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Volume 927: debated on Tuesday 8 March 1977

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Is the Prime Minister aware that a very large number of policemen live in Chingford? [HON. MEMBERS: "They need them."] No comment. If the right hon. Gentleman came to Chingford, he could explain to the policemen there why their claim is outside the limits of the social contract but it appears to be possible to pay £7,000 in cash to dockers not to work at all.

I am not surprised to hear that there are a number of policemen living in Chingford. Indeed, they live in most places. I had the opportunity of meeting the leaders of the police yesterday. I had nearly two hours with them during which time we discussed their pay claim. I told them that it would not be right to break the pay agreement, even if their case was a good one. Although I did not wish to misuse what the Leader of the Opposition said, I was glad to be able to say that it was her view, too—and therefore, I take it, the view of the House—that any claim should be settled within the limits of the pay agreement. On that basis I am prepared to go as far as possible. They produced one or two illustrations to me which I had examined, but I do not think that they really meet the limits which are laid down in this connection. They relied on the seamen's case, which is not really on all fours.

Will my right hon. Friend use the time that he now has available as a result of not going to Chingford to visit the workers sitting in at Plessey factories on Merseyside to assure them of his support in their fight to save their jobs and that he will commit himself to speeding up the welcome investigation that he announced last Thursday?

Only this morning I asked that the National Enterprise Board should make investigations into this matter as rapidly as posible, and I shall try to give it personal consideration.

Will the Prime Minister say whether he agreed with the Home Secretary's advice to the police to join the TUC?

I gather that my right hon. Friend was a little misrepresented on that. He did not advise them to join the TUC, any more than I did yesterday. He was responding in a television interview to a question about negotiation. We all know how questions on television or, indeed, in other ways can sometimes mislead one into giving answers which are not quite the kind of answers—[Interruption.] If Opposition Members have never had that experience, all I can say is that they have a lot to learn. I can assure the right hon. Lady that my right hon. Friend was not advising the police to join the TUC. I am sure that they will want to take their own decision on that matter.