HC Deb 25 March 1980 vol 981 cc1166-9
Q1. Mr. Montgomery

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 25 March.

The Secretary of State for Industry (Sir Keith Joseph)

I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend is attending the enthronement of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Later she will be having meetings with ministerial colleagues and others.

Mr. Montgomery

Will my right hon. Friend, some time today, study some of the speeches, made at the weekend? Does he agree with the Home Secretary that this is no time for faint hearts? Does he agree with the Prime Minister, who said that this Government will not be deflected from their strategy to curb inflation, on which they were elected last May?

Sir K. Joseph

Yes. I certainly agree with my hon. Friend and with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. We always did warn that there was no instant cure and that it would not be possible to revive overnight an economy that has, for several years, been over-taxed, overspent, over-borrowed, over-governed and over-manned.

Mr. Douglas

Will the right hon. Gentleman, if he is studying speeches, reflect on the speeches made last night in the debate on the convergence document in relation to the European Community, particularly the statement made by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury in which he alluded to a further document from the Community and did not present that document to the House? Is he aware that the press is inundated with extracts from the document and the Community has specifically rejected the gloss put on the document by Her Majesty's Government?

Sir K. Joseph

I am aware of my hon. Friend's speech. The document concerned is in the Vote Office.

Mr. Farr

May I first express my pleasure at seeing my right hon. Friend in this position, on a temporary basis? Is he aware of the reason for the postponement of the EEC summit meeting? Will he consider advising our right hon. Friend the Prime Minister not to attend another summit meeting until our budgetary contributions are ironed out satisfactorily in a fair and proper way?

Sir K. Joseph

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind personal reference. We understand that the summit meeting has been deferred because of the obligations of the current President of the EEC. We appreciate his difficulties but we have made clear that we expect an early date for a re-arranged summit meeting. My hon. Friend will. I think, agree that it is essential that the crucially important problem that we are putting to the summit meeting should be dealt with by Heads of Government.

Mr. Foot

Does the right hon Gentleman understand that his reply about the document that was placed in the Vote Office today at 2.30 pm is unsatisfactory to the House? Can he explain why the document was not laid before the debate yesterday? The document had apparently been hanging around in Brussels and elsewhere since about 20 March. Why did the Financial Secretary not produce the document in the debate and say there was some mystery about it? When will there be another debate to enable hon. Members to discuss the full document and to allow the House to examine it?

Sir K. Joseph

I understand that the document arrived from the Commission only at the end of last week, just before the weekend. It has been placed in the Vote Office today.

Q2. Mr. Winnick

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for the 25 March.

Sir Keith Joseph

I have been asked to reply.

I refer the hon. Member to the reply which I have just given to my hon. Friend the Member for Altrinchant and Sale (Mr. Montgomery).

Mr. Winnick

Perhaps next time Milton Friedman himself will stand in for the Prime Minister. Do not the opinion polls and the latest by-election results show quite clearly that there is the utmost hostility to the economic policies mainly associated with the Secretary of State for Industry and the Prime Minister, who are leading Britain back into the mass misery and unemployment of the 1930s?

Sir K. Joseph

If the hon. Member supports the alternative policies he should note that they led to the Labour Party being defeated heartily in the last general election.

Mr. Butcher

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a recent TUC report indicated that the trade unions spend an average of 88p per member on strike pay and an average of £9½72 per member on administration? Does this not support the Government's contention that the trade unions should be more responsible for their members' welfare in times of strike?

Sir K. Joseph

My hon. Friend is quite right. We do not want the number of strikes to increase so that the unions have more money to spend on them, but we think that it is only fair that when strikes are called the unions should bear more of the costs than they do now.

Mr. Alton

On this happy day when a new archbishop is being enthroned in Canterbury, will the right hon. Gentleman take time to express the House's outrage at the assassination of Archbishop Romero in San Salvador today?

Sir K. Joseph

Yes, we certainly deplore the news of the assassination of Archbishop Romero.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Will my right hon. Friend invite the Prime Minister, during her busy schedule, to contemplate the disarray of the West in the aftermath of Afghanistan? If NATO cannot find a common position on the Olympic Games and if the European Community cannot make common cause of lamb and fish, how can we expect the Soviet Union to take seriously our intention to unite to prevent further aggression?

Sir K. Joseph

My right hon. Friend has played her part very vigorously in trying, with other Heads of Government, to reach common ground in constructive and positive ways. Compared with what might have been the reaction a little whle ago on both sides of the Atlantic, there are encouraging trends.