HC Deb 12 June 1975 vol 893 cc655-7
Q2. Mr. Golding

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements on the 12th June.

The Prime Minister

In addition to a meeting of the Cabinet and a number of official meetings with my colleagues and others, I took the opportunity of the President of Romania's stop in London to entertain Mr. Ceausescu to breakfast at Chequers this morning.

Mr. Golding

Will the Prime Minister take time to study the newspaper reports of yesterday's meeting of the TUC economic committee, which gave an enthusiastic welcome to Jack Jones's proposals to restrict wage increases next year? In view of that, and the other indications of the trade unions who want to pursue reasonable wage policies, will the Prime Minister and the Chancellor take an early initiative in this matter?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. I referred to that matter in answer to a question by the right hon. Lady.

My hon. Friend will be aware that in the speech which I made to the CBI just before the recess I welcomed the initiative taken by Mr. Jones on the question of flat rates, because many of these problems are due to differentials—people maintaining percentage differentials which increase cash differentials. I said that these initiatives were well worth studying. My hon. Friend knows that that and other proposals which I have put to both sides of industry are being pursued by the Government. The House knows from its experience last year and from the wise words of the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition that this problem must be solved by consent and agreement. That is what we are pursuing. It might help if what is being achieved by the trade union movement were sometimes praised by the Opposition, and not always criticised.

Mr. Charles Morrison

I believe that on 8th June the Secretary of State for the Environment said that the country was on a suicide course. Regrettably, judging by events, that seems to be true. Does the Prime Minister agree with that statement? When will he take action to get us off that course?

The Prime Minister

I described the action taken before and since the speech made by my right hon. Friend—action which we are continuing to take. My right hon. Friend warned everyone concerned with wage claims to ensure that as far as possible there was full compliance with the guidelines. We now know that the TUC is taking new initiatives in these matters, which are of great importance. A little encouragement from the Opposition benches might help.

Mr. Mike Thomas

Does the Prime Minister agree that one of his official engagements today should be to meet the new Secretary of State for Industry, to start thinking about those areas of British industry in which the Government might invest, through the National Enterprise Board, to get Britain ahead again—rather than just to preserve existing employment—to promote change, and to get us into the growth areas, the winning areas for Britain?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend knows that that is one of the major purposes of the Industry Bill and of the National Enterprise Board. Last year I insisted that we made more rapid progress than was then being made with both the drafting of the White Paper and the introduction of the Bill, so that the Bill could be put before the House and passed into law this Session. I regard it as essential in relation to investment, to the point mentioned by my right hon. Friend, and to the future industrial development of this country. I have made that clear on many occasions. My hon. Friend can rest assured that I shall take every measure posible and exert all the pressure possible to ensure that the Industry Bill, and all that it means in terms of the National Enterprise Board, becomes a reality at the earliest possible moment. I look to my hon. Friends and hon. Members in various parts of the House to help in getting it through.

Mr. Thorpe

Although this is not on the Prime Minister's list of engagements for today, has he any plans which he might formulate today to meet either the board of British Rail or the National Union of Railwaymen? If so, what advice will he give them?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is fair to put this question. He will understand that the Government are naturally watching this matter very carefully and are greatly concerned about it. Talks have been going on between the two sides. This is a matter of the highest importance. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would not press me immediately about any engagements—I am certainly not making any today—in this matter.