This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be holding further meetings with ministerial colleagues and others.
I have been asked before about the sanctions being unlawful, but I have never heard it demonstrated that they are unlawful, nor have they been challenged in the courts. I assume that they would have been had they been unlawful. On the question of Government policy on this matter, if the hon. Member will wait a few minutes, I hope to say something more about it this afternoon.
During the course of today or at some other time will my right hon. Friend investigate the Civil Service Department with regard to a letter which I sent to every Government Department asking to be told the number of Tories and Liberals in this House and outside who have quango appointments? Somebody in the Civil Service Department has sent me a letter—I think that it was "Deep Throat "—suggesting that all Government Departments should answer my letter by refusing to give the names of Tories, Liberals and others who have quango jobs. Will the Prime Minister put this matter right?
I shall consider whether my hon. Friend is being denied improperly any information to which he is entitled. He is quite right to draw public attention to the fact that, although the Opposition will pretend that only trade union secretaries are members of these very important bodies which are of great assistance in the public service, there are a large number of Liberals and Conservatives who also place their services at our disposal.
Does the Prime Minister appreciate that in last night's votes the House clearly showed that it did not approve of the policy of arbitrary sanctions? Will he make it clear to the House this afternoon that he considers this policy to be immoral blackmail, which is quite intolerable?
In the course of considering the two votes about which the Opposition are making such a great song and dance, will the Prime Minister bear in mind that, despite differences of opinion about pay policy, the whole of the trade union movement has wholeheartedly and categorically said that it will campaign for the return of a Labour Government?
Yes, I am in no doubt about that and neither is the country as a whole. My hon. Friend surely understands that the Opposition must get a little cheer now and again. We read from their own supporters that they are rattled about these matters and I am delighted that we were able to give them a little encouragement yesterday. But I promise them it will not go too far.
I refer the hon. Member to the reply which I have just given to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen).
Will the Prime Minister take an opportunity today in his speech on the confidence motion to remind the House that the average household in this country is now paying more than two and a half times as much income tax as it was when his Government came to office? Does he really think that this is the way to win the confidence of the House or the public? What will he do about it?
That seems to be a matter of giving information and not asking for it. There are different interpretations to be put upon these issues. We could, of course, refer to the large increases in incomes that have taken place since the last election. Frankly, it has not been much use when prices have gone up just as fast. That is why I would like a little support from the Opposition now and again in our efforts to overcome inflation.
Will the Prime Minister take time off to try to drum into the heads of the CBI that one cannot raise prices and at the same time hold down wages, and to drum into the heads of the TUC that one cannot raise wages and at the same time hold prices down? The sooner both parties appreciate the realities of the situation, the better off we all shall be. Is that not what the 5 per cent. guideline is all about?
I seem to be in midstream between an inquest on last night's votes and a foretaste of what I propose to say this afternoon. I agree with my hon. Friend that the whole question of the 5 per cent. is not an end in itself. It is a means of ensuring that inflation does not get out of hand and return to the levels of earlier years, even though we do not get much support when we adopt measures to that end.
NUPE, like many other unions, is affiliated to the Labour Party and we are happy to have support from all those unions. The policy of that union in relation to a particular dispute—assuming that the hon. Member's snide remark refers to certain difficulties in hospitals—has been condemned by the Secretary of State for Social Services. I hope that hon. Members will not condemn the whole union for the action of some of its members.
I am not sure about arguing by analogy on these matters. Each issue must be judged on its merits. I hope that there would be general agreement in the House that those who offend against racial equality and break the law should be visited with the utmost sanction.
I refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave earlier today to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen).
The hon. Gentleman has now turned into an astrologer. I hope that his forecasts are incorrect.
My hon. Friend is quite right, although I hesitate to repeat his elegant language. I also wonder why I bother with such twittish questions.
Will the Prime Minister find time to look at the BBC proposals to switch off late night programmes because of an industrial dispute and put a placard on the screen saying that this is the fault of the Government and their pay policy? Does he realise that this would be as damaging to a Labour Government as switching off television during Christmas 1973 was to the previous Conservative Government? The BBC and the staff have virtually agreed on 7·8 per cent., which merely keeps pace with inflation, and it is ridiculous to promise sanctions against the BBC and insist on bringing in the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service when there is no dispute. This would only rebound on the Labour Government at a very tricky time.
I must say that I am not a connoisseur of late night programmes. I think that all good people should be in bed by 11 o'clock at night. [An HON. MEMBER: "Tell that to Michael."] I cannot understand the ribaldry of the House on this serious matter. I shall not have time to go into the BBC wage claim today, but it must be conducted through the usual channels—the House is also a little slow this afternoon. The Government cannot intervene in these matters of pay policy to exceed the guidelines that they have laid down.