HC Deb 22 November 1979 vol 974 cc558-9
Q4. Mr. Ancram

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 22 November.

The Prime Minister

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave earlier.

Mr. Ancram

Will my right hon. Friend take time today to consider the implications of the miners' ballot? Does she agree that their demands create grave difficulties for many elderly people who use coal for heating, let alone threatening to price British coal out of the home market and putting their own jobs at risk as well?

The Prime Minister

I am always concerned about high wage rates. They can be justified only if we get much higher output. Otherwise, the difference is bound to result in increased prices. That would have an adverse effect on the amount of coal that people could buy or the amount of electricity that they could afford, and some of them would undoubtedly go cold. However, we cannot put up the cash limit to the National Coal Board. Beyond that, we must leave the negotiation of wages to the union and the chairman of the NCB.

Mr. Harry Ewing

Is the right hon. Lady in favour of the National Union of Mineworkers putting the issue to the ballot, or is she not? We have always gained the impression that the Prime Minister is in favour of ballots.

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman already knows the answer. Yes, I am in favour of ballots. That will be part of our policy when we present the relevant Bill to the House before Christmas.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be wise for the National Coal Board and the National Union of Mineworkers to announce at each stage of their negotiations the implications of the pay deal for the prices of coal and electricity?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend that we should know the price consequences of wage deals, and preferably before they are made. If increased wages are covered by increased output, the increased wages are earned.

Mr. Bidwell

May I remind the right hon. Lady that when she entered 10 Downing Street for the first time as Prime Minister she said that she stood for the creation of harmony in our land? May I ask her to use her good offices to bring about a ceasefire in Leyland management's victimisation and sacking of Mr. Robinson? Is the right hon. Lady aware that Mr. Robinson represents many people who normally do not share his views, including many Tory voters at the general election? Is she also aware that they will not stand for the victimisation of a man who is merely putting a contrary view to the management?

The Prime Minister

It is not for politicians to try to take over the management of public sector industries—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker


The Prime Minister

It is not for politicians to take over the management—

Mr. Robert C. Brown

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Surely it is wrong that the Prime Minister should seek to mislead the House and the country—

Mr. Speaker

Order. That cannot possibly be a point of order.

Mr. Robert C. Brown rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. We normally take points of order later in the afternoon. I ask the hon. Gentleman to wait till then.

The Prime Minister

It is not for politicians to take over the management of public sector industry. The previous Government happened to put in a very good manager at British Leyland. We must leave the management of British Leyland to him.

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