HC Deb 12 June 1979 vol 968 cc228-30
Q1. Mr. Michael Latham

asked the Prime Minister when she expects next to take the chair of the National Economic Development Council.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

No dates have yet been arranged.

Mr. Latham

When will the NEDC examine the shameful and dreadful figures for British productivity and national income compared with those of France and Germany, which were so eloquently reported to the previous Labour Government by our new ambassador in Washington?

Mrs. Thatcher

I share my hon. Friend's interest in that dispatch from Sir Nicholas Henderson. We had been trying to put across the analysis for a considerable number of months. I agree with my hon. Friend that if we want a German and French standard of living we must have a German and French standard of work. I trust that later today my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will have something to say about giving incentives for that.

Mr. Maclennan

Will the right hon. Lady take the opportunity of the NEDC meeting—and the earliest opportunity in the House as well—to expand on her remarks made at a press conference recently about the future of her plans for energy, and especially for alternative energy supplies and the nuclear programme? Is she aware that the House would like to hear that from her at an early date?

Mrs. Thatcher

I fear that if I did so it might take the rest of Question Time. If we are to keep up and expand the level of production in the world we must look for alternative sources of energy and vigorously pursue them.

Mr. Adley

Is my right hon. Friend aware that when she goes to the NEDC she will probably be advised by trade union representatives that all the workers in all the nationalised industries are opposed to whole or partial denationalisation? Is she aware that that is untrue and that many people in, for example, British Aerospace and British Airways look forward to hearing the Government's proposals? Will she therefore find some way of ascertaining not the views of the politically motivated trade union leaders but those of the work force?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am grateful for what my hon. Friend says. Like him, I have not found nationalisation popular among the electorate. In due course we shall present proposals for attempting to have less public sector ownership and more private sector ownership. When we do that we shall pay special attention to those who work in the industry and to giving them a chance to purchase shares in the undertakings in which they work.

Mr. Anderson

As a combination of public expenditure cuts and stricter controls on cash limits is bound to lead to higher unemployment, especially in times of a growing world recession, will the right hon. Lady indicate what she considers to be an acceptable level of unemployment?

Mrs. Thatcher

The combination to which the hon. Gentleman referred would release more resources for the private sector. The private sector tends to be the productive sector. It is the sector from which future jobs will come.