Trades Union Congress

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th February 1972.

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Photo of Mr John Pardoe Mr John Pardoe , North Cornwall 12:00 am, 29th February 1972

asked the Prime Minister how many times he has met representatives of the Trades Union Congress in the past 12 months.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

Eight, Sir, apart from meetings at the National Economic Development Council and on informal occasions.

Photo of Mr John Pardoe Mr John Pardoe , North Cornwall

Is the Prime Minister aware that there is at least the glimmer of suspicion abroad that he and his Government do not quite understand the feelings and aspirations of ordinary people? I would not expect him to have any very close contact with those feelings and aspirations, but does he not think that the time has come when he must hammer out with their representatives in the T.U.C. a formal incomes policy which will ensure that we do not have increases over all occupations of 40 per cent. over two-and-a-half years while school teachers and male nurses get 15 per cent.?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I know that one of the aspirations of ordinary people in this country is that inflation should be stopped. That is basic to what they want, and that is what the Government are trying to achieve. Nor do I think, from my knowledge of ordinary people, that they regard the T.U.C. as their only spokesman. On the other hand, I made absolutely clear just after we came into office, when I met the General Secretary of the T.U.C., that we wanted close relations with it. I was always prepared to meet its representatives personally, and so were other Ministers; and the fact that I have had eight meetings with the T.U.C. over the last year, which is a considerable number for any single organisation, is evidence of our relationship. But I repeat that we are prepared to make that relationship as close as the T.U.C. is prepared to operate.

We have discussed an incomes policy with the T.U.C. from time to time. If the hon. Gentleman were in a little closer relationship with trade unionists he would know exactly how strongly they are opposed to an incomes policy.

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

When my right hon. Friend next meets the T.U.C. will he seek its co-operation in suppressing violence in industrial disputes, and its co-operation with the police in suppressing such violence?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

Yes, Sir. I am perfectly prepared to discuss that and a wide range of other questions with the T.U.C.

Photo of Mr Norman Atkinson Mr Norman Atkinson , Tottenham

Is the Prime Minister aware that the T.U.C. has turned down his overtures about the introduction of a voluntary incomes policy, because he has made it clear on more than one occasion that he wants to talk about wage restraint, whereas what the T.U.C. wants to talk about is those areas of low wages that the Prime Minister knows about, such as agricultural workers? Is he now saying that he is prepared to discuss with the T.U.C. the raising of wages in many parts of the economy where workers are receiving low incomes?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I have never placed any limitation on discussions with the T.U.C., and it knows that full well. If it wishes to discuss any subjects, it can do so. On the last occasion when I met the General Council at No. 10 at the end of last year, it raised wide issues of policy that it wanted to have considered, and I gave it a full undertaking that we would consider them. What is more, if the hon. Gentleman is prepared to be fair and look back over the past 18 months and see the items of policy for which the T.U.C. has pressed—the increase in pensions, the annual review, the repayment of post-war credits and reflationary measures—he will see that these have all been met by the Government, and it is only right that we should expect some response from the trade unions and the T.U.C.