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Volume 79: debated on Thursday 16 May 1985

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asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 16 May.

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House I shall be having further meetings later today.

Will the Prime Minister take time during a busy day to study press notices of an enterprise by Shell in the North sea involving the investment of £2·5 billion, many ancillary contracts for British firms, and jobs for 6,000 people? Will she comment on that enterprise?

I confirm what my hon. Friend said. I understand that it is an enterprise which will provide about 6,000 jobs and that the Budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1983 probably contributed to the decision to go ahead with this development. It is good news and I wish the enterprise well.

Will the Prime Minister take time today to look at the Hansard reports of our economic debates in the House in the past two months, from which she will find that about 25 per cent. of the contributions from the Government Benches have been critical of the Government strategy? Does not that, together with the establishment of dissident groups on her own Back Benches, indicate the total failure of the Government's policies in dealing with unemployment?

Will the Prime Minister stop carrying on thinking that there is no alternative and start—[Interruption.] Will she start to listen to the proposals that are being made by groups on her own Back Benches and by some on the alliance Benches, and drop the absurd notion that there is no alternative?

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, as a proportion of the population, the number of people in work in Britain is the highest in the European Community?

The proportion of the population of working age in work is 66 per cent. in Britain. That is as high as in the United States and higher than in France and Germany. It is one of the highest percentages in Europe.