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I acknowledge, and we have done so throughout the discussions on the Bill, that problems arise and that there may be difficulties. I was rash enough at one stage to use the word "countervailing" and that got a response from the Opposition which I might have expected. We are prepared to admit that some consequences which flow from our actions may in a sense be counterproductive, taking the total economic problem with which we are dealing. But we are considering only the short period of six months and the flexible six months' period to follow and I am sure that we are right to say that we must be tough during that period. If we were not tough there would be more anomalies and greater injustice.
As the hon. Member for Oswestry said, productivity agreements take a long time to negotiate. I think that he mentioned a period of 18 months in connection with the productivity agreement with which he was particularly concerned. For this reason, there is no earthly reason why those who are thinking of negotiating productivity agreements or who are negotiating them at present should not go forward. This period can be used, as it has not been in other comparable circumstances in the past, as a breathing space in which both sides of industry can say, "We now recognise that genuine productivity agreements are in the interests of management, the unions and the country as a whole. Let us use this standstill so that at the end of the period we shall have far more than we have at the present time".
Therefore, whereas we insist upon the standstill, we feel that it can be used intelligently to the general good.