HC Deb 07 November 1974 vol 880 cc1234-6
Q1. Mr. Skinner

asked the Prime Minister whether he has any plans to meet the TUC and CBI.

Q2. Mr. Duffy

asked the Prime Minister when he expects to have talks with the TUC and the CBI on the maintenance of employment in industry.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

I would refer my hon. Friends to the reply which I gave on 5th November to my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton).

Mr. Skinner

Now that we are mopping up some of the mess left by the last but one administration, does my right hon. Friend not agree that before he next meets the CBI he should compile a dossier of all those defaulting companies which failed to send in their returns in accordance with the counter-inflation policy of the Tory administration? Will he ask the CBI what he should do to take account of this position? Will he then—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I called the hon. Member for a supplementary question. He has already asked two.

Mr. Skinner

I have not quite finished.

Mr. Speaker

That is for me to judge. For once, I shall allow one more very brief question.

Mr. Skinner

When my right hon. Friend meets the members of the TUC will he tell them that although we failed to get the £10 million refund that was taken from the charitable sources of the trade unions, it will be restored now that we have a clear majority in the House?

The Prime Minister

In reply to my hon. Friend's question about what he considers to be defaults in relation to the Counter-Inflation Act—I presume that he is referring to the parts of the Act dealing with the Price Code—it must be a matter for the Price Commission to report upon, and for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to look into these matters.

With regard to the second question, which relates to a Finance Bill matter, I cannot anticipate my right hon. Friend's Budget Statement. [Interruption.] In case my answer was not clear, I was referring to my hon. Friend's concluding question about the TUC's £10 million. As it is obviously a Finance Bill matter, I cannot anticipate the Budget Statement of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr. Duffy

Despite last month's impressive drop in unemployment figures, is the Prime Minister aware that the recent approach by the TUC to his Government about job protection reflects the growing concern not merely in this country but throughout Europe, and does he not therefore think that, however severe the limitations upon him on Tuesday, the prime aim of the Chancellor must be to keep unemployment to a sustainable minimum?

The Prime Minister

Again, without anticipating my right hon. Friend's Budget Statement, I remind my hon. Friend that in the statement on his July measures my right hon. Friend said that he would be introducing a Budget in November, and the avoidance of a lurch into unemployment would be a very high priority in his objectives.

With regard to the earlier part of my hon. Friend's question about unemployment, he is quite right in saying that the problem which we face in this country, despite recent improvements in the unemployment situation over a short period, is a world problem and it is a matter for world statesmanship to ensure that we do not lurch into a recession as a result of the world oil situation.

Mr. Heath

The Prime Minister's hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) asked for an undertaking about the repayment of £10 million to the trade unions, to which the Prime Minister replied that this was a budgetary matter. It is surely only a budgetary matter if action is to be taken. Surely the Prime Minister can give the House and his hon. Friend a firm assurance that no action will be taken by the Government to attempt to refund the £10 million?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment has already made clear—and I should have remembered the fact—that in view of the decision taken by Parliament in the previous short Parliament—the minority Parliament—the Government do intend to act in this Session on this matter. But I must leave any questions on this subject to my right hon Friend the Chancellor.

Mr. Nigel Lawson

In the light of the Prime Minister's remarks a moment ago about unemployment, will he inform the House whether or not it is a part of the social contract to hand over to the trade unions de facto control of the monetary printing press?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I am extremely surprised to hear any Conservative after the Conservative's record in prodigal printing—most of which was used for wrong purposes, which is why we are in the present mess—ask a question about printing presses.

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