I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas) on 10th June.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that in discussions with the TUC on child benefits it was not the TUC which took the initiative in suggesting the abandonment of the scheme? Will he think again about proceeding with the scheme in view of the opinions of the TUC and Labour Back Benchers? Is he aware that those who are urging him to reconsider are doing so because they believe it is important for tackling family poverty, not because they support the opportunist clamourings of the Conservative Party?
I am grateful for the opportunity to explain the position of the General Council of the TUC. It has confirmed its support of the principle embodied in the Child Benefit Act. It is incorrect to say that the scheme has been abandoned. It is on the statute book and will be implemented. The Government have already made a start by ensuring £1 a week for the first child. That is not much but it is a start towards implementing the scheme, and we hope to do more in that direction. There will be a working party to examine the prospects and to see whether the scheme can be phased in, as distinct from introducing it immediately, which would have cost more money that the Government have available at present.
I am not aware of that. I had the good fortune recently of addressing the Boilermakers Society, which perhaps knows as much as the hon. Gentleman about what its members really want. I was assured that the worldwide condition of the industry is such that they want to see rationalisation and nationalisation of the industry. That is the policy of the Government.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that in his talks with the TUC it will be no use to ask working people, who are willingly co-operating with the Government to get us through our problems, to accept cuts in living standards in terms of homes, schools and hospitals?
Yes, I agree. All hon. Members on this side of the House realise that public expenditure is of particular concern in helping to level the position of ordinary people. I hope that no hon. Members on our side want to see a levelling-down process. If there has been a halt in moving it upwards, I hope that it will be only temporary while manufacturing industry gets going.
I would be happy if more decisions were made more quickly in the House instead of time being taken, as it has been recently, on discussions on amendments. I have no ministerial responsibility for the General Council of the TUC or for the National Executive.