HC Deb 08 November 1977 vol 938 cc478-80
Q2. Mr. Arnold

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

The Prime Minister

I met the General Council of the Trades Union Congress when I addressed the TUC on 6th September. Further meetings will be arranged as necessary.

Mr. Arnold

When the Prime Minister next sees the TUC, will he remind it just how important it is that the benefits of North Sea oil should be used for strengthening Britain's industrial face and not for increasing public expenditure or public services?

The Prime Minister

The next meeting of the NEDC in early December will be considering this matter, and, of course, that point of view will be expressed. It is certainly Government policy, although we hope to have more discussion about this, that there should be a very strong bias in favour of the industrial strategy and industrial regeneration of this country. But I do not think that we should rule out entirely some bonus to either public expenditure or private consumption if it seems appropriate. This must be a question of balance in the end. The first priority, I agree with the hon. Gentleman, is the regeneration of British industry.

Mr. Loyden

Will my right hon. Friend discuss with the TUC the use of oil reserves for the purpose of refurbishing the regions from an industrial point of view, and particularly regions of high unemployment, such as Merseyside, as it appears that none of the Government's policies is penetrating that problem?

The Prime Minister

The first problem is to overcome inflation. That is the No. I priority. The other benefits will begin to flow from that. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment will be making a statement at the end of Questions, I understand, if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, about refurbishing industrial areas. Merseyside is a particular case and has, and will continue to have, special attention.

Mr. McCrindle

As the Prime Minister compares the industrial situation this winter with the industrial situation of 1973–74, will he find any reassurance from the fact that at least he is not confronted by an Opposition prepared to support every last inflationary wage claim?

The Prime Minister

What has happened, I believe, is that a general will has been mobilised in favour of the Government's policy, and I am not surprised that the Opposition actually follow that expression of public opinion.

Mr. Ashley

Is the Prime Minister aware that the settlement with the police and the progress made with the power workers reflect very great credit on the Government's attitude, and that the Conservatives' attempts to exploit the present spate of industrial unrest reflect very great discredit on them and their attitude to the trade unions? The country should bear this in mind at the General Election.

The Prime Minister

We are fighting a battle that is crucial, and I certainly do not reject or spurn any allies in it. Therefore, I make no attacks on anybody in the matter. I believe that it is vital, and I believe that so far the country is standing together on the issue. Everybody has his own particular interest, but we are an interdependent society—pretty well every- body nowadays is a key worker, whoever he may be. It is our task as a House of Commons and as a country to mobilise the general will against the particular interest.

Q4. Mr. Cartwright

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

The Prime Minister

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave earlier today to the hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Mr. Arnold).