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Prime Minister (Engagements)

Volume 929: debated on Tuesday 5 April 1977

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Q2.

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 5th April.

Q4.

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 5th April.

In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be holding meetings with ministerial colleagues and others.

Will my right hon. Friend have time during the day to have an extra meeting with the Leader of the Opposition to invite her publicly to dissociate herself from the disgracefully, filthily racial propaganda used by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Mackay) in the course of winning his seat in this House?

I well recall that after Smethwick there was a certain shame on the part of the Conservative Party at what had happened. This time there seems to be nothing but gloating. [HON. MEMBERS: "Disgraceful."] I have examined what the hon. Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Mackay) said and have compared it with "The Right Approach" and the speech made by the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) at the last Conservative Party Conference. What the hon. Gentleman said is not in line—and Conservative Members know that it is not in line—with their declared policy, and some of them should have the courage to say so.

Will the Prime Minister find time today to have further conversations with the foolish virgins of the Liberal Party, in view of the total confusion caused in the country by its "Wouldn't say 'Yes' and wouldn't say 'No'" attitude to current affairs?

I certainly hope to have talks with any Liberal Party Member who wishes to talk with me, or, indeed, with anybody else who has something constructive to say, as Liberal Members have done recently and on so many occasions.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the whole House is waiting to hear from the Leader of the Opposition on the question of racialism, which is important to Conservative Members and to us, and that we therefore wait with great avidity to listen to her?

Does not the Prime Minister agree that it is a pity that he could not join many of us at Mr. Speaker's service in St. Margaret's, Westminster this morning? We had hoped to see representatives of the Government, and I am sorry that he could not find time to join us at this service during Holy Week.

I recall, Mr. Speaker, that you invited me to read the lesson, but, alas, I was engaged on other matters. I do not think that who worships in what circumstances and on what occasions is an appropriate subject for questions in the House.

In what spirit could the Leader of the Opposition and the Shadow spokesman on home affairs have attended this morning's service when they have already committed themselves, through the hon. Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Mackay), to ending family unity for thousands of families in this country? Is it not sheer hypocrisy and the worst sort of political vote-catching to assert that they are going to end immigration when the commitments that we have to honour were all taken on by the Conservative Party?

I regret that this becomes a matter of party difference. Racial harmony and the treatment of ethnic minorities in this country is too important for that. However, if it is not to be a matter of party difference, the Opposition must disavow their candidates and representatives who go beyond official party policy. I think that the right hon. Lady has made clear—if she has not, I must do so—that she does not wish thousands of dependants to be deprived of the opportunity to join their families in this country. If she made that simple point, it would help a great deal.

May I make it quite clear that everything that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Mackay) said and did during that campaign was in the interests of racial harmony? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I have made perfectly clear from this Dispatch Box that this was his avowed objective in his election address and in the leaflet, and he had a number of people from the immigrant community helping in his campaign. It is disgraceful that the Prime Minister should attempt to take the rise out of a new Member in the way that he has. [Interruption.] May I, on the anniversary of the right hon. Gentleman becoming Prime Minister, remind him of his broadcast to the nation—[Interruption].

Order. We must allow people to express their point of view and ask questions.

May I remind the Prime Minister of his broadcast a year ago today in which he said that there was a special responsibility upon him to consult the people and to trust the people? Now that he has consulted them in Walsall, Workington and Stechford, does he trust their verdict?

I am sorry that the right hon. Lady did not answer my simple question, which was posed in no spirit of hostility, either to her or to anything else, but merely as an endeavour to get the position clear. We should have it made clear, and I wish that she would restate Conservative policy as soon as possible at some opportunity convenient to herself. I do not instigate these Questions—[Interruption.] If the Opposition Chief Whip took note of these issues, he would realise that the right hon. Lady has specifically not replied to my invitation' that this matter should be settled quickly and simply.

As regards my first year—[HON. MEMBERS: "Last year."] It could be. The year has been a stimulating and exciting ride, but I take a simple view of these matters. The Government believe that they are pursuing the right policy to overcome inflation and to reduce unemployment, and they should stick to their guns. The CBI is attacking us for having too much control on prices, and individual trade unionists say that they want more wages. I warn the country that if both have their way there will be no escape from further inflation in the short run and from further unemployment in the medium run. I can only tell people what the consequences will be.

The country is entitled to turn us out when we have finished our term of office, but as long as we can sustain a majority in the House we shall pursue the policy that we believe to be right. At the end of the day democracy will have its say, and the electorate is entitled then to declare in whatever way it thinks right. In the meantime, I shall pursue the policy that I know to be the only policy that will get the country out of its difficulties.

If the Prime Minister—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer the question."] My job is to ask questions. If the Prime Minister is so proud of his policy, how does he explain that our major industrial competitors in Europe have done far better than we have on prices, unemployment and output in the same world circumstances as we have had to endure?

Some countries have done better on prices, including, for example, Germany. Some have done worse. [HON. MEMBERS: "Which ones?"] A clear example is Italy, but I shall not go through the list. Some countries have certainly done worse on unemployment. I cannot over-emphasise that, in the end, the level of industrial productivity and efficiency will determine the levels of inflation and unemployment, and the Opposition had better start telling the people the truth about that.