HC Deb 23 October 1979 vol 972 cc190-2
Q1. Mr. Canavan

asked the Prime Minister what are her official engagements for Tuesday 23 October.

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.

Mr. Canavan

Will the Prime Minister find time today to repeat her sister-bountiful speech—the first thing she has ever said with which I partly agree—because I, too, am thoroughly disgusted with her Government cutting expenditure on housing, health and education while dishing out £1 billion a year to the Common Market? Even if it means our getting out of the Common Market, will the Prime Minister take unilateral action, if necessary, to cut our contribution? Otherwise, she will end up like Old Mother Hubbard instead of sister bountiful.

The Prime Minister

I am glad to have pleased the hon. Gentleman with at least one of my speeches. As far as cutting our contribution unilaterally goes, we must observe the law, and I think that such a course would be outside the law. We shall try to negotiate these things at the Dublin summit but, believing in the rule of law as we do, we cannot go outside it. We must try to get change by agreement.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

Will my right hon. Friend today have another look at the speech made by President Brezhnev during the Summer Recess about the reduction of Soviet troops in Germany? Is she aware that if 20,000 Soviet troops were withdrawn from East Germany there would be 380,000 left, and that if 1,000 Russian tanks were withdrawn from East Germany there would be 6,000 Russian tanks left there? Therefore, was not her reaction in her speech to this recent rather token gesture of disarmament correct?

The Prime Minister

I wholly agree with my hon. Friend, and I am certain that the speech by President Brezhnev must not divert us from modernising our theatre nuclear forces and from making a decision by the end of this year.

Mr. Leighton

I agree with the Prime Minister that we must obey the rule of law, but does not she agree that the rule of law of the United Kingdom is made in this place and that she has adequate powers to act unilaterally if she wishes?

The Prime Minister

The law of the United Kingdom is to observe the edicts of the European Court.

Mr. Renton

Anticipating many weasel words from the Opposition today, and in the months ahead, about the effect of stabilising public expenditure, may I ask whether the Prime Minister has had an estimate made of the extent to which income tax, VAT and rates would have to go up if all the Labour Party's pre-election promises were to be fulfilled and there were no public expenditure cuts?

The Prime Minister

The fact is that expenditure this year, on the same price basis as obtained under the previous Government last year, is slightly up. In 1978–79 the Labour Government spent £69,766 million. This year we plan to spend £69,796 million. Those figures are in the same real terms. Expenditure this year is therefore slightly up on last, which should give the lie to those who accuse us of savage cuts.

Mr. Straw

With reference to the answer which the Prime Minister gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton), is she saying, on the question of the Common Market budget, that there are no circumstances in which, no matter how obdurate the French and their colleagues are on the matter of our contribution, she would bring forward amendments to the European Communities Act?

The Prime Minister

I advise the hon. Member to be a little more patient. We shall try to achieve what we want to by negotiation. I do not make threats to break the rule of law, either nationally or internationally, since we believe that we should have no future if we did.