I dealt with that canard at Question Time about a month ago, and the hon. Gentleman may have seen the withdrawal and apology by my hon. Friend reported not long ago in the Press. I am concerned that there are serious, responsible hon. Members in this House who want to get Questions answered and would get them answered if three hon. Members did not waste time with this sort of Question, which insults the people of Manchester who have enough to put up with with a Tory council.
Is the Prime Minister aware that we would all go along with him in wishing that Questions should be answered, and we realise that this would be most unusual? Does not he think that the Manchester Statistical Society is entitled to a full version of what happened last June? We want to know, and I am sure the society would like to know, why the Prime Minister met the trade unions at a time when the whole guts had been taken out of the industrial relations policy and when he had been deserted by his Cabinet?
In view of the alarming increase in strikes, which was acknowledged in the Government's White Paper, " In Place of Strife ", will the Prime Minister explain, either to the people of Manchester or to this House, why it has taken the Government so long to produce the Industrial Relations Bill, when it will appear and what he expects it to achieve?
I was about to answer the supplementary question of the hon. Gentleman. I dealt with this general question only last week in the House. The hon. Gentleman is wasting the time of the House and insulting the people of Manchester.
Is the Prime Minister aware that the people of Manchester are not very concerned about what a Scottish backbencher is supposed to have said to a supposedly private meeting of a learned society? Is he also aware that he will be particularly welcome in this city, where he has family connections, as the leader of a Government which has given tremendous financial help to Manchester and the surrounding towns in solving their housing, education and welfare problems? May we assure him that the people of Manchester will carry on next month with the job of getting rid of the Tory councillors who run the city at the behest of the Tory Central Office, the bankers, brewers, builders and financiers?
That is the first supplementary question to deal with Manchester. I was hoping that the first three questioners, because of their great loyalty to their own policies, would ask me how much council house rents would be raised in Manchester by the adoption of the Tory policies. The answer is 14s. a week, and 58s. to 120s. a week if applied only to the rents of dwellings under construction at 1st January, 1970.
When my right hon. Friend comes to Manchester will he come to my constituency? When my hon. Friend came I was not told about it, but my right hon. Friend will, I am sure, tell me. Will he look at the council houses in my constituency, which are typical examples of the 226,000 houses and flats that were erected in the North-West Region between 1965 and 1969—a record figure in the North-West for any four years?
Yes. My hon. Friend will recall my former visit to his constituency, when I was shown the plans of the then council for slum clearance and replacement by modern houses. I have been to his constituency a number of times since. I should be very glad to see the progress made and the quality of the houses. I note with regret that there has been a falling off in slum clearance activity in Manchester since the Tories took over.
I am not sure if the hon. Gentleman said " for the first time in history "; what he said was drowned in the noise. I am aware, as are many of my hon. Friends, of what the Tory council has done on the housing programme, on slum clearance, on council house rents, and on rates. Their actions do not seem to me to be four criteria of good government.