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.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Kenneth Lewis Mr Kenneth Lewis , Rutland and Stamford 12:00 am, 8th April 1970

What I would call the middle band of companies is affected by the Bill. In so far as that is so, in my view it also affects indirectly smaller companies in the lower bands.

The right hon. Lady has brought the nationalised industries within the scope of the Bill. That is acceptable and is a new development. But I imagine that the powers of the individual Ministers who control the nationalised industries will be greater than the powers of the proposed Commission to deal with those industries and that there will be an escape hatch applied to them which will not apply in the private sector.

We have seen an example in recent days. Before Easter, the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications announced that the cost of the use of the telephone to the general public would be increased. The hon. Lady was challenged about the companies which would be dealt with under the Bill if it was thought that their price structure was wrong. She replied that it would deal with companies which were in a monopoly position or companies which should be able to bring down their prices because of the advantages of the increased technology behind them. This must apply to the Post Office. It is a monopoly. It has all the advantages of modern technological improvements. Instead, we are to have a swingeing increase of prices imposed by the Post Office and backed by Ministers. It is almost a mini-Budget in advance of the Budget proper next week, and it will raise £65 million from the users of the telephone services.

This Bill will simply cause an increase of interference with industry. It will not help competition. It will further restrict it. Certainly it will do nothing to keep down prices. None of the policies of this Government has been effective in doing that. Furthermore, it will have no effect on the wages front, because the wages boom has already gone through the roof.

Hon. Members opposite should find Clause 20 extremely interesting since it makes provision for the enforcement of orders by civil action. In the last few days, we have heard complaints from various trade union leaders and right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite about the policy of my right hon. and hon. Friends in connection with the trade unions. In our policy there is the possibility of civil action against unions who break the law on agreed contracts. Leaders of trade uions and hon. Gentlemen opposite have objected to it. Presumably the Government intend to delete the enforcement procedure from this Bill—or is it really true that they believe in one law for management and another for those who wield great power on the shop floor?

This Bill is a waste of time, and it is right that we on this side of the House should oppose it. It will simply add to the burdens of industry, which already has enough to do in seeking to increase its own and the country's economic success.