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Liverpool, Walton

Volume 930: debated on Thursday 21 April 1977

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asked the Prime Minister if he will pay an official visit to Liverpool, Walton.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that we regret that he is at present unable to come to Walton? When he comes to Liverpool, and in the meantime when he meets the Leader of the Liberal Party, will he explain to him and to the Liberals in Liverpool that during the period when they were in office in Liverpool the rates were kept down not because of Liberal policies but because of the generous aid to the Liverpool City Council by the Labour Government by way of rate support grant?

Will he also indicate to the Liberals that despite that generous assistance from the Labour Government the Liberals practically bankrupted the financial resources of Liverpool and that the administration that has taken over is in a hell of a difficult position because of their financial incompetence?

There is no doubt that the Government's actions to assist by means of the rate support grant were the means of keeping the rates down in Liverpool and in a great many other cities. I am sure that that will be taken into account by all those who are claiming credit for themselves in the coming local elections.

Will the Prime Minister spend the time that he is not occupying by going to Walton in drafting motions which the Government will put on the Order Paper before 10 o'clock today, for debate on Monday, so that at the conclusion of the debate, when we have heard what everyone who catches Mr. Speaker's eye has to say, the House may come to a conclusion as to which of the alternative systems of election it wishes to adopt for direct elections to the European Parliament? Will the Prime Minister spend his time doing that?

When my right hon. Friend does visit Liverpool, will he go to Kirkby and explain to my constituents why unemployment there has not been significantly reduced in the past two years? Will he further explain how a further round of the pay policy will reduce unemployment in Kirkby and bring prosperity to that area?

On the latter part of that supplementary question, I would not say that a further round of incomes policy by itself will reduce unemployment. But what I do make clear to my hon. Friend—and he had better make this clear to his constituents and to his trade union colleagues—is that if there is free collective bargaining in which people can take what they can get, combined with control over the money supply, the inevitable result in the short run will be higher prices, and in the medium run—by which I mean by the end of this year—there will be higher unemployment in his constituency. That is why we are going for an incomes policy.

When the Prime Minister goes to Walton or to anywhere else, will he take time to call in at the nearest farm and use his undoubted expertise to tell the farmer how he can produce meat at £28 a hundredweight?

I do not think I care to undertake that task. I have great sympathy with some of the points made by the hon. Gentleman. I will say this about the work being done by the Minister of Agriculture at the present time: if he can secure the kind of settlement for which the Cabinet has given him authority, it will be the best settlement for the consumer under the common agricultural policy annual review since we entered the European Community. That is an achievement well worth noting.