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Prime Minister (Engagements)

Volume 972: debated on Tuesday 30 October 1979

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Q3.

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

Will the Prime Minister find time to comment on yesterday's speech by the Secretary of State for the Environment which threatened public sector workers with the loss of their jobs if they dared to demand a wage increase of between 15 per cent. and 17½ per cent., although the Tory Budget will probably increase inflation to about 20 per cent. by the turn of the year? Is not the Prime Minister aware that many workers who perform a valuable public service, and who receive less than a £50 basic wage rate, are exceedingly angered by such a provocative lecture from the over-paid, militant Mace bearer of the Tory Party?

My right hon. Friend was trying to put across the line —which is both responsible and moral—that national and local governments have to live within the nation's means. To do anything else would be both thoroughly immoral and reprehensible.

Has my right hon. Friend's attention been drawn to the possibility that Her Majesty's Customs might give special privileges to European Members of Parliament? Will she make it absolutely clear that no Member of Parliament enjoys privileges that are different from any other citizen of this country? Will she ensure that the Government will never give diplomatic status or privileges at Customs to European Members of Parliament or even to Members of this honourable and slightly older House?

I am glad to take the opportunity to confirm what my hon. Friend has said. There are no special privileges either for Members of this House or for Members of the European Assembly. They are treated just the same as everyone else.

During the course of her engagements today, will the Prime Minister find time to attend the meeting of the All-Party Wool Textile Parliamentary Group, which is meeting at 5.30 p.m., in order to assure those Members with wool textile interests that the Government intend to adhere to their election pledges to help the textile industry when it is the subject of unfair and distorted competition?

With regard to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, I shall have to disappoint him. I have a rather busy day today. As he knows, if ever we get dumping it is the job of the Government and the European Community to take swift action.

Will my right hon. Friend take time today to consider whether she agrees with the Carter administration that failure to ratify the SALT agreement will lead to the disintegration of NATO?

I do not believe that that would lead to the disintegration of NATO. NATO is a very much stronger alliance than that, and will continue to be this country's shield into the future.

Q4.

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

Will the Prime Minister give some thought today to the important question of cutting public expenditure? I am referring not to a few thousand pounds to shut down an old folks' home or something such as that, but to something that is now spiralling out of control and towering above everything else in importance. I refer to the monstrous sum of more than £1,000 million that is being extorted from this country to subsidise richer countries in the Common Market. Is the right hon. Lady aware that she has aroused the expectations of the whole country and that everyone will be behind her in going as an "Iron Lady" to do her duty in Brussels? We have seen the right hon. Lady show her mettle in taking milk from school children. Can we hope that after a few chats with Helmut and Giscard she will show no signs of metal fatigue, that she will do her job, that there will be no here or there, that there will be no ambiguity and that—

Order. I hope to call other hon. Members. The hon. Gentleman's question has taken a long time.

and that unless she does some of us in this House believe that we should no longer sign the cheques?

I rather think that for once the hon. Gentleman is following me in what I have said.

Will my right hon. Friend find time during the day to have a word with Mr. Len Murray and to raise with him the topic of the protest march against the Abortion (Amendment) Bill with which he associated the whole trade union movement? Will she remind him that such an overtly political Bill is quite outside the responsibilities that he has for the pay and working conditions of his members, and that it has aroused considerable anxiety of conscience among many ordinary Christian trade unionists who do not like to be associated with this subject?

I very much agree with what my hon. Friend has said. This matter has always been thought of as one for us each individually, and not one on which one can commit other people.

Since the right hon. Lady is the first woman Prime Minister that this country has had, will she find time today to explain to all those women who are lawfully settled here, but who were not born here, why they will now be treated as second class citizens and be the victims of both sex and race discrimination under the new proposals?

As the hon. Lady knows, during the election campaign we made perfectly clear exactly what kind of action we would take and we are standing by that promise.

Q5.

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

Will my right hon. Friend take time to consider the disgraceful political game that is being played by some Labour-controlled authorities in connection with the Government's economic policy? Is she aware that councils such as Lothian regional council in Scotland, while threatening to put up rates and cut social services such as home helps for the elderly, are at the same time handing out sums such as £280,000 to build an escalator in a British Rail station?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the example that he has given. I hope that all ratepayers who are faced with greatly increased rate demands will look carefully to see exactly where their local authorities are spending the vast sums of money at their disposal.

If the right hon. Lady is prepared to ignore the report of the CBI to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) has referred, has she read the account of the meeting between the British Institute of Management and the Chancellor of the Exchequer this week in which the institute not only fully endorsed the report of the CBI but pointed out that the right hon. Lady's financial measures since the election run the risk of leaving managers worse off and with lower incentives than they had before? What has she to say about that?

I have not the slightest shadow of doubt that if it came to choosing between supporting me or the right hon. Gentleman both the CBI and the British Institute of Management would continue to support me.

Will my right hon. Friend take time off today to read the recently published report by the National Federation of Self-Employed and Small Businesses, entitled "An inspector at the door", which details 252 different powers of entry into private homes and business premises enjoyed by 201 Government inspectors? Will she not agree now to hold a detailed inquiry into every one of the powers of entry, and also consider having a code of practice as to the methods of investigation to be used in the name of the State?

I have seen that report. It is a very valuable one. We must take it very seriously and look at it with a view to finding a means of reducing the numbers of occasions upon which inspectors can demand entry.

The hon. Gentleman has given me notice that he wishes to raise a point of order. It is customary to leave points of order until after a statement.