This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later today.
During the day, will the Prime Minister reflect on the fact that this Parliament could have run until 9 June 1988? Is there not something arrogant and impertinent about the leader of a party brazenly talking about a fourth term when she has been panicked into an election more than a year early?
Will my right hon. Friend find time today to consider the claim made in Moscow by the Labour party foreign affairs spokesman that the Soviet leaders are praying for a Labour victory? Does my right hon. Friend agree that if that were true it would be the best possible advertisement for the Government's strong and consistent defence policy?
A Labour Government who would unilaterally give up Britain's nuclear deterrent would no doubt be the answer to the Kremlin's prayers. I am bound to say, however, that I do not think that much praying goes on in the Kremlin. I believe that people there are probably very realistic and realise that after the election they will probably have to deal with a Conservative Government, who will be standing up for Britain's defences.
—in the way that all past Prime Ministers have recommended their policies to the electorate. I have done so twice and I shall do so a third time.
Thinking of recent settlements of the teachers' and nurses' pay disputes, may I ask my right hon. Friend to tell us what the implications would be for public sector workers of income policies along the lines advocated by the Opposition?
The last time the Oppostion were in government they introduced income policies. They are no part of our policies. They will always fail and they usually have a devastating effect, particularly on those who work in the public sector. Last time they had a damaging effect, especially on the pay of nurses.
Does the Prime Minister recall the number of leaders of other countries—[Interruption.]
—who in recent years have proclaimed themselves as leaders for life? As the right hon. Lady is now aiming for the end of the century, is this what the Leader of the House had in mind when he warned on Sunday against the arrogance that comes with power? Does she agree with him, or are his days now numbered as well?
The right hon. Gentleman seems to have forgotten that I have just asked for dissolution so that we may submit ourselves to the electorate.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that Gloucestershire county council, now under alliance domination, had a surplus this year of £4 million on its education budget, but rather than spend that money on books or on improving the schools, the alliance council decided to plunder that fund and spend the money on road improvements in the Cheltenham area? Does my right hon. Friend not think that it is absolutely despicable that the alliance councillors should plunder the education fund for motorists at the expense of the children?
I note what my hon. Friend said, but I imagine that, like me, he is not surprised.
Had we not pursued policies which have led to economic strength, to competitive industry and to large and expanding sunrise industries in the service sector, the prospects for unemployment would be infinitely worse than they are now. We have efficient manufacturing industry, excellent service industries, very good prospects for expansion and good prospects for the future.
On a serious note, may I say to my right hon. Friend how much my constituents and many others appreciated her presence in Canterbury cathedral last month on the occasion of the memorial service to those who died in the Herald of Free Enterprise? On that occasion I had the honour of sitting beside my right hon. Friend. I have not had that distinction in this place. If I were returning here next time, I would be very happy to sit behind my right hon. Friend on this side of the House.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I think that the occasion to which he referred was one that united the House.
When the Prime Minister prepares the list of successes that she will be parading round the country in the weeks that lie ahead, what place will be occupied by the doubling of unemployment, the increase in homelessness, the decline of the Health Service, the divided society—a more impoverished society, a society in which crime has risen—and the cases of drug-ridden cities? This has—been the evidence of eight years of Tory Government. Will she be telling the people exactly what that has meant to this country?
I shall be telling them of the economic strength of Britain and the respect in which it is held, that under this Government the people have been able to produce economic growth for seven years, which has generated far more resources for the Health Service, and of a Government who have spread property ownership more widely than any previous Government. I shall point out the negative policies of the Opposition, so vividly set out by Mr. Kilroy-Silk in his book when he
The militants and their ilk in Liverpool are the biggest deterrents to job creation on Merseyside that there have ever been.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that Scottish Conservatives are very much looking forward to seeing her in Perth on Friday? When she comes to Perth on Friday, will she confirm that it is the policy of the Conservative Government to serve the people and not be obsessed with the manipulation of power, as Liberals seem to be? Will she also tell the Scottish Conservatives that she has been meeting the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition across the Dispatch Box for four years and it still has not done him any good?
I look forward to presenting our case in Perth, the case of a Government who have reduced the powers of Government by taking off many controls, liberated enterprise and reduced income tax, which has led to incentive and growth. I appreciate what my hon. Friend said in the latter part of his question.
As the hon. Gentleman is aware, this Government have tackled crime by increasing the numbers of police, where his party has held the numbers. We remember Wapping.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the figures that have come in from those companies returned to the private sector have shown that profits have more than doubled? Is she also aware that the dividends and corporation tax from those companies almost equal the amount of money that was coming from them when they were under state control? In view of this double bonus, will my right hon. Friend, after 11 June, please return even more activities to the private sector, to the benefit of the taxpayer?
Yes. The industries that were nationalised by the Opposition and that have been privatised by us have done very much better since privatisation, not only in profits, therefore in contributing to tax and helping us to finance the Health Service and other things as well, but for the people who work in them. I noted a report in The Times today referring to the National Freight Corporation, which said;
An original £1 stake in NFC is now worth £46 and about 6,000 employees have holdings worth more than £12,000 each, with a sizeable number approaching £100,000.
That is an opportunity for employees which the Opposition would love to deny to or take away from them.
Is the Prime Minister aware of the marked increase in unemployment in Wales during the eight-year period in which she has been in office, which shows no signs of receding? Does she appreciate that it will not be disguised, even by 19 changes in the unemployment statistics?
As the hon. Gentleman is aware, unemployment in Wales has been going down and the standard of living has been going up—and, indeed, is higher than it has ever been. That is quite a tribute to the Government.