HC Deb 20 July 1982 vol 28 cc207-9
Q2. Mr. Dubs

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her public engagements for 20 July.

The Prime Minister

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall have further meetings later today.

Mr. Dubs

In the light of today's record unemployment total of 3,191,000, does the Prime Minister agree that a change of economic policy would be preferable to her attempt to justify one in seven of our work force on the dole? Does she remember a speech that she made three years ago when she said: There is nothing inevitable about rising unemployment.

The Prime Minister

Provided that we keep inflation coming down—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—and provided that our companies, industries and firms become more and more competitive and produce goods of the kind that people want to buy, that statement is true. However, there is no way of returning to full employment unless we are efficient, competitive and produce attractive goods.

Mr. Ashton


Sir Bernard Braine

Have the organisers of next Monday's service at St. Paul's Cathedral said to my right hon. Friend whether prayers will be offered for the earlier victims of the junta—many thousands of whom included British subjects—and whether the prayers will be for the early release of such people, or at least for some identification of where the bodies of the dead lie?

The Prime Minister

I do not believe that that will come into the service—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Because it is a service of thanksgiving for the liberation of the Falkland Islands and of remembrance of the fallen. During that service we shall remember all the fallen and all of those who have given their lives so that freedom and justice might continue.

Mr. Foot

The minds of all hon. Members are overcast by the bomb outrages that have occurred in London today. I make it clear from the Opposition Benches that while we understand that the IRA has claimed responsibility for those crimes, our view is that no political question in this democratic country should be settled by resort to such pitiless barbarity. We shall utterly oppose it by every possible means.

I was proposing to ask the Prime Minister several questions on the terrible unemployment figures. I hope that she has some influence with the Leader of the House in this matter. Will she give us a guarantee that there will be a full debate on the appalling unemployment figures, the highest ever recorded in the history of this country? Will she give us an assurance that there will be a debate in Government time before the House rises for the recess?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his initial remarks. The whole House is shocked by the bomb explosions that occurred in London earlier today. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will make a statement later. We all join in extending our deepest sympathy to the families of those who were killed as well as to the many who were injured. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that these callous 'and cowardly crimes have been committed by evil and brutal men who know nothing of democracy. We shall not rest until they are brought to justice.

With regard to the other matter that the right hon. Gentleman raised, I agree that the unemployment figures are disturbing. I am not sure what the timetable is for debates next week or how the right hon. Gentleman is placed with regard to Supply days. Perhaps that can be discussed in the usual way.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

Will my right hon. Friend take time to note how pleased many constituents are at the fact that jobs have been saved by the decision of ASLEF members to return to work? Will she note that much credit is given to her for her firm leadership in that matter, which contrasts most favourably with the pusillanimous conduct of the Leader of the Opposition?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. We all welcome the end of the strike and regard it as the first step on the long road back to efficient working practices. I agree with my hon. Friend. The end of the strike has saved many jobs. Nevertheless, it has been a costly and damaging strike from which British Rail and all who work in it will have to make the maximum effort to recover.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

Will the right hon. Lady have a moment to note the delay of three weeks which occurred in commencing the investigation of the evidence that I placed before her and the House on 29 June? Will she recognise that this is a sign of the determination of the Northern Ireland Office to conceal the true context and cause of the Northern Ireland Bill until the parliamentary recess comes to its rescue?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman will know that we received the information at No. 10, to which he referred in a debate in the House, on 30 June. After that the head of the Civil Service was asked to arrange for the author of the note to be interviewed. That was announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. on 13 July. A letter of invitation was sent on 15 July. It is hoped that the interview that the right hon. Gentleman wishes to take place will take place in the next few days.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

Does the right hon. Lady not recognise that present policies will not bring down unemployment for years ahead? Nor is it enough to talk about competitiveness, which is important, but which, in any event is worse than when she took over three and a half years ago. What is needed is Government stimulus in a form that will increase and not reduce business confidence. Will she provide that, or will she try to live with over 3 million unemployed for as long as she can stay in office?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman agrees that competitiveness is important. So do I. We recovered a great deal last year on the previous two years. It is implicit in what the right hon. Gentleman says that we have not yet recovered enough. I thank him for agreeing with me on that point.

Unemployment is indeed an international problem, as the right hon. Gentleman knows. It is rising faster in Canada, the Netherlands, Belgium, the United States and Germany than in this country. With regard to what he said about stimulating demand, he will be aware that the Socialist Government of France has done just that and come a cropper. Real domestic demand in the six months to the end of the first quarter of this year was almost 3 per cent. higher than for the same period a year earlier. Nevertheless, as a result of that increased demand, there was only a 2 per cent. increase in exports and about a 12 per cent. increase in imports. That does not produce more jobs in this country.

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