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Prime Minister (Engagements)

Volume 980: debated on Tuesday 4 March 1980

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Q 1.

asked the Prime Minister whether she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 4 March.

In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be having meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. This evening I hope to have an Audience of Her Majesty the Queen.

Will the Prime Minister take time today to consider the ways in which county education authorities are putting the main burden of education cuts on to city schools and city children? Will she consider how to convey to county education authorities, such as the authority in Leicester, the anxiety and the anger of parents and teachers alike at the cuts in nursery education, the cuts in ancillaries and the mean and dangerous cuts in the number of school crossing attendants?

I am not aware of any such tendency as that which the hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned as far as county education authorities are concerned. I do not believe that they are deliberately putting cuts on the main cities in their areas. I am certain that he will take it up with his own authority if that is the case there. As for the general education budget, I can only remind him that the cost per pupil in the education service will continue to rise and be met under the education budget.

Will my right hon. Friend remind the country, British management and the trade unions, that orders equal production equals jobs equals profit equals investment equals more jobs, and that that is the basis of the return to a healthy industrial economy?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for putting it so brilliantly and so succinctly. I wholly endorse what he says.

Is the Prime Minister and her party pleased with Mr. Mugabe's decisive election victory? Would it not be appropriate if the right hon. Lady publicly warned the South African authorities not to interfere in any way with the newly independent Government of that country?

I think that the most appropriate thing that I can do is to say that the arrangement of free and fair elections under all the circumstances has been an outstanding achievement, which many people a few months ago would have thought impossible, that the Governor is to be warmly congratulated as are the Army, the monitoring forces under General Acland and the police. The object was to arrange those elections. It was for the people of Rhodesia to say exactly whom they wished to have under those elections. The Governor has, of course, today seen Mr. Mugabe and asked him to set in train the processes of forming a Government. But it is now a time for reconciliation, of hope and encouragement for all of those who fought in the election to work together.

Did my right hon. Friend notice yesterday that sterling depreciated against the dollar by three cents? May I congratulate her on resisting pressure in the past few weeks temporarily to increase our minimum lending rate? Will she ensure that the Bank of England in the course of the next few weeks does not react to the depreciation of sterling by increasing our MLR?

I had, indeed, noticed the fall. I agree with my hon. Friend that it is never possible to have artificial restraints that will resist the market for long. I believe that the most important thing at the moment, if we are to get inflation down, is to control the money supply. That will be the prime objective of our policy.

Did not the Prime Minister make one strange omission from her list of congratulations? Should she not congratulate the new Prime Minister of Zimbabwe and wish him well in the difficult task that he is to undertake?

The right hon. Gentleman knows that we usually do that on the day when independence is given. Of course, we wish the whole of Zimbabwe well in forming a Government and in taking over the duties that it will shortly assume on independence.