HC Deb 07 March 1968 vol 760 cc650-2
Q5. Mr. Lane

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech by the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, to the Cambridge University Democratic Labour Club on 9th February, on economic policy, represents Government policy.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Lane

As the Secretary of State spoke enthusiastically about increasing Government intervention in industry, would the right hon. Gentleman not accept that industry is fearful of more intervention by this Government and that continuing talk of this kind by Ministers will only set back further the return of industrial confidence?

The Prime Minister

I remember exactly the same arguments being used, only at much greater length, in the debates on the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation Bill, but now even the hon. Gentlemen who used them will, I think, be extremely happy about the achievements of the I.R.C.

Mr. McNamara

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that the Report of the Wilson Committee into Bristol Siddeley indicates that we should perhaps have more Government intervention in industry?

The Prime Minister

That raises other issues, with which my right hon. Friend has dealt. That was, of course, the question of the degree of cost control operated by right hon. Gentlemen opposite in the matter of certain contracts, and, of course, the House by this time will have had time to study the Report on that stewardship.

Sir C. Osborne

The right hon. Gentleman just boasted about the work of the I.R.C. Is he proud that, as a result of that work, the Woolwich factory has been closed, to the great disappointment of his colleagues who want to see more employment created?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Member will know that that is one of the inevitable consequences of mergers designed to increase efficiency, but he will know also that his fellow trade unionists, since long before he joined the fold, have been pressing for much more consultation and much earlier notification when men's jobs are involved. As he heard me say the other day, I feel that there is a need for a code of conduct in these matters of mergers involving notification not only of the unions and the work-people immediately concerned but also of the Government Departments and the chairman of the regional economic planning council concerned.

Mr. Hannan

If my right hon. Friend is in any doubt about the value of Government intervention, will he visit Fairfields and ask the 2,000 workers there whether their jobs are safe or not?

The Prime Minister

I am well aware, on this as on so many other questions in the industrial and economic fields, that, while there was a spate of questions and criticisms at the time, hon. Gentlemen opposite are now very slow to ask what is happening at Fairfields.

Mr. Peyton

To return to the speech to which the Question refers, would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that for his right hon. Friend to say that devaluation was a stick of dynamite which had been used to blow the prison gates open was going a bit far down the road of exaggeration and extravaganza which we expect from him?

The Prime Minister

Hon. and right hon. Members are, of course, in all cases, responsible for the metaphors and imagery they use. I should have thought that, in view of the opportunities, as well as the problems, which devaluation creates, that was not an inappropriate form of words to use.

Mr. Dickens

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his remarks today about the need for a code of conduct for the private sector will be warmly welcomed on this side of the House, particularly since that sector is getting £2 million a day of taxpayers' money in Government subsidies? When may we receive a Government statement about this code of conduct?

The Prime Minister

I am glad that my hon. Friend feels that my remarks are worthy of that somewhat belated welcome, remembering that I said it last week. We are, of course, entering into discussions with those concerned in industry to see what can be done to work out a viable code of conduct between industry and ourselves.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. We must get on.

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