HC Deb 30 March 1976 vol 908 cc1097-8
Q1. Mr. Frank R. White

asked the Prime Minister when he last met the TUC.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) on 23rd March, Sir.

Mr. White

Is my right hon. Friend aware that my constituency has the greatest concentration of paper mills in the country and that local trade unionists and management are extremely concerned about the present state of the industry? In particular, does he realise that they fear that the import and dumping of paper from Scandinavian countries above the agreed quotas and from non-traditional suppliers such as Brazil can lead to an industrial collapse similar to that of the textile industry? Is my right hon. Friend aware——

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is enough to go on with.

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend may be aware that representatives of the paper industry and the Society of Graphical and Allied Trades, under the chairmanship of the NEDO, discussed yesterday the whole question of dumping with representatives of the Departments of Industry and Trade. They were assured that the Government were anxious to have any evidence about dumping and would follow up any worthwhile information. If my hon. Friend has any further information, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade will be only too pleased to examine it.

Mrs. Thatcher

Since I understand that the Prime Minister may now be resigning before the Budget, will he explain to both the TUC and the House why his Government, more than any other Government in history, have increased the burden of taxation on the average working man's wage packet?

The Prime Minister

I have dealt with all these matters in my discussions with the TUC. They have been the subject of continuing discussion—because we have had discussion rather than the confrontation which the right hon. Lady's Government had. But the one thing on which the right hon. Lady, with her total lack of gumption in all political matters, has exceeded even herself is in her attempt to interfere with union elections—a move that can only be counter-productive.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

Will my right hon. Friend consult the TUC about the involvement of political parties in trade union elections? Does he agree that it is thoroughly undesirable that the Communist Party, the Conservative Party, or any other party should be directly involved in the internal affairs of trade unions? Is it not a typical example of the cack-handed way in which the Tory Party treats the trade unions for it to be involved in this way?

The Prime Minister

I do not associate myself with every adjective in my hon. Friend's question. My discussions with the TUC have been useful, productive, and always on serious matters, not on the frivolities of Her Majesty's Opposition.

Mr. Crouch

Will the Prime Minister tell us whether he intends to advise his successor about the need for continual contact with this important element in our society—the TUC—and whether he will also take note of some of the representations that it has been making in the Press about the need for the TUC to keep in closer contact with Parliament? Is there not a case for some reform of the structure of this House and the other place, to allow for such consultation?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. I think that the hon. Gentleman knows that I have always taken with great seriousness any representations from him, whether made in the House or outside it. I am sure that the TUC recognises, as he recognises, the great importance of the relationship that has been established between the Government and the trade union leadership. I agree with what the hon. Gentleman has said. It is very important that none of the trade union leaders ever loses sight of the responsibilities of this House.

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