Prime Minister (Engagements)

Oral Answers to Questions — Oral Answers to Questions – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th July 1978.

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Photo of Mr Douglas Henderson Mr Douglas Henderson , Aberdeenshire East 12:00 am, 6th July 1978

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 6th July.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

I have been asked to reply.

Earlier today my right hon. Friend presided at a meeting of the Cabinet before leaving for the meeting of the European Council in Bremen.

Photo of Mr Douglas Henderson Mr Douglas Henderson , Aberdeenshire East

Will the Lord President ensure that the Prime Minister gets an opportunity to read the annual report of the British Steel Corporation, which makes depressing and grim reading for the future of employment in Scotland? Does he agree with the judgment that it makes the closure of Glengarnock works far more certain and that the Hunterston direct reduction works will probably be opened only to test what is termed the technological efficiency? May we have an assurance that this matter will be fully debated in the House before any final decisions are taken?

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has already studied the report of the British Steel Corporation. There have, of course, been discussions in the House about that already. I expect the hon. Gentleman is aware that there is considerable investment by the British Steel Corporation in Scotland, and that without that Scotland would have suffered even more severely from the slump that most other steel industries throughout the world have had to bear during this period.

Photo of Mr Tom Litterick Mr Tom Litterick , Birmingham, Selly Oak

Has my right hon. Friend read the article written by Mr. Alex Hartley which recently appeared in The Guardian? That article gave in considerable detail the news that the Economic League is running a blacklist system for all its member firms. Will my right hon. Friend and the Prime Minister take up this matter not only with the Economic League but, in particular, with the Confederation of British Industry and with Opposition Members who are directors of firms participating in this blacklist system?

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

I read that article in The Guardian, although I was even more attracted by the previous article in The Guardian to which reference was made. I do not know whether there will be time for this matter to be raised in the discussions with the CBI, but I agree with my hon. Friend that it raises an important question of civil liberties, and we are prepared to look at it in that sense.

Photo of Mr Michael Morris Mr Michael Morris , Northampton South

Is the Lord President aware of the Prime Minister's sudden and new interest in the family? If he is, can he explain why food prices have doubled under the Labour Government? Is he still confident that food prices will increase by less than 10 per cent. in the coming year?

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

The Prime Minister's interest in the family goes back for many more years than that. I cannot remember the exact date, but it is a great deal longer. I am sure, too, that the Prime Minister's interest in doing all that we can to keep down food prices goes back over a long period. I only wish that we had received some co-operation from the Opposition when we joined the Common Market and encountered fresh difficulties.

Photo of Mr Ian Mikardo Mr Ian Mikardo , Tower Hamlets Bethnal Green and Bow

Does my right hon. Friend know whether the Prime Minister, before setting off for Bremen, managed to find time to read the article by Mr. Roger Darlington, formerly a special assistant to the Home Secretary, to which reference was made on an earlier Question? That article shows that the forthcoming White Paper on the Official Secrets Act will be timid, broken-backed and useless.

Photo of Mr Ian Mikardo Mr Ian Mikardo , Tower Hamlets Bethnal Green and Bow

Even at this late hour, will my right hon. Friend consult the Prime Minister to see whether some improvements can be made to that White Paper?

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

I do not know whether my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has read that article, but I read it this morning with considerable interest. I do not believe that it covers all the matters that are dealt with in the White Paper, because when the White Paper is published my hon. Friend will see that it opens up other possibilities beyond those that are discussed in Mr. Darlington's article.

I do not say that the White Paper goes as far as my hon. Friend and others wish, and I know that they have made strong representations that we should have a White Paper that goes further, but I ask my hon. Friend, and others, to consider what is proposed in the White Paper, because if they do they will see that it leaves open the prospect of dealing with some of these matters in the future.

Photo of Mr Michael Shersby Mr Michael Shersby , Hillingdon Uxbridge

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 6th July.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

I have been asked to reply.

I refer the hon. Member to the reply which I have just given to the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson).

Photo of Mr Michael Shersby Mr Michael Shersby , Hillingdon Uxbridge

Will the right hon. Gentleman convey to the Prime Minister the deep concern of the House about the low morale of people who work in the National Health Service? Will he tell the House what steps the Government intend to take to raise that morale, to reduce industrial disputes and to improve service to patients?

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

The hon. Member and others may have seen that my right hon. Friend attended a function concerned with the thirtieth anniversary of the founding of the National Health Service. Although there are many aspects of the National Health Service that we should like to be improved, and although I know that most of my hon. Friends would like to see a great deal more spent upon the Health Service—I do not know whether that applies to hon. Members opposite—I do not believe it right that the country or the outside world should be given the impression that the Health Service has not had many great successes. I think that the matter should be approached in that spirit. It was in that sense that the Prime Minister spoke when he discussed the matter on the occasion of the celebration of the thirtieth year of the founding of the Health Service.

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Southwark Bermondsey

Will the Leader of the House inform the Prime Minister—if he is not already aware of the fact—that there is grave concern among sections of civil servants who are being compulsorily transferred from London for reasons that were valid many years ago but are not valid today? The problem is becoming acute. Will the whole matter be looked at again, and will those decent people be given an assurance that they will not be forced out of a London which they do not want to leave?

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

I understand my right hon. Friend's interest in the matter. I also understand that he wishes to defend the rights of those who wish to stay in London. On the other hand, I believe that the Government were right, in the interests of the whole of the United Kingdom, to embark upon a programme of dispersal. Although it is not easy to carry through that programme, I believe that the Government are correct to stick to their principles and intentions.

Photo of Sir Frederick Burden Sir Frederick Burden , Gillingham

Does the right hon. Gentleman know that concern has been expressed in the House about the statement in a Labour Party broadcast recently which said that the party wished to control all the means of production? Has he brought that to the attention of the Prime Minister, in case the Prime Minister did not hear the broadcast? Is it the Prime Minister's policy that there should be further widespread nationalisation?

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

The hon. Gentleman should familiarise himself with the phrases that have figured in the constitution of the Labour Party since 1918. I suggest that if he studies the whole history of the matter he will see how much of the programme we have carried out and how much we intend to carry out during our next period in office. All those matters will be fully stated when we present a manifesto to the nation.

Photo of Mr Ernest Fernyhough Mr Ernest Fernyhough , Jarrow

Will my right hon. Friend remind the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby) that the National Health Service would have been aborted before its introduction if it had been left to hon. Members who sat on the Conservative Benches at the time? Will he make clear that in any civilised society, whether people are rich or poor, there should be no inequality in the health services available to them, and that we shall carry out the principles which Nye Bevan incorporated when he introduced the Bill?

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

My right hon. Friend is perfectly correct. On the Second Reading of the National Health Service Bill, the Conservative Opposition of the day voted against it, and they did so again on Third Reading. They even carried the matter further. A few months before the introduction of the Service on 5th July 1948, they attempted a further measure to try to prevent it from coming into operation. They are trying to make up for that now. We believe that there are still great improvements to be made in the Health Service, and we propose to carry them out in the next 30 years.

Photo of Mr Robert Adley Mr Robert Adley , Christchurch and Lymington

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 6th July.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

I have been asked to reply.

I refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave earlier today to the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson).

Photo of Mr Robert Adley Mr Robert Adley , Christchurch and Lymington

Has the Lord President noticed the extraordinary coincidence that the Secretary of State for Transport last night announced the go-ahead for the construction of the Stockbridge bypass, which happens to be in the Penistone constituency, where there is to be a by-election. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that while political bribery is bad enough, when it is done with the taxpayers' money it becomes political chicanery? Is he aware that we find a precedent here in the occasion when his right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), as Minister of Transport, did the same thing during the Hull by-election by promising that the Humber bridge would be built?

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

I confess that I had not heard of the announcement about Stockbridge, but I am happy to hear of it now, even from the hon. Gentleman's lips. I am sure that, just as we won the by-election in Hull with a thumping majority, we shall do the same in Penistone.