HC Deb 30 April 1974 vol 872 cc936-8
Q4. Dr. Edmund Marshall

asked the Prime Minister whether he will place in the Library a copy of his speech at Leeds on 30th March about the achievements of the Government.

The Prime Minister

I did so two days later, Sir.

Dr. Marshall

Will my right hon. Friend and his colleagues accept congratulations from the Labour women in Yorkshire, whom he was addressing on that occasion, for fulfilling one of the commitments which he repeated during that speech, namely, to bring to this House by 1st May a Bill repealing the Industrial Relations Act and creating an entirely fresh climate for good relations throughout industry?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. I thought there was no doubt about the reaction of the Yorkshire ladies to what I said on that occasion. There has been abundant evidence since then that their reaction to what I said about the achievements of the Government is very widely supported throughout the rest of the country, by both ladies and gentlemen.

Mr. Nigel Lawson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in his speech in Leeds he said—and I will now read— The Budget would have borne…"—

Mr. Speaker

Order. One of the rules of the House is that an hon. Member may not quote when asking a supplementary question.

Mr. Lawson

I apologise, Mr. Speaker.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in his speech at Leeds he said that the Budget would have borne a very different complexion had it not been for the three-day working week? Is he not aware that this is totally at variance with the explanation of the Budget judgment given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget speech? Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us which taxes would have been different and whether they would have been higher or lower, and by how much, had it not been for the three-day working week?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. On the contrary, my right hon. Friend has made clear repeatedly that because of the three-day working week and the difficulty of estimating how quickly we could emerge as a country from the consequences of the three-day week and the loss of output and the further twist that it gave to inflation, it was impossible for him to give as clear a Budget judgment as he would have wished. That is why he announced that there would be a second Budget in due course—a proposal which I think was endorsed by the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Duffy

Does the Prime Minister recall reminding his audience on that day of a previous speech in Leeds last December, when he expressed the hope that within three years of the next election he could claim to the electorate that steps had been taken to adopt all the major heads of his programme? Does not my right hon. Friend think that he can now make that claim to the electorate not after three years but after three months?

The Prime Minister

I did so at Leeds, after a shorter period. I quoted the exact words that I had used in Leeds at the beginning of December last. Of the main eight points that an incoming Labour Government would carry out, I was able to show that four have been carried out in less than one month and that two or three more, and ultimately all of them, would be carried through.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

By filling Whitehall with supporters of the Labour Party who are paid from public funds, is not one of the achievements of the Prime Minister to obliterate the constitutional distinction between what is Government policy and what is a matter of party politics? Will the Prime Minister explain to the House what part the Cabinet Office played in the issue of the statement of the Leader of the House this morning?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman, as a great student of our constitution, speaks with great authority, not least about the previous Government, because he spent a considerable time there, as we all know. But he will know that in this country government tends to be political. No Government were ever more political than the previous Government, whom he supported. I am very sorry that the hon. Gentleman should want to take up—it is not characteristic of him—the statement made by my right hon. Friend, which was issued yesterday. This was a statement made on the responsibility of my right hon. Friend, with my full approval, and it did not involve the work of the Civil Service or of anyone referred to by the hon. Gentleman. It would be in accordance with the custom of this House if hon. Gentlemen were now to accept what was said by my right hon. Friend, or, if not, to decide to hold him accountable for anything with which they do not agree.