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

That will not do. I still want the answer. Either the Government intervene by statutory or other methods or they must leave industry completely uninhibited to determine wage and price increases. Which way is the right hon. Gentleman going? He has told us that the Government are to be indicted be- cause these increases are producing inflationary pressure. I asked him what he would do, and he has not given the answer. The Opposition are trying to cash in on a situation, for which they, more than the Government, are responsible, in order to curry favour.

I am not convinced of the need for the marriage of the N.B.P.I. and the Monopolies Commission. I could better understand the bringing together of the Industrial Reorganisation Commission, whose work I admire, and the Monopolies Commission. The work of those two bodies fuses more readily than the work of the Monopolies Commission and the N.B.P.I. As an unrepentant believer in the prices and incomes policy, I feel that, when this marriage is consummated, the N.B.P.I. may take on the appearance of a victim of assault and battery.

At least half the functions of the N.B.P.I. have already passed into the realm of the theoretical. I find it difficult to understand why, when the Government have renounced their own power to regulate incomes to productivity, they should now accept responsibility for price increases over which they have no control. I do not want the new creation to be discredited. It is in the interests of the nation that it should have authority and that its reports should be accepted by knowledgeable people, but in conditions where incomes increases are unrestricted, the Commission can only rubber stamp the vast majority of price increases which are referred to it. In those conditions, I do not think that the new Commission stands as much chance as the N.B.P.I. stood of having its reports accepted by a cross-section of the community as fair and objective.

It is interesting to watch the gyrations of the Leader of the Opposition. On one day we heard cries of ersatz indignation about the incomes explosion, which was precipitated by his own actions. The Government lost the prices and incomes battle. The leadership in that battle came from the Opposition—let us give them credit for winning it. The Opposition won that battle, and made it possible for what they describe as an explosion of increases in incomes to occur. On the following day we hear from the Leader of the Opposition equally loud cries of criticism of the Government about the price increases which his own policies have made inevitable. Hypocrisy cannot go much further than that. I never understood what Disraeli meant when he said— For me, there remains this at least, the opportunity of expressing thus publicly my belief that a Conservative Government is an organised hypocrisy. I have now learnt precisely what he meant. What could be better described as organised hypocrisy than a party, which looks upon itself as the alternative Government, and which has helped to produce a certain amount of anarchy in industrial circles, bemoaning the fact that it won the battle against the Government?

Instead of the Government saying, "We know that there are price increases and we will try to contain them by taking certain action", they should tell the nation that the price increases are due to their failure to win the incomes policy battle, the real winner of which was the Tory Party. The Tory Party must bear responsibility for all that flows from the loss of the Government's incomes policy.