Wages and Prices (Stabilisation Policy).

Oral Answers to Questions — National Finance – in the House of Commons on 29th September 1942.

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Photo of Mr Norman Bower Mr Norman Bower , Harrow

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) whether his attention has been drawn to the claims recently put forward by the engineers for increases in wages amounting to £100,000,000 a year; and whether, in view of the fact that this sum would in effect have to be borne directly or indirectly by the Exchequer, he will make it clear now to both sides in the industry that the Exchequer is not in a position to find that money required to satisfy this or any similar claims?

(2) whether, in view of President Roosevelt's decision to place ceilings on wages and farm prices in order to avoid inflation, he will take steps to bring the economic policy of this country into line with that of the United States of America by formulating and bringing into operation a national wages policy?

Photo of Sir James Henderson-Stewart Sir James Henderson-Stewart , Fife Eastern

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware of the rising spiral of wages and prices during the period since the publication of the White Paper on Price Stabilisation and Industrial Policy; and whether any steps are being taken by the Government, in association with the Trades Union Congress, to put a brake upon this tendency in order to avoid further inflation with consequent damage to the war effort and lowering of the standard of living of the people?

Photo of Commander Sir Archibald Southby Commander Sir Archibald Southby , Epsom

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the growing demand for increased wages and salaries and the consequent effect upon the economic stability of the country, and, having regard to the disparity between the rewards now paid in some war industries and the pay of the Forces, he will take steps to stabilise wages and salaries for the period of the war; and whether he will give an assurance that arrangements will be made for a Debate in the House on this subject before any policy is settled?

Photo of Sir Kingsley Wood Sir Kingsley Wood , Woolwich West

The Government consider that the stabilisation policy set out in the White Paper of July, 1941, has proved effective hitherto in checking inflation. They would desire to continue to rely on those concerned with wage negotiations in industry, and on arbitration tribunals, to handle claims for wage alterations with a full sense of the responsibility which they share for safeguarding national, and not merely sectional, interests. If that sense of responsibility were to break down, the price stabilisation policy, which has hitherto been successfully maintained, would become impossible and the Government would have to reconsider their policy. I understand that the engineering wage claim, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow (Mr. N. Bower) refers, has not yet been considered by the appropriate joint bodies in the industry. I have as yet no precise information as to the measures to be adopted in the United States. If there is a general desire for a Debate on this subject the question can be raised through the usual channels.

Mr. Stewart:

Can the Chancellor of the Exchequer answer that part of my Question which asks: whether any steps are being taken by the Government, in association with the Trades Union Congress, to put a brake upon this tendency in order to avoid further inflation?

Photo of Sir Kingsley Wood Sir Kingsley Wood , Woolwich West

No, Sir, I have nothing to add to my statement.

Photo of Mr Austin Hopkinson Mr Austin Hopkinson , Mossley

Is it not a fact that the employer in the munition industry has nothing whatsoever to do with settling wages, and that he merely acts as an agent for the Government in paying out money to his men? It is the Government's fault entirely.

Photo of Commander Sir Archibald Southby Commander Sir Archibald Southby , Epsom

Does the Chancellor of the Exchequer appreciate that the growing demand for increased wages and the granting of them to people employed in certain industries makes the Government's treatment of men in the Services appear to be even more shabby than it actually is?

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

How is it possible to create inflation, however high the ceiling of wages may be, if those who receive wages have no means whereby they can spend them?

Photo of Sir Kingsley Wood Sir Kingsley Wood , Woolwich West

I think we had better deal with that in the course of the Debate.