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Prime Minister (Engagements)

Volume 976: debated on Tuesday 20 November 1979

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asked the Prime Minister whether she will list her official engagements for 20 December.

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and later I attended the memorial service at St. Paul's Cathedral for Earl Mountbatten and those who died with him. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be having further meetings with ministerial colleagues and others.

At this festive season and on the eve of the one-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Joseph Stalin, what message can my right hon. Friend send to the moderates in the Bristol, South-East Labour Party who, according to the Daily Mail today, are anxious to divest themselves of the Marxists in their midst?

Will the Prime Minister reconsider the decision to proceed with missiles before they are deployed? Apart from entangling America in the defence of Europe, will not they have exactly the converse effect, of further entangling Europe in the defence of America?

The answer is "No, Sir" Weakness has never been a defence for any country.

Now that the Attorney-General has told the House that there are to be no criminal proceedings arising from the Bingham report, when will the Cabinet come to a conclusion about what to do concerning the decision of the House in February, on a free vote, that there should be a special inquiry into these matters?

It is not our intention to go ahead with any further inquiry. We believe that now, on the eve of signing the Rhodesia ceasefire, it is a time of reconciliation.

Will my right hon. Friend some time today read the leader in the Daily Mail about the extravagances of London Transport? Will she take every possible occasion to instruct people in the public service industries that they have a duty to be prudent with the taxpayers' money?

I have seen reports in the press about some alleged extravagances. I am quite certain that the present leadership of the GLC will root them out, if there are any, and will take rapid measures to see that London Transport becomes both economical and efficient.

Will the Prime Minister resist the pressure to block Iran's funds in the United Kingdom? Is she aware that it is acceptable to take such action as a result of a decision by the United Nations Security Council, or of action in the courts in this country, but that it would do great harm to Britain's financial position if we were to block Iran's deposits in this country and prevent it from obtaining its money which is held here on deposit in banks?

As I have replied in the House before, I am advised that the law at present would not permit us to block Iranian assets in this country for a political purpose.


On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, answering the Leader of the Liberal Party, the Prime Minister referred to a decision of Cabinet about an inquiry into the circumstances in which the Bingham report came about, an inquiry into the conduct of Ministers and civil servants. That decision is a reversal of a decision of this House and surely it merits a statement to the House to enable us to question the Prime Minister about the circumstances of the decision.

:The hon. Gentleman has long experience. He knows that that is not a matter for me and that it is not a point of order.


asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 20 December.

Bearing in mind that the majority of people in the country, in the trade unions and in the Labour Party, support the Government's proposals on employment, does my right hon. Friend agree that the hysterical reaction of some union bosses to these proposals is a denial of the leadership that they claim to offer?

I believe that the vast majority of people in this country, including the vast majority of trade unionists, support the Government's measures that were brought forward in the recent Employment Bill. I believe that there is a new, healthy attitude prevailing, which augurs well for the future.

If the right hon. Lady believes that the people of this country support her policies, may I ask whether she has looked recently at the fact that prices are going up faster than ever before and faster than earnings? Has she considered that unemployment is rising again? Does she know that mortgage interest rates are at a record level? Does she understand that we are to be told that those who are out of jobs are, from now on, to have their sick pay taxed and their unemployment benefit cut? Will she please tell me where all that is to be found in the Conservative Party manifesto?

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would care to read the analyses of some of these factors in some of today's publications. The Bank of England Quarterly Bulletin points out that any recession which may now be in prospect stems largely from causes lying well back in the past.

If the right hon. Lady cannot answer the last question will she tell us where she proposed in her manifesto that rail fares were to be increased and that prescription charges were to go up by 250 per cent.? Does she not now feel that she is responsible for grossly misleading the British people?

If I may respectfully say so, that hardly seems a strong question. I hardly think that the right hon. Gentleman included in his previous manifesto that his Government would preside over a record rise in the retail price index, record levels of unemployment and record borrowing.

Order. Before I wish the House a merry Christmas, I remind hon. Members that I have called the Leader of the Opposition.

We are beginning to understand that the right hon. Lady does not like answering these questions. If she looks at the record—since she is referring to it in her attempt to evade answering my last question—she will see that inflation was 7·4 per cent. just over a year ago. It is now 17·4 per cent. She will also see that unemployment went down by 100,000 during the last year of the Labour Government. It has gone up by 30,000 in the last three months, and under her Administration the British people can look forward to a pretty miserable 1980.

May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that during the first six months of the last Labour Government the standard rate of income tax rose from 30 per cent. to 33 per cent. and that the top rate was increased from 75 per cent.—[Interruption.]—to 83 per cent.

During the first six months of the Conservative Government income tax was reduced from 33p to 30p in the pound and the top rate of income tax was reduced from—[Interruption.]—83 per cent. to 60 per cent.

Order. Right hon. and hon. Members must remember where they are. The very basis of our House is that an hon. Member has the right to say something that other people do not want to hear.

May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that he started with 600,000 unemployed and he jolly well nearly doubled or trebled that figure. Finally, Mr. Speaker, may I wish you "glad tidings of comfort and joy".

Mr. Speaker, I was rising to offer you, from this side of the House, good tidings and greetings, which is much more than the British people can expect from the Government.