Wages and Salaries (Negotiating Machinery)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd October 1961.

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Photo of Mr Charles Loughlin Mr Charles Loughlin , Gloucestershire West 12:00 am, 23rd October 1961

I wonder whether the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Hendry), who, I understand, was a town clerk before he entered the House, would have adopted the same attitude as that he has taken tonight if he had been pursuing that profession, in view of the fact that the Government are responsible to some degree for determining the salary negotiations of that profession.

Frequently in the debate right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have talked about the economic crisis with which we are faced. The Chancellor devoted the whole of his speech to the argument that we ought to address ourselves not to the question whether there has been any Government action as a result of which they can be charged with damaging the whole of the negotiating machinery of the country but to the economic situation. The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West stated that the speech of the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) and other speeches from this side of the House were unrealistic.

If we take the arguments of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, wonder how we can resolve the problem of our economic difficulties and the problem of trying to sell our goods in the markets of the world if at the same time we undermine the confidence of the industrial workers in the arbitration and negotiating machinery which has been operating for many years. How can we increase our productivity in industries essential to the export trade if at the same time the Government are pursuing a policy which says to the workers in those industries, "Even if you have a claim, whether it be justified morally or economically or not, and even if that claim is accepted by your employers, indeed, even if there is complete agreement, the Government will veto the proposed increase in wages." How can the Government say to the workers that, in the interests of the nation, it is essential for there to be greater effort and productivity but at the same time pursue a policy of that kind?

I ask hon. Members to examine the problem solely on the basis of the economic difficulties the Government have got us into after ten years of Tory rule, after boasting at election after election that they have produced prosperity par excellence.The Tories said at the last election. "Do not let Labour ruin it". Who ruined it? The Chancellor of the Exchequer does not stand any chance at all of resolving our economic difficulties without the full support of the workers in industry.

I turn now to a question which is fundamental to the British people, because the pursuance of this policy by the Government challenges the whole basis of free trade unionism in Britain. There cannot be free trade unionism when, after an agreement has been arrived at by both sides of industry, the Government impose a veto.