Wages and Salaries

Oral Answers to Questions — Economic Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th November 1966.

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Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Croydon South 12:00 am, 24th November 1966

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what sections of employees will be allowed some increases in pay during the period of severe restraint.

Photo of Mr David Marquand Mr David Marquand , Ashfield

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs whether he will ensure that, when the present standstill on income and price increases ends in January next year, the incomes policy will be operated in such a way as to narrow the gap between higher- and lower-paid workers.

Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull North

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, when he proposes to publish the criteria by which increases in pay will be permitted during the period of severe restraint.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

The White Paper Prices and Incomes Policy: Period of Severe Restraint (Cmnd. 3150), published on 22nd November, sets out the criteria for increases in incomes in exceptional cases and on a severely limited scale, including the incomes of lowest-paid workers.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Croydon South

Would the Minister make quite plain the position of workers in the public services? Will workers in the public services be able to receive increases prior to July, 1967? Will my right hon. Friend agree that there are so many workers in the public services whose pay is so poor that it is only elementary justice that they should be able to receive some increase before the end of severe restraint?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

That is a matter that perhaps merits a separate Question, but I would say that any commitment entered into before 20th July where there is both a fixed operative date and a fixed amount is subject only to six months' deferment. After that, payment begins, and it is payment from that date. That applies equally throughout the public and private services.

It would also be true to say that, where-ever one finds genuinely comparable situations, they are treated alike in the private and the public sectors. There are, however, instances where, in the public sector, we might get a situation to which there was not a parallel in the private sector and for which we should like to make special provision. It is also open to workers in either the private or the public sector to put forward claims under any of the criteria in the White Paper.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. I hope that we can have reasonably short answers.

Photo of Mr David Marquand Mr David Marquand , Ashfield

Will my right hon. Friend agree that many of the deferred increases due to come into force in the period of severe restraint concern well and medium-paid workers, and that the productivity agreements which are to be let through also do not give very much help to the lower-paid worker? Will he agree that unless he makes a determined effort to lean over backwards in the interests of the lower-paid workers, the net effect of the period of severe restraint may be to widen the gap between the higher-paid and the lower-paid workers?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

It was with this consideration in mind that it was thought right to put in the criterion concerning lowest-paid workers, but it must be clear that, if the proposal is to be justified on this account, its benefits must be confined to lowest-paid workers.

Photo of Mr Anthony Royle Mr Anthony Royle , Richmond (Surrey)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the working to rule by limb-fitters at Roehampton, due to the Government's policy, is causing great distress to many disabled people, and will he tell the House whether these fitters will be allowed their pay increase under the White Paper which was tabled yesterday?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

That really is a separate Question. That the dispute is causing distress is not in question; the responsibility for it does not lie with the Government.

Photo of Mr David Marquand Mr David Marquand , Ashfield

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what steps he is taking to ensure that no increases take place in the salaries and other emoluments received by top management in the private sector of industry during the current prices and incomes standstill and the period of severe restraint which is to follow, and that thereafter such increases do not exceed whatever norm is then in force for income and price increases.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

Both the White Paper on Prices and Incomes Standstill, Cmnd. 3073, and that on Severe Restraint, Cmnd. 3150 published on 22nd November, make it clear that the principles of the standstill and of severe restraint apply equally to all forms of income. Further guidance will be given in due course about the period following that of severe restraint.

Photo of Mr David Marquand Mr David Marquand , Ashfield

Will my right hon. Friend explain how this sector of industry will be controlled? Further, will he agree that the whole problem of very high rewards in the private sector of industry has repercussions on the public sector, with damaging consequences to the incomes policy, and will he refer the whole question to the Prices and Incomes Board as a matter of long-term consequence to the incomes policy?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

I will consider that last point. As to the earlier part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, we should notice both the existence of these statutory powers and the fact of the wide measure of voluntary co-operation that has so far been achieved.

Photo of Mr David Howell Mr David Howell , Guildford

How should the incomes policy be controlled for those workers who do not have the bad luck to be in unions?

Hon. Members:

Don't be silly.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

I do not accept, and I do not think that anyone would accept, the implications of that question—[interruption.]—but, of course, both the enforcement through voluntary cooperation and the use of statutory powers could apply whether workers are in unions or not.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

In pursuit of the principle enshrined in the Question, has my right hon. Friend been able to inquire whether the members of the Board of Governors of the Bank of England, who have been lecturing the rest of us about keeping wages down, have had any increase in their wages for the past six or eight months?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

That supplementary question does go a bit wider than the Question on the Order Paper.

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher , Finchley

Will not the right hon. Gentleman agree that if extra merit, skill and responsibility are not linked with increases, the long-term prospects of British industry will be very precarious indeed?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

That is so general a proposition that no one could dispute it, but during the period of severe restraint I think that everyone has to ask himself not what income he thinks he deserves but whether he is keeping in mind the restraints that are being applied to others as well as himself.