Orders of the Day — Prices and Incomes

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th October 1966.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe , Windsor 12:00 am, 25th October 1966

This has been a remarkable debate for one reason if for no other, that it has engendered very little enthusiasm in support of the Government. Even the First Secretary of State, for whom I have the highest regard, was unable in his speech to draw very many cheers or much support. He gave the House one blinding flash of truth when he said that no one could be prosecuted before an offence was committed, but it seems to me that a good many hon. Members opposite have a guilt complex. I do not blame them. Ringing in their ears are their election speeches. They are frightened to read their own election addresses because the measures which the right hon. Gentleman now asks the House to accept bear absolutely no relation to what was promised and what was said only a few months ago.

Even the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley), who has left his place for the moment, was critical towards the end of his speech, I rather enjoyed one of his analogies, although I do not think that he meant it to be taken in the way I shall take it. He spoke of people watching a cricket match and said that if those in the front sat down those at the back could see. But, to continue the analogy on a slightly different line, what is it that the people in the front or at the back have been watching? They have been watching the Socialist side sitting in the pavilion working out the most complicated and fantastic theories and then, when they took the field, finding the wicket absolutely different from what they thought it would be. In a nutshell, this illustrates why economic crisis is hitting us now.

I am not an economist, a banker, an industrialist or a lawyer. I am not a director of any company and I am not a trade unionist. But I make no apology for having my say as an ordinary plain back bencher. I do not understand a lot of the theory or much of what I think the Government believe to be the practice behind Part IV. Of course, I understand that, if a nation pays itself more for producing less, there is inflation. But an answer given at Question Time today showed that one of the biggest inflations has taken place in the Civil Service.

I have always understood that, when productivity increases, wages and salaries should go up and keep in step. That, I thought, was the theory shared in many respects by both sides of the House as to how to get productivity going. A great many wage agreements are, rightly, based upon productivity. The cost of living index also affects many demands for wage increases. But what have the Government done? The Selective Employment Tax has put up the cost of living. Everyone knew that it would. The hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Raphael Tuck) seemed surprised that various prices were rising. But everyone said at the time that they would. It was bound to happen, as night follows day. There is nothing new or strange about it. If charges in the service industries are increased, the customer pays, and this will affect the cost of living index to a considerable extent, affecting in turn the pressure for wage increases.

The Government, having applied the S.E.T., indirectly put up the cost of living. Now, having done that, they say to employers, be they individuals, companies or corporations, "You must dishonour the wage agreements you have made in respect of productivity because we are in an economic jam and we do not know what to do. We must have a wage freeze".