HC Deb 16 November 1972 vol 846 cc609-11
Q5. Miss Joan Hall

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on developments in the Government policy towards inflation, in the light of recent talks between himself and representatives of the Confederation of British Industry and the Trades Union Congress.

Mr. Barber

I have been asked to reply.

I would refer my hon. Friend to my right hon. Friend's statement on 6th November.—[Vol. 845, c. 622–37.]

Miss Hall

Will the Chancellor confirm or deny that talks will continue between the Government, the TUC and the CBI on the monitoring of both wages and prices over the next few months?

Mr. Barber

My right hon. Friend made it quite clear, both at the time the talks ended and publicly since, that he would welcome the opportunity of further talks to deal with this whole situation.

Mr. Frederick Lee

As the Chancellor told the Tory Conference at Blackpool a few weeks ago that there had been no inflation under the Conservative Government, may I ask what these talks are about?

Mr. Barber

What I said at the Conservative Conference, which was a very successful conference, was that during the first year of our period in office after January, 1970—what I call the hang-over period—prices had risen by 10 per cent., and we had been remarkably successful in cutting the rise in prices by almost half-during the second year. I believe that the whole country is now behind the policy announced by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. What is more, the country will have no sympathy with anyone who tries to undermine that policy.

Mr. McCrindle

When the Government consider the next stage of the incomes policy, will they consider afresh the desirability of linking wage increases to increases in the cost of living rather than percentage norms?

Mr. Barber

We put forward a proposal, first in the NEDC many months ago and then by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in the tripartite talks, that there should be threshold agreements, which would, of course, have provided very considerable protection for individuals against rises in the cost of living above a certain point. I hope that that aspect will be considered again when the talks resume, as I hope they will.

Mr. Ashton

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether it was part of his plan to get support for the freeze by bringing forward the £10 bonus to pensioners to the same day as two by-elections? Will he confirm that that is the reason for the sudden rush to get these two by-elections over?

Hon. Members


Mr. Barber

As a result of action by the Government, and thanks also to the administration, officials and staff of the Post Office and the Department of Health and Social Security, we were able to bring forward the date of payment to the earliest date possible. As far as the by-elections are concerned, I think the hon. Gentleman has had his answer. It is "Lincoln".