The Government announced on 7th August last that the final stage of the salary increases recommended in 1969 for the Higher Civil Service and for Chairmen, Deputy Chairmen and members of nationalised industry boards would be implemented from 1st January, 1971.
Following this announcement, members of the judiciary were given an assurance that Orders would be laid before Parliament to increase their salaries from the same date so as to bring them into a proper relationship with the new levels for Permanent Secretaries. Orders to give effect to this undertaking have been laid today.
Increases from 1st January, 1971, have also been recommended for senior officers of the Armed Forces in Report No. 157 of the National Board for Prices and Incomes. The Government have accepted these recommendations. A number of advance copies of the Report are available in the Vote Office and others are being placed in the Library, but I regret that full distribution is being delayed until tomorrow by the strike.
I have to inform the House that senior members of all these four groups of public servants has said that they wish to follow an example set by the Lord Chief Justice, who has in the national interest offered to forgo the increase in his salary for six months until 1st July next. Members of the Higher Judiciary, Permanent Secretaries in the Civil Service and equivalent grades in the Diplomatic Service, and the Chairmen and Deputy Chairmen of the major nationalised industry boards are also ready to forgo for six months the increases in salary due to them from 1st January, 1971. Because of differences in the amounts and timing of previous salary changes, the increases recommended for senior officers in the Armed Forces are substantially larger at this point of time than those for Permanent Secretaries, but the Chief of the Defence Staff and officers of the rank of Admiral, General and Air Chief Marshal, wish to make an equivalent gesture by forgoing for six months half the increases due to them under the National Board for Prices and Incomes Report.
I am sure that the House will welcome this public-spirited action.
Is the Prime Minister aware that we on this side of the House wish to associate ourselves with the last sentence of what he has just said? Is he also aware that this is a very difficult problem and that the previous Government, following our announcement of what the amount should be, had decided to fix no date for its implementation because of the very difficulties which are no doubt now plaguing the right hon. Gentleman and that it would have been highly provocative to go on with the announcement on these questions which his Government rather rushed into in August when the House was not sitting? Is he aware that we welcome the fact that by the initiative of the four groups concerned the matter has been restored, at any rate for a further period, unlike the Government's announcement in August?
Having regard to the announcement on Friday in the debate on the Private Member's Bill of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton), how is it intended that in 'the future the salaries of these four groups will be reviewed from time to time? Will they be in a special panel, a single panel, or a series of panels of the new manpower organisation which has been announced, or has the right hon. Gentleman not yet finalised arrangements with them about the further review of salaries?
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman welcomed the action which has been taken in this case. The Government last July and August did not rush into this decision. We gave full weight to the amount of time which had elapsed while the inquiry was being made into the salaries of the higher Civil Service and the Chairmen of the nationalised boards. In view of the staging which was arranged by the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, we came to the conclusion that it would be right after a further period of six months to carry through the recommendations involved. At the same time there was the judiciary and the reference to the Prices and Incomes Board of the higher serving officers. The result is that some of those at lower levels have been able to receive the increases recommended and those who are senior have in the result made the proposal which we have accepted.
Future reviews will come under the group of review bodies being set up by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, but no detailed arrangements have yet been made as to the particular review bodies before which they will appear.
They will include the doctors. There will be a number of review panels, but we have not yet settled the different review panels which will consider the situation of these four groups of public servants.
Will the Prime Minister please consider the priorities in the submission to the new bodies of the various grades and interests concerned? Does he appreciate that Mr. Speaker is, I think, receiving less than his third Clerk, which seems rather ridiculous, and that Ministers bearing great responsibilities are getting much less than their Permanent Secretaries? Therefore, there is a general absurdity in the structure of the public services which needs looking at as a whole.
I am quite prepared to look at the point which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned. I fully recognise the anomalies which still exist, despite the efforts which have been made over the past four years to rationalise the situation so that those in comparable positions receive comparable salaries.
While I fully understand the present position, will my right hon. Friend hurry on the review which is to take place for retirement pensioners? This section of the community is undoubtedly having to put up with severe hardship and will find it difficult to understand the position unless my right hon. Friend promises a review in the very near future.
Whilst I join in the welcome given to the public spirit shown by the gentlemen concerned in agreeing to go without their salary increases for six months, does not the Prime Minister agree that such gestures are in no way a substitute for policies expected of a Government to control our economic situation? What is the significance of the six months' period until 1st July? Is it expected that our economic difficulties will be solved by then?
This was the proposal made by the Lord Chief Justice which has been followed through by four groups of civil servants. This is how the date came about. So far as their position is concerned, we must recognise that they themselves have been faced with a considerable lapse of time before the changes were made in their salaries. If the hon. and learned Gentleman wants to have a proper approach, then the review bodies will produce the answer.
I cannot give an average increase—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] To begin with, it is pointless to try to average out the figures for judges, Permanent Secretaries, Chairmen of nationalised industries and senior serving officers. There is no point in trying to give an idea; each group should be looked at on its own. If the hon. Gentleman will study the report of the N.B.P.I. he will see the details for senior officers. All the details of the Permanent Secretaries were published when we made the announcement in August and before that in the Report. In regard to judges, their position will equal that of Permanent Secretaries.
Although the House will be appreciative of the sacrifice that has been made, would the right hon. Gentleman supply us with the information as to the extent of the sacrifice, bearing in mind the commitments of the Inland Revenue? Will he relate this information to the sacrifice that has been made by the old-age pensioners in the light of increases in prices that have occurred since June?
In regard to the extent of the personal sacrifice, I can give the hon. Gentleman the broad changes which have already been announced in two instances. In regard to the Chairmen of nationalised boards the increase due to them in January is roughly £2,500 a year, for Permanent Secretaries £2,100, and for the judiciary, broadly speaking, £2,500 a year. In regard to senior serving officers, the proposal is roughly £3,000 a year, which is being halved because there was no second stage for those officers. Therefore, they have had a period of time without any increase, while permanent civil servants and some of the judiciary had previously had an increase.
Apart from the original statement made by my right hon. Friend, which everybody welcomes, would it not be wiser for us not to discuss salaries now? Would it not be wiser to have a full debate on all these matters when we have triumphed over the present disastrous strike by the electricity workers? I deprecate the time of the House being taken in this very difficult situation to discuss all sorts of details when we should be concentrating on getting rid of the economic problems and settling down to what I hope will be a more prosperous and happy future for everybody concerned.
That was the purpose of all the Government's actions, but I thought it right and appropriate, in view of the publication of the Prices and Incomes Board Report on the position of the judiciary and the offer made by the four groups of senior civil servants, that I should tell the House the situation.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he is probably right in saying that it is difficult to give an average percentage figure for all these groups because there is no easy way of combining them? But he must know the figures for the separate groups. Would he therefore give the figures as percentages for each of the four groups? Since the Government are making such an issue of percentages at the moment, will he give an assurance that in no case is the percentage more than the 10 per cent. which has been laid down by the Government?
I think that remark completely indicates the false and irresponsible nature of the right hon. Gentleman's approach. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman is dealing with the affairs of those public servants for whom he as Prime Minister only a short time ago was directly responsible. He is comparing one wage proposal made by the electricity industry of 10 per cent.—
—with awards which are being made to senior public servants which have had to be handled over a period of four years. The right hon. Gentleman knows that the electricity industry had an award of 10 per cent. last year, is now claiming 20 per cent. this year, which is completely unjustified, and has been offered 10 per cent. [Interruption.]
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Eric S. Heffer) is not going to be able to shout me down, because he is not now at a trade union meeting. The right hon. Gentleman therefore knows that the percentages are not comparable in any way at all. So far as the judiciary is concerned, the figure ranges, broadly speaking, from 25 per cent. downwards. [HON. MEMBERS: "Inflation."] This has had to be taken into account with what has been received during the past four years, because this is the period taken for all senior public servants. The same applies to the senior officers. The percentage recommended there by the N.B.P.I. is from 33 per cent. downwards. Those are the figures that have been recommended and the senior members have offered to make this sacrifice, which I am glad to say the Leader of the Opposition has welcomed.
The right hon. Gentleman must not lose his "cool" like this in the House. This is the House of Commons. He is not addressing a Commonwealth African leader. The right hon. Gentleman clearly misheard my question. I was referring to the figure of 10 per cent. announced by Ministers in public speeches long before the electricity dispute. We all know that if there has been an increase which has been deferred over a period such as two years one has to divide, roughly speaking, by two to find the annual rate. Since the right hon. Gentleman knows the percentages and knows the timing of past increases, would he now tell us the annual rate, which he must know, and say how this compares with the Government's stated figures of targets in the public sector?
The Government have stated no target figures for the public service. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] There is no point in the Leader of the Opposition holding his hands to his head because it is not going to help his head. It is his head as well as his honour that needs some attention in this matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] We knew full well what the right hon. Gentleman was doing in relation to the public servants.
On a point of order. It may be due to the noise at this end of the Chamber that we misheard the Prime Minister, but it sounded as though he had cast a reflection on the honour of the Leader of the Opposition. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman did refer specifically to my right hon. Friend's honour. If that is so, Mr. Speaker, is that not unparliamentary?
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The point of order I am concerned about involves the whole House. In the light of the Ruling you have just given, it appears that if an unparliamentary expression is used, then, providing the person to whom it is addressed accepts it, it ceases to be an unparliamentary expression. This is important in the light of the decision you have just given. Will you give a Ruling on it?
I did not give a Ruling in the terms suggested by the hon. Gentleman—that if an unparliamentary expression is used the fact that the right hon. or hon. Member to whom it is directed is gracious enough not to take notice of it means that it becomes parliamentary. I took what was said as badinage between the two Front Benches.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sorry to have to pursue this, but if an hon. Member questions the honour of another hon. Member, whether that Member is right hon. or hon., and if the modesty of the Member to whom it is addressed—[Interruption.]—I have sufficient respect for this House on issues of this kind to believe that this is important—if the attitude of the Member concerned compels him not to take offence when his honour is questioned, then surely it is implicit in your Ruling that the remark then ceases to be unparliamentary. Where do we go from here? It is a sad day for democracy when we get this sort of thing—[Interruption.]—it really is. [Interruption.]
I want to be clear about this. Is it the case that when an unparliamentary remark is made, providing the person concerned does not take exception to it, it is not an unparliamentary remark? The honour of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition was questioned and you accepted that because he did not take exception to it. With all due respect to you, I submit that you should reconsider that Ruling.
The hon. Gentleman is quite in order in asking what he has done. The fact that a right hon. Member or an hon. Member accepts an expression which the House deems unparliamentary does not automatically make that unparliamentary expression parliamentary. I did not think that the Prime Minister was impugning the honour of the Leader of the Opposition.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I appeal to my hon. Friends to accept the guidance you have given? Having regard to the Prime Minister's record over the past five or six years in this direction, both before, during and since the General Election, any insults from him are a compliment to any decent Member of this House.
On a point of order. Mr. Speaker. At the outbreak of this little exchange, the Prime Minister contradicted the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry inasmuch as he implied that the Government would apply no pressure whatever on the electricity negotiators. That is in contradiction to what the Secretary of State has suggested. Because of the outburst, we may have misunderstood the Prime Minister. Do we understand that he was saying that the Government would apply no pressure whatever to those negotiating on behalf of the Electricity Council on wage rates for electricity workers?
Is the Prime Minister aware that his announcement will breed a deep sense of resentment in the minds of retirement pensioners? Would he deem it opportune to bring in a Bill, in this season of good will, for the granting of an immediate and substantial rise for millions of retirement pensioners?
Just to clear up the whole matter and lower the temperature, would the Prime Minister give an assurance to the House and the country that, on the panels which are to review the future salaries of top civil servants and the others he has referred to electricity workers will be represented?
The panels will not be dealing with questions relating to the nationalised industries and I do not think, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman's question arises. They will deal with the Chairmen but not with the sort of negotiations being carried out by the Electricity Council.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We have heard completely contradictory statements from the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the Prime Minister. We should have a clear statement in relation to electricity supply workers, because they will draw their own conclusions from the devious answers which the Prime Minister has given to the House today.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The position is clear. The Leader of the Opposition said that the Government had issued a statement that there would be no wage increases above 10 per cent. and that this was the target. In reply to him I said that the Government had never at any time stated a target.