Oral Answers to Questions — Cbi (Meetings)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th January 1974.

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Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner , Bolsover 12:00 am, 24th January 1974

asked the Prime Minister how many times he has met representatives of the CBI.

Photo of Mr Norman Atkinson Mr Norman Atkinson , Tottenham

asked the Prime Minister how many times he has met representatives of the CBI.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I refer the hon. Gentlemen to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) on 22nd January.—[Vol. 867, c. 1441–3.]

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner , Bolsover

Will the Prime Minister tell us whether at any of the many meetings he has had with the CBI he has asked the CBI—as he has asked the TUC—whether its constituent firms would be prepared to hold back their applications for price increases and the profits that they make in order for special cases to be allowed to get through? Why is it, for instance, that the oil companies can make an application on this special basis for several price increases during the past year and other constituent firms are not being asked to hold back in the same way as he is demanding of the TUC?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

Neither the CBI nor, as far as I know, any section of industry, trade or commerce has asked for exceptions to the code. They have all been bound by the code and are so bound. The oil industry is bound by the code. The House will recall that, when the freeze was first put on and oil prices were raised, the increases were carried entirely by the oil companies.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner , Bolsover

They kept going up.

Photo of Mr Robert Redmond Mr Robert Redmond , Bolton West

Does my right hon. Friend recall that last summer and last autumn we were threatened with industrial action in support of an increase in old-age pensions? Bearing that in mind, will he discuss with the CBI the likely cost of coal even if the miners accept the offer within phase 3?

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner , Bolsover

It is a lot cheaper than oil.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

The CBI, this House and the whole country realise that the increased offer to the miners, which will cost £44 million, has to come either from increased prices or from the taxpayer in subsidies. The subsidy on coal is at present running at about £150 million a year, and this would be an increase which would bring it, on the present offer, to almost £200 million a year. I hope that the whole House will recognise where the cost of the settlement will go.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Thorpe Mr Jeremy Thorpe , North Devon

Will the Prime Minister accept that both the CBI and the TUC are anxious at least to understand the Government's position, even if they may not always agree with it? Will he address his mind, for the benefit of both bodies, to the question that I posed to him on Tuesday, which he did not on that occasion feel able, for reasons which I know not, to answer? That was whether longer-term talks with the NUM. which the Government have expressed a willingness to enter into, on the longer-term pay structure and other fringe benefits of the industry will be within the confines of phase 3 or whether recommendations will be made outside phase 3 and, if so, whether the Government will be prepared to accept them.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

The longer-term arrangements are bound to be outside phase 3. The proposal that we have made is that as soon as the settlement is accepted these talks should immediately take place. I am afraid that the NUM has not been prepared to discuss with the Government the detailed arrangements for these talks or what it wishes on the subject of pensions or additional aids to health. The NUM is not and has not been prepared to discuss any of these things with the Government. We remain open to discussions about them.

Regarding the details of the pay structure review, which I understand on previous occasions the NUM has wanted, I cannot give any undertakings as to the outcome of that because it is a matter for negotiation between the NCB and the NUM.

Photo of Mr Stan Orme Mr Stan Orme , Salford West

Let them negotiate.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

In the course of the negotiation they would obviously have to reach agreement about the timing and so on of any reconstructed pay structure which they agree upon.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Thorpe Mr Jeremy Thorpe , North Devon

Does the Prime Minister agree that if they are outside——