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Volume 893: debated on Tuesday 17 June 1975

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asked the Prime Minister what changes in general Government policy he proposes to introduce following the outcome of the referendum.

We shall continue to pursue the policies set out in our manifestos and approved by the country in two General Elections last year.

Will the Prime Minister please now turn his undivided attention to inflation? Is it true that the Government are pressing—as was reported by the Press and radio this morning—the board of British Rail to go beyond the highly inflationary arbitration award? If the Government are prepared to accept and finance a rail settlement above 27½ per cent., how on earth do they expect anyone to take them seriously on inflation?

As to the first part of the question, about giving my undivided attention to this matter, that is the case. We have had a series of meetings with the TUC and the CBI. Those meetings are continuing. I chaired the meeting of NEDC this morning. I shall be meeting the CBI this afternoon and the TUC tomorrow. These meetings will continue. We are seeking to reach agreement, in this democracy, on the basis of consent and not of confrontation. Any fool can obtain a settlement on confrontation. That does not last very long—as we saw. We are trying to get the basis of consent. I have already answered a question about the railways situation. I do not want to go beyond what I said this afternoon.

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that, following the discussions with the CBI this afternoon, there will be no amendments to the Industry Bill beyond those which were agreed in Committee? I think that this is a matter of the greatest importance, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will give us his assurance.

My hon. Friend will be aware that the Government, as usual, are considering the Bill as it comes from Committee. We shall discuss it with both sides. The Bill, and the implementation of the Bill, will be in full accordance with the manifesto and with the White Paper. My hon. Friend will be the first to agree that where action can be taken by voluntary policies, that is the right approach. That is what he said on Second Reading last February.

Does the Prime Minister accept that any attempt to readjust the time scale of devolution, as a result of the outcome of the referendum, would prove to be a costly error for the Labour Party, in political terms? Will the Prime Minister give us an assurance that there will be no extension of the timetable originally promised?

I welcome the hon. Gentleman's concern for the future welfare of the Labour Party. There is no connection in the minds of any of us between the outcome of the referendum and the Government's proposals on devolution, which were set out clearly in a White Paper which was published last autumn. We are sticking to the terms of the White Paper.

It is known that I chaired a meeting on this subject yesterday. Despite Press rumours—I do not blame the Press because it gathers funny ideas from funny places—we are abiding by the White Paper. There is no change in the timetable. We have made that clear.