HC Deb 04 March 1971 vol 812 cc1892-3
Q1. Mr. Barnett

asked the Prime Minister when he next proposes to take the chair at a meeting of the National Economic Development Council.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Edward Heath)

As I told the House last Tuesday in reply to a Question from the hon. Member for Dudley (Dr. Gilbert), I intend to do so at the meeting on 7th April.—[Vol. 812, c. 1397.]

Mr. Barnett

Does that mean, taken together with the reported meeting with the T.U.C., that the Prime Minister is now recognising that there is a serious economic crisis and that he is prepared to consider a voluntary incomes policy? If he is going to do so, does he equally recognise that he vitally needs the support and co-operation of the T.U.C.? To get that, is he prepared to say now that he does not rule out the possibility of meaningful concessions in growth, unemployment and the Industrial Relations Bill?

The Prime Minister

What it means is that the meeting of the Council on 7th April will be the first after my right hon. Friend's Budget and will therefore give the Council the opportunity of a wide-ranging discussion about all aspects of the economy. I therefore thought it appropriate to take the chair on that occasion. So far as the Trades Union Congress is concerned, I met the General Secretary in the autumn at my invitation. A fortnight ago, at the request of the Scottish T.U.C., I met its representatives. I stated in the wind-up to the debate on the economy and again in answer to Questions that I was always ready to meet members of the Trades Union Congress. Last night I received a letter from the General Secretary suggesting such a meeting. It has now been arranged to take place next Thursday afternoon, when I shall be able to listen to whatever views the Trades Union Congress likes to express to me.

Mr. William Clark

Would my right hon. Friend, either before or immediately after the next "Neddy" meeting, give consideration to speaking to the nation so as to counter the many misrepresentations of Tory policy which the Opposition are putting out and which are being reflected in some Press articles and television broadcasts?

The Prime Minister

It will naturally be possible for me to express the Government's views to the C.B.I. next Monday and the T.U.C. on Thursday of next week. It will also be an occasion on which, I think, the public can be informed further of the Government's views.

Mr. Grimond

Is the Prime Minister aware that the news that he will meet the T.U.C. outside the N.E.D.C. will be met with widespread satisfaction? Is he aware that there is a feeling that inflation and the lack of expansion is a national matter and that the possible settlement of the Post Office strike seems a very good opportunity for him to get together with the T.U.C. and others concerned to see how this very grave matter can be tackled jointly?

The Prime Minister

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that next Monday, for the C.B.I., and next Thursday, for the T.U.C., will be very opportune occasions on which to discuss economic affairs in general.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

As, clearly, yesterday's meeting of "Neddy" felt some considerable disquiet about the prospect for industrial investment, would the Prime Minister tell us how he sees this prospect, which now looks as if it has deteriorated considerably from the decline, unusual though that is, predicted in the Government's own survey?

The Prime Minister

I should not like to give the right hon. Gentleman a particular forecast now. I do not think that this is the moment when I should do so, though obviously the question of investment will be one of the major items to be discussed with both the C.B.I. and the T.U.C.

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