Orders of the Day — Commission for Industry and Manpower Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 8th April 1970.

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Photo of Mr Frederick Lee Mr Frederick Lee , Newton 12:00 am, 8th April 1970

The right hon. Gentleman for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr), in his criticisms of the Bill, and in telling us what the Tory Party would do, confounded even our ideas of what the Tory Party's policies are. The worst he could say about the results of the Bill was that it may well be that trade unions which could not secure wage advances because the Commission had recommended that there should not be increases in prices would then blame the Commission for their inability to secure wage advances.

I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has a bad memory. He was describing with utter precision what the Tory Government did some years ago. When Sir Anthony Eden was Prime Minister and Harold Macmillan was Chancellor of the Exchequer, they decided that for a given period no nationalised industry should be allowed to increase its prices. They did that for no other reason than to stop wage advances in the nationalised industries. Afterwards, when Harold Macmillan had become Prime Minister and when the prices and incomes policy, such as it was, was in being, it culminated in Harold Macmillan coming to the Dispatch Box and using the House to deliver a terrific public reprimand to the Chairman of the Electricity Council for having the effrontery and the impudence to grant a wage advance higher than that which Tory Ministers had said that he could grant.

That is a completely accurate description of what the right hon. Gentleman today told us we must never allow to happen. When the right hon. Gentleman thinks it out, I challenge him to deny that which I have asserted—that he gave us the most precise description of where his Government led us when they used the House to indict trade unions for asking for wage increases.

I interrupted the right hon. Gentleman in the course of his speech. He was indicting the Government for responsibility for the inflationary processes now going on. I pointed out that every one of the wage increases had come about as a result of free collective bargaining, which the Tory Party agrees with. That being so, and the Tory Party having no time whatever for legislation which would give the Government any powers in this matter, what would the right hon. Gentleman do about it? What should this Government have done about it? That is what I asked.

We have had no answer. I challenge the Tory Party to answer my question. I challenge the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Dudley Smith) to tell us the answer when he replies. The Tories cannot play this two ways. Either the Government have power to stop these things, or one believes in the free negotiating medium to produce the given results. Which way does the Tory Party want to play it?