HC Deb 25 October 1973 vol 861 cc1467-70
Q3. Mr. Ashley

asked the Prime Minister if he will pay an official visit to the Cities of London and Westminster.

The Prime Minister

I carry out a large number of official engagements in the Cities of London and Westminster.

Mr. Ashley

Is the Prime Minister aware that if he visits Fleet Street he will find that many journalists are contemptuous of the law of contempt, be- cause the British Press is not as free as it is thought to be and it is not as free as it ought to be. Instead of waiting for the report of the leisurely Phillimore Committee, which has been sitting for a numbers of years, will the Prime Minister initiate urgent legislation to prevent the issuing of gagging writs by villains with something to hide?

The Prime Minister

I am well aware of the concern of all journalists with the present state of the law of contempt. But I understand that the Phillimore Committee is expected to complete its work before the end of this year—in other words, in about two months' time—and will publish its report as soon as possible thereafter. In these circumstances, we ought to await the report—I knew that it has taken a considerable time—and not try to initiate legislation ourselves without it.

Mr. Tugendhat

Is the Prime Minister aware that as the Member for the Cities of London and Westminster I am not only his MP but also the MP for the Leader of the Opposition? Is he further aware that my constituents hope he will remain in Downing Street for a long time to come? Does he agree with me that we all wish the Leader of the Opposition a long and happy stay at his house in Lord North Street?

The Prime Minister

If the situation is as satisfactory to my hon. Friend as it is to myself, I am quite happy to leave it there.

Q6. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Prime Minister if he has any further plans for meeting representatives of the TUC and the CBI to discuss matters of mutual concern.

The Prime Minister

No dates for further meetings have yet been arranged but I expect to continue our useful series of discussions on specific subjects as required in the future.

Mr. Hamilton

Will the Prime Minister give his reaction to the CBI's proposition that supplementary benefit payable to the wives and dependents of strikers should be repaid when the men get back to work? Also, can he give an assurance that he will be as firm about the miners' pay claim this year as he was last year?

The Prime Minister

The matter referred to in the first part of the question was not discussed in the talks with the CBI. I read in the Press that it was put forward by Mr. Campbell Adamson, but the CBI must take responsibility for that.

Mr. Harold Wilson

When the right hon. Gentleman gives his figures and his comparisons between earnings and prices, will he accept that one-third of the increase in earnings between the first and second quarters of this year was due to dividends and the receipt of rents, and that a further high proportion was also due to self-employment? Is he really saying now that ordinary families have had quite such a good crack of the whip as he says in public outside this House, and as he has tried to imply this afternoon?

The Prime Minister

I am. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to have a complete breakdown of total earnings throughout the nation, including rents, dividends, and so on, I shall gladly try to get it for him. But he will recognise that dividends are strictly controlled, and have been since the standstill, and that rents are covered by the Act itself. I am quite prepared to get a breakdown if he wants it.

Mr. Wilson

The right hon. Gentleman does not need to get a breakdown; it was published by the Central Statistical Office last week. I asked him whether he would allow for this in what he is saying. Has he not seen that statement? Will he now say whether he agrees with the statement in the Central Statistical Office's document, that one-third is due to the causes I have mentioned and that a further major proportion is due to other causes. Does he agree with the CSO's statement or does he not?

The Prime Minister

I am quite prepared to let the right hon. Gentleman have my views on the statement. I do not question the statistical office's statement and I hope that he will not do so, either.

Mr. Dykes

Does my right hon. Friend agree that public support for the counter-inflation policy is now so self-evident and strong that the public will be watching very closely indeed to see whether the unions behave with the same commendable restraint in phase 3 as they did in phase 2?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is right. But it was quite clear throughout the talks that we have had with the TUC and the CBI, and in the views that they gave us, that they believe there must be a counter-inflation policy. Although they would like to be able to have a complete free-for-all, I think they all recognise that to operate within the framework which we have proposed is both reasonable and fair.

Mr. Pardoe

Can the Prime Minister say what rate of inflation he has taken, in his talks with the CBI and with the TUC, as the expected annual rate for phase 3, and will he agree that, far from phase 3 being counter-inflationary, its central purpose is to teach the British people how to live in a banana republic?

The Prime Minister

I really could not disagree more with the hon. Gentleman. If he wants to make any sort of constructive contribution to the nation's life, he will have to drop that sort of approach.