime Minister

The position about sanctions, as my hon. Friend indicates, is that they were imposed as a result of a decision of the United Nations, and they will be lifted in the same way. The United States Administration and the British Government are working closely together on this. President Carter and Secretary of State Vance are in no doubt about the general position, and, I think, broadly accept the way in which it was summed up by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Churchill

Has the Prime Minister forgotten the terms of the Anglo-American package presented to Rhodesia by Dr. Kissinger, and in particular the clause which stated that, on the establishment of the interim Government, sanctions would be lifted and economic aid would be provided? Where does the Prime Minister stand on that promise?

The Prime Minister

Those conditions have not been utterly fulfilled. There is no acceptable Administration in Rhodesia at the present time. If there were, we would not have a guerrilla war backed by many thousands of people. The purpose of British policy—backed, I believe, by a large number of Conservatives in this House—is to try to ensure that we can bring all the elements in Rhodesia into a settlement that will lead to peace.

Mr. William Hamilton

Will my right hon. Friend try to find time today in which to seek ways and means of publishing in the Official Report the editorial in the Daily Mirror today? Does he recognise that that editorial consists of all the comments of all the Tory press on the crass ineptitude of the Leader of the Opposition? Will he say whether he can recall a precedent when all the Tory papers in the land were unanimous in their condemnation of the behaviour of the leader of the Tory Party?

The Prime Minister

I noted that there was one exception. That was The Sun. Perhaps that was because it was not appearing. But let me say that I think we all have off days at times, and not too much should be made of that.

Mr. John Davies

May I recall to the Prime Minister his answer to the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill)? Is he seeking to say to the House that the fact that a war is being waged from outside a country's frontiers by guerrilla forces means that automatically there is a case for non-recognition of the Administration within those frontiers?

The Prime Minister

No, that was not what I said, and I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman would draw that deduction if he is making it as a general rule. If he is applying it only to Rhodesia at the moment, my answer would be "Yes, I am saying that."