HC Deb 15 March 1979 vol 964 cc693-6
Q2. Mr. Temple-Morris

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 15 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 colleagues and others.

Mr. Temple-Morris

Will the Prime Minister take time today to consider the importance of trying to continue a reasonably bipartisan policy on Rhodesia between the various parts of the House? Does he agree that the best way to do that is to give a lead to the House by sending to Rhodesia an all-party delegation of hon. Members who are respected by the House and the nation? That should be a delegation of Parliament rather than of Government. Is he aware that there is a good precedent for that and that many Opposition Members—I hope hon. Members on both sides of the House—request and require him to give a lead?

The Prime Minister

I know that the hon. Gentleman approaches this difficult problem with a view to trying to find a solution that is consistent with our honour as a country and with securing peace and justice in Rhodesia, or Zimbabwe. I have considered seriously with my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary the sending of a parliamentary delegation.

I must point out to the hon. Gentleman that the United States Congress is not sending a congressional delegation. It is sending observers from outside Congress. I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House who are able to go to Rhodesia will make a visit during the elections. The Government will be ready to facilitate such a visit. However, I could not recommend the House to make it an official visit. If the House were to do so, the impact of the visit in the rest of Africa would be totally misunderstood. As it is clear that the elections will solve nothing, I regret to say, the best solution is that they should lead in due course to internationally supervised elections in which the whole of the people take part, including those now fighting outside Rhodesia.

Mr. George Cunningham

In view of the ill-founded criticisms of the Prime Minister levelled today by the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) about European agriculture, will my right hon. Friend find time to read, and preferably get an actual tape of the speech made yesterday morning by Mr. Gundelach in the European Parliament, when he strongly attacked the present operation of the agricultural policy, in terms that are perfectly comparable with anything that the Prime Minister has said?

The Prime Minister

I shall be glad to read that speech. I had noted that Mr. Gundelach had made such a speech and that support is also coming from Germany for that view. I do not think that the majority, including those who say that I used abrasive language, have really read what I said. I shall be happy to put a copy of my comments in the Library. I wrote out the text carefully beforehand. If it is put in the Library and is read, perhaps we shall have more accurate comments on the language, the tone, the nature of it, the logic of it and the forceful and overwhelming persuasion that it carries.

Mrs. Thatcher


Mr. Kinnock

The tin goddess.

Mrs. Thatcher

Will the Prime Minister confirm or deny a report which I understand is on the Tape that, as a result of the Cabinet meeting this morning, a decision has been taken to lay the orders consequent upon the referendums a fortnight ago? Will he say when he intends to give time for the House to vote on those orders? Will that be before the end of the month?

The Prime Minister

I can confirm that after the Cabinet meeting I authorised a statement that the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Secretary of State for Wales would lay orders for the repeal of the two Acts next week. At the same time a statement will be made. I ask the right hon. Lady to await that statement.

Mr. Radice

Has my right hon. Friend noticed the similarities between the economic and industrial policies of the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition and those of M. Barre in France that are causing such social unrest? Does he agree that the confrontation that occurred under the Conservative Administration would be disastrous if it were to recur?

The Prime Minister

I think that the economic policies that are being followed in Western democracies, including those that make up the Community, are leading to tensions. I do not exempt Britain from those tensions. We have had serious tensions during the winter. The major problem of how to overcome inflation, reinstate growth and reduce unemployment is something that faces us all.

Mr. George Gardiner

Further to the Prime Minister's reply to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, will he acknowledge that it was not his Government or the Opposition Front Bench that insisted on devolution referendums in the first place, but the House of Commons? Furthermore, will he acknowledge that it was not his Government nor the Opposition Front Bench that first insisted on a 40 per cent. safeguard, but the House of Commons? When will he fulfil his duty to the House and allow it to reach a conclusion on the matter, preferably before the end of the month?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the information that he has conveyed. Perhaps he will be kind enough to await the statement next week.

Miss Joan Lestor

Will my right hon. Friend try to find time today to meet his colleagues in the Foreign Office and the Department of Trade and infect them with his vigorous and abrasive persuasion in relation to the recent report on codes of practice for EEC firms in South Africa, which fall far short of anything recommended by the Labour Party and by statements of the British Government?

The Prime Minister

I shall have that matter investigated. I shall convey what my hon. Friend has said to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and ask him to get in touch with her.

Q3. Mr. Pattie

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his engagements for Thursday 15 March.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply which I have just given to the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris).

Mr. Pattie

In view of today's appalling figures for manufacturing production, which are the worst for a decade, how does the Prime Minister account for this latest failure in his industrial strategy?

The Prime Minister

January was a bad month. I do not know why Opposition hon. Members should laugh at the fact that it was a bad month for manufacturing production. We all live in the same country, do we not? There is no occasion for gloating because of the affairs of January. There was a combination of a substantial strike, as the hon. Gentleman knows, and pretty terrible weather. I expect to see a substantial recovery in the index during later months.

Mr. Donald Stewart

Bearing in mind that 30 years ago more than 2 million Scots voted in favour of some form of Scottish Government, that in October 1974 every political party in Scotland came out in favour of a Scottish Assembly and that there was a majority in favour of such an Assembly in the referendum, will the Prime Minister give instructions to lay the order today? In addition, may we have a firm date next week for a debate?

The Prime Minister

I note what the right hon. Gentleman says. As I requested, we have had a period of reflection, and now we must proceed to a period of discussion.

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