Local Authority Manual Workers

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7 March 1979.

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Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Keighley 12:00, 7 March 1979

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will state his policy towards the terms and conditions of employment for local authority manual workers.

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Tower Hamlets Stepney and Poplar

The Government recognised that it was right for the lower paid group of the local authority work force to receive more favourable treatment and for their longer-term position to be improved, by introducing a new and, we believe, fairer method of establishing pay, by means of an independent comparability study. These elements were embodied in the final offer made by the local authority employers on 22 February, and I am glad to say that a clear majority of the workers concerned have now accepted it.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Keighley

Does my right hon. Friend accept that hon. Members on this side of the House recognise that local authority manual workers do a vital job and have been low paid for too long? Does he also accept that this settlement represents a significant step forward and that we hope that it will go some way towards narrowing the disparity between highly paid local authority chiefs and the relatively poorly paid indians? Does he accept that this is a step forward and that the Government are making a positive contribution to the elimination of low pay?

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Tower Hamlets Stepney and Poplar

I thank my hon. Friend for his remarks about the settlement. I believe that the comparability study—which I hope will be a permanent feature in the determination of the pay of local government manual workers and, indeed, of other groups—will not only bring more fairness in the determination of the reward to those who do most important jobs, but will give a greater sense of fairness where it has been lacking.

Photo of Mr Evelyn King Mr Evelyn King , South Dorset

As the Secretary of State advocates a hierarchical system for wages and salaries, does one not arrive at the irrefutable conclusion that some people must be the lower paid? Who does he think they should be?

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Tower Hamlets Stepney and Poplar

That is a self-evident proposition. Unless one has a society in which everybody is paid exactly the same, some people must be lower paid than others. The essence of the argument has always involved the degrees of difference and disparity between people doing different jobs in the community.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , Newham North West

Can my right hon. Friend explain why he said recently that there was no more money in the kitty when, on the same day, the Prime Minister rightly said that a large grant was to be paid to the miners? If there is no more money in the kitty, how can the Secretary of State say that the comparability study will come forward with suggestions? Is not that either dishonest or not the full truth?

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Tower Hamlets Stepney and Poplar

We can express our meaning in different ways. My hon. Friend could have interpreted my remarks to mean that we felt that we had come to the proper limit of the concessions that we should make this year in relation to the lower paid. He would have been right to interpret my remarks in that way. I wanted to make that absolutely plain, because without that certain affirmation on my behalf I think that the negotiations might have dragged on longer.