HC Deb 13 December 1956 vol 562 cc621-2
46. Mr. Lewis

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the economic crisis resulting from petrol rationing, he will arrange to meet the Trades Union Congress and the Federation of British Industries for discussions on our economic difficulties and, in return for an assurance from the Trades Union Congress that it will encourage wage restraint, give a promise that the Government will suspend all controversial legislation, and plan the economy so that all sacrifices are shared among the British people.

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. R. A. Butler)

I have been asked to reply.

The Government have the responsibility for deciding what policies are best to deal with the present economic situation and for initiating the necessary measures. Subject to that, as I told the House on Tuesday, I am sure that my right hon. Friend and others of my colleagues will be ready to discuss the present situation with the Trades Union Congress and the Federation of British Industries whenever either of those bodies or the Government themselves think it would be useful to do so.

Mr. Lewis

Has the Lord Privy Seal's attention been drawn to the resolution of the T.U.C. General Council only yesterday, in which the Council put on record its deep concern about the Rent Bill, the petrol tax and the 1s. prescription? If the T.U.C. is very worried about those matters, surely the Government should consult it and talk about those things before we have industrial trouble? Will not the right hon. Gentleman take more positive steps?

Mr. Butler

Certainly. I have already had a word with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this matter, and I have drawn his attention to the resolution of the T.U.C. It would be very helpful to have discussions, and I hope that the discussions will not be confined to those matters only, but will look to the constructive future.

Mr. Gaitskell

There is some obscurity about this. Are the Government proposing to invite the Trades Union Congress to such discussions?

Mr. Butler

Certainly the Trades Union Congress can come and see members of the Government any time it likes. I should prefer, after already mentioning it to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is in Paris at the N.A.T.O. meeting, to await his return before anything is arranged.