HC Deb 12 March 1981 vol 1000 cc998-9
Ql. Mr. Cryer

asked the Prime Minister what are her official engagements for Thursday 12 March.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

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

Mr. Cryer

Will the Prime Minister find time to consider the reprimand by the Advertising Standards Authority to Saatchi and Saatchi for using misleading headlines? Does she accept that the most misleading case put by Saatchi and Saatchi was presenting the Tory Party as a family party? Does not the vicious Budget yesterday and the ending of the Rooker-Wise index-linking mean that she is turning her back on people with the lowest incomes? Does she agree with her hon. Friend—for the moment—the Member for Horncastle (Mr. Tapsell) that her policies are losing her the confidence of the City, the Cabinet, the Conservative Party at Westminister, industry and, most of all, the people of the country?

The Prime Minister

I should have thought that the fact that my right hon. Friend and learned Friend was putting up child benefit by 50p showed a deliberate preference in the Budget for families. It was a deliberate policy. The hon. Gentleman should welcome the fact that, in spite of the difficulties, we are able to do something for the disabled. Moreover, I should have thought that he would welcome the statement by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services yesterday that there would be an increase of £2 billion for social services.

Mr. Rost

Will the Prime Minister remind the nation and the doom-mongers and critics around her that, if interest rates and inflation are to come down further, there must be a far more determined effort to cut Government borrowing and wasteful public spending?

The Prime Minister

I completely agree with my hon. Friend that one reason why we have to find so much in tax and borrowing is that we previously agreed such a high level of public expenditure. Indeed, the level of public expenditure for next year is higher in real terms than this year. That is why taxes and borrowing are high.

Mr. Foot

The right hon. Lady refers to public expenditure and she referred in her speech yesterday to extra public expenditure and to those who were not prepared to accept the consequences of the Government's action. Can she say whether we are to assume, as others have done, that she was referring to members of her own Cabinet?

The Prime Minister

I was thinking of right hon. and hon. Members on the Opposition Benches, who constantly urge increased public expenditure, day after day, and then attempt to deny the means to pay for it. I think in particular of the right hon. Gentleman, who should remember that every extra pound that the Opposition advocate in public expenditure has to come out of their constituents' pockets.

Mr. Foot

Is the right hon. Lady repudiating the suggestion, which appears, for example, in the Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph, that she was referring to members of her own Cabinet? Is she aware that the Daily Mail says"Maggie Thunders at Wets"? Does not the right hon. Lady think that she has been responsible for the biggest leak of the year, even from this leaky Cabinet?

The Prime Minister

I take up my time fighting right hon. Members on the Opposition Benches.

Mr. McCrindle

Would not the cost of indexing personal allowances have been approximately equal to the amount already paid out under the arrangements made by Professor Clegg and others for comparability in the public sector? Therefore, could not those in the public sector be said already to have received the benefit, whereas, as usual, it is those in the private sector who continue to pay?

The Prime Minister

As far as I recall, the cost of fully indexing personal allowances and thresholds in a full year would be about £2.5 billion, which is about the amount of the increase in pay in the public sector. I cannot emphasise too much that the more that we put up current expenditure, the less money there is for capital projects on which many of us would like to embark. The more that current expenditure goes up for people who are already in jobs, the less money there is for people to purchase goods and services and to relieve unemployment.

Mr. David Steel

Can the Prime Minister tell us of any Budget during her membership of the House that has been so universally condemned?

The Prime Minister

I most certainly can. Does not the right hon. Gentleman remember the Second Labour Budget, when the standard rate of income tax went up to 35p? Has he such a short memory?