HC Deb 20 June 1972 vol 839 cc234-6
Q4. Mr. Leslie Huckfield

asked the Prime Minister whether he will now place in the Library a copy of his public speech on Government policy at Luton Hoo on 27th May.

Q9. Mr. Meacher

asked the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a copy of the public speech he made at Luton Hoo on 27th May on the subject of industrial relations.

Q15. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Prime Minister whether he will place in the Library a copy of his speech on the subject of Government policy delivered at Luton Hoo on 27th May, 1972.

The Prime Minister

I did so on 30th May, Sir.

Mr. Huckfield

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in that speech he said We shall have no battles and let no one ask this Government to surrender"? Since on each occasion he has chosen the battle ground and on each occasion he has had to surrender, is it not about time we had a new general or that the whole army was disbanded?

The Prime Minister

When an inflationary wage claim is granted, this is a defeat for the country as a whole if it leads to further inflation. If the trade unions and the party opposite cannot realise that, they will never understand the impact of excessive wage demands on inflation.

Mr. Meacher

Since in that speech the Prime Minister stressed the interest of the wider community, why have his Government given a £1 a week tax reduction to all tax-paying, including surtax-paying, households, yet to the pensioners the 75p rise which they are to get is merely the restoration of purchasing power which would have been granted anyway? Why has he, in comparable terms, given nothing at all to them?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman is wrong, as he so often is in his statistics. The pension increase is more than is required to deal with any increase in the cost of living. The two increases granted by the present Government—the one at the end of last year and the one next autumn—are an increase of 32½ per cent. in the pension, which is greater than has ever been granted in this period by any Government before.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Would it not be something if hon. Members opposite, including the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) in a serious situation ceased trying to squeeze the last drop of party political advantage out of it and for once thought of the national interest?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend as usual, is being too optimistic in expecting any responsibility from the Opposition, who have so far supported every inflationary wage increase and who are now, through the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, doing their best to destroy sterling. If the Leader of the Opposition disagrees with his right hon. Friend, let him stand up and say so. Otherwise let him take the responsibility. We all know the notorious record in prophecy of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) who said that a Conservative Government would mean conscription and was proved absolutely wrong.

Mr. Harold Wilson

The right hon. Gentleman might list some of the inflationary wage increases which we have supported. What we have done, as he knows, is to condemn the whole failure—[Interruption.]—of the industrial relations policy. [Interruption.] On the right hon. Gentleman's strictures—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. This applies to both sides.

Mr. Wilson

On the right hon. Gentleman's strictures on my right hon. Friend, is he aware that I would take that from anyone except the right hon. Gentleman, who consistently throughout the Labour Government was selling sterling short in his speeches at home and abroad and who, even in his "at a stroke" speech which he wants to forget, threatened the country with devaluation, at the very moment that we were handing over to him a £600 million surplus—which he has frittered away?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman knows that, throughout the time I was Leader of the Opposition until devaluation, I stood at that Dispatch Box in every debate and insisted that there was no rational justification for the devaluation of sterling. That was on every occasion, and the right hon. Gentleman knows it. As for the balance of payments, it is the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend the former Shadow Chancellor who urged the present Government to use up the balance of payments in order to create fresh employment in this country. Now, because of the expansion of the economy which is being achieved, imports of raw materials are using up part of the balance of payments. But the current account is in surplus. Let not the right hon. Gentleman say that it has been frittered away.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. We must go on to calmer waters.