HC Deb 15 March 1973 vol 852 cc1468-70
Q1. Mr. Wyn Roberts

asked the Prime Minister whether he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech to the Institute of Public Relations on 1st March on inflation.

Q9. Mr. Duffy

asked the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech to the Institute of Public Relations on 1st March on inflation.

Q12. Mr. Atkinson

asked the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech to the Institute of Public Relations on inflation on 1st March 1973.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Edward Heath)

I did so on 2nd March, Sir.

Mr. Roberts

The major theme of that speech was the responsibility of the trade unions. Is my right hon. Friend aware that now that the TUC leaders have decided to co-ordinate action in support of those who resist the counter-inflation measures, the Government will have the full support of public opinion in any co-ordinated action they may take to ensure that the trade unionists conform to the law?

The Prime Minister

I think that my hon. Friend is right. Of course, when I was dealing in that speech with the responsibilities of the trade unions I asked them to consider, and to discuss with us—as we are willing to do—how to coordinate an improvement in wages without producing the leapfrogging which leads to inflation.

Mr. Duffy

Does the Prime Minister recall concluding his speech by saying that the offer to the unions to share with the Government the management of the economy is still open? Does he think that the Budget statement constituted a sufficient inducement? Does he think that a meaningful dialogue with the unions is possible in the shadow of the Industrial Relations Act, and does he not think that its dispatch would be a small price to pay to relieve the ever-deepening gloom which threatens to envelope and suffocate our society?

The Prime Minister

That was a part of our dialogue. I invited both the trade unions and the employers to put forward proposals for amendments to the Industrial Relations Act.

Mr. Atkinson

Does the Prime Minister agree that if workers are to maintain their living standards they need an increase of 8 per cent. in their take-home pay to cover the increase in the cost of living, plus 4 per cent. to make up for the deductions from wages, and therefore that anything less than a 12 per cent. increase for the last 12 months means a reduction in their living standards? Will he confirm that that is part of his strategy?

The Prime Minister

No. I do not confirm that; I deny it. As I told an hon. Member who asked exactly the same ques- tion earlier this week, last year the increase in earnings was about 16 per cent., and the increase in prices was about 7½ per cent. The hon. Member cannot possibly justify what he is saying in view of the events of last year. We are now dealing with the coming year.

Mr. Awdry

Will the Prime Minister personally explain to the train drivers' leaders that they are hurting not only the British public but their own prosperity and the future of British Railways?

The Prime Minister

Yes, that is true, and a very large number of those who are working on the railways realise it. That is why they are continuing to work the railways to the best of their ability.

Mr. Taverne rose

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Taverne

While many of us—

Mr. Skinner

Go on, stir it up.

Mr. Heffer

Go on, cheer him. They are your friends, Dick.

Mr. Taverne

Many of us are glad that the Prime Minister has not persisted in his folly of preaching against an incomes policy as he has done for seven years, but is he aware that he will not command general acceptance of such a necessary policy unless he is prepared to take action on rents and food?

The Prime Minister

The Government have taken action on rents and manufactured food. The prices of manufactured foods have been and are being strictly controlled. On rents, the Government have greatly improved the rebate system so that a man who has a wife and two children and who is on the average industrial earnings will not have to pay an increase in rent even when he gets the increase in pay of £1 plus 4 per cent.