HC Deb 25 March 1982 vol 20 cc1083-8
Q1. Mr. Alton

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 25 March.

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 have further meetings later today. This evening I shall attend a reception at Buckingham Palace for winners of The Queen's Award for Export and Technology.

Mr. Alton

Has the Prime Minister had time to consider the statement that was made at the end of the discussions between her right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence and other NATO chiefs in America to the effect that the contracts that were to have been awarded to British firms involved in the Trident contract may not now go to British workers? Will she comment on that, in view of the fact that she previously said that the work would go to British workers?

The Prime Minister

A great many jobs in connection with Trident will come to Britain, particularly at the peak of the programme, when there will be about 20,000 jobs. Of course, the submarines and the warheads will be made here. It was hoped that we would be able to tender for some of the subcontracting work for the main delivery mechanism. We still hope for that, and naturally my right hon. Friend will press hard for it.

Mr. Kenneth Carlisle

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the great successes of this country during the past two years has been the growing number of large overseas contracts that have been won against strong international competition? Is not great credit due, not only to the successful firms, but to the Government and the Department of Trade, who have co-ordinated so much better the many Government services that help firms; in pursuing these major overseas projects?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon Friend. We have won a large number of major overseas contracts, and that fact owes a great deal to the expertise of ECGD and the Department of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade, and also to the way in which we have added a certain amount of aid to contracts that we could get, for the purpose of securing jobs for workers in this country.

Mr. Foot

Has the right hon. Lady found time today to send a last minute message to the electors in Hillhead, incorporating for their benefit the latest views of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on how living standards fell last year and will continue to fall during the coming year?

The Prime Minister

I have not sent an extra message to Hillhead.

Mr. William Hamilton

Very wise.

The Prime Minister

For the right hon. Gentleman's better and more accurate information, may I point out that living standards are now higher than they were at any time during the period of the Labour Government?

Mr. Foot

Does the right hon. Lady confirm what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said? Will she now tell us how long these living standards are likely to continue to fall? As this is one of the few matters on which the Cabinet seems able to agree—it seems to reflect what the Leader of the House said a few weeks ago, for which he was rebuked by the right hon. Lady—surely she can send the message to Hillhead, so that it can be quite clear?

The Prime Minister

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will recollect that living standards fell heavily in 1975, 1976 and 1977. Real personal disposable income figure rose sharply between 1977 and 1980 by a figure wholly unrelated to the growth of productivity and output, during a time when real company incomes fell by over 20 per cent. That is the point to which my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor referred. One cannot have an increase in personal incomes except by increasing personal output. However, I am happy to send a message to Hillhead to the effect that living standards are now higher than at any time during the period of the Labour Government.

Mr. John Browne

Does my right hon. Friend accept that recent Government action has opened truly vast opportunities in the videotext and information technology industry, both for employment and for real wealth creation? Will my right hon. Friend reassure the House that such great opportunities will not be eroded by Government caution or unnecessary over-regulation?

The Prime Minister

Many job opportunities are opening up. I congratulate the Department of Industry, and especially my hon. Friend the Minister for Industry and Information Technology on his vigorous role in opening up those opportunities. There will be new opportunities because of the private satellite that will be launched within three or four years and new chances for cable television. We shall try not to tie up those opportunities with red tape, but we must consider some regulatory matters before final decisions are made on cable television.

Mr. David Steel

Is the Prime Minister aware that, although she cannot send a message today to the people of Hillhead, the people of Hillhead are likely to send a message to her today? Would she care to add to the education of the people in Hillhead by giving us the latest figure for the tax and the price index compared with when she took office?

The Prime Minister

I repeat that I am very happy to send a message to Hillhead to the effect that living standards are now higher than at any time under the Labour Government. That includes living standards under the Government of which his candidate was a member. The tax and price index is up. If the right hon. Gentleman wishes it to be lowered, as I do, will he please say what expenditure he will cut or what social service benefits he will cut?

Mr. Dickens

Will my right hon. Friend take time today to study today's copy of the Labour Herald, which contains an article by Ken Livingstone? Is she aware that the article is an effort to influence the selection of the next Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis in succession to Sir David McNee? Is she further aware that Mr. Livingstone suggested that Sir Kenneth Newman is unsuitable for the job because his colonial army methods used in Northern Ireland would not be suitable for London streets? Does my right hon. Friend accept that this would be a most suitable appointment and just what we need to control problems in London?

The Prime Minister

I confess that the Labour Herald is not on my daily reading list. Fortunately, appointments to the Metropolitan Police fall to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, and the appointment of Sir Kenneth Newman will be suitable in every way.

Mr. Donald Stewart

Will the Prime Minister take time today to study a poll conducted by the BBC, which shows that 60 per cent. of British people wish to withdraw from the Common Market and that people are aware that it has meant dearer food, fewer jobs and gross interference in our internal affairs? Will she support arrangements to take us out of the Common Market, for which she would have a mandate from the United Kingdom electorate?

The Prime Minister

I have seen some of the polls to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, but I note with interest that a majority are shown as agreeing that the European Community has increased the political stability of Europe. That is a very important prize.

Q2. Mr. John Townend

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 25 March.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Townend

Will my right hon. Friend take time today to study the remarkable maiden speech made in another place yesterday by the Lord Chief Justice, in which he said that what will destroy the efficiency of the police more quickly than anything else is the undermining of its authority by people who should know better? Does she agree that the police can act and operate effectively only it they have the consent and the active support of law-abiding citizens?

The Prime Minister

I certainly read the most excellent speech to which my hon. Friend refers and I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree with it. We cannot just leave law and order to the police. We must uphold them in their actions and give not only our consent to what they do but our active support and help when they need it.

Mr. Joel Barnett

As the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in last year's Budget that one of our major problems was that living standards had risen beyond the growth of the economy, why is the Prime Minister now boasting about living standards having risen when growth has declined?

The Prime Minister

It is a fact that the living standards of ordinary people are higher than they were under the Labour Government. One reason for that, unfortunately, is that there has been a redistribution of incomes away from companies to those who work in the many enterprises. The Government believe that profits must now be rebuilt. That is also part of what my right hon. and learned Friend was saying.

Mr. Lawrence

While my right hon. Friend is sending messages to Hillhead, will she remind the electors that practically the only matter upon which the leader of the Liberal Party and one or other of the leaders of the Social Democratic Party are agreed is that one solution to the rise in crime and lawlessness in the streets is to legalise cannabis?

The Prime Minister

It is news to me that they are agreed on anything.

Q3. Mr. Skinner

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 25 March.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Skinner

Has the Prime Minister further considered the Government White Paper on the industrial injuries scheme issued a few months ago? Is she satisfied with the launching of further attacks upon the crippled in our society by withdrawing disablement benefit from all those beneficiaries under 10 per cent., stopping the hospital treatment allowance, removing special hardship payments for those who receive £19.32 a week after they have retired and removing industrial death benefit? Does the Prime Minister take a special delight in launching attacks on those who have difficulty in fighting back?

The Prime Minister

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman has forgotten the excellent record of the Government in helping many of the disabled. I was asked especially about the industrial injuries scheme. May I remind the hon. Gentleman that in this Budget we removed tax on the mobility allowance, which has not been done by any other Government, and the last Budget lowered the tax for the blind?

Mr. Myles

Will my right hon. Friend consider the amount of aid that has been given to the Western Isles by the EEC, and will she advise the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) that it is about time that he had the courtesy to say "Thank you"?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, but he must not expect the impossible.

Mr. Flannery

Will the Prime Minister turn her mind once again to the 3 million unemployed and to the fact that there will shortly be a much greater number than 3 million? How can she stand before the House with such bland effrontery and say that living standards are increasing when everyone in the country knows that millions are unemployed, millions are on social security and the economy is failing all the way through?

The Prime Minister

I think that the hon. Gentleman is saying that if we want an even higher standard of living—and most people do—we more jobs—and most people do—we shall not get it by remarks like that, but by starting up enterprise that can sell goods and services that other people will buy.

Mr. Stokes

May I ask whether, in the course of her busy day, my right hon. Friend has seen the report in today's Daily Mail to the effect that those who advertised for a Christian doctor have been banned from doing so by the race relations authorities? In view of the close relationship between Christianity and medicine, which has existed for so long in Britain, and the fact that we are a Christian country, should she not put a stop to that sort of nonsense?

The Prime Minister

May I make it perfectly clear that I very much share the sentiment that my hon. Friend has expressed about that advertisement. May I make it equally clear that discrimination on the grounds of religious belief is not unlawful in Britain.


Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)

I wish to raise a point of order arising out of today's Question Time. I understand that it is not in order to use a language that is strange to Members of the House without at the same time providing a translation. Question No. 15 to the Secretary of State for Southern Ireland referred to something called a "Taoiseach". That question was answered, together with a number of others referring to the Prime Minister of Southern Ireland. Members of the House do not refer to "Le Premier Ministre" or "Il Presidente" or the "Bundeskanzler" or the "Shugaban Gwamnati" when referring to the heads of Government of France, Italy, Germany or Nigeria. How can it be in order to use strange language when referring to the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman gave me fair notice that he would raise this matter today. He is learned in the law and he is also learned and experienced in the practice of this House. He knows that the use of the word "Taoiseach" has been a custom here for several years and he has therefore left his point of order a little late. I suggest that we continue as we have done.