HC Deb 11 May 1976 vol 911 cc223-4
Q1. Mr. Lawson

asked the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech on economic policy to the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers at Blackpool on 25th April.

The Prime Minister (Mr. James Callaghan)

I did so on 26th April.

Mr. Lawson

In that speech the Prime Minister said that most people would be better off with the Chancellor's pay proposals than they would with free collective bargaining. Does he intend that free collective bargaining should ever be restored, and, if so, when?

The Prime Minister

I learned a long time ago from Mr. Henry Hopkinson never to use the word "never", and I shall not do it now.

Mr. Arthur Latham

Does the Prime Minister agree that there was nothing in that speech that could be regarded as offering any firm assurances to representatives of the TUC about rents, fares, food subsidies, or prices generally, or about overall public expenditure in terms of the social wage? If he were the General Secretary of the TUC and Mr. Len Murray were Prime Minister, would lie feel that this was a good bargain, in the absence of any undertakings of that kind?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend has no doubt studied the speech that I made to delegates of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers Conference, but he did not have the advantage of hearing it. The delegates were generous enough to give me a standing ovation as I left the hall—which may have been because they were grateful that I had finished or because they approved of my argument, and approved of the way in which the case had been put—a case that is supported by the overwhelming majority of people in this country.

Mrs. Thatcher

Does the Prime Minister recollect that towards the end of his speech he spoke not of controlling inflation but of creating other values which are generally appealing? Does he accept that as the recent local elections show, many council tenants wish to own the homes they live in? Will he give the House an assurance that his Government will do nothing to prevent the sale of council houses to council tenants?

The Prime Minister

I am not surprised at the right hon. Lady's ingenuity in bringing the local elections into a Question about a speech that I made at Blackpool two weeks beforehand. I have listened to what has been said about the subject of my speech recommending the acceptance of a bargain along the lines proposed by the Chancellor. I am still waiting to hear from the right hon. Lady whether she recommends it.

Hon. Members

Answer the Question.

The Prime Minister

I am answering a Question related to my speech at Blackpool. It is the right hon. Lady who is wriggling, and trying to avoid the Question, and dragging in red herrings. As for council houses, if a Question is tabled on that matter it will be answered.

What I want to know from the right hon. Lady, and what the country as a whole wants to know is—even though her Back Benchers are trying to prevent me from getting the Question across—does she recommend this settlement made by the TUC to its members, or does she not?

Mrs. Thatcher

The Prime Minister is paid to answer questions and we are paid to ask them. Why is he so afraid to answer my questions, especially since we took his home city?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Lady is also paid, but not as much as I am, and she is paid to ask relevant questions. I note that once again she evades the question whether the Conservative Party supports the view of the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) who is against this settlement, or the view of the right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe) who is grudgingly in favour of it. Where does the right hon. Lady perch on the twig between the two of them?

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