HC Deb 13 March 1973 vol 852 cc1106-7
Q1. Mr. Norman Lamont

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech of the Home Secretary at Croydon on 26th February on industrial relations represents Government policy.

Q2. Sir Gilbert Longden

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech of the Home Secretary at Croydon about industrial relations on Monday 26th February represents Government policy.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Edward Heath)

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Lamont

Referring to the Price and Pay Code, may I ask whether there is not a point to be taken into account in the offer to the gas workers, namely, that under the code the trade unions are still able to negotiate increases in occupational and industrial pensions? Is not this one way that the trade unions can benefit their members and the elderly and act within the framework of the Government's policy?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, and I hope that it will lead to an improvement in the pensions situation.

Sir Gilbert Longden

Referring to the wholly unjustified criticism that the Government's taxation policy has helped only the better off, is it not true that 80 per cent. of the vast personal reductions in taxation made by this Government since 1970 have gone to people who get less than one-and-a-half times the national average wage? Can it be discovered how much more than the present 90 per cent. of the highest incomes the Opposition consider should be taken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer dealt with this matter in some detail when he wound up the debate last night as well as in his presentation of the Budget when he said that even so, after these arrangements, the highest rate of taxation would still be 75 per cent. for earned income and 90 per cent. for investment income, and there was little opposition from the Opposition.

Mr. James Lamond

In that speech the right hon. Gentleman admitted that there must be unfairness in a wage freeze and he went on to outline how the Government were prepared to accommodate the manufacturers who were feeling the effect of the freeze on their profits, but maintained that the Government would go on stubbornly opposing any trade union which asked for fairness of treatment. How does the Prime Minister expect trade unionists to accept this policy if he shows such unfairness towards them?

The Prime Minister

Exactly the reverse is the case. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary pointed out that when a standstill is imposed unfairness may be caused, and the objective of the Pay Board, and especially of the deputy chairman responsible, is to ensure that unfairnesses are tackled in stage 3.

Mr. Paget

Does not the Prime Minister realise that during his regime the rich have got richer quicker than at any time in our history and that a very large number of relatively rich men—and I include myself—have seen their fortunes more than doubled in two years?

The Prime Minister

The hon. and learned Gentleman is thinking of his own party's record.