HC Deb 24 July 1973 vol 860 cc1399-400
Q1. Mrs. Castle

asked the Prime Minister whether he is satisfied with the co-ordination between the Departments of Employment and Trade and Industry in monitoring the effect of the prices and incomes policy on the export drive.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Edward Heath)

Yes, Sir.

Mrs. Castle

Does not the Prime Minister think it absurd that under the pay code the firm of Singer in my constituency, which has recently won the Queen's Award to Industry for its outstanding export performance, has been refused permission to make a modest monetary award to its employees as a token of appreciation of their share in this achievement? How does the Prime Minister hope to promote exports by such meanness? Would he not have an exception made in a few clearly defined cases?

The Prime Minister

I have looked into this question carefully since I saw the right hon. Lady's letter. I agree that the workers and the firm are to be congratulated on winning the Queen's Award. I think the right hon. Lady will recognise, however, that in stage 2 it is not possible to have a definition which could be clearly limited to cases of this kind. Obviously, the distribution of bonuses generally would have been a complete loophole in the whole of the arrangements under stage 2.

On the other hand, I think that it would have been possible for the firm—and, indeed, may still be possible for it if it so wishes—to do something as a firm which would benefit the workers as a whole. For example, if it could do so by provision of facilities for social or sporting activities that might well be considered by the Pay Board as suitable?

Mr. Tapsell

Is it not a fact that while the volume of our exports is already rising twice as fast as the volume of our imports, the extremely competitive price position which our goods now possess in many Western European countries presents British industry with a wonderful opportunity which it has a duty to seize?

The Prime Minister

Yes, my hon. Friend is absolutely right, and it is not only in Europe that it has this opportunity, but right across the world. Our exports this year are already 15 per cent. up in volume and 23 per cent. up in value, and that is a quite remarkable achievement for exports.