HC Deb 13 June 1972 vol 838 cc1253-5
Q3. Mr. Ashley

asked the Prime Minister when he next proposes to hold discussions with the Trades Union Congress and the Confederation of British Industry.

The Prime Minister

I expect to meet representatives of the CBI on 12th July to discuss management education. Otherwise I would refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to his Question of 16th May.—[Vol. 837, c. 233–5.]

Mr. Ashley

Would the Prime Minister agree that while we have massive increases in rents and profits, and while the prices of food, housing and land are soaring rapidly, any attempt to impose a wage freeze would be unsatisfactory and unrealistic? Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that the best way to reduce the industrial temperature at two strokes would be, first, to call off his legal dogs and, second, to accept the conciliatory approaches made by the TUC?

The Prime Minister

We have always been prepared to discuss any conciliatory approach with the TUC, and that is why I have been having meetings with it. It was last left that the TUC would put forward its proposals for new methods of conciliation, and would exchange views with the CBI about the CBI's proposals. That process is now proceeding and we await the next meeting of the TUC, the CBI and myself, following the discussions they both will have together.

Mr Bruce-Gardyne

Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that we are not moving towards another repetition of the declaration of intent?

The Prime Minister

In discussions with the TUC and the CBI the very words "declaration of intent" have never been used, for the simple reason that they are offensive to both sides.

Mr. Thorpe

While recognising the value of a session of management education, has the Prime Minister thought about a session of Government education? Does he still think, after the railway settlement and the dictum in the Court of Appeal, that the Industrial Relations Act is a substitute for a proper prices and incomes policy? Would the right hon. Gentleman accept that, if the Government reverse their present policies, it will not create a precedent? It will be understood and many of us think there could be a period of restraint for both, underpinned by the taxation system.

The Prime Minister

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will be good enough to reveal one day to an expectant House his proper incomes and prices policy.

Mr. Heffer

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the Industrial Relations Act has been totally unhelpful in solving any of the industrial disputes we have had in the past, particularly recently? Is not the best way to deal with industrial relations to talk seriously to the TUC about its ideas on conciliation and in the meantime, in order that we should achieve a good climate for industrial relations, to put the Industrial Relations Act on ice? On that basis the Government would make themselves look far less ridiculous than they have in the last few weeks.

The Prime Minister

I have told the House the position about conciliation. The TUC has produced its proposals and the CBI has done the same. There must now be discussion between them, before the Government discuss the proposals with both sides together.

I emphasis again that in any proposals of this kind there must be proper protection for the interests of the consumer. The country is not prepared to accept an arrangement under which employers and trade unions agree between themselves on purely inflationary wage increases. On the second part of the question, when the hon. Member can give the House an undertaking that the trade unions will not make inflationary wage claims, I will listen to his views on the Industrial Relations Act.

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