HC Deb 24 April 1975 vol 890 cc1740-2
Q3. Mr. Sproat

asked the Prime Minister if he will arrange a meeting with the Scottish TUC before the referendum.

The Prime Minister

I have no plans to do so, Sir. I and a number of my senior colleagues had very full discussions with the STUC at the end of February.

Mr. Sproat

Is the Prime Minister aware that, following those discussions, the Scottish TUC has officially rejected the Budget, rejected his policy on the social contract, rejected his European policy and appointed its first Communist general secretary? Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the STUC's incredibly short-sighted opposition to the efficient, streamlined and competitive Scottish steel industry, coupled with the Government's interference in and delaying of the BSC's proposals, will mean goodbye to steelmaking at Hunterston in the foreseeable future?

The Prime Minister

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman read that very well. In fact, I regret some of decisions last week at the STUC conference. I do not accept many of its criticisms. I do not think that anything that happened at the STUC conference should give any happiness to the Conservative Party. I had constructive discussions with the general council, as did my right hon. Friends. Many have expressed anxiety in the first flush of the Budget, which was approved by the House last week. I cannot remember whether the hon. Gentleman was on the STUC side in the vote. There have been criticisms of these matters. I do not agree with the STUC's views on Europe and so on, but in a democratic country it is free to say these things and the hon. Gentleman is free to read out his prepared statement of what he thinks about them.

Mr. McElhone

As someone who was a guest of the STUC in Aberdeen last week, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend is aware that the vast majority of Scottish trade unionists still believe in the social contract and that the STUC more than welcomed the £300,000 allocated to the Scottish Development Agency? Is he also aware that, despite our present difficulties, the STUC still believes that a Labour Government and their policies, in the absence of any alternative policies from the Tories and the SNP, are the best policies for the people of Scotland?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, not only for what he said but for the full report he gave me yesterday on the conference, where he represented Scottish Labour Members of Parliament. My hon. Friend certainly gave me a somewhat different account of the temper of the debates there from the one given by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat).

Mr. Whitelaw

Is the Prime Minister aware that at the start of Question Time I asked what I think, in the interests of the nation, was a perfectly serious question: namely, whether it would be a good idea to have a White Paper on what has happened to the social contract and what is likely to happen in future? Everything that the Prime Minister said in various different answers since then seems to underline the value that such a proposal would have. As he did not answer that question at the start, may I come hack to it now? Will he consider the possibility of publishing such a White Paper? Would it not be of great help to the nation and certainly to this House?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. In my reply to the right hon. Gentleman I referred to the full answers given by my right hon. Friend, and that is a perfectly usual and legitimate parliamentary practice. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman can have remembered what my right hon. Friend said—that is, if he was here. My right hon. Friend explained very fully to the House why it was not appropriate to publish regular reports case by case. He gave very good reasons why, because of the complication of some settlements, it is not possible to measure them in percentages, for example.

On the broader issue about a White Paper to set out the terms of the contract and not regular monthly reports, this is available to the House and has been for a very long time. It is a published document. If the right hon. Gentleman has not seen it, I shall be glad to send him a copy free of charge and without VAT.

Mr. David Steel

May I revert to the question about Scotland and the referendum? Will the Prime Minister tell us which Minister will be responsible for putting forward the Government's view on the advantages of Scottish membership of the EEC since his Secretary of State has joined an alliance with the SNP to oppose the Government's policy?

The Prime Minister

In the first place I repudiate the hon. Member's concluding words. A number of Ministers have been and will be speaking on this matter. I spoke in Aberdeen, in the very same city to which reference has been made, commending the Government's proposals at a meeting there. Others of my right hon. Friends will be going there and stating the Government's point of view. I do not think that the hon. Member will be disappointed. My one fear is that there will be such a cacophony of speeches on all sides that the country may get bored.

Mr. Cyril Smith

It was your idea to do it.