HC Deb 22 February 1983 vol 37 cc799-802
Q2. Mr. Tom Clarke

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

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Clarke

Is the Prime Minister aware that a number of countries are deserting monetarist policies? Will she accept that she, too, has a splendid opportunity to respond in that way by accepting the recommendations of the second report of the Brandt commission? Will she, therefore, offer hope to 4 million unemployed in this country and those in the developing world, who are suffering from starvation?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman will know if he has looked at the many communiqués from the economic summits, their top priority is to keep inflation down and to try to get interest rates down as a means of increasing employment in all our countries as well as making us competitive in goods that we send to the developing countries. He will also know that the London Business School's recent studies concluded that reflation is little help on jobs and that it could result in putting up the numbers of people out of work as well as vastly putting up the level of inflation.

Sir Timothy Kitson

During the course of the day will my right hon. Friend send a sharp note to those responsible for buying the food for the British forces in the Falklands and tell them that we have a "Buy British" campaign? Is she aware that when the Select Committee on Defence was in the Falklands last week it was surprised to find that the apples were from France, the bacon from Denmark, the pork from eastern Europe—

Mr. Canavan

The corned beef from Argentina.

Sir Timothy Kitson

—the beef from Uruguay and the tinned beef from the Argentine? We found some cabbages from Lincolnshire, but surely Britain can do better than that?

The Prime Minister

Having helped to launch the Food from Britain campaign, I shall certainly see that my hon. Friend's strictures are brought to the attention of the appropriate people and hope that British food firms will be urged to put in competitive tenders to feed British soldiers.

Mr. David Steel

May I return to the question that I asked the Prime Minister a fortnight ago, now that she has the facts of the case? Does she intend to intervene with the Allied Corporation of New Jersey to stop the transfer of a profitable subsidiary company in high technology from this country to Germany, with the loss of 500 jobs?

The Prime Minister

I assume that the right hon. Gentleman means the Linotype company in Cheltenham—

Mr. Steel

indicated assent

The Prime Minister

He did not, in fact, mention it. I understand that no financial inducements were offered by the state of Hessen, but, as the right hon. Gentleman will probably have heard at lunchtime, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry is meeting the management of this company to see whether anything can be done. I should also point out that we do have a great deal of inward investment. Indeed, last year inward investment provided some 10,000 jobs.

Q3. Mr. Winnick

asked the Prime Minister what are her official engagements for 22 February.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Winnick

Is the right hon. Lady aware that the information given in parliamentary answers shows that most people, particularly those on the smallest incomes, are paying considerably more in income tax and national insurance than in 1978–79, while the most wealthy are paying substantially less? Does the right hon. Lady believe that a few pre-election tax bribes in the Budget will help to disguise the fact that her Government have been dedicated to helping the rich at the expense of the rest of the community?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman is correct on one thing. We certainly did reduce the level of tax on top earnings to 60 per cent. It was an overdue reform, as we depend so greatly on management if we are to be competitive in future. With regard to the level of income tax and national insurance, the Labour party is always urging me to spend more or to increase pensions, unemployment benefit or sickness benefit. By how much would the hon. Gentleman increase taxation? By how much would he increase national insurance, or, alternatively, by how much would he reduce public expenditure?

Mr. Mark Carlisle

Has my right hon. Friend had the opportunity today to see reports in the paper to the effect that the Labour group on the GLC is apparently proposing to give a grant of £50,000 to the "Troops Out" movement? Will she take this opportunity to condemn it, not only as an abuse of the spending of ratepayers' money, but as an affront to the whole of our nation?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I wholly agree with my right hon. and learned Friend that this is an abuse of ratepayers' money. I believe that it is an insult to our security forces, the army and the police, whose job it is to protect the weak and the innocent—a task which they are carrying out magnificently.

Mr. Meacher

Is the Prime Minister aware that, according to recent Government publications, living standards under her Government have fallen by no less than 8 per cent. since the fourth quarter of 1979? Is she also aware that, contrary to all her election promises, the tax burden on the average family has increased under her Government by no less than 15 per cent.? Does this not suggest that her Government have not only been a catastrophe for the unemployed but pretty much a disaster for those still in work?

The Prime Minister

I note that the hon. Gentleman is always careful to take the last quarter of the Labour Government. If he considers real personal disposable income, he will find that it dropped substantially in 1975, in 1976 and in 1977 and that for the greater part of our time—

Mr. William Hamilton

Wriggle, wriggle.

The Prime Minister

—it has been well above what it was during the lifetime of the Labour Government. With regard to taxation, perhaps the hon. Gentleman would give me a list of the expenditure that he would reduce.

Mr. Skinner

Not doing very well today.

Q4. Mr. Robert Atkins

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

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Atkins

Is my right hon. Friend aware that none of the other parties in the House has any policy for the developing technologies, which are providing new jobs and will continue to do so? Knowing, as I do, my right hon. Friend's commitment to these developments, does she think that even the fourfold increase that her Government have given to these developments—as compared with that of the Labour Government—is enough?

The Prime Minister

We have increased expenditure under the Science and Technology Act 1965 in real terms by 50 per cent. In specific areas, such as information technology—we have to be specific on this, because general increases in Government expenditure will not necessarily help—we have increased it from £50 million in 1979 to a target of £200 million in 1983.

Mr. Foot

Since the right hon. Lady is so eager to clear up these questions of taxation and her own promises in the matter, may I ask how much a person has to earn per week to get tax relief under her Government, and how that compare, with the pledges that she made at the last election?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman has concentratedare on increases in taxation. Yes, there have been increases in taxation for many people. It is absolutely essential. If one is to have public expenditure, one must cover it largely by taxation. I can only ask the right hon. Gentleman, again and again, if he wants taxation to come down, as I do, to say precisely where he will cut public expenditure. Will it be only in defence?

Mr. Foot

Can the right hon. Lady point to one occasion on which she told the country what the tax reliefs were to be and when she said that the tax reliefs would be confined only to the top people in the country?

The Prime Minister

That is not so. The standard rate of income tax was 33p in the pound—it is now 30p.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

Is the Prime Minister aware that the police support unit of the Greater London council is recommending a grant of £50,000 to the "Troops Out" movement? Will she, in an effort to improve Anglo-Irish relations, confirm that her Government have no intention of amending the Ireland Act 1949 to disfranchise Irish citizens resident in Britain?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Lady asked two questions. I understand that the GLC police committee will today consider the grant. As to her second question, I have no announcement of any sort to make.