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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 7 August.

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall have further meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. Later this afternoon I shall attend the memorial service for Sir Seretse Khama at Westminster Abbey.

Some time today, will my right hon. Friend urge her Ministers to take every possible opportunity to put across to the electorate the point that by its actions this week the Labour Party has shown that it is totally opposed to council house tenants being allowed to buy their own homes?

What my hon. Friend says is very true. Millions of people in this country will have the opportunity to buy their own council houses when the Housing Bill becomes law—a chance that they would never have had if the Labour Party had been in power.

Will the Prime Minister give thought to the fact that in Calderdale unemployment is rising more steeply than in the rest of Yorkshire and in the rest of the country? Will she assure my constituents that the textile, carpet, machine tool and confectionery industries will receive urgent help to stop them from further decline? Otherwise there will be litle manufacturing industry left in the area.

Textiles are already protected under the multi-fibre agreement, and we have about 400 quota agreements with several other countries under that agreement. There is a world recession, added to a number of other problems, and it is not possible for any Government to guarantee everyone a job. We shall have to work our way up steadily, and try to create new businesses and new industries using the latest technology, but no Government can do that alone.

While I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her decision to abolish the Clegg Commission, will she give her whole attention in the coming year to the terrible problem of the unacceptably high levels of wage settlements in the public sector?

Yes, we certainly have to give our attention to that. It is obvious that comparability as a principle has not worked well. Obviously there are times when various comparability awards amount to more than is available from the taxpayer to pay them. Comparability is only one factor in determining public sector pay awards. The real determining factor is what the tax- payer can afford to pay. We shall conduct matters in that way in the future.

Looking beyond 7 August, to the time when the right hon. Lady takes her standing ovation at the Conservative Party conference, will she then pause to reflect on the sheer misery that she has created in thousands of homes throughout the United Kingdom as a result of the additional unemployment caused by her Government's policies? Will she then give further thought to the requirement upon her Government to halt the flow of fugitives from depression from develepment areas such as the Northern region? If she cannot do that, will she then tender her resignation?

If there were an answer to unemployment in a free society it would have been found long since, and the right hon. Gentleman would not have had to experience 1·6 million people unemployed under his Government. May I remind him that while his right hon. Friend the Shadow Leader of the House was Secretary of State for Employment, unemployment rose by 90 per cent. in Swansea, by 103 per cent. in Aberdare, by 128 per cent. in Neath, by 145 per cent. in Llanelli, by 98 per cent. in Cardiff, and so on.

Will my right hon. Friend try to find time in her busy schedule to consider the question of the computerisation of the Inland Revenue? Bearing in mind that this is an extremely complex matter, will she, nevertheless, consider the fact that no other country with a viable computer company capable of doing the job would dream of giving it to a foreign company?

I understand both the complexities of the matter and the sensitivities of the House. We are still considering it, and we shall make an announcement as soon as we have reached a decision.