HC Deb 16 March 1978 vol 946 cc630-4
Q2. Mr. Greville Janner

asked the Prime Minister whether he will list his official engagements for 16th March.

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 collagues and others.

Mr. Janner

When the Prime Minister meets his ministerial colleagues will he congratulate the Secretary of State for Employment on the excellent statement that he made to the House yesterday? Will he express to him the appreciation of those who represent areas that rely on the textile, clothing and footwear industries, which will benefit from the job release scheme? Although we express our anxiety about the continuing high level of unemployment, we also express our appreciation of the prodigious efforts that the Government are making.

Mr. Skinner

Give him a little job.

The Prime Minister

If my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) does not take care, I shall offer him one. I think that the House as a whole, whatever views it takes about individual matters, will conclude, as it did yesterday, that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment has devised a number of very important schemes, some more valuable than others, which are having a substantial effect on preventing people from simply going on the dole. Taking the TES as a classic case, one should note that in the North-West and in the clothing and footwear industries it has made a remarkable difference to the workers.

Mrs. Bain

Will the Prime Minister today, before his visit to Scotland, elaborate on his statement in the Glasgow Herald this morning, which indicates that 6,500 jobs are to go to Glasgow via the Ministries of Defence and Overseas Development? Will he give us a firm time for this and indicate how many of the staff will be recruited locally?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Lady is right to say that a substantial number of jobs will be going from England to Scotland because of regional dispersal policy. I remind her that if Scotland were independent it is doubtful whether the same process would take place.

Mr. Hoyle

Will my right hon. Friend, whilst accepting my congratulations on the TES, note the growing concern about unemployment in the North-West and in manufacturing industries particularly? Does this not point to the need for planning agreements, and should we not make them compulsory?

The Prime Minister

I believe that planning agreements would have a valuable effect in bringing workers into a full knowledge of the proposals and plans of the industries in which they work and in allowing them to make comments on the plans and, in certain circumstances, to influence decisions. However, I cannot say that that would have the result of reducing unemployment. It is worth noting that at present unemployment is going down. It has fallen for five months in succession and I believe that that trend may well continue. I believe, too, that the number of vacancies is going up. Unemployment is still far too high, and that is one reason why I am pursuing contacts with leaders throughout the Western world to see whether we can get concerted action to overcome the problem of the more than 16 million people now out of work in OECD countries.

Mr. Prior

Is it not an extraordinary state of affairs when the Prime Minister can be congratulated by his Back Benchers on achieving a state of unemployment of 1.4 million, with another 400,000 people having to be subsidised in jobs—a potential total of 1.9 million unemployed under a Government who talked about "Back to Work with Labour"?

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

The Prime Minister

I do not think that that is a matter for congratulation, but those who cheer that statement should reflect on what the levels of unemployment would be if subsidies were abolished, if grants were done away with, and if the whole policy of the Conservative Party of cutting public expenditure even more were carried out. We should be talking then about 3 million unemployed.

Q3. Mr. Brotherton

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 16th March.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Member to the reply which I have just given to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner).

Mr. Brotherton

Will the Prime Minister explain to the House his Government's cowardly and craven failure to instruct the Permanent Representative at the United Nations, Mr. Ivor Richard, to veto the Security Council resolution on Rhodesia last Monday?

The Prime Minister

That has been explained, but I shall try to instruct the hon. Gentleman again. We believe that the Anglo-American plan offers the best opportunity of bringing in the Patriotic Front, which, as the Leader of the Opposition said recently, is important, and will be the best way of solving this problem. We do not believe that the present plan as it stands and as it has been conceived internally is likely to achieve that end. For that reason, therefore, although we think it is an important step forward, we did not think it right to veto it in the Security Council and we are continuing to work to bring the parties together.

Mr. Radice

Is my right hon. Friend aware that we on the Labour Benches welcome his initiative on the world economy, but does he agree that we need a wide-ranging package to tackle the very difficult problems of international growth, international trade, international monetary stability and international liquidity?

The Prime Minister

For about 18 months I have been endeavouring to get other world leaders to see the necessity for common action in this area, and I believe that there are now growing signs of a desire to take common action. It is my ambition to see whether we can construct a plan which would be based on the approaches of all countries in time for the July Summit in Bonn. The world needs not only the series of measures that my hon. Friend has described but a feeling that the world's major economies are taking a grip on the problems, so that confidence can grow. There is a necessity for that, I believe, especially in the United States and in some countries on the Continent.

Mrs. Thatcher

Why does the Prime Minister always blame the world economy for this country's faults? Is he not aware that most of our competitors have done far better than we have in terms of growth productivity and unemployment, and with far lower taxes than we have? Would it not be better to remedy the faults in his own economic policy in this country than to look overseas for our salvation?

The Prime Minister

I try to do both—that is to say, I never fail to point out the need for higher productivity in this country, or the need for greater efficiency and aggression in our salesmanship overseas. But the right hon. Lady should not try to extract the mote from my eye before she extracts the beam from her own. There is a substantial international dimension to the problem of world trade and world prosperity, and I hope that one day she will recognise that.

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