HC Deb 14 June 1979 vol 968 cc613-5
Q2. Mr. Robert Hughes

asked the Prime Minister when she plans next to meet the Trades Union Congress.

The Prime Minister

I shall be seeing the economic committee of the TUC fairly soon and a date is now being arranged.

Mr. Hughes

Will the right hon. Lady discuss with the TUC the proposition put to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury on Tuesday night that the results of the Budget will lead to unemployment levels of between 1¾ million and 2 million by the end of this year? The Chief Secretary did not dissent from that view. Will the right hon. Lady tell the TUC how she proposes to deal with this matter? More importantly, will she tell the House why she was so dishonest during the election campaign as to keep this quiet?

Mr. Speaker

Order. It does not help our debates or Question Time to make charges of dishonesty. There was no charge of dishonesty in this House. I merely remind the House that we can pursue our arguments without that sort of charge.

The Prime Minister

I do not make forecasts of unemployment. I have heard too many that have turned out to be false. I remember, however, that it was the last Government who more than doubled the unemployment rate they inherited. They inherited 600,000 unemployed and finished up with 1¼ million unemployed.

Mr. Marlow

Will my right hon. Friend remind the leaders of the trade unions that, although they may be disappointed, it was the Conservative Party which won the last general election with an overwhelming majority of votes and that less than half the total of trade unionists voted for the Labour Party? Will she remind the leaders of the trade unions that it is their duty to look after the interests of their members, Labour or Conservative, rather than to strut around the national stage as second-rate Socialist politicians?

The Prime Minister

I thank my hon. Friend for his helpful question. We shall do everything possible to increase the number of genuine jobs. The Budget makes a very good start by its tax reductions.

Mr. Cryer

Will the Prime Minister comment on the fact that she is already bent on wrecking industrial relations through massive price increases? When she meets the TUC leaders to discuss the proposed trade union legislation, will she take into account genuine representations of concern about her proposals? Will she assure the House that if the trade union movement makes representations she will modify, drop or change the legislation, or are the consultations about the legislation simply cosmetic?

The Prime Minister

I point out to the hon. Gentleman, in view of his question, the record of the Labour Chancellor in his first Budget in 1974 when he increased prices on the retail price index—this was given in a written answer—by 3.75 per cent. In addition, he increased income tax by 3 per cent. Nothing daunted, the following November he put up value added tax on petrol to 25 per cent. In his Budget of April 1975, he put up the retail price index by a further 2.75 per cent. together with further increases in tax. The standard rate of tax was increased by 2p. The hon. Gentleman should cast the mote out of his own eye before he starts criticising us.

Mr. James Callaghan

Would the right hon. Lady care to tell us when she intends to stop fighting the last election?

The Prime Minister

When the right hon. Gentleman stops his troops from fighting it.