Oral Answers to Questions — TUC (Meetings)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th February 1974.

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Photo of Mr Giles Radice Mr Giles Radice , Chester-le-Street 12:00 am, 7th February 1974

asked the Prime Minister what further conversations he has had with the TUC.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Tebbit) on 5 th February.

Photo of Mr Giles Radice Mr Giles Radice , Chester-le-Street

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House why the Government have cold-shouldered the TUC-CBI initiative? Is it not clear that the TUC has done everything it can to help the Government out of their difficulties? Why have the Government now chosen to run away from their responsibilities?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I presume that the hon. Gentleman is referring to the talks which were held yesterday and about which we were informed. It is a matter of regret that they came to nothing. Far from cold-shouldering the TUC or the CBI, I have frequently been accused in the House, of having far too many talks and working far too closely with both the TUC and the CBI, to the detriment of Parliament. I have never accepted that, but no one in the country can accuse me of cold-shouldering the TUC.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Vice-Chair, Conservative Party

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the TUC and the Labour Party would do the country a great deal more good if they supported the 5½ million people who have settled under phase 3?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

Yes, that is perfectly true. I wish that the Opposition had supported fully the initiative which we took and which I was asked to take in dealing speedily with the relativities machinery. Further, I wish that the Leader of the Opposition and his party had been prepared to say that a national strike would not be in the national interest.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Thorpe Mr Jeremy Thorpe , North Devon

When the Prime Minister asked the TUC to co-operate with him in setting up a relativities board, did he tell it when the Government proposed to do so, or was that a piece of propaganda?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I said that we were prepared to do it at once.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Finsberg Mr Geoffrey Finsberg , Hampstead

If my right hon. Friend does meet the TUC in the next few days, will he remind it that if the Transport and General Workers' Union had not practised discrimination against women Londoners might now have more buses and underground trains with women drivers?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I do not wish to go back over the past, because this matter is now being put right, and I hope that it will be of benefit to Londoners. It has been one of the joint objectives of the TUC, the CBI and the Government to bring about equal pay as fairly and as quickly as possible.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Is the Prime Minister aware that we have insisted all along throughout these days that a national strike would be against the national interest? Is he further aware that if he fails to build on the preparatory work of the CBI and the TUC and does not call the parties together even now and say that the Government are prepared to see money placed on the table, on account, while the relativities board or whatever machinery is agreed looks to the longer-term problem, the responsibility for the strike will be on the obduracy of one man?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

It is well within the recollection of the House that when I asked the right hon. Gentleman to stand up and tell the House that he condemned a national strike he flatly refused to do so. It is on the record, and the whole country knows it. It is absolutely clear. The right hon. Gentleman asked me to set up the relativities machinery as quickly as possible. I told both the TUC and the CBI that I would do so and that it would then immediately consider the position. Then the right hon. Gentleman ratted on everything he had said. That, too, is on the record, and everyone knows it.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I called for an urgent examination—I told him how he should do it—and not one three months long? Will he now answer the question which he dodged in his correspondence with me yesterday? The Lord President of the Council last Sunday said that there "will" be more money for the miners, and the Prime Minister wrote back and said that if certain things happened there "would" be. Is it "will" or "would"?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I sent to the right hon. Gentleman the text from which the quotation from my right hon. Friend's speech was made. My right hon. Friend said: If the body examining them accepts all or part of the case, then of course it will mean extra money. This, I would have thought, was quite obvious to everyone.