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Secretary Of State For The Home Department (Speech)

Volume 932: debated on Thursday 26 May 1977

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asked the Prime Minister if the speech by the Secretary of State for the Home Department on 6th May 1977 in South Leeds on local government election results represents Government policy.

As the local election results reflected democracy at work, will the Prime Minister tell the House in what way democracy is furthered by adding Trotskyites to the Government party? Will he also tell us in what way the Lib-Lab pact to contain Socialism is still in existence?

Is the Prime Minister aware that the Home Secretary likened his reception by the police to demonstrations by the IRA and the National Front? Does the Prime Minister agree that the right hon. Gentleman's comparison is quite disgraceful, and will he confirm that it does not represent Government policy?

The demonstrations outside the hall, if they were correctly reported, were not a credit to the police service. I know enough about the police service to know that the majority of policemen would agree with my view, that they do not believe that is the best way to express their genuinely felt grievances.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that whatever the local government election results, local government reform introduced by the Conservative Government has proved to be a complete and utter disaster and that those county boroughs that were merged into counties are now getting far worse services and paying a lot more for them?

As I go around the country I find that local government reform is not generally regarded as a jewel in the crown of the last Conservative Administration. However, we have to reflect carefully before we decide to take any particular action to alter this at present or, indeed, in the immediate future, because local government must be given an opportunity to adjust itself. I am bound to say that the more I hear about it the less I feel that Parliament was well advised to accept the proposal that the Conservative Government then put forward.

I refer to the speech of the Home Secretary, which is the subject of the Question. Does the Prime Minister recall that towards the end of that speech the Home Secretary talked about the Government's economic programme and about the benefits that we should all share? Is the Prime Minister aware that since the last election the take-home pay of the average worker has fallen by £8 a week? Does he expect there to be any improvement in the current financial year?

Yes. The right hon. Lady knows the reasons for this. We have been attempting to live within our means after the profligate extravagance of the Conservative Government. With regard to the future, our assessment is that from now on, if we can maintain a reasonable approach on these matters the standard of life should certainly begin to improve. [HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] Well, at present—if I may take just four factors—exports are going up, pensions are going up, unemployment is going down, and interest rates are going down. That is not a bad start.

The Prime Minister has said something similar to what he said last Tuesday, and it was partly for that reason that I asked him. If he expects that the standard of living will indeed improve, what kind of increase in pay is he expecting, bearing in mind the current rate of inflation and the current rate of tax? If the standard of living is to improve, does that not postulate a very large increase in pay?

Not necessarily. As I am sure the right hon. Lady will agree if she reflects on it, it would also be determined to some extent by an increase in productivity. It is to that that the Government are constantly addressing their mind, through the industrial strategy and in other ways.