Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd May 1966.

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Photo of Mr Ken Lomas Mr Ken Lomas , Huddersfield West 12:00 am, 3rd May 1966

I can tell the hon. Member, and if I start with him perhaps I can persuade his party and the rest of the country. One can do this, as we have been doing it, when we go to our constituencies. We have a National Plan which has been accepted by the whole House. We are encouraging co-operation with industry and the trade union movement. We are holding conversations and consultations at the highest levels with various organisations. It is up to the people who actually believe in planning to take the message back and try to get across to the general public the fact that if we do not plan we are heading for trouble.

It follows that if we accept the need for this we must think in terms of regional planning as well. This is precisely where the policy is beginning to take effect. In the regions there are planning boards and planning councils made up of individuals from all walks of life. They know the problems of the regions. Their views can be made known to the councils. It might be worth while considering having one Member of Parliament from either side of the House from the back benches to represent the views of a region on a planning council so that the views of constituents could be made known to their Members of Parliament. That is worth thinking about as a means of spreading democracy not only throughout regions but throughout the whole country.

The biggest development with which we are faced is acceptance of the need for planning. This has to be done if we are to escape from the jungle law, the free-for-all society, which many hon. Members opposite accept and desire. If we do that, we must use the Budget with all its fiscal powers. Above all, we must get home to the people and do whatever we can about the idea of the prices and incomes policy.

I have been a trade unionist for 29 years, and I am not against the prices and incomes policy. On the contrary, I am completely in favour of it. I believe it means that we can at long last get some kind of ordered and planned growth in our policy for wages and salaries. This does not mean that those at the bottom will be tied to the existing norm of 3½ per cent. The whole policy of prices and incomes shows clearly that if wages are too low they should be allowed to go through the norm. This is why wages went up last year—because those left at the bottom were allowed to go through the norm. I accept what the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) said. It is easy to mouth words such as "full employment" and "stable economy", but we all have a job to do to try to spread the message that the essential need is for ordered growth.

The prices and incomes policy is not designed to retard wages; it is designed to increase the real value of wages and to stop paper increases being swallowed up. The trade union movement is a responsible organisation which is prepared to accept these things, provided that it also realises and accepts that the Chancellor by his Budget and statements is making it fair to all and that it is not merely those on one side who are asked to make sacrifices.

I am a Socialist. I have been a Socialist for a long time. Because I am a Socialist I have been accused of being starry-eyed. Perhaps I am, but at least I am not blind to the facts of life. The facts of life are that I realise, even if some of my hon. Friends on this side of the Committee do not, that we are living in a mixed economy, whether we like it or not. As long as we are living in a mixed economy we must have co-operation between industry, the trade union movement and the Government. Unless we have that, no progress can be made. I hope that we shall continue to have the support of industry and of the trade union movement.

One cannot change something overnight. It would be arrogant for any Gov- ernment or individual to pretend that any impact that they could make could transform society within a matter of years. It is a slow and steady progress. I ask the Government, and the Chancellor in particular, to realise that what we on this side of the House want to see, what the person on the shop floor, in the distributive trades, in the hospital services, in every kind of job, want to see is a clear indication that it is not just their wages which will be affected, but that the whole range of incomes and all kinds of prices will be dealt with effectively.

This is not, perhaps the Budget which many expected. It is not, perhaps, a Budget which will make a great squeeze in any way. It is a sensible Budget which does not tamper with a lot of taxes. It is a Budget which clearly shows that we shall try to leave prices as stable as we can. This Budget is fair in the sense that it makes sure that any sector of society which has not made its contribution shall do so. I believe this will be accepted as a fair Budget. I believe it will be accepted by the trade union movement. Provided there is this essence of fairness to all sides, provided there is no interference with the right of the trade union movement to negotiate on behalf of its members, provided we also obtain the consent of industry to the efforts that we are making on its behalf as much as on our own behalf, I believe we can go forward to a better society. But there must be this positive proof.

It has been underlined that the present Government are intent on redistributing wealth, on making a society based on social justice and equal opportunity. For that reason I have pleasure in supporting what my right hon. Friend the Chancellor said, and I hope that the Budget will receive the full support of the House in the shortest possible time.