HC Deb 19 March 1974 vol 870 cc836-8
9. Sir A. Meyer

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what discussions he has had with the TUC about the future of wage restraint.

10. Mr. Tebbit

asked the Secretary of State for Employment when he next intends to meet members of the TUC to discuss the Government's policy towards incomes.

Mr. Foot

I have had several meetings with representatives of the TUC but the question of incomes has been only one item on the agenda. I expect to have frequent discussions in the future over the whole range of economic questions.

Sir A. Meyer

Has the right hon. Gentleman noted the statement by the Assistant Secretary General of the National Union of Railwaymen that the railwaymen are a special case and that, notwithstanding any undertaking given by the TUC, they will use the miners' settlement as an argument for furthering their claim? In those circumstances, will the Minister regard this as an occasion of exceptional circumstance when he might use his power to set aside phase 3?

Mr. Foot

As I have said in reply to a previous question about when I would use my consent, I think that it would be wrong for me to indicate generally to which cases it might apply, partly for the reasons that hon. Gentlemen have suggested. As for the statement by the Assistant Secretary General of the National Union of Railwaymen, I suggest that the hon. Gentleman should study the further statement that he has made on the subject. It puts a somewhat different complexion upon the matter. He is anxious to have it published and I think that it has been published. The hon. Gentleman should study it, and if he wants to put down another Question on the subject next week he will find that the situation has been considerably clarified.

Mr. Ron Lewis

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that in its latest wage claim the NUR has settled under stage 3 and all that the assistant general secretary referred to arose from the 1972 settlement, which is still in order, and that he had simply re-echoed what the Railways Board chief said to the Pay Board on relativities?

Mr. Foot

I think that he was echoing what the spokesman of British Rail said to the Pay Board on relativities. The rest of what my hon. Friend said is correct. The speech of the Assistant General Secretary of the National Union of Railwaymen has to be put in that perspective, and when that is done, it is nothing like the statement that has been suggested by the Opposition.

Mr. Tebbit

What measures will the Secretary of State suggest to the TUC—in the new dawn after phase 3—should be used to control rogue individuals, or rogue unions, inside or outside the TUC, who go for grossly inflationary pay settlements and use industrial muscle to get them?

Mr. Foot

To which unions was the hon. Gentleman referring? Maybe he was speculating about the future. He knows that I should not be likely to do that at the moment. But if he is referring to the past, I thought that we had cleared up the whole question of the miners and that everybody in the House now approved the settlement.

Mr. Body

Has the right hon. Gentleman noted the significant fact that those trade union leaders who acquired a reputation for militancy a few years ago and whose members are almost entirely in the private sector are now remarkably taciturn?

Mr. Foot

I am not here to pick and choose between trade union leaders who are militant and those who are not. Some circumstances require militancy and some do not. It is certainly none of my business to preach sermons to trade union leaders on when they should be militant. Many of the greatest advances in British history have been achieved by militant trade unions, and so I shall certainly not oppose them.