Wages Inspectorate

Oral Answers to Questions — Employment and Productivity – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 4 December 1969.

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Photo of Mr Frank Allaun Mr Frank Allaun , Salford East 12:00, 4 December 1969

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity what plans she has for enlarging the Wages Councils' Inspectorate and for increasing the fines on employers who are found to be paying employees below the legal minimum.

Photo of Mr Anthony Gardner Mr Anthony Gardner , Rushcliffe

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity whether she is satisfied with the present size and activities of the Wages Inspectorate; and if she will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster

Each year about 10 per cent, of all establishments on Wages Councils lists are inspected by the Wages Inspectorate and the wages of approximately a quarter of a million workers are examined. Of this number about 5 per cent, on average are found to have been underpaid. The number of wages inspectors employed full time on visits to employers' premises varies between 145 and 155. Given the low rate of infractions I see no justification for increasing the size of the Inspectorate.

In the great majority of cases the Department is able to secure compliance with the requirements of the Wages Regulations Orders by enlisting employers' co-operation and it is rarely necessary to resort to legal proceedings. I have no plans for increasing the penalties laid down in the Wages Councils Act.

Photo of Mr Frank Allaun Mr Frank Allaun , Salford East

I thank my hon. Friend for that very full answer. Does he agree that there is no point in wages councils or minimum wages, however low, unless there is effective control to see that they are observed?

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster

The Donovan Commission gave some advice on the way ahead for wages councils and suggested that the best answer to the problem implicit in my hon. Friend's question was for the growth and development of collective bargaining to be facilitated in those industries.

Photo of Mr Ernest Fernyhough Mr Ernest Fernyhough , Jarrow

Will my hon. Friend look at this again? His figures showed that employers are visited only once every 10 years and then it is found that 5 per cent. of them are not observing the law-This means that over a period of 10 years there may be several tens of thousands of decent workers who are not getting what they are entitled by Statute to get.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster

My hon. Friend must not misunderstand the figures. It is not that 5 per cent. of employers are found to have been not complying with the regulations, but that 5 per cent, of the employees covered by the establishments visited were found to be receiving wages below the amount. This was usually not because of any attempt on the part of the employers to evade, but because of the complexity of the regulations and the need to explain them.