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Volume 959: debated on Tuesday 28 November 1978

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I meet representatives of the general council from time to time, at National Economic Development Council meetings and on other occasions. Further meetings will be arranged as necessary.

I am grateful to the Prime Minister for that reply. When he next meets the TUC, will he pursue with it the argument that any form of incomes policy is possible only if we have economic growth and that economic growth is totally incompatible with the European monetary system? Does he agree that it becomes him, above all, as a Prime Minister who has taken so many clear-cut decisions on so many difficult issues, to do the same with this difficult issue, to forsake the straddling position of the EMS and to say that it is in our national interest to stay out?

That was a slightly complicated question. But I agree with the early part of my hon. Friend's remarks, namely, that growth and an increase in incomes are interrelated. It is not without significance that this year, because of the restraint in the growth of incomes, industrial production compared with the corresponding quarter of last year is going ahead at about 4 per cent., which is the best for many years.

As to the second part of the question, this depends upon the nature of the scheme about which my hon. Friend is talking. It is a scheme which needs to be symmetrical and which will have to wrap up both strong and weak currencies if it is to encourage growth. I do not know whether the arrangements which have been published so far achieve that end.

Does not the Prime Minister recognise the blatant injustice of imposing sanctions on Ford, when that company has already suffered the worst strike in its history because it has tried to support the Prime Minister's rigid 5 per cent. pay policy? Is he not aware that the Ford company has one of the best records in Britain for providing jobs, investment and exports and that his decision can only damage all three?.

When the right hon. Lady asked me a similar question last week I said that I recognised the dilemma for Ford. But there is an overriding national interest here. We are not ready to see the big fish get away while we catch only the tiddlers. As to the TUC, I do not propose to buy any motor cars from it.

Is it not in the overriding interest of this country to have companies which provide jobs, exports at competitive prices and investment? Does the Prime Minister recall that about a year ago he was very anxious to persuade Ford to go to South Wales and set up a new plant there? He said that Ford had demonstrated its confidence in Britain and that he must do all that he could to repay that confidence.

That is why we are pursuing our present policy. I promise the right hon. Lady that if every other firm pays an increase of between 16 per cent. and 17 per cent. to its employees—

—Ford will not be able to hold its prices for very long and we shall find the price of Ford cars going up substantially whether or not Ford wants them to.

Will my right hon. Friend ignore the hysterical shriekings of the Leader of the Opposition? When he next meets the TUC, will he ask it to think again about pay policy? Will he ask it whether it really believes that increases on the scale given by Ford, and other increases in the pipeline, are good for Britain, for the unemployed and for people who suffered from the steep rise in the inflation rate between 1974 and 1977?

The answer to the first part of my hon. Friend's question is"Yes ". On the latter part, I totally agree. That is why we will pursue this policy, and pursue it as long as we have public support, which at present is overwhelming. Public opinion does not want to see exceptions made just because a company is large or multinational. Everyone will be treated in the same way.