HC Deb 27 July 1982 vol 28 cc918-22
Q2. Mr. Delwyn Williams

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 27 July.

The Prime Minister

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others, including one with representatives of the Trades Union Congress. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later today. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty the Queen.

Mr. Williams

Is my right hon. Friend not dismayed by the decision of the chief constable of Derby to accept 12 coloured youths into the service, without the normal minimum of four O-levels? Does she realise the righteous indignation of young people in my constituency and the adjacent Midlands who have eight or more O-levels and some A-levels and still cannot get into the service? Will she affirm that we are still the party of equal opportunity, and that that opportunity should be based on merit?

The Prime Minister

I understand that the suggestion of lowering either physical or education standards to recruit members of the ethnic minorities to the police was rejected by Lord Scarman. Nevertheless, he recommended that positive steps should be taken to reduce disproportionate obstacles to recruitment. The Home Office is considering the matter and a report will be produced shortly. I also understand that chief constables already have a discretion to recruit otherwise suitable candidates who are below the height limit, but I firmly believe that we should not reduce educational standards for any group.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

Has the Prime Minister seen the report of the Institute of Economic Affairs, in which it is suggested that there might be as many as 5 million unemployed at the next election? Will she repudiate that report and say that it is as much a part of patriotism to recreate hope among young people in the desolated regions of this country who are currently unemployed as it is to support what our soldiers did in the Falkland Islands?

The Prime Minister

The report is not mine in any way. I have seen only reports of a report of an article that was written by one person. The Government are doing all that they can to help young people. That is why we have such an excellent scheme to help them to get employment. Beyond that, we have to keep industries competitive and produce goods that British people will buy in preference to the increasing imports that are now coming in.

Mr. Allen McKay

Is the right hon. Lady aware of the agricultural equipment company in my constituency which won the Queen's Award for Industry—Newton and Chambers Engineering? Does she recall how she congratulated the workmen? Does she realise that those workmen are now redundant and that many other industries in the valley have gone down? Will she send sympathy to the people who have lost their jobs as a result of her Government's policy? When will they see the light at the end of the tunnel about which the right hon. Lady keeps talking?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman knows that the agricultural equipment industry is in difficulty, not only in this country, but in almost every industrial country in the Western world. That is part of the problem. We must get as large a share of the market as we can. The Government are doing as much as they can to reduce costs. The national insurance surcharge reduction announced in the Budget will take effect next week, and that will be equivalent to a cost reduction of £640 million for British industry.

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

Will my right hon. Friend express regret that certain Members of the Opposition have chosen to make sweeping allegations about police corruption where many of us think it does not exist? Does she agree that it is time that people who make such allegations either prove them or shut up, because the police force does a good job and needs help, not blame, all the time?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend. If allegations, supported by evidence, are to be made, they should be sent to the Attorney-General.

Q3. Mr. Greville Janner

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 27 July.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Janner

Is the Prime Minister aware that today 25,407 people are registered as unemployed in Leicester, many of them youngsters who left school a year ago and who have never had a job? What will she do to help this great city, which has achieved unparalleled commercial success in the past, to come out of the worst recession that it has ever had?

The Prime Minister

First, we shall keep inflation coming down. That is extremely important. It is being reduced, but it is still twice the rate of inflation in Germany. It is extremely important to keep wage claims well within the increases in productivity. We are keeping interest rates on a downward trend. We are also making certain that the deficit does not rise, because if it did there would be a danger that interest rates would rise. We are also reducing the national insurance surcharge as from next week. Beyond that, it is for management and work people to produce goods which their fellow citizens will buy in preference to overseas goods.

Mr. Thornton

Has my right hon. Friend had an opportunity to read in The Times today the news of the opening of the new container terminal in the north dock at Garston in my constituency? Does she agree that this is a marvellous boost for Merseyside and that it shows what can be done with effective management and a co-operative work force? Will she join me in wishing them well?

The Prime Minister

I agree that it is a wonderful boost for Merseyside, and I wish both management and work force prosperity in the future.

Mr. Barry Jones

Has the Prime Minister noted the intense disappointment in areas of high unemployment at the announcement about Nissan? What will she attempt to do about the project on her visit to Japan? Is it not an indictment of her Administration that, with so much unemployment, so many people in Britain are seeking the Nissan development?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman will have seen the announcement by Nissan that it has not yet made a final decision but has agreed to defer it. It is, of course, a matter for the company to decide. The hon. Gentleman will also have seen the changes that we have announced on hire purchase, which I hope will help our car industry. I hope, also, that any increases in purchases will be of home-produced cars, not of cars from overseas.

Mr. Tapsell

Has my right hon. Friend noted the growing anxieties that are being expressed about the stability of the international commercial banking system? Before the annual general meeting of the International Monetary Fund starts in Toronto on 6 September, will the Government put forward proposals to the world's central banks to encourage even greater co-operation and stricter supervision of their commercial banks?

The Prime Minister

I am very much aware of that and of the danger that any default would produce, not only for one group of banks in one country, but, by a domino effect, for a number of banks. We are very much aware of what is happening, and the matter is frequently discussed at international meetings. We shall, of course, keep the matter very much in mind and make any proposals that we think fit at the time. It is vital not to lend too much, and undoubtedly a number of banks have been overlending, although not in this country.

Q4. Mr. Dormand

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 27 July.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Dormand

I support my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in urging the Prime Minister to give further consideration to meeting the additional costs involved in having the "Atlantic Conveyor" replacement built in Britain. Does the right hon. Lady realise that there is overwhelming support in Britain for such a decision? In view of the fine phrases that the right hon. Lady used only a few weeks ago about our ships during the Falklands crisis, what possible justification can there be for the Government's narrow-minded and niggardly attitude, particularly when the Tyneside workers met every demand that was made of them during the crisis?

The Prime Minister

The Government have already offered a subsidy of 30 per cent. on the British Shipbuilders' price. That is a considerable subsidy. We are now considering what further can be done. It seems to me to be reasonable, both for the future of the shipbuilding industry, as well as to obtain that order, to ask for co-operation from all three parties involved. The Government are co-operating and will continue to co-operate, because we want that ship to be built in Britain. We look for some co-operation from Cunard, and we are entitled to look for some more co-operation from British Shipbuilders and all who supply it, particularly to reduce costs.