HC Deb 06 May 1976 vol 910 cc1465-6
Q1. Mr. McCrindle

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 6th May.

The Prime Minister (Mr. James Callaghan)

There was a Cabinet meeting this morning and I shall be holding further meetings during the day, including one with the Commonwealth Secretary-General. This evening I shall be attending a dinner given by President Geisel of Brazil.

Mr. McCrindle

Will the Prime Minister find time to tell middle managers, senior salesmen and some skilled workers why, having seen their standard of living fall substantially in 1975, their differentials are to be squeezed still further under the Government's new policy? Why has it not been possible to translate the words of sympathy in the Chancellor's Budget speech into practical action for these people? Why do the Government insist on clobbering sections of society upon whom our economic recovery substantially depends?

Mr. Russell Kerr

Send for Lord Barber. That is the answer.

The Prime Minister

I think that the middle management of this country, who have a great deal to do with ensuring our prosperity, understand rather better than the hon. Gentleman the needs of the present situation. No doubt they have taken into account, as the hon. Gentleman has not, that in the tax reliefs that are being given there is greater total relief for them than, naturally, there is for those with lower incomes. I am sure that Conservative Members will convey this in their weekend speeches, but they should point out to middle management, as the TUC leaders are pointing out to their followers, that a fall in our standard of life this year is an essential part of overcoming the inflationary problem. Or am I to understand that everybody is to be included except those whom the hon. Gentleman affects to represent?

Mr. Bidwell

Will my right hon. Friend have in mind that this week is the fiftieth anniversary of the General Strike of 1926, which grew out of a solidarity with the miners against wage cuts? Although this is not an exact historical parallel, will my right hon. Friend have in mind that workers, although having great sympathy with the difficulties of the Government, will be in no mood to take a lop-sided sacrificial position? They will expect to see a vigorous prosecution of Labour's Socialist policies.

The Prime Minister

Yes. The element of a voluntary wage agreement includes a concern by the TUC, and by most people in the country, that the social conditions which we expressed in the name of the social contract should be carried out. We accept our responsibilities under that.

I can remember 1926, and I well remember how different in every sense were the conditions then from what they are today. For example, no one is saying that the miners should work longer or have lower wages. Indeed, the wage will go up and tax reliefs will help to increase this effect.

Mr. Pardoe

Reverting to the Prime Minister's meeting with the Commonwealth Secretary-General, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to say whether he discussed with him the effect that the IMF gold sales will have on poor countries, particularly in the Commonwealth? Is he aware, for instance, that this scheme to sell gold from the IMF gold hoard was to help poor countries? What are the Government doing about the very great delay which is taking place?

The Prime Minister

I have not yet discussed the matter, because the meeting is due to take place in about 40 minutes' time. I shall try to brief myself on this point before I see the Commonwealth Secretary-General.