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Prime Minister (Engagements)

Volume 987: debated on Thursday 3 July 1980

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Q3.

asked the Prime Minister what are her official engagements for 3 July.

I refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave some time ago.

In regard to the Prime Minister's impending visit to Scotland, does she recognise that the most important matter there is not the eightieth birthday of anybody—[HON. MEMBERS: "Cheap."]—but the escalating unemployment problem? Will she give an assurance that she will pay great attention to the letter that I have sent to her about a firm in my constituency which not only has gone into liquidation but whose directors have disappeared into thin air, leaving at least £40,000 of unpaid wages and holiday pay owing to the people who have been thrown out of their jobs?

If the hon. Gentleman has a particular case which causes him great concern, of course I or my right hon. Friends will give it full and proper attention. I agree that the unemployment rate in Scotland is somewhat higher than in England. [HON. MEMBERS: "Somewhat?"] It is somewhat higher than it is in England. However, the amount of money which goes per head into Scotland, rightly, is greater than that which goes into England, by a considerable amount.

Order. The hon. Gentleman was not allowed by me to ask his earlier question and that is why I have called him.

In the light of exchanges five minutes ago, will my right hon. Friend find time today to consult yet again a speech delivered to the Labour Party conference in 1976—although I am not sure whether it was written by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) or his son-in-law? Is my right hon. Friend aware that in that speech the right hon. Gentleman stated that the reason for the steady rise in unemployment was that we had continued to pay ourselves more than the value of the goods that we produced

I remember that speech well because it pointed out that we could not spend our way out of inflation and that if we tried to it would lead to higher unemployment.

Since the Secretary of State for Industry is obsessed with the need for workers to take wage cuts and since the Chief Secretary seems to think that that has no impact on inflation, who is right?

4.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 3 July.

Will the Prime Minister find time today to check up on the trawler which she launched in the Lowestoft constituency two years ago and which is now up for sale, along with most of the rest of the British fishing fleet? Will she take serious account of the representations made to her right hon. Friend this morning?

There was a meeting, as the hon. Gentleman knows, with my right hon. Friend this morning and I am sure that he will take fully into account the representations that were made and will press ahead as far and as soon as he can in seeking agreement on a common fisheries policy which will be suitable for the fishermen of this country.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that a great number of the unemployed simply cannot afford to work because of our chaotic taxation and welfare system? May I ask my right hon. Friend if she recalls the work done by the Centre for Policy Studies which published realistic figures of those who wanted to work? What has happened to those figures? Why are they no longer published? I believe that they would prove that less than half of the unemployed want to work at the present time.

I know very well the excellent work which my hon. Friend has done on this subject and I agree with him that one of the problems is that there is not a sufficient gap between what one can earn at the bottom end of the wage scale and the amount which can be taken out in benefits which are, sometimes, not liable to tax by those people who are not in work. I agree that we have not yet sorted out that problem, but I ask my hon. Friend to give us some credit for the fact that we are trying to do that and that within two years we shall bring unemployment and sickness benefit into taxation. In so far as they are added to other income, that will go some way towards dealing with the problem.