Edward Heath – 1974 Speech on Fuel Crisis

Below is the text of the speech made by Edward Heath, the then Prime Minister, in the House of Commons, on 9 January 1974.

I want at the outset of this debate to restate the hard facts which made the Government take the steps they announced in the House on 13th December. The underlying position has not materially altered since those measures were debated in the House on 18th December. The facts were not challenged then, nor were they refuted at the meeting of the National Economic Development Council which followed, at which I took the chair.

Now the facts are accepted by the vast majority of responsible opinion in this country. The only difference is between those who believe that the action we took was wise and those who consider that we should have allowed our stocks to be used up, with the risk of industry grinding to a halt and essential services being damaged.

The measures we took, including the three-day week, were forced on us by the need to make sure that our electricity supplies did not break down within a few weeks. This was a direct result of a fall in coal production, now down by almost 30 per cent., resulting from the miners’ industrial action begun on 12th November. I remind the House that it was only after five weeks of such action, when we could clearly see the consequences for the nation as a whole, that I made my statement to the House.

In the five weeks following the miners’ action, power stations’ coal stocks fell by 3.6 million tons. This compared with a fall of 500,000 tons in the corresponding period last year. At 8th December the stocks stood at 16.2 million tons. A continued rundown of stocks of nearly 1 million tons a week would have reduced this total to the critical level of about 7 million tons by early February. That was on the optimistic assumption that the weather remained mild. It also presupposed that the industrial action in the mines or on the railways was not intensified. We had arranged for increased oil supplies to be sent to the power stations, and at 1st January the Central Electricity Generating Board had enough oil for three weeks’ use at all its oil-burning stations.

The Government were not prepared to see a rundown in coal stocks such as I have described. The alternative was just to let the situation continue as we did in 1972, at the time of the miners’ strike. The Government were bitterly criticised at that time for so doing ; criticised by industry, criticised by the unions and criticised by the public, and, looking back, I should have to admit rightly so. But we have learned from that experience. In those circumstances, it was our duty to ensure as a matter of common prudence that the situation in 1972 was not repeated. In my belief, and, I hope, that of the House, no responsible Government could have done otherwise.

As a result of the measures that we have taken, the saving in electricity consumption has reached about 21 per cent. I should like to pay tribute to the public and thank them for their co-operation. The contribution which they have made by their economies is of major importance. Both employers and the trade unions have also striven to adapt themselves to the limited electricity supplies available. They have striven with skill and ingenuity, and the nation owes them—both employers and trade unions—a great debt for so doing, and I hope the House will join me in asking for their continued co-operation.

To ensure that we can together see the winter through without further major dislocation we need to consolidate that achievement and, indeed, to do rather better. The Government will continue to try to find ways of securing economies in the use of electricity and thus of giving more help to industry. In this we are assisted by the settlement within stage 3 made by the power workers on 5th January.

Since the electricity restrictions took effect we have saved about 1½ million tons of coal. In the week before Christmas, power station coal stocks fell by less than 500,000 tons compared with 1 million tons in the first week of December. Over the Christmas period, the stock rundown was 750,000 tons when the loss was expected to be 1¼ million tons. As I have already told the House, and as I explained to the NEDC and have said repeatedly in public, the three-day week can be ended as soon as the miners decide to return to normal working and adequate supplies of coal are reaching the power stations.

There is one other matter with which I should like to deal. [Interruption.] With respect, part of the agreement between the National Coal Board and the National Union of Mineworkers is that safety maintenance should be done by extra shifts. That is not occurring, and that is one of the main reasons for the fall in coal production.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

The right hon. Gentleman does not know the agreement.

The Prime Minister

I have it here, and I am prepared to read it to the House. Clause 3 of the 1947 five-day week agreement states: The union will enter into arrangements with the board to provide for the regular working of additional shifts by certain categories of workers where this is necessary to ensure the safety of the pit.

Mr. Skinner rose——

The Prime Minister

There is nothing controversial about this. This is a matter of fact and it is what justifies my statement that when the miners return to normal working it will be possible to get proper production and the coal will get through to the power stations.

Mr. Michael McGuire (Ince)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

The Prime Minister

I am sorry, no.

I listened to Mr. Gormley at the weekend, and there is one matter with which I should like to deal because there seems to be a genuine misunderstanding.

Mr. McGuire rose——

The Prime Minister

I am sorry, but I shall not give way.

Mr. Gormley said: If the members of the National Union of mineworkers went back to normal working tomorrow, you would still have this crisis. If it had not happened this month, it would have been in the next two or three months inevitably. If there is genuine misunderstanding here, I wish to remove it. The three-day week is in the use of electricity, and that is the consequence of the fall in supplies of coal to the power stations.

There is now another factor of the utmost importance for British industry: the reduction in steel production. It is not the three-day week that has caused the British Steel Corporation to cut back production to 50 per cent. It is the lack of essential coking coal for the mills. The facts are that normal deliveries of coking coal to the blast furnaces have been cut to two-thirds of what is required. The corporation’s margins of coal are now down to 3.7 weeks’ supply at full production. That in itself, irrespective of Government action, will involve major shortages of material in manufacturing industry, with consequent short-time working and unemployment.

The three-day week is not the consequence of the oil supply situation. The measures that we took in November would have been adequate to ensure the minimum of damage to industrial production from reductions in our oil supplies. We were assured at the time that industry could absorb those cuts by economies, and this has proved to be the case.

The three-day week is not the result of higher oil prices. Indeed, it is essential that we meet this further external challenge by increasing production and exports to pay for the fuel that we require until our own resources are sufficiently developed to meet those needs.

We also have to make adequate arrangements to safeguard our supplies of imported oil. That is the object of the negotiations now under way with Iran and of our contacts with other oil-producing States which the Government have rightly taken on in the interests of Britain. We wish to co-operate with both the oil-producing and oil-consuming nations in making these arrangements, about both the supply and the price of oil. It is obviously in the interests of all that there should not be an unrestrained international scramble for the supplies that are available.

A number of proposals for international co-operation have already been made. It is right that there should be early talks between the major consuming countries, and that these talks should be broadened to include the producing countries. We have ourselves put some ideas to the American administration on how to follow up the initiative that Dr. Kissinger took in London at the Pilgrims Dinner, which I welcomed in the House and at Copenhagen and which I have welcomed on several other occasions. Meanwhile, I understand that an announcement will be made very shortly by the American Government about new proposals for a meeting in this connection. As soon as these proposals are received—which, I repeat, I understand will be in the very near future—we shall at once consult our Community partners about the response to them.

The recent developments in the supply and, above all, the price of oil have completely transformed not only the degree but the very nature of the energy problem that faces us and, indeed, most Western industrial countries in the coming years. They have clearly added to the amount of time and effort that needs to be devoted to the subject of energy both at ministerial and at official level. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and my right hon. Friend the former Chief Secretary to the Treasury have been handling these matters with coolness and skill, but inevitably they and their officials have had less time for the other major tasks facing the Department of Trade and Industry.

I recall that when I created the Department of Trade and Industry a few months after the present administration took office it was welcomed by the Leader of the Opposition, who had indeed said that similar thoughts had been in his own mind about this and the other major Departments. I believe that at the time it was right, in the circumstances of the energy supply situation, that the Department of Trade and Industry should have been created.

But the creation now of the new Department of Energy will enable the Secretary of State for Energy and his colleagues to concentrate on the development of the coal industry, on nuclear power and on our offshore oil and gas resources at home, as well as on those tasks of working together with other oil-consuming countries and with the oil-producing countries on the international aspects of the energy problem. It will also make it possible for the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and his colleagues to concentrate more of their attention upon the implications of energy developments for British industry and on the other major tasks facing the Department, in our overseas trade negotiations, export promotion, industrial development and regional policy, prices, and the considerable burden of legislation on consumer credit and company law reform now before Parliament.

I return to the question of the three-day week and the crisis mentioned by Mr. Gormley, because the three-day week cannot be attributed to the balance of payments position. That demands, as I think everyone would agree, a full working week, maximum production and a continuation of the steady rise in productivity and of the rapid increase in exports over the last year. The three-day week cannot be laid at the door of an economic strategy for growth, which has brought substantial benefits to the people of this country in terms of a real improvement in personal standards of living.

Mr. Russell Kerr (Feltham)

There has been no improvement.

The Prime Minister

Then the hon. Gentleman is in complete disagreement with all the leaders of the TUC who have been taking part in the discussions we have had and who have constantly pressed for and supported a policy of expansion.

The measures we have taken were forced on us by the facts of coal production that I have described. No one—and this was made abundantly plain in the NEDC meeting—the Government, the TUC or the CBI, can possibly welcome the circumstances which bring about a three-day week. We have not got it by choice ; we have got it out of necessity. The Government have not deliberately precipitated the crisis. We have always been willing, indeed anxious, to consult and to take account wherever possible of the views of both sides of industry.

Mr. Kerr

Why did not the Government consult the TUC?

The Prime Minister

I am quite prepared to deal with that question. As I explained to the NEDC, on the question of the introduction of the three-day week—which is the responsibility of the Government and which they fully accept—there was deliberately no discussion with the TUC members who saw my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment the night before it was announced, because the Government did not wish to lay themselves open to accusations from any quarter that they had discussed the matter with the TUC before the meeting of the NUM at which there was to be a further attempt by Mr. Gormley—he having made it first after my meeting—to persuade the members of his executive to go to the ballot. We were not prepared to have the accusation made that we were discussing the three-day week with the TUC before the immediate meeting of the NUM.

I wish to deal with the record of the Government in consultation and in what have been the results of that consultation. [Interruption.] I understand, from the Press at any rate, that the nation is expecting the House to discuss this grave situation in a serious way. I certainly, as Prime Minister, propose to do so.

Mr. Skinner


The Prime Minister

I turn now to the question of the record of consultation by the Government because of the accusation which is frequently made—I do not wish to enter into personalities, but it is frequently made—that the Government are seeking confrontation. Far from adopting a policy of confrontation, we have now conducted for more than 18 months the longest, the most detailed and the most far-reaching set of talks in the history of relations between the TUC, the CBI and any Government. Indeed, there has been some criticism in the House of the fact that the Government have taken part in these talks and have engaged in consultation of the fullest kind about the management of the national economy.

Over the last 18 months we have had several objectives in these talks. We wanted to establish once and for all a reasonable basis for discussing common problems. I pledged myself to the nation to do this after the miners’ strike of 1972. It was then welcomed by the TUC and by the employers. We wanted to create a reasonable framework within which wage settlements could be negotiated. We wanted to develop the means whereby the Government, the TUC and the CBI together might review the working of our economy and our progress and discuss what further was necessary to achieve our objectives. Above all, we wanted to get away from the bludgeons of economic power and the blunt weapon of confrontation.

Mr. Kerr

After the Industrial Relations Act?

The Prime Minister

The overriding objective, recognised by all three parties to the talks, was to move away from the blind and indiscriminate use of economic power and to establish a system of wage settlements based on reason. That was the spirit in which we as a Government embarked on the discussions. During the summer and autumn of 1972, we held 11 meetings on a tripartite basis with the TUC and the CBI.

That was the spirit in which we continued the discussions in January and February last year about stage 2 and throughout the summer and autumn before the introduction of stage 3. I presided over more than 33 hours of talks with those concerned. During these talks there was never any suggestion of confrontation from any party to the talks. No one desired that. We were all concerned to maintain the expansion of the economy. The TUC and the CBI recognised that a price for this would have to be paid in the balance of payments, but both fully accepted it and for this reason welcomed the floating of the pound. We were all determined to do everything possible to ensure that our exports had every opportunity of increasing so that our standard of living could rise and so that we could improve the position of the lower paid, the pensioners and others who most needed help.

Those were our agreed objectives then and they remain our agreed objectives today. They are the objectives of the Government. We all recognised that we could not achieve all the improvements we wanted at once but that we could make progress by agreement in an orderly way and reach our objectives more quickly by so doing.

We did not achieve all that we had hoped in 1972. In the absence of voluntary agreement we were forced to take statutory powers. Nor, in the discussions in 1973, were we able to move forward from a statutory policy to an agreed voluntary basis for dealing with prices and incomes. But in these last 18 months a great deal has been achieved and we have deliberately carried through measures to meet as many as possible of the policies on which agreement was reached between the TUC, the CBI and the Government.

In fairness to all three parties to the talks, these achievements, I believe, need restating. By October last year we were making substantial progress towards the achievement of our joint objectives. The economy was expanding. Unemployment was down to under 500,000 and was still falling. Manufacturing output was up by 8 per cent. on a year before, and industrial production was up by almost 7 per cent.

In the export markets, we could sell our products more competitively than any of our neighbours. In the first half of 1973, the growth in volume of our exports was 24 per cent. at an annual rate, compared with a world growth of 17 per cent. to 19 per cent. In the same period the growth in volume of our imports was 18 per cent. at an annual rate, as compared with 24 per cent. of the growth of volume of our exports.

We were beginning to achieve the necessary rate of investment—

Mr. Michael Meacher (Oldham, West) rose—

The Prime Minister

I should say to the hon. Gentleman that, in fairness to all those who have done the work in industry, these figures should be stated. Surveys showed that 1974 would be the highest growth year for investment for more than a decade. Personal standards of living had grown by nearly 6 per cent. in 1972—faster than in any of the previous 20 years. The improvement in the first half of 1973 over the second half of 1972 was 3¼ per cent.
We were also agreed that an essential part of the strategy should be to provide for the lower paid, particularly the pensioners, and again we have acted positively in this.

Mr. Kerr

Dishonest government.

The Prime Minister

We have paid particular attention, as the TUC urged, to the problems of the lower paid. Under stage 2 the wages limit of £1 plus 4 per cent. and the provisions for equal pay, longer holidays and shorter hours were all particularly designed to assist the lower paid.

We continued all this in stage 3. In addition we provided for negotiators the alternative pay limit of £2.25 to help the lower paid. For the pensioners we have provided a secure future by ensuring that pensions should be uprated annually. Our record in this is second to none. Pensions have risen by 55 per cent. since 1970, which is far more than the increase in prices over the same period, and this does not include the £10 bonus which the pensioners have received for the last two Christmases.

Mr. Meacher rose——

The Prime Minister

I am giving the House these details again because it is essential that the House and the country should recognise the background to the negotiations now taking place under stage 3 of the code approved by Parliament. It is absolutely basic to the present industrial situation.

At the same time, all of us—the Government, the TUC and the CBI—recognised throughout our discussions that the reduction of inflation was a prime objective. I repeat that all of us would have preferred to find a way of achieving this voluntarily, but we should in no way underestimate the success of stages 1 and 2 of the incomes policy, for which I have paid tribute to both employers and unions.

Most of us—[Interruption.] I understand that the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) does not like hearing the facts of life. This is a grave situation—

Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West) rose—

The Prime Minister

This is a grave situation—

Mr. English

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way? [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The right hon. Gentleman obviously is not giving way.

The Prime Minister

—a grave situation, in which the nation—[Interruption.]

Mr. English rose—

The Prime Minister

I think that the nation will note the behaviour of the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues.

A prime objective of these talks has throughout been to combat inflation. I repeat that no one should underestimate the success, with the co-operation of employers and unions, of stages 1 and 2. Most of us would have settled for a price inflation of 3 per cent. or 4 per cent. a year, and that is what we would have had, thanks to the vast growth of the economy and the restraint of employers and unions, but for the rapid and massive rise in world prices of foodstuffs and raw materials. [HON. MEMBERS: “Ah.”] Again, hon. Members are sceptical. Let me give them the figures, from the Economist. The world prices of commodities have risen by no less than 119 per cent. and the world price of food by 113 per cent. Against that background, I should have thought that both employers and unions can count it a substantial achievement to hold the increase in domestic prices to under 10 per cent

The effect of our counter-inflationary policy has been to ensure that we have been able to hold down domestic costs better than most other industrial countries. We have averted the danger of piling a substantial domestic inflation on top of inflation produced by world prices.

Perhaps I may quote the new General Secretary of the TUC. He has emphasised that In the long term, it is still true that the solution to our problems lies in economic growth, it lies in continuing expansion and it lies in continuing investment. That is still the Government’s view, and it makes it absolutely imperative that this country should continue the battle against wage-cost inflation.

Indeed, the large increase in prices that we shall have to pay for oil makes it more important to continue with expansion and not less important—

Mr. Skinner

Your own party does not believe you.

The Prime Minister

But, of course, the fruits of this expansion will have to go in a greater degree to pay for the cost of that oil instead of going to improve our standard of living. Those are the hard facts of the present situation.

In the present circumstances, therefore, I believe that, far from being accused of confrontation, the Government are entitled to ask for a positive response from the trade union movement as a whole for what we have achieved in reply to the points which they, with employers, have put to us. They have benefited from a policy of growth which they demanded and which they fully supported. They have benefited from a policy which brought unemployment below 500,000, which filled order books, which provided a high level of production, improved standards of living and brought over the last year a substantial measure of industrial peace.

In stage 3 itself, the Government have gone as far as possible to meet the points put to us in our discussions with the TUC and the CBI. They asked for a greater flexibility for negotiators. How often we hear at this moment that there must be flexibility. Well, let those who ask for that consider the immense amount of flexibility in the stage 3 negotiations which has been used, rightly used, taken advantage of fully and accepted, by so many negotiators who have already completed their negotiations.

Flexibility has been built into the code—[Interruption.] I am sorry, but in this serious situation, Labour Members will not shout me down, however much they may wish to do so. The flexibility has been introduced into the code in the 1 per cent. flexibility margin, in the provision for hours and holidays and, in particular, in the provision for unsocial hours and in the choice of pay limits. The TUC and the employers asked for the opportunity to negotiate efficiency agreements. These opportunities are included in the code and are being used.

I do not intend to speak in detail of the miners’ pay claim. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment is discussing it with the NUM executive this afternoon and he will be taking part in the debate tomorrow. There are certain things in general about it which I wish to say. All the provisions of stage 3 are available to the miners for negotiation. The offer to the miners includes payment for unsocial hours. I am told that there are different arrangements about shifts in mining from manufacturing industry. [Interruption.]

Hon. Gentlemen are sceptical. It was Mr. Jack Jones who raised the matter in the National Economic Development Council. Of course, the miners have been offered an arrangement specifically to deal with the night shifts. If they so wish they can negotiate on these matters. What cannot be done is to deal with all the problems at once on a scale far greater than that already dealt with within the code.

In addition to the basic rate there is the flexibility allowance which the miners have chosen to use to extend their holiday arrangements. That is entirely up to them and is a perfectly fair arrangement for them to ask for. There are special arrangements for unsocial hours which they have opted to use for the night shift. There are bigger lump sums on retirement. All of these are part of the flexibility arrangements, in addition to the basic rate, which have been offered to the miners in the negotiations.

It can be summed up in this way. The offer made to the NUM represents the best offer made to its members in the whole history of negotiations. Even without a 3½ per cent. efficiency increase the offer would give 25 per cent. of miners £6.30p extra a week, 50 per cent. of miners more than £4.75p a week and 75 per cent. of miners more than £3.30p a week. This offer means that average earnings for some underground craftsmen would rise to £55 a week, for some power loaders to £51 a week and for surface men, grade 2, to about £39 a week. All this is before account is taken of the efficiency deal which is available for negotiation between the union and the National Coal Board.

When I saw the NUM on 28th November I discussed all of these details with it. I said to it, and I emphasise this, that if it accepted a stage 3 settlement and resumed normal production the Government would be ready immediately thereafter to consider with both sides of the industry the miners’ pay arrangements in the context of the longer-term future for the industry.

Mr. Skinner rose—

The Prime Minister

Perhaps if the hon. Gentleman were to listen to the offer which has been made.

Mr. Skinner

Why will not the right hon. Gentleman give way?

The Prime Minister

If the hon. Gentleman listened to what I have to say, I might be more willing to give way.

As this point has recently been raised in the Press by responsible commentators it is right that they should have the answer to it. The Secretary of State for Employment repeated this to the leaders of the NUM on 20th December and will repeat it to the full executive of the NUM today.

There are some, including the Leader of the Opposition, who say that we should breach stage 3 and give the miners a better offer. For the Government to do that would be to break faith with millions of workers who have already settled under stage 3. I should like to give the House some figures. By the end of 1973 well over 550 settlements covering 4 million workers had been notified to the Pay Board. This includes over 1 million local authority manual workers, 250,000 National Health Service ancillary workers, over 300,000 agricultural workers and another 500,000 workers covered by various wages councils.

It also includes more than 1½ million workers who have taken advantage of the provisions in stage 3 to help the lower paid. Up to the end of December no major group of workers had failed to reach a settlement within stage 3 by the due date. That is an acceptance of stage 3 by nearly 4 million workers in nearly 550 settlements. I suggest that there is no evidence there of 4 million workers considering this as a confrontation with the Government.

The offer made to the miners within stage 3 gives an average increase of between 13 per cent. and 16 per cent., with the additional efficiency payments. The average size of the settlements agreed in stage 3, of which I have given details, is considerably lower than the 13 per cent. offered to the miners, which excludes the offer of the efficiency agreement of 3½ per cent.

While these agreements in stage 3 were being made we have been able, as a result of the Pay Board report on anomalies, to sort out a large number of anomalies and reach agreement. These were anomalies which arose as a result of stages 1 and 2. I would have thought that the House would accept that to sort out those anomalies by agreement with the unions and to have 550 settlements covering 4 million workers under stage 3 is no mean achievement and is due to the work of employers and unions within the framework of the code approved by Parliament.

Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)

If the Pay Board report on relativities, which I understand is due out shortly, makes out a case for special cases to receive special payment, are the Government prepared to amend the pay code immediately?

The Prime Minister

That is a perfectly fair question for the right hon. Lady to raise and I hope that she will give the Government credit for having asked the Pay Board not only to deal with anomalies within stages 1 and 2 but also to deal with the much deeper question of relativities in industry. We have given an undertaking that immediately the report is published we will consult with the TUC and the CBI to take action upon it. We cannot give a clearer or firmer undertaking than that. We immediately entered into discussions with the CBI and TUC about the anomalies report and will do the same about the report on relativities when it reaches us from the Pay Board. We asked for it to come to us by 31st December. It is no fault of the Government’s that it has not reached us. On the other hand, we recognise the complexities of this matter and the details which the Pay Board has to consider in all the representations which have been made to it.

I suggest, therefore, that far from this being a confrontation between the Government and the unions, exactly the reverse is the case—that we have sought their assistance in consultation and that, under stage 3, 4 million workers have reached a settlement and many of the anomalies have now been dealt with and peacefully settled.

I believe, therefore, that we should keep faith with those who have accepted the code approved by Parliament and who, therefore, expected that the Government would ensure that the remaining settlements under stage 3 were fully in accordance with it. That, I believe, is an honourable position for the Government to take up.

Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)

Does the Prime Minister say, therefore, that the TUC is in favour of stage 3? Is he not aware—he has been told by the TUC—that the TUC is completely opposed to it and that many of the trade unions that have made agreements have been forced to do so by the Government’s policies? While the Prime Minister is talking about stage 3, will he say whether the Glasgow firemen’s settlement comes within its terms?

The Prime Minister

On the last part of the hon. Gentleman’s question, as he knows that is being considered by the Pay Board, in the way in which the other 550 settlements have been considered. I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman that the Government have been able to force anyone to reach a decision in this matter ; far from it. These are voluntarily negotiated agreements. [Interruption.] Let me deal with the hon. Gentleman’s first point. I have never disguised for one moment that both employers and trade unionists would prefer to have voluntary collective bargaining, provided that they could be assured that there would not be inflationary leapfrogging, and in none of these discussions has any way been shown how that can be avoided. It was, therefore, the responsibility of the Government to carry through stage 3.

Therefore, the objectives have not changed. We all want to reduce the rate of increase in prices which comes from wage costs, and that is the objective of stage 3. We all want, once the immediate emergency is behind us, to resume the expansion of the economy which we were able to achieve in 1973. We shall do our utmost as a Government to ensure that supplies of oil do not hinder us in this objective.

These objectives are agreed between employers, unions and the Government. The life of every man, woman, and child in this country will be better if we can realise those objectives. I say again to the House and to the country ; does not the best hope of doing so lie in our sitting down together, as we have done over the past 18 months, to talk to each other about these objectives—the Government, the CBI and the TUC?

Mr. Kerr

Repeal the Industrial Relations Act.

The Prime Minister

I have repeatedly made plain to those who have taken part in talks with us that we shall fully consider any proposals for amendments to the Industrial Relations Act. I repeat that no proposals have been made to us at these talks, by either the employers or the unions.

I strongly believe—I repeat it—that it is only through reason, through reasoned argument and reasoned agreement, that, as a nation, we can progress. This does not mean that trade unions and other groups in our society are asked to neglect their own interests ; far from it. Again, in these talks all have always realised that. It does mean that they are asked to take the longer-term view of their own interests—

Mr. Skinner

Jam tomorrow.

The Prime Minister

—to consider their interests in the context of the needs and the interests of the rest of the community.

If we try to achieve sectional interests by fighting each other we fail in our sectional objectives and we end by destroying this country. Surely we should follow the alternative course—a course of reason and, indeed, of moderation.

We should be trying to marry our sectional objectives in policies and programmes which serve the interests of the community as a whole. That was the spirit in which the Government embarked upon the tripartite talks in 1972. My colleagues and I are ready at any time to resume discussions with the CBI and the TUC, together or separately, in that same spirit ; not to try to score debating points, not to exchange recriminations about the past—for we have, none of us, done any of this in the tripartite and bipartite talks that we have had so far—but to try together to work out a programme which may not immediately meet all the desires of any of us but which will provide a framework within which we can meet our agreed objectives for the country and make orderly progress with our separate aspirations, progress which is not at the expense of other people but which takes account of the needs and aspirations of the ordinary people of this country—consumers, housewives and pensioners—to go about their lives in order and stability.

There is to be a special congress of trade union leaders next week. I invite them at their meeting to take up this offer which I am making today here in Parliament, to come together with the Government and the representatives of management, not in a spirit of confrontation and suspicion—[Interruption.] I am sorry that Opposition Members should reveal their complete ignorance of the attitude of the trade union leaders who attended the No. 10 talks and the Chequers talks.

I invite the trade union leaders now to come together with the Government and the representatives of management, not in a spirit of confrontation and suspicion, but in a spirit of constructiveness, of moderation and of reason. It is not too late for reason to prevail. It is not too late to discuss and settle all these matters within the framework which Parliament has approved. It is not too late to look to the future and to plot our course together. Indeed, it is in the interests of the whole nation that we should do so, and do so as rapidly as possible.

Edward Heath – 1972 Speech to Conservative Party Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by Edward Heath, the then Prime Minister, in Blackpool in October 1972.

It is just 25 years, Dame Peggy, since I attended my first Party Conference, and I have been at every one since. There may well be some in this hall today with a longer record than that. But no one else, as I understand it at any rate, has been present for the last eight years as Leader of the Party, or for the last three as Conservative Prime Minister.

Every Conference has its own character stamped upon it; and so it has been with this one. This Conference has been a triumph for moderation, for decency and for good sense; and we all recognise how great a part the younger members of our Party have played in it. It has been a triumph not confined to this hall. It has been achieved with the whole world watching. The media, with their microphones and cameras – not forgetting their pencils and notebooks – have seen to it that the world outside this hall has watched a Party that knows its own mind is prepared to speak its own mind. What you have said has clearly matched the national mood.

You are here representing every part of the country and every aspect of our national life. In your debates and by your votes you have decisively shown that moderation, clearly expounded and firmly pursued, meets the need of the nation.

We have shown this week that we reject the equivocations so prevalent in this hall last week – the equivocations of those trying to make us believe that any problem can be solved just by facing both ways. Equally we reject those who react to one extreme by rushing to another, seeking to persuade us that in this way quick and easy answers can be found to hard and complicated problems.

We are not a nation of extremists. We are a nation that believes in firmness and fairness; and this week we in this hall have shown that this is where we as a party also stand.

The people of this country want a fair society. The Conservative Government is in process of creating just that. We are seeking to create it in the talks that we started with the employers and trade unions about curbing inflation – talks that will continue next Monday at Chequers. Throughout this Parliament we have been continuously engaged in the battle against inflation. Let no one say that we have not fought, and fought hard. When we have had setbacks, as we have, they have not been for the lack of will in trying to overcome them.

We have not always been helped by those who in the past year have constantly made our small majority in Parliament still smaller and led others outside to believe, wrongly, that we could be toppled. But I would like to express my gratitude to all my colleagues in the Cabinet and in the Government for the firm support which they have given in the fight against inflation. It is to all our regrets that Reggie Maudling should not be on this platform with us this morning.

At all times we have sought co-operation with those concerned in the country’s economic organisation. It was through no fault of ours that sometimes events led to confrontation. We were returned to office with a clear mandate from the electorate – a mandate to reform the law on industrial relations, to reform the system of housing finance, to reform the social services, to reform the tax system and to reduce taxation. That was a clear mandate to enable the weak to be protected, the poor to be helped and others to be encouraged to expand the wealth of the nation. All of this mandate has been carried out. Yes – and we were given a mandate to reduce inflation. That we knew had to include bringing down inflationary wage settlements throughout the economy to something much more in line with production. We have been given all too little credit for the success we achieved.

Over a wide area of the economy there was co-operation. But in parts there was also confrontation. And so it was that Government, management and unions first met to discuss conciliation. As a result new machinery has been created by the employers and the unions. But that is not enough. We have now, therefore, jointly embarked for the first time in Britain, on the path of working out together how to create and share the nation’s wealth for the benefit of all the people. It is an offer to em­ployers and unions to share fully with the Government the benefits and the obligations involved in running the national economy.

I have always emphasised my belief in more open Government. For the parties to these talks to be able to work together better, they must tell each other all the facts. It may well be that employers and unions will recognise the need for more skilled and experienced staffs to carry through their part of the opera­tion. For what we are involved in is not just another argy bargy. It is a real attempt, a rational attempt and a sensible attempt to create greater prosperity and to make it more secure. What is more, this should be a continuing process, flexible enough to adapt itself to economic circumstances as they change.

For the three parties cannot be expected to solve all the problems at once. But neither can the country wait until we have agreed on all the solutions before we act in order to contain inflation. We must act now and we ought to act together speedily, knowing that the machinery we have created at different levels can meet regularly and frequently to deal with the problems that remain, to deal with the new problems as they arise. Knowing that, we can look ahead year by year to consider the means of creating further expansion and look ahead to agree upon the priorities to which the nation wishes to devote its increasing wealth. This, then is our offer as a Government. No one should underestimate its importance. There are two reasons why I believe there is a better chance now of achieving our objectives.

First, everyone has learnt that the cost of confrontation is high for all concerned, whatever the settlement – in empty pay packets, in lost production, in damage, often permanent, to a firm to an industry. There is another reason why I believe responsible union leaders are now readier to join with the Government and the employers in a co-operative effort to fight inflation. It is that for the first time they are being asked to do so against a background of expansion.

For years under Labour the unions were being asked to make sacrifices as part of a policy of restriction and deflation. This time they are being asked to make their contribution to a rate of expansion that has not been achieved for more than a decade. As we sat around the table we soon came to realise that we had much more in common than the differences which divided us. In other words, we found a common desire to pursue economic policies for all people – not for one sectional interest, but for all. It is for the social partners, as I would call them, to acknowledge publicly and unequivocally that sometimes wider and common interests will conflict with their own sectional demands. It will be for them to have the courage to override their sectional interests. But in this the Government also has a part to play. It is for the Government to help them towards what we ought to recognise will be for them an act of imagination requiring very great courage.

All the evidence shows that this approach of the Government has the support of the vast majority of the people in Britain, and to have that it must have included the support of millions of rank-and-file trade unionists, who also see that the offer we have made is fair. They also realise that it contains for every one of them a safeguard for their standard of living if the expectations jointly expressed, of the Government, the employers and the unions, should not materialise.

On Monday at Chequers we can discuss and assess the statistics. No one partner can dictate to the others, nor insist that only their views can carry the day. But all will have a responsi­bility to ensure that agreements freely negoti­ated and entered into through the procedure we are adopting are fully supported and carried out.

But the British people now expect us jointly to move to a settlement which will honestly deal with inflation, which will provide them with that improvement in their real standard of living which we have shown to be possible in an expanding economy.

There will always be some who do not want to achieve a strong economy. There are those who do not want a strong Britain at all. There are those who cannot bear to see Britain strong under a Conservative Government.

But for the most part I believe that people in this country want to have a fair and reasonable prospect of beating inflation. They have enough in common to override the vested interests; they are sufficiently at one to turn their backs on false sectional loyalty. The people of Britain want to unite in a common purpose.

When I was given the Queen’s commission to form this Government two and a half years ago, I declared on the steps of 10 Downing Street: ‘Our purpose is not to divide but to unite, and where there are differences to bring about reconciliation.’ It is precisely because we are setting out to do this, precisely because your Government represents all the people, that we have arranged the talks and put forward our plan. We repre­sent all the people, but especially those who have no powerful organisation to speak for them, especially those who are most vulnerable to rising prices, especially those, the weakest in the community, who have most to gain from a strong economy. This is the purpose of the specific proposals which we have put. This, I am convinced, is what the nation needs. It is what the nation expects – nothing less.

It takes a united country to make a nation strong socially and economically. But to achieve this it is not enough to be united in our economic objectives. We need also to renew and strengthen the bonds within our society – the bonds which, over the years, have given this country a strength and stability that has been the envy of the world: the bonds of family, the bonds between employers and employees, between Parliament and people, between Government and governed.

We hear a good deal these days of how these bonds have become weakened. It is easy to exaggerate this and talk ourselves into a crisis of self-confidence. Young people insist on having a greater say in the decisions that affect their lives today and tomorrow – and so they should.

Employees insist on having a greater say in the decisions that affect their jobs and the prosperity of their families – and so they should. And the good employer will increasingly adapt himself to this desire and seek to carry his employees with him in taking management decisions.

People everywhere want to be more and more involved in the decisions that affect them, and one of our aims in carrying through the reform of local government is to make this participation more real and more meaningful. And yet I know what disturbs so many of you here, so many watching or listening in your own homes. It is the fear that freedom and democracy are being abused by those who seek only to suppress free speech and free action. It is wrong that employers should be tyrannised, wrong that fellow workers should be terrorised by industrial action that erupts into violence. You know it is our determination, and I believe the determination of responsible trade union leaders, to stamp out lawless picketing; and it is wrong that those who themselves claim to be in positions of authority should deliberately set out to defy the law of the land. Hence our decision to warn those local authorities – few in number – in England and Wales who are bent on refusing to imple­ment the fair rents law carried through by a democratically elected Parliament.

Robert Carr has told you how this Govern­ment will intensify the fight against law­breaking within the principles of law and free­dom of which this country is proud. But the fight against lawlessness is not one for the Government alone; it is one in which every single one of us has a role to play. And it is one where those who lead or aspire to lead must themselves be ready to give a lead. In the past year we have had too much breaking of the law in the name of the law, too many attempts to disrupt the democratic process in the name of democracy. I believe that the people of Britain are tired of this double-talk and fed up to the teeth with this humbug. For you cannot pick and choose which law you want to obey and which to defy. Let those who value the law stand up and repudiate those who defy the law. Let them repudiate those who refuse to accept the verdict of the courts. Let them repudiate the lawless pickets. Let those who value democracy repudiate the fair rent rebels. Let been repudiate those who want to tear down what Parliament has built up.

A strong Britain. Strong in its economic foundations. Strong in its social fabric. Strong in the bonds that bind us together as a nation and have over the centuries made us the most cohesive and most powerful national force in Europe, if not in the world.

A strong Britain is a confident Britain, confident in its ability to take on the duties and the obligations which are imposed by history on any nation with a claim to greatness. We have shown ourselves ready to face our responsibility in Northern Ireland, to defeat the forces of terror and violence, to give the people of Northern Ireland – all the people – a chance to choose a system of government that will secure the political and social rights of all the people, irrespective of their religion or their political alliance.

This is, in terms of human misery, the most terrible problem that we as a Government and as a country have to face. It haunts us every day. It requires patience, imagination and indeed humility to resolve. I promise you in this Conference that they will be forthcoming. How fortunate we are in having Willie Whitelaw as Secretary of State!

We have shown ourselves ready to face our responsibility over the plight of the Ugandan Asians, to accept this survival of our imperial heritage, to prove that the promise of a British Government is not to be broken, to show that it means what it says, to bring order out of chaos, to confront cruelty with sympathy and with humility.

In the immediate future we must be confident enough to look ahead. For our future is now about to take on a new dimension. Over years you as a party have always encouraged and supported us in our European policy. You have always by substantial majorities urged us whenever and wherever possible to move towards partnership with the other members of our Continent. We are no longer talking of possibilities; we are talking now of a great achievement. Within a few years how incredibly short-sighted will appear our opponents who urge us to throw our achievement away, particularly when they do so simply because the credit for that achievement belongs to your Conservative Government and not to them.

At the Summit Meeting next week my aim will be to join with our partners, the other Heads of Government, in settling the lines on which our new Europe will grow and work together in the next few years.

In this new partnership we have a chance as a great people, as a formidable nation, as a shaper and moulder of the modern world, to get back into action, to take up a part which I believe we have a unique capacity to fill. This contemporary world of ours is, after all, the world which Britain in the last four hundred years has profoundly influenced. When the cockleshell boats set off with a Drake or a Cabot their new commerce united the whole world. Their settlements sprang up in every continent. The new markets stimulated our science and technology to launch a whole new industrial way of life. The institutions we adopted – of enterprise and personal freedom and social responsibility – broke open the ancient world of absolute government.

For an offshore island of a few million people, it was and remains a staggering achievement. We did not secure it by staying at home. In fact, there is hardly a great movement of post-renaissance man, be it national statehood, scientific endeavour, economic expansion or worldwide discovery that has not been profoundly marked at every stage by British energy and endeavour and backed by the hard slogging dedication of the British people.

If we realise today how large is the part we have played in moulding the modern world, it is above all because that same world now cries out to us for even more drastic and constructive change. For every one of the colossal achievements of the last four centuries, there are now shadows of danger across us on an equal scale – the problem of keeping the peace and how to break down distrust between East and West without taking risks with our own defences. The economic problems – in Europe, how to transform the grim cities and impoverished countryside which years of uneven development have left behind; in the world, how to bring hope and betterment to the two-thirds of humanity who live in poverty.

The problems of the environment – and, here again, let us remember that these problems respect no frontiers. This week’s territorial waters in the Baltic are next week’s waters off Aberdeen. The pesticides carried up the Rhine can be washed off down the Thames. The sulphurs and particles in Britain’s air fall in dirty rain on the Continent of Europe.

This today is the contemporary world of economic imbalance, of environmental insecurity, of national rivalry, and yet at the same time global involvement. It is the world which we have helped to create and which we now inherit. We have all been, as it were, part of these problems. Now we can be part of the solution.

This is the context of our entry into Europe. This alone makes sense of what we have to do. For these problems do not respect frontiers, and neither should frontiers restrict our efforts to solve them.

I see in these immense problems, not a block to British action and ambition, but a deep and satisfying challenge to carry on the work of world building in which Britain in the past has played so great a part. As we reach the last quarter of the twentieth century, we are beginning to see so clearly where the paths of renewal lie. They lead us towards a new community with our European neighbours and, through this community, to a new epoch of British service and influence on the whole society of man.

It is to make a start upon that work that with your support and encouragement I go to Paris as your Prime Minister next week.

I have spoken of the challenge of change, because that is how we see it. And as with so many things in life it is a question of how you look at it. What some people seem to see as an intolerable burden seems to me an incredible opportunity, an opportunity for every one of us.

I suppose when you come down to it most things are a question of attitude. You are either on the side of doing things or you are on the side of believing that they just cannot be done. I think we are getting to a point where each of us in this country of ours has got to decide where he stands. I ask our fellow citizens – do you want to say ‘No’ all the time; ‘No, it cannot be done’; ‘No, we never did it this way before’; ‘No, leave it alone and it might just go away’; ‘No, we are scared’? Or are we going to have the courage to say ‘Yes’ – ‘Yes, this is how it should be; yes, this is what I believe in; yes, this is for the good of us all; yes, we are going to have a try’? It is a decision a lot of people still have to make. They are unsure, they are undecided.

So I say this to all of you as members of our Party. The balance of any future general election lies not with you but with those who are yet undecided. If we cannot give them a lead, then we shall have failed, and we shall have deserved to fail. So let us tell them where we stand, where this Government stands. We are going to build on the past, but we are not going to be strangled by it. We are going forward to take the place which history has reserved for us, and we are going to speak with a voice that has been silent for too long. We are out in the world again. It will take courage. There may be mistakes. But they will not stop is from doing the things that must be done, the things that are going to be done.

But most of all we are going to stand up and be counted. And when our voice is heard its message will be clear. We shall say ‘Yes’ – ‘Yes’ to decisions that may be hard – so long as they are fair; ‘Yes’ to this country of ours that is finally on the move again; ‘Yes’ to a future brighter than anything in the past. And if ‘Yes’ seems a harder word to say than ‘No,’ well, it could just be be­cause when we know that ‘Yes’ is the right word it is the only word worth saying.

Edward Heath – 1980 Speech on East West Relations


Below is the text of the speech made by Edward Heath in the House of Commons on 28 January 1980.

There may be occasions on which Back Benchers can say things that Front Benchers would like to say but do not, and others on which Back Benchers say things that Front Benchers would prefer not to hear. I may indulge in both activities during the course of the few remarks that I wish to make.

The debate is really about world strategy. If it is not, it ought to be. It is a question not of East-West relations on Afghanistan but of one world, indivisible, and the strategy to be pursued by the West, by the non-aligned countries and by the Eastern bloc.

It has long been clear that the Soviet bloc has a well-defined strategy. It was a three-pronged form of advance, with Vietnam into South-East Asia, with Afghanistan into the Indian Ocean and down into the Gulf. In addition, it was able to maintain its forces on its western frontier with Europe and on its north-eastern frontier with China and, if necessary, to build against Japan. That was the clear strategy.

As the Leader of the Opposition said, added to that strategy is the ability to interfere wherever an opportunity arises and to justify it by saying that it is in the interests of its friends in that part of the world. That has been the case in Africa, the Caribbean and elsewhere.

Against that, the West has had no clear strategy of any sort whatever for the past six years, and from that springs the greatest danger to the world. That is what we are discussing today—the danger of a third world war because we stumble into it by mistake or by misjudgment. That is the real danger that we face today. The only way to cope with that is for the West to have a clear strategy and for there to be a complete understanding between the East, the West and the non-aligned countries about that strategy.

For that reason, I am sorry that any contact should be broken. If it is true that Mr. Gromyko intended to visit Britain but has been asked not to do so, I regret it. I believe that the best thing would be for Mr. Gromyko to hear the views of my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench about Afghanistan—indeed, the views of those on the Opposition Front Bench as well. If we are to recreate the understanding of our strategy, it can be done only by maintaining contacts and by making clear to the Soviet Union and its bloc where we stand and what we are prepared to do.

I agree with the Leader of the Opposition about the need to define that strategy. However, that takes time, and the West has been taken unawares. On Saturday night a White House spokesman said on television “We are extemporising” What is more dangerous than to extemporise in today’s world? We should not declare that we shall do things which, palpably, it can be seen that we cannot perform. That only increases the incredibility. Incredibility is the problem.

On the other hand, we must protect our vital interests. We are dealing with the Soviet Union not because it is a Marxist country—although some would argue that it is no longer that; we are dealing with it not even because of its treatment of dissent, which we find most horrifying; we are dealing with it on the basis of the interests of our country and the West as a whole. On that, above all, we have to decide.

I suggest that it is not enough to look at the present. We have to look back at the immediate past because of the problems that it presents to us. After the debacle of Vietnam and the withdrawal from that country, the United States opted out of a large part of the world obligations that it had previously undertaken. The West allowed it to do so, and Europe put nothing into the vacuum. Therefore, when the events of Angola happened the United States did nothing. The American people were not prepared to let Congress do anything and Congress was not prepared to let the President do anything. It was not President Carter or Mr. Vance who did nothing it was their predecessors, President Ford and Dr. Kissinger, who were not allowed to intervene in Angola.

The Russians were the first to assess what that meant. As a result, through their Cuban friends and allies they were able to exploit it. Similarly, they exploited Ethiopia, Somalia, South Yemen and Aden. The pattern built up because both America and Europe had opted out.

Mr. Hooley Does not the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that it was not a question of opting out of Angola? There was the impossible dilemma of supporting Fascism on the one hand—which could not possibly be done in Africa—or supporting a Marxist Government, which the Americans did not want to do?

Mr. Heath That was not how the Americans saw it. The Administration were prepared to intervene but they were not allowed to do so by Congress or by the mood of the American people.

Since that time, we have seen Russia support Vietnam and the two countries become allies. We have seen Vietnam absorb Laos, reach into Kampuchea and launch attacks across the Thai border. There has been a push to the South-East. How far will that push extend into Malaysia? As far as Thailand? Will it continue to Singapore and Indonesia? The West must make up its mind about its strategy. The position in South-East Asia affects us intensely.

What did the West do about the push into South-East Asia? Absolutely nothing. We were only too glad to wash our hands of Vietnam, Laos and Kampuchea and to ignore what was going on until the humanitarian question of the boat people arose. Even then, such people as the Prime Ministers of Malaysia and Singapore knew that behind the question of the boat people lay the political purpose of the entrenchment in their countries of groups that would work against their Administrations.

The second push was into Afghanistan. Afghanistan has been a Soviet protegé for the past two years. It has existed by permission of the Soviet Union for that time. What has the West done about that? It has never discussed it; it has left it there as a Soviet protegé Therefore, the Soviet Union will claim the Brezhnev doctrine that it was a Socialist State under the Soviet Union’s protection and that it intervened in those circumstances. We may reject that idea, but it leads to the more important question of Yugoslavia. After President Tito, will there be a claim that Yugoslavia is subject to the Brezhnev doctrine? Will it be claimed that it is a Socialist State and that until 1948 it was under Soviet domination? That is the biggest individual threat to Europe today.

If the Soviets move into Yugoslavia, NATO and Europe will become divided into two parts. The Soviet Union will be on the Mediterranean. That is why I raise the question of what we accepted about Afghanistan, and the fact that nothing was done about it. The Soviet Union has been allowed to establish itself on the Horn of Africa and to ensure that when it wants to do so it can operate from a warm-water port at Aden. For the past six years, neither the United States nor Europe has done anything about that.

There have been declarations. The last one was about Soviet combat forces in Cuba. President Carter said that that situation could not be allowed to continue. Nevertheless, it has been allowed to continue. Who learnt the lessons from that operation? The people in the Caribbean and in South America said that it did not matter and that it could not produce results.

The last and most tragic fact of all is the revelation that the greatest military Power in the world can do nothing about securing the release of 50 hostages in its embassy in Tehran. In the modern world, that is the most tragic and ghastly warning. A result can be achieved only by some sort of negotiation.

In the minds of a large part of the world, all these facts have left a great credibility gap. The Soviet Union is trading on that gap at the moment and we have to bridge that credibility gap. We can do that only by working out our strategy and by showing that we can carry it out. We have to make absolutely clear to the Soviet Union where we stand.

In the past few weeks, the Soviet Union has demonstrated its ability to use forces and maintain its position in the West and the East. In any undertakings that we make, it must not be forgotten that the Soviet Union has short communications. As was the case in Vietnam, other communications have to go by the long routes, whether from the United States or Europe. That is an important factor to be considered in our strategy.

We are seeing the emergence of a much stronger military power inside the Soviet Government. That happened before Mr. Khrushchev took office, after the demise of Stalin and the short reign of Malenkov. Mr. Brezhnev is obviously on the point of giving up office, and the same thing is happening again. We are seeing increased military power in the Soviet organization, which has been able to get its way—inspite of the political objections about Afghanistan.

The time came when, finally, there was no restraint by SALT II. The Soviet Union made up its mind and said that it would not ratify the agreement. It is a presidential year and it thought that nothing could happen until after 1980 and well into 1981. Therefore, it took a chance because it felt that the reaction would be forgotten in time and because there was no restraint by SALT II.

Factors have emerged on the United States and Western side. First, the President cannot take effective action unless there is a general consensus in the United States and the West. That consensus was lacking over Vietnam and it destroyed the American policy on that country. Therefore, President Carter must ensure that such a consensus exists now. That is where we in Europe have a major part to play.

Another factor that inhibits action is the difficult relationships between countries in the affected regions. We should examine that matter in detail because it governs the strategy that we can adopt. First, there is the problem of Turkey. We denied access and military support to Turkey because of its action in Cyprus. As a result, Turkey has fallen into economic chaos and political disarray and it leans more and more towards Moscow.

Then there is the problem of the Aegean, between Turkey and Greece. There is the problem of Cyprus, with no settlement there. What has the West done about these? It has done absolutely nothing for the past five or six years. But now we have suddenly to say that we accept any faults that we proclaimed that Turkey had, because we want her as a strong ally with us in the West. But look at what has happened in the meantime and the difficulties, particularly economic, that Turkey faces. These can be overcome only by very substantial amounts of financial assistance—not limited means, in the usual way of aid, but massive assistance—if Turkey is to be an effective ally.

Let us consider Pakistan. To all intents and purposes, relations with and aid to Pakistan were broken because of the nuclear problem. If we are not to support Pakistan because of the danger from Afghanistan, we can no longer link with it the nuclear problem, for the very simple reason that from Pakistan’s point of view this is a matter of national prestige and national security. She will therefore say “Thank you very much for your offer, but if you are to link it in this way we cannot accept it.” In that event, we shall see a key country looking towards Afghanistan and the Soviet Union instead of the West.

This is the dilemma that confronts us in our strategy. We shall have to forgo some of the things that we have insisted upon in the past five years if we are to be able to carry out a strategy of this kind. We shall have to forgo much of the attitude that has been taken about human rights, because the regimes that we are now to be asked to support, because of their vulnerability, are very often regimes which do not maintain our standards of human rights. We must not put ourselves in the position of being accused of double talk on these questions, because that is the accusation we make against those from whom we are trying to protect other countries.

Mr. Dalyell The right hon. Gentleman is concerned about a Pakistani bomb. Ought we not also to be concerned about a Libyan bomb and an Iraqi bomb, since the two are linked, possibly financially and probably technically?

Mr. Heath I could not agree more. I am just pointing out the dilemma in dealing with this question in relation to Pakistan and the neighbouring countries. It has to be faced if an answer is to be found.

Then there is the problem of the association of Iran’s neighbouring countries with the United States, following the long episode of 30 years of American support for the Shah. We have seen a double reaction in the Middle East. First, there are those who say that because the Americans were associated so closely with the Shah, whose regime has been over-thrown, they cannot have any real arrangements with the Americans and the West. That is one attitude.

There was another attitude that I found in the Middle East just before Christmas. People were asking “Who now are our friends? We thought the Americans were the friends of the Shah, and after 30 years they pulled the rug from under him. What good were all the forces that were put into Iran? Absolutely nothing. The rebellion went ahead. So where do we look for our friends?” This was particularly emphasised when people pointed out that the Americans have now blocked the Iranian accounts. This has had more impact in the Middle East than any other single item. They said “If it can be done on one political question, it can be done on others. What happens to our oil revenues which are banked with American and international banks?”

If we are to achieve our purpose of allowing these countries to secure their defence with our aid, very often, in material goods, we have to be careful about the attitudes that we take on other things.

§Mr. Heffer I have been trying to follow the hon. Gentleman’s argument very closely. Why, then, are we concerned about the Soviet Union’s entry into Afghanistan, its entry into other countries and the whole question of human rights? Is it only because of our national imperialist interest in relation to oil—precisely the same as that of the Russians—or is it that we are deeply concerned about human rights? Are we perhaps prepared to say that we are not concerned about human rights in those countries that back up against the Russians? Will the right hon. Gentleman explain how it can be argued that oppression is all right in a country if its economic and political system is satisfactory to us but that it is not all right in another country if that country is opposed to us?

Mr. Heath I shall be coming to that point later on. I want to mention the question of how we can have a relationship with States that may be necessary for our strategic defence when at the same time those States do not have the standards that we have. This is a crucial point.
I want now to mention the difficulties involved in making these relationships. First, there is the question of the Muslim world. I do not believe that the West understands the Muslim world today. We do not understand its enoromous breadth, from the Philippines to Nigeria, with 600 million people. We do not understand its immense economic strength as the supplier of 80 per cent. of the West’s oil supplies. This is the Muslim world today.

We have long thought that people in the Muslim world wanted the Western way of life, that if they did not want it they ought to want it, and that in any case they were jolly well going to get it. What has now been shown in Iran, and is being shown elsewhere in the Muslim world, is that none of those things is true. There is a younger generation which does not want the Western way of life and which wants to go back to what it believes to be a simpler, older, authoritative—sometimes we would say authoritarian—way of life, according to the Muslim religion.

I remember going into Tehran during last summer. We thought that it was necessary for Iran to have full employment. A million foreign workers were brought in because the work had to be done. There were 5 million cars, there were luxury hotels, the women were all liberated, and there were discotheques, alcohol and pornography—all the best that we could give them. How could they want to change that? But the fact is that they did, and we have to recognise it. We have to accept these facts in making a relationship with the Muslim world, otherwise we have no means of looking after our security and that of the developing world.

If we say, as President Carter has rightly said, that the Middle East is crucial to us because of the oil supplies—particularly to Europe, because we are more dependent upon these oil supplies than is the United States—we have to recognise that the key to the Middle East is the settlement of the Palestinian problem. Until that is settled, the moderate States in the Middle East are not free to look to us or to the United States for help or for common policies.

It is basically crucial that every effort should be made, therefore, to solve the Palestinian problem. But, again, Europe has done absolutely nothing about it. It has just allowed it to roll along. President Carter, of late, has been so preoccupied with other factors that he has not been able to keep up the pressure. But it is the key, and the solving of the Palestinian problem is a matter of the utmost urgency.

It is all very well for us to say that President Sadat, with all his courage, his imagination and his negotiating prowess, will be prepared to accept us and to work with us. With all that, he is a lone figure, and neither the radical nor the moderate Arab States will support him. If we are associated alone with President Sadat, we cannot expect to have a working relationship with the other States. That is why it is so important to solve the Palestinian question and to solve the Middle Eastern problem. Then we can have the States there working on our side.

I regret that in all this Europe has done nothing. But we have a part to play, certainly over Cyprus, certainly over the Aegean and certainly over Turkey. I believe that we also have a part to play over the Middle East. I believe that we can be of help to President Carter in finding a solution to the Palestinian problem.

What response do we make, therefore, in the present situation, against the background of the last six years? I have already said that we have to restore credibility. The West as a whole has to rethink its foreign policy. We have to ensure that the non-aligned world understands this and sympathises with it. We have also to drop the linkage that we have made in a variety of places, not only in the Indian sub-continent and in Europe but also in South America, in relation to the action that we take. We have the problem of dealing with the question of human rights.

Oil is a crucial interest for us all. But, if at the end of the 1980s the Soviet Union will no longer be self-sufficient in oil supplies, we should make it absolutely plain to the Soviet Union that we shall not deny it access to Middle Eastern oil.

Although I fully supported the settlement between President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin, in many ways I regret that the whole matter was lifted out of the Geneva sphere, because there the Soviet Union was present. Now the Soviet Union has no incentive to co-operate in the Middle East. I have a feeling that when eventually we can reach an arrangement over the Palestinian question it will be necessary to return to Geneva and obtain the commitment of the Soviet Union to it and at the same time make plain that the oil in the Middle East is an interest of both of us, if we are deficient in oil supplies.

I accept the breaking of trade contacts. That is a natural response to public opinion, particularly on grain, but it produces its dilemmas. If it goes on for only a short time, the Soviet Union will say “Short memories”. If it goes on for a long time, one of the restraints on the Soviet Union is removed. The Soviet Union will say “It did not operate last time, over the past five years. “The restraint is removed, and it may then go its own way in other parts of the world where it thinks it can get away with it.

The Olympic Games are a matter for natural differences of opinion. I happen to be one of those who take part in sport. I am proud that I have captained two national teams in international sport. I believe that we should keep politics out of sport. I fully accept that other people do not, but that does not alter my view.

Nor do I think that having the Olympic Games in Moscow is only a question of prestige for Moscow. It is a question of prestige wherever the Games go. On Saturday night the presidential spokesman said that it had now become a question of American prestige. We have that problem in either case.

The question that I ask myself is this: “If the Soviet Union is as determined on aggression as is said, will abandoning the Olympic Games really stop it?” I find it difficult to believe that it will. But if individuals, teams or nations do not want  to take part, it is fully up to them to take their decision.

The governing point in my mind is that, because the matter has been so ventilated in public opinion, it has taken the nation’s mind and the Western mind off what really requires to be done. That is what worries me. To do the things that are required will need a great public effort by the whole of the West.

What should be our main objectives? I believe that one objective should be to buttress the countries that require it in our international interests, from both the military and the economic points of view. I welcome the President’s naval force in the Indian Ocean. It has taken a decade to persuade the United States that the Indian Ocean is important. We started in 1970, and for the first two years the United States Government would not believe it, but gradually they have accepted the idea, and I welcome that. Europe should make its contribution as well and not leave it to the United States.

I welcome, too, the fact that the President is to have a quick-strike force. If it is to have credibility, it must be seen to exist and be operative. That is certainly not so at present, and it may not be so for some time. That is another practical point.

The third point is that in going to help the countries concerned we must learn the lesson of Iran. We must not do it in a way that will make public opinion in those countries revolt against us because the public deduce that we are trying to dominate their society. Therefore, military help requires to be given in a fairly discreet way. It means diplomatic action in a discreet way.

Oman has been asking for a long time for help to have minesweepers to keep the Straits of Hormuz clear. What have we done about it? Absolutely nothing. If anyone, wherever he comes from, likes to try to block the straits by mines at present, he can do so without the least fear of anyone’s being able to clear the straits. That is a practical example of how words are simply not enough in the present situation.

Mr. Dalyell May I be clear about what the right hon. Gentleman is saying in his first and second points? Is he implying that the West should build up a great Anglo-American base at Diego Garcia?

Mr. Heath No. I am saying exactly the reverse. The point about a naval force is that it can be inconspicuous. One does not need the great bases that we had in former times.

I come to the question of supporting the Afghan rebels when they flee into Pakistan, which has been put forward in some quarters. I strongly support financial assistance for Pakistan. If military support is given to counter-attack across the Afghan border, we are running into grave dangers. The policy on that matter should be absolutely clear. If necessary, some international force must be brought in to prevent that.

I deal, fourthly, with the question of financial assistance. This links up very much with what the Leader of the Opposition said about the Brandt commission. I do not want to go into details now, because I hope that the House will find time to debate its report in detail when it appears. The plain fact is that any financial assistance to the non-aligned world today must be on a scale that is nowhere near being approached by any of us—any of us in Europe, let alone the United States, which has consistently reduced its aid programme. I regret to say that even our Government have reduced their aid programme.

For example, the problem of Jamaica, in our Commonwealth, is appalling—from the point of view of its indebtedness, its unemployment and its economic position in general. Look at the appeal of neighbours nearby who say “We can put that right, because we shall produce the money for you from Soviet sources.” We have already seen it happening in the Caribbean islands.

Let us take the case of Brazil, a prosperous country. The total cost of its oil imports plus servicing its indebtedness now exceeds its total exports. That is the problem facing countries in the non aligned world. They say “If you mean what you say, take some action. You will have to face up to the questions of access for industrial goods, of commodity arrangements for one or two more commodities, of dealing with indebtedness—rolling it over, reducing interest rates, dealing with the least developed countries in this respect. You will have to have a code for transnationals.” That sort of approach may need to start off with small groups of leaders from the non-aligned countries, the Western world and the OPEC countries.

If the OPEC countries with the resources can be satisfied that we in the West are now genuine about dealing with these problems, I believe that they will be prepared to pool their resources with us. That is the only way in which we can obtain the total resources necessary to help the countries that are now in difficulty and that we want to keep on our side. Our purpose must be to hold them on our side in a non-aligned position, healthy enough economically to resist Soviet subversion.

What is required is a world strategy—military, political, economic and social. We have, again with discretion and diplomacy, to try to persuade those countries that do not share our attitude towards human rights to move, with increasing prosperity, into that democratic situation.

I do not believe that that is beyond possibility. It is happening in various places already. It is happening now in Brazil. It should happen in Argentina. With discretion and diplomacy we can help to persuade these people, who are now so important to us—they always have been, but perhaps we now realise it—that they can move in a direction that will help us, as well as us helping them.

So far, the response to the present situation on a world scale has been in adequate. What we in the West need is a policy which is as inconspicuous as possible but as consistent as possible, so that people will know that we are their friends, that we shall not rat on them and that we shall be there in case of need. We have to decide, first and foremost, who those people will be.

I want to see a united European approach. I believe that Europe is not pulling its weight at present. With great respect to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, when our summits concentrate on fish, lamb and budgets and ignore the state of the world, who can be surprised if the Soviet Union thinks that this provides it with the opportunity to extend itself still further? We should solve our internal problems speedily, with give and take, so that we can deal with the outside world.

My last point relates to the Atlantic Alliance. We should not allow Soviet activities to divide Europe from the United States. It is clear that many countries in Europe see the threat on their doorsteps perhaps more vividly. They are more reluctant to take firm action and want to see negotiation. If the Soviet Union can play that card to divide us, all is lost. It is absolutely vital, when considering the proposals that I put forward, that we hold Europe and the United States together, because the United States is our final safeguard in case of need.

Edward Heath – 1972 Speech on Inflation


Below is the text of the statement made in the House of Commons by the then Prime Minister, Edward Heath, on 6th November 1972 on the subject of inflation.

The Prime Minister : With permission, Mr. Speaker, I will make a statement on the breakdown of the discussions between the Government, the TUC and the CBI, and on the action which the Government now propose to take.

In my speech in the debate on the Address last Tuesday, I gave an account of the earlier stages of these discussions, and I explained the difficulties which at that time seemed to stand in the way of an agreement, particularly over the issue of a voluntary arrangement or the use of statutory powers.

The Government and the CBI both made clear their strong preference for completely voluntary arrangements over the whole field, pay as well as prices, though they were prepared, for the sake of reaching agreement, to accept that voluntary arrangements should be supported by backing-up legislation over their whole range. The TUC representatives, on the other hand, had made it a prior condition that there should be statutory control of prices but they were not able to accept the introduction of similar statutory controls on incomes.

I had therefore asked the TUC representatives whether the TUC was prepared to accept either completely voluntary arrangements, or voluntary arrangements backed up by statutory powers over the whole range of any agreement. This issue was so fundamental that it would clearly have been pointless to go on discussing other matters until the answer to this question was known. The TUC representatives said that they could answer that question only after reference to their General Council, and we adjourned on Monday evening to enable them to consult it.

The representatives of the TUC consulted the General Council on this question on Wednesday morning. At the beginning of the tripartite meeting on Wednesday afternoon, the TUC tabled a proposal requesting that the Government should give an unqualified guarantee that the retail price index in general, and food prices in particular, would not rise by more than 5 per cent. in the year ahead.

At the end of the meeting on Wednesday, the Government and the CBI made it clear that they would only accept arrangements which were either completely voluntary or were supported by backing-up legislation over their whole range. The representatives of the TUC said that they understood this position and would continue to negotiate on this basis.

At the opening of the meeting on Thursday, I explained why it was impossible for any Government to give a guarantee of the character sought by the TUC. However, I reminded the meeting of a number of features of the Government’s proposals which together would ensure a strict limitation of prices. Let me remind the House what those features were.

First, there was a CBI recommendation to its members to undertake not to increase prices of manufacturers over the next 12 months, except where unavoidable, and then only as little as possible. The intention was that the increase in the price of manufactured goods should not exceed 4 per cent. on average over the 12 months.

Then there was the Government’s request to the nationalised industries generally to limit their price increases to an average of 4 per cent.

Thirdly, there were the undertakings by the large majority of the British retail trade to reflect this restraint and to hold their gross percentage margins at no more than current levels. Further, the food distributors had offered to collaborate with the Government in a system of maximum retail prices for certain foodstuffs. Maximum prices for a number of manufactured foodstuffs were to be increased only if a tripartite monitoring body agreed In relation to goods other than food, the remainder of the retail trade agreed not to increase their cash margins on individual items by more than 5 per cent. without the approval of the monitoring body.

Fourthly, the Government agreed to consider taking action to limit prices where they had the ability to influence them.

The general intention thus was that the rise in retail prices attributable to the rise in domestic costs should not exceed 5 per cent. over the 12 months. We also envisaged the possibility of action to limit or offset price increases arising from other causes.

There were further proposals designed to provide and protect an improvement in the living standards of wage and salary earners, particularly those on low pay. The flat rate increase of £2 proposed by the Government would have allowed average earnings to rise by over 8 per cent. For those on or below £20 a week it would have allowed increases of 13 per cent. or more, and thus an appreciable improvement of living standards.

Threshold agreements were also proposed, to allow additional increases of pay if towards the end of the year, because of certain special factors, the rise in the retail price index exceeded 6 per cent. These would provide a safeguard for all wage earners.

I repeat that the effect of these proposals was, for anyone earning up to about £40 a week, not merely to protect but actually to improve living standards, while at the same time reducing the rise of inflation.

At the meeting on Thursday, I went on to make a number of further proposals designed to improve the position of those in low paid employment and pensioners. These included the following proposals. The needs allowance should be increased by 50 pence in order to limit the effect of rent increases in 1973 for tenants in receipt of rent rebates and housing allowances. The period for which family income supplement, free school meals and free welfare milk are awarded should be extended from six months to one year, so that entitlement to these benefits would continue throughout the year for those receiving them, irrespective of increases of pay or other changes in circumstances. When reaffirming the Government’s intention that, as a result of the review of pensions in the spring, at the next up-rating pensioners should have the benefit of a share in the nation’s increasing prosperity, I stated that, as an earnest of that intention, the Government would pay a special lump sum to those over national insurance retirement age in receipt of retirement pensions and supplementary pensions, as soon as the necessary arrangements for payment could be made.

In addition, I said that the Government were consulting the local authorities in order to moderate the rate of growth of local rates.

All these proposals, together with the very important arrangements made with the retail trade, were additional to those which the Government had made on 26th September. Moreover, in reaffirming its own intentions, the CBI had already stated its willingness for dividends to be controlled.

As the House will be aware, the representatives of the TUC stated that they did not regard the total package of proposals as a basis for negotiation. They said that, although they would take them back to the General Council, they would do so without being able to recommend their acceptance. The General Council met this morning. The statement which it has issued shows that there has been no change in the TUC’s position.

Although it has not been possible to reach agreement in this round of discussions, the Government are fully prepared to continue to take part in tripartite discussions with the CBI and the TUC on subjects of mutual concern to the three parties.

The responsibility for action now rests with the Government. We have come to the conclusion that we have no alternative but to bring in statutory measures to secure the agreed objectives of economic management in the light of the proposals discussed in the tripartite talks.

These measures will take time to work out in detail and to implement. In order that the fulfilment of the objectives should not be prejudiced in the meantime, the Government propose to introduce tomorrow an interim Bill to provide for a standstill on increases in pay, prices, rents and dividends, subject to a limited number of defined exceptions. The standstill will come into operation immediately, and will run for 90 days from the Royal Assent to the Bill, with provision for an extension of up to 60 days, by order subject to affirmative Resolution.

The arrangements for the standstill are set out in a White Paper, which will be available in the Vote Office at 4.30 p.m. The draft of the Bill is contained in a separate White Paper which will be available later this evening.

Although it has not proved possible to reach a tripartite agreement, the Government intend to implement their proposals for increasing the needs allowance; for extending from six to 12 months the period of entitlement to family income supplement, which carries with it exemption from National Health Service charges, and to free welfare milk and free school meals; and for paying a lump sum to pensioners. As regards the latter, the payment will be made as early as practicable in the new year, and will consist of £10 to each retirement and supplementary pensioner – that is, £20 for a married couple both of whom are over retirement age.

The CBI’s and the TUC’s acceptance of the Government’s invitation to join in discussions on the objectives and methods of economic management signalled a major change in the conduct of economic policy in this country—far in advance of anything even tried for by previous Governments. I know that I was not alone in thinking that it was one of the most hopeful things that had happened in Britain for many years. I deeply regret that last Thursday’s disagreement has forced us to take action which I regard as less satisfactory than a voluntary arrangement could have been.

I profoundly believe that the course upon which we had embarked was the right, rational and sensible course for Britain. I therefore hope that this setback will not be allowed to stand in the way of our resuming discussions between the three parties in due course on the objectives and problems of economic management.

In the meantime, the Government have a duty to the nation to carry through the proposals which I have now put before the House.

Let me remind the House again of the objectives: the maintenance of a high rate of growth and an improvement in real incomes; an improvement in the position of the low paid and the pensioners; and moderation in the rate of cost and price inflation.

All those round the table at Chequers and Downing Street were in full agreement on these objectives. But I would go much further than this. I believe that they command the support of the great majority of the people of this country. The opportunities now open to the country and to us all are immense, if we can, together, succeed in these objectives.

The Government’s proposals are designed to secure these objectives. I therefore commend them with confidence for the approval of the House, and for the support and co-operation of all those concerned, on both sides of industry, and of the whole nation.

Mr. Harold Wilson : The right hon. Gentleman will know that, as we said publicly on Friday, we share his disappointment at the breakdown of the discussions. I take it that his words mean that he wishes the talks to be resumed at an early date. In our view, if they were resumed, there would have to be a radically different approach on the Government’s part to certain fundamental issues affecting prices and the wider living costs of the average household. If there is to be any agreement emerging from future talks that will have to be the fundamentally changed approach of the Government.

This is not the time to remind the right hon. Gentleman of all the many strongly worded statements, since he became Leader of the Conservative Party, in every debate in this House, on every proposal of the Labour Government, and during the General Election—and of the fact that this represents the biggest reversal of positions he has taken on any subject since he broke his “at a stroke” promise on coming to office.

We have repeatedly warned the right hon. Gentleman that no agreement would be fair and just, or workable, which did not provide for guarantees on food prices, not only domestically created prices—the right hon. Gentleman again referred to domestic prices—and a limited range of other essentials—rents, both private and public, rising mortgage interest rates, VAT and school meal prices, which he is to increase next April, as well as the dividends referred to in his statement. The right hon. Gentleman has moved a little in his three months’ proposals, but he has not met the main requirements for a fair agreement as we put them to him.

Has the right hon. Gentleman recognised, in all these long-drawn-out talks, that those he has to meet are not so much employers or trade union leaders as trade union members and, above all, the wives of trade union members responsible for balancing their family budgets? Does he agree that a three-months freeze – for it is only three months; even if the further 60 days are added, it will take it only to early April – would mean on 1st April, or soon afterwards, increases in rents of up to 50p for many families, many private rent increases – he has not told us, or perhaps I did not hear him correctly, whether private rents are to be included in his controls, but I hope they are  increases in school meals, taxation of school and other children’s clothing and V.A.T., as well as three months of rising European food prices and rate increases, all next April? Does he recognise that, even at the end of this period, that will be the position, whether the freeze is renewed for 60 days or not?

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House his proposals for dealing with the wide range of prices that have been pushed up since the breakdown of the talks, on Friday, Saturday and again this morning? They are on record already in the Press – for example, pharmaceutical and other manufactured goods. How does the right hon. Gentleman propose to catch those in his Bill? Of course, as a public employer he has caught many wage discussions and held them back since 26th September while allowing rents to rise on 1st October and other prices to rise since last Thursday. What machinery has he in mind? Recalling that he scrapped the National Board for Prices and Incomes, in a mood of euphoria after the last election, will he now restore that Board and the Consumer Council?

The right hon. Gentleman referred to exceptions. What exceptions has he in mind? For example, do they cover increments in public and private employment? Do they cover pay increases for the police, atomic energy, local authority and electrical workers which have been agreed but not yet paid? Will he explain the answer to that question?

Finally, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, in our view, no proposals will be workable, or fair and just, which fail to deal with food prices, rents, both private and public, school meals, mortgage rates and taxation of children’s clothing, and that, because such proposals will be neither workable nor fair, we shall oppose them?

The Prime Minister : On the right hon. Gentleman’s first point, of course he is right. As I said in my statement, we are prepared at any time to carry on further talks with both the TUC and the CBI. They realise this and I hope that it will be possible.

I reiterate my belief, of which the right hon. Gentleman is well aware, that in a free society it ought to be possible to make these arrangements on an entirely free and voluntary basis. No Government have tried harder than we have tried during the past three months to achieve that result. Indeed, this has been widely recognised by both the CBI and the TUC. I regret that it has not been possible to do this. Therefore, we must look forward to the time when we can have an arrangement of a similar kind, which I hope can be negotiated voluntarily.

The right hon. Gentleman will find the answers to the detailed points he raised set out in the White Paper. However, I will deal with some of the major ones. He asked what machinery would be used. Government machinery – Government Departments – will be used. One of the first things I learned in the discussions was that the National Board for Prices and Incomes had been anathema as much to the TUC as to many other people. Therefore, there was no desire to recreate that body. [Interruption]. Let us discuss these matters frankly. This is what I was told.

Incremental payments will be excluded. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will agree that that is right. In the nature of their payment, they are not in fact wage increases.

Concerning the other matters mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, concentration is not only on domestic costs. As I pointed out in my statement—and it was said on Thursday to the TUC and the CBI – the Government have undertaken to use the means available to them for influencing and holding down costs outside domestic costs. We gave our full undertaking to do that.

Many of the other matters mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman—I must frankly say this to him—are political. They are not matters which directly affect the discussions which we have been having. Every Government has the right to carry through its policy. I told the CBI and the TUC that I was not prepared to repeal the Act taking us into the European Community, nor to repeal the Industrial Relations Act, nor to repeal the fair rents Act, but that the Government were prepared to take into account the results of that legislation. That is what we have told them all the way through. When we said this, we said that the Chancellor of the Exchequer in framing his next Budget will, of course, take into account the consequences of membership of the European Community and of the other factors in the economy. This is the right position for Government and Parliament to take up, and then to discuss with those concerned how best we can deal with these items. That is what we have done.

Mr. Wilson : One of the first points the right hon. Gentleman made when he said that the Government had a policy for food price increases that arose from causes other than domestic causes, was – I think his statement was to this effect – that he envisaged the possibility of action to offset price increases. Was he able to tell the TUC, or can he tell the House today, whether there is a firm Government proposal for shielding the British consumer from the increase in food price rises that will result from entering the Market in January and from other increases arising from outside causes? Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to answer that question? Will the right hon. Gentleman, following what he has just told the House about the discussions on other prices, now give an undertaking that he has powers to deal with them? When he refers to political matters, is he not confirming that it is the right hon. Gentleman’s own political prejudices which stopped an agreement on rents and on other matters?

The Prime Minister : In no circumstances do I accept that. As to the food prices of the Community, they do not have an effect until the spring in any case. The Government have in mind certain items of food the prices of which they can influence. As my right hon. Friend the present Leader of the House pointed out on Friday, it is quite incorrect to say that the rise in food prices has been due to levies by the British Government – quite untrue. It is due to the impact of the rise in world food prices. We told the TUC and the CBI that in dealing with other factors we would take account of what was going on in this sphere.

Mr. Powell : Does my right hon. Friend not know that it is fatal for any Government or party or person to seek to govern in direct opposition to the principles on which they were entrusted with the right to govern? In introducing a compulsory control of wages and prices, in contravention of the deepest commitments of this party, has my right hon. Friend taken leave of his senses?

The Prime Minister : The present Government were returned to power to take action in the national interest when they were required to do so.

Mr. David Steel : Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we on these benches also share his regret at the breakdown of the talks? He said that no Government had tried harder in the past three months to seek agreement. Is he aware that his party has been in office for two years and three months and that we regret that this approach was not adopted when the Government came to power in June, 1970? Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the exceptions during the 90-day period will include exceptions for the lowest paid and whether the Government are moving towards a national minimum earnings rate?

The Prime Minister I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he said. I must emphasise that the present Government, when they came into power, asked the CBI and the TUC to consult and co-operate with them. It was through no fault of the Government that consultation was refused. I have no desire in any way to make it more difficult to achieve a resumption of these talks and I therefore do not wish to discuss that matter further. Whether the reluctance to consult was based on political motives is not for me to say. The Government have always been fully prepared to consult and co-operate with both the TUC and the CBI.

On the second point which the hon. Gentleman raised, he will see the exceptions set out in the White Paper. The one to which I would particularly draw his attention is that of wages councils’ awards. These are concerned with those who are the lowest paid in the country, and where the proposal has taken place before the standstill and it is more than a year after the last award it will be possible for it to be an exception.

Sir Harmar Nicholls : Is my right hon. Friend aware that although the method that he has announced is a change of direction for the Conservative Government, the nation as a whole will recognise and respect the great efforts that he has made to arrive at a voluntary agreement? Is he also aware that the one thing he could not do, under the circumstances that exist in this country at the moment, was, as the Leader of the Government, to do nothing, and that what he has done by underwriting the offer he made to the bodies when they were discussing the matter will help to restore the credit of this country when it is badly needed in a time of crisis?

The Prime Minister : This country now has expansion going at a rate of 5 per cent., faster than we ever had under the last Administration, with capacity for further expansion for at least another year, with capacity for investment to carry on that expansion over further years ahead. In addition, we are now providing more jobs and greater productivity. [HON. MEMBERS: “Where?”] We are not going to see this expansion and the future of the British people thrown away by excessive wage increases.

In reply to what the right hon. Gentleman said, the great mass of trade unionists and of their wives believe that the proposals which were put to them by the present Government were fair and gave them a better chance of a steady improvement in their standard of living than ever before.

Mr. Eadie : The right hon. Gentleman is very fond of using the expression “economic management”? Is he aware that if he applies the test of economic management to the Government which he is leading he will fail in that test and, therefore, that he should resign as a consequence of what he has said this afternoon or reconsider his position? Is he aware that a former Conservative Minister has said that the policy that he is presenting to this House this afternoon cannot succeed unless he has a long-term economic strategy? However hard the right hon. Gentleman may try to convince or influence this House, he cannot say that he has a long-term economic strategy.

The Prime Minister : I have constantly told the House that the economic objectives were agreed around the table. Those objectives are very clear, and I believe that they have the full support of the country.

Sir D. Walker-Smith : Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that thinking people, who tend to respect the constitutional principles of this country, will support efforts to resist any attempt by organisations or people, however respected and however powerful, to deny the function of government to the elected representatives of the nation?

The Prime Minister : Yes, Sir; I am sure that that is the view of the majority of the people of this country. It is time that all three parties in this House made it absolutely clear that when Parliament has passed its legislation the law should be observed by everyone, regardless of his position, wealth or power.

Mr. Sheldon : Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the whole argument about a prices and incomes policy is an argument about who gets what? What the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have ensured over the past two years is a redistribution in favour of the well-to-do. When the Prime Minister went to those tripartite talks, he did not go with clean hands. If he ever wants to get a voluntary agreement, he will have to reverse those policies which he has carried out already.

The Prime Minister : The hon. Gentleman’s first sentence touched on what obviously proved to be one of the major matters in the discussions—namely, whether the higher paid wage earners are prepared to see, in this stage, the lower paid getting proportionately larger increases. This is what was agreed around the table, but when the proposals were put forward at the end of the day they did not secure acceptance.

Mr. Edward Taylor : As steel is one of the basic costs of manufacturing industry, and a crucial one for Scotland, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that any restraint on the prices of nationalised industries during or after the 90 days will apply to steel also? Will he obtain the agreement of the ECSC for this to be done?

The Prime Minister : As I said in my statement, the Government have requested all nationalised industries to comply with the voluntary policy. Now that we are moving into the standstill, obviously the nationalised industries themselves—all of them—are involved.

Mr. Palmer : Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that many of the wage and salary claims at present before negotiating machinery are for the rectification of unjust and unsatisfactory differentials? Will not this proposal simply freeze an artificial payments structure and mean that it will take a very long time for the country to recover from it?

The Prime Minister : I do not think that the hon. Gentleman’s last sentence is justifiable, in view of the fact that the intention of this proposal is for a 90-day standstill, in order then to get through the legislation which will enable the further stage to take place. But of course the hon. Gentleman is right that many of the problems of wage bargaining arise from differentials which some groups believe to be unjust. The real problem is how that can be dealt with without causing inflationary wage increases. What we were trying to do in the talks was to get agreement about a basic approach for this first year only and to establish priorities. The priority which was agreed was to help the lower-paid workers. Of course, this affects differentials right the way up, but it is a priority which was agreed. What one has to do in any attempt at a policy which will prevent inflation is to see how these can be adjusted fairly.

Dame Joan Vickers : In view of the fact that many proceedings are going on under arbitration, including those for Her Majesty’s Dockyards, when the arbitration court decides on the award, will the Government agree to accept that without any further delay?

The Prime Minister : I would ask my hon. Friend to await the White Paper. These matters are set out quite specifically, stating what will be done in the particular cases. It is much better that it should be seen in the whole context.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Speaker : Order. I want the help of the House, if I may have it. There is to be a business statement next, the contents of which I know. There is an important debate on poverty today and there is a debate on the industrial situation tomorrow. I hope that it is the wish of the House that I should not continue these exchanges indefinitely.

Mr. Strang : Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his proposal to increase the rent rebate needs allowance by 50p will mean in practice that council tenants in Scotland who were facing increases of £1 a week will have it reduced by a derisory 8½p? Will the local authorities which have refused to implement the Housing Finance Act have present rent levels frozen, and will council tenants who have had increases imposed on them as a result of the Act have them withdrawn?

The Prime Minister : No, Sir, and those councils which have refused to carry out the law will not be exonerated by the Bill.

Mrs. Knight : Would my right hon. Friend be reluctant to prescribe either excessive medication or the surgeon’s knife except in a case in which the patient is quite incapable of recovering otherwise? In view of what he has recently said, will be assure us that the fears that some of us have entertained since hearing what the Post Office Corporation intends to do about putting up prices, will be allayed by his statement?

The Prime Minister : As I have said, this applies to all the nationalised industries. Therefore my hon. Friend’s fears can be allayed during this standstill period.

Mr. Roy Jenkins : May I ask the right hon. Gentleman one question on a matter on which I think the House is entitled to know the state of his current thinking? Has he now abandoned his constantly reiterated view that a statutory policy could only make inflation worse in the long run, or does he now regard the short-term situation that he has produced as so disastrous that he cannot afford any longer to think about the long run?

The Prime Minister : I have already told the House that I believe that, in a free society, it ought to be possible to manage the economy in co-operation with the TUC and CBI in a voluntary way. I have read with great interest a reprint of the speech which the right hon. Gentleman made, in which he himself said that these matters should be voluntary and that there should be as little legislation as possible. I am glad to see the right hon. Gentleman nodding his head. Therefore, we are both in agreement on that matter.

What I am saying is that, in the situation when these talks have not led to agreement, it is essential to have this standstill for 90 days and then to move on to the next phase. But I believe that there is a difference between the situation in which we are doing this and that in which the right hon. Gentleman had to do it. He was doing it at a time of a stagnant economy, at a time when he was deflating continuously through heavy taxation and at a time when he was trying to reduce the real standard of living of the British people. We are doing it at a time of expansion. Our sole objective—I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman turns away—is to protect the expansion and the improvement in the real standard of living of the whole nation.

Hon. Members: Resign!


Edward Heath – 1972 Speech in Brussels


Below is the text of the speech of the then Prime Minister, Edward Heath, in Brussels on 22nd January 1972.

We mark today, with this ceremony, the conclusion of arduous negotiations over more than ten years which have resulted in another great step forward towards the removal of divisions in Western Europe.

This uniting of friendly States within the framework of a single community has been brought about by the sustained and dedicated work of many people. Their efforts were essential to the success which we are celebrating.

My tribute here is to all who have laboured in this great enterprise — not only to those who have negotiated, Ministers and officials, together with the members of the Commission who have contributed so much, but to all who, in their many different ways, have supported and advanced the idea of a united Europe.

Just as the achievement we celebrate today was not preordained, so there will be nothing inevitable about the next stages in the construction of Europe. They will require clear thinking and a strong effort of the imagination.

Clear thinking will be needed to recognise that each of us within the Community will remain proudly attached to our national identity and to the achievements of our national history and tradition. But, at the same time, as the enlargement of the Community makes clear beyond doubt, we have all come to recognize our common European heritage, our mutual interests and our European destiny.

Imagination will be required to develop institutions which respect the traditions and the individuality of the Member States, but at the same time have the strength to guide the future course of the enlarged Community.

The founders of the Community displayed great originality in devising the institutions of the Six. They have been proved in the remarkable achievements of the Community over the years. It is too early to say how far they will meet the needs of the enlarged Community.

For we are faced with an essentially new situation, though one which was always inherent in the foundation of the Community of the Six, which was visualized in the preamble to the Treaty of Rome and which has been created by its success.

Let us not be afraid to contemplate new measures to deal with the new situation.

There is another cause for satisfaction.

“Europe” is more than Western Europe alone. There lies also to the east another part of our continent: countries whose history has been closely linked with our own. Beyond those countries is the Soviet Union, a European as well as an Asian power.

We in Britain have every reason to wish for better relations with the states of Eastern Europe. And we do sincerely want them.

Our new partners on the continent have shown that their feelings are the same. Henceforth our efforts can be united. The European Communities, far from creating barriers, have served to extend east-west trade and other exchanges.

Britain has much to contribute to this process, and as Members of the Community we shall be better able to do so.

Britain, with her Commonwealth links, has also much to contribute to the universal nature of Europe’s responsibilities.

The collective history of the countries represented here encompasses a large part of the history of the world itself over the centuries.

I am not thinking today of the Age of Imperialism, now past: but of the lasting and creative effects of the spread of language and of culture, of commerce and of administration by people from Europe across land and sea to the other continents of the world.

These are the essential ties which today bind Europe in friendship with the rest of mankind.

What design should we seek for the New Europe?

It must be a Europe which is strong and confident within itself.

A Europe in which we shall be working for the progressive relaxation and elimination of east/west tensions.

A Europe conscious of the interests of its friends and partners.

A Europe alive to its great responsibilities in the common struggle of humanity for a better life.

Thus this ceremony marks an end and a beginning.

An end to divisions which have stricken Europe for centuries. A beginning of another stage in the construction of a new and greater Europe.

This is the task for our generation in Europe.

Edward Heath – 1967 Conservative Party Conference Speech


Below is the text of the speech made by the then Leader of the Opposition, Edward Heath, to the 1967 Conservative Party Conference.

Throughout our history, Mr, President, the abiding inspiration of the Conservative Party has been a deep love of our country and a wholehearted respect and affection for our fellow countrymen; the love of our country, the sea, the cliffs and the sand, of the hills and the beautiful countryside; the respect and pride in its great achievements and in those who have served it so well in the days of Empire and Commonwealth.

Above all, we are mindful of our country’s good name. We have a respect for our fellow countrymen, for their rights in the community, for their individual liberty, for their spirit of freedom and independence. These are shared by others in this country today who, perhaps, are not members of our Party and who do not call themselves Conservatives. These are the people whom we welcome to our ranks and we invite them to join us at this time, because never in our country’s history were these two qualities, love for our country and respect for our fellow countrymen, more necessary than they are in the state of Britain today.

It can give us no comfort and no pleasure that in the councils of the world Britain’s influence today is so low; it can give us no satisfaction that her word counts for so little in the councils of the nations. Sir Alec yesterday, in a far-reaching and far-seeing speech, told us why this was so. It is due, he said, to the fact that the present Government has abdicated its responsibility to the people of this country. We see the trouble spots – difficulty in Gibraltar, chaos in Aden, trouble in Hong Kong, withdrawal from Malaysia and from Singapore. But these are not isolated incidents spread across the world. They all together reflect one thing. They reflect the fundamental weakness at home of the British Government, its loss of nerve and its failure of will.

We recognise that we have clear and specific commitments in the Middle East and in the Far East, and we will carry them out. We do not complain about this Government because Britain today is no longer a super-power. We do not criticise the Government because it has not got the resources of the United States or of the Soviet Union. But we condemn the Government because it fails to maintain British interests abroad. Those interests can be sustained at a cost which this country can bear. No one has given greater study to the make-up of the forces today than Enoch Powell, to whom we listened with such joy at this Conference. He knows – we know – that when this country’s economy is strong, as it would be under a Conservative Government, then it is not only that we would sustain British interests, but that we would then have the resources with which to do it. That is what a Conservative Government will do in overseas affairs.

How sad it is at home today to see this country torn by industrial strife in a way which I cannot remember in my time, which is damaging our trade, which is harming the individual livelihood of our people and which is bruising its very spirit. We see the spread of violence and crime; we see lethargy permeating too much of our industrial life; we see cynicism and disillusionment through large sections of our people. That is the situation here at home today. But, above all, it is characterised by a declining respect for law and order in our community. That can be no wonder with a Government which shows such scant respect for constitutional processes in Parliament and in Government today. From the very first this has been so: the imposition of building licensing without any authority from Parliament; the creation of the Ombudsman without the necessary resolution of the House of Commons; the imposition of ‘D’ Notices when they were proved to be unjustifiable; the attempt to evade the courts by arrogant, high-handed action by the Secretary of State for Education in the Enfield case; the attempt to impose comprehensive education right across this country not through Parliamentary powers, but merely by the use of the financial weapon; the use of that weapon without Parliamentary authority, to achieve the dogmatic purposes of a Socialist Government. All of these are instances of where the Government itself has paid scant attention to the constitutional processes and the law of this country. Until we have a Government which is prepared to observe the law and order and constitution of our country, then we shall not restore respect for it by the people of this country themselves.

Let us look for one moment at the dangers which may confront us. We have already seen that this Government, to achieve its purposes, has postponed the elections in the London boroughs. What more are they prepared to do to achieve their own ends? Delay the implementation of the Boundary Commission for this country in order to save themselves seats?

Let us beware lest they attempt to tamper with the very processes of Parliament itself. The Land Commission Bill, in its original form, would have enabled a man’s house, a man’s property to be seized without any right of appeal – just a buff envelope dropped through the letterbox, that is all there would have been to it. We fought it bitterly in the House of Commons so ably led by Geoffrey Rippon. We fought it night and day, but we failed to alter it. It then went to the House of Lords. It was there that the right of appeal was inserted into that Bill and maintained in the House of Commons later. That is the part which the House of Lords plays in safeguarding the very liberties of the people of this country. Let us, then, beware of what this Government may have in mind to do to our Parliamentary institutions in order the better to achieve their Socialist purposes.

But this situation can only be dealt with by a Government which is sure of its purpose; which is prepared to take clear and difficult decisions in the interests of the people of this country; which will take action without the weakening effects of continuous compromise; a Government which is going to dominate events and not be pushed around by them; above all, a Government which will stand up for British interests abroad and the liberty and interest of British people at home. That can only be done by a Conservative Government.

Since we last met we have had immense successes in the local government elections, in which every one of you here must have taken part. Never at any time in British history has so much of the local government of this country been under the control of Conservative administrations and so little under Socialist councils. What an opportunity that is for our local councillors – many of them after years and years of tireless effort to achieve control in the local council chamber. As I have gone round the country on my tours I have seen how quickly they are seizing those opportunities, how rapidly they are putting into effect the Conservative policies on which they fought the elections, how carefully they are serving the interests of the electors.

But what responsibilities rest upon them as well. They know that they will be judged by the electorate in their own local elections. But there is much more at stake than that. It is not only the local councillors who will he judged by what they do in these three years; when the election comes – when the General Election comes – then we, the Conservative Party, are going to be judged also on what our local councillors have done, what they have shown themselves to be in the years meantime.

To what are our successes due? They are due to the efforts which have been made in Parliament by my colleagues in the Shadow Cabinet and on the Front Bench and by all the back benchers who support us, all of us working together as a team, fighting ceaselessly, tirelessly. If any of you ever have any doubts – just ask a member of the Government or one of their back benchers what it is like to be in the House of Commons fighting against a formidable Opposition like this. Many of them thought that they were going to a House which would be something nice from 10 to 5, and for the rest they could put up their feet by the fire at home. It has been the most formidable Opposition of modern times, and to the Party here I want to express my very sincere gratitude for the immense amount of work that my colleagues both on the Front Bench and on the back benches have put into this Opposition.

But our success is also due to you, the Party workers. It is you who have worked tirelessly on the doorsteps, who have raised and are raising the funds, who are carrying on the daily job of persuading other people to change their minds and to support us in our cause. So it is to you, the Party workers and to all those whom you represent, that I wish to give the thanks of the Party in Parliament for the work you have done, and for your achievements; because they have been achievements not only in local government but in the by-elections as well. The great victory of Pollok in Scotland, and then Cambridge and West Walthamstow – these are tremendous triumphs in the first eighteen months of a Government.

But, above all, these triumphs are due to one thing. This has been the most difficult period in the Party’s history. After the defeat of 1906 – and in centenary year one might perhaps be forgiven for glancing back for a moment or two – the Party tore itself apart over tariff reform. In 1929, after a great defeat, the Party was then tearing itself apart over India. In 1959, the Labour Party tore itself apart over Clause IV and nationalisation. On this occasion we, the Conservative Party, despite our problems and our difficulties, have maintained our unity, and this is due above everything to the fact that you, our loyal Party workers, kept your heads. It is for that above all that we have to thank you.

But let us be perfectly frank – we have also been helped by the Government. I do not wish to mention names here, but I cannot help mentioning George – we have been helped by George. And we have been helped because all of their policies have failed: those first policies of inflation which won them the 1966 Election failed, and the policies of savage deflation after failed to solve the country’s problems as well. That is clear beyond a peradventure.

And, of course, the confession of failure came when Mr. Wilson reshuffled his Government on August Bank Holiday Monday. When something like that happens on a Bank Holiday Monday I cannot help asking why. It must be done to hide something or other. It was an attempt to hide the failure of three years of Socialist rule – and those failures were so brilliantly exposed by Iain Macleod in his speech to the conference.

It was not only a confession of failure by the Government, but a confession of no confidence by Mr. Wilson in every one of his colleagues. He appointed himself the supreme economic overlord. I must confess to you that this appointment did not give some of us quite all the encouragement which it was meant to do. We remembered that he had appointed himself supreme overlord of the Rhodesian crisis which still, alas, drags on; that he himself made the tour of the European capitals – alas, that situation still drags on; that he himself took supreme command of the Middle East crisis which has been damaging and expensive to this country; and, above all perhaps, it was he who took supreme command of the economic crisis of July 20th 1966 – those panic-stricken, ill judged measures which have led to so much of the trouble in this country today.

We were not, therefore, greatly encouraged, but we were prepared to be fair and to watch events. What did we see? He announced his appointment on the Bank Holiday Monday. On the Tuesday, he sent his telephone number to the Trades Union Congress and the CBI and announced to the world that he was ‘in touch.’ On the Wednesday he rested. On Thursday he announced that all hire-purchase restrictions were to be eased and this would put £100 million into the pockets of the people, to enable expansion to begin. That was on the Thursday. On Friday he announced that all electricity charges throughout the country were to be put up, and this would take rather more than £100 million out of people’s pockets and effectively continue deflation. On the Saturday and Sunday he went to Chequers, there, no doubt, to reflect that he was the first economic overlord ever to make it cheaper to buy a fridge and more expensive to run it at one and the same time.

The by-elections of Cambridge and West Walthamstow showed that the people of this country have rejected the policies of the Labour Government, whether they were the policies of inflation or whether they be the policies of savage deflation. They have rejected compulsory prices and incomes. They want to reject the squeeze and the freeze. In addition, those by-elections showed a disillusionment – disillusionment with the Labour Party and the Labour Government. And who can blame them, after all the promises they were given at the two elections and all the promises which were so speedily broken?

It is sometimes said that perhaps there is not much difference between the two parties. We have had the Labour Government for three years. During those three years they have put up taxation. Let us look at our last three years. We lowered taxation by £450 millions. In three years the Labour Government has raised taxation by £1,000 millions. In our last three years, the deficit on our trade was only £42 millions. In their three years, the deficit is £342 millions. In our last three years, production went up 14 per cent. In their three years, we have had stagnation.

But then it is said, ‘But the Labour Government is spending a great deal on the social services for the people of this country; for every £100 it was spending when it came into power it is now spending £145.’ But what about our last three years? For every £100 we spent £143, a difference of £2. And what is it made up of? The great increase in the unemployment benefit which this country has to pay to the people who are out of work.

People are leaving this country. In 1966, under this Government, more people left in the brain drain than in the last three years of the Conservative Administration put together.

Let no one say that there are no differences in action, in what has happened, under three years of Labour compared with three years of Conservative administration.

They say that they were always blown off course, blown off by the shipping strike, blown off by the Middle East, or blown off by some other strike. But, they tell us, they are always rounding the corner – not, if I may say so, a very nautical way of putting it. In fact, of course, they have only their own policies to blame for their own failures.

Now the time has come when the people of this country are prepared to listen to the policies which we put forward. Our policies are there. They have been debated at this conference, admirably debated, with, if I may say so, replies of a very high standard from those who have answered our debates this week. These policies flow, as I have said, from the abiding inspiration of the Conservative Party, its belief in freedom, its belief in order, its belief in individual responsibility. This is the theme which we put before our country today, out of love for our country and respect for our fellow countrymen. It is because we believe in freedom that we also support private enterprise, as Mr, Maudling, our Deputy Leader, to whom we owe so much, said in his reply to the debate on the Motion this week.

We are the party of private enterprise. Never let us stop saying so. We believe that it should be free, that it should be enterprising, that it should be competitive, and that the Government should support it in all those activities, not subsidise it. Support it, give its backing, enabling it to be free and enterprising and competitive.

It is because we believe in freedom that we want to see the changes in taxation which have been described to you so often. We want to see people having greater freedom of choice with their own resources. We want them, therefore, to have the incentive to use their potential to the utmost.

It is because we believe in freedom that we want to see trade union reform. We want to see the man at the bench able to make the most of his abilities, without being held back by restrictive practices. We want him to be able to look after his family better, without being damaged by the strike activities of a small minority of his colleagues.

We want to see the agricultural system changed, because this will give freedom to the British farmer to expand, and it will at the same time give to any Chancellor of the Exchequer some more resources with which he can help to reduce taxation or improve social service benefits.

We want to see the future resources in the social services used for those who have the greatest need – to give freedom of choice to others, and to give a better service to the poorer sections of the community. It is because we want the citizen to be free to use his own resources to the greatest extent that we want Government expenditure to be controlled and the interference from central Government or local government reduced. Let us leave the citizen free to make his own decisions and to accept his own responsibility.

That, then, is our theme. It is the theme of freedom for our people, order and responsibility. Unless order is restored, then we cannot have our trade unionists working in freedom. This, perhaps, is the most immediate and crucial problem which faces us in this country today. The events which we are now witnessing do not arise from the fact that the trade union movement and its leaders are too strong but, as Robert Carr pointed out yesterday in his brilliant speech and analysis, it arises from the fact that they are too weak, that they do not have influence and control over their members in order to prevent many of the industrial difficulties which so often confront us.

It is because we have a conception of the trade union movement in a modern industrial society which corresponds to the importance of the position it holds, because we want to see the trade union leaders able to influence their members and because we want to see them playing a full part in improving the effectiveness and the efficiency of our industries that we want to bring about the reforms which we have put before you. Let no one say that we do not have detailed policies. The details have been worked out. They have been placed before you. They are there to be discussed. We are willing and anxious to discuss these with every part and sector of industry, trade unionists or employers. However, what I say to the Government is this: you can dally no longer over this matter which is so vital to our national life. It is not enough to have set up a Royal Commission. It is not enough to have emergency powers. The Government must set about the problem of trade union reform without any further delay. Let them go to it.

These policies, flowing from this central theme, form together one cohesive whole. There is no point in our trying to put one into effect on its own; they must be put into effect together.

Sometimes people say to me, ‘What would you advise the Government to do today or tomorrow? You must know.’ However, there is no point in telling the Government what to do. First of all, they ignore all advice. Secondly, this assumes that we would have got into this position ourselves, and nothing can he further from the truth than that. Even more, it assumes that this Government would be able to put into effect the policies which we have put before you at this Conference. That assumes that a Labour Government can have the confidence, either in this country or abroad, which a Conservative Government would inspire.

I am not going to say to you today whether this Government ought to consider the parity of the £. I do not believe it should, but I am not going to discuss it in detail. Nor am I going to say whether there ought to be import controls, surcharges or whether there ought to be a little more reflation or deflation. Those are matters which the Government of the day must decide on their own responsibility. However, in this country so many have become so obsessed with the daily problems of the management of the economy that they are entirely failing to pay attention to the fundamental reforms which have got to be brought about in our economic life if we are, once again, to have a strong, stable and prosperous economy. It is our task constantly to put before the people of this country the measures which have to be taken by a Conservative Government directly we get back into power. That is what we shall continuously do.

It can only be done by all of us together, by you, our loyal, hardworking Party supporters, by us in the House of Commons, by the National Union and by the Shadow Cabinet. I know how much is involved. I know full well the chores which go with political life. Having always fought a marginal seat, I know what is demanded of our Party workers up and down the country, and how generously they give of their time, their energy and their thought. Our only desire is to serve you and to serve the people of our country.

However, you must sometimes ask yourselves, ‘What is the purpose?’ We are sometimes still accused of materialism. I do not believe that to improve the conditions of life for the people of this country, which Disraeli, nearly 100 years ago, told us was one of the three main principles of the Conservative Party, is something which is to be condemned.

However, there is much more to it than that. Our purpose is to give a strong, secure and material base on which our fellow countrymen can enjoy the culture, the recreation and the spiritual activity which they want and which they deserve. I always feel that when we think of our purpose like that, then it makes all those chores worthwhile. I do not believe the people of this country yet recognise what modern life can hold for every one of us. I do not believe in telling people that they should work harder. What I do believe is that they should work more effectively and that we should use all the resources at our command – our savings for capital, our plant and industry and the new techniques which Ernest Marples is exploring for us. We should use all these things to enable each of our fellow countrymen and women to have more time, more leisure, which they can use for their own interests. I believe they should have the freedom to decide for themselves how they are going to build their own lives, the lives of their family and their children.

Sometimes it is thought that progress interferes with much of this. It is true that technical advance very often carries grave disadvantages, but these are accepted for the overall benefit which it brings. However, what surely is important is that we should look to our land, our countryside, the cliffs and the sea, to make sure that for all of our people there are those recreational facilities which will enable them not only to escape from their daily tasks, but to avoid many of the disadvantages of technical advance, and there find that refreshment of body and soul which is more and more essential for us as modern life becomes more and more complex.

Therefore that is our purpose. I believe it is a great one, worthy of all that our Party has been able to achieve in the past and worthy of giving us that inspiration for the future.

It is worthy of our great traditional inspiration, love of our country and respect for our fellow countrymen and women. This, I believe, is what they want. They want to show the traditional character of the British people.

Therefore, when you ask me what I want to achieve as Leader of the Party, I would say this: I want to restore confidence to the British people, and I want the whole of the Conservative Party now to devote all of its energies to doing just that.

It was Lord Randolph Churchill who said, ‘Trust the people.’ We trust the people to take their own decisions on their own responsibilities. The British people can trust us. They have no cause to be disillusioned with the Conservative Party. We have told them the truth, and we have been proved right. We shall go on trusting the people. But now we have one task as you go back to your constituencies, and that, more and more in the interests of our country, is to rouse the people. Let us go forth and rouse them to the situation which exists today, to the policies which are needed to put it right, and, above all, to the Party which alone is able to do it.

So often I think of those words at the end of King John which I give you here today: ‘Nought shall make us rue, As long as England to herself do rest but true.’

Edward Heath – 1965 Conservative Party Conference Speech


Below is the text of the speech made by the then Leader of the Opposition, Edward Heath, to the 1965 Conservative Party Conference.

Lady Davidson, I want first to say how absolutely wonderful it is for all of us here to have you presiding over this final session of the Conference. Your typical approach and stimulating introduction have reflected the high spirits of this Conference which are obvious to us all. We thank you for the start you have given to us for our final session. We would like to say ‘Thank You’ for the splendid record of service which you and your husband have given so unstintingly to our Party. It is nearly half a century of service. I have to confess to you, Lady Davidson, that my early recollections of your entry into politics are slightly hazy. All I can say is that they are very much clearer than those of the present Chairman of the Party, who was not even born at that time!

It is a great pleasure to have Lord Davidson with us today, because he is part of our Party’s history. Ill though he is, we are glad that he has been able to come and give us that sense of continuity of our Party in all its activities during these past decades. So together we express to you our intense gratitude. Thank you for the welcome you have just given to me. We miss you from the House of Commons, because you were always our guide and friend. There was no need for us to adopt the present method of the Labour Party and have a lady in the Whips’ Office; there you always were, to look after us. I hope it will not be misunderstood if I say that to all of us – and especially my generation – you were indeed our mother.

Many happy things have happened to me this week, for which I want to thank you all. There have been many kindnesses, which I have greatly appreciated, and other things as well. I found in my Daily Mirror yesterday – I read it avidly, as no doubt you always do – that the barbers of West Bromwich had banded together and come to the conclusion that, seen from the back, my haircut was the best in the country. I can only apologise to you all that this splendid panorama has been reserved for the members of the National Executive Committee.

We have got to know each other well, and this is all-important in our political life. To come and be here at the Conference throughout has been of immense help to me, and perhaps, Madam President, Sir Max and Sir Clyde, who have done so much to make this Conference a success, I may express the hope that the invitation to the leader to be present may become part of the permanent pattern of our Party Conference. I think it will mean a new relationship between the Party as a whole and the Party at this Conference, lacking, I hope, nothing of the past but also being in tune with the times today. It has been a good Conference. Just think of all those fellows in Transport House with their eyes glued to the television screen, just to see that everybody was being fair to us and fair to them.

It has been a good Conference, and at Bexley, my own constituency, a fortnight ago – I had to get a plug in somewhere – I asked that this Conference should face facts realistically, frankly and courageously. Madam President, that is what we have done. We have done it to an even greater degree than I ever dared to hope.

Just look back over those splendid speeches from the hall: frank, honest, sometimes critical. Gone are the days of praise and platitudes – well, almost gone! A little praise is very agreeable sometimes, and the speeches from the platform show that I am right to be proud of the splendid team we have heard during the whole of this Conference. They are men of great experience: Mr. Maudling, the Deputy Leader of our Party, always at my right hand and by my side; Sir Alec Douglas-Home, a man of great experience with a wealth of negotiating experience; Iain Macleod; Enoch Powell; Peter Thorneycroft; Sir Keith Joseph; Tony Barber; and the other members of the Front Bench who have spoken; and Sir Edward Boyle, who not only spoke here during the Conference but addressed a great gathering of 2,000 people at CPC. It was a great intellectual gathering which had come to listen to what, I am told, was a very detailed, sustained argument about forecasting, or indicative planning, as it is technically known. This interested me greatly. I somehow feel that indicative planning is not really endemic in the British character. The forecast for the night of the CPC meeting – broadcast far and wide in every hotel – was heavy rain. Yet 2,000 people came to this hall without a single umbrella between them. It only shows that weather forecasts themselves are not enough. Somebody has got to do something about it. Then there were the younger members of the Front Bench: Margaret Thatcher, Peter Walker, David Price. They also made admirable speeches.

Did I really hear it said at Blackpool that Mr. Wilson, looking at the Government, said that man for man they could more than match us, more than match this team? Look again, Mr. Wilson, look again.

He had better look at some of the others as well. I will not mention their names; it would not mean anything to you. I will mention their Departments. What about the Minister of Transport in the present Labour Government? He has done absolutely nothing to alleviate our traffic problems, but he is the only Minister who produces jam today as well as promising jam tomorrow.

Then there is the President of the Board of Trade. Poor Mr. Jay – reduced to carrying George Brown’s bags to international conferences. When there is good news, that is; when there is bad news he has to open the bag and read it himself.

And Mr. Willey, the Minister landed without any natural resources. And the Postmaster General, Wedgwood Benn, that would-be whiz kid who always gets the wrong number – even when adding up his election expenses.

But there is one matter which is beyond a joke, and that is the Minister of Technology. In Londonderry a fortnight ago I challenged him to stand up and be counted, separate from the block vote, straightaway. I said, ‘Resign as General Secretary of your Union or resign as Minister because you cannot do both with honour.’ But he has not stood up to be counted. So I ask Mr. Wilson when he is going to restore the collective responsibility of his own Cabinet. Unless he does so, and until he does so, the whole country knows that despite the fine words, he is too weak himself even to deal with Mr. Cousins.

Now to return to our own Conference. On Wednesday I called for a change of mood, that we should put the emphasis on individual effort and enterprise, on the importance of choice for us all, on the need for freedom and independence to stand on our own feet. The outstanding thing about this Conference in Brighton this week has been that the mood is already changing. It is clear here in this Conference. It is a mood, too, of realism. Let me affirm that to the eyes of the world which are upon us.

Our task is to change the mood of the country as a whole. We know our line of advance. Let us see that other people do. Let us heed the wise, stimulating words of our young Chairman, who has just been speaking to you. We have presented and discussed our policies. We know them. Let us see that everyone else does. Let that be our resolve as we leave this Conference.

Realism, I said. We are realistic. What a contrast with Blackpool. Did you notice that George Brown in one of his happier moods said, ‘This has been a great year for Britain.’ A great year for Britain? Do we really read it aright? Where has he been living all this time? Has it been a great year for industry? The longest period of 7 per cent bank rate since 1921. The toughest credit squeeze since the twenties. Investment and modernisation programmes curtailed. Costs rising and production static. A great year for agriculture? The farmers, whom I am getting to know better and better, thought the weather was the biggest hazard they had ever had until they met this Government. Was it a great year for education, with the building programmes: universities, the technical colleges, colleges of education – the CATS – all severely cut? A great year for motorists, with the road programme slowed down? For the taxpayers, with taxes going up more than at any time since the last Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer? For the householders, with rates higher than ever before? For the ‘young marrieds’ with many home loan schemes closed down and with mortgage rates higher than for twenty years? Was it a great year for all of them?

Oh yes, I remember well that Mr. Wilson came to London and made a great speech, and said: ‘We shall provide specially favourable interest rates’ for those who are going to buy their own homes. He referred to a 4 per cent rate. Nothing specific – nothing in small print even, but just the implication – 4 per cent. This was enough to bring George Brown rushing down from the North to my own constituency, and what did he say? He implied that what he had in mind was 3 per cent. At any moment I expected to be overwhelmed by Jim Callaghan coming down and saying ‘2 per cent.’

We have the highest mortgage rates since 1945, and prices rising faster than for years – and what did George Brown say here? ‘We will tackle the problem of rising prices at the roots.’ Well – he did; he manured the roots.

Was it a good year for sterling – under threat for eleven months and supported by £1,100 million of additional debt? They sat there waiting for something to turn up, and in August, when another £1,000 million standby turned up, they preened themselves on having found the solution to our problems. A great year, indeed!

Yes, it has been a great year for the public relations men, stimulated by keen competition from the Prime Minister. It is the only competition in which he is really interested. He has his army of ‘admen’ in the basement – they must be getting pretty close to the bottom of the barrel now, looking for the glowing terms with which Mr. Wilson can pat himself on the back – ‘a dynamic Government,’ ‘a purposive Government,’ ‘an honest Government,’ ‘a frank Government,’ ‘a Government imbued with the Dunkirk spirit,’ and ‘a Government with guts.’ What self-adulation – and the latest word is ‘gritty.’ It goes back to David Lloyd George – sand in the works.

What is their defence for all these broken promises, for the blunders, for the incompetence and for the very high debts? The so-called £800 million deficit. Let us deal with this once and for all. It is time the people of this country recognised the truth, and it is very relevant to the judgment of last year, 1964, and it is very relevant to those of you who from the hall in our debates on policy and economic affairs asked us questions about the management of the economy next time.

Mr Wilson’s favourite trick is bitterly to attack those whom he accuses of selling sterling short. I will tell you the name of the man who in the past year has done far more than any other to sell sterling short: that is Harold Wilson himself. He did it by his politically-motivated exaggeration of the £800 million so-called deficit. We have suffered enough from this lie, and we must suffer no more. Let us look at it.

Of the £750 million overall deficit, £350 million was British investment overseas – solid assets like the Shell share in the Italian petrochemical industry. Those are assets of which Mr. Wilson is proud to boast when he travels abroad. Of the remainder, another £100 million was due to aid for the developing countries – and we in the Conservative Party are not ashamed of that, and we were always pressed to do more by the Labour Opposition.

But there was a gap, and I will tell you why. It was because during 1963 and 1964 the Conservative Government, under Mr. Maudling’s guidance, was deliberately trying to break out of the cycle of recession and expansion which we had experienced since the war: a stable expansion, more modernisation, greater competition, intensive regional redevelopment – all these together formed a coherent policy. And, as part of this expansion, we forecast a high level of imports in 1964. They were needed for our expansion, but they were higher because of stockpiling from fear of the restrictions which a new Labour Government might impose on our manufacturers. And by our policies we were encouraging exports to rise to catch up with our imports.

And, of course, the myth about this has been exploded by the Labour Government themselves. It has been exploded in their own National Plan – page 69, chapter 7, subsection 4. Go and read it, Mr. Brown, go and read it, and you will find there a fairer balance set out of the situation. It acknowledges and accepts all these facts, and demolishes the myth of the White Paper of 26th October of last year.

Let me remind you that Mr. Wilson himself supported this policy. Indeed, Labour, pressed us to expand faster. And on this policy of a steady expansion depended many of our hopes for the future, But what have the Government always done? They have always accused Mr. Maudling and our Government of refusing to take necessary action last year because of electoral considerations, refusing to take advice to deal with the economy. In fact, Mr. Maudling put up Bank Rate in January. He put another £100 million on the Budget in April. There is not one word of truth in the accusation that advice from any quarter to act was refused or rejected, and certainly never for electoral considerations.

But Mr. Wilson put political interest before the national interest. He broke the confidence on which our expansion depended. What mock horror he shows now at the state of affairs he says he found when he took office. What he forgets is that five weeks before the Election he accurately predicted the trade position. What he forgets is that two weeks after the Election he himself officially stated there was no need for measures of restriction. At the same time, he knew that the deficit this year was going to be halved – he was told so, and he said so in his own White Paper. Plus is no new discovery as a result of the Government’s policies of the past year. There were seven weeks when they knew the position, seven weeks when they said it was manageable. The crisis only came after their exaggeration and their muddle. The mess was created by Messrs. Wilson, Brown and Callaghan – messers indeed.

This Conference will be remembered for our policy document, Putting Britain Right Ahead. What we have done here is to work together on our action plans for the next Conservative Government. These plans you can put to the people. There are five of them which I wish to put before you to sum up our discussions.

First, our action plans to give all those who have already retired individual care and attention.

Second, our plans to give all those who retire in the future the real security for themselves and their families of a pension which can really be called their own.

Third, our plans for helping the young marrieds to find a home of their own, and a home at a reasonable price.

Fourth, our plans to ensure that the earner enjoys the prosperity that he himself, and only he himself, will be creating.

Fifth, our plans for giving the customer, whether the motorist or the commuter, the hospital patient or the housewife, better service and, above all, steadier prices.

All of these plans derive their strength from the two great driving forces of modern Conservatism. First, our belief in the virtue of a property-owning democracy, which Iain Macleod elaborated in his speech here. What does it mean? For us, it means three things: a home owning democracy, a share-owning democracy, and a pension-owning democracy. The other force, which has been emphasised time and again at this Conference, is our belief in the individual, the man and the woman, the individual as taxpayer and as a member of a trade union, the individual in the school and in old age, the individual at work and at play. Here, all around us, as well as in the rest of our country, we see the immense richness of diversity of individual character and personality and, let it be said, often eccentricity, which is the great source of our strength as a nation. It is this which we must nourish.

This Conference will be remembered, too, as you, Sir Max, recalled, for the debate on Rhodesia, in which passionate feelings were expressed with reason and in which the Conference reached a firm and clear decision. There were two young men yesterday who, I think this Conference will agree, showed great courage in the speeches which they made. One of them was Jonathan Aitken, son of a dear friend of many of us here, Bill Aitken, who, alas, died so recently – but with whose great uncle, I am afraid, I sometimes disagreed. His was a remarkable speech.

I wish to say a few words about Rhodesia. Last Saturday I saw Mr. Smith. I did so only after the negotiations between the two Governments had broken down. My main object was to find some means of re-starting the dialogue between the two Governments, of seeing that the negotiations continued. We could not leave the British Government to sit in Whitehall and Mr. Smith to go off to Salisbury, possibly to take the drastic step of a unilateral declaration of independence. I did not believe that this could possibly be allowed to remain where it was.

Later that night, we saw Mr. Wilson. As a result of the points we raised, there was a further meeting between Mr. Wilson and Mr. Smith on Monday, and I was glad of it. Later that evening, I issued a statement, after the meeting of the Shadow Cabinet, urging further negotiations. On the Tuesday, Mr. Wilson made the proposal for a Commonwealth Mission. It may seem strange to some that, if such a proposal were going to be made, it was not discussed with Mr. Smith when he was in London. But at least it means that another method of keeping negotiations open is being examined.

The position the last British Government took up, which has been followed by the present Opposition, was clearly stated yesterday by Sir Alec Douglas-Home. A unilateral declaration of independence would be invalid. Its impact would have the gravest consequences. The whole Commonwealth, the old members of the Commonwealth as well as the new, have made that abundantly plain. In these two respects the present Government’s policy has followed ours, but the handling of the negotiations is the Government’s responsibility alone. They have not, and cannot have, a blank cheque from us on that. We are free to criticise the conduct of the negotiations, and, if I may say so, the Government themselves need to look again at the psychology of their handling of these negotiations and their relations with Rhodesia.

To all our citizens in this country, in these very difficult moments, I would say how greatly I deplore the use by anyone of the emotive words, words like ‘treason’ and ‘traitors,’ which can do nothing whatever to help to bring a solution to this problem. As an Opposition we shall concentrate all our efforts on securing a solution by negotiation.

This Conference made it abundantly clear yesterday that the overwhelming majority present wish to do nothing to prejudice that. This is why it overwhelmingly supported the Resolution. As your Leader, I bear an immense responsibility in this matter. With my colleagues I shall continue to discharge it, knowing that you have given us your confidence. Today, at the end of this eventful week everyone here prays that there will be no unilateral declaration of independence by Rhodesia. We pray that with all our hearts. Our views are known to the British Government, and, on behalf of us all, I should like to send this solemn message to Mr. Smith and his colleagues: ‘We believe that a middle way must be found. If there are still thoughts of unilateral action, then turn back from the brink.’

In that debate yesterday, and throughout the week, many of you spoke of the consequences, for good or ill, of change. We are just twenty years since the end of the Second World War. There is no particular magic in that figure, but a whole generation has now come to manhood who knew nothing of it, and those of us who did now realise how far off it all is. To my generation, who had just reached manhood before the last war, how different the situation is. Some of us were born along this coast, looking across the Channel always towards Europe, loving our country and outward-looking. Then we used to take our chance without any money to get across to Europe and to wander round and see it. Why? Because Europe still then, and only twenty-five or thirty years ago, was the hub of power in the world as a whole; it was the centre of affairs still as it had been for centuries. Then it all changed. Now today this is a time, twenty years after that cataclysm, when men’s minds are again beginning to question so many of the things they have since taken for granted; to question the things in their daily lives, in their jobs, in their families and in their country. This is happening all over the world where people are trying now to find a fresh equilibrium. Even in the year since the last election this process has moved apace. The first practical steps have been taken towards nuclear weapons in China. We have seen the polarisation of the Sino-Soviet conflict. For us in some ways the most important of all, we see the changing balance between the two sides of the Atlantic. Whether it is in trade, in industrial goods or in farm produce, whether it is in the international financial arrangements, whether it is in the defence of the west as a whole, the old arrangements are being questioned and new ones have to be worked out.

How different the situation was when these arrangements were first made. Europe was weak then, and across the Atlantic they were powerful. They gave generously of their strength, and as a result Europe today is rebuilt, prosperous and flourishing in trade and finance. The more clearly the changing balance between the two sides of the Atlantic is understood, then the greater are our chances of redressing the balance without friction between friends. It is in this position today that I want Britain to be able to exert her influence.

I want again to have a British policy. I do not want this in any nasty nationalistic sense; I want it in order to be able to perform our duty internationally as we do here, with the traditions of centuries and she experiences of ages, to do our duty as we see it. I want us to do our duty in the Western Alliance, in Europe, in the Commonwealth and the developing countries as a whole. Alas, today this Government has neither the power nor the will to pursue such a policy; overburdened with debt it is inhibited from pursuing effective action. Therefore, it is we who must pursue a British policy.

What we have to do now is to carve out a new place for Britain in the world, carve it out without nostalgia, without bitterness and without regret, but with imagination, skill and with determination. That is what our discussions this week have been about. Change has been constantly on our lips. Change in attitudes, change in skills, change in policies, and in people. But the change most necessary is a change in Government.

In this world where the constant need is to understand change, the Labour Party today, as we see them, have all the wrong attributes. Why? Because they consist of one part revolutionaries and three parts stand-patters. They are revolutionary optimists wishing to march back into the 19th century to the time of the birth of their doctrine. They are evolutionary pessimists finding every conceivable argument why day-to-day change should not take place. They are rooted in vested interest. They are avid for the status quo. It is no paradox, strange though it may seem, that in a period of rapid change like this, what the nation needs is leadership from a progressive and modern Conservative Party, for it is only we Conservatives who will get moving and seize the opportunities which exist for us as a country. It is only we Conservatives who will act, and it is only we Conservatives who will remember and care, as change goes on, for the individuals – and there are always many who find it difficult and uncomfortable. Above all, it is only the Conservatives who will have the foresight and the sense of history to keep and protect those elements which are fundamental and valuable in our society, to keep the things which make this country the place where we want to live.

The moral of this is plain. We must regain power, but power has to be won. We must work to bring it back. There is no easy way. I did not disguise this when I became your leader. It must be clear to every one of us here at this Conference. Once again, it is the efforts of the individual men and women which count. Let us face this fact realistically. The Government today is still on trial by the people of this country. But we also know that the day of reckoning will soon come. It will come when the people of this country find that words are no substitute for deeds; that publicity is no substitute for policies; and that gimmicks are no substitute for government. We here, every one of us, and those whom we represent in our constituencies can bring that day nearer. We do so as we capture the hearts and the minds of our fellow citizens by our own personal influence one upon another. You, Madam Chairman, with all your long experience of politics, will know that that is in fact the only way. But great is the prize. It is to guide the destinies of Britain in this ever-changing world. It is that upon which we set our hearts here at this Conference today. It is that prize and nothing less which together we will win.

Edward Heath – 1950 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons


Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Edward Heath in the House of Commons on 26th June 1950.

As this is the first occasion on which I have had the privilege of addressing the House, I ask for that customary indulgence which is generously given to new Members. I am very glad indeed of the opportunity to take part in this Debate. As I was fortunate in being in the Federal German Republic for part of the Whitsun Recess, I should like to place before the House what I found were the objectives of the German Government in taking part in the Schuman discussions.

Before I do that, however, I should like to follow for a moment the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Arthur Greenwood), and also the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the arguments that they produced. It is a tradition of this House that new Members in making their maiden speeches should not be controversial. I hope I shall not be thought to go beyond the bounds of that tradition if I answer some of the points that were raised by those two right hon. Gentlemen.

The right hon. Member for Wakefield accused us on this side of the House of play-acting. Nothing could be further from the truth. We on this side of the House realise the importance of the issues at stake, and today, with the threat of war in Korea, nobody on this side of the House can be accused of playacting in considering the affairs of Western Europe. The right hon. Gentleman also said that his movement was an international movement. The strange thing is that, from their document which was published recently, it is now apparent that in this country, at any rate, the movement has become a national movement, and that the views which were expressed in that document are not representative of those of other Socialist parties in Europe—certainly not of those members of Socialist parties whom I have met.

It seems to me that the point at issue in this Debate arises out of a word used in the last communiqué presented with the French memorandum of 1st June. The French put forward their proposition in the words: The Governments have assigned to themselves as their immediate objective … The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his speech, spoke of the “principle.” I think it is interesting to see the change of tone which has taken place in the time between the communiqué, which is the report of the conversations of the Minister of State with the French Ambassador, and the final communiqué in which the British Government refused to take part. If I may quote the Minister’s words, they were that the Ambassador said we were not taking up an attiude of opposition to this principle but were prepared to enter into discussions with the object of finding a practical method of applying the principle. With that the Minister of State agreed. Then the French put forward the word “objective.” It is surely different from “principle,” because one may have an objective, and the way in which one reaches the objective is governed by principles, and so the principles safeguard the road to the objective. If one finds one cannot carry out one’s principles, then one does not reach the objective, and one withdraws—which is the position covered by the Motion we have put forward.

Now, the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke looking at the worst point of view the whole time. He spoke of the high authority, suggesting that we should have no say in arranging the power of the high authority. Surely, that would not be the case. He said we should be taking a risk with the whole of our economy. We on this side of the House feel that, by standing aside from the discussions, we may be taking a very great risk with our economy in the coming years—a very great risk indeed. He said it would also be a great risk if we went in and then withdrew. We regard it as a greater risk to stand aside altogether at this stage.

The Chancellor spoke about the position of the Empire. We all realise the importance of the Empire, and we on this side certainly think it must be supported above all. But the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not tell us what the views of the Empire are. What are the views of the Empire in this matter? Have the Government had discussions with the other Governments of the Empire about this matter? Can we be told what are their views—what are the views of our Empire statesmen? As far as we can ascertain, they have not protested against this scheme.

The Chancellor spoke all the time as though this were to be a restrictionist plan. Surely the object of the plan is to be one of expansion? Surely, the task to be put upon the high authority is to be the task of expansion, rather than of restriction. Lastly, the Chancellor, as do the communiqués, and as does this document published by the Labour Party, spoke of the importance of full employment. So did also the right hon. Member for Wakefield. From that stems their desire not to co-operate with any Government that is not a Socialist one. This is in contrast with a document called “National and International Measures for Full Employment,” by a group of economists, which is published by the United Nations. It has received scant attention from the Government. On page 7 the authors say: In our view, however, the steps required to promote full employment in free enterprise economies are fully consistent with the institutions of such countries. The measures recommended in the present report to sustain effective demand do not involve any basic change in the economic institutions of private enterprise countries. The position which the Government take up is that no other country wants full employment and that no other country is capable of pursuing full employment unless it has a Socialist Government. That is obviously far from the truth.

Now I should like to say a word about the reasons which I found the German Government had for taking part in these talks, and of what is the attitude of the German Government. I found that their attitude was governed entirely by political considerations. I believe there is a genuine desire on their part to reach agreement with France and with the other countries of Western Europe. I believe that in that desire the German Government are genuine, and I believe, too, that the German Government would be prepared to make economic sacrifices in order to achieve those political results which they desire. I am convinced that when the negotiations take place between the countries about the economic details, the German Government will be prepared to make sacrifices.

I think it is also true that when the German Government accepted the invitation they were quite aware that no precise details of the nature of the high authority were known, and that they were not aware of many of the economic details involved, but that, in order to achieve the political results which they want, they were prepared to accept the invitation to join these discussions. The first thing they want is to achieve agreement with France, and secondly they want to achieve the unity of Western Europe in order to stand against the threat from the East. On the Continent people are very sensitive about that threat from the East.

That is not to say that the German Government does not see many advantages in coming into the Schuman discussions. It sees, first of all, that it will negotiate on a basis of equality in Europe—a position it has only just reached for the first time since the war. It also sees, I believe, a means of securing the abolition of the International Ruhr Authority, the implications of which are obviously very considerable. We must realise that if within the Schuman Plan agreement were reached for the abolition of that Authority, with the support of America, it would be extremely difficult for this country to object. The German Government sees, too, a solution of the Saar problem. Above all, it sees a means of abolishing the restriction of 11.1 million tons on its steel output. That is an important point indeed for the German Government, which is capable at the moment of seeing steel production in Germany go up to 14½ million or 16 million tons. It sees also a means of securing a vast expansion of German coal production.

If those are advantages, there are sown in those advantages the seeds of conflict with France over this economic basis. I wish to spend a moment or two on these economic details because of their political implications. Under Marshall Aid, France has been able to expand her steel production very considerably. She would like to see German coke go to Lorraine and German steel production to remain pegged, while the Germans see in the plan an opportunity for expanding their steel production. There, firstly, is a possible seed of conflict.

In addition, Germany wishes to see set up again the dismantled broad strip rolling mill at Dinslaken, while under Marshall Aid France has been building two such strip rolling mills, and not all will be required, by Europe. There may also be difficulties over German markets in Bavaria and the Saar because it may be easier for the French to supply those markets than for the Germans. Finally, there is the grave problem of future trade with Eastern Europe which many in the Ruhr want to start to develop. There are seeds of conflict in these negotiations between France and Germany, and I submit that that is a very strong reason why we should take part in these discussions, in order that we may balance out the difficulties between France and Germany which are bound to arise on the economic side.

Under the Schuman Plan, Germany may very well become once again a major factor in Europe. Anyone going to Germany today is bound to be impressed by the fact that the German dynamic has returned; that Germany is once again working hard and producing hard, and that therefore Germany will become a major factor in Europe. I suggest that there are only two ways of dealing with that situation. One is to attempt to prolong control, which the Chancellor has already dismissed as being undesirable and impracticable. The only other way is to lead Germany into the one way we want her to go, and I believe that these discussions would give us a chance of leading Germany into the way we want her to go.

Lastly, I want to mention one point which I think has received scant attention in the discussions about the Schuman Plan so far. There is a sentence in the very first communiqué of M. Schuman, in which he says: After the talks have been successful, Europe with new means at her disposal will be able to pursue the realisation of one of her essential tasks—the development of the African Continent. That has touched the German imagination in a way in which many other parts of the plan have not, because she sees in the outcome of the Schuman Plan once again the outlet to Africa, and if the outlet to the East is to be blocked, then the outlet to Africa is the most obvious alternative. But does it not also mean for all of us a development of steel and coal production for those markets? I would also submit that, if we can say that we have united Europe in the matter of steel and coal, we can say to the Americans, “There is an outlet for the President’s Fourth Point, in the capital development of a great area of the world.” That might very well be most important from the American point of view.

After the First World War we all thought it would be extremely easy to secure peace and prosperity in Europe. After the Second World War we all realised that it was going to be extremely difficult; and it will be extremely difficult to make a plan of this kind succeed. What I think worries many of us on this side of the House is that, even if the arguments put forward by the Government are correct, we do not feel that behind those arguments is really the will to succeed, and it is that will which we most want to see. It was said long ago in this House that magnanimity in politics is not seldom the truest wisdom. I appeal tonight to the Government to follow that dictum, and to go into the Schuman Plan to develop Europe and to co-ordinate it in the way suggested.