HC Deb 22 November 1956 vol 560 cc1930-1
45. Mr. Lewis

asked the Prime Minister whether he will take the necessary action to again meet the Trades Union Congress General Council to discuss with them the country's present economic situation, with particular reference to the changes which will become necessary consequent upon the Government action taken against Egypt.

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

I have been asked to reply.

Consultation on economic matters already takes place from time to time as necessary between Ministers and representatives of the trade unions. These will continue, and will naturally cover economic aspects of the Middle East situation.

Mr. Lewis

May I ask the Lord Privy Seal to answer the Question which I asked him—whether the Prime Minister—not Ministers—will meet the Trades Union Congress? Is the Minister not aware of the fact that 11.4 per cent. of the dock workers are unemployed, and that oil and petrol supply workers are unemployed, and that taxi drivers are going on short time—

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member seems now to be giving information instead of asking for it.

Mr. Lewis

No, Mr. Speaker. I am asking the Minister whether he is aware that dock workers are unemployed? Is he not aware that petrol supply workers are unemployed and car workers are unemployed, and that the cost of living is going up—

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member is really making a speech. To clothe it with the prefatory form "Is the Minister aware?" does not alter the substance or nature of his remarks. If the hon. Member has another question to ask the Minister, he may ask it.

Mr. Lewis

In view of the fact then that the Minister is aware of all that, may I ask, does he not feel that in view of the spate of wage claims which are going in, and the increased cost of living because rents are going up, he should himself ask to see the Trades Union Congress, or, if need be, ask the Prime Minister to come back to see the Congress, before we have a lot of industrial trouble in this country?

Mr. Butler

I have a certain amount of experience of this, having been Chancellor of the Exchequer for four years. Through the National Production Advisory Council we have our contacts with industry and with the trade union representatives. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has contacts with the Trades Union Congress Economic Committee. We are intensely obliged to these gentlemen for the advice which they give us. It will certainly be the case that the responsible Ministers will maintain the contacts which the hon. Member desires in the national interest.