HC Deb 04 February 1971 vol 810 cc1905-6
Q1. Mr. Sillars

asked the Prime Minister if the public speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce on 11th January, in which he advocated progressive and substantial reductions in wage increases, represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

Q6. Mr. Molloy

asked the Prime Minister if the public speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer at Birmingham on 11th January on prices, economic and related matters, represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Edward Heath)

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Sillars

Is it not a fact that the Chancellor's policy statement is the exact opposite of the Prime Minister's policy statement on 16th June when he guaranteed progressive and substantial decreases in prices, not wages?

The Prime Minister

If the hon. Gentleman reads the Chancellor's very clear analysis he will find that it exactly corresponds with my own policy and that of the Government.

Mr. Evelyn King

Is it not a fact that wage increases in excess of productivity must mean increases in prices? May we assume that those who are in favour of the one are also in favour of the other?

The Prime Minister

I think that that is very logical but I doubt whether anyone would agree.

Mr. Molloy

Is the Prime Minister aware that in this speech the Chancellor quoted what other people called the "British disease", and this at a time when British management and workers had produced very good export figures? Would he now take advantage of this opportunity to declare that he does not agree that there is such a thing as the "British disease" and that British management and British workers are to be complimented on their endeavours?

The Prime Minister

I always pay tribute to what is achieved in exporting, whether visible or invisible. What the Chancellor was dealing with was the question of the impact on exports of rising prices through rising costs as a result of excessive, inflationary wage increases.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

At what point did the the Chancellor's statement of 11th January refer to reducing indirect taxation, reducing the surpluses of nationalised industries to reduce their prices and bringing down unemployment, which were the three salient points of the right hon. Gentleman's statement on 16th June?

The Prime Minister

The Chancellor has always made it plain that we want to get unemployment down, and to do this it is essential to get on top of inflation. The right hon. Gentleman knows that full well. That is the object of our policies. I should have thought that it is becoming apparent that with a high rate of cost inflation, there is rising unemployment.