HC Deb 15 June 1978 vol 951 cc1175-7
Q2. Mr. Canavan

asked the Prime Minister what are his official engagements for 15th June.

The Prime Minister

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. Later today President Ceausescu of Romania and I will be signing a joint statement at the end of our official talks. This evening I shall be the guest of the President at a dinner in honour of Her Majesty the Queen.

Mr. Canavan

Although he has a busy day, will my right hon. Friend find time to comment on last night's vote, when the separatist extremists in the Scottish National Party combined with the Unionist extremists in the Tory Party to try to defeat the Government? That defeat could have wrecked the Scottish Assembly. In view of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's description of the Shadow Chancellor as a dead sheep, does not this mean that the SNP is a crowd of political maggots living off the carcase of the Tory Party?

The Prime Minister

I am afraid that my rhetorical skills do not vie with either those of the Chancellor of the Exchequer or those of my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan), but, looking ahead, what we can say is that now, in the light of last night's vote, there is a very good prospect that the devolution Bills will reach the statute book, and that therefore the Scottish people, as well as the Welsh people, will be able to declare themselves, through a referendum, on the subject of the Assembly. When they vote, they will know that there are no thanks due to the Scottish National Party.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

Referring to last night's debate, will the right hon. Gentleman take a few moments off in order to congratulate his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on his desperate efforts to restore confidence in the Government, and congratulate him even further on the fact that he has attempted to rig the gilt-edged market this morning by relaxing £640 million of special deposits?

The Prime Minister

This decision to extend the facilities in the market was taken not by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer but by the Bank of England, and is a technical adjustment made necessary by the great success in selling gilt-edged since my right hon. Friend announced the increase in minimum lending rate and other factors last week, including the corset.

As the right hon. Gentleman may or may not have noticed, this is a temporary relaxation because of the Government's and the Bank's success in selling gilts and it will be reintroduced in two weeks' time. I should have hoped the right hon. Gentleman would congratulate the Government on their great success.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

In view of the remarks made by the right hon. Lady, will my right hon. Friend suggest that she should consult some of the Teesside people affected by the troubles to which she referred? If she does so, she will find that there is no glib answer to this very difficult problem. Is my right hon. Friend aware that for every six instrument artificers trained by ICI at that plant, only one has been retained, and that these men have been going to Saudi Arabia, Norway and various other countries, where they are obtaining salaries of between £10,000 and £20,000, which could not be matched under any pay policy?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his ministerial colleagues are doing their utmost to try to solve this problem, and that the intervention from the right hon. Lady will in no way help towards its solution?

The Prime Minister

I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Thornaby (Mr. Wrigglesworth), in whose constituency I believe the factory is situated—or at any rate a number of his constituents work in it—is very well informed about these matters. I do not know why he should assume, however, that the right hon. Lady wants to find an answer to the problem. She just wants to find a way of having a dig at the Government.

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