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Volume 958: debated on Tuesday 14 November 1978

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asked the Prime Minister when he last met representatives of the CBI.

I meet representatives of the CBI from time to time, at NEDC and on other occasions. Further meetings will be arranged as necessary.

As it is now clear that the Opposition's statements are designed to encourage employers and industry generally to sabotage the Government's economic policy, can the Prime Minister make it clear what he expects from the CBI, industrialists and employers in order to support the incomes policy?

I certainly agree that the CBI in its public statements on this matter have been much more responsible than some sections of the Opposition. I hope that the CBI will take the White Paper on incomes policy "Winning the Battle Against Inflation" fully into account when advising its members.

When the Prime Minister meets the CBI will he ask exactly how it proposes to increase production with the 12½ per cent. minimum lending rate? Will he say exactly what is the difference between his addiction to the nonsense of monetarism and that of the Leader of the Opposition? Is not the 12½ per cent. the price that we are all having to pay for the failure of successive Conservative and Labour Governments to arrive at a sensible wage bargaining system?

The present Government at least can be exonerated from that charge. We are doing our best to arrive at a sensible wage bargaining system. I trust that the statement that the TUC, in conjunction with the Government, will be issuing later today will demonstrate that.

I accept that the Prime Minister's comments last night on the Common Market enjoyed widespread support, but will he take this opportunity to tell the CBI and others that Britain's involvement with the European monetary system is now a dead duck? Will he also say that, unless there is radical and substantial reform of the Common Market, Britain's departure from the Common Market must be a real possibility?

It is far better that we should try to make the necessary reforms in the European Community than that we should talk about leaving it at this stage. There are substantial disadvantages in leaving.

As the House knows, I raised the matter at Bremen on 6th July. As a result of that the paper has been prepared and certain deductions are now being made. It will be considered by the Finance Ministers of the Community on 20th November. I shall, of course, carry the matter forward as far as I can at the next meeting of Heads of Government early in December.

Does the Prime Minister recall that the CBI, among other things, called for the Government to consider legislating on the creation of a system of balloting before strikes? In view of the recent situation at Vauxhall, and as the bread workers' strike is taking place at a time when between 65 per cent. and 70 per cent. of supplies are at a normal level, does he agree that there is a widespread consensus for the view? Is he aware that if he gave serious consideration to that suggestion he would almost certainly have the approval of the House and the grateful thanks of the nation?

I answered questions on this matter last week. I have nothing further to add today.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the only way to achieve genuine reforms in the Common Market is to say that we shall leave it unless we achieve them?

I would not regard my right hon. Friend as the best adviser on that matter. I do not think that he has ever wanted to be a member of the Common Market, at any price.