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Prime Minister (Engagements)

Volume 972: debated on Tuesday 30 October 1979

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Q1.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 30 October.

In addition to my duties in this House, I shall have meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty the Queen. Later tonight I shall preside at a dinner in honour of Premier Hua.

After all the hopes that she raised during the general election campaign that she would be successful in significantly reducing Britain's contribution to the EEC budget, does the Prime Minister accept today that she will have failed miserably if she does not return from the Dublin summit with a reduction of at least £750 million in this country's contribution?

I think that it is most unwise to put a figure in advance on anything that we hope to get out of Dublin. We are going for a broad balance between contributions and benefits, a broad balance in our net contribution.

In her meetings with ministerial colleagues today, will the Prime Minister direct them that announcements of Government policy should be made to this House and not to private meetings of the Conservative Party, especially when they are of a discriminatory nature on grounds of both sex and race, as yesterday's announcement was?

I understand that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary was discussing with my hon. Friends promises given in the election manifesto on immigration.

Will my right hon. Friend find time today to telephone the Labour leader of Liverpool council and ask him whether the decision of his council to pay 30,000 employees to go on strike for a day in support of a rally against the economies in public spending is Labour policy? If that is Labour policy, costing the ratepayers no less than £250,000, is it that alternative which the Opposition failed to put in the debate last week against the economies in public spending?

If the report is true, I think it a great waste of the ratepayers' money, and I hope that the ratepayers of Liverpool will protest vigorously.

Has the Prime Minister seen the CBI industrial survey today which states, in substance, that business confidence has slumped in the last three months, demand and output are weak, more firms are working below capacity, investment plans are being shelved, export prospects are in decline, and companies' cash positions have deteriorated sharply in the last three months? In view of the fact that this is in clear contradiction to—what was it? —the new spirit that the Chancellor detected last week, what is the right hon. Lady's comment on this, and is this part of the state of affairs that she sees in her industrial strategy?

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, that survey was taken in the middle of the engineering dispute, which itself has cost this country dearly in both orders and jobs. I note that the CBI survey indicates that one of the greatest deterrents to increased prosperity in this country is increased unit labour costs, and that is partly coming about because of strikes and pay claims which go beyond productivity.

Whilst, however, free collective bargaining is, of course, part of the creed of the Conservative Party and the Government at present, as well as that of some of the trade unions, and we can see the results that are flowing from it, may I ask the right hon. Lady whether she can give the country any prospect that this forecast, which is so serious for Britain's future, is likely to be dispelled, and whether the Government themselves have any plans to do anything about it?

We stand absolutely by our strategy of incentives to those who are prepared to work harder, and we condemn totally those who wish to take out more than they put in by increased effort. It is they who are responsible for unemployment, and it will be they who will be responsible for losing Britain orders both at home and abroad.