HC Deb 21 April 1970 vol 800 cc236-8
Q1. Mr. Blaker

asked the Prime Minister whether he will pay an official visit to Manchester before the end of the present Parliament.

Q2. Mr. Peyton

asked the Prime Minister if he will pay an official visit to Manchester.

Q3. Mr. Lane

asked the Prime Minister when he next proposes to make an official visit to Manchester.

Q9. Mr. Alfred Morris

asked the Prime Minister if he will pay an official visit to Manchester.

Q10. Mr. Marks

asked the Prime Minister if he will pay an official visit to the Greater Manchester area.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

Yes, Sir. Later this month, Sir.

Mr. Blaker

Is the Prime Minister aware that the paper prepared by one of his hon. Friends for a learned society in Manchester has led to speculation why the Prime Minister last year allowed his industrial relations policy to die on him? Did he do this voluntarily, or was he forced?

The Prime Minister

I dealt with that canard at Question Time about a month ago, and the hon. Gentleman may have seen the withdrawal and apology by my hon. Friend reported not long ago in the Press. I am concerned that there are serious, responsible hon. Members in this House who want to get Questions answered and would get them answered if three hon. Members did not waste time with this sort of Question, which insults the people of Manchester who have enough to put up with with a Tory council.

Mr. Peyton

Is the Prime Minister aware that we would all go along with him in wishing that Questions should be answered, and we realise that this would be most unusual? Does not he think that the Manchester Statistical Society is entitled to a full version of what happened last June? We want to know, and I am sure the society would like to know, why the Prime Minister met the trade unions at a time when the whole guts had been taken out of the industrial relations policy and when he had been deserted by his Cabinet?

The Prime Minister

That has been dealt with before. I think the Manchester Statistical Society and the people of Manchester are entitled to take note of the concerted clowning of hon. Members opposite on this question.

Mr. Lane

In view of the alarming increase in strikes, which was acknowledged in the Government's White Paper, " In Place of Strife ", will the Prime Minister explain, either to the people of Manchester or to this House, why it has taken the Government so long to produce the Industrial Relations Bill, when it will appear and what he expects it to achieve?

Mr. Rose

On a point of order. Will you rule, Mr. Speaker, on the relevance of any of these questions to the real problems of Manchester and to any visit by my right hon. Friend to Manchester, where he knows that he will always be welcome?

Mr. Speaker

They may not be relevant to the problems of Manchester, but they are relevant to the question of the visit.

The Prime Minister

I was about to answer the supplementary question of the hon. Gentleman. I dealt with this general question only last week in the House. The hon. Gentleman is wasting the time of the House and insulting the people of Manchester.

Mr. Marks

Is the Prime Minister aware that the people of Manchester are not very concerned about what a Scottish backbencher is supposed to have said to a supposedly private meeting of a learned society? Is he also aware that he will be particularly welcome in this city, where he has family connections, as the leader of a Government which has given tremendous financial help to Manchester and the surrounding towns in solving their housing, education and welfare problems? May we assure him that the people of Manchester will carry on next month with the job of getting rid of the Tory councillors who run the city at the behest of the Tory Central Office, the bankers, brewers, builders and financiers?

The Prime Minister

That is the first supplementary question to deal with Manchester. I was hoping that the first three questioners, because of their great loyalty to their own policies, would ask me how much council house rents would be raised in Manchester by the adoption of the Tory policies. The answer is 14s. a week, and 58s. to 120s. a week if applied only to the rents of dwellings under construction at 1st January, 1970.

Mr. Will Griffiths

When my right hon. Friend comes to Manchester will he come to my constituency? When my hon. Friend came I was not told about it, but my right hon. Friend will, I am sure, tell me. Will he look at the council houses in my constituency, which are typical examples of the 226,000 houses and flats that were erected in the North-West Region between 1965 and 1969—a record figure in the North-West for any four years?

The Prime Minister

Yes. My hon. Friend will recall my former visit to his constituency, when I was shown the plans of the then council for slum clearance and replacement by modern houses. I have been to his constituency a number of times since. I should be very glad to see the progress made and the quality of the houses. I note with regret that there has been a falling off in slum clearance activity in Manchester since the Tories took over.

Sir R. Cary

Is the Prime Minister aware that the City of Manchester is being governed well—for the first time in 30 years—by its Tory councillors, and will continue to be so?

The Prime Minister

I am not sure if the hon. Gentleman said " for the first time in history "; what he said was drowned in the noise. I am aware, as are many of my hon. Friends, of what the Tory council has done on the housing programme, on slum clearance, on council house rents, and on rates. Their actions do not seem to me to be four criteria of good government.