HC Deb 24 November 1981 vol 13 cc748-50
Q1. Mr. Ioan Evans

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 24 November.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others, including the President of the European Commission. In addition to my duties in the House I shall be having further meetings later today, including one with the Speaker of the Indonesian Parliament. This evening I shall attend the annual diplomatic reception given by Her Majesty the Queen.

Mr. Evans

Does the Prime Minister remember the poster that was used in the last election, produced by Saatchi and Saatchi, portraying an imaginary unemployment queue and with the words "Labour Is Not Working"? Does she believe that Conservatism is working, as unemployment is still hovering on the 3 million mark? If YOPs and other schemes are not taken into account, it is nearer 4 million. What message will she send to the young unemployed coming on the "Jobs Express" from Scotland, England and Wales, when they arrive in London? What hope does she have for the electors of Crosby?

The Prime Minister

Unemployment is rising in Germany, France, Belgium and all the other OECD countries, with the exception of Japan and Denmark, because of the world recession. That is still causing great trouble with the unemployment figures in all countries. As the hon. Gentleman will have seen from the figures today, there is a reduction in the numbers registered as unemployed, and in particular there is a reduction in the number of school leavers. It is small, but welcome.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

Will my right hon. Friend today seek to expedite the meeting between the Attorney-General and the Irish Attorney-General so that when she meets Dr. Garret FitzGerald at the EEC she can put to him firm proposals either for extradition or for some efficacious alternative?

The Prime Minister

What my hon. Friend asks is not possible, but in any event I am not likely to discuss those matters with Dr. Garret FitzGerald at the meeting of the European Council.

Mr. Foot

The right hon. Lady has talked of an improvement in the unemployment figures, but does she not acknowledge that it is only in comparison with the terrible and unprecendented figures achieved by her Administration? Is it not a fact that the underlying trend is, tragically, still going up? Have not the figures increased by a total of 200,000 since she was saying that we had passed the bottom of the trough of the recession a few days ago?

The Prime Minister

With regard to the trough of the recession, as the right hon. Gentleman will be aware it always takes longer for the unemployment figures to fall after an increase in production than for any of the other indicators to start to go the right way. That is a well-known but tragic fact, because there is still spare capacity in a number of industries. Therefore, there could be an increase in production before a substantial reduction in unemployment. Nevertheless, the small reduction today of about 35,000 is welcome. There is still an underlying increase, but it is less than it has been. Of course, we still have to face the January figures, which, historically, tend to show an increase.

Mr. Foot

As the right hon. Lady claims that she studies the figures so carefully and that improvements are taking place, will she tell us when we may expect a reversal in the figures? There has been an increase of 200,000 since the middle of this year. The increase still continues and the underlying trend is still getting worse. When will the figures turn the other way?

The Prime Minister

I always take the advice given by the right hon. Gentleman himself in answering questions on unemployment from the Dispatch Box. He did not give precise forecasts. I point out again that unemployment is rising in Germany and in France, although they have the draft whereas we do not. Unemployment is rising throughout the OECD, with the exception of Japan and Denmark. Tragically, I believe that it will indeed take a very long time before we can begin to get back to the much lower figures to which we have been accustomed.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

As the Brazilian Foreign Minister is about to visit Britain, will my right hon. Friend today make effective plans to build upon the more than £600 million worth of orders that this country has already received from Brazil this year?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is correct. We have indeed received very good export orders from Brazil. I shall not be going there myself, but I am delighted that those orders have been obtained.

Mr. Wellbeloved

When the Prime Minister attends the diplomatic reception this evening, will she seek out the ambassador from the Philippines and express the abhorrence of the British people at the barbaric cruelty practised in connection with the preparation of dogs for slaughter for human consumption?

The Prime Minister

I cannot say whom I shall see this evening. I, too, saw the horrible photograph in one of the Sunday papers and I felt the same repugnance as the hon. Gentleman and, I am sure, all hon. Members feel. I understand that the matter has been brought to the attention of the Philippine authorities.

Q2. Mr. Alan Clark

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 24 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Clark

Has my right hon. Friend had time today to read a report in the Morning Star—not a paper usually noted for its support of the Government—to the effect that redundancy payments are being used to set up new businesses on an unprecedented scale? Will she comment on the report that more than 100,000 such businesses are being set up in Britain this year?

The Prime Minister

I am not a regular reader of the Morning Star. I have, however, read the Daily Star, which had a double-page presentation—entitled, I think, "Adventure"—giving details of people who have used their redundancy payments very successfully to set up businesses. They are to be congratulated on that. I believe that that, together with the figures that I have showing that some 120,000 new businesses are being set up annually, demonstrates that the spirit of enterprise is still very much alive.

Mr. Home Robertson

In view of the widespread speculation about opinion in the Prime Minister's household concerning tobacco advertising, will the Prime Minister give her own views on that matter?

The Prime Minister

I do not smoke, and I do not answer for opinion in my household on any matter. I answer only for this Government's policies.

Mr. Marlow

During their present trials, will my right hon. Friend offer kindness to the people of Northern Ireland by saying that not only will they remain part of the United Kingdom for so long as they wish to do so, but that she wishes that they should always remain part of the United Kingdom and that her policies will be generated in such a way that they will always wish so to remain?

The Prime Minister

Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom and of Her Majesty's Dominions. It is the Government's policy to maintain the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in accordance with the wish of the majority of the people of the Province. That will continue to be our policy.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Will the Prime Minister today take the opportunity to condemn the South African Government for the latest of their repeated invasions of Angola? Will she make it clear to them that the action that they have undertaken is designed primarily to prevent a peaceful solution to the problem of Namibian independence and that if they do not cease their invasions she will take action in the Security Council to impose sanctions?

The Prime Minister

If one country has invaded the territory of another, we should be the first to ask it to withdraw. I make it clear that, as a member of the contact group on Namibia, we are anxious to secure independence for Namibia. For that purpose, we are taking part in the negotiations between the contact group and the front-line States at present.