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Engagements

Volume 33: debated on Tuesday 7 December 1982

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Q3.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 7 December.

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

I recognise that my right hon. Friend was one of only 13 Prime Minister, or the equivalent, who attended the United Nations second special session on disarmament recently. Will my right hon. Friend take time today to assure the House and emphasise to the country that the Government will take every possible practical initiative to encourage verifiable balanced multilateral disarmament? Does she agree further that if the Russians were interested in disarmament they would start dismantling hundreds of SS20 missiles targeted on Western Europe?

I agree with both my hon. Friend's points. Many disarmament initiatives are being taken. There is the NATO proposal to eliminate intermediate range nuclear weapons. If that were successful, a whole class of nuclear weapons would be eliminated on both sides. It requires agreement by the Soviet Union. There is also NATO's draft treaty for mutual and balanced force reductions, which has been negotiated for a long time. Work continues in Geneva to verify the comprehensive nuclear test ban. There is also in Geneva our proposal for verification and compliance with the chemical weapons ban. There is President Reagan's initative, which we support, for a substantial reduction in strategic ballistic missile warheads. I could continue, because the Government are taking many initiatives on multilateral disarmament. I notice that the Opposition are not interested in multilateral disarmament. They are interested only in unilateral disarmament, which jeopardises this country's security.

Is the Prime Miniser aware that her order of priorities for the day is unacceptable to the Opposition? We demand that she gives her attention to the steel industry. Does she recognise that both the public and private sectors of the steel industry are fast haemorrhaging to extinction? When will she give her attention to steel and unemployment, which are the real crises facing the country?

We had a debate on steel last week. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry is considering in calm and measured terms the British Steel Corporation's corporate plan for next year. We are also part of the European Community and we negotiated on prices and quotas as part of that Community. All those matters are being considered. It is right that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry should consider them thoroughly before making a full statement to the House covering the five major steel plants.

Q4.

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

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Has the Prime Minister any plans to solve the unemployment problem in Wales before the next general election?

The Government will continue to try to reduce inflation, to contain public expenditure and to keep down interest rates. We look to industry to make itself competitive and to produce goods that can be purchased and that will command an increased share of the market both at home and abroad. There is no other way of obtaining sustainable extra jobs.

Is it not a sad comment on the Labour Party that when it is in Opposition, membership of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament increases, but that membership falls when the Labour Party is in power? Does not my right hon. Friend think that CND at least has courage—a courage that does not seem to lie on the Opposition Benches—because it wants Britain to withdraw from NATO instead of relying on the American nuclear umbrella while at the same time claiming to be a unilateral nuclear disarmer?

If CND's proposals were followed in any way, peace, security, freedom and justice would be put at risk in our country and war would become more likely. I condemn it completely.