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Prime Minister (Engagements)

Volume 931: debated on Tuesday 3 May 1977

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Q4.

asked the Prime Minister, if he will list his public engagements for 3rd May.

Q5.

Q6.

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his engagements for 3rd May.

In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be holding meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty The Queen.

Has the right hon. Gentleman had time to consider whether the proposed visit by the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office to Mozambique for the purposes as announced is in the best interests of a settlement in Rhodesia?

Yes, I have had time to consider this matter since I saw the reports in the newspapers, and I am convinced that it is an excellent and sensible thing to do. Indeed, a large number of our allies are sending delegations. I believe that 40 countries will be represented, including the Federal Republic of Germany, Canada, the United States and many others, as well as the United Kingdom. It is not necessary, in order to go to such a conference, to agree with all that is said there, but as Britain has to play such a large part in the settlement of these affairs it is important that the Minister of State should go to put our point of view and to make sure that it is fully understood.

Will the right hon. Gentleman be seeking an early meeting, or making arrangements today to seek an early meeting, with representatives of smaller businesses and the self-employed, or does he think that they do not have a part to play in the future well-being of the country?

That is one of those generalised questions to which one can only give a generalised reply. If the hon. Gentleman would do me the courtesy of studying my speeches, he would find a number of references to this matter. In my industrial tours and in visits to large cities I have been very concerned to find that when some of these large cities' plans take effect and small businesses, perhaps operating at cheap rents and in not very good accommodation, are cleared out, their owners take their compensation and never set up again.

The place of the small business in the community is vital. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is paying particular attention to this matter. I believe that he is sending out—I had better speak carefully; I know that is he considering doing so—some fresh advice to local authorities on this matter to try to preserve the environment in which a small business can flourish.

The Prime Minister said that he would see the Queen this evening. In view of the Ashfield by-election result, will he ask her to dissolve Parliament?

If I have any announcement to make to that effect, I promise the hon. Member that I will not make it in reply to a supplementary question. In order to allay the hon. Member's anxieties, I assure him that this is the normal audience that the Prime Minister has with the Queen every week when Parliament is in session. It is of no further and no less significance than that.

When the Prime Minister studies his other papers later this evening, will he make due preparation for the meeting later this week with other world leaders? Will he give us an assurance that he will take the lead in discussions about nuclear power developments in this country and elsewhere in the world, and about the reprocessing of nuclear materials? Will he insist in these discussions that Britain has a chance to appoint the Chairman of the International Atomic Energy Authority? Should not due consideration be given to the expert committees that now exist, which are confident that there is a way in which nuclear materials can be safely reprocessed? Is it possible for us to come to a decision on the construction of the fast breeder reactor? The world needs such a reactor if we are to guarantee that the poorer peoples of the world will be fed adequately by the end of this century.

I have no doubt that the question of nuclear policy will surface at the Summit. However, there are other important questions to be discussed, including the possible rate of growth of the world economies over the next two years and unemployment. These questions are very important in the short run. We need a very careful period of discussion with the United States about the whole question of reprocessing and the proposals that it has put forward. The Government are giving urgent consideration to our policy on the fast breeder reactor and on future construction. I agree with the general drift of my hon. Friend's question, that with the growing shortage of fossil fuels over the next 20 to 30 years it would be closing our eyes entirely to ignore the development of the nuclear age. The world must be ready to move into the nuclear age if there is to be a continuation of the kind of industrial societies that we have today. But this must be done with great care because of the awful potential dangers that exist.

Will the Prime Minister assure us that when the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office goes to Mozambique he will make it clear to all those attending that conference that the Government utterly reject the use of force in settling the problems of Southern Africa? Will he tell them that the British Government want to see a stark reduction in guerrilla activity which is escalating in Southern Africa at present?

The position of the Government has never been in doubt. We have always said that we would give humanitarian and other aid to liberation movements, but we have never supported the use of arms. That is why we are doing our best to get a negotiated settlement, and we are not giving any arms assistance. The Foreign Secretary has pointed out more than once that, whatever our views may be on this matter, the guerrilla war goes on. I do not believe that any words by us will stop it. The only way it can be stopped is to get a settlement in Rhodesia that will ensure that there is majority rule for the people of that country.