HC Deb 12 July 1979 vol 970 cc656-9
Q1. Mr. Meacher

asked the Prime Minister when she expects next to meet the TUC.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

No dates have yet been arranged.

Mr. Meacher

Is the right hon. Lady aware that, in the light of the deflationary oil price rise, her emphasis again yesterday on strict monetary targets as a top priority is an exact replica internationally of 1930s beggar-my-neighbour deflation? Does she not understand that that is the exact opposite of what is needed, which is to expand the economy plus a planned growth of imports, which with the present under-usage of men and machinery would not be inflationary?

The Prime Minister

Unless we tackle the money supply problem there is no hope of beating inflation in future years. On that at least the former Chancellor of the Exchequer was with me rather than with the hon. Gentleman.

As the hon. Gentleman knows, there is no shortage of demand in this country. The trouble is that it is being met by imports an not sufficiently by home-produced goods.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

When my right hon. Friend next meets the Trades Union Congress and its leaders, will she advise them that she does not believe it democratic for bodies representing workers to indulge in party political strikes, and that it is the view of Her Majesty's Government that in any strike action the Government will assume, and will introduce legislation to assume, that the trade union movement will pay the families of strikers a certain sum per week so that the long-suffering taxpayer does not have to subsidise official political action?

The Prime Minister

We have no immediate plans for legislation on that matter. Our immediate plans are for legislation on the matters contained in the consultative document. I think that most people will agree with my hon. Friend that the function of trade unions is to look after the interests of their members and not to engage in politics.

Mr. Norman Atkinson

Now that Britain practises the toughest immigration controls anywhere in the world, when the right hon. Lady meets trade union leaders next week, will she reassure them that their complaints about the deportation of trade unionists from this country, many of whom have worked consistently here for many years and who are now being deported, will be heeded and that she will give to those trade unionists the same compassion that she is asking to be given to refugees who are entering the United Kingdom?

The Prime Minister

I do not accept that Britain operates the toughest immigration controls anywhere in the world. If the hon. Gentleman is referring to cases of which I know nothing, perhaps he will let me have details.

Mr. Bulmer

If when my right hon. Friend next meets the leaders of the TUC they make it plain that they will offer outright opposition to the Government's industrial relations proposals, will she draw their attention to the recent ORC poll which indicated that a majority of trade union leaders and Labour Party supporters would support the Government against the trade unions if they frustrated reform? Does she believe that the majority of trade union members support her proposals because they represent an extension of individual worker rights?

The Prime Minister

I do not believe that the TUC leaders will offer outright opposition to the proposals that we put to them. Those proposals received a wide welcome. They will help to improve the individual's rights, sometimes against the trade union itself. We carried out the widest possible consultation on these matters in the recent election.

Q2. Mr. Stoddart

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

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Member to the reply which I have just given.

Mr. Stoddart

How can the right hon. Lady ask ordinary trade unionists for wage restraint, as she did last weekend, when the Minister of State, Treasury admitted that 30 per cent. of income tax reliefs in the Budget would go to the richest 5 per cent. of the population?

The Prime Minister

That leaves 70 per cent. to go to the rest. [Interruption]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The House is being unreasonable. Hon. Members must listen to the answers.

The Prime Minister

Taxation reliefs cannot go to those who do not pay tax. Greater reliefs are bound to go to those who pay the most tax.

Mr. Tapsell

When my right hon. Friend next meets the leaders of the TUC, will she point out to them that while a wages-prices spiral is different from an inflationary problem and requires a different response, neither will be solved without a substantial increase in productivity?

The Prime Minister

I totally agree with my hon. Friend. The best way to get increases in real wages is to get real increases in output.

Mr. David Steel

When the Prime Minister discusses with the TUC the question of her election mandate and election commitments, about which she feels strongly, will she make it clear whether the election commitments entered into by individual members of the Shadow Cabinet will be honoured regardless of whether those individuals now occupy places in the Cabinet?

The Prime Minister

We shall try to honour each and every commitment in our election manifesto.