Oral Answers to Questions — Government Policy (Prime Minister's Speech)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th February 1974.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Joe Ashton Mr Joe Ashton , Bassetlaw 12:00 am, 5th February 1974

asked the Prime Minister whether he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech at Eastbourne on 18th January on Government policy.

Photo of Mr Patrick Duffy Mr Patrick Duffy , Sheffield, Attercliffe

asked the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech on the industrial and economic situation at Eastbourne on 18th January 1974.

Photo of Mr Norman Lamont Mr Norman Lamont , Kingston upon Thames

asked the Prime Minister whether he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech at Eastbourne on Friday 18th January on economic affairs.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner , Bolsover

asked the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech at Eastbourne on 18th January on economic matters.

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman , Birmingham Handsworth

asked the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a copy of the public speech he made in Eastbourne on Friday 18th January relating to common citizenship.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I did so on 23rd January, Sir.

Photo of Mr Joe Ashton Mr Joe Ashton , Bassetlaw

In that speech the Prime Minister said: Britain will continue to have a Government capable of seeing the nation through difficult times ahead. When he said that, did he mean that there would be no election this spring or was he trying to manoeuvre a situation in which he calls an election while picketing is taking place, with all the potential of violence on the television screens, in order to cash in on the law and order issue?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I meant what I said.

Photo of Mr Patrick Duffy Mr Patrick Duffy , Sheffield, Attercliffe

In pursuance of the "united and common citizenship" theme of that speech, will the Prime Minister say where he intends to put the emphasis in his further handling of the economic and industrial situation?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

The hon. Gentleman, having read the speech, should know what I was asking for—namely, that all groups in the community should consider the interests of other groups. What we were trying to do with the incomes policy was to find an arrangement that was fair. I believe that we have succeeded, and in fact 6 million people have already settled under stage 3. It is a clear demonstration of the general acceptance of these standards.

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman , Birmingham Handsworth

Lest the nation has failed to see the wood for the trees, will my right hon. Friend confirm that, if the face workers in the coal industry were to accept the offer made to them under stage 3, they would have had a wage increase of not less than 68 per cent. since the Conservative Government took office? Is not that by any measure just, fair, exceptional and overdue treatment?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I believe that my hon. Friend is right. With an increase of 68 per cent. during the period of office of the Conservative Government, with the pensions increase at 55 per cent., average earnings increase at 48 per cent. and a cost-of-living increase of 34 per cent., the miners will have had an increase—if they accept the offer—precisely double the increase in prices. Everybody wants to be able to improve the conditions of miners and of other workers who have difficulties as well—because many of them do have difficulties—but it cannot all be done at once in one year.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner , Bolsover

Why does the Prime Minister continue to brag about an increase of 68 per cent.? In 1972, 20 per cent. of that figure was gained not as a result of the Prime Minister giving it but as a result of the miners battering on the door so hard that they kicked it in. Is he further aware that although it is one thing to talk to a Conservative audience at Eastbourne about these matters, it is quite another to solve this dispute in the way in which it needs to be solved? Why does he not stop—

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

Order. The hon. Gentleman has already put two supplementary questions.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

The House—and, I hope, the country—will have noticed the hon. Gentleman's first remarks and the way in which he put the events of 1972, in exactly the same way as the country will have noticed through these past months that the NUM, to our regret, has never been prepared to negotiate on any aspect of the subject.

Photo of Mr Gilbert Longden Mr Gilbert Longden , South West Hertfordshire

Was not the present situation very well summed up in the New Statesman a year ago when it said: Thus, in our time, we have seen groups of workers heedlessly destroying the livelihood of their fellows, operating as it were a brotherhood of Cain … and using their massive collective strength to trample upon the rights of their fellow citizens "? Should not the public decide?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

In an endeavour to deal with this situation the right hon. Gentleman the then Prime Minister proposed certain action under the Labour administration which was defeated. We proposed action under the prices and incomes policy and until this dispute with the miners we had been successful. Therefore, it is to our infinite regret that the miners have not accepted the will of Parliament.

Photo of Mr Alexander Eadie Mr Alexander Eadie , Midlothian

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the nation is in a very serious situation as a result of the proposed miners' strike? We have utterances of glee instead of sorrow from the Government benches. Is it not irresponsible for any British Prime Minister to encourage such behaviour? Will the right hon. Gentleman, even at this late date, try to see some sense and amend the proposition which he has put to the House that the miners have never wanted to negotiate? The miners want to negotiate, and we challenge the Prime Minister to negotiate today.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

There is no glee on these benches. I have invited the miners to come again to discuss this matter and they have refused. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment has also invited them to see him today, and again they have refused. Every effort has been made to reach a negotiated settlement.