asked the Prime Minister whether she will list her official engagements for 18 December.
I have been asked to reply.
My right hon. Friend is visiting the United States of America.
Has my right hon. Friend seen the reports about the highly successful sale of a wide range of institutions that were part of the National Enterprise Board's stake in International Computers Limited? As this has diversified share ownership, relieved ICL of the burden of a dominant shareholding, and made the Government a handsome profit, could my right hon. Friend promise that this is only the first step in a series of acts of denationalisation that we can expect in the New Year?
I understand that this sale of holdings of the NEB has raised about £38 million. That is a substantial contribution towards the Government's overall strategy for industry, and as such it is to be greatly welcomed. I assure my hon. Friend that it will, indeed, be the first of further sales.
Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm that, while in the United States, the Prime Minister has given her support to the President of the United States in his efforts to obtain the release of the hostages, if necessary through imposing some form of embargo? If that is correct, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that such a step would, we hope, have the support of all who condemn the wickedness of taking and holding hostages? Does the right hon. Gentleman also expect support for such a step from other civilised countries?
The hon. and learned Gentleman, and the House, probably will have heard the remarks of my right hon. Friend in a radio programme this morning, when she mentioned the support that she was giving to the United States of America in this serious and distressful situation. I do not think that I should add further to what my right hon. Friend said.
When the Prime Minister returns from America, will my right hon. Friend show her the article in last Sunday's Sunday Express about the 14-strong Bird family who have lined their nest almost entirely on State benefits? Does my right hon. Friend realisethat many people are gravely disturbed that somebody who could go out to work prefers to stay at home making a cocktail cabinet into which he can put more wines and spirits than the average chap who goes out and does an honest day's work?
There are many who would find a great deal of truth in what my hon. Friend said. Of course my right hon. Friend will look at this article. Indeed, I am fairly sure that she has already done so.
Will the Home Secretary ask the Prime Minister to take some time to reflect that the increased mortgage repayments, together with the income tax and VAT changes contained in the budget, now mean that the only people who have gained in Tory Britain are those with incomes over £20,000 a year, or precisely 1 per cent. of the population? As Government Ministers are always fond of quoting their election manifesto, will the right hon. Gentleman indicate where, in that manifesto, the Government warned the electorate that 99 per cent. of the population would be worse off after only seven months of their regime?
The people of this country will realise only too well the appalling mess in which the previous Government left this country. We need to put it right and that is the reason for the measures that we have taken.