HL Deb 03 July 1980 vol 411 cc509-11

3.7 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their estimate of the loss to the British economy caused by the "Day of Action" which the TUC sought to organise on 14th May.


My Lords, the necessary information on which to base a close estimate of the loss to the whole economy is not available. Limited data on the extent of the "Day of Action" suggest that more than 90 per cent. of the work force went to work on the 14th May and only a very small percentage of the day's normal output would have been lost.


My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for that Answer, may I ask whether it follows that the damage done by this extraordinary action was very much minimised by the refusal of the sensible British public to respond to it?

The Earl of GOWRIE

My Lords, I am altogether in agreement with that view from my noble friend. Indeed, a group of employers in South Wales told me that the normal absenteeism for which they budget on any given day was halved on 14th May.


My Lords, although the noble Earl is unable to give an accurate reply to the important Question that was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, can he say what is the loss to the economy resulting from the Government's policies?

The Earl of GOWRIE

My Lords, I cannot see quite what that has to do with the Question on the Order Paper. But I can say to the noble Lord—and, as an old parliamentary hand he knows this very well—that the Government are quite determined to keep on with their policies, which are well overdue, which should have been done about 15 years ago, and when British industry revives it will be in better shape than at any time since the noble Lord himself was last in Government.


My Lords, will the noble Earl agree that if it is possible to make an estimate of the type asked for in the Question, it is possible also to estimate the cost of the massive unemployment from which we are now suffering? You cannot have one without the other.

The Earl of GOWRIE

My Lords, unemployment is enormously costly to the Government and that is why they do not like it. What, unfortunately, is not available is the old tools of demand management which has inflated the economy for so long.


My Lords, while the House is engaged on this completely non-political series of questions and answers, may I ask the noble Earl, if he has the figures available by way of estimate, what he estimates is the cost to the country of the non-intervention of the Government in the steel strike which has led to such devastating results not only in the steel industry but in the general economy of the country?

The Earl of GOWRIE

My Lords, as my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Industry has said on many occasions, the Government have been intervening in the steel industry to the tune of £5,000 million in the last four and a half years. That is not my idea of non-intervention. In terms of the steel strike, what the noble Lord means by intervening is, presumably, settlement at any cost.