HC Deb 16 March 1971 vol 813 cc1184-6
Q4. Mr. Ashley

asked the Prime Minister when he next proposes to make a Ministerial broadcast.

The Prime Minister

When it is appropriate to do so, Sir.

Mr. Ashley

I am deeply grateful for that comprehensive answer. Is the Prime Minister aware that an outstanding broadcast could be made about the Government's record since 18th June if he and his colleagues were prepared to illustrate their battle tactics in the fight against rising prices, and that the programme "Dad's Army" would be in serious danger of losing its audience? If the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to launch a serious programme about his policies, is it not time that he stopped seeking scapegoats on this side of the House or elsewhere and, for a change, accepted liability for the failure to allow prosperity for any section of the community apart from the landlords and speculators who have done so well under his Government?

The Prime Minister

I respect the hon. Gentleman's seriousness in these matters, as I do his point of view. Therefore, I will deal only with the second half of his question. If he consults his friends in the T.U.C. or the Scottish T.U.C., they will tell him that in our discussions I emphasised that these matters can be dealt with only by the combined action of employers and trade unionists, who, I understand, from both sides wish to carry on their arrangements in industry between themselves, and the Government in their economic policy. This must be a tripartite arrangement. That is our objective, and there is no question of our trying to find scapegoats. I am asking right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite to face the facts of life for the first time.

Mr. Thorpe

But is not it significant that Mr. Henry Ford is operating successfully in Germany where industrial relations give tremendous scope for participation by workers in works councils and give them the power to elect directors in whom they have confidence, all of which are absent from the present Industrial Relations Bill?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is correct in saying that this is one feature of the structure of German industry. Whether I put the same emphasis on it as he is prepared to do in achieving harmonious industrial relations, I doubt. The right hon. Gentleman's major point is that in a country in which there are good industrial relations the opportunities for both home and overseas markets are beter, and with that I agree.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Is not it a contribution to the rising prices mentioned by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) to sell one's memoirs to two different newspapers?

Mr. Harold Wilson

Is the Prime Minister aware that the whole House will welcome his assurance about making a Ministerial broadcast when the time is ripe? If he has not done it before then, will he choose 16th June for that broadcast and do no more than read to the British people what he said on 16th June last year? The right hon. Gentleman will recall that he said then what he intended to do about prices and unemployment, and how quickly—[H0N. MEMBERS: "Too long."] It was very much too long, and the right hon. Gentleman is regretting it now. He will also recall his categorical statement that the balance of payments surplus for the year ending last April had reached its peak. In view of the increase in the balance of payments surplus since then, will he admit in his broadcast how wrong he was and how he misled the British people?

The Prime Minister

The Leader of the Opposition did not read the statement at the time. That was apparent from his remarks. As for his second point, I quoted the figures to the former Chancellor of the Exchequer. As usual, the right hon. Gentleman has misquoted me. I said that the balance of payments trend was downwards. All the monthly figures indicate that, and the published figures for the first two quarters confirm it.