National Board for Prices and Incomes

Oral Answers to Questions — Employment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th November 1970.

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Photo of Mr John Fraser Mr John Fraser , Lambeth Norwood 12:00 am, 12th November 1970

asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many references he has made to the National Board for Prices and Incomes since 16th July, 1970.

Photo of Mr John Fraser Mr John Fraser , Lambeth Norwood

Is this not a blatant admission that the Government want to do nothing about prices except to leave it to the manufacturer to increase his profit by getting as much as he can out of the housewife? Is this not a complete capitulation of any policy to reduce prices?

Photo of Mr Paul Bryan Mr Paul Bryan , Howden

Once again the right hon. Gentleman appears to have a nostalgia for policies which have failed in the past. We have respect for the National Board for Prices and Incomes for a certain amount of the work it did, but we do not regard it as a success in the rôle of keeping down prices.

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Worcestershire South

In the context of the nationalised industries, would my hon. Friend bear in mind that the previous Government referred every demand for price increases from the nationalised industries to the National Board for Prices and Incomes? In contemporary circumstances my hon. Friend is proposing that the Government, Department by Department, should deal with these demands for increased prices. May the House be told the outcome of such negotiations?

Photo of Mr Paul Bryan Mr Paul Bryan , Howden

The first illustration of our influence on prices in the nationalised industries could be given as the Post Office, where a considerable reduction was arranged by the Government.

Photo of Mr Robert Sheldon Mr Robert Sheldon , Ashton-under-Lyne

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will now make a statement on the future of the National Board for Prices and Incomes.

Photo of Mr Robert Carr Mr Robert Carr , Mitcham

I would refer the hon. Member to the statement I made on 2nd November.—[Vol. 805, c. 668.]

Photo of Mr Robert Sheldon Mr Robert Sheldon , Ashton-under-Lyne

Is it not becoming quite clear that the Government have been busy demolishing those institutions for which they will find great need? Will he state that it is not his intention to initiate a freeze on prices and incomes?

Photo of Mr Robert Carr Mr Robert Carr , Mitcham

The answer to the first part of the question is, "No, Sir", as it is also to the second part.

Photo of Mrs Barbara Castle Mrs Barbara Castle , Blackburn

Could the Minister say who will take over from the National Board for Prices and Incomes the duty of examining the problems of low pay industry by industry, case by case, a duty which under our White Paper the Labour Government gave to the Board? Could he in particular say what is happening to the three references made under this section, namely, hospital workers, contract cleaners and laundry workers, and what he will do about the reports?

Photo of Mr Robert Carr Mr Robert Carr , Mitcham

The references which were made are being completed, as I have told the House before. As for the future, so far as the need for research into general pay questions is concerned, as opposed to inquiries into specific pay claims, we shall regard this as one of the important rôles for our new Office of Manpower Economics.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Lewis Mr Kenneth Lewis , Rutland and Stamford

Nevertheless, does my right hon. Friend not agree that it is an extremely dangerous posture for any Government to take to allow wage claims to be decided by so-called independent bodies? Is it not better to have somebody looking at pay claims, if it is thought to be appropriate to look at them, at a given time so that the Government themselves are involved and can express the national point of view?

Photo of Mr Robert Carr Mr Robert Carr , Mitcham

This attempt has been made in a number of different ways over the last 10 years by successive Governments, and the further it has been pressed the less successful it has become. Everybody would agree that a policy for incomes is one of the urgent needs for this country. We believe that at the moment the best way of achieving this is to put responsibility where in the end it can only belong, namely, on those who have the job of deciding each case in each field and trusting that they will take the national interest into account.