I have had 17 bilateral meetings with representatives of the CBI. In addition, I have had 17 tripartite meetings at which representatives of the TUC were also present including six meetings of NEDC. I have also had numerous meetings with individual members of the CBI on both formal and informal occasions.
Does the Prime Minister accept that the vast bulk of British industry is bitterly disappointed that the Government have not seen fit to take up the statesmanlike initiative of the TUC and use it as a basis for negotiations aimed at settling the deadlock between the National Coal Board and the miners?
I propose to say more about this matter in answer to earlier Questions when I deal with them at the end of Question Time. However, I ask the hon. Gentleman to refer to the broadcast made by the Director-General of the CBI yeterday morning, in which he made it quite clear that he believes in the utmost importance of maintaining the counter-inflationary policy and ensuring that it should not be breached.
Will the Prime Minister consider extending the range of talks that he has with employers to include not only members of the CBI but particularly those people who are the providers of financial services in the City whose invisible exports at the moment provide the one ray of light in the trade figures?
The House has heard from time to time of suggestions by the TUC for solving the present economic crisis. Has the CBI made any suggestions? For instance, has it suggested that top emoluments and salaries should be frozen during phase 3 and has it suggested anything for dealing with fringe benefits—payments in kind, pension rights, and so forth, which are by far the most important things for the well paid of this country?
In the talks we have held with the CBI over the last 21 months, the confederation has put forward many proposals for dealing with the economic situation, with industrial relations and with the question of incomes and prices policy. However, it has been the general procedure for these talks to remain confidential and if the parties themselves wish to publish what they have put forward it is up to them to do so.
On the question of limitations, the CBI has supported the limitation for higher incomes in the incomes policy. Fringe benefits are also matters which the CBI as well as the TUC has frequently discussed and urged upon us. I propose to say something about this matter later, but fringe benefits are an important element of what we, as a Government, said should be discussed between the NCB and the National Union of Mineworkers.
The right hon. Gentleman was of course quite incorrect—[Interruption.] Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would like a full copy of the speech by the President of the CBI. What he was putting forward was the possible means of dealing with prices and incomes which have been put forward at various times by various bodies. The suggestion of having no incomes policy but a prices policy was one he rejected. The CBI has always rejected that when talking to the TUC, and the TUC will confirm that to the right hon. Gentleman.
Has the Prime Minister considered the position of the Welsh section of the CBI and its concern for the worsening financial position of its small-firm members? The financial position now is worse than after the Conservative Budget of 1970. What support is to be given to small firms in Wales to help obviate a situation which could create unemployment?