HC Deb 06 April 1971 vol 815 cc243-5
Q9. Mr. Ashley

asked the Prime Minister if he will now arrange a further meeting with the Trades Union Congress to discuss matters of common concern.

Mr. Maudling

I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend will be discussing economic policy with representatives of the T.U.C. when he takes the Chair at tomorrow's meeting of the N.E.D.C.

Mr. Ashley

Will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Prime Minister to explain at the meeting the principles of free and vigorous competition and also to explain to the trade union leaders there why those principles apply to everyone except the trade unions?

Mr. Maudling

One of the most important features in the economic problem is the monopoly power exercised by certain trade unions. It is as simple as that. As the Leader of the Opposition said on one occasion, one of the great needs of economic policy is to ensure that monopoly positions are not used to excess against the national interest.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

Would it not be a good thing if the T.U.C. invited the Prime Minister to be guest speaker at the Congress this year?

Mr. Maudling

I am sure that due note will be taken of that suggestion.

Mr. Molloy

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the words used earlier today by the Secretary of State for Social Services—that British workers are stabbing pensioners in the back—would in no way help the discussions which any Government would have to have with the T.U.C.? Does not he also agree, with the gold and dollar reserves at so high a level, with record exports in the last few weeks, and with the inheritance by the Government of a £600 million-plus surplus as compared with the £800 million-plus deficit which they left the Labour Government in 1964, that all these achievements are the result of efforts by men and women who work with hand and brain? Does not he agree that the words used by the Secretary of State should be withdrawn completely?

Mr. Maudling

There remains the fundamental fact that those who suffer most from inflation are pensioners, and when inflation arises from excessive increases in incomes, the deduction is clearly to be drawn.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

I thought that the Industrial Relations Bill was intended to deal with a small number of militants in the trade unions. Is the Home Secretary now saying that it is designed to break the monopoly position of the big unions?

Mr. Maudling

I said nothing of the sort; nor has anyone on this side of the House said anything like that about the Bill.