asked the Minister of Labour why he deferred till 2nd April, 1962 the operation of increases in female laundry workers' wage rates granted by the Laundry Wages Council; and, in view of the low wages being paid in this industry, if he will reconsider his decision.
I have made five Wages Regulation Orders with operative dates of 1st or 2nd April. I thought it right that there should be some element of delay before these Orders became effective because of the declared policy of the Government that in the present economic circumstances there should be a pause in increases in wages and other incomes. One of the five orders gives effect to proposals from the Laundry Wages Council for increases in the rates of female laundry workers. I have no doubt that in making its proposals the Council took full account of the present rates.
Is not the Minister aware that the Laundry Wages Council decisions affect workers in a very lowly paid industry? Is he not further aware that it is an injustice to inflict a pay pause on any section of workers, but that it is particularly unjust to those whose wage rates are such as have been agreed by the Laundry Wages Council? Is it not most unfair that after agreement has been reached in respect of wage increases the Minister of Labour should intervene like this and withhold implementation of the increases until well into the early part of next year?
I would say that it was because of the declared policy of the Government of the need for the wage pause that, in fact, I took the action I did. These wage rates are put forward by the Council itself. My duty is to decide on what date they should be implemented.
Is it not incredibly mean that an Order that leaves the men's wages at £7 17s. 10d. a week and raises the wages of the women workers only to £5 12s. 10½d, should nevertheless have to be postponed until 2nd April, 1962? Just how mean can the Government get in this matter? Is it not a terrible confession of failure on their part that their economic policy is in such a mess that they have had to put a burden on people earning these amounts of money?
These, of course, are minimum rates—[Interruption.]—as the hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well. Perhaps this is not the time to go into an argument on the wage pause, but the purpose of the wage pause is to ensure that the value of wages shall be maintained and in this it is the lower-paid workers who benefit.