HC Deb 16 March 1978 vol 946 cc629-30
Q1. Mr. Noble

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

The Prime Minister (Mr. James Callaghan)

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich East (Mr. Cartwright) on 28th February.

Mr. Noble

Is the Prime Minister aware that Lucas Aerospace is to announce further redundancies in the North-West, thus adding to the serious unemployment in that region? Will he discuss with the TUC the shop stewards' corporate plan, which is a positive step forward, in that it makes imaginative proposals for products for peace and employment? Will he seek to remove the log-jam that is preventing that from taking place?

The Prime Minister

I shall look into the plan. I shall ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry to inquire into it. I assume that the firm will be discussing the matter with the trade unions.

Mr. Adley

Is the Prime Minister aware that the action of a TUC affiliated union—the National Union of Teachers—is causing widespread disruption in our schools? Worse than that, is he aware that large numbers of schoolchildren are being left to run around the streets because they have no schools to go to to learn, and the parents of many are working? Will the Prime Minister invite the TUC to ask the teachers to go back to work so that this matter can be discussed in a more peaceful and quiet atmosphere than is possible with the dangers and stresses in many of our towns and cities today?

The Prime Minister

I am constantly being invited to pass moral strictures from the Dispatch Box, but I am not sure how much good they do. The teachers have referred this matter to arbitration. When I was a trade unionist and was negotiating, the principle always was that when a matter had been referred to arbitration those involved waited for the verdict of the arbitrators before they took action.

Mrs. Hayman

When he next meets the TUC will my right hon. Friend discuss its attitude to the November increase in child benefit rates? Is he aware that there is a strong feeling on the Government Benches that this would be the best and most effective way to provide better support for families with children?

The Prime Minister

I believe that the TUC has made its view clear. There will be an increase in child benefits in April this year from which every mother will benefit. There will be some offset because of the withdrawal of the child tax benefit, and that process is to be continued until April 1979. I cannot give an answer now because the matter is bound up with other budgetary considerations.

Mr. Cormack

Will the Prime Minister remind the leaders of the TUC that all their members are paying 84 per cent. more in retail prices than they were when he took office?

The Prime Minister

TUC members are well aware that the Government's policies are having a satisfactory effect in terms of reducing the rate of inflation. If I were to use the figure quoted by the hon. Member I am sure that the TUC members would respond by replying that that is true but that when the Conservatives left office inflation was going up and now it is going down.