HC Deb 14 April 1981 vol 3 cc149-50
Q5. Mr. Chapman

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 14 April.

The Prime Minister

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Chapman

As my right hon. Friend flies towards the Orient will she take stock of the growing feeling that our rating system is unfair, illogical, undemocratic, inadequate and out of date? At the very least, will she concede that the Government should bring forward a consultative paper giving all the possible options? In that way, a national debate could take place and perhaps a consensus could be reached about an alternative to the present iniquitous impost.

The Prime Minster

I agree with my hon. Friend's description of the rating system. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is considering the options. None of them is easy. We would consult before making any changes. I shall take into account my hon. Friend's remarks about a consultation paper.

Mr. Flannery

Will the Prime Minister turn her mind once again to the subject of unemployment? There is so much of it that her mind should be permanently on it. Does she realise that since last week's Question Time—when there had been no fewer than five lobbies on unemployment in about five days—the great steelworks of Hadfields, in Sheffield, has announced that it is about to close? Is the right hon. Lady aware that once again there is a lobby outside the House of about one-fifth of the Hadfields' work force, who want to know what will be done about the private sector? Last December the Secretary of State for Industry told Members of Parliament for Sheffield constituencies that he would do nothing for the public sector but that he would do something for the private sector. Private sector firms are closing all over the country.

The Prime Minister

I am delighted to hear the hon. Gentleman standing up for the private sector. Perhaps we could stand up more for the private sector if we were having to spend a little less on the public sector. In the steel industry we are trying to form a number of companies into what is called Phoenix II, which is part British Steel Corporation and part private sector companies, such as Hadfields, with a view to its eventually coming into the private sector. That would be a great advance on the present situation.