HC Deb 15 July 1965 vol 716 cc773-5
Q5. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Prime Minister what plans he has for consultations with leaders of both sides of industry in the forthcoming months to discuss the state of the national economy, with particular reference to the inter-relationship of the problems of increased productivity, restrictive practices, and the balance of payments.

The Prime Minister

Such discussions are a normal and continuing part of the process of Government. No special plans are therefore necessary.

Mr. Hamilton

Would my right hon. Friend not consider the desirability of having a formal and well-publicised meeting between himself, in particular, and representatives of both sides of industry so that he might be able to come back to this House and make a progress report on the extent to which we are solving these problems which have been with us for so many years?

The Prime Minister

I think that the machinery which exists, particularly in relation to the Economic Development Council and the individual economic development councils for individual industries, provides the best possible form of intimate consultation between Government and all sections of industry. But I think it may be necessary in the near future to get much more activity going on in consultation with those firms who have shown considerable efficiency in the home market but are not playing as full a part in the export markets as I think the national interests requires.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Arising out of this Question, will the Prime Minister realise that there is a great deal of public anxiety over a very wide range of labour relations? There is the failing incomes policy, the situation in the docks, the situation on the Southern Railways, all causing great anxiety to many hundreds of thousands of people. Will he himself take a personal interest in these deteriorating matters on the home front?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, I have probably spent about 15 times as much time as the right hon. Gentleman did on all these economic questions. May I say I share his deep concern on some of the points he has mentioned, not least the question he raised in relation to the Southern Region services, to which my right hon. Friend referred yesterday. I certainly share that concern. So far as the incomes policy is concerned, I believe that we have made considerable progress in getting acceptance of an incomes policy. [Laughter.] Those who for 13 years failed and still titter at that reference are not part of the nation that the hon. Gentleman behind him was referring to. This is vitally important. Equally important, and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree after his own experiences, is to get a much sharper cutting edge on to our exports and to get more of our manufacturers to venture in to the export markets.

Sir C. Osborne

While recognising that neither side of the House has a monopoly of patriotism, may I ask the Prime Minister whether he will look at a Question I have down to him about the export of shoes to Czechoslovakia which are lying in the docks in London and cannot be exported because dockers will not handle the goods? Will the right hon. Gentleman do his best to expedite that sort of work?

The Prime Minister

I am aware of the hon. Gentleman's Question, and again I share his concern. On the question of the docks referred to by the hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Member, I think we all feel that things are in a pretty dreadful mess there. This is why the Devlin Commission was appointed. [Interruption.] I wish hon. Members would treat these subjects with the seriousness that they deserve. The Devlin Commission was appointed, and we hope to have its report very soon. Although I do not know what will be in the report, knowing the problems there, I feel, as the hon. Gentleman does, that pretty fundamental solutions will be required in the docks. Let us wait for the Devlin Report and then we will make our proposals to the House.