Regarding the very important conference on energy which President Nixon has called for 11th February, may we have an assurance that Britain will be represented at the conference as an independent country and will speak with an independent voice, and that our voice will not be expressed by Herr Scheel or M. Ortoli speaking on behalf of the British people?
— in the reports in certain newspapers that CIA agents have infiltrated British trade unions? If there be any truth in those rumours, or, for that matter, in what President Nixon tells the right hon. Gentleman, will he assure President Nixon that, whatever the political views expressed in this House, we are quite capable of dealing with our industrial troubles in our own way and in a far better way, and that we do not need any help from President Nixon?
Will my right hon. Friend use the occasion of the meeting with President Nixon on 11th February to reinforce the content of Sir Donald Maitland's excellent speech to the effect that the Americans should not forcibly intervene in the Middle East in the way that some of them appear to be suggesting in some of their more extreme speeches?
The meeting in Washington is a conference between Foreign Ministers and, in some cases, if the countries so wish, Ministers who are concerned particularly with energy. The objective is to bring the producer countries and the consumer countries together. This is a peaceful objective and I am sure that the whole House supports it.
The House may consider it a pity that the Prime Minister is not going to see President Nixon, since he might have been able to explain to him how the Government can conceivably reconcile their statement that the 16½ per cent. offered to the miners recognises that they are a special case with the other statement by the Government that if only the miners will accept the 16½ per cent. there will be an inquiry to recognise that they are even more special than stage 3 has recognised and will be entitled to more than 16½ per cent. How can the Government reconcile those statements?
First, because the offer made to the mineworkers at the moment is the best offer in negotiations that they have ever had and shows that they are the most favoured group in stage 3. Secondly, because it has long been recognised that there are some industries in which the pay structures need examination and that this is a long-term matter. I do not think that anybody connected with the mining industry has suggested that this can be done overnight. In the same way, the railways have been having a thorough review of their pay structure and nobody has suggested that that could be dealt with overnight.