HC Deb 10 February 1976 vol 905 cc232-4
Q5. Mr. Molloy

asked the Prime Minister when he last met the TUC.

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend knows, I am in regular touch with the TUC.

Mr. Molloy

When my right hon. Friend next meets the TUC, will he raise the problem of unemployment among young people in London and discuss what the Government intend to do to alleviate the situation?

The Prime Minister

The question of unemployment among young people, not only in London but elsewhere, has frequently been discussed with the TUC in recent months. My hon. Friend will be aware that, partly because of recent Government measures, the number of unemployed young people in the London area has fallen from a peak of 12,500 to 5,300 last month, although that figure is still much too high. I ask my hon. Friend to await the Chancellor's statement later this week.

Mr. Norman Lamont

If the Prime Minister discusses unemployment with the TUC, will he mention the Chancellor of the Exchequer's remarks on Peter Jay's television programme a few weeks ago, that there was bound to be an upturn in world trade because, after all, there were elections in the United States, Japan and Germany? Why do the Government assume that every economy is managed as cynically as our own? May we thank the Chancellor for making it clear to the unemployed why nothing was done about inflation last year?

The Prime Minister

I always listen to the hon. Member with great respect, but perhaps he is a little too young to remember the total manipulation of the electoral cycle by the Conservatives between 1951 and 1964, when it just failed to come off. My right hon. Friend is entitled to give any views on his diagnosis of world events relating to the pick-up in world trade. My discussions with the German Chancellor confirmed the general view of a pick-up, and it is important that the pick-up in Britain, which is now slowly beginning, is export-led and based not on an unwise programme of general inflation but on a total rejection of the policies for increased unemployment put forward by the Conservative Party. I hope the Leader of the Opposition will say whether she agrees with the Opposition's financial spokesman that their policy of cutting Govern- ment expenditure this year would increase unemployment this year. Is that the policy of the Opposition?

Mr. Atkinson

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider the answer he has just given about the recent dispute at Chrysler? There is a widespread concern among trade unionists about the ease with which Members of this House blame workers for industrial disputes and automatically exonerate management for their appalling record in these matters. Is my right hon. Friend aware that if any women had been among the 57 workers claiming an extra £1 per week they would have automatically received the rise under the Equal Pay Act, but because men were involved in the dispute, the management seems to be exonerated? Is this not a clear case in which the management is to blame for an industrial dispute?

The Prime Minister

In my original answer I paid tribute to the reduction in the number of days lost through disputes—though they are still more than the country can afford. The total time lost through disputes averages two hours per worker per year. I have made clear on a number of occasions that where there is a highly vulnerable situation and where Government money has been voted by this House—even though it was rejected by the Conservatives—it is a very unwise act, which puts the continued supply of Government money and the permanent continuation of employment there severely at risk. Anyone who goes into a dispute unnecessarily when there is machinery for settling it is taking a very great risk with his job.

Mr. Charles Morrison

Has the TUC yet communicated to the Prime Minister its attitude towards the Labour Party's proposals to nationalise agricultural land? What are the Prime Minister's view on that proposal?

The Prime Minister

There is no ministerial responsibility for what I have so far only read in the Press. The policy of the Government has been clearly stated in Gracious Speeches since the election and in the manifesto. Such a proposal is not Government policy at all. I do not mind people issuing reports about it, but it has nothing to do with the Government.