HC Deb 27 April 1971 vol 816 cc231-2
Q5. Mr. Barnett

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his official talks with Mr. Leonard Woodcock of the United States Automobile Workers, Mr. Jack Jones and Mr. Hugh Scanlon on 23rd March, 1971.

The Prime Minister

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to a similar Question from the hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) on 20th April, 1971.—[Vol. 815, c. 380.]

Mr. Barnett

Did not Mr. Woodcock explain to the right hon. Gentleman that high wages in the United States were not causing unemployment? Does the Prime Minister still insist that they are doing so in Britain?

The Prime Minister

Mr. Leonard Woodcock explained to me and to the members of the T.U.C. who were present that they were able to get high wages because they had three-year contracts which they observed, with the result that there was very little industrial unrest. [Interruption.] If hon. Gentlemen opposite care to look at the figures for Ford in the United States, which I had available and about which Mr. Woodcock knew, they will find that this is the case, simply because the firm is able to get additional production. If, in this country, the trade unions were able to give three-year contracts with no industrial disturbance, they, too, would get higher wages and there would be higher production.

Mr. Heffer

Is the right hon. Gentleman really unaware of the fact that, despite those three-year contracts, in many American industries the strikes are longer? Is he also unaware that Ford's strike record in America is far worse than the record in this country?

The Prime Minister

I contest the hon. Gentleman's figures. The point which Mr. Woodcock made was that during these three-year agreements there was a minimum of industrial unrest, and this meant that the company was able to achieve higher production and ensure deliveries on time to its agents.

Mr. Harold Wilson

Did Mr. Woodcock discuss with the right hon. Gentleman, as he did with me, the case of the G.E.C. strike in America in 1970, in which more man-days were lost in that 11-week strike than in the whole of Great Britain in the whole of 1969?

The Prime Minister

We did not discuss G.E.C. because Mr. Woodcock was out to show me what had been achieved at Ford in Detroit.