HC Deb 04 November 1975 vol 899 cc225-7
Q3. Mr. Pattie

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his engagements for 4th November.

The Prime Minister

I have held a number of meetings with my colleagues and others, including a meeting to receive a report on the discussion this morning at the Department of Industry with the Chrysler Corporation. I hope to have an Audience of Her Majesty The Queen this evening.

Mr. Pattie

Since the right hon. Gentleman will no doubt be having various other informal meetings with his ministerial colleagues during the course of the day, will he say whether, during such conversations, the question of the level of current public expenditure is likely to crop up? Since an economic forecaster has described public expenditure as being out of control, will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether we have been blown off course, or whether there is no one on the bridge?

The Prime Minister

I have made clear, in answering questions of this kind, which are a new and delightful development in our parliamentary institutions—that I answer questions only about meetings I am attending and not about meetings which some hon. Members wish me to attend. The House has seen yet again this afternoon the singular unwillingness of those who make the most speeches about this matter to make any concrete proposals. If I understand the hon. Gentleman correctly, he was referring to evidence, published this morning, which was given to a Select Committee of this House at an open meeting dealing with cash limits. We must await the report of that Select Committee. I have told the House, as has my right hon. Friend, that we intend to proceed at a very rapid rate to fix cash limits in important areas of public expenditure. Rapid progress is being made on this. A report will be made to the House by my right hon. Friends concerned.

Mr. Les Huckfield

I welcome my right hon. Friend's initiative, but does he accept that, counting the employees of Chrysler, the component firms and the distributors, there are probably between 60,000 and 70,000 jobs at stake, or involved in the current talks? I accept the need for my right hon. Friend to make a statement as soon as possible, but will he use his good offices to ensure that at tomorrow's meeting between the company and the unions, the unions are given the fullest possible information about the talks which have been going on?

The Prime Minister

I have suggested that while these important representatives of the Chrysler Corporation are in the country they should take this opportunity for discussion with the unions. At the meeting, which should be starting about now, the Secretary of State will suggest that it might be useful if one of those representatives were to meet hon. Members from all parts of the House representing the constituencies affected by the Chrysler problems. I do not want to go beyond what I said earlier. It is a grave situation, and I do not want to say anything which might make matters more difficult.

Many people's livelihoods depend on the sales of these products. I have drawn the attention of the Chrysler Corporation representatives to what was said publicly by the sales organisation—it is an efficient body—about this matter. I pointed out the damage that could be done to Chrysler (UK) and to the Chrysler Corporation more widely, if it took action which made more difficult the jobs in its efficient sales organisation here and in many other countries.