HC Deb 06 March 1973 vol 852 cc227-9
Q1. Mr. Norman Lamont

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech of the Secretary of State for Employment on 16th February at Farnham on industrial relations represents Government policy.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Edward Heath)

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Lamont

Although under the voting procedure of yesterday's special TUC conference there was a majority in favour of action against the Government's pay policy, and although individual trade union members will now feel themselves under some pressure to follow that lead, since rank and file trade union members were not consulted is not it the case that there is no reason to believe that yesterday's vote was widely representative of the trade union movement?

The Prime Minister

I cannot comment on the situation of individual unions. But what my hon. Friend said was reflected in the comments of many of those at yesterday's meeting.

Hon. Members

Have a ballot.

Mr. Grimond

Is the Prime Minister satisfied with the effects of the Industrial Relations Act on the present round of strikes?

The Prime Minister

As for the operation of the Act on individual union members, it is being used more and more and greatly to their benefit. From the point of view of the present unofficial action or what might be called "day" action—the short strikes—I do not think that the Industrial Relations Act is affecting them very much. If people have proposals to make for its amendment, I have constantly made it clear that we are prepared to consider them. So far we have not had any proposals either from unions or from employers.

Mr. Churchill

Will the Prime Minister make it clear that nothing is doing more to depress the value of the pound and consequently to put up food prices than the current industrial unrest? Will my right hon. Friend emphasise that there will be no surrender to those politically-motivated militants who seek to defy the will of Parliament by indulging in a vicious round of community-bashing directed specifically against the sick and the elderly?

The Prime Minister

This is a matter that we have discussed with the TUC and with employers on previous occasions. Any industrial action which affects the pound, as it is likely to, is working against their own interests because a lower pound is bound to push up the price of food. It is therefore defeating the objective of those using it. It is true that no one will gain a penny from the present industrial unrest. Many will suffer, some very grievously. A solution to these problems has been put forward already. As for the National Health Service ancillary workers, they can have their increase in pay next week. It is due next week. They have been offered an increase of £2 a head for every man and £1.80 for every woman. For women there is an additional sum payable in October to take account of the movement towards equal pay. Surely everyone in this House must ask himself whether it is justifiable to cause this damage and suffering to people in hospitals.

Mr. William Hamilton

Will the Prime Minister tell the House why the provisions of the Industrial Relations Act have not been invoked against these so-called militants? Does he regard the nurses in the National Health Service as militants because, for the first time in our history, they are now threatening to strike? Does he regard them as Left-wing Communists?

Mr. Heffer

"Community bashing" was what that idiot on the Government side said.

The Prime Minister

I can make no comment about that or about individuals who are at the moment urging strikes or taking part in them. The pay increase of the National Health Service ancillaries would be the second largest they have ever had, and it is available to them next week. It is £2 for men and £1.80 for women, with the additional payment towards equal pay in the autumn. Therefore, I do not believe that it can possibly he justifiable for any reason to cause anxiety and suffering to people in hospital.