HC Deb 26 June 1979 vol 969 cc285-7
Q3. Mr. Viggers

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 June.

The Prime Minister

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave earlier today to my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Montgomery).

Mr. Viggers

Has my right hon. Friend had a chance today to see the devastating analysis by the former Home Secretary of the reasons why the Labour Party was defeated in the last election? Has she noticed also that about half of the country's trade union members voted for the Conservative Party in the election? Does she think, as I do, that this means that union leaders should think twice before using their union positions for political ends and, similarly, that union members who voted Conservative should ensure that their union leaders know their views?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend, and apparently with the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Rees), that a larger number of trade union members voted Conservative than ever before. I hope that we shall continue to gather strength from that source. They believe now that our policy best represents their ambitions for their own future and for their families, for a better standard of living and for better jobs.

Mr. Tapsell

When my right hon. Friend leaves in a few hours' time, with the good wishes of the British people, to attend this exceptionally important economic summit conference at Tokyo strengthened in the knowledge that sterling has increased in value against the Japanese yen by 25 per cent. over the past six months, and by the fact that she represents the only industrialised country which is almost self-sufficient in energy, will she take every opportunity to emphasise to the other world leaders that what really matters for the prosperity of everyone is the maintenance of the levels of world trade and that a key factor in that will be the establishment of con- structive methods of re-cycling the surplus oil revenues?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend's question is especially pertinent in view of the OPEC meeting today because, if the price of oil goes up, there will be considerably increased revenues which ought to be re-cycled unless they are to have a very damaging effect on world trade and on the under-developed countries. I agree with my hon. Friend's analysis.

Mr. Mike Thomas

Is the Prime Minister aware that many hon. Members, like myself, have constituents who depend on the shipbuilding and heavy engineering industries, for neither of which she holds out any promise? These industries are often located in areas of high unemployment. Will she give some information to the House on the progress of the shipbuilding intervention fund? What is to happen to the shipbuilding industry and the jobs within it? What progress has been made on the AGR nuclear orders for the power plant industry? What will happen to those people for whom she professes to care—those who work creatively in industry?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the shipbuilding plan is under review. He will also be aware that there is surplus capacity in this country, as well as in others, and that reducing that surplus capacity will be a painful process. It is not a process that we wish to undergo but one which the situation means we shall have to undergo. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am afraid that nationalisation does not prevent a reduction of jobs. This must be looked at realistically. We are interested in trying to get new, "tomorrow's jobs", and doing everything to encourage new industries, new small businesses and expansion of existing industries.

Mr. Frank Allaun

If the Government increase the cost of living by introducing VAT, cutting public spending and causing unemployment, is it not both an industrial and a political question? Are not the trade unions entitled to reply with all their force, backed all the way by the Labour Party in the House?

The Prime Minister

As one of my hon. Friends said a few moments ago, many trade union members have indicated their support for the Government and our policies, which will get more money into the private sector where the new jobs will be truly created.