HC Deb 27 July 1982 vol 28 cc917-8
Q1. Mr. Campbell-Savours

asked the Prime Minister how many hon. Members she has seen on matters relating to factory closures since she last answered oral questions; and how many jobs were expected to be lost in the closures mentioned.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

I have had no such meetings since 22 July.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

As the right hon. Lady's industrial strategy unfolds and more and more companies and factories close, will she take time off during the coming recess to visit not only the winners in British industry, whom she tells us she has visited over the past months, but also the losers in the areas of greatest industrial recession? Will she come to the Northern region and speak to industrial managers who want to know why she has rejected the advice of the CBI, which demanded that £1.8 billion be pushed into the economy, because it knows that that is the only way to get British workers back to work?

The Prime Minister

I have no immediate plans to visit the North-West, although during the recess I shall, as usual, be visiting Scotland. The CBI wants, above all, as was reiterated today, to see a decrease in interest rates. We cannot have that if we add £1.8 billion to the PSBR.

Mr. Grylls

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there was a gain of over 14,000 new small businesses last year after allowing for those that closed? Does she agree that that success is in no small measure due to the changes in the law introduced by the Government to encourage the start up of businesses?

The Prime Minister

I confirm what my hon. Friend has said. The Under-Secretary of State for Industry has been doing an analysis of the VAT registrations and the figures for 1981 show that more companies were born than went out of business.

Mr. Foot

I understand that the right hon. Lady received representations this morning from trade unions and others about the replacement for the "Atlantic Conveyor". Does she agree that it would be a disgrace if this replacement were built other than in a British shipyard? Will she give a clear assurance that the Government will take steps to ensure that the ship is built in a British shipyard?

The Prime Minister

As the right hon. Gentleman will be aware, the Government share the view that the replacement for the "Atlantic Conveyor" should be built in a British shipyard. We have been active for some days to try to bring that about on a reasonable basis. As I said to those who came to see me this morning, the Government are playing a considerable part in trying to bring that about. We hope that British Shipbuilders and its work force will do all that they can to reduce costs, which are extremely important if we are to continue to receive orders. I believe that Cunard will play a patriotic part if we can narrow the gap in costs.

Mr. Foot

I press the right hon. Lady to go further, particularly in view of the somewhat subdued and equivocal response of the Secretary of State for Defence, who did not seem to be clear about the matter. The Opposition do not want the House to depart for the Summer Recess without having this matter properly settled, which wi11 be in the interests of the workers in the shipyards. Does the right hon. Lady appreciate that when she talks about productivity she is comparing our productivity with that of Korea? Is she claiming that on that account we might allow the order to go to Korea? Will she undertake to settle this matter in favour of British shipyards before the House rises?

The Prime Minister

I strongly believe that the "Atlantic Conveyor" replacement should be built here. That is why the Government have been active and why the order was not placed earlier with the lowest bidder. Considerable subsidies have been offered, but in my judgment it is reasonable to have what I call a three-part package: first, aid from the Government on the best possible basis; secondly, as much constructive help as we can get from British Shipbuilders and the work force—and I believe that they are prepared to co-operate—and, thirdly, recognition of the problem by Cunard and Lord Matthews who, I am sure, if we can all work together, will take the patriotic view. It is reasonable to ask all the parties to co-operate.

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