HC Deb 22 July 1982 vol 28 cc527-32
Ql. Mr. Marlow

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 22 July.

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 the House I shall be having further meetings later today, including one with King Hussein.

Mr. Marlow

Would my right hon. Friend tell His Majesty that we agree with him entirely that the Palestinians must be permitted to determine their own future, including, if it is their will, the establishment of a Palestinian State on the West Bank of Gaza, and that if the PLO, as their only effective representative, as part of a package agrees with the right of Israel to exist behind secure defensible frontiers, Her Majesty's Government will do all that they can to help to bring about Palestinian satisfaction in that direction?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend knows, our commitment to Palestinian self-determination is a matter of record. We take every opportunity to press the PLO to accept Israel's right to live in peace behind secure borders and to renounce terrorism. If it would do both of those things it would be a tremendous step forward.

With regard to a State, I believe that my hon. Friend would agree that these matters are complex and that it would not be for us to draw the boundaries of a new State, particularly if one believes in self-determination. Bearing in mind that there are about 3 million Palestinians scattered about the Middle East, self-determination would not be easy.

Mr. Foot

Has the right hon. Lady had a chance today to study the extremely important review published by the Confederation o r British Industry? Does it not call for a fresh statement of policy by the Government? How does she reconcile the statement with the rosy rubbish about a coming upturn that she has preached for almost two years?

The Prime Minister

I understand that the CBI called for a reduction in interest rates. Interest rates have already fallen 4 per cent. since last autumn. It also called for a further reduction in national insurance surcharge, and the cut made in the last Budget will benefit industry to the extent of £640 million in the year 1982–83. The cut will start to take effect in 10 days' time, which the CBI may have forgotten. It also called for a reduction in local authority rates. Many of us would like local authority rates to be lower. I should be grateful to the right hon. Gentleman if he would indicate where he thinks expenditure should be cut first.

Mr. Foot

Will the right hon. Lady accept that one of the most important aspects of the report is that it covers the 13 regions of the country, almost all of which say that things are getting worse and not better? Does she not understand that the report states that the situation has deteriorated since the Budget, which was supposed to make things better? Does she not have a special responsibility for the collapse of British industry and the appalling unemployment figures?

The Prime Minister

I believe that what the right hon. Gentleman is getting at is that he wants an artificial stimulus to demand. Demand is already increasing. It went up 3 per cent. in the year ending in March. The trouble is that too much went in increased imports. Only British industry can ensure that increased demand means more jobs at home rather than more jobs abroad.

Mr. Foot

Is the right hon. Lady really saying that she will have nothing better than that to say to the CBI when it comes to see her in the next few days?

The Prime Minister

Interest rates have already fallen. They would not have fallen if we had not kept a tight grip on the deficit. That is a matter on which we have had no help whatsoever from the right hon. Gentleman. It was the Labour Government of which he was a member who clapped on an enormous national insurance surcharge.

Mr. Winnick


The Prime Minister

The Government, in this Budget, are at last reducing it and are starting to undo the devastating effect of the Labour Government. In answer to the right hon. Gentleman, may I point out an excellent speech from the new president of the CBI? He said that the 1980s will not be a decade of growth for most of us, but of intense competition as the world adjusts itself to the vast overcapacity that is obvious in so many industries. It's a war and … the victors will be the efficient. It is up to British industry and British management to secure that efficiency.

Mr. David Steel

Has the Prime Minister had time to read the full account in The Guardian yesterday of the investigations of Operation Countryman? Is she aware that lists of names of the police officers concerned have been made available to some hon. Members on both sides of the House? In view of the difficulty of bringing successful prosecutions, what other action does the Prime Minister propose should be taken to end what seems to be a network of corruption that threatens to bring our police force into disrepute?

The Prime Minister

I am satisfied that the police are the first to wish to uproot any corruption that there may be. They always have been, because they are the first to wish to protect their good name. I am concerned about the fact that everyone, but everyone, is hitting out at the police at the moment. I believe that the vast majority of police officers carry out their duties magnificently and put themselves at risk so that we may be protected. I would point out that six police officers have lost their lives in England and Wales this year while carrying out their duties.

Sir Timothy Kitson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that about 15 months ago hon. Members from both sides of the House approached the Charity Commissioners about the charitable status of the Unification Church in Britain? In view of her concern about the activities of the "Moonies" in Britain and the fact that Sun Moon has now been sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment in the United States of America for embezzling the funds of that organisation, is it not time that we did something about it in this country?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend has asked me questions of this type before. I entirely agree with him that this matter is taking an extremely long time. I am in touch with my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General about it, but we are limited as to the speed with which the Charity Commissioners are able to discharge their duties.

Q2. Mr. Best

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 22 July.

The Prime Minister

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Best

Will my right hon. Friend acknowledge the dedication and devotion to duty of our National Health Service workers? Will she congratulate health workers such as all of those in my constituency who, without exception, reported for work during the past three days of industrial action and were prepared to put the care of patients above the care of their pay packets?

The Prime Minister

I am happy to respond to my hon. Friend's invitation. The vast majority of workers in the National Health Service have carried on working splendidly, believing, as my hon. Friend points out, that their duty is to the sick, and they are determined to carry out that duty. I visited the hospitals where those who were maimed through the Provisional IRA bombings are having treatment. The dedication of all the staff there was absolutely splendid and we are all grateful for it.

Mr. Ron Lewis

Will the Prime Minister confirm that more young people and school leavers are out of work today than ever before? Is she aware that the Samaritans run an excellent service but that their telephone lines are chock-a-block with calls from young people asking for help and assistance? When the right hon. Lady goes to St. Paul's next week, will she cut out the pomp and ceremony and exercise a little more penitence?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I am always prepared to exercise penitence—[Interruption.]—This is not a laughing matter. I am always prepared to exercise penitence, especially at a service of thanksgiving for the liberation of the Falkland Islands and of remembrance for the fallen who gave their lives to secure that.

With regard to the hon. Gentleman's question about school leavers, yes, there are more out of work. That is why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment has the largest ever programme to help both school leavers and young people who are unemployed to find jobs and training. Those jobs are not found by hon. Members on the Opposition Benches rising with pomp and circumstance; they are found by those who can create jobs instead of talking about them.

Mr. Trippier

Has my right hon. Friend seen reports that 120 people employed by the Labour Party headquarters have been offered a zero pay increase because their employers cannot afford to pay more? Does that not show that realism in pay affects even the Labour Party?

The Prime Minister

I am not responsible for it, but I have just read such reports. Some people seem to take a different view when it is pay out of their own pockets from the view that they take when it is pay out of the public purse.

Q3. Mr. Joseph Dean

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 22 July.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Dean

Will the Prime Minister take time today to study the plight of the adult unemployed? Is she aware that if they wish to take part in the part-time adult education courses that are available they have to suffer the loss of some of their unemployment benefit? Does she think that that is fair and equitable, and will she examine the matter urgently and sympathetically?

The Prime Minister

Some changes have just been made with regard to the 21-hours rule, which I hope have helped. Unemployment pay is payable only to people who are available for work. That has always been so. Apart from that, there are a number of schemes that are available to help the adult unemployed, but I think that the hon. Gentleman will find that the regulations have, to some extent, dealt with his point.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Roy Jenkins.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

In view—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The right hon. Gentleman is entitled to be heard. [Interruption.] Order. The House does not ration whether I call a Liberal and a Social Democrat. This House does not stand for free speech if it tries to limit who will be called.

Mr. Jenkins

In view of, amongst other things, the CBI statement, does the right hon. Lady now recognise that the orchestrated ministerial optimism of the early summer about the economy has proved to be entirely misplaced and that recovery is not on the way and unemployment is not falling?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman will know that the longer leading indicators forecast that there would be a plateau. He will have seen that the longer leading indicators published recently—I think that there are some today—are forecasting a further recovery. He will be aware of the great difficulty with unemployment in the Western industrialised economies and the causes for that. He will also recollect that he was a member of a Government who introduced the national insurance surcharge, which the CBI wish to see removed.

Sir William Clark

In view of the ghastly and cowardly bombings that the country experienced earlier this week, does not my right hon. Friend think that it is about time that we had a look at the reintroduction of capital punishment for indiscriminate murder? Does she also agree that many people in this country have no allegiance to the Crown and that it is high time that we had a look at the position of citizens of Southern Ireland who have the right to vote in our elections?

The Prime Minister

We recently had a debate on capital punishment and I have no reason to believe that the result would be very different if we had another debate. With regard to Irish citizens, I do not think that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has any present plans to introduce further legislation.

Mr. Golding

Is the Prime Minister aware that not only the CBI yesterday, but the Association of British Chambers of Commerce, has called for increased public expenditure to reduce unemployment? How long will the Prime Minister continue to ignore the sound practical common sense coming from both sides of industry?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman will know that nations that have taken the reflationary course have recently had to reverse it. For example, France has had two devaluations, has had to introduce a prices anti incomes policy and has had to cut its expenditure, including capital expenditure, once again. The reflationary course did not work. France's unemployment is rising very fast, its interest rates are high and it is in even greater difficulty over the prospects of recovery.

I am also aware that the president of the CBI pointed out in an excellent speech that industry must be competitive if we are to survive and have greater prosperity. One of the main points that he made was that we must pay ourselves only for goods that we produce and must not put up unit labour costs.