HC Deb 21 October 1971 vol 823 cc896-7
Q4. Mr. Ashley

asked the Prime Minister when he next proposes to take the Chair at the National Economic Development Council.

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Member knows, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is Chairman of the Council. While I am always ready to consider taking the Chair myself, I have no immediate plans to do so.

Mr. Ashley

Is the Prime Minister aware that the fear and insecurity that is rife in industry today exists not only because of the tragic rate of unemployment, which the Prime Minister unsuccessfully tried to defend, but because of the philosophy of a free-for-all on prices and incomes. To avoid a return to the tragic class hatreds of the pre-war years, will the Minister consult trade union leaders and the N.E.D.C. to try to construct a viable employment policy and a viable prices and incomes policy which have the consent of the trade union movement?

The Prime Minister

This matter was discussed in N.E.D.C. at the beginning of the year and again three and two months ago. In that discussion it was acknowledged by all parties to N.E.D.C. that the Government, by their tax reductions in particular, had contributed towards reducing prices, and that the C.B.I, initiative was also contributing to a solution of that problem. It was then asked by parties on N.E.D.C. that the trade unions should also make their contribution, and I support that request.

Mrs. Renée Short

Is the Prime Minister aware that his right hon. Friend told us yesterday in the House that food prices alone had increased by almost 12 per cent, since he came to office? Does it not therefore appear that his plans with the C.B.I, are not bearing much fruit? Is he also aware that unemployment is rising all over the country and that in the West Midlands, according to the latest figures, 15 men are going after every job? Is it not time that he got down to this business or else got out?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Lady cannot draw that conclusion from the figures given by my right hon. Friend because they were the figures going over a year and the C.B.I, initiative started in July.