HC Deb 18 January 1979 vol 960 cc1950-2
Q3. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Prime Minister when he plans next to take the chair of the National Economic Development Council.

The Prime Minister

I next plan to take the chair at a meeting of the National Economic Development Council on 7th February.

Mr. Roberts

Will my right hon. Friend agree that, in spite of our present problems, the usual relationship between trade unionists and management is that reflected in the useful co-operation seen in the NEDC sector working parties? Will he accept that, if we are to get the long-term benefits of the industrial strategy, even more Government involvement will be necessary to ensure the rapid implementation of the working party recommendations?

The Prime Minister

Yes, it is the case, as is commonly vouched for, that relations in the overwhelming part of British industry are satisfactory, if not good. Indeed, they are improving. I believe that the increased communication that is taking place as a result of the sector working parties has contributed to that. Certainly they will have the full backing of the Government.

Mr. David Steel

Is not the National Economic Development Council one of the appropriate places in which to consider some of the suggestions put forward by the Leader of the Opposition. since the scale of repeated industrial anarchy is gravely damaging to the economy?

Will the Prime Minister not reject the suggestions of the Leader of the Opposition simply because she has come rather late in the day to the principle of inter-party co-operation? Will he recognise that there really is growing public concern about the impotence of Parliament in these situations? Will he therefore give the right hon. Lady a positive response in trying to seek a united approach on these issues?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman may be certain that all proposals—from wherever they may come—for dealing with the present situation or, indeed, any other discomforts in our industrial situation, will be objectively considered by the Government.

I must say that I was impressed this morning by the article that appeared—if I may give an advertisement to such an organ—on the editorial page of The Daily Telegraph. It is well worth reading, because it shows how misconceived are some of the proposals that are put forward in—again I repeat the word "peripheral"—circles regarding the capacity of the law to deal with this situation. I do not say that in any polemical spirit, but it seems to me that we must get the analysis right if we are ever to find a solution. The writer was someone who did not sign his article, but he described what he was doing from his practical experience. I hope that every member of the Conservative Party will read that article very seriously.

Mr. Ridley

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It may not have escaped your attention that the hon. Members for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas) and Swindon (Mr. Stoddart) both asked questions of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. I can quite see that it is more interesting to ask questions of the next Prime Minister than of the past Prime Minister. Would not it be more sensible if we asked my right hon. Friend to take, say one of the sessions, on the Tuesday or the Thursday, to answer her questions?