HC Deb 26 July 1979 vol 971 cc874-7
Q1. Mr. Arthur Davidson

asked The Prime Minister when last she met the TUC.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

I met the economic committee of the TUC on 25 June.

Mr. Davidson

Will The Prime Minister sit in with the Chancellor of the Exchequer this evening when he has discussions with the TUC and listen carefully to what the TUC has to say about the dangers of the cuts on the scale that she envisages? Those who are dependent upon public services, such as places in old people's homes and meals on wheels, will be hit hard. Will the right hon. Lady bear in mind that areas such as North-East Lancashire, which she has deprived of intermediate area status, will be doubly hard hit?

The Prime Minister

We are trying to contain public expenditure to the level of expenditure this year. To do otherwise would be to impose extra taxation and rates on people who are already overtaxed and over-rated. The hon. and learned Member obviously wishes that we had more resources to spend, and there are many areas in which I should like to increase spending. The best way to get more resources is to encourage the TUC to urge its members to increase output per person. Until we do that we shall not be able to increase our standard of living, either privately or publicly.

Sir Paul Bryan

When the Prime Minister meets the members of the TUC, will she tell them of the encouraging results of the Geneva conference on refugees, which she initiated? Will she confirm that the nations attending the conference have promised resettlement places in their countries to no fewer than 260,000 refugees, and will she tell the House how many of those refugees will be taken from the transit camps of Hong Kong, which hold more than 66,000 refugees?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend that the refugee conference in Geneva was a great success, in that it managed to get many more promises for resettlement and a lot more money than we should have had without it. It also managed to persuade the Vietnamese to stem the flow of people being forced to leave Vietnam, so it was a tremendous success.

We shall take refugees preferentially from Hong Kong. I pay tribute to the Governor of Hong Kong and to the staff there for the wonderful work that they have done over this difficult period.

I am certain that everyone in this country—and that includes the TUC—will welcome refugees from tyranny.

Mr. James Lomond

When the right hon. Lady met the economic committee of the TUC, did she give it any advice to pass on to ordinary working people about what to do when they receive their 85p tax reduction? After they have paid the increases in rent and rates, VAT, petrol, school milk, school dinners and prescription charges, should they use the remaining 5p to buy their council house or to buy British Aerospace shares from themselves?

The Prime Minister

Strangely enough, I did not encounter any complaints from the TUC about reductions in taxation on earnings. That reduction gives everyone the opportunity to earn more in order to do the very things that the hon. Gentleman enumerated.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

When my right hon. Friend next meets the TUC, perhaps she can ask it to tell its members that if they want to avoid the biggest inflationary increase that this country is likely to see in the next year, when the Labour Party puts its subscription up from £1.20 to £5 they can leave it?

The Prime Minister

I am sure that is sound advice.

Mr. Greville Janner

Is the Prime Minister aware of the human effect of the public spending cuts that she is introducing, and that my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond) was right in saying that the real cost falls on those who can least bear it because in areas such as Leicestershire the authorities are already proposing to close children's homes, old people's homes, convalescent homes, and to cut domiciliary care and those services which people desperately need who cannot cope without them?

The Prime Minister

I repeat that public expenditure for this year is being contained at the level it was last year. Therefore, people are having to pay the same amount in taxes and rates, in a different pattern, and we are also having to borrow very heavily. Those who wish to spend more on the public sector have three choices—to tax more, to borrow more, or to encourage people to produce more.

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