HC Deb 25 October 1973 vol 861 cc1465-7
Q2. Mr. Wyn Roberts

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on his latest meetings with the TUC and the CBI concerning phase 3.

Q4. Mr. Norman Lamont

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on his talks with the TUC and the CBI.

The Prime Minister

I met the CBI on Tuesday of last week and the TUC on Monday of this week, when the two bodies gave the Government their views on the proposals for stage 3.

Mr. Roberts

Will my right hon. Friend agree to refer to the Pay Board the most thorough and searching examination of any individual increases in salary in excess of the limits imposed under the counter-inflation policy, so that the British people can be assured that no one is above the law in that regard?

The Prime Minister

The Pay Board already has full powers to follow up any cases of that kind or any complaints about unjustifiable increases. It makes investigations of that kind, and its conclusions have been published. There is no need whatever for me to give it, or ask the House to give it, any greater powers to carry out its duties.

Mr. Ashton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the coal mines in the North Midlands and in my constituency are facing an immediate crisis because of the loss of manpower to other industries? Will he tell us how he expects nationalised industries to do their job and to attract and keep the necessary men while their wages are restricted? How will he solve the current energy crisis which Britain is facing if the pits cannot keep their men?

The Prime Minister

I would ask the hon. Gentleman and his Friends how they would deal with inflation if everybody were allowed to leapfrog over one another in wage claims. I do not wish to comment on the position of the mines, because the National Union of Mineworkers came to see me on Tuesday and we discussed the whole position. The union will be negotiating with the National Coal Board under the stage 3 proposals when they are published.

Mr. Lamont

With reference to the Housing Finance Act, has my right hon. Friend's attention been drawn to the fact that the housing commissioner at Clay Cross has now discovered that because of the non-implementation there of the Housing Finance Act many of those who can least afford it have been paying too much rent for the whole of the last year? Is it not remarkable that a party which claims to be a party of compassion should put defiance of the law before help for those who most need it?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. Of course that is absolutely the case, and until the housing commissioner can get to work and rectify this situation, those who are less well-off will be paying more rent than they should.

Mr. Skinner

Is the Prime Minister aware that the councillors at Clay Cross wrote to the Secretary of State for the Environment 18 months ago, asking his Government to implement the appropriate section of the Act, and to send in a housing commissioner to collect the rent and do the Minister's dirty work? Is he further aware that when Patrick Skillington came to Clay Cross last week he was there for only five minutes, so it seems highly unlikely that he was able to find out how much any of the tenants were paying in rent, let alone the fact that some were already paying too much.

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend appointed a housing commissioner as soon as the stage reached for legal proceedings taken by the councillors permitted him to do so. I understand that the housing commissioner was able to find out that many people have been paying far more rent over the last year than they should have done

Mr. Marten

On the question of the counter-inflationary policy, may I make a helpful suggestion to the Prime Minister? Is he aware that on 1st January the Government have to impose an 8 per cent. tax on imported lamb, which is very much a Sunday lunch joint for English families? Would it not be helpful if we did not impose that 8 per cent. tax?

The Prime Minister

I know that my hon. Friend's interventions are always intended to be helpful. This arrangement is part of our agreement on going into the Community.

Mr. Healey

Is the Government aware that the figures published by the European Commission on Monday of this week show that in the 12 months up to July this year hourly earnings in manufacturing industry in Britain, after tax rose less than consumer prices? How then, has he justified to the TUC the fact that during a year in which he claims production and national wealth were rising at a rate over 5 per cent. the standard of life of ordinary people in Britain was actually falling?

The Prime Minister

I have not seen the figures to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, but he has the statistics produced by the Government's own statistical service. The Government's statistical office shows quite clearly that earnings have risen much faster than prices.

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