Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister (Engagements)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 8th November 1977.

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Photo of Mr Fred Silvester Mr Fred Silvester , Manchester, Withington 12:00 am, 8th November 1977

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his engagements for 8th November 1977.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be holding meetings with ministerial colleagues and others.

Photo of Mr Fred Silvester Mr Fred Silvester , Manchester, Withington

As many of those meetings will concern wage claims in the public sector, would it be helpful if the Prime Minister were to consider making an announcement—in view of a wage settlement for the miners exceeding 10 per cent., for whatever reason—on whether other employees in the public sector who currently settle at about the guideline figure might reasonably be expected to come back for a second bite of the cherry after such a settlement?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

The miners' present pay settlement does not expire until the end of February or the beginning of March, and it would be wrong for us to anticipate anything about a settlement at this stage.

Photo of Mr Roy Hughes Mr Roy Hughes , Newport (Monmouthshire/Gwent)

In the course of his busy schedule of engagements, will my right hon. Friend look into the parlous nature of the steel industry? Will he and his colleagues give some consideration to restricting foreign imports of steel, which would certainly help the British Steel Corporation at this time?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I am well aware of the difficulties of the steel industry. There is a problem about imports and exports at present. For example, there are interests in the United States which are pressing the United States Government to restrict exports of steel from this country to the United Stales. We must achieve a balance here and be very careful before we rush into action on these matters.

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Conservative Party

Will the Prime Minister take time today to reconsider the reply he gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) last Thursday, when he said that the family man on average earnings was as well off today as he was at the time of the last General Election? We all know that that just is not so. Would not the Prime Minister agree that the standard of living has been cut back by 5 per cent, in a year?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

The right hon. Lady is putting together two separate things. I quite agree that the standard of living has been cut back during the last 12 months. Indeed, I have said so on many occasions. But the statement that I made last Thursday is exact in every particular, and I have had it checked since.

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Conservative Party

Perhaps the Prime Minister would care to look at what he said as reported in column 40 of Hansard, when my hon. Friend put to him a direct question. My hon. Friend asked the Prime Minister "to tell the House"[Hon. Members: "Reading ".] I am quoting from the question to the Prime Minister. The question was put directly to the Prime Minister whether the average man, with two young children, will be as well off now as he was at the time of the last General Election. The Prime Minister's reply was: The answer is Yes ' ".—[Official Report, 3rd November 1977 ; Vol. 938, c. 40.] What the Prime Minister has now said is that his answer ought to have been "No ".

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I do not object to the right hon. Lady reading my words. I hope that she will go on reading them, and reading them in the country. I do not think I can take offence at that. What I said last Thursday was complete in every particular. It is for the right hon. Lady to run away and check her figures.