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Prime Minister (Engagements)

Volume 990: debated on Thursday 7 August 1980

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asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 7 August.

Will my right hon. Friend consider extending the Government's practice of allowing private enterprise to compete for the provision of non-medical services in the National Health Service to local authorities? Does she agree that by so doing and by allowing local authorities to contract out such services as refuse disposal to private enterprise, she would be helping local authorities to reduce further the extravagance which still exists, particularly in Labour-controlled councils?

I agree with my hon. Friend. I hope that a number of public authorities and local authorities will consider contracting out more services to the private sector. It gives them a much greater degree of flexibility than they would have if they did it all through the public sector, and it can often be done more economically in the private sector.

As the right hon. Lady's policies have been so disastrous in the fields of local government, employment, inflation and industrial policy, may we end on a happier note by congratulating the right hon. Lady on her Cabinet's decision about teachers' pay? Does she agree that it would have been extremely dishonourable if the Government had sought to abandon and breach an agreement that had been made and had repudiated an arbitration agreement? Will the right hon. Lady tell the House now what adjustment she will make in the rate support grant in order to enable the Cabinet decision to be properly carried into effect?

The answer to the last part of the right hon. Gentleman's question is "None." All these claims have to be met within existing cash limits. If some people take out more for themselves, that will cause, as I have frequently warned, greater unemployment elsewhere.

With regard to that particular arbitration, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, it is about the only compulsory arbitration that there is in industrial relations. It can be set aside only—and the wording is very specific—if national economic circumstances "require" it—not "justify" it; not "advise" it; not "if there are clear and compelling reasons". It is only if national economic circumstances "require" it. We felt that national economic circumstances did not require it. Had we taken the view that they did, it would have meant setting aside quite a number of other claims which have already been settled.

Why does the right hon. Lady not accept my congratulations with a more pleasant spirit? I was congratulating her Government on not taking dishonourable action. Will she repudiate the scandalous stories in the press that she wanted to take that dishonourable action but was turned down by the so-called "wets" in the Cabinet? Can she say when the next revolt is likely to take place and what is likely to be the subject matter?

I thought that the right hon. Gentleman was wanting to congratulate me. When did he do such a quick U-turn? It was pretty nifty footwork.