HC Deb 29 November 1977 vol 940 cc264-6
Q4. Mr. MacKay

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his engagements for Tuesday 29th November.

The Prime Minister

This morning I met at their request the Executive Council of the Fire Brigades Union. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be holding further meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. I shall also be attending a reception given by the United Kingdom Pilots Association and this evening I shall be addressing the Institution of Production Engineers at its annual dinner.

Mr. MacKay

During his busy day, will the Prime Minister find time to confirm the fascinating report in The Times today that states that when the Prime Minister met the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party yesterday he remonstrated with it and told its members that they owed their position in this place to the Liberal Party? Is not the reality that the Liberal Party owes its existence to the continuance of the Labour Government?

The Prime Minister

I do not think that I shall find time to read the "fascinating reports", to use the hon. Gentleman's words. I agree that they are fascinating. Sometimes it is much more fascinating to read the reports than to be present at the meetings.

Mr. Bidwell

Did my right hon. Friend contact the Indian Government yesterday, or will he do so today or tomorrow, about the devastation and loss of human life that has been taking place in India? Has British aid been offered? If so, what form is it taking?

The Prime Minister

Yes. Last Tuesday Prime Minister Desai and I spoke on the telephone about that and other matters. On that day, when the reports were coming through, I at once offered any assistance that the High Commission in Delhi could give him. Since then my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Overseas Development has offered help, and some has been dispatched. I understood from Prime Minister Desai that the Indian Government hope to be able to handle the grave problem themselves, but I am sure that the House would have allowed me, as I did, to express on its behalf, and on behalf of everyone, our sympathy and our regret that such distress has been caused.

Mr. Fairbairn

Does the Prime Minister recall that in the counter-inflation statement that he made on 20th July, when we were to enter into the consensus society under his Government, I asked him what would happen if one party did not consent. I asked him whether his Government would confront or surrender, and he replied "Neither". Did he by any chance mean "Both"?

The Prime Minister

No. As usual, I meant what I said. We are not in a position of confrontation at the moment. Certainly the firemen do not think that—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I have met their executive and hon. Members have not. The firemen recognise very well the dilemma in which the country is now plunged, when there is a great deal of sympathy for the firemen's case but, on the other hand, an understanding that in a structured wage system such as we have, that which is given to one goes through the whole system, and that that cannot be permitted.

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