Skip to main content

Prime Minister (Engagements)

Volume 884: debated on Thursday 23 January 1975

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements during the recess.


asked the Prime Minister whether he will publish in the Official Report a list of his official engagements during the Christmas Recess.


asked the Prime Minister whether he will list his official engagements during the Christmas Recess.


asked the Prime Minister whether he will publish with the Official Report a list of the official engagements he carried out during the Chrismas Recess.


asked the Prime Minister how many official visits he made during the recess.


asked the Prime Minister whether he will list his official engagements during the Christmas Recess.


asked the Prime Minster if he will list his official engagements during the recesss.

I would refer my hon. Friend and the hon. Gentlemen to the replies I gave to my hon. Friend, the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), and to the hon. Member for City of Chester (Mr. Morrison) on 14th and 16th January respectively.

Does the right hon Gentleman agree that, on the Government's own figures, inflation is now running at a rate of 25·2 per cent. and that a list of his official engagements would reveal a complete absence of any meetings with the representatives of the many groups in our society who have been cripplingly affected by inflation, one such group being the self-employed, who have been shabbily treated by the Government?

Sir, I was asked about my official engagements. I have recently answered many Questions on inflation in the House. The House had a long debate on self-employment. I suggest that it is an abuse of Question Time to ask what official engagements I have had and then to try to raise every other subject. As there are eight Questions tabled on my official engagements, other Members are prevented from asking a Question.

May I ask the Prime Minister a question which he has carefully avoided answering before? Even if the social contract is completely successful in limiting wage increases to the rise in the cost of living, how can that reduce the rate of inflation? Will it not perpetuate the existing rate of inflation? Is it not a reality that the Prime Minister should face that if we are to achieve any reduction in inflation living standards must fall?

The Question relates to my official engagements. The social contract is not an official engagement.

Do not these jejune questions which are asked mainly by Opposition Members indicate that the Daily Express leader writer was correct the other day when he said—

—that we have the silliest and most ineffective Tory Opposition in living memory?

My official engagements did not include the Daily Express during the period in question. I would ask my hon. Friend to show more compassion for the Conservative Party at this time.

As the House adjourned for the Christmas Recess on the eve of what was obviously a growing economic crisis, is it not natural that my right hon. and hon. Friends and the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) who seems for some reason not to be here today—[Interruption.] I am drawing to the attention of the Prime Minister the fact that the hon. Member for Bolsover joined us on the eve of the recess in tabling Questions that were designed to determine the leadership that the Prime Minister was to give us during the recess in dealing with the mounting crisis. Will the right hon. Gentleman now answer the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Lamont)?

It is perfectly in order for the hon. Member to table Questions about my official engagements. He did not put down a Question about the matters now being raised in supplementary questions and I submit that this is an abuse of the House which has stopped the answering today of a large number of Questions tabled in good faith by Conservative and Labour Members who were not a syndicated team such as are this lot who appear every week.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his answers to my hon. Friends' questions are, as usual, long on words but short on facts? Will he kindly tell us what he did in the Christmas Recess to deal with the economic crisis?

The hon. Member is perfectly well aware of the engagements I had, for example, with the NEDC and others, on Northern Ireland and on one thing and another. They were all announced at the time. The hon. Gentleman did not need to table Questions to find out. I have not been long on words. My comments have been directed to the rules of the House.

Will my right hon. Friend please publish a list of his engagements for the benefit of the Labour side of the House so that we can see how they compare with conducting carol concerts at Broadstairs and killing dolphins off Jamaica?

Although in the previous Parliament the same syndicated group put most of their Questions to the then Prime Minister about me and not about him, I have to say—and this is the position—that there is no ministerial responsibility for the Leader of the Opposition.

What on earth does the Prime Minister think Prime Minister's Question Time is for? Is it not intended to enable him to answer such questions as what he did during the Christmas Recess, or does he regard it as being designed to enable him to fill the Chamber with a fog of verbiage?

The fog is coming from these questions. A number of hon. Members on both sides of the House have tabled serious Questions which will not be reached because of the obstruction of hon. Members opposite. The whole House is aware that every week, under the previous Government and this one, an official of Tory Central Office sends out little coloured slips to hon. Gentlemen. It has now become an abuse.

Is the Prime Minister aware that the only abuse of Question Time is the way he is carrying on at present? Since he did not pay an official visit to Leicestershire during the Christmas Recess, may I ask him to take this opportunity of publicly commending those women workers in Leicestershire who have voluntarily forgone nationally-negotiated wage increases so that their firms will not suffer redundancies and possible bankruptcies?

The hon. Gentleman is a member of this syndicated group. The Question he put down asked about my official engagements, not about things I did not do. The hon. Member has now been a Member of this House long enough—

to know that there is a perfectly proper procedure for this, which I think he has used. He can ask me if I will visit his constituency or any other part of Leicestershire or the United Kingdom. It is often done. The hon. Gentleman might do it directly next time and not by this technique.

Is it not the case that it has long been the custom of this House that Questions to the Prime Minister deal with two spheres, namely, whether he will visit a particular place or whether he will give details of his previous engagements, to give right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House the opportunity to question him on wider matters which, because of the present definition of Questions, they are not otherwise permitted to do? What is happening this afternoon is an abuse by the Prime Minister of a long-standing custom of the House. Since the Prime Minister has now stated that one of his engagements was with the NEDC, may I put to him a specific question concerning the NEDC which has been raised by my hon. Friends? As a result of the discussions which he has had with industry, employers and trade unions, are workers entitled to get settlements under the social contract which maintain their real standard of living in 1975? "Yes" or "No"?

In reply to the first part of the question, if it was a question, put by the right hon. Gentleman, I have followed past practice in these matters. Asking Questions about official engagements has never been any warrent whatever for putting supplementary questions about engagements that did not take place or for covering general matters which have been answered by me each time that I have been here ever since the House came back. I answered the second part of the right hon. Gentleman's question last Thursday. I refer him to that answer. It did not arise out of my official engagements. I answered that question last Thursday in reply to a perfectly properly put Question. There was also a statement issued on Monday dealing with this. I refer the right hon. Gentleman to the statement made yesterday by Mr. Len Murray which is relevant to this. The answer is that we are asking people now to show greater compliance with the social contract. That is what the social contract means, and that is an answer to the right hon. Gentleman.

Will the right hon. Gentleman now, on his own responsibility, give a direct answer to the question which has been asked by my hon. Friends and myself? Is it "Yes" or "No"?

This does not arise out of my official engagements, but I will answer it. It is this kind of question that was responsible for the mess the country was in a year ago. Of course it is possible for people to maintain living standards, but this depends on productivity, avoidance of unemployment, the following of our policies and the repudiation of those which brought the country to its knees.