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Pay Negotiations (Prime Minister's Speech)

Volume 893: debated on Tuesday 17 June 1975

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07.

asked the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech at Poplar on Monday 19th May on pay negotiations.

Is the Prime Minister aware that he said—and I quote—[Interruption.] I withdraw the personal quotation. The Prime Minister said that the big battalions should show restraint in the use of their industrial muscle during this period of unparalleled economic difficulty. Will he now say something about the vexed question of differentials, the solution of which would go some way to relieving the position of the lower paid?

What I said about differentials I said to the TUC last year. I know from Questions put by the Leader of the Liberal Party this afternoon that this is a matter about which we are all deeply concerned. I answered a Question about differentials last week. The subject has been considered by the Economic Committee of the TUC and will be considered by the General Council in the light of proposals for a flat-rate increase on which I commented last week. The problem has been that when low-paid workers have received a flat-rate increase on a given poundage it has been translated into percentages, and people who are far better off—not only manual workers but white-collar and managerial workers—have said that they wanted the same percentage to maintain differentials. By maintaining the percentage differential they vastly increase the differential in cash terms. This is a problem to which the Government and the TUC are devoting a great deal of attention.

Apropos the Question answered earlier, may I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that it would be more accurate, in view of the Government's record, to say that any fool can get a settlement with surrender? What is the Government's policy towards the railway dispute?

It is exactly as we have explained it to the union and the board. I do not believe that it would help at this stage—[Interruption.] We have made it clear—we did this at the weekend—that we cannot possibly go along with the union's claim or with negotiations related to getting anything like that. We have made this very plain. We have explained to the union that although the consequences of a strike in support of the claim would be costly to the country at home and abroad, particularly for the travelling public and the movement of essential goods, the acceptance of a doctrine which would involve agreeing to the claim would be even more damaging.