HC Deb 10 July 1979 vol 970 cc255-9
Q1. Mr. Colin Shepherd

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 10 July.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

In addition to duties in this House I shall have meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. This evening I hope to have an Audience of Her Majesty The Queen. Later I shall leave for an official visit to Scotland.

Mr. Shepherd

In the course of her visit, will my right hon. Friend pause to consider some of the comments made on yesterday's proposals for consultation on improvements in trade union practice? Does she agree that the proposals reflect the wishes of the great majority of British people—and indeed the membership of the trade union movement—as was so clearly expressed by means of the ballot box? Will my right hon. Friend not be deflected from her path by the Pavlovian and wholly predictable response of Messrs. Len Murray and Moss Evans?

The Prime Minister

I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend. The consultation document arises out of our undertakings in the manifesto. Those were discussed with the British people while the events of last winter were still fresh in their minds. It was largely as a result of those manifesto proposals that we gained more support than ever before from trade union members, and excellent support in this place.

Mr. Straw

Will the Prime Minister take some time this afternoon to consider the promises that her right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food made on 22 June? He promised a 6p in the pound reduction in the price of butter. Is the Prime Minister aware that in none of the supermarkets that I have checked has a price reduction like this been made? Is that another broken Conservative promise? If not, will the right hon. Lady take time off this afternoon, come shopping with me and show me in which supermarkets this Conservative bargain may be purchased?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend procured the biggest subsidy for butter that we have ever had, of 12p in the pound. I trust that that will work its way through to the shops to the benefit of the housewife.

Mr. Hordern

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, in view of the strength of sterling and the obvious overseas confidence in the policies of the Government, it is time to abolish exchange control regulations?

The Prime Minister

It is our intention progressively to dismantle exchange controls. It would be unwise to go too far too fast. A policy of one step at a time is very much better.

02. Mr. Newens

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 10 July.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Member to the reply which I have alreday given.

Mr. Newens

With the prospect of a sharp increase in mortgage rates due on Friday, will the Prime Minister reconsider her decision on the question of making money available to the building societies, as the previous Labour Government did in similar circumstances, to avert a further boost in the spiralling cost of living, which seems to be the stock-in-trade of her Government?

The Prime Minister

My views on the mortgage rates are well known. It would be far better to wait and see what decision is taken before the Government take any further decision.

Mr. Henderson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that she will be warmly welcomed when she visits Scotland? That welcome will be all the warmer it she is able to announce positive proposals for the implementation of the Hardman report, about which the Labour Government chilly shallied for five years.

The Prime Minister

I am very much looking forward to the visit to Scotland but, so that I shall not disappoint my hon. Friend, I point out that I have no major statements to make on the occasion of that visit.

Mr. Canavan

Has the Prime Minister found time today to read the reports of headmasters having to warn parents that they cannot guarantee adequate standards of education for their children, partly because her Government have chosen to divert £60 million from State schools to subsidise fee-paying selective schools? As those who will suffer most from such a policy will be deprived school children, will the Prime Minister admit that her attendance at the recent International Year of the Child celebrations was a piece of sheer hypocrisy?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Member will be aware, the numbers and proportions of teachers compared with pupils will stay approximately the same in primary and secondary schools. That is the key to achieving good standards of education for children.

Mr. Michael Brown

Will my right hon. Friend take take time off today to read the report in the Sunday Express, which suggested that Her Majesty the Queen might have to receive Mr. Nkomo, who is a terrorist and murderer? Will my right hon. Friend do everything that she can to spare Her Majesty that embarrassment?

The Prime Minister

We have not been advised of any such meeting, nor has our high commission.

Q3. Mr. James Hamilton

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her engagements for Tuesday 10 July.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Member to the reply I have already given.

Mr. Hamilton

Will the Prime Minister, if she has not already done so, read the report on the manpower survey carried out in relation to 1,226 top industrialists in this country, which states categorically that because of the cuts in public expenditure, and because of the curtailment of recruitment in local authorities, there will be no new jobs? Will she note that the report further states that because of the cuts in consumer expenditure due to the increase in indirect taxation there will be mass redundancies? Bearing in mind the carping criticism which came from her and her right hon. and hon. Friends when we had a Labour Government, will she tell us how she intends to rectify the position?

The Prime Minister

One of the purposes of cuts in public expenditure—which has to be financed by taxation levied upon the hon. Gentleman's electorate, just as much as on anyone else's —is to get more money back into the private sector, so that we can get more jobs in the private sector. When that is done we tend to have more small businesses growing, and that is the true source of new employment.

Mr. Beith

Will the Prime Minister manage to call at Amble in my constituency, where her Government have axed a new naval dock project? Can this be the Government who promised to give our Forces the equipment that they needed? Has she any other plans to help this depressed area?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman knows that we have given priority to defence expenditure. As he is against public expenditure cuts, he must be in favour of more taxation on the British people.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Unless the Prime Minister has already done so, will she find time today to telephone Camp David and ask President Carter whether he will let her into two secrets? First, what is the deal that he has done with Saudi Arabia, and will it help? Secondly, has he now got an energy policy, and will it be sufficient to meet the targets that she helped him to achieve in Tokyo?

The prime Minister

I have the impression that they are already rather busy at Camp David, but I hope that the news from Saudi Arabia is correct. If we did our bit in Tokyo to try to depress demand, one of the reasons was to be able to persuade Saudi Arabia to increase he supply of oil. If she has agreed to do so, it will be a tremendous help on price.

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