HC Deb 17 February 1976 vol 905 cc1126-8
Q4. Mr. Whitehead

asked the Prime Minister when he next expects to meet the General Council of the TUC.

The Prime Minister

I am frequently in touch with representatives of both the TUC and the CBI at NEDC and on other occasions. I shall be taking the chair at the next meeting of NEDC on 3rd March, Sir.

Mr. Whitehead

On that occasion will my right hon. Friend convey to the TUC the fact that the recent encouraging retail price index figures merit a tribute to the working people at all levels whose sacrifice has helped to bring about this abatement in inflation? Where does my right hon. Friend place the priority in the next stage of the incomes policy as between measures to stimulate investment and employment, particularly in productive industry, increases in the social services, and increases in net disposable income through the taxation system?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is absolutely right; there has been a remarkable response to the policy approved by the House, upon which the Opposition did not vote—apart from voting on an amendment against it. It is impossible to separate the two issues of inflation and unemployment, whether nationally or internationally. I refer my hon. Friend to what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said not only in his statement last week but also in the speech that he made last Friday.

Mr. Wyn Roberts

At his meeting with the TUC will the Prime Minister explain to the TUC and the country how the Chancellor of the Exchequer can promise reductions in taxation in return for a low rate of wage increases before such an agreement has been reached with the trade unions?

The Prime Minister

I shall have no difficulty. In these matters the members of the TUC are much more literate than are hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition Benches.

Mr. Molloy

Does my right hon. Friend agree that because the Government have avoided deliberate confrontation with the TUC there has been remarkable co-operation in the fight against inflation, and that efforts are required from the CBI to back up the price restriction policy so that ordinary people can see that they are being given a fair deal for any sacrifices they make?

The Prime Minister

I have had full co-operation. What my hon. Friend said at the beating of his supplementary question is right. It is highly relevant to small businesses, on which I was questioned earlier. In the confrontation and the three-day working week imposed by the Conservative Government no one suffered more than small businesses

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