HC Deb 07 December 1972 vol 847 cc1662-4
Q1. Mr. Meacher

asked the Prime Minister if, at the next meeting with the Trades Union Congress and the Confederation of British Industry, he will discuss an extension of the present scope of the freeze.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Edward Heath)

I would refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply I gave in answer to a Question from my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Adley) on 5th December.—[Vol. 847, c. 387.]

Mr. Meacher

If the Prime Minister is genuinely concerned about assisting low-paid workers during the freeze why do the Government's tax credit proposals give the £5,000-a-year man six times the gains of the average low-paid worker, earning under £20 a week? Is not this the usual Tory story of giving the poor the crumbs that fall from the rich man's table?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman knows, one of the main objectives of the tripartite talks was to help the lower-paid. If those proposals had been accepted they would have achieved the hon. Gentleman's purpose. The income, after tax, of a family earning £15 a week in 1970 has in real terms increased twice as fast as it did under the Labour Government.

Mr. Tugendhat

Is the Prime Minister aware that so far the freeze seems to have been a considerable success in that grocery prices have remained virtually unchanged since the beginning of November—the first time that has been achieved for many years? Where there have been increases in the price of such things as meat, the increases have been more than offset by falls in the price of other commodities, such as fruit and vegetables.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, and the measures that the Government took had at the time, and still have, widespread support.

Mr. Orme

As the Prime Minister torpedoed the talks with the TUC in the final half-hour by not conceding any of the major political points made by the TUC, what purpose is there in meeting the TUC again and what approaches has the TUC made to the right hon. Gentleman about future talks?

The Prime Minister

There is no purpose in the hon. Gentleman's trying to spread that myth. The whole country knows that there is no substance in it. If the hon. Gentleman accuses me of not accepting political demands, I remind him that the tripartite talks were not about political matters; they were about managing the economy of the country in a way that is acceptable to all three parties.

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