HC Deb 24 July 1984 vol 64 cc817-8
Q1. Mr. Hayes

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 24 July.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

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. Hayes

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the NUM is making a complete mockery of the word negotiation if it is not prepared to make one single concession? Will she confirm that there is a great future for economically produced coal, and the fact that we produce deep mined coal at £100 per tonne compared to £19 elsewhere is an absurdity?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct in saying that deep-mined coal is produced more cheaply elsewhere than in this country. I believe that the offer that Mr. MacGregor made in the recent negotiations was very reasonable, and I am very sorry that it was not accepted. The offer that the Government have made shows that there is a great future for the coal industry if it is accepted, with better pay, investment and compensation for voluntary redundancies than have ever been offered by a Government.

Mr. Janner

Will the right hon. Lady give thought to the predicament of councils such as that in the city of Leicester, which was elected and re-elected on a programme of maintaining services for its citizens? Does she not recognise that the imposition of penalties through rate capping is a travesty of democracy and will certainly lead to a reduction in services, especially those most needed by the elderly, the disabled, the disadvantaged and those who are in desperate need of housing?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. and learned Gentleman will be aware, in considering the level of expenditure it is necessary to consider also the interests of the taxpayers, the ratepayers, and those who are running small and larger businesses and who have to provide employment of the kind of which we all wish to see more. Their interests, too, must be taken into account.

The hon. and learned Gentleman will be aware of some of the speeches that we heard during the lifetime of the previous Labour Government. I can remember the late Mr. Anthony Crosland making a speech about rates and saying, "the party is over."