HC Deb 11 January 1977 vol 923 cc1250-1
Q1. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

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

The Prime Minister (Mr. James Callaghan)

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Mr. Ovenden) on 7th December.

Mr. Roberts

In view of the accelerating growth of long-term structural unemployment, will my right hon. Friend discuss with the TUC the development of a strategy to share out the working hours available by reducing the working week, the working year, and possibly the working life?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is right to concentrate on the fact that some unemployment is of a structural character and needs a great deal of examination. I hope to be able to embark upon that internationally. As regards shortening the working week, or even the working life, we must first get to the position in which we are paying our way in the world before we can do that. I have expressed the view in the past, and I do so again today, that the nature of unemployment is changing and we may well have to embark upon the kind of remedies that my hon. Friend has spoken of.

Mr. Tim Renton

In his discussions with the TUC, to what extent has the Prime Minister learned of the number of trade unions which do not wish to have trade union representatives on company boards? Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that he will not trade with the TUC another year of virtual wage freeze in exchange for trades union representatives statutorily imposed on company boards?

The Prime Minister

I do not expect to be discussing this matter with the TUC at my next meeting, but if I do so I shall tell the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Ioan Evans

Will my right hon. Friend comment on the Basle agreement on the sterling reserves? In view of the good news that has come from Switzerland, will he consider meeting. the TUC and the CBI and in the forthcoming year have a campaign to reduce unemployment and reduce interest rates charged to manufacturing industry?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be making a statement on the Basle agreement at 3.30 pm, and perhaps I should not anticipate that. However, I think it is at least fair to say that this new agreement, combined with the IMF loan and the firm control that we have over public expenditure, certainly gives us a very healthy start to 1977.