HC Deb 20 April 1972 vol 835 cc742-4
Q3. Mr. Duffy

asked the Prime Minister what plans he now has to have joint talks with the Confederation of British Industry and the Trades Union Congress.

Mr. Maudling

I have been asked to reply.

This will be for consideration after the next round of talks which my right hon. Friend will be holding with the CBI and the TUC separately. He will be meeting representatives of the TUC on 26th April.

Mr. Duffy

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that in the absence of a formal prices and incomes policy the Government, in their attempt to check inflation, are heavily dependent on the good will and co-operation on such bodies of collective bargaining as the TUC and the CBI? In view of the current application and consequences of past Tory legislation, does he think that the Government are entitled to expect—and, what is much less likely, to get—such good will and co-operation from the TUC?

Mr. Maudling

I would have thought that everyone in Britain had a common interest in restraining inflation. Certainly the CBI has made a considerable effort with its price restraint policy. It is only fair to say that that policy of price restraint cannot be expected to continue unless restraint is also shown in wage demands.

Mr. Kinsey

Has my right hon. Friend's attention been drawn to the statement on the tape by Sir Sydney Greene that the trade unions are law-abiding organisations which will have to work to find a formula? Does he agree that this is the most encouraging statement we have had, that it underlines the view which hon. Members on this side of the House have expressed and that it should encourage him to proceed with the suggestion that has been put to him?

Mr. Maudling

I saw that statement on the tape today and I was glad to see it.

Mr. Michael Foot

Returning to the Question, does not the right hon. Gentleman think that the most urgent matter for discussion with the CBI and the TUC, separately or together, is the still appallingly high unemployment figures published today? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, despite a most welcome slight reduction in the total, the most serious aspect of the figures is the fact that there is an actual increase in the numbers of wholly unemployed?

Does he agree that it would be absolutely shocking, because these figures have persisted for so long, if we were to appear to be becoming familiar with and accepting them? These figures are intolerable. When do the Government propose to tell the House and the people what effective measures they intend to take to deal with this problem?

Mr. Maudling

The extensive changes made in the Budget and the vast amount of additional demand put into the economy will be very effective indeed. Clearly there is a close relationship between the level of unemployment and the level of inflation, as I have said in earlier answers.