HC Deb 24 February 1972 vol 831 cc1493-4
Q5. Mr. Joel Barnett

asked the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech at the Guildhall on 7th February on economic matters.

Q6. Mr. Redmond

asked the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech on Government policies delivered to the Overseas Bankers Club on 7th February.

The Prime Minister

I did so on 8th February, Sir.

Mr. Barnett

In the light of the appalling unemployment figures, should not the right hon. Gentleman perhaps put in an amendment? In view of the miners' settlement, which has destroyed the policies about which he was speaking and which is now claimed to be a special case, can he say why, if it is a special case, he allowed the country to suffer in order to prove that it was a special case?

The Prime Minister

Everything I said in that speech is still true. The policy has not been changed. If the hon. Gentleman is now adopting the general approach that the miners' settlement is a justification for everyone having the same scale of award, he is talking of permanent inflation on the largest possible scale. But the miners could have had a court of inquiry or arbitration at any time they wished, from the beginning of their dispute.

Mr. Redmond

Would my right hon. Friend consider the possibility of letting every hon. Member on the Opposition side have a copy of his speech? If they read it, they would see that Britain under the Conservatives pays its way, gets itself out of debt and reduces taxation.

The Prime Minister

That is quite true, and I was able to say that we could have paid off the whole of the outstanding I.M.F. debt.

Mr. Grimond

Is it the present policy of the Government that wage increases should be limited to 8 per cent. as a maximum? If not, what is the figure?

The Prime Minister

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the Government have not fixed a norm which is to apply to every settlement. As I said last night, what we have been trying to do is to maintain what has admittedly had to be a gradual but steady de-escalation of wage awards. The right hon. Gentleman only has to study the pattern of wage awards over the past year to see the differences which exist between them because of special circumstances. What we have been aiming at is a general overall de-escalation.

Mr. Adley

Following the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Redmond), would my right hon. Friend give the present position of the country's overseas debts compared with when the Government took office?

The Prime Minister

In my speech I said that if it were possible in the I.M.F. to pay the last section of the debt which was owing, we could have wiped out the whole of the debt incurred between 1964 and 1970.

Mr. Orme

If there was no norm, why did we have the five-week miners' strike, in effect, to prove that there was a norm and that the pig-headedness of the Prime Minister is responsible for the suffering of the British people? The right hon. Gentleman reiterated this nonsense last night to the Engineering Employers' Federation. When will he see sense about wages in Britain? When will people be paid wages commensurate with their skill and ability and the needs of the economy?

The Prime Minister

The reason was that throughout that time neither the National Coal Board nor the miners came anywhere near to reaching agreement and because the miners were not prepared to accept arbitration or a court of inquiry, which in the end had to be imposed on them by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. [Interruption.] I should not have thought it was at all funny that a court of inquiry had to be imposed against the wishes of a particular party to a dispute.