Pay Increases (Restrictions)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th December 1966.

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Mr. Bob Brown (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West):

I rise to support the Government on taking the action proposed in respect of Thorn Electrical Industries Ltd. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary—then the First Secretary—speaking in the proceedings in Committee on the Prices and Incomes Bill, at 8 o'clock in the morning on 4th August, said, in moving new Clause 5: This is a substantial power, but these powers, as I have said all the way through, will be used only if the period of standstill has broken down on a voluntary basis. It would be a complete nonsense to say that the standstill should be observed but then to have no power if, in fact, there are substantial breaches. We think it proper to take this power, but only if the voluntary system has broken down and only if we invoke Part IV of the Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. Standing Committee B, 4th August, 1966, cc. 711–2.] I submit that the great majority of our workers—organised or otherwise—have accepted the need for the wage freeze. They have respected the decisions taken by the Government.

The reserve powers having been debated at length in the Committee and on the Floor of the House it would be quite wrong for the Government to allow any selfish minority to undermine the efforts of the great mass of workers who have willingly accepted the need to put the national well-being before personal profit. The fact that these reserve powers have been used on only two occasions underlines my point about the loyalty of our workers to the Government in the national interest. The right hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson) said that in this case 120 people might seek back payment for 10 months, and then we should have this flood of people, with disastrous effects on our economy, in August, when all 120 of them, with their 10 months' back pay, would create a balance of payments crisis. That is what the right hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to suggest.

At Thorn Electrical Industries we have an organisation which, through its general secretary, has declared war on this legislation from the word "off". In fact, long before the legislation ever reached the stage of being debated in Committee the individual concerned had declared war on the legislation and on the Government. It may be that the leaders of this organisation are concerned purely and simply with their own membership, or, I suggest, not with their own membership but only with a very small percentage of it.