Will the Prime Minister confirm what she said on Weekend Television last Sunday, when she suggested that if unemployment reached 3 million or even 4 million she would not change her policies? Does she recall that in the 1930s high unemployment and low rates of inflation co-existed? Will she tell the House whether there is any rate of inflation at which her Government's economic priorities will tackle unemployment?
I am glad to re-affirm what I said on television, that the way to provide sound, long term jobs in the future is to fight inflation now and to continue to fight it.
Referring to the continuing challenge to the Communist monopoly in Poland, when my right hon. Friend meets President Reagan later this month will she discuss with him whether it would be better now rather than after the event for the West to spell out the nature of the retaliation that we would take against the Soviets in the event of their intervention in Poland?
I shall discuss all these matters with President Reagan. But I would counsel caution on the course which my hon. Friend, no doubt with the best of intentions, would have me pursue.
Does the most regrettable re-affirmation by the right hon. Lady of what she said on television on Sunday mean that when she goes to the meeting of NEDO tomorrow she will flatly refuse to examine the alternative policies put forward by the TUC or by the CBI? What will be the purpose of the meeting if she is not going there to listen?
If the right hon. Gentleman is interested in securing better long-term prospects for jobs he will fight inflation now. If he is not interested in better long-term prospects for jobs, he will retreat to the short-term expedient of reflating and printing money now. With regard to the second part of the right hon. Gentleman's question, I shall be going to Neddy to take the chair, as I do once a year. That was arranged long before the TUC document. Doubtless it will wish to raise some of the things in that document in the discussion on industrial policy.
Does the right hon. Lady appreciate, as she has already had a copy of the TUC document, that it explains how she, under her unique arrangements, has managed to achieve the combination of a far worse recession in this country than in most other countries combined with a higher rate of inflation than most of our competitors? Will she explain how she has achieved that? Will she also tell us whether she is taking that body
seriously? Will she say that she will examine these matters carefully? Does she understand that, when she has brought inflation down to the point where she started putting it up, she will have a right to talk on the subject?
If the right hon. Gentleman examines the inflation figures he will find that the rate of inflation is falling comparatively fast here when it is still rising in other countries. If he looks at his Government's record on inflation he will find that when they had been in Government for 20 or 21 months the inflation rate was 24 per cent.
With regard to the right hon. Gentleman's precise question, the figure was 10·1 per cent, in April 1979. That figure followed an average inflation—[Interruption.] I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would not wish me to be selective but to give the whole figure. That followed an average rate of inflation in 1975 of 24·2 per cent., in 1976 of 16·5 per cent, and in 1977 of 15·8 percent. Those were three years when it was much worse than it was in our first year—in 1979, when it was 13·4 per cent.
As the Prime Minister refused to report to the House about her meeting with Charles Haughey in Dublin, and now that she has announced joint studies, will she say where they are taking place? How many civil servants from the United Kingdom and from the Irish Republic are taking part in the joint studies? Will she not push under the counter this most important question for the people of Northern Ireland as she did yesterday when a colleague asked a question?
The studies, which have just started, are taking place in the capitals of the respective countries—London and Dublin. Ministers will, of course, keep a close watch on progress.
Will the Prime Minister spend a few minutes looking at the survey which shows that the chairmen and managing directors of many large companies are giving themselves 40 per cent, wage increases when they are preaching wage restraint and putting thousands of their own workers on to the dole queues? Will she condemn such divisive action? If there is to be a tax clawback in the Budget will she ensure that these very rich men, who have received massive tax handouts from her Government, are the first to pay?
I cannot emphasise too often that it is vital, at whatever level of employment in a commercial or industrial company, that increases in pay go hand in hand with increases in productivity.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that since last summer the rate of inflation has been lower than that of the average of our EEC and OECD competitors? Does my right hon. Friend accept that, most regrettably, since then the percentage increases in unemployment in Germany, France and the Netherlands have also been much higher than in this country?
It is true that the recession hit different countries at different rates and at different times. The percentage increase in unemployment in Germany, Denmark and Holland between August and December rose faster than in this country in the same period.
Has the Prime Minister had time to read the article in The Times today which suggests that the tax burden of the average individual increased by 10 per cent, in the last two years that she has been in office? Can she confirm that figure? If it is correct does she regard it as part of the battle against inflation?
If my memory serves me correctly that figure was of the overall tax burden, including, of course, the considerable tax levied on North Sea oil revenues. The right hon. Gentleman is always trying to persuade me to put up public expenditure. The last Labour Government also wanted increased public spending. Had we followed his or their advice the tax burden now would be much worse.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that computer staffs in the public service are under extreme pressure from trade unions in the public sector to act as latterday storm troopers in fighting the Government's policy? Does she accept that such sabotage will in the long term only do damage to the standing of computer professions and to the efficiency of information processing in the public sector?
It is absolutely vital in the public sector, as elsewhere, that we use all technology to its maximum extent and that the highest traditions of the public service are honoured in that as in other spheres of the Civil Service.
Will the Prime Minister reflect on the devastating effects of her policies on the people of this country? Notwithstanding what she said on television at the weekend, will she take time off to look in the mirror and ask "Mirror, mirror, on the wall, could I be the wrongest of them all?"
Will my right hon. Friend take time today to congratulate the management and work force of John Brown Engineering, a firm of major importance in West Central Scotland, on achieving a £25 million new export order? Since the company was able to achieve that because of the responsible 7 percent, wage settlement last October, does she agree that it demonstrates the increasing climate of responsibility and co-operation which is enabling British industry to increase its competitiveness in world markets?
I gladly congratulate that firm, both on the achievement of that export order and on the realistic attitude of its work force which led to that achievement. Having seen that report and having made further inquiries today, I am happy to be able to tell my hon. Friend that that firm announced today a further export order for £35 million. Many congratulations.
May I refer to the Prime Minister's forthcoming meeting with President Reagan? Do the Government have it in mind to seek, with the President, to bring the maximum pressure to bear on the Republic of South Africa to reopen negotiations on Namibia which have broken down through the wholly inexcusably intransigence of the South African Government? Will she raise the question of incursions into Mozambique which the Republic has embarked upon?
We are all anxious to try to bring about a solution to the Namibia problem and to bring Namibia to independence. I shall raise that subject in a way which I hope will achieve as near a solution to that problem as possible.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that, while a Bill gives details in the explanatory and financial memorandum of its manpower implications, insufficient machinery exists for monitoring staffing levels once the legislation is enacted? Will she take steps to improve that monitoring?
I am aware that the monitoring of the numbers of people involved in the provisions of a particular Bill is not necessarily exact. As my hon. Friend knows, we are putting more effort into increased efficiency in the Civil Service. The Civil Service itself is working with a will towards that end. We have reduced the numbers in the Civil Service by 35,000 since we came to power. I cannot emphasise too strongly that many young and older people in the civil service are determined to secure the most efficient administration of any country and they are co-operating fully in that effort.
Has the right hon. Lady had an opportunity yet to consider what Prime Minister Trudeau has said about the undertakings that she is supposed to have given last June about repatriating the Canadian constitution to Canada? Does she intend to impose a three-line Whip? What advice would the Prime Minister give to the House when President Trudeau is so unsure of the smell of his legislation that he says that we should hold our noses while we let it pass?
Matters concerning three-line Whips are not usually discussed until we have the business before us for the next week. We have not yet received a request from the Government or Parliament of Canada. I take the view that I have always taken, that when we receive a request from the Government and Parliament of Canada we have to deal with it as expeditiously as possible, in accordance with precedent and with the law.