Is it not imperative that fresh discussions between the Government, the TUC and the CBI should be entered into without delay, especially in view of what has happened to the American phase 3 and in view of the need for the Government to protect those quiet people referred to in my right hon. Friend's speech who are not represented by major organisations such as the trade unions?
Yes, Sir. I hope that it will soon be possible to enter into discussions—I shall not say "fresh discussions" because discussions have continued the whole time—with the TUC and the CBI, either separately or in a tripartite arrangement. I expect that, to begin with, they will be held on a bilateral basis.
Does not the Prime Minister agree that some aspects of the speech he made about partnership spell out very dangerous trends if not corrected? Does he not agree that if he is to negotiate with either trade unions or employers or on a tripartite basis he can make concessions to those organisations only at the expense of being offensive to Parliament and the decisions taken in Parliament? If he intends to come to some agreement with outside bodies in this way, will he accept that we are now dangerously close to a form of junta government? Therefore, will he have another look at this whole trend of extra-parliamentary negotiation and agreement?
No, Sir. I cannot accept anything that the hon. Gentleman has said. If he reads the speech carefully, he will see that I said quite explicitly
under the authority of Parliament".
I am sorry if the hon. Gentleman or any of his friends dislikes the idea of partnership instead of opposition in the industrial world. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I prefer partnership. We have now been able to achieve a very considerable measure of this and it is continuing to increase.
In his speech the Prime Minister said that the slogans of class warfare were becoming ever more meaningless. Is he aware that one of the things which encourage class warfare is telling hospital workers that they cannot have their full pay rise and then immediately launching a new £45,000 yacht? Was it not a totally insensitive act to do that at a time of freeze and squeeze, when he is expecting low-paid workers to accept curtailment of their wages?
I have always been opposed to class warfare in this country. I do not believe that anything I have done has ever contributed to it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] When the hon. Gentleman can only descend to personalities instead of arguments on the merits of the case, it shows how little case he has got. Nor do I believe that those who were working on my boat, who are proud of this superb example of British craft-manship, would in any way share the view expressed by the hon. Gentleman.
If my right hon. Friend should notice some familiar faces missing from the Opposition benches on next Tuesday week, will he say whether those hon. Gentlemen will draw their parliamentary pay, or strike pay, or whether their families will draw social security benefits?
The quiet people of Britain already recognise the immense amount which the present Government have done, particularly for the poorer sections of the community. I have to tell the House that the figures I previously gave for the extent to which the position of the poorer had improved under the present Government have been revised.
The real net income, after allowing for tax and family income supplement, and after deducting the cost of school meals, milk and so on, rose between October 1970 and October 1972 by 6¼ per cent. a year for the man earning only £15 a week. For the man on average earnings the rise was 4½ per cent. a year. For the £200-a-week man it was 3½ per cent. a year. I have to tell the House that those figures are higher than the figures I gave the House last time.
Whatever difficulties the Prime Minister may encounter in preaching conservatism on either side of industry, will he at least give general support to the call of the European Commission for basic rights protected by statute for workers within industry, the spread of profit-sharing and a two-tier system of administration in companies?
We are taking a full part in the discussions on these proposals, which originate from the summit meeting. We are now giving careful and detailed consideration to what the Commission has in mind.