HC Deb 04 May 1978 vol 949 cc442-4
Q2. Mr. Michael Latham

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech by the Secretary of State for Energy to the conference of the Institute for Workers' Control in Sheffield on 16th April regarding the influence of the trade unions on the Government represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend did not speak from a text, and I understand that he made no statement of policy, but he did discuss some future possible roles for trade unions in matters of plant closures, the organisation of higher income groups, industrial investment and accountability.

Mr. Latham

When the Prime Minister next tries to persuade British business men that the Government are not totally hostile to them, will he admit that the Secretary of State, in his speech to that extreme Left-wing organisation, said that trade unionism was an essential part of an alternative strategy of workers' control? Is that the Prime Minister's view as well?

The Prime Minister

I have not seen that statement, so I am unable to comment on it. But I do not think that all these matters need detailed textual examination. The hon. Gentleman's question is about the influence of the trade unions on the Government. My answer is that the trade unions, like anyone else who talks sense, have influence on the Government. Indeed, sometimes even the Opposition might.

Mrs. Castle

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that a far more urgent question concerning energy supply is the effect of the steep increase in electricity prices on those who have to live in all-electric homes, as thousands of my constituents do? Will he give an assurance that next winter the Government will renew the winter fuel rebate and extend it to a much larger number of people?

The Prime Minister

I am aware of the consequences of having turned the electricity generating and supplying authorities into bodies that are capable of supporting themselves and of financing their own new investment, and that this has borne hardly on some people. I understand that that period is now over and that the extent of further increases will depend on the extent to which we can curb inflation. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) is right to call attention to the great help that has been given through the fuel abatement scheme, and I will ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy to come forward with new proposals on how he plans to handle next winter.

Mr. Pardoe

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that although the Secretary of State for Energy spoke from notes, his speech was reported fairly extensively in the Press? Does he recognise that in this matter of workers' control, as in most others, his own son-in-law is a far wiser man than the Secretary of State for Energy? Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that his son-in-law has suggested that we need workers' control in order to counteract over-strong trade unionism? That is precisely the opposite of the view expressed by the Secretary of State. Which view does the Prime Minister accept?

The Prime Minister

I am always being asked to impale myself on some Morton's fork or other and decline to do so. The Government will shortly be publishing our views on industrial democracy. I regard it as a very important next step to take, and I hope that the House will give the matter very full consideration when our views are made known.

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