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Orders of the Day — Prices and Incomes Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th August 1966.

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Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , Oswestry 12:00 am, 9th August 1966

The Clause is a very important one and is to be commended because it seeks to offer to productivity schemes what encouragement can be offered in the context of the Bill. There is a growing realisation of the importance of such schemes to our economic well-being, and also of the fact that these schemes are born after only a great deal of negotiation between unions and employers and that their execution is not suitable for a six months' freeze.

A six months' freeze is often likely to cause a set-back to the whole inception and working out of a productivity scheme. For example, the British Oxygen Company's productivity scheme, which has been the subject of a good deal of Press comment in recent weeks, took about 18 months to execute, and the possibility of a six months' freeze applying to such a scheme could lead to jeopardising its success. Earlier this afternoon the Attorney-General talked to us in rather unnecessary terms about patriotism and the need to carry out this policy. We shall not get this policy accepted by appeals to patriotism. I am convinced of that not least because of an article which appeared in the Statist on 17th June, written by Mr. Tony Corfield, the Secretary of the Education and Political Department of the Transport and General Workers' Union, in which he said: No less unrealistic is the supposition that workers will be especially responsive to what is held to be 'the national interest' over wages issues. That is a fair comment, and I am not ashamed to commend it. Nor do I in any sense deprecate the fact that Mr. Corfield should have written in such terms, because the people on the shop floor want to get something out of extra productivity, and if the whole thing is to be put in suspension for six months we will not get the unions to accept the productivity deal and make the necessary sacrifice. There must be some tangible reward. Since we are all united in laying emphasis upon the value of productivity I hope that the Government will accept the Clause.