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Prime Minister (Engagements)

Volume 972: debated on Thursday 25 October 1979

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Q2.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her engagements for Thursday 25 October.

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be visiting the Young People's Parliament, organised under the auspices of the International Year of the Child. Later today I shall be meeting the Prime Minister of Egypt.

Will the Prime Minister find time today to reflect on the fact that, in spite of her protestations of concern for the poor, as a result of her first Budget the numbers of families caught in the trap of paying more tax and losing benefits for every extra pound they earn will reach an all-time high of 90,000 this year and that her Government are trying to conceal this fact by refusing to publish the figures?

The hon. Lady knows that the budget for health and personal social services this year is greater than it was last year and that next year it will be greater than it is this year. We have, therefore, given some priority to that. We have to learn to live within the nation's means; the more people are able to produce the more we shall be able to spend on desirable social services.

Would my right hon. Friend, later in the day—one does not necessarily want her to give an answer now to the substantive point—ask those whose responsibility it is to make it clear whether it is the intention actually to repeal the Exchange Control Act 1947?

As there is no intention of retaining exchange control, I believe that it can be repealed by order. Would my hon. Friend please ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose task it is to answer accurately on the subject?

Will the right hon. Lady spare a moment today to congratulate the area health authority concerned on its decision not to close the child development centre at Charing Cross Hospital? Does she agree that it would have been an act of vandalism to close that important centre for handicapped children for a saving of £100,000?

I believe that a number of closures and threats of closures are being made which need not be made on a budget which is basically increased. I hope that people will not consider closing these very sensitive hospitals.

On this anniversary of the battle of Agincourt, will my right hon. Friend attempt to rally the great mass of trade unionists in a campaign for higher productivity and increased production? Otherwise, will not the loss of more working days through strikes this year than in any year since the General Strike of 1926 look like an attempt at industrial suicide?

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. Unless we can get higher productivity and lower unit costs, we shall not get the increased prosperity which we all want to see. That is precisely why we gave such priority to income tax reductions as incentives in the Budget.

Does not the right hon. Lady accept that it is the greatest irony that she should be visiting the Young People's Parliament arranged during the International Year of the Child at a time when her Government are cutting services to children who are deprived, who go to day nurseries and who attend school?

The money being spent on the health and personal social services is actually increasing. What the hon. Gentleman's Government intended to do was to spend £4,000 million which they did not have. It is neither honourable nor moral to spend money over and above the standard of living which one can earn.

Will my right hon. Friend today make a statement about immigration policy? In particular, will she take the opportunity to deny the widespread leaks and rumours to the effect that the Government are about to go back upon their specific manifesto promises in respect of immigration? Does she agree with me that if such a retreat were to be effected, many people who voted Tory at the last election would feel disappointed and that others might even feel deceived?

I confirm that the Government are not about to go back on their manifesto commitments. There will shortly be a White Paper laid before this House by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.