HC Deb 24 July 1980 vol 989 cc761-7

Q1. Mr. Robert Atkins asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 24 July.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet. In addtion to my duties in this House, I shall be having further meetings with ministerial colleagues and others.

Mr. Atkins

Will my right hon. Friend find time during her busy day to make it clear that she is determined to maintain Britain's nuclear deterrent? Will she also make it clear to those who are interested in these matters overseas that the march planned by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament on 26 October, even though it is supported by members of the Labour Party, dos not represent the views of the British people?

The Prime Minister

We announced our decision to keep our independent nuclear deterrent by announcing the decision to purchase Trident. I believe that the British people are firmly behind a policy which leaves us master of our own destiny. The policy has been warmly welcomed by our allies. It makes it clear that we are resolved to defend our own freedom.

Miss Joan Lestor

Bearing in mind the Prime Minister's advocacy that people should be prepared to move from one area of the country to another to seek employment, will the right hon. Lady find time today to visit Slough which, until now, has been an area of fairly high employment but where unemployment has increased dramatically in the last month and where the number of job vacancies has fallen dramatically? Will she explain where the unemployed of Merseyside and other places are supposed to find jobs? Will she explain, if they move to areas such as Slough, in view of the malicious housing policy operated there, how they will find accommodation?

The Prime Minister

I think that it is reasonable to expect that there must be some mobility and that people should be willing to move to where the jobs are available. [Hon. Members: "Where?"] One has only to look in the situations vacant columns in many newspapers to discover where the jobs are available. Fortunately, the number of job vacancies has not yet fallen as far as it did under the previous Government, although it is fairly low. The number of vacancies reported to jobcentres is only about one-third of the jobs available.

Mr. Latham

In view of the current price war in the high streets and the reduction in private sector settlements, is not it increasingly important that there should be a lower level of public sector settlements and that industries such as the Post Office which reach high settlements should not be allowed to exceed their cash limits?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend. It is crucial for us to get public sector settlements down, if only because the money is drawn out of the private sector. It is to the private sector that we must look for increasing numbers of jobs. People in the public sector who go in for large settlements must keep within their cash limits.

Mr. James Callaghan

When the Prime Minister said in South Wales last Saturday that people without work should move to areas of industrial success, to which areas was she referring? Will she also please tell us what effect she thinks the removal of skilled workers from South Wales will have on the communities that they leave behind?

The Prime Minister

Wales has always been accustomed to a certain amount of mobility. After all, that was how people come to move to where the jobs were. When coalmining ceased in the Rhondda and steel ceased at East Moors or Ebbw Vale, for example the people were prepared to move to other jobs. I was a Minister in the Department of Education and Science and I know that many many teachers came from Wales. Mobility is nothing new to Wales.

Mr. Callaghan

Does not the Prime Minister realise that the mobility of the 1930s left behind a bitterness that has not been forgotten? Does she not realise also that with the consent of both Governments a successful policy of taking work to the regions was started, which has revived the prosperity of South Wales, and that we will simply not return to her kind of policies?

The Prime Minister

I do not believe that it is possible to guarantee everyone a job where he happens to live. I am delighted to see that the right hon. Gentleman agrees with me. There must be some mobility to enable people to move to where the jobs are. [Hon. Gentlemen: "Where?"] There are some 400,000 vacant jobs on the usual method of calculation, if people are willing to take them. There must be some mobility if young people want jobs, as there always has been. [Hon. Gentlemen: "Where?"] The right hon. Gentleman is making a terrible—

Hon. Members

Where are the jobs?

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Callaghan

Will the Prime Minister now please tell us to which areas she believes the unemployed steel workers in South Wales should move?

The Prime Minister

Some of them will move within Wales where there are jobs. [Hon. Gentlemen: "Where?"] That is why some £48 million has been allocated especially to South Wales to help with advanced factories and help other factories go there. Other factories will go there. However, they will not go anywhere if they face total rigidity in labour and embittered labour. That is the worst reputation that any politician can give to an area.

Q2. Mr Bob Dunn asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 24 July.

The Prime Minister

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I have just given.

Mr. Dunn

Will the Prime Minister find time today to consider how best to persuade some of our European Allies that their refusal to take NATO missile bases on their soil will be seen as a dangerous drift towards neutrality, a position that would undoubtedly delight pro-Soviet sympathisers in this country and elsewhere?

The Prime Minister

I assume that my hon. Friend is referring to cruise missiles. Before Christmas NATO decided to accept cruise missiles on the soil of NATO countries. No NATO country has so far refused to accept those missiles, although two have still to make a formal decision to accept them. Most NATO countries already have nuclear weapons on their soil, which indicates their firm determination to defend the Western way of life.

Mr. Donald Stewart

Will the Prime Minister take time today to consider the total collapse that has overtaken the Scottish fishing industry? Will she call urgent meetings with the Ministers concerned to discuss financial assistance and protection, and, in view of her laudable aim that we should be masters of our own destiny, will she, if necessary, take unilateral action, regardless of what the EEC may think?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is involved in negotiating a fisheries agreement with our European partners. I understand that he will report to the House in a statement after questions. Some of the firms concerned already have money left from the £3 million that was allocated to the fishing industry. Others are in considerable difficulty, and my right hon. Friend is considering how best to help.

Mr. John Wells

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of us are very sorry that she is not enjoying any official meals today? The next time that she has an official meal, will she take note that one-third of its value will come from horticultural produce? Will she further take note of the plight of the British horticultural industry? Is she aware of the sedentary interventions of the hon.

Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) during her reply to a similar question, when he kept pathetically squeaking "Holland, Holland"?

The Prime Minister

It is a matter of some relief that I have no official meals today. I know of the splendid work done by my hon. Friend in trying to help the horticultural industry. He will be the first to accept that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has been very active indeed, in protecting the British horticultural industry, particularly over matters like strawberry pulp and apples.

Mr. Alton

Will the Prime Minister take time today to consider the latest unemployment figures on Merseyside, where there is a new post-war record of 107,000 people out of work, which is 14 per cent. of the population? What advice can I give to two young constituents of mine who last week, no doubt following her advice, went to the island of Guernsey seeking employment, and were thrown off the island and told that there were no job prospects for them there?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman asks what advice one can give. We have increased the number of opportunities available under the youth opportunities programme with the object of trying to help young people who are out of work to gain work experience. I hope that those who do not have a job will take advantage of the scheme. Alternatively, I hope that they will go to one of the skillcentres to acquire a skill. Skillcentres still do not have full occupancy. One of the ironies of the unemployment situation is that there is still a shortage of skilled people in some parts of the country.

Mr. Waldegrave

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the 334 hon. Members who signed early-day motion 17 will have welcomed the way that the British Government voted at the International Whaling Commission? Does she agree that the failure of the meeting to take action on whaling enables the British Government to take the lead by unilaterally banning the import of whale products?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. It is nice to be con- gratulated now and then. I am glad that the British Government took a lead on a commercial moratorium on catching whales. We also took a lead in prohibiting the import of sperm whale products.

Q3. Mr. Newens asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thusrday 24 July.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply which I gave earlier.

Mr. Newens

Does the Prime Minister recognise that her policies are not only ruining industry throughout the country, including the more prosperous South-East, and not only in horticulture, which was referred to by the hon. Member for Maidstone (Mr. Wells), but also in furniture and many other manufacturing industries? Is she aware that in the past the growth of unemployment led to an outbreak of Fascism and other extremist creeds in other parts of the world, and that if she pursues her present policies she will produce vast social unrest for this country? Does she accept that the only way forward is for her to renounce her policies and for the country to be reoriented in a proper Socialist direction?

The Prime Minister

The short answer is "No, Sir". The hon. Gentleman forgets that during the lifetime of the previous Labour Government some 700,000 manufacturing jobs were lost, car production fell by over 30 per cent. and steel production by over 6 million tonnes a year.

Mr. Rhodes James

Has my right hon. Friend's attention been drawn today to the fact that the Social Democratic Alliance has announced the number of constituencies that it proposes to challenge at the next general election, and that most of its members are former leading members of the Labour Party-

The Prime Minister

That does not surprise me. I believe that there is only one party and one policy for Britain at the moment; and that is ours.

Mr. Ron Brown

Is it not about time that the Prime Minister came clean and admitted that her Government are a Government of double standards, because, on the one hand, basic social services are being destroyed, while, on the other, record sums are being spent on armaments, which is money spent on killing people? Is it not time that the Government faced up to reality and resigned, so that we may have an early general election?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir.