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Clause 2. — References of Questions to the Board

Part of Orders of the Day — Prices and Incomes Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th August 1966.

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Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East 12:00 am, 9th August 1966

I beg to move Amendment No. 2, in page 3, line 4, at the end to insert: (c) relating to any situation in which any employer, employee or trade union agree or arrange, whether enforceably at law or not, that the number of persons employed in any process, activity or undertaking or the way in which they are employed is in any way, other than for health or safety, restricted or affected so as to conflict with the objectives set out in paragraph 1 of Schedule 2 to this Act. We now come to Part I of the Bill which sets up in statutory form the Prices and Incomes Board and entitles Ministers to make references to it. The point we are making in the Amendment is a simple one. It is that Ministers should be entitled to refer to the Board not only increases in pay and prices but also restrictive labour practices.

My hon. Friends and I do not for a moment maintain that restrictive labour practices are the fault of only the workers. We think that the workers are generally the leading creators of restrictive labour practices, but they can by hypothesis have been created only with the connivance, positive or negative, of the employers. Thus, we are not making a narrow, sectional point but are coming to the heart of our economic difficulties, unit costs, since unit costs reflect the relatively low output for each unit of labour and we believe that this, above all, should be referable to the Board.

The House will remember that the Board is really the Productivity Prices and Incomes Board, to give it is full, notional title. It was, therefore, set up with the purpose of looking at labour practices as well as at prices and pay. We have noticed with appreciation how much Mr. Aubrey Jones and his team have concentrated on management and labour practices in the industries they have examined. This is extremely valuable work. Indeed, our support for the Board is largely because we thoroughly approve of the idea of using the Board as a spotlight on restrictive labour practices. We are, therefore, extremely keen that the opportunity should be taken in this legislation, under Part I of the Measure—remembering that Part I is the only part of the Bill with which we have any sympathy whatever—to give powers to Ministers to refer restrictive labour practices as such to the Board.

I do not think it is necessary for me to develop this argument at length, except, perhaps, to say that the Government might reply, "We have some sympathy with your objectives, but what would happen once the Board had reported "? Our reply is that publicity about restrictive labour parctices has a certain value of itself.

My hon. Friends would go further and probably change the law to cover the most recalcitrant management and labour units which resisted the calls of the Board and of publicity to change their ways, but we are not on this occasion asking the Government to go as far as changing the law. We merely ask them to say that the weapon of publicity—the weapon of daylight—should be made available against restrictive labour practices.