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Prime Minister (Engagements)

Volume 974: debated on Tuesday 27 November 1979

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Q1.

asked the Prime Minister, if she will list her engagements for Tuesday 27 November.

This morning I had meetings with representatives of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and later with the president of the National Farmers Union. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be having further meetings with ministerial colleagues and others, including one with the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty The Queen.

Before the Prime Minister departs to meet the Moderator will she take the opportunity, which will be the last before she departs for Dublin, to place on the record of this House the minimum shift in Britain's budget contribution that she will accept? Is she aware that every cow in the Common Market enjoys a subsidy of £100 per annum, much of it provided by the British taxpayer? Is she also aware that tomorrow, on the eve of her departure, there will be a demonstration against her expenditure cuts? It will be insupportable if she fails to obtain a cut in our subsidy to farmers in France and Germany while enthusiastically cutting social services in Britain.

I am grateful to have support from both sides of the House for the task that faces us in Dublin. As the hon. Gentleman knows, if there had been greater public expenditure cuts we should have had to borrow less and the interest rate would have been lower. If the public expenditure plans of the Labour Government were put into effect, the interest rates would be infinitely worse and the prospects dim.

When she is in Dublin, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the anger of those who are suffering losses on their lamb production as a result of the French ban, and are facing losses on their apples? The French are flooding our markets with about 300,000 tonnes of apples this season. If necessary, will she gently remind our partners that membership of the Community is subject to the continuing assent of Parliament?

There are two big problems, one of which, the budget, we shall tackle at Dublin. I know the resentment felt by most people over the fact that despite being one of the poorer members of the Community we have to pay a large amount to the Common Market. There is also the long-term problem of the common agricultural policy. That, too, I am afraid, will take a long time to solve.

When the right hon. Lady meets the National Farmers Union, will she ask if it agrees with the estimate of the National Farmers Union of Scotland that her savage cuts in rural transport will cost a rural worker with two children at school £270 per annum?

I have received congratulatory letters on what we have managed to do for hill farming in the latest subsidies, and I have not received many complaints.

Will the right hon. Lady take time off today to speak to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland about the serious attacks in the Province yesterday, when 30 bombs exploded and there was a wave of violence throughout 12 towns and villages? Will she see to it that rigorous steps are taken to seal the border so that explosives cannot be brought in from the South of Ireland? Will she also take time today to get in touch with the Palace and convey to Her Majesty The Queen the thanks and gratitude of the people of Northern Ireland and the troops there for the visit of the Prince of Wales last week?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his last remark and I will, of course, convey it to the appropriate place. I need hardly say how disturbed we all are at the latest spate of mindless bombings in Northern Ireland. We will do everything possible to track down those who are responsible. The hon. Gentleman asks us to seal the border. If that were possible we would have a go. However, I do not think that it is possible to do that. That opinion has been held by nearly every Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and for Defence.