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Her Majesty's Government (Opposition Motion)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th June 1976.

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Photo of Mr Michael McNair-Wilson Mr Michael McNair-Wilson , Newbury 12:00 am, 9th June 1976

We know that the Home Secretary told the police force at its conference that if it wanted more police it could not have more prisons, and vice versa. But do we not also know that the police believe that if there were more policemen, there would be fewer people going to prison because crime would not pay? But the Home Secretary in his priorities believes that more guardians of our society are not as vital as all that although violence is within our society, although our colleagues are sent letter bombs and although many people are rather concerned about walking the streets of London at night, or travelling in tubes and buses. However, money is not to be spent on that social priority.

What of education? We heard one Scottish Member talk about young teachers who thought they were going to find a place in education to improve the quality of the education our young people receive. But those young teachers are not going to find jobs, thanks to this Government. Then look at the housing record. Housing starts in England and Wales—this includes houses and fiats—in 1975 were down on the number of starts achieved in the last year of the Conservative Government. The National Health Service is creaking, but all the Government can think of doing is to bring in some spiteful piece of Socialism about pay beds that the bulk of the people do not want to deny £30 million that will have to come from elsewhere.

The Government ignore the will of 60 per cent. of the population so that they can pursue the doctrine which they hold so dear to their hearts, even though the ship of State has its bows under the water and all of us wonder what the future holds. The Government say "Look, we have got on with the organised ranks of labour. We have achieved a pay deal and we are reducing inflation."

I must ask the Government whether they will allay a new fear which backs my lack of confidence in them and which arises from an answer given me by the Prime Minister today. On 1st July 1975 the Chancellor of the Exchequer said: We are determined to bring the rate of domestic inflation down to 10 per cent. by the end of the next pay round and to single figures by the end of 1976."—[Official Report, 1st July 1975; Vol. 894, c. 1189.] I asked the Prime Minister what figure he had used in his pay talks with the unions to get this new pay deal. He said —more honestly than the Chancellor, for he would not give me a figure—7 per cent. to 8 per cent.

We also know from what the Chancellor said at the beginning of the week that, to start with, we shall not reach single figures until the end of 1977—one year later than I have just read out. The right hon. Gentleman said that we should halve the present rate. The present rate is 18·9 per cent., so that gives a figure of about 9·4 per cent. In other words, not only have we slipped on our achievement of a cut in the inflation rate to single figures, which is central to the Government's economic policy, but I wonder whether the trade unions have taken on board that the figure on which they were settling their pay deal is no longer the figure on which the Government are operating.

I should like an explanation from the Government of what has happened and what their inflation target is. Is it in any sense within their programme? Why should they imagine that those who have lent us this standby credit should have more confidence in the £ sterling as a result of this slippage on this crucial programme than when they made this money available so that the Chancellor could tell us about it?

The Government stand condemned by their own actions. They have failed the people of this country because they are blind to our real social needs. The greatest need of all is to end the arguments that divide our nation. Just for once, the Government should speak for everybody without the trace of envy, jealousy and spite that seeks to split the nation into "us" and "them".