HC Deb 03 December 1974 vol 882 cc1349-51
Q6. Mr. Rost

asked the Prime Minister when he next expects to meet the TUC to discuss the social contract.

Mr. Edward Short

I have been asked to reply.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which my right hon. Friend gave on 5 th November to my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton).—[Vol. 880, c. 115.]

Mr. Rost

When does the social contract start—before or after inflation reaches 30 per cent. and unemployment tops the million mark?

Mr. Short

The social contract started the day the present Government were elected, and if the Conservative Party really wants to get the country out of its difficulties, it will support it.

Mr. Pardoe

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that one of the principal terms of the social contract is the maintenance of living standards over the next 12 months? Does he any longer believe that it is possible for the British economy to provide the maintenance of living standards? Should not the Government be rationing the reduced living standards to get them to go round?

Mr. Short

I believe that we can maintain living standards if everyone in the country—including the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe), the Liberal Party and the other Opposition parties—supports us in our efforts.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

You did not support us.

Mr. Peyton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that on the Opposition side of the House there is great anxiety to support any constructive policy which would deal with inflation, that we very much regret that the social contract is not working, and that we await with anxiety the day when we shall be told what the Government intend to do about inflation?

Mr. Short

I understand those anxieties. There is anxiety on the Government side of the House and throughout the nation about the state of the country. All I am saying is that we are entitled to look to the support of the Opposition in this situation.

Q7. Mr. George Gardiner

asked the Prime Minister whether he will pay an official visit to Bonn.

Q10. Mr. Adley

asked the Prime Minister if he will seek to pay an official visit to Bonn.

Mr. Edward Short

I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend has at present no plans to do so. He had talks with Herr Schmidt at Chequers last weekend.

Mr. Gardiner

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that the generally friendly message conveyed by the West German Chancellor in his speech on Saturday in London will be welcomed by many people well outside the ranks of the Labour Party, to which it was addressed? Will the right hon. Gentleman reciprocate this friendly gesture by making clear to the German Chancellor that, when the current round of negotiation is complete, Her Majesty's Government will make a clear recommendation to the country one way or the other and will not simply sit on the fence?

Mr. Short

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he said in his opening remark. I never thought that I would live to see the day when I would say that. We shall have to wait to see what the renegotiations produce. The essential point is that when the process is completed the people of Britain will vote on the question whether we come out or stay in the Common Market.

Mr. William Hamilton

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Prime Minister is still of the view that we are negotiating with a view to staying in the EEC rather than seeking excuses to get out?

Mr. Short

Certainly that is the policy of this party. Provided we can get the right terms it will be a good thing for Britain to stay in the Market—but only if we get the right terms. We have not got them at the moment. We are a long way from having them.

Mr. Adley

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many people on the Conservative side of the House will welcome what he has said and will support the view put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner)? Will the right hon. Gentleman, in the terms of the Question, consider asking the Prime Minister to pay a visit to Bonn one year from now, so that if the right right hon. Gentleman is still Prime Minister he will be able to celebrate this visit by visiting a fellow member of the EEC?

Mr. Short

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be paying many visits to Bonn in future during his long tenure as Prime Minister.

Mr. Ronald Atkins

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the German Chancellor's friendship would be more practical if the German Government were to make a contribution towards the £400 million which it costs the British Government annually for the British Army of the Rhine, particularly since £300 million worth of that is in German marks?

Mr. Short

We are to have a defence statement today.