Fair Wages Resolution

– in the House of Commons at 4:24 pm on 16th December 1982.

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Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford 4:30 pm, 16th December 1982

I beg to move, That the Resolution of this House of 14 October 1946 relating to Fair Wages Clauses in Government contracts be rescinded as from 21 September 1983. Before discussing the fair wages resolution, I wish to deal with the quite extraordinary complaint from the Leader of the Opposition that there has been inadequate consultation on this issue. The process of consultation began more than three years so, in 1979, when the Government sought the views of interested parties by issuing a working paper.

In May of this year, six months ago, I wrote to the CBI and to the TUC indicating my intention to rescind the fair wages resolution and to denounce the related ILO convention 94. At the same time my Department asked 50 other bodies for their views, and we asked for all those comments by the end of June, five and a half months ago. The TUC replied on 5 July—a little late, but no matter—when Mr. Murray wrote saying that the General Council have now considered the proposed abolition of these measures and recorded their explicit opposition to the abolition of the fair wages resolution and the denunciation of the ILO convention. The Government considered these representations, and indicated in a written answer at the end of July, four and a half months ago, that the Government intended after the Summer Recess to denounce the convention and to invite the House to rescind the resolution. On 20 September, three months ago, we duly denounced the convention, a denunciation which hon. Members should remember can arise only during specified periods once in every 10 years.

I was therefore somewhat surprised when on 15 October the TUC wrote complaining that it had not been consulted on the denunciation, in spite of the fact that I had written to it in May, received its comments in July, publicly announced my intention to proceed later that month and had acted to denounce the convention in September. The TUC at no time asked to see me, nor did it request further time for consultation. I am at a loss to explain this sudden outburst of indignation about the lack of consultation. I suspect that at the root of this is a belief in the TUC that consultation means a right of veto. That I cannot accept.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen), the Chairman of the Select Committee on Employment—I congratulate him on his appointment as Chairman—asked for today's debate to be postponed so that his Committee could have time to inquire into this issue. His Committee had plenty of time to raise it over the past six months. Indeed, although I have enjoyed a constructive relationship with the Committee, I had not formed the impression that it had any intention of considering the matter in its future work programme.

At the end of November, I confirmed to the House by oral answer that the motion to rescind the resolution would be put to the House this Session. The motion was duly tabled on 7 December. It was only after that motion was tabled that I received a letter from the new Chairman of the Select Committee on Employment asking me to reconsider the issue before it went to the House.

I hope that the Chairman of the Committee and his colleagues will acquit me of any lack of consultation or, indeed, of any discourtesy to the Committee. I believe that the record shows that the Government have been as open and frank about their intentions as possible and have provided every opportunity for consultation by interested parties. I cannot accept the blame if any of those interested parties failed to take advantage of the opportunities that were open to them for many months. That is why the Opposition amendment on consultation is particularly spurious. The demands made are calculated to be impossible to meet.

Photo of Mr Eric Varley Mr Eric Varley , Chesterfield

The Secretary of State has given part of the story. It is true that in May last year the Minister wrote to various people asking for comments, including the TUC. As I understand the position, the TUC replied on 5 July. With the reply was attached a summary of its objections. Almost immediately after that the Secretary of State announced that he would rescind the resolution in spite of that written representation. He announced that fact to the House just before the Summer Recess.

Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that the obligation to consult under the ILO convention can be satisfied by a perfunctory exchange of correspondence? Bearing in mind that he does not have to take action on this matter before September 1983, would it not have been in his own interest, and in the interest of the House, that he should have consulted the TUC properly, not by an exchange of correspondence but by asking it to explain what it meant, bearing in mind the damaging impact this would have on industry?

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford

I find that a most curious series of remarks by the right hon. Gentleman. Later I shall refer to the Labour Government's record on consultation and on the important matter of employment legislation. He will see that I have been more than generous in the time allowed. I have heard what he has said about the exchange of letters. I do not know what he imagines I could have done other than to ask the TUC for its views, to receive its views and to consider them.

Had the TUC felt it necessary or desirable to come and see me, it need only have asked and I would have been willing to receive it. That was made plain on many occasions, but it has rarely taken advantage of that invitation.

The right hon. Gentleman cannot talk his way out of the fact that from the end of July, when my decision was announced, nothing was done by himself or his colleagues until almost the eve of this debate. They have had many months in which to take action. For them now to put down an amendment suggesting that this matter should be the subject of a consultative document to be sent to all those affected by any change in the resolution, and that the outcome of such consultation should be reported to the House before any change is proposed, is ridiculous.

Did the right hon. Gentleman mean that the document should be sent to all those affected by such a change, including every individual whose company could be involved in accepting a Government contract? That is what the amendment says. It is not my fault if the amendment does not say what it means. We must accept what is written on the Order Paper, not what the Opposition Whip chooses to mutter about it. The demands are calculated to be impossible to be met. There is no reason in logic to believe that consultations over another six months would produce anything more than we have had from the consultations over the past six months.

The only credible reason for the amendment and the Opposition's great show of indignation must be that they have realised that both the TUC and the Labour Party have dozed away for the last six months, failed to use the time available and now want to put the blame for their lethargy on me.

The Leader of the Opposition complained during last week's business questions about a lack of proper consultation. But there is another complaint—that of a very poor memory. I am surprised at just how bad it is. I am even more surprised that the right hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker), who is not normally a slouch in these matters, did not remind the right hon. Gentleman about his record, especially as they were ministerial colleagues at the Department of Employment in the Labour Government. What did they consider to be the relevant periods for consultations?

What about the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1974? No single clause Bill or resolution that! The then Labour Government published a consultative document on 22 March 1974, sought views within a fortnight, by 5 April 1974, and in less than six weeks, on 1 May 1974, presented a Bill to Parliament. It is doubtful whether the ink had dried on the consultative document. However, the TUC did not complain about that. A fortnight was enough for the TUC, and the Government thought that it was enough for everyone else.

What of the Employment Protection Act and the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Amendment) Act? That is another pair of infamous strands in the Opposition's industrial relations policy. A consultative document was published on 13 September 1974, views were sought by 1 November—six whole weeks in which to respond, predominantly over the Summer Recess—and three weeks later, on 21 November 1974, they presented a Bill to the House. One suspects that that Bill must have been drafted, ready, printed and lined up before the farce of consultation had started. The TUC did not complain then.

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford

I am willing to let the right hon. Gentleman intervene to excuse his record.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster

The right hon. Gentleman will know that the essential purpose of both the 1974 and 1976 Acts was to repeal the Industrial Relations Act 1971. During the Second Reading of the Industrial Relations Bill, as it then was, a solemn pledge was given that as soon as the Labour Party was returned to office it would wipe the Industrial Relations Act 1971 off the statute book. Three years' notice was given, and during that time almost every Labour Member campaigned throughout Britain telling the country that we would repeal the Industrial Relations Act.

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford

Three years is just about the same as the period since 1979 when the Government first started consultations on this fair wages resolution. If the right hon. Gentleman's intervention means anything at all, it is that he accepts that the period we have offered for consultation is entirely adequate on his own standards.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster

Did not the now Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, during the passage of the Employment Act 1980, assure the House and the country that the Conservative Government had exhausted their zeal for reform following the consultative paper?

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford

I am not sure. I was not in the House at the time my right hon. Friend made those remarks. However, no hon. Member should have assumed that, when my right hon. Friend referred to a step-by-step approach in industrial relations reform, he meant that he would take only one step. Indeed, it was plain from what he said in 1979 that that was not his intention.

Photo of Mr Ron Leighton Mr Ron Leighton , Newham North East

Is the right hon. Gentleman claiming that the Conservative Party clearly explained in its election manifesto that it would abolish the fair wages resolution?

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford

I am saying that there has been no lack of time for consultation on this issue, and that that consultation was initiated when the Government came to office. The question now at issue is whether the consultation period has been adequate. I have demonstrated that in every conceivable manner the time for consultation has not only been adequate but more generous than the time allotted by the Labour Government in respect of highly contentious legislation.

My hon. Friend the Minister of State has just passed me a piece of paper which reminds me that in May 1980 the hon. Member for Islington, Central (Mr. Grant) was told by the then Under-Secretary of State in a written reply: The Government will be reviewing the Fair Wages Resolution in the light of debate on clause 18(c) of the Employment Bill, which proposes to repeal schedule 11 to the Employment Protection Act 1975. A statement will be made in due course."—[Official Report, 12 May 1980; Vol. 984, c. 299.]

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster

But he took no further action.

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford

On the contrary, no such undertaking has ever been given, and the right hon. Gentleman knows that that is so. On 26 January 1981, a similar reply was given by my hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Employment. Therefore, there is nothing of merit in this fandango of indignation about lack of consultation.

Photo of Mr John Grant Mr John Grant , Islington Central

I am sure that all these dates are of some importance, but it is difficult to see how important they will be to the low-paid workers who will be affected by today's action. Will the right hon. Gentleman give a clear-cut assurance that what he is now proposing is not the forerunner of an all-out attack on the wages council system and that it does not herald an attempt by the Government to abolish that system?

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford

I felt that I should first deal with consultation. I cannot give the hon. Gentleman such an undertaking. This matter is a long way off in any case, because it would not be possible to renounce the convention relating to wages councils until 1985. It would better if we considered such matters a little nearer the date. I assure the hon. Gentleman that if we decide to make changes we shall give adequate time for consultation.

Photo of Mr James Hill Mr James Hill , Southampton, Test

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the greatest criticisms of the wages councils is that they create a form of unemployment? They can automatically gear up wages irrespective of the rate of inflation. Frankly, I have had so many complaints about the wages councils' minimum that in the short term the Government should seriously consider their abolition.

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford

I understand my hon. Friend's point, but he must not tempt me to stray from today's debate and to discuss matters that might conceivably arise at a later time.

Today, after this extensive and prolonged consultation, the House is debating a single issue—the demise of an outdated resolution that affects the employees only of those firms that perform contracts for Government Departments. When I compare the opportunity that we have given for consultation on this narrow issue with that given by the Labour Government for consideration and discussion of much wider measures, I reject not only their criticisms but their amendment.

Photo of Mr Ron Leighton Mr Ron Leighton , Newham North East

The Secretary of State says that this is a narrow issue, but does he not agree that the Government are the biggest employer?

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford

The Government are certainly the biggest single employer, but that is not by any means solely due to the contracts that they place, which is what the resolution is about. I suspect that if all local authorities were put together the hon. Member would find that they would make a much larger employer than central Government, but the resolution does not apply to local government.

The TUC and Mr. Basnett, in particular, have joined in some of these protests, and I suspect that they originated them. What Mr. Basnett wants today is just what he wanted when he fought the winter war of 1978–79 against the Labour Government—nothing more nor less than unconditional surrender.

At such moments, I have the deepest sympathy for the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) who was toppled by the winter of discontent, and for the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) and Lady Castle who were attempting to replace conflict with institutionalised consultation through the White Paper "In Place of Strife". The unions killed that and destroyed the Wilson Government along with it. So much for Mr. Basnett's ideas of "pluralistic democracy" and "agreed consensus".

The Government are happy to debate, discuss and consult, because we believe in a parliamentary democracy and the exercise of that authority in the public good. The Government will not succumb to the insatiable demand for consultation designed solely to pursue a narrow sectional interest and to frustrate the will of Parliament.

Photo of Mr David Penhaligon Mr David Penhaligon , Truro

As someone who has always been in Opposition, I know what consultation with Government means. The Minister has been speaking for 21 minutes, but he has not mentioned the motion or given a single reason or even a hint as to why he is promoting this legislation. The resolution is vital in some parts of the country, and I should appreciate a few reasons why the Minister is doing what he is.

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford

Like every other right hon. and hon. Member to whom I have given way, as I always try to do, the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon) is preventing me from getting to that point.

The resolution is the last of three such resolutions originally concerned with sweated labour conditions in the nineteenth century. In 1946 the Conservative Party supported that resolution, but one has only to read the official records of the day to see that times have changed considerably in the intervening 36 years. I took the trouble to examine the official records of the time and hon. Members may extract as much interest as I did not only from the debate but from looking at some of the written questions in the Official Report. They are concerned with such things as a request that the Government should remove the restriction which limits the number of gift food-parcels from well-wishers overseas that may be received by any one person in this country in any month."—[Official Report, 14 October 1946; Vol. 427, c. 125.] There are questions about the shortage of perambulators and the condition of utility furniture. A good deal has changed in the past 36 years.

Because of this resolution, there is a procedure concerning terms and conditions of employment which can be imposed on an employer regardless of his consent, and he is effectively bound by the outcome whether he likes it or not. While the fair wages resolution is in force, all Government contracts are required to include a standard condition calling upon a contractor to observe the terms of the resolution. These have two main components. First, contractors are required to observe terms and conditions of employment established for the trade or industry in the district by representative joint negotiating machinery or arbitration". Secondly, in the absence of such established terms, contractors must observe terms no less favourable than the general level … observed by other employers whose general circumstances in the trade or industry are similar. Questions arising under the resolution are first referred to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service for conciliation and, if this is unsuccessful, to the Central Arbitration Committee for decision. The latter's awards are not directly enforceable at law, but contractors are expected to comply with the terms of any award made.

The resolution also contains a number of other minor provisions. The most important, clause 4, provides that contractors must recognise the freedom of their work people to be members of trade unions. That general freedom to belong to a trade union has now been embodied in statute—the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978—and is not of course in any way dependent upon the continued existence of the resolution.

In addition to the resolution itself, there are four Acts that refer to it—the Housing Act 1957, the Films Act 1960, the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981 and the Independent Broadcasting Authority Act 1973. They do so in such a way that the relevant provisions would cease to have effect with the rescission of the resolution.

I earlier reminded the House that the Government undertook to review the fair wages resolution in the light of the repeal of schedule 11 to the Employment Protection Act 1975.

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford

No, we are not amending any other legislation.

The essential difference between that schedule and the fair wages resolution was one of scope—the schedule applied across the whole of industry, whereas the resolution relates only to public contracts. Otherwise they were virtually identical in principle and substance. Schedule 11, like the resolution, was an artificial mechanism through which an employer could be required to observe certain terms of conditions of employment, regardless of whether he was a party to their establishment or was in a position to provide them. The arguments that so clearly justified repeal of the schedule in 1980 apply with equal force to the resolution.

Pay and conditions of employment are matters to be determined by negotiations between the parties concerned in the light of their individual circumstances. This a cardinal principle of our system.

I understand, and my understanding is reinforced by the drawing in of breath among Members on the Opposition Front Bench, that that is no longer a principle to which the Opposition adhere. Certainly it is no longer a principle to which all the members of the SDP-Liberal alliance adhere. I understand that one wing of the alliance, led by the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins), now believes in control of these matters by law. I am told that many members of the Labour Party are what the Americans call "closet" income policy believers. They dare not quite own up to it in public, although they hint at it and go away to closed rooms to talk about it.

In our view, it is wrong to expect employers and employees to reach responsible settlements and at the same time make such settlements vulnerable to this kind of external interference. One cannot have, on the one hand, a commitment to agreed bargaining arrangements and, on the other a measure such as the resolution, which provides for third, party interference to be imposed in this way. The two are incompatible. That is not to say that arbitration arrangements can have no place in settling differences between employers and employees. They certainly can have a place where the parties concerned agree to them.

It is sometimes said that the resolution is important as a means of underpinning sound industry-wide agreements, which is a very curious argument. Realistic and sensible agreements need no crutches or other artificial means of support. Agreements should stand on their own merits. There is no case for imposing any agreement on those who are not parties to them and who may have very different circumstances. A pay level which takes account of the productivity, efficiency, profitability, market prospects and investment of one firm may be totally inappropriate to the circumstances of another firm. The fact that they make the same product is an irrelevant argument, Abitrarily to impose common pay levels in such circumstances as the application of the resolution does serves only to impede competitiveness and destroy jobs.

The resolution procedure can cause harm in other ways. Existing pay structures may be undermined in the firms affected by an award. Awards under the resolution are made in respect of specific categories of workers, without regard to the effect this has on the overall pay structure of the firm or industry concerned. This can produce distortions which lead to pressure from other groups, in the same or even different negotiating structures, for increases to maintain differentials or other relativities. In seeking to resolve one particular issue, awards imposed by an external agency tend to create additional problems.

Photo of Mr Keith Best Mr Keith Best , Anglesey

I am trying to discover exactly why Opposition Members are so concerned about the rescission of the resolution. No doubt we shall hear about that. Perhaps my right hon. Friend can help me. Is it not a fact that an award made by the Central Arbitration Committee is not enforceable at law? Even if someone has a matter referred to the CAC and it is resolved to his satisfaction, he still does not have legal redress. The only redress is where there is a proper contract for wages or services, as my right Friend said.

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford

My hon. Friend is right. When the resolution is still in force it would be curious if the Government continued to make contracts with a company that behaved in that way.

As I was saying, all that underlines a simple, basic fact of life. Employers and employees should take the responsibility for their own decisions, including their financial consequences.

It is claimed that the resolution ensures fair wages for the low paid. The questions that must be asked are: Does it do so in practice? Does it achieve its objective of protecting the low paid?

From 1946 to 1975 65 claims were made under the fair wages resolution, of which 13—less than one every two years on average—were found to be justified in whole or in part. That handful of cases hardly suggests that the resolution was standing between the oppressed masses and the poverty line during that period.

Photo of Mr James Craigen Mr James Craigen , Glasgow Maryhill

If it is so irrelevant, why spend all this time proposing the abolition of the fair wages resolution?

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford

I would have been willing to arrange for the debate to be conducted for an hour after 10 o'clock or for half a day, but the hon. Gentleman's colleagues seemed to think that this was a matter for more fuss.

Photo of Mr James Craigen Mr James Craigen , Glasgow Maryhill

I am sorry. What I meant was, why should the Government bother to bring the motion before the House?

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford

Because, as I shall go on to show, not only was the resolution ineffective in doing what it set out to do, but in some cases it was extremely damaging in upsetting other differentials and other negotiating systems.

Photo of Mr John Grant Mr John Grant , Islington Central

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the small number of claims. However, he is not taking into account the deterrent value. There is no way of measuring that. The suggestion is that it was considerable over the years.

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford

I shall come to that point.

Between 1976 and 1979 there was a sudden upsurge in claims to a peak of 570 claims in 1978. Let me hasten to remind the House that I am unwilling to accept any responsibility for the oppression of the low paid during that period. I am not sure whether the Opposition, with their new-found commitment to wage controls, remember that that vast upsurge in claims was a direct result of various incomes policies pursued during those years. Since the Government have restored greater responsibility towards wage negotiations, the House will be pleased to know that the number of claims established in whole or in part under the fair wages resolution has fallen to 10 in 1980, four in 1981 and five so far in 1982.

Therefore, can anyone claim that the resolution has protected the low paid? Again, the answer must be "No". More than 95 per cent. of all claims submitted under the resolution are from major unions such as the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers, the Association of Professional, Executive, Clerical and Computer Staff and the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs, on behalf of their members in the engineering, shipbuilding and aerospace industries which are not, to my knowledge, traditionally associated with sweated labour.

Two matters in particular concern me about the claims that are made under the resolution. A substantial proportion of the claims presented by unions have nothing to do with low pay. Typical of the claims presented in the past two years are those on behalf of engineers at British Aerospace, then earning between £6,000 and £9,000 a year, staff employees at Rolls-Royce, then earning between £5,600 and £6,700 a year, technical staff at Airtech Limited, then earning between £7,300 and £8,500 a year, and foremen and superintendents at Dunlop, earning between £8,000 and £8,850 a year. Those claims under the resolution do not seem to have much to do with the low-paid. In fact, the low-paid are being used as a battering ram for the benefit of powerfully organised and quite well-paid workers.

The second point that causes me particular concern is that, when claims under the resolution are implemented at lower levels of pay, often the result is to promote redundancies. I know that the Opposition do not like to hear such things, but the direct result of pay awards under the resolution over the past two years has often been to price the poorest-paid out of a job altogether. In the light of that evidence—

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford

The evidence is in the appalling number of people, particularly the low-paid, who have been forced out of work in recent years following the wage explosion. The hon. Gentleman is among those who are keen to point out the loss of competitiveness in British industry.

In the light of that evidence, it is clear that, whatever the merits of the immediate post-war era or the nineteenth century, the resolution's time has now passed. It does not offer salvation to the low-paid and it does nothing to help Britain compete with other countries or to help those without a wage packet to achieve one. Therefore, we are asking the House to rescind the resolution and we have denounced the related International Labour Organisation convention.

Let me remind the House that only 51 countries have ratified the convention, and 95 have not done so because they have had too much sense to get involved. Among our major competitors that have not ratified are the United States of America, West Germany, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Portugal, Greece and Luxembourg. In few of those countries are wages lower than in Britain. Lest Opposition Members feel no sympathy with the views of Western capitalist countries, let me remind them that the entire Eastern bloc has failed to ratify the convention, though to be fair that has not of itself led to workers' paradises in those countries.

There is one area of genuine difference between the Government and Opposition[Interruption.] I believe in making the case fair and putting the arguments on both sides. We believe in doing away with artificial controls and barriers because they are usually counter-productive. In the end, they do not protect those they are intended to protect. They often do positive damage. That is our view. The Opposition genuinely disagree because they see the way forward as being through planning agreements, bureaucratic controls and Government direction. I recognise that genuine conviction. I disagree with it. It is that fundamental disagreement that separates us on the fair wages resolution.

The Leader of the Opposition has been remarkably frank about the society that he would like to build. Perhaps I can best explain why we oppose the resolution by explaining why we disagree with his objectives. He was asked recently in an American interview that was reported in The Guardian what example he took as a model for his desired society. He replied: the best example that I have seen of democratic socialism operating in this country was during the Second World War. Since then the right hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) has joined the Second World War nostalgia club by saying that if the Labour Party wins the next general election it will place the country on a war time footing, as the Walthamstow Guardian reported on 10 December.

Photo of Mr Ron Leighton Mr Ron Leighton , Newham North East

What has the Walthamstow Guardian got to do with my right hon. Friend?

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford

Presumably the right hon. Gentleman wanted a return to war time conditions. I do not share his view or that of the Leader of the Opposition about the Second World War being the golden age of British Socialism. Then prices and wages were controlled by law, strikes were forbidden by law, strikers were imprisoned, food was rationed by law and conscription and direction of labour were imposed by law. It is not difficult to see why there was little unemployment. There was rigid State control and intervention in a way that satisfies the Leader of the Opposition, but it is not a way of life that Conservative Members would support or which the country would tolerate outside war time.

Of course, the resolution is but a small part of bureaucratic interventionism and I do not pretend that on its own it imperils individual freedom and liberty in this country; but nor does it protect the low-paid. It is part of an old-fashioned State apparatus which can no longer be justified on economic or social grounds. That is why we propose its rescission.

If the House approves the motion, the resolution will remain in force until 21 September 1983. From that date the Government will stop including fair wages clauses in any new contract they let and will release their contractors from any such obligations in contracts existing at that time.

I am aware that the resolution is a traditional piece of the furniture, of considerable age and ancestry, but it was passed in times different from the present. It has become increasingly irrelevant.

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford

There is no place today for such measures which originated in—

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to make his speech.

The measure originated in an entirely laudable effort to deal with the problems of the nineteenth century and the early post-war era. Changing circumstances have rendered the resolution an anachronism. At best, it is a diversion from the real problems of today; at worst, it gives rise to abuse, not least by its use for the benefit not of the low-paid but of the higher-paid. It is high time it went.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster 5:11 pm, 16th December 1982

I beg to move, as an amendment to the proposed motion, to leave out from 'be' to the end and to add 'the subject of a Consultative Document which shall be sent to all those affected by any change in the Resolution and the outcome of such consultations shall be reported to this House before any further change is proposed.' The Secretary of State's speech was true to style—thin in argument, strong in abuse, bereft of intellect and full of characteristic union bashing. It confirms what I have long suspected, which is that the right hon. Gentleman is the nastiest thing that has happened to Christmas since Scrooge.

I propose to comment immediately on the way in which the Secretary of State has proceeded in these matters and, in particular, on his denunciation of the ILO convention. The spirit, intention and form of ILO convention 94 is that Governments, and those who carry out contracts for Governments, should behave like good employers. Not only have successive United Kingdom Governments accepted that principle since the convention was established in 1949, but the crucial words of article 2 of the convention are lifted straight from our own fair wages resolution, which reflects the United Kingdom's lead in providing decent terms and conditions of employment. It is that principle—that the Government should set an example as good employers—that has been rejected by the Government by their denunciation of the convention.

In denouncing that convention, the Secretary of State seems to have chosen to ignore another. What does the ILO mean by consultation? It is set out in convention 144 and by the tripartite committee of experts who elaborated on convention 144. It imposes an obligation on member Governments to carry out effective consultations. The hon. Member for Torquay—[HON. MEMBERS: "Folkestone and Hythe".]—The hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Sir A. Costain) appears to find these matters amusing. Doubtless he finds them amusing from his position as a building employer and as someone connected with one of the principal firms in the building industry. I hope that he will still be in his place when I refer to the views of the building industry.

Photo of Sir Albert Costain Sir Albert Costain , Folkestone and Hythe

I was laughing because the right hon. Gentleman confused my constituency.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster

I apologise if I referred to the wrong constituency, but the hon. Gentleman was laughing before I mentioned it. No doubt it is some swish place down in the South where people do not worry about those affected by the fair wages resolution.

Convention 144 imposes an obligation on member Governments to carry out effective consultation with employers and workers' organisations before the denunciation of conventions. The ILO believes that consultations are not only compulsory but that if the procedure is not to be a mere formality they must be carried out before the measure is decided upon, and that those organisations must be able to have some influence on the decision.

The ILO believes that consultations must be conducted in a way that will enable workers' organisations to have some influence on the decision to be taken. I ask the House to consider whether the description of events given by the Secretary of State this afternoon begins to measure up to the requirements of the ILO.

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford

I assure the right hon. Gentleman that the actions that I took were ample to allow the TUC to have a useful say. Whether what it said was useful is a matter of judgment.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to say a little more before he intervenes again.

The Secretary of State wrote to the TUC on 25 May saying that the Government had it in mind to propose to the House of Commons that the fair wages resolution should be set aside, and that before finally settling on such a course he would like the views of the TUC before the end of June. That time scale not only seemed needlessly hasty, as we have had the resolution for the best part of a century, but ignores the obligations on the TUC to consult its many affiliates. As the Secretary of State reminded us, the TUC replied at the beginning of July and not only categorically rejected the Government's proposals but set out a detailed and powerful argument in support of its view. There is no evidence that that submission has been seriously considered by the Government.

In his letter of 25 May the Secretary of State made the point that repeal of the fair wages resolution and denunciation of the ILO convention clearly need to be considered simultaneously", thus implying that any action on the convention would have to go hand in hand with the decision of the House on the fair wages resolution. What happened was that on the first day that he could possibly do so—20 September—without waiting for the views of the House—indeed, while the House was in recess—and without further consultation or advance notice, the Secretary of State informed the ILO that the United Kingdom Government were selling out the low-paid by denouncing the convention. Thus, at a stroke, the right hon. Gentleman pre-empted the parliamentary debate, apparently confident and sure that the Whips today would be able to count on the puppets on the Government Benches to endorse what he had established as a fait accompli. The Secretary of State has demonstrated not only his cynicism towards consultation, with his attitude of "Tell them what you are going to do and then do it", but his contempt for the House and for its Members. I believe that the House should tonight reject the farce and mockery in which the Secretary of State is indulging and tell him to go back to the starting gate and seek to do these things properly and decently.

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford

The right hon. Gentleman is misinformed. If the House decided tonight that it wished to maintain the resolution, the fact that we had denounced the convention would not prevent the House from coming to that conclusion. What we cannot do is come to the conclusion that the fair wages resolution is rescinded while we are still party to the convention.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster

That is a convoluted argument. The sensible and logical way for the Secretary of State to proceed in these matters is to hear the views of right hon. and hon. Members before denouncing the ILO convention, and then to formulate his attitude toward the convention in the light of the debate and in the light of the decision and vote of the House. The Secretary of State has anticipated and pre-empted our debate. He has already acted. He has ignored the views of the House on the ILO convention.

I shall now deal with the motion.

The story behind this Clause —the fair wages resolution— is interesting and, today, almost incredible, because there was a time when the Treasury forced so stringent an economy upon Departments that it was the Departments which were seeking always to find the little undercutting employer as a contractor. It was the Treasury Bench, the people inside the Treasury, who were always scraping to see whether they could obtain some small advantage by placing their contracts at some slightly lower price with second or third rate contractors. Therefore this Clause was the protector, certainly of the standard of living of the workers, but also of the standards of competence and honour of industry as a whole."—[Official Report, 14 October 1946; Vol. 427, c. 632–33.] Those words were uttered by Mr. Harold Macmillan when he stood at the Dispatch Box on 14 October 1946 and spoke for the Conservative Party. When one contrasts that—and particularly the last sentence—with the words and actions of the Secretary of State today, one realises the extent of the moral degeneration in the standards of the Conservative Party.

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford

I promise not to intervene again in the right hon. Gentleman's speech, but would he like to quote and stand by—to avoid a charge of moral degeneration in the Labour Party—the words of Clement Attlee, Aneurin Bevan or Hugh Gaitskell on the issue of unilateral disarmament? If he wants to stick by the words of 30 years ago, he should stick by all of them.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster

I shall not give way again to the Secretary of State. If that is the best argument that he can advance, we should divide the House immediately. If that is the best argument that Conservative Members can advance, they should go into the Lobby now. The Secretary of State's attitude only confirms that the right hon. Gentleman is the nastiest thing that has happened to Christmas since Scrooge.

On previous occasions I have told the House that the Government's declared step-by-step approach to industrial relations—to which the right hon. Gentleman referred—was not merely a casual, off-the-cuff piece of rhetoric but was a deliberate, calculated and cynical policy of attacking the hard-won rights of working people, of weakening the trade unions and of undermining collective bargaining. The Government's motion is the latest, but I fear not the last, step in a process that has continued unabated since the Conservative Party took office.

Not for the first time in our debates on such matters we are today reflecting the views not only of the workers who are being oppressed by the Government, of the trade unions that are unanimous in denouncing the Government on this issue but of many employers. For example, I understand that employers in the construction industry are utterly opposed to the rescission of the fair wages resolution. They know the enormous damage that can be done to industrial relations, that the fair wages resolution provides a mechanism for resolving conflicts without resorting to industrial action and that the House may today be unleashing a dog-eat-dog struggle between firms that are fighting for contracts by seeing who can drive down wages the furthest.

Responsible employers will be driven out of business by their less scrupulous competitors, who will exploit the millions in the dole queue who are hungry for a job at almost any price. Alternatively, those same employers will be driven to attempt to worsen the terms and conditions of their workers. That is the Secretary of State's intention, and it came through in his speech. Perhaps the Minister will clarify the position at the conclusion of the debate. Perhaps he will tell us what the Secretary of State intends to do to prevent that from happening.

I have no intention of taking the time of the House to describe the resolution's history. It is sufficient to say that for the best part of a century the House has unanimously thought it right that Governments, and those carrying out contracts on behalf of them, should behave as good employers. They should behave, not, as Mr. Macmillan reminded the House in 1946, as the best employers, but as employers who conform to the best established traditions of private industry. In practice that has meant conforming to what has been established as a result of collective bargaining between employers and the trade unions. In a sense, that has provided a buttress for collective bargaining, because it has meant that employers could enter into meaningful negotiations, assured that whatever agreement was reached was unlikely to be undermined by unscrupulous employers who had little or no concern for the well-being of the workers.

The House is invited to throw all that away, and it will throw it away if it supports the Secretary of State. The whole concept of collective bargaining—not only in the public sector, because there will inevitably be repercussions in the private sector—will be jeopardised. A new and much worse industrial relations environment is bound to develop quickly. None of us will gain from ii and the principal losers will inevitably be those who already have the least—the low-paid.

There is no doubt that the hardest hit will be women and the ethnic minorities, whose numbers are disproportionately high in the ranks of the low-paid. What arguments have been advanced by Ministers for abandoning what Mr. Macmillan described as the protector, certainly of the standard of living of the workers, but also of the standards of competence and honour of industry as a whole."—[Official Report, 14 October 1946; Vol. 427, c. 632–33.] Perhaps I should add "and the standards and honour of the House."

During the recess the Minister was apparently kept busy signing a fairly standard form of letter, which said, among other things: The Resolution has existed for nearly a century during which collective bargaining has become widespread. The Government believes that pay and conditions should be a matter for mutual agreement between employers and employees or their representatives, and not subject to interference by third parties. So far, so good. I should not want to challenge that, although I wonder whether the Secretary of State can say—hand on heart and without blushing—that the Government have not acted as an interventionist third party in pay negotiations and settlements.

The Minister then made the incredible assertion that Abolition of the Resolution is wholly consistent with this approach, and reflects the growth of collective bargaining. Anyone who was ignorant of the Government's record could be forgiven for believing that those words implied a belief in and support for the principle of collective bargaining. However, the House knows that the Government have introduced measure upon measure designed to weaken and undermine collective bargaining.

Today's motion is equally deliberately designed to carry that process a dramatic stage further. In case it is assumed that I am expressing a personal and subjective view, I shall quote from a letter that I received only yesterday. It states: The Fair Wages Resolution has played a major part in helping to underpin the industry's Working Rule Agreement, contrary to the Department of Employment's stated view that the Resolution weakens collective agreements. That statement comes not from some obscure and minor trade organisation, or from a trade union, but is the considered view of the National Federation of Building Trades Employers—the authentic voice of one of the largest industries in the land.

The letter goes on to say: We are apprehensive that the rescindment of the Resolution could result in this Agreement"— the industry's working rule agreement— being less widely observed, and we feel that this could well lead to a significant increase in the number of disputes within the industry … while these possible adverse effects of the rescindment of the Resolution would fall in the first place on building employers, any deterioration in our industrial relations position would also be contrary to the interests of the industry's clients and could well lead to higher building costs. The letter concludes by saying: The House should be left in no doubt that the building industry does not support the total rescindment of the resolution. The Electrical Contractors Association is also a large employers' organisation. It wrote: The repeal of the resolution could not only mean an extension of the 'lump system' and 'moonlighting', but also result in a loss of tax and National Insurance contributions. Recruitment of young people and organised training would cease and, ultimately, recognised safety standards would diminish … We are convinced that these proposed changes will not only be to the detriment of a well-organised industry which provides considerable benefits to its employees and clients, but is against the national interest. In their own defence, the Government say in letters and speeches that the resolution is an outdated measure. The Secretary of State said it today in defence of the motion. If three decades or more render it obsolete, where does that put the New Testament? No doubt the Secretary of State would like to use that argument to reverse the repeal of the Combination Acts, were it not for the fact that they are even older.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Central Fife

Perhaps that will happen in the next Parliament.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster

Let us not put ideas into the Secretary of State's head, but, step by step, he might take us down that road.

The Government say that the measure is little used. The Secretary of State gave us some idea of the criteria that the Government use in that assessment. The Low Pay Unit's figures are a little different from the Secretary of State's, but I am prepared to accept his. The unit says that only 16 cases went before the Central Arbitration Committee in 1981 and that there were 25 in 1980. The unit contrasts that figure with 673 cases between 1976 and 1979. The argument that a law or policy that has been determined by Parliament is little used is the type of absurd argument that might lead the Secretary of State to believe that a small number of prosecutions for driving on the wrong side of the road constitutes a good argument for abandoning the statutory requirement for driving on the left of the road.

The House has always understood that the presence of a law is deemed to have a beneficial influence on behaviour. Schedule 11 to the Employment Protection Act 1975 gave a right of redress when an employer did not recognise observed terms of conditions of employment. Unlike that, the resolution is intended to prevent a wrong from being perpetrated in the first place. It is intended to prevent an employer from winning a contract unless he is prepared to commit himself to behave decently towards his employees. If the resolution had been applied properly by successive Governments, there would have been no cases.

If the resolution is outmoded, little used and of such small relevance, why are we debating it? Why do we not just let it wither away? It is important in the framework of the Secretary of State's philosophy. It is important to the interests that I have mentioned and to many other people who have expressed their anxieties to the Secretary of State. The right hon. Gentleman did not refer to them.

In his letter the Minister of State said that the weight of argument in the representations they"— the Government— received was insufficient to persuade the Government that the Resolution should be retained in the face of strong arguments for its abolition. I recently tabled a written question to the Secretary of State asking him to list the representations that had been made to him, both for and against rescindment of the resolution. The reply merely listed the organisations that had made representations. The right hon. Gentleman declined to say on which side of the argument they stood. Therefore, I had to do some research myself.

The right hon. Gentleman said that 38 organisations had made representations. I managed to contact 22 of them. Of those 22, only two favour the motion. Those involved were major concerns, such as the Confederation of British Industry, the National Federation of Building Trade Employers, the Electrical Contractors Association, the Association of Metropolitan Authorities and the Association of District Councils. None of them shares the Secretary of State's view. So who are the people whose voice he reflects? I shall not go through the whole list.

I was unable to contact the Bournemouth chamber of trade. I hope that I am not being unfair to it, but I am prepared to assume that it is on the right hon. Gentleman"s side. I was also unable to contact the journal for the tyre industry. It may also be on the right hon. Gentleman's side. However, the 22 that I managed to contact represent some of the largest organisations, including principal employers' organisations. Precious few of them share the Secretary of State's view.

Photo of Mr John Townend Mr John Townend , Bridlington

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that many of those organisations have a vested interest and that often the trade associations are run by large firms that are frightened of competition from smaller ones?

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster

I am prepared to accept that some of those organisations have a vested interest. Let us consider, for example, the Association of British Dental Surgery Assistants. With reference to the low pay of its members, it said: Without some fair wages legislation in general terms, or in specific terms within the National Health Service Act to cover dental surgery assistants, it is likely that a considerable number of dentist employers may not observe the pay scale agreed by their own professional organisation and which is incorporated in their NHS fees provided by public funds In other words, it fears that its bosses—the dentists—will snitch away the money which the NHS is forking out for the surgery assistants. Of course those people have a vested interest, and the House has a responsibility to recognise and reflect that interest.

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Barkston Ash

The right hon. Gentleman has been good enough to quote from letters that I have been sending out. He has also been doing some research and has told us about the reports that he has received. Perhaps he would be kind enough to tell us whether he has been in touch with the Engineering Employers Federation, the Institute of Directors, British Shipbuilders, the British Institute of Management, the Association of Independent Businesses, the National Chamber of Trade, the Shiprepairers and Shipbuilders Independent Association, the Association of Independent Radio Contractors Ltd., the Housing Corporation. I could go on.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster

I could extend that list. If you, Mr. Speaker, and the Minister would like me to do so, I shall. I said that I had contacted 22 bodies and that 20 of them did not share the Secretary of State's view. Understandably, the Minister of State has chosen one of the two who agreed—the Engineering Employers Federation.

The right hon. Gentleman also mentioned the British Institute of Management. It is not in favour of the motion. It is divided. It told me on the telephone recently that it would prefer, not the rescindment, but the amendment of the resolution. That is different from what the Minister of State suggests. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman has not been listening properly to the views that have been expressed. Perhaps the Minister and the Secretary of State have not listened at all.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster

No, I have given way a great deal. No one can complain that I have been reluctant to give way.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster

Very well. I shall give way to the right hon. Gentleman who wishes to flourish a letter.

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Barkston Ash

The final result from the British Institute of Management, which the right hon. Gentleman said was divided, is that the majority recommend repeal.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster

We are now getting information from the right hon. Gentleman. The day before yesterday the institute told me on the telephone that its members were divided on the issue.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Central Fife

In view of the provocation that my right hon. Friend has had from the Government Front Bench, will he now spell out in great detail the number and the names of the organisations that oppose the Government's policy on this matter?

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster

Better than that, why does not the Secretary of State do what I asked him to do in my written question? Why does he not fulfil his duty to the House? When right hon. and hon. Members legitimately ask for information that the Department has, why does it not publish that information in the Official Report? When I was a Minister, I always thought that the convention was that if information was available to the Department, it should be provided if asked for by a right hon. or hon. Member. Is the Secretary of State now suggesting that I am misleading the House?

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, a good deal of information in the possession of the Department of Employment has been given by people who do not necessarily wish it to be released to others.

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford

The hon. Gentleman may say that it is rubbish, but if the right hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker) goes back over his own record at the Department—if he does not do so, I may—he will find that on a number of occasions he declined to answer questions on similar grounds.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster

Of course, there are times when people and organisations inform Ministers and Departments in confidence and before publishing their views the Minister would quite properly have to seek their approval. In this case, however, as the Minister has given the names of the organisations he must have known that we would seek to discover by our own means what they had said. He should certainly have expected these questions to be asked. The whole House requires the answers. Who said what? If the Secretary of State says that he is acting in the light of representations, we are entitled to know who made what representations. He cannot invoke in defence respondents who are not prepared to have their views put on public record. If the views were given in confidence, the Minister cannot invoke them in aid.

If the Minister had given me the information in the first place, it would not have been necessary for me to try to get it by my own devices. I did not have time to consult all the organisations, but of the 22 that it was able to contact 20 said that they did not share the Secretary of State's view and did not support the motion.

Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull Central

It might be of service to the House if my right hon. Friend would read out the 22 names that he has and tell us the replies. He could then read out the rest of the names and the Minister could state "Yes", "No" or "Divided". We would then have a clear picture and we could get on with the debate.

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

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. With great respect, is it not the Chair's job to try to safeguard the time of the House? If Ministers and Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen wish to quote Government documents, will you direct that all that information should be laid on the Table and placed in the Official Report so that no time is wasted and we are all apprised of the facts?

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his help. I do not know whether the Minister or the right hon. Gentleman intends to persist in this argument, but a large number of Members wish to take part in the debate and if long speeches are made from the Front Benches it will not be possible for all hon. Members to be called.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster

I take the point, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The organisations are listed in a written answer in the Official Report of 13 December. I shall be more than happy to tell my hon. Friends the names of the 22 that I contacted.

The Minister has been less than honest with the House.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster

The Minister advances arguments based on representations that he is not prepared to disclose to the House.

I wish to refer briefly to a related matter and to apologise to the Secretary of State. An early-day motion appears on today's Order Paper signed by 89 of my right hon. and hon. Friends, denouncing the Secretary of State for not making available information that is in his office and is relevant to the debate. I refer to the levels of statutory minimum remuneration in each of the wages councils industries. The Secretary of State referred me to the Library to do my own research. In private conversation today, however, he reminded me that he no longer has statutory responsibility for signing wages councils orders. To that extent, I apologise to him and to the House. Nevertheless, that in no way diminishes the substance of my case against him—that he has information within the Department which should be made available to all hon. Members but has refused to disclose it. It would have been highly relevant to the debate to know the rates of payment in the 50 or so industries covered by wages councils.

The only other defence advanced by the Minister of State in his letter was that the Resolution only applies to Government contracts, and Government Departments will of course continue to act responsibly in placing contracts". Will they indeed? What about the placing of subcontracts? Who will monitor them? If the same standards of behaviour are to apply whatever the decision today, why should we get rid of the resolution? Who is the Minister trying to mislead? If contracts are to be placed with the same sense of responsibility as they are now, there is no purpose in the motion.

I understand that all local authority contracts contain a fair wages clause. If the House approves the Secretary of State's motion, what will be the position of local authorities if they continue to insist on including such a clause? Will they fall foul of the Secretary of State for the Environment and expose themselves to penalties if they insist on behaving like decent employers and not choosing the lowest undercutting contractor?

I quote again from the speech of Mr. Harold Macmillan in 1946: For the moment, therefore, this Clause is not very important, but the time may come when the bubble is broken, when we shall have some new economy drive—originating, no doubt, from the Bench on which the right hon. Gentleman sits since that is the usual tradition—with the Treasury trying to cut down the expenditure of Departments by forcing them to take contracts brought down somehow or another to the lowest possible figure. When that happens this Motion … will no doubt be, as it was intended to be by those who framed it 40 years ago, once again the great protection of the standard of life of the mass of the wage earning classes and of the long built up traditions of cooperation between industry, both from the employing and from the working side. How prophetic that was. Those few sentences give a greater insight into the Government's real purpose than any of the deceptive and misleading nonsense in letters from the Minister of State or in the speech that we had to listen to today. Of course the Treasury is applying the pressures that Mr. Macmillan forecast and chopping the budgets of Departments. We have had interminable debates about such cuts. The real background to today's debate is exactly that, not the pseudo nonsense that we have heard so far. The House is being asked to kill off what an outstanding and distinguished former Conservative Prime Minister described as the great protection of the standard of life of the mass of the wage earning classes".—[Official Report, 14 October 1946; Vol. 427, c. 633.] That is what today's vote will be about. Whatever else the repeal is intended to achieve, an important part of the Government's purpose is to open the public sector to private contractors without regard to scruples.

The Secretary of State for Social Services is on record as saying: We remain committed to more contracting out where that saves the NHS money."—[Official Report, 13 July 1982; Vol. 27, c. 839.] Already the Health Service has significantly increased the contracting out of cleaning, laundering and catering services. Other Government Departments have followed suit. Local authorities are being subjected to pressure to get them to use private contractors for refuse collection, building maintenance, printing, street cleaning and so on. Public sector employees will be made redundant to open the way for private contractors who, by exploiting the hunger of the dole queue, will undercut the rates established by the collective bargaining to which the Secretary of State pays lip service but constantly seeks to destroy.

Photo of Mr Michael Colvin Mr Michael Colvin , Bristol North West

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster

If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I will not give way. I have already given way a great deal.

We have seen symptoms of the next step on the road with the threatened attack on wages councils. The process is already under way with the swingeing cuts in the inspectorate of the wages councils. The Secretary of State talked glibly about people pricing themselves into jobs. He really means that they should price their mates out of jobs. As the number of jobs falls and the number of jobless continues to rise, the policies that he is pursuing can only set worker against worker. No doubt that is one of the results that he hopes to achieve.

The abolition of the fair wages resolution will lead, inevitably, to many of the most vulnerable workers being without protection against unscrupulous employers. It will put pressure on good employers to behave like bad ones. It will unleash a wave of competitiveness based not on design, quality, price or service but on the cutting of the living standards of working people. Not least, it will do untold harm to industrial relations and the collective bargaining institutions that have been built up painstakingly over many years. If the motion is carried the country will learn the hard way that the repeal of the fair wages resolution can only recreate the circumstances and conditions which made it necessary in the first place.

I ask the House to contrast the dignity, honour and compassion with which Mr. Harold Macmillan approached the subject in 1946 with the cynical, callous and squalid attitude of the Secretary of State for Employment. I hope that hon. Members will realise which is the right example to follow.

Photo of Mr Reginald Prentice Mr Reginald Prentice , Daventry 5:51 pm, 16th December 1982

Unhappily, every industrial relations debate has two features. One is that Opposition speeches slavishly follow the TUC line in every detail; every sentence, phrase and word could be taken from a trade union brief. The Opposition fail in this important area to live up to their responsibilities as elected Members of Parliament and, presumably, as an alternative Government. They do not put an independent view on any matters affecting industrial relations.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Central Fife

Like the right hon. Gentleman is going to do now.

Photo of Mr Reginald Prentice Mr Reginald Prentice , Daventry

The hon. Gentleman says that that is what I am going to do.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Central Fife

The right hon. Gentleman is supporting that lot.

Photo of Mr Reginald Prentice Mr Reginald Prentice , Daventry

The hon. Gentleman encourages me to take a small ego trip. The last time that any criticism of the trade unions was uttered by a Labour Party spokesman on employment matters was when I was Shadow Minister of Employment, which is now over 10 years ago. I challenge any Opposiion Member to find in Hansard any reference to industrial relations from the Opposition Benches which departs from the trade union point of view.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Central Fife

There are hundreds of them.

Photo of Mr Reginald Prentice Mr Reginald Prentice , Daventry

No serious political party should be a slave to vested interests to that extent. The more modest the measure—and the measure before the House is modest—the more hysterical the language.

The speech of the right hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker) might have been about some great issue in which the rights of trade unionists were being threatened in some way. They are not. The Opposition are reflecting the trade union message, and therefore we should examine the trade unions. Unfortunately, the trade union leadership in Great Britain is reactionary. It is always living in the past and talking about the class war battles of past generations instead of facing up to the problems of 1982.

The fair wages resolution was born not in 1946, but in 1891. The 1946 version was an amendment. In 1891 trade unions were weak. Trade unions in the public sector, and firms with contracts with the public sector, were virtually non-existent. Trade unionism was strong in certain small areas—largely among highly skilled, well organised workers. It had grown up during the middle of the nineteenth century. Most of the less skilled workers did not become organised until the 1890s. In 1891–15 years before the legal framework provided by the Trade Disputes Act 1906—such a resolution was needed.

There may have been a case for it in 1946. The right hon. Member for Doncaster quoted Mr. Harold Macmillan. In that quotation Mr. Macmillan said that the resolution was not needed much then, but that it might be needed in the future. It has not been needed all that much since. The figures given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State show how little it has been used recently and how few cases there have been in 1981–82. The Secretary of State did not give a breakdown between low and high-paid workers. It might be interesting to have such a breakdown, because, although I have not done any research, my impression is that most cases in 1981–82 related to contracts with British Aerospace, shipbuilding and other engineering firms which employ skilled and highly paid workers. The rhetoric to which we have just listened is, therefore, even less relevant than it might have been.

There are two other reasons why I believe that the attitude of the unions and the Labour Party is so out of date. First, any debate on industrial relations is held against a background of heavy unemployment throughout the industrial world, due to many causes which we understand only barely and which will probably be with us for some generations. It imposes a duty on Goverments, employers, trade unions and every responsible person to adapt their thinking to that background of heavy unemployment.

The right hon. Member for Doncaster spoke about worker being set against worker. If there is heavy unemployment and more people looking for jobs than there are vacancies, of course worker is set against worker. It is a fact of life; not the deliberate policy of Government, employers or anyone else. Against that background, legislation artificially protecting particular groups of workers may well increase unemployment.

We have heard the wage rates of young workers in Great Britain compared with those in other European countries, such as Germany. We should consider why there is heavier youth unemployment in Great Britain than in other countries. There is a conflict between attempting to push up wages and improve conditions and seeking full employment. It should be more openly discussed within the trade union movement. The first priority is either the improvement of wages or the fight against unemployment. They cannot both be first. The trade unions, and therefore the Labour Party, fail to recognise and discuss those facts.

I wish that that and many other aspects of unemployment could be discussed in a less partisan atmosphere in which we were all trying to find new answers to these appalling problems. If there were less reliance on the fair wages resolution and more reliance on collective bargaining, the job factor could be taken more into account both by unions and employers. We could then discuss whether we should accept low or nil pay increases to protect jobs, and it would not be complicated by the fair wages resolution.

That argument should be used when discussing the future of wages councils, although that matter is not before the House. We should not make such matters taboo and be afraid of discussing them. Trade unions, above all, should not be afraid of free collective bargaining; nor should employers' organisations. I deplore the attitude of the National Federation of Building Trades Employers. Its job is to enter into collective bargaining and it should not rely on outdated legislation. My remarks are as much a criticism of employers as of unions.

Governments consult, and it is sensible to do so. On the whole, decisions are better decisions if they occur after consultation. Consultation surely means seeking the views of those who are affected. One takes account of those views and possibly amends the original proposals if the views and their merits advanced in consultation are sufficiently strong to lead one to have second thoughts. That does not mean dictation by outside interests. Surely democracy does not mean Government by pressure groups. I accept that pressure groups have a legitimate role in putting forward their views for consideration by Ministers, but Ministers must take decisions and be responsible to the House thereafter.

One of the many unsatisfactory aspects of the TUC's leadership is that it does not accept that that is what consultation is about. When it talks about consultation, the very least that it means is some sort of bargaining process. It expects to do a deal with the Government in the way that it would with employers. At best, it expects something more than that. It would like the sort of social contract that it had in the early 1970s. The right hon. Member for Doncaster referred to that. He talked about the Labour Government of 1974. I was a member of that Government, so I share responsibility for anything that happened when they were in office in the same way as the right hon. Gentleman and others.

The right hon. Gentleman said that, after the Labour Government took office, there was no need for a long period of consultation on their new legislation because before the election, when the Labour Party was in Opposition, it had had long consultations with the trade unions and had made public the text of the social contract. That is true. But who else was involved in the consultation process? Was the CBI or the British Institute of Management involved? Were any of those who had a right to be consulted involved in the process?

Tripartite discussions went on between 1972 and 1974. They involved the TUC, the Labour leadership in the House and the Labour Party outside the House, which was represented by certain members of the National Executive Committee. I took part in those discussions. I remember well that time and again we were expected to accept and rubber-stamp the views of the Jones-Scanlon axis. Those views were later rubber-stamped by the TUC general council and the TUC conference. They were expected to be rubber-stamped by Parliament after the Labour Party had won a majority at the general election. That was the social contract. It included many things, apart from employment provisions—for example, expensive commitments to food subsidies and pensions.

When the Labour Party is in Opposition it follows slavishly what the trade unions say. In the early period of the 1974–79 Labour Government the then Administration followed detail by detail the consequences of the social contract, however damaging they were. They were most damaging to the country, and the trade unions did not deliver their side of the bargain, which was pay restraint. When the Government changed in May 1979 we were no longer bound by the social contract. That was one of the greatest improvements.

Since May 1979, the TUC, as a powerful group representing many who have the right to be heard, has been welcome in consultations. However, it is regarded as being no more powerful than other groups in society which also have a right to be heard and whose views should be considered in the course of decision making. That is what the TUC cannot take. That is why Mr. David Basnett is so confused when he utters illiterate nonsense about civil disobedience. The TUC still has not learnt to live in a world in which it is not locked into the processes of government. That is a tragedy. I speak as someone who has been a trade unionist since leaving school.

I want to see the trade union movement play a useful role in society on behalf of its members. Unfortunately, it is becoming more and more out of touch with its members and more and more irrelevant to their needs. That is because it has not learnt to live in the latter part of the twentieth century.

Photo of Mr Ron Leighton Mr Ron Leighton , Newham North East 6:05 pm, 16th December 1982

Having heard from the right hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Prentice) of the benign activities of Jones and Scanlon, I can only say "Please come back Jones and Scanlon." If they did, life would be much better. I wish that they were exercising the authority and influence that they had during the days of which the right hon. Gentleman was speaking.

The fair wages resolution has an excellent and immaculate pedigree. All our decent, civilised and humane predecessors supported it. I can think of no more dramatic contrast than that between the attitude of our humane predecessors and the brutal and callous approach of the present Government. The Government are opposed to "fair" wages. Presumably they want unfair wages. They want an unfair society, and that is the sort of society that they are introducing.

I, too, refreshed my memory of previous debates. There have been three debates on the fair wages resolution. The first one took place on 13 February 1891. The then Member for Tower Hamlets, Poplar, Mr. Buxton, introduced the resolution. He said that the State … shall set a good example. In fact, he said that it should set the best example. He added: the State, as a great employer, cannot fail to have a very considerable influence on the rate of wages throughout the country. Since then the State has become a much larger employer, as the Secretary of State admitted. It was said that the approach of the Government should at once be a reproach and a warning to others. Mr. Buxton spoke in terms of approbation of the London county council and the London school board. He talked about rates of pay being acceptable and fair and not below the minimum generally accepted as current.

In that debate the Government Front Bench spokesman was a Mr. Plunkett. What a difference between those who graced the Treasury Bench in those days and the oafs and cretins we find occupying it now.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. The hon. Gentleman will have to withdraw "cretin".

Photo of Mr Ron Leighton Mr Ron Leighton , Newham North East

The First Commissioner of Works, Mr. Plunkett, said: I need hardly tell the House that I am not going to say one word against the trade unions.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. The hon. Gentleman must withdraw "cretin".

Photo of Mr Ron Leighton Mr Ron Leighton , Newham North East

I do so unreservedly, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Perhaps "moron" is acceptable.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Central Fife

"Cretin" is not in the book.

Photo of Mr Ron Leighton Mr Ron Leighton , Newham North East

Mr. Plunkett added: I know full well the great services that they have rendered not only to their own members but to the community at large."—[Official Report, 13 February 1891; Vol 350, c. 620–40.] What a contrast between the attitude of the Government in those days and that of those who now disgrace the Department of Employment. In those days the Government's idea was to set a good example. They now set a bad example, and their object is to force down wages.

The second debate on the fair wages resolution took place on 10 March 1909. I note that the Secretary of State is leaving the Chamber. He might like to bear in mind that the debate took place when the Liberal Government of Mr. Asquith was in office, and the then Mr. Winston Churchill was President of the Board of Trade.

John Hodge said that there was no question of unfair competition when architects, lawyers and other professional men were engaged by the Government. In that debate, the new amendment to the fair wages resolution dealt with hours and conditions as well as wages. The point was made strongly that it was unfair to what were called good employers to allow unfair wages. It was in the interests of the good employer not to be undercut by the bad employer.

Eighteen years later, Mr. Sydney Buxton, who had introduced the fair wages resolution, was Postmaster General. He said that the resolution had benefited workmen without harming employers and that the Government should not take the lowest tender, but should ensure that contractors paid decent wages.

Mr. Buxton said that he had recently cancelled a Government contract because the employer concerned had not paid decent wages. He recommended that when there was no recognised pay rate, there should be a minimum wage. That is the first time that I have ever heard mention of a minimum wage. Mr. Buxton told the House that his personal insistence on a minimum wage for a Government contract doubled wages, especially for women workers.

The Minister of State will be interested to know that the famous F. E. Smith took part in that debate. He said that he "generously and unreservedly accepted" the fair wages resolution. He spoke of pure economic laws are subordinated to considerations of flesh and blood". It would be nice to think that present Ministers were worried more about ordinary flesh and blood than some dogmatic economic consideration.

F. E. Smith said that economic laws must give way to the broad claims of humanity". It would be nice to see some humanity on the Government Front Bench. The most inhuman Minister has departed. The one that remains has some humanity, but the Secretary of State for Employment has the opposite view. Perhaps that is why he has just left us.

Mr. John Hodge quoted the Prime Minister of the day as having said: It is the duty of the Central Government and of the Municipal Government, as employers of labour, whether directly or indirectly, to set an example to other employers of labour, and in their dealings with their workmen, whether in regard to the wages, the hours of labour or the conditions of labour, to reach the highest standard obtainable in a particular industry."— Would it not be nice to hear something like that from this Government? We shall not hear it from this Prime Minister or from this faction that is disgracing the Conservative Party.

Another Member of Parliament, John Ward, said that he was delighted to find that the old stale arguments about political economy and the law of supply and demand no longer finds any place in the debates of this description where there is a demand for better conditions of labour."—[Official Report, 10 March 1909; Vol. 11, c. 416–47.] All has now changed. There is now a group of counterrevolutionaries on the Front Bench, and they have changed round completely from their predecessors' attitude. Their idea is that because a crisis exists, for which they are largely responsible, it must be resolved at the expense of workers' wages, especially the low-paid.

The third time that the House discussed the matter was in 1946. The Minister of Labour was George Isaacs—a very good Minister. He was also the general secretary of my trade unionNATSOPA—now merged into SOGAT '82. NATSOPA has produced many fine men, and he was certainly one of them. He explained modestly in the debate that he was only the midwife to this resolution, because it was an all-party proposal. He explained that the Conservative Government of 1937 set up a committee to examine the operation of the resolution. That led to the coalition Government in 1942 issuing a White Paper that pledged to bring in the resolution at the end of the war. George Isaacs said that the new resolution was better than those we have had before, and it may last a few years before we need to bring it up again. He meant that it would last a few years before they needed to improve it again. In those days workers' conditions were improved step by step.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker) mentioned the response on the Conservative Benches. Harold Macmillan conceded for the moment, therefore, this clause is not very important. That was because we had a benign, decent, civilised and humane Labour Government. Mr. Macmillan, having conceded that, said: But the time may come … with the Treasury trying to cut down the expenditure of Departments by forcing them to take contracts brought down somehow or other to the lowest possible figure. When that happens this Notion … as it was intended to be by those who framed it 40 years ago, once again the great protection of the standard of life of the mass of the wage earning classes and of the long built up traditions of co-operation between industry, both from the employing and from the working side."—[Official Report, 14 October 1946; Vol. 427, c. 630–33.] That was said by a Conservative Member in 1946.

It has been claimed that the resolution has not been used very often. In that case, why is it necessary to rescind it? However, the resolution used its teeth a little more after the case of Crittal Hope Ltd. and the pay board award on 24 April 1974, which allowed comparisons not only with national minima but with plant and company agreements. The Central Arbitration Committee made 673 awards between 1976 and 1979, although the numbers have dropped since then.

Why are the Government bringing forward this idea tonight? The Secretary of State did not tell us. He talked about everything but the real motive for destroying the fair wages resolution. Why break the consensus that has united all parties hitherto? No one has ever contested the matter, so why are the Government doing it? Why are we destroying arbitration as a means of settling disputes? This is not legislation; it is simply a resolution. The only way to enforce it, when a complaint goes to the Department, is to send it first to ACAS and then to the Central Arbitration Committee. Arbitration is good for industrial relations.

I may be contradicted, but I believe that the only reason for the proposal is that the Government are going in for widescale privatisation. They wish to contract out many of the jobs that are now carried out by Government and local authority employees. They do not want fair wages. They want a scramble of undercutting. We have begun to see that in the National Health Service and in some local authorities. I am sure that some Conservative Members are only too keen to see the privatisation of catering, cleaning, refuse collection and building maintenance. Conservative Members are nodding their heads gleefully. That is what it is all about.

Photo of Mr Ron Leighton Mr Ron Leighton , Newham North East

No, I shall not give way. If the Minister tells me that I am wrong, I shall gladly give way to him. The Government want lower wages and worse conditions. Their priority is to depress wages.

Photo of Mr Michael Colvin Mr Michael Colvin , Bristol North West

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, because his right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker) refused to do so on the same point. The hon. Gentleman talks about undercutting and depriving people of fair wages. He cited the example, as did his right hon. Friend, of the National Health Service. I understand, on good authority, that if more of the services in the NHS were privatised, the NHS could save £400 million in one financial year. The hon. Gentleman talks about not paying people enough money. But if what I suggested were done, the NHS would be able to pay every nurse another £1,000 a year. What is wrong with that?

Photo of Mr Ron Leighton Mr Ron Leighton , Newham North East

Perhaps we are now coming to the truth. We are learning what it is all about. I shall listen carefully to some of my hon. Friends who know a great deal about the Health Service.

The only idea that Conservative Members have for solving their economic difficulties is to cut wages. They have no other ideas. They use the euphemism "moderation in pay bargaining". Since May 1979, when this regime came into being, we have lost about 35 per cent. of our competitiveness. How will the Government rectify that loss in competitiveness? The sole idea is to cut wages. That is why the fair wages resolution is to be abolished.

Photo of Mr Ron Leighton Mr Ron Leighton , Newham North East

I shall not give way.

Under the young workers' scheme, employers are to be subsidised to pay people less than £40 per week. That is what the Government want. They want this country to compete with countries abroad, but their only intellectual offering is that we should have a work force on coolie wages. That is their sole idea. We have heard nothing else.

The Government are even willing to denounce an ILO convention. The Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that we are the first country ever to denounce an ILO convention.

Photo of Mr John Townend Mr John Townend , Bridlington

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the proposal of the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore) to have a 30 per cent. devaluation, with wage restraint, would in fact mean a reduction in real wages? Is that not what the Labour Party is advocating?

Photo of Mr Ron Leighton Mr Ron Leighton , Newham North East

I do not think so. The situation is extremely difficult, but if the hon. Gentleman reads the document he will see that taxes, such as VAT, are to be cut, and that would compensate workers. I do not believe that it would lead to a cut in living standards.

I come back to my argument. As far as I know, we are the first country to denounce an ILO convention. It is a bad example. I think it was Milton—not Milton Friedman but the poet Milton—who talked about England setting an example to other nations. We are setting a bad example. The Government's economic policy has collapsed. It is in a state of utter failure. Indeed, the economy is so bad that they cannot afford to pay the low wages that are being paid at the moment. Wages in this country are about the lowest in the Western world. They are the lowest in the Common Market, except for Ireland. Nevertheless, the Government want to solve the crisis by cutting wages.

I could understand the Government's attitude if the cause of our problem was high wages. I am indebted to the Library of the House of Commons for a document dated 24 November. It showed that take-home weekly pay, at constant 1981–82 prices, for 1980–81 was £103–12. In the subsequent year, 1981–82, it went down to £100–53. In 1982–83, it was £99–50. So real wages are going down. Thus, the cause of our economic problems cannot be high wages.

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research has made a study of these matters, as has the London Business School. It apportions blame for our loss of competitiveness in the following way. To policy effects spending, tax and interest rates it apportions 41 per cent. of the blame. It apportions 32 per cent. of the blame to the fact that the exchange rate is too high. It apportions 20 per cent. of the blame to oil price increases and the world recession. Then the document comes to real wages: Real wages growing faster than trend—O". Thus, wages have no part of the blame. Nevertheless, the Government's only idea is to reduce wages. That is the real reason for abolishing the fair wages resolution. It is a heartless, callous and brutal approach, and I hope that it will be reversed as soon as possible.

Photo of Mr Keith Best Mr Keith Best , Anglesey 6:27 pm, 16th December 1982

I am obliged to the hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) for his historical meanderings, which, of course, are entirely irrelevant to this debate. To quote persons who have spoken in the House in times which were entirely different cannot add one jot or tittle to the debate. With respect, I fear that he has wasted much of the time of the House.

I deprecate the hon. Gentleman's method of adding a soupcon of intellectual content, in which my right hon. Friend's speech was said to be lacking, by throwing in the odd personal insult in an endeavour to enhance his argument. He accused Conservative Members of wanting to cut wages. That was his specific allegation. What was the Labour Party's incomes policy all about? I am sure that I shall encourage the hon. Gentleman to leap to his feet and intervene in my speech to say that he voted against each of the incomes policy proposals that were put forward by the Labour Party.

Photo of Mr Keith Best Mr Keith Best , Anglesey

The hon. Gentleman has to learn the hard way. He has to learn that when he does not extend the courtesy of giving way to Conservative Members, he will be riled and not be able to intervene.

Photo of Mr James Craigen Mr James Craigen , Glasgow Maryhill

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wish that the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Best) would get it right. My hon. Friend was not a Member of the House at that time.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

I do not think that that is a point of order, but I thought I heard the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Best) encourage the hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) to leap to his feet. Perhaps that is why he did so.

Photo of Mr Keith Best Mr Keith Best , Anglesey

I might have encouraged the hon. Gentleman to leap to his feet, but I was horrified to think that he might say something as well. I leave him on one side.

When I first came into the debate I was confused about the Opposition's motives for wanting to defeat the motion to rescind the fair wages resolution. I was confused even before I heard the right hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker). I make no criticism of the feeling behind his speech. He speaks with great fervour. The only thing that I felt sorry for during his speech was the Dispatch Box.

Having heard the right hon. Gentleman's speech not only must Conservative Members be confused, but Labour Members as well, about why the Opposition are seeking to oppose the motion. To hear the right hon. Gentleman, one would think that if the resolution to rescind the fair wages resolution is passed tonight there will be an industrial Armageddon waiting just round the corner. We shall have to wait and see whether that happens.

The Opposition's confusion is manifest not only from the speeches that we have heard so far but from the Order Paper as well. What do we find on the Order Paper? The first amendment was tabled by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and other of his right hon. and hon. Friends. I appreciate that we are not speaking to that, but it is relevant, because it shows that on that amendment the Opposition are seeking to support the Government's view, whereas on this amendment they are not. On one amendment they are seeking to have the fair wages resolution reaffirmed. On this one they are saying that there should be further consultation before it is either reaffirmed or not. What better evidence could there be of the total confusion in the minds of the Labour Members?

My right hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Prentice) has said that the fair wages resolution has an impeccable pedigree. It first came to light, not in its present form but in its original form, in 1891, when it was largely the product of a Conservative amendment in the true tradition of the reforms that were put forward by Peel and subsequent Members of Conservative Administrations in the nineteenth century to ensure that those who were least able to look after themselves in an industrial society did not suffer. People were taken out of the mines, children were given better working conditions, and so on.

The 1891 fair wages resolution was in the true tradition of the Conservative Party and it was designed to help sweated labour. It cannot be—perhaps it is—that Labour Members are seeking to say that the position that obtained in 1891 is exactly the same as that which obtains in industrial life today. The purport of everything that has been said so far is that because it was good in those days it must be good now. It is the true dinosaur attitude which one unfortunately finds so often among Labour Members.

In 1891 there was no really effective trade union movement—only an incipient one. There was no effective collective bargaining. Indeed, for a long time collective bargaining was a criminal offence, until the Conservative measure in 1875. Therefore, the position was entirely different.

Labour Members say how necessary this fair wages resolution is. Let us look at the reality. How often has it been used? On average, there were only two claims every year until 1975. What about the point that I raised with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State when I intervened in his speech? Of course an arbitration by the Central Arbitration Committee is not enforceable at law.

My right hon. Friend said that it would be extraordinary for the Government to continue to employ a contractor who did not observe an arbitration finding. That may or may not be the case. However, there is certainly no obligation for that position to obtain. An award of the Central Arbitration Committee does not become an implied term of a contract of employment. Where was the voice of the right hon. Member for Doncaster or any of his right hon. or hon. Friends saying that to ensure the effectiveness of the fair wages resolution it should be an implied term in a contract of employment? There is nothing there.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster

The hon. Gentleman says that there is no obligation on a firm found to be out of order by the CAC to observe the CAC award. The fair wages resolution of this House has the status of law, and the hon. Gentleman should know that.

Photo of Mr Keith Best Mr Keith Best , Anglesey

With respect, the right hon. Gentleman does not answer the point. It does not become an implied term in a contract of employment. It does not become enforceable by the parties in contractual law. If the right hon. Gentleman does not understand that, he does not understand what the fair wages resolution is all about. However, I know better than to make such an unfair criticism, because the right hon. Gentleman knows his subject extremely well, and we all take pleasure in listening to him when he comes to the Dispatch Box. As I say, all that suffers then is the Dispatch Box.

Are Labour Members really saying that if the motion were passed tonight to rescind the fair wages resolution, they would be impotent to deal with cases of unfairness, of unequal bargaining power leading to certain members of the work force receiving lower wages than they should, perhaps as a result of a local agreement not in line with a national one? Are they saying that they would not be able to raise such matters in the House? Of course not. It is nonsense to argue in favour of the retention of this resolution in the way that Labour Members have done so far.

In so far as the resolution has forced up wages in the past—there is some evidence of that—I am sure that some Labour Members will accept that where wages are forced up jobs can be destroyed. It may be that the need to ensure better pay is more important than the need to ensure that some people remain in employment. I am not prepared to make a judgment on that, but it might go through the minds of some Labour Members.

There can be a direct link between increased wages which price companies out of the market and destroy their profitability and the loss of employment from those companies. What better evidence could we have of that than the disaster in Britain in the five years between 1975 and 1980, when unit labour costs rose by 88 per cent., while in Japan they did not rise at all? That is a measure of the way in which we have been pricing ourselves out of the competitive market. If the rescinding of this fair wages resolution tonight will ensure that that is less likely to happen, it must be a good reason for seeing it disappear off the face of the resolutions of this House.

There is, however, something far more fundamental than that involved. This resolution offends against the capacity of parties to enter into a contract freely for the payment of services, materials or whatever. It must be right that in contractual law those people should be able to enter freely into an agreement and come to it of their own volition. There may be unequal bargaining power, but I suspect that that is not so much the case now as it was 20, 30 or 40 years ago. The position is changing rapidly.

Surely the endeavour of this House should be to ensure that parties to a contract can enter into it freely and with equal force behind each, rather than try to interfere with the contract itself, which is what the fair wages resolution would seek to do, although, as I have already said, it is not enforceable in any event.

It is unfortunate that some Opposition Members are much more concerned about the level of wages than they are about people having a job. That is understandable. It says something about the origins of the Labour Party, born out of the trade union movement. One should expect Opposition Members to be more concerned about wages, for which the trade union movement has consistently fought hard, and not so much about the retention by people of jobs even if the jobs are low paid. The fair wages resolution, as it stands, can inhibit employment for the reasons that I have mentioned.

Of course, we need to have profitable firms before they can pay any wages at all. Those are not my words. They were expressed by Sir John Boyd in August this year. It does not need a Conservative Back-Bench Member to relate the axioms of modern industrial life. Conservative Members have to ask whom the Opposition represent when they seek to have this resolution reaffirmed. Do they represent the unemployed? No. I have already stated that the resolution can inhibit employment. Do they represent the low-paid? No. Nearly all the recent cases have been made by the trade unions on behalf of highly paid members of those unions. Do they represent the young? No. There is considerable youth employment in this country. In other countries, when young people enter employment they do not expect to receive the level of wages paid to those who have been working longer and who are more experienced. Germany is a good example.

It was The Economist in December last year which mentioned that young people entering employment in this country received a higher proportion of adult wages than in any other Western country. That is the nature of the problem. Do the Opposition even represent themselves? I have severe doubts. The right hon. Member for Doncaster entertained the House, as he always does. Does he really believe what he stated? Perhaps more important is whether his hon. Friends believe that he believes it himself. I have considerable doubts.

It is instructive that not one instance has so far been given from the Opposition Benches of how a person not covered by a national agreement might suffer as a result of this fair wages resolution being rescinded. I can only hope that if the Opposition are serious in opposition to what the Government are doing they will refer to those cases. Times have changed. This fair wages resolution belongs to the nineteenth century, where it had its birth, as do the arguments of the Opposition.

Photo of Mr David Penhaligon Mr David Penhaligon , Truro 6:43 pm, 16th December 1982

The hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Best) has accused Opposition Members of indulging in the unfair practice of quoting people from a long time ago in different situations as an argument against the Government. One of those called in aid has been the former Prime Minister, Mr. Harold Macmillan. He was quoted only a few weeks ago as saying We are back in the age of witch doctors who tried to make the weather by making the right kind of speeches to their constituents. There have been one or two witch doctor type speeches in the House over the past few months, including today.

One of the main duties of Parliament is to offer at least minimum protection to people in a whole sphere of human activities. It is one of the duties of the House, which I believe is usually carried out; it offers protection to people when they are purchasing goods. People are given the right to demand a reasonable standard. Similar protection is offered in the law of contract. I would argue if minimum protection should be offered in relation to wages. The motion before the House denies that.

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

The hon. Gentleman talks about minimum protection. The fair wages resolution is not concerned with minimum protection. It is involved with bringing wages up to whatever level is regarded as comparable with what is found generally. There is nothing minimum about that.

Photo of Mr David Penhaligon Mr David Penhaligon , Truro

That is not the information that I have been given from one of the lower wage areas of the country. If that is a problem, there should have been some modification of the resolution. It should not be used as an excuse to take away minimum protection. Mr. Buxton, who has already been mentioned, said in 1909: What really happened in those days was that the various Departments looked primarily, and looked practically only to the solvency of the contractor; they washed their hands of everything else".—[Official Report, 10 March 1909; Vol. II, c. 427.] The result was that they took the lowest tender irrespective of the conditions of labour under the tender. We appear to be getting back to that position. Mr. Macmillan stated in the House at a time when I had just passed my second birthday: I think that, broadly, the Motion is in conformity with the general wish of the House, and represents the last stage of a very long tradition of plans and Clauses of this kind."—[Official Report, 14 October 1946; Vol. 427, c. 630.] Here we are today destroying it. One of the duties of the House is to provide some minimum protection. If the Secretary of State chooses to go through his mail, he may discover some correspondence with me about a tyre fitter in my county. Tyre fitters are not covered by wages councils. They are not covered by fair wage resolutions. They are part of the free market, the solution to our employment problems. This gentleman, aged 24, writes an articulate letter without any spelling mistakes, which is probably more than I could manage. He explains that as a single man who has been employed on a job for four or five years he is paid £42 a week. That is top line. I am not talking about take-home pay. I have the pay documents that can be shown to anyone who doubts what I say. I would have mentioned the gentleman's name but he has asked me not to do so. He is afraid of losing even that miserable employment if his identity is revealed.

I wrote to the Minister explaining my belief in minimum protection. I asked whether it was possible for the Government to consider extending wages councils to this type of employment. The reply suggested that the young man was rather lucky to be receiving £42 a week and that if he had been paid less there might be more tyre fitters employed in my county. That is a disgraceful attitude which I do not comprehend. The move by the Government has exposed more people to becoming what can only be described as exploited in my county and in other remoter areas such as Anglesey where unemployment is endemic. Those are the areas where the Government have reduced individuals' rights.

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin , Glasgow Springburn

If the tyre fitter had been a young married man with a family, the State would be subsidising his employer. The man would be entitled to claim family income supplement and rate and rent rebates. The danger under the Government's proposal is that more people will have to claim State benefits.

Photo of Mr David Penhaligon Mr David Penhaligon , Truro

I wrote to the gentleman explaining that to him. He thought, however, that this would be a complicated means of obtaining an increase in his income. The hon. Gentleman is, however, right. There is some truth in the allegation that to those with children earning between £40 and £90 a week it makes no difference what one is paid. That is a subject for another day when we discuss the way in which the supplementary benefits system works. Some unions exploit their monopoly position in an unjustifiable way. I believe that the Government are right in that matter.

Ironically, the hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) did not talk of the wages within the printing industry, about which he is an expert. If the Government were doing something about that, there might have been something to be said about this resolution. What the Government will not acknowledge is that there are employers who ruthlessly exploit a situation which is available to them and in a way that some hon. Members find unsatisfactory.

Some employers have written to me arguing in favour of wages council type regulations, for without them they would be forced to exploit because the shop down the road would have an economic advantage.

I received a letter from one of my farming constituents a few weeks ago referring to the youth opportunities programme. After a tirade in the opening paragraph, in a lingo that I understood rather better than would most hon. Members, he said: "Mr. Penhaligon, I want you to get me a free boy. Harry up the road got a free boy, and Bill down the road got a free boy. Where's my free boy? They tell me down the labour that they've run out of free boys. I am quite prepared to have a free maid if that's all they've got left". That is the ludicrous situation into which one can get without any minimum protection.

I informed the Minister in my letter of the situation in some of the more remote parts of the country. By this proposal, he is making the situation even worse than before.

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford

Wherever abuses of the youth opportunities programme are found, we terminate them. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would admit that his tyre fitting constituent would not be helped by the fair wages resolution.

Photo of Mr David Penhaligon Mr David Penhaligon , Truro

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman about the second point. I am worried about the fact that the abolition of the resolution will put far more of my constituents in the same position as the tyre fitter. That is why I oppose this motion.

As far as the youth opportunities programme is concerned, I accept that the local office of the Management Services Commission tried very hard and in this case the gentleman did not get his free boy. One suspects that there are constituents who have free boys or free maids, but I doubt whether they are daft enough to explain to their Member of Parliament in such blunt terms exactly why they wanted them.

On previous occasions, I have managed to acquire some statistics on low pay in my county. The situation is not that different in other remote parts of the United Kingdom. The average pay in my county is less than 80 per cent. of the national average. In the areas where there is no protection, one knows from personal and bitter experience that the situation is a good deal worse than that.

When I noticed that the resolution was to he debated, I contacted some of the bodies in my region that were affected by it. I approached the local branches of the National Federation of Building Trades Employers, which is vigorously opposed to what the Government are doing.

It is said that this resolution does not often come to arbitration. That is undoubtedly so. Regional organisers of the employers' federation tell me that as many as 20 times a year, if it were not for the resolution, they would have lost an argument with an employer. The strength of the resolution is not that local branches can take employers to arbitration, but that they can, with no publicity, no aggro and no public embarrassment, say to an employer "Look, my friend, this is the law. I must tell you on behalf of the employers of this county that if you do not begin to obey this law we will take you through this process". The employers in my constituency do not want to be the subject of public embarrassment and they react by paying the minimum rates.

What are the minimum rates in the building industry? What is this law protecting? It gives protection to a skilled man such as a mason, who has completed an apprenticeship, to the extent of £80.80 a week. We are not talking about people on £250, £300 or £500 a week, which is what some people in the printing industry receive. We are talking about £80 a week for a man who has completed an apprenticeship. We are also talking about £73 per week for what people in the building industry call "unskilled" labour, and if anybody knows anything about building in reality that type of work is not totally unskilled.

These are the minimum rates we are defending These are the minimum rates the Minister is seeking to abolish. These are the people who, because of the removal of the fair wages resolution, will be paid less. I cannot understand how a Government who represent some of the more remote areas in the United Kingdom can believe that they will do anything for the economy in areas like mine by lowering already inadequate wages.

I am not trying to pretend that everybody should be paid £160 per week. We are talking about people who are on miserable wages of £80 and £78 a week, and it takes the law to protect them at that level. The Minister smuggly, in effect, tells the House that by making those wages lower it will improve the economy of my locality. There is no doubt that wages will be reduced.

The Government have got this wrong. There is no doubt about that. I suspect that some of the Government's supporters from the more remote parts of the country do not know what the Government have proposed today, and are not aware of the effect that it will have.

The Minister said earlier that given the chance in 1985 he will abolish the whole fabric of wage councils. There is no doubt that the wages councils are the safety nets on which a large number of people in some of the more remote areas of the country rely for their living standards.

If it was not for the wages councils, the wages of workers in agriculture, shops and hotels would be considerably less than they are now.

There is no point in the Minister pretending that a union can come to the rescue of these people. In some of the remoter areas, a large employer is someone who employs three, four or five people. The unions are not interested in such small membership potential, but, even if they were, what can one do when an employer employs only three or four people? It is the responsibility of the State to provide the most vulnerable in our society with some protection.

The Minister, by deliberate intent today, after three years of effort, has succeeded in taking away protection from yet a few more people. It is a disgrace. The right hon. Gentleman ought to recognise it. For some of the low-paid workers in Britain, this is singularly the most disgraceful piece of legislation that the Government have proposed. The weak shall be exploited even more than they are now. I am amazed that the Minister can stand at the Dispatch Box and defend such legislation.

Photo of Mr John Townend Mr John Townend , Bridlington 6:58 pm, 16th December 1982

The hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) will know that I do not intend to criticise in any way the trade union movement. I was surprised at the vigour with which he accused the Government of wanting to drive down wages, thereby reducing the standard of living of the people of this country.

We have had a number of quotations from Prime Ministers. I should like to give a quotation from the former Labour Prime Minister speaking on American television, who said: Do you know that the standard of life of the British people has been cut by something like five per cent. this year. I think it's a remarkable achievement. We're doing it to try to get rid of inflation".

Photo of Mr Giles Radice Mr Giles Radice , Chester-le-Street

What was the level of unemployment then?

Photo of Mr John Townend Mr John Townend , Bridlington

I am talking about driving down wage rates. It ill behoves the hon. Member for Newham, North-East to accuse us of having that motive, bearing in mind the record of the Labour Government.

During the past 15 years there has been a negative return on investment in the Western industrialised world. This is the longest period in history when there has been no real return on capital. During this period, the cost of labour has become progressively more expensive. Those facts are not unconnected with the deepest world recession that we have seen since the 1930s and growing unemployment. In fact, in many areas labour has started to price itself out of the market.

I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House agree that unemployment is a tragic problem. It is in no one's interest to have a high level of unemployment. It is a waste of resources and it is terrible for the people concerned.

We may disagree about the means by which we should reduce the problem. Some Conservative Members believe that people should be allowed to price themselves back into jobs through the free working of the labour market. The problem is that there are far too many restrictions and rigidities in the market which artificially keep wage levels above the market clearing rate. It is in that context that we should consider the motion, which I welcome. It is the beginning of what I hope will be a continuous process of removing Government interference from the free working of the labour market.

I agree with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Best), in that I am opposed to the resolution in principle. I see no reason why the Government should interfere with and dictate to a specific and limited number of firms that seek to obtain Government contracts. There is no reason why the Government should interfere with the wages and conditions of employment in those firms. In a free society, this should be a matter between the employer and his employees or their trade union representatives.

If Government interference is necessary, why should it be restricted to firms that apply for Government contracts? The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon) made a valid point when he said that there should either be no wages regulations or they should apply across the broad spectrum of industry for all categories of worker. In their employment legislation, the Labour Government tried to move in that direction, with quite harmful results in many instances. They certainly forced wages up and reduced the number of jobs.

According to clause 6 of the resolution: The contractor shall be responsible for the observance of this Resolution by sub-contractors employed in the execution of the contract. It is wrong that one firm should become involved in the wages, terms and conditions of employment of another firm.

That clause adversely affects the interests of small firms which, often due to economic pressures, must pay lower wages than larger firms if they are to survive. The other alternative is to shut down and to declare their workers redundant. In addition, they are often discouraged from applying for tender documents because of the way in which the regulations affect them, particularly when there are no set wage rates for an industry, which then comes under clause 1(b), which states: In the absence of any rates of wages that industry would observe conditions of labour which are not less favourable than the general level". Under that clause, the firms would take account of the average level, not the minimum level, and many small business men are worried about how they obtain that information.

All parties in the House pay lip service to the cause of helping small firms. Everyone recognises that small firms can provide more jobs. It is, therefore, in all our interests if small firms obtain a larger share of Government contracts. I am sure that the Government's decision will encourage small firms to tender even though they may not have done so in the past. When we consider how little the regulations have been used, there is no argument for saying that they should be left on the statute book. Our aim should be to reduce the bureaucracy of these outmoded regulations.

There is a further advantage. If there is pressure on labour costs, and if the motion helps to lower tender prices, it will make more money available for the granting of further contracts and additional jobs. It will enable small employers to reconsider the rate paid to apprentices, because in that area we are way out of line with our industrial competitors. At the end of the war, a first-year apprentice in the building industry got 15 per cent. of a skilled man's rate. Today, the starting rate is about 50 per cent. That is completely uneconomic for many small employers, and it has resulted in a significant drop in the number of apprenticeships.

I, like the hon. Member for Truro, represent a rural constituency which has many small builders, electricians and painters. When I asked whether they had any apprentices, I was told "No, Mr. Townend, we cannot afford them. In their first year, they produce very little compared with the cost of wages and materials." I am convinced that if we were more in line with our industrial competitors, and if the starting rate for an apprentice was 20 to 25 per cent. of a skilled man's rate, the number of apprentice opportunities would begin to rise.

Photo of Mr David Penhaligon Mr David Penhaligon , Truro

I largely agree with the hon. Gentleman, and I say that as someone who has worked in engineering. However, I hope and pray that that is not used as an excuse to abolish the entire wages councils structure. Indeed, the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding), as the former Chairman of the Select Committee on Employment, has recognised that problem. I hope that this will not be used as an excuse to abolish the protection that now exists.

Photo of Mr John Townend Mr John Townend , Bridlington

I shall come to the wages councils in a moment, but I point out that the principal trades that use apprentices are the building and engineering trades, which are not covered by the wages councils.

I notice from one of the amendments put down by the Opposition that they are trying to get the fair wages resolution extended to local authority contracts. There is no doubt that one of their reasons for this is that it would help local authority direct labour organisations, which in many cases are less efficient than the private sector and more expensive. It would enable them to compete more effectively with the private sector. If the amendment is accepted, it will force up costs to the public sector and reduce job opportunities for small contractors.

It is interesting to note that the GLC is proposing some new regulations. Whatever the decision tonight, and even if we revoke the resolution, the local authorities will still be empowered to put these restrictions into their contracts. If the Opposition's suggestion is accepted, local authorities that did not want to include these restrictions in tenders would have to do so. It would be another case of a reduction in local autonomy, which is strange coming from the Labour Party, which has criticised the Government on numerous occasions about this.

My hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey said that the speech of the right hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker) made it seem as if he were expecting Armaggedon. He exaggerated the problem when he talked about driving down wages and penalising the poor. If the Government's proposition is accepted, the only difference will be that Government contracts in the public sector in the future will be carried out in the same way as are private sector contracts today. The terrible things that the right hon. Member for Doncaster said would happen if this is accepted do not happen in the private sector. He overstated the case.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on his courage in taking what is a relatively small step. I am surprised at the heat raised in the debate over this small step to free the labour market. I hope that it will be the first of many such steps, and I trust that in due course, when it is possible under our commitment to the International Labour Organisation, my right hon. Friend will be in a position to deal with the much more serious damage caused by the wages councils. They have a much greater effect on employment than the fair wages resolution.

I come from an area involved in the tourist industry. It has been put to me on numerous occasions in the past two or three years, both by the local chamber of trade and the local hotels and boarding house keepers' associations, that they would be able to provide a considerable number of jobs for young people if it were not for the very high starting wages insisted upon in the wages council regulations.

If my right hon. Friend cannot take any action on this matter until 1985 because of our international obligations, as he told me in a letter, would it be possible to consider taking limited action by removing the under-21s from the jurisdiction of the wages councils? I am convinced that the 18 to 21-year-olds have suffered more from these regulations than any other category. I have it on good authority from business people in my constituency that if this change were made they would be able to provide a considerable number of extra jobs.

Photo of Mr James Craigen Mr James Craigen , Glasgow Maryhill 7:14 pm, 16th December 1982

I never underestimate what the hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) has to say, because I am well aware that his kind of thinking has not inconsiderable influence on the policies of the Government. I find it interesting that he was arguing for Government intervention to assist more firms to get Government contracts, but I was alarmed at some of the messages that he was sending out in code to the Employment Ministers on the Front Bench.

I do not think that the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon) overstated the case when he spoke about low pay in his county. I have been to his part of the country on holiday. It is a very beautiful area. Later, I was somewhat surprised when I visited it as a member of the Select Committee on Employment to find that it has the lowest pay of any part of the United Kingdom. I am therefore the more concerned about some of the points that the hon. Member for Bridlington raised.

Of all the problems that the Secretary of State for Employment must have on his desk at the moment, why should he bother with the abandonment of the resolution? The Employment team has spent much time telling us that the resolution is outdated and is not important, and that the motion is introducing no more than a belated spring cleaning exercise—just tidying up the shelf.

However, I do not underestimate the Secretary of State. This is part of an orchestrated attempt, linked with a series of other Government measures, to press down earnings and conditions, as though they were pressing grapes. It is even more serious when we have a motion such as this introduced in almost indecent haste.

The resolution is of advantage to employers as well as of benefit to employees. In effect, we are being asked today to pass the 1982 "unfair wages resolution", because the Government are giving the signal that the cheap and the cheat now have free rein. The resolution has set an example over the past 35 years, but over the past 91 years it has been something of a safety net.

It is ironic, reading the Conservative Party election manifesto, to find reference to the need for incentive in British industry. The abandonment of this resolution is hardly designed to do that. It will add to the considerable souring that we already have in industrial relations. Moreover, today's action signals that the Government no longer consider it necessary or appropriate to abide by what is negotiated as fair in an industry in the award of Government contracts.

Reference has been made to the renunciation of ILO convention 94. Its abandonment also flies in the face of the European social charter on conditions of work and the right to fair wages. I hope that the United Kingdom delegation at the Council of Europe will make appropriate protests on this aspect of today's decision.

Of course, the Secretary of State for Employment did not pay much heed to the views expressed by the TUC. He said that he expected it to oppose the abandonment of the fair wages resolution—and rightly so. However, the CBI was somewhat equivocal in the evidence that it gave to the Government on this matter.

I thank the Secretary of State for the reference that he made to the Select Committee on Employment. It would have been useful, if Ministers had appeared before the Committee in advance of this debate, to tease out some of the issues that are not properly aired during a debate. They can be gleaned only in the process of an investigation such as is possible through the Select Committee procedure.

The Department of Employment provided members of the Select Committee with a number of papers, including a copy of a letter that the Secretary of State received from the director-general of the CBI dated 9 July. It was interesting that, in that letter, Sir Terence Beckett said: a strong case has also been made for retaining at least the first limb of the Resolution, thus enabling awards to be made by reference to the rates of pay and terms or conditions established by negotiation, and preventing employers from competing unfairly for Government contracts". That is significant. At the end, Sir Terence adds: I am sorry that we have not been able to give a less equivocal recommendation on the Government's proposal". I received a letter from the Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers' Federation, which was dismayed by the move. The industrial relations officer writes: the Scottish and Northern Ireland Joint Industry Board, which is the recognised body for the negotiation of rates and conditions of employment in the Plumbing Industry and is representative of both sides of Industry … was dismayed that the Government has decided to rescind the Resolution and I have been instructed to write to all Scottish Members of Parliament to express the Plumbing Industry's opposition to the abolition of the Fair Wages Resolution. Another paragraph in Mr. D. Wilson's letter is significant: some firms in the Industry are not complying and continue not to comply with the Industry's Working Rules in operating, in particular, the Holidays with Pay, Sickness Benefit and Pension Schemes which are obligatory on all firms employing plumbing labour. There is the voice of another employers' organisation. A letter was sent to Scottish Members of Parliament—the House will gather that we are a busy part of the United Kingdom—by the president of the Electrical Contractors' Association of Scotland, Sir James Morrison-Low, Bt—hardly a member of Militant. He said that the rescission was a retrograde step, and he pointed out: The 600 member firms of this Association collectively undertake 90 per cent. of all electrical installation work in Scotland and in the course of so doing train skilled journeymen who go on to employment in many other sectors of industry. He also said: The significance of the Fair Wages Resolution is that it recognises the value not only of industrial agreements but of all other work carried out to regulate industries such as this and which provides stability and maintains standards. Employers' organisations were putting forward that view. They are speaking from practical knowledge of the problems that they are up against. However, perhaps the Low Pay Unit got to the heart of the matter and the real reason why the Government are seeking to rescind the fair wages resolution. Its director, writing to hon. Members in November, said: The Fair Wages Resolution is not a means of fixing minimum wage levels unilaterally. It requires only that the two sides to the contract accept as fair the wages set by negotiation between employers and workers in the trade concerned. The document that the director, Mr. Chris Pond, wrote about—the "Abandonment of the Fair Wages Resolution"—was a succinct account of the history and of the dangers facing us if we abandon the fair wages resolution.

Reference has been made to the young workers scheme, which ironically sets a ceiling to the maximum wages that young workers can earn without the employer losing subsidy. It is strange that the Government, who are so concerned about public expenditure, should admit in a Statutory Instruments Committee the other week that nine out of every 10 young workers who obtained jobs through the young workers scheme would have been employed by the employer in any case. The Under-Secretary of State for Employment said that the Government know that they are carrying "dead weight". The dead weight exists not just in the young workers scheme! It is strange that we should pay millions of pounds for a scheme that is only 10 per cent. effective. However, there are all sorts of strange happenings under present employment policies.

A significant point was made by the Secretary of State today when he talked about encouraging more bargaining at the place of work. The Government have shown no great enthusiasm for the extension of industrial democracy in industry. On the contrary, they seem to have an aversion to extending worker participation in management. The Secretary of State's remarks about the need for more enterprise bargaining will make interesting reading in Hansard. In those comments were new messages for the negotiators on both sides of British industry.

The abandonment of the fair wages resolution marks another aspect of the doctrine of immiserisation that we are experiencing in the lifetime of this Government. There is a trend towards lower standards and morale in industry. The repeal of the 1946 fair wages resolution demonstrates that narrow doctrine is now replacing the bipartisan vision which resulted in the resolution immediately after the war.

Photo of Mr Michael Colvin Mr Michael Colvin , Bristol North West 7:28 pm, 16th December 1982

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen). I congratulate him on succeeding to the chairmanship of the Select Committee on Employment. No doubt he will find it difficult to follow the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding). The hon. Gentleman is not a fisherman, like his predecessor. However, we look forward to proceeding constructively under his chairmanship and if his chairmanship is as constructive as his speech we look forward to a fruitful future together. It was in character that his was the first speech from the Opposition Benches that did not hurl invective and insults across the Chamber at the Minister. I suppose that it is a sorry reflection on the state of the Labour Party that Labour Members need to hurl insults. No doubt they have one eye over their shoulder watching Militant Tendency and other organisations that are trying to bring them down. As those insults were designed for the record, to be read outside the House, I thought that I would put on record the fact that Labour Members made them with smiles on their faces, no doubt caused by the tongues in their cheeks. Outside the Chamber we are usually the very best of friends.

The speech of the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon) was interesting, as speeches from the Liberal Bench always are. It was a total waste of time listening to him because he got the whole thing wrong. His speech was about minimum wages. This debate is not about minimum wages but about comparable rates of pay. As for references to free boys or free girls, or for that matter free meals, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that nothing in this life is free. Everything must be paid for by someone. It is for facing up to that reality that we must applaud the Government's action.

It is 91 years since the fair wages resolution was introduced by a Conservative Government and, Parliament permitting, a Conservative Government will end what may appear to be to some people a safeguard for fair wages—not minimum, but fair wages—but to most people a way of destroying jobs by law. In 1891 the Conservative Government introduced the fair wages resolution to combat sweated labour, although in its present form it dates only from 1946.

Labour Members may not have noticed that times have changed in the past 91 years. The fair wages resolution in today's highly competitive economic climate does more harm than good.

The fair wages resolution is at best an irrelevance. It has rarely been used—except when incomes policies have been in force and distorted the labour market—and because the Government do not have an incomes policy we do not need this relic of the last century. If the Labour Party intends to have an incomes policy and can use that as an argument for retaining the fair wages resolution, it should say so now because hitherto it has been notably silent on the subject of incomes policy.

Until 1975 claims made under the fair wages resolution averaged only two a year. A peak was hit during the economic shambles of the years of the Labour Government in 1976–78 when 1,020 claims were made, of which 677 were referred to arbitration and 545 were established. The Labour Government were not entirely to blame for the number of claims made because the Tories' 1972 wages freeze led to a spate of claims in 1974–75. We should not think that those claims were made on behalf of downtrodden minority groups of exploited workers. As has been said, about 90 per cent. of claims submitted have been by major unions, such as the AUEW, APEX and ASTMS, on behalf of their members in the engineering, shipbuilding and aerospace industries in order to circumvent pay controls.

Conservative Members believe that the fair wages resolution is harmful because it kills off jobs. It forces up pay, and this is a principal cause of high and rising unemployment, particularly among the younger generation. The resolution's narrow emphasis on pay comparability has bidded up the price of labour making firms bidding for public sector contracts less competitive and making it more difficult for individuals to price themselves into jobs, which should, of course, be today's objective.

The fair wages resolution is also incompatible with the principle that pay and conditions of employment should generally be settled between employers, employees and the trade unions on terms which suit their circumstances. Such negotiations must take into account not only the circumstances of the job but the productivity, profitability and efficiency of the firm concerned. Relating pay by law to other firms in the area may be totally unrealistic.

I should like to read from the much quoted 1944 White Paper on employment policy, Cmnd. 6527, which recognised that increases in the general level of wage rates must be related to increased productivity due to increased efficiency and effort. From what Labour Members have said today, one would think that their view on that had changed but the leader of the Labour Party said in 1975 that excessive wage settlements … can contribute to the level of unemployment."—[Official Report. 1 July 1975; Vol. 894, c. 1173.] I do not see why they should have changed their views on the subject.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State mentioned that clause 4 of the fair wages resolution gives workers the right to belong to unions. If it had also given workers the reciprocal right not to belong to unions, perhaps the attitude of Conservative Members to the resolution would have been different.

Parliament likes precedents. The precedent for the rescinding of the fair wages resolution is the abolition of schedule 11 of the Employment Protection Act. Schedule 11 was basically the same as the fair wages resolution except that it covered all sectors of employment and enabled virtually anybody who felt he was not getting the going rate to refer the case to the Central Arbitration Committee. In 1980 Parliament repealed schedule 11; rescinding the fair wages resolution is a further step in the right direction.

I agree with the reasons given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for abolishing the resolution, but I question whether we are right to extend the benefits of rescinding it retrospectively. At the end of his statement he said that if the motion is approved the resolution will remain in force until 21 September 1983 but that from that date the Government will not only stop including fair wages clauses in any new contract they let but will release their contractors from any such obligations in contracts then existing. I shall be grateful if my right hon. Friend will say whether he genuinely feels that this type of retrospective legislation is a good idea. No hon. Member likes retrospective legislation, and this is perhaps one aspect of the rescinding of the measure that we should reconsider.

I should like to put down two markers for the future—measures along the same lines as the one we are discussing. The first concerns the various fair wages standards embodied in other Acts of Parliament such as in section 15 of the Civil Aviation Act 1949. These impose upon employers a similar legal obligation which could be counter-productive, especially as our civil aviation industry is facing unduly harsh economic conditions with cut-throat competition, overcapacity, rising costs and a world recession. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will no doubt realise from his days in BOAC that section 15 is unnecessary. To my knowledge, it has never been used. There is no point in having legislation that is not used. Even so, it still exists as a threat. That is one very good reason for repealing it.

My second marker looks to 1985, which is the earliest date at which, because of international conventions, the Government can take another step to abolish an institutional way of pricing workers, particularly young workers, out of jobs by scrapping the 34 wages councils which dictate the pay and conditions of nearly 3 million workers. The electorate and the Boundary Commissioner permitting, I shall be sitting in the House in 1985, on the Government side, and I hope to see such a measure proceed. I should certainly vote for it with the same enthusiasm as I support the Government this evening.

Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull Central 7:40 pm, 16th December 1982

I cannot join the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Colvin)in his enthusiasm to see wages councils disappear. However, I heard what the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) had to say to the Secretary of State. If that legislation were to be removed from the statute book it would represent the culmination of the step-by-step approach adopted by the Secretary of State to weaken living and working conditions and to depress the wages of some of the most vulnerable and difficult to organise sections of our community.

The Secretary of State wants to see the employer and the individual negotiating freely without any interference from a third party. What a splendid, noble attitude. Great. Let us see what the Government are doing. By pure chance, my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) has just received a reply to a question that he tabled. He asked the Secretary of State for Transport, if he will publish in the Official Report the letter from Mrs. J. Bridgeman, an official of his Department, to the Director General of the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive of 30 November; and if he will make a statement. The Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Eyre), replied: It is crucial to the battle against inflation that wage settlements in the public sector are realistic. This is particularly relevant in the bus industry where revenues have been falling but costs in recent years have risen much faster than the cost of living generally. I immediately declare an interest as a Member sponsored by the Transport and General Workers Union and secretary of the parliamentary group.

The Under-Secretary of State's reply continued: The Passenger Transport Executives are currently at the initial stages of an important new pay round, the effects of which will be reflected in the level of services that can be afforded and the price the public will be asked to pay. Letters which I approved were therefore sent by my Department on my instructions to each of the Directors General drawing attention to the need to negotiate realistic and sensible settlements.The text of the letter to Manchester was as follows:You are already well aware of the importance of containing costs when there are so many difficult problems for public transport; and above all, given the very large element of labour costs involved, the need to avoid excessive pay settlements that can only mean a reduction in services or pressure on fare levels. However, the Secretary of State has asked me to write to you now because he understands that the passenger transport industry is in the early stages of its pay round and he believes it would be highly damaging for the industry if excessive and unjustified pay awards were to harm the prospects of getting public transport on a more stable basis in the coming year". That is a fair sign that the Government may be a little perturbed and may just be trying to influence the decision. Perhaps that is right for a Government.

The letter continued: 'He has therefore asked me to remind you of the downward trend of other recent settlements, the fall in the inflation rate, and the need for perhaps PTEs to negotiate sensible and realistic pay settlements in this context. The Government believes that within its own sector the increase in the pay bill ought not to exceed 3½ per cent. I should be interested to hear how you yourself see the pay prospects in the coming year. You will wish to bear in mind that the Secretary of State has already indicated the sort of protected levels of expenditure— "protected" should probably be "projected"— 'he has in mind, and these clearly cannot accommodate excessive wage increases without corresponding damaging effects on fare levels and service levels.It is therefore of special concern that your Executive appears to be negotiating about a level of settlement of the order of 7 per cent. which in no way reflects the falling trend elsewhere. Perhaps you could advise me of your reasons for doing so'. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe has said, it is thuggery behind the scenes.

Photo of Mr Alf Morris Mr Alf Morris , Manchester Wythenshawe

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for having quoted the parliamentary reply that I received tonight. Against the background of that reply, does he agree that it is an abuse of language for the Government to talk of free collective bargaining? Is it not a shocking form of pressure on negotiators that such a letter should go out from a Minister?

Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull Central

That is the point that I was making in reply to what the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West and the Secretary of State had said. They said that they believed in two equal partners negotiating. In the past, people have referred to the Secretary of State's "bovver boots".

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford

The hon. Gentleman must recollect that the Government are the means by which taxpayers' money is passed to the employer in this case, in some degree. Therefore, the taxpayer has a justifiable interest in what is going on. To some extent he is inevitably a party to any negotiation, because he is to a considerable extent the paymaster. It is right to point out the implications for those who would be thrown out of work if there were excessive wage settlements. Ultimately, those settlements will be made between the parties and they must not expect, as I have said, to be immune from the financial consequences of them.

Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull Central

The Secretary of State cannot have it both ways. He cannot say that he wants free collective bargaining between the two sides and then say that the Government will interfere and, after the parties have agreed, say that they are not prepared to underpin the wage agreement. If they are going to do that, they should enter into the bargaining process. However, they seek not to do that, but to hide behind the organisations that they have set up. If they do not approve of the settlement, they will then say that they were not responsible. If the other fellow acts contrary to the Government's interests, there will be disguised thuggery behind the scenes. That is disgraceful and a monstrous invasion of free collective bargaining—if that is what it is supposed to be.

Photo of Mr Alf Morris Mr Alf Morris , Manchester Wythenshawe

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Secretary of State should say clearly whether he agrees with the terms of the letter that has been quoted? Does the Secretary of State accept that this represents a grave interference in free collective bargaining? How can the Secretary of State speak of free collective bargaining and at the same time support such intervention?

Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull Central

I gather that the Secretary of State supports what the Under-Secretary of State said. I accept what my right hon. Friend has said about the effect of the Government's actions. This is not free collective bargaining. The Government are leaning very heavily on those involved. The letter says that the Government would like to know what the intentions are and tells Manchester to bear those factors in mind. My word, that is leaning heavily, as if any negotiator would go out of his way to forget the points that the Government have in mind.

There has been much talk today about the lack of need for the resolution. It is said that it is archaic and out of date and that there is no longer any need for it. However, I shall read out an extract from a brochure produced by my union. The article is entitled: Pay doubled when the TGWU pressed for Fair Wages", and says: Four days' holiday a year sound horrific but that's all that night cleaners employed by contractors at the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall were getting in the mid-70s. One week they decided they'd had enough and joined the TGWU to get something done. A couple of weeks later, their annual holiday entitlement multiplied and their pay doubled, from £22 to £46. It seemed like a fairy story at the time. But it wasn't.The TGWU and the TUC had been pressing the then Labour Government to extend the 1949 Fair Wages Resolution which requires contractors taken on by local and national government to pay rates no less favourable than for comparable jobs outside.In 1975 the Labour Government passed the resolution in the House of Commons extending this 'fair wages' system.It stated that all contracts for cleaning Government buildings should make the contractor pay his workers at least what is paid to local council cleaners and give them the same paid holiday. From what has been said by my union, I understand that the Government have been somewhat reluctant to state whether the undertaking that was given to contract cleaners of Whitehall that they would always get the grade A local authority rate should be maintained. I should be obliged if the Minister of State would confirm whether, at least in Government Departments, contract workers will receive the local authority grade A level of pay.

There is a real need for the resolution. My union believes that there may be as many as 100,000 members who will be directly affected if the resolution is done away with. They are involved in construction, cleaning, refuse collection and catering. If the resolution is revoked, our members will be affected, especially by cowboy contractors.

The wage element is predominant in the service industries and the contractors will try to win the contract by reducing costs. They will do that by cutting the wage element. The wages of ordinary people will therefore make up the profits and subsidise the Government.

Doing away with the resolution will be the green light to those Tory councils which still have fair wage agreements written into their standing orders and contracts to amend those standing orders and to remove the fair wage clause from their contracts. That will apply in both local and central Government. It will affect the wages and conditions of our members and those of other unions.

It is not widely recognised that more than cleaners, refuse collectors and others in the service industries will be affected. The effect will spread into the manufacturing industries. The important point about the fair wages resolution is that it affects firms that supply goods as well as those that supply services. Moreover, there is an indirect effect on subcontractors and suppliers even though they are not in an immediate contractual relationship with the Government. They, too, are expected to work to fair wage resolution standards.

The effect of abolishing the resolution will spiral from central Government to local authorities to Government agencies in both service and manufacturing industries. When we add that to the anti-trade union and anti-working class legislation that the Government have introduced, we are witnessing the substantial weakening of the ordinary working man's ability to be at one with his employer. His strength came from his collective strength through membership of a trade union.

One side of the balance is being deliberately crippled by the Government's employment legislation, this proposal and other measures which weaken the trade unions and the collective strength of workers. That applies to the unskilled and those who have no recognised craft, such as labourers and contract cleaners. The motion affects those workers who are least able to protect themselves.

Abolition of the resolution will also put at risk those employers who try to maintain a reasonable standard of conditions for their workers when they tender for Government or local government contracts. In many service industries, the only thing that the employers will be able to cut is wages. If that happens, employees will suffer a considerable reduction in their living standards.

It is nonsense to suggest that reducing wages increases job opportunities. Reducing wages reduces purchasing power. That means that the employee has insufficient money to buy the goods and services that his fellow workers provide. Rather than increasing prospects, reducing wages induces a downward spiral. Both demand and job opportunities diminish.

The procedure of the fair wages resolution whereby one first approached the relevant Government Department, then ACAS and eventually the CAC meant that there could be plenty of negotiation. The strength and justification of the fair wages resolution lies not in the number of cases that have gone to the CAC, but in the number that have not gone there. The resolution existed to create an atmosphere and a framework in which people knew, when they negotiated or tendered, that they could go through a somewhat drawn-out procedure to discuss matters. That created a climate for industrial peace. Now, Grunwick-type disputes will spring up continuously. Employees will find themselves increasingly forced to join unions and to take strike action to get their rights recognised.

One of the most interesting features of the resolution, as I demonstrated with my earlier reference to cleaning ladies, is that it has helped to restore the status of women in society. It has ensured that, even if they worked part time, they are not exploited. Removal of the fair wages resolution is an anti-feminist gesture that will annoy many women. It will mean that they will be exploited as m the past. The protection that the TGWU, through the fair wages resolution, has been able to afford will disappear.

The Government have advanced many arguments in favour of the motion. They argue that the resolution has been used by well-organised trade unions. Of course it has—that is what trade unions are for. They take note of the resolution, they examine the circumstances of their members and say "This is a way of getting at the employers." They recognise it as an opportunity to achieve good wages and conditions for their members. Of course we use the resolution. Why should we not? That is what it is for. It exists to protect the living standards of our members. We are right to use it. We want to keep the resolution in force, not because it is anachronistic but because it is highly relevant to many workers.

The Government say that there are no sweated industries left and that this is all a thing of the past. The work done by the cleaning women in Whitehall and in the contract cleaning and service industries is certainly sweated labour. Very often such work is carried out by mothers in single-parent families, old-age pensioners, widows and women who have never had an opportunity to gain skills. When members of my union are expected to clean 70 offices in Whitehall in one night shift, that is certainly sweated labour.

Far from being an anachronism and irrelevant to today's society, something used only by trade unions and therefore no longer necessary, the fair wages resolution is extremely relevant to our needs. With a pool of unemployment approaching 4 million, it is certainly relevant to ensure that employers cannot fish into that pool to find those who will work for the least pay in their desperation to find jobs and thus to ruin the opportunities not only for the others in the pool but for those at work. We must ensure that people receive reasonable wages and can make reasonable choices to extend the area of economic activity. We all know that the Government's monetarist policies are failing, but this is even worse because the Government are now looking to the unemployed to subsidise their failing policies.

Even more important, the legislation was first introduced as a result of an attitude towards people. It arose from the feeling that no matter how poor or unskilled a person, if he was employed directly or indirectly by the Government he was entitled to be treated with dignity and fairness. The Government could then say that they were the best employers and that anyone working for the Government would work for fair wages. The present Government, however, like the classical economists, take the view that man is no more than a tool, a cog in the industrial machine. He is simply part of the equation and does not really matter. They will go for the cheapest and easiest solutions because workers are only human beings and do not really matter. That has been the Government's philosophy on wages, employment and trade unions throughout their period of office.

The motion is just one further extension of a deliberate attack on the collective strength of working people in their trade unions and their organisations and in their desire to obtain for themselves and their families decency and dignity in their ordinary working lives.

Photo of Mr James Hill Mr James Hill , Southampton, Test 8:03 pm, 16th December 1982

We have heard some interesting and well thought out speeches. My right hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Prentice), with his experience in the Department of Employment and his unique view of the Labour Party in Government, made a particularly well-rounded and informative speech which will be essential reading for everyone tomorrow.

Criticism has been directed at my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment. The impression was given that in some arbitrary way he had cancelled convention 94 without any reference to the House. As everyone knows, however, it had to be cancelled before this debate could take place as the fair wages resolution is geared to that convention.

We have heard a great deal about low-paid workers and employers who oppose the rescinding of the resolution but very little about the convention that is the nub of the whole process. The convention has been described as a small matter, covering only a small number of people. Article 1, however, covers not only the expenditure of funds by a public authority but the employment of workers by the other party to the contract". As has been mentioned, the contract may relate to the construction, alteration, repair or demolition of public works", but it may also go beyond that industry. Article 1 also refers to the manufacture, assembly, handling or shipment of materials, supplies or equipment and to the performance or supply of services". It is thus clear how wide the scope could extend if it were given full rein.

My hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary of State knows of the difficulties that I have experienced with the national dock labour scheme. The dockers argue that they should do all the handling and shipment of containers. Clearly, in the case of a Government or public authority contract, matters of that kind might also be covered.

Clause 2 states: Contracts to which this Convention applies shall include clauses ensuring to the workers concerned wages (including allowances), hours of work and other conditions of labour which are not less favourable than those established for work of the same character in the trade or industry concerned in the district where the work is carried on". I expected this to be raised by the Opposition as one can see how a cosy cartel could grow up and a monopoly wage be developed. A group of powerful employers could take examples of work in their district with perhaps very generous allowances, hours of work, and so on, and thus exclude the small employer from competing.

There has been much talk about the low-paid, but workers in manufacturing, construction and demolition are not lowly paid. They are highly skilled workers. I should have thought, therefore, that the Opposition would have wished to get rid of the cosy cartel of employers so that high wages or allowances could not be used to exclude other firms which might be able to employ more workers or certainly some of the lower paid categories which would be excluded by the larger firms. As the Opposition did not raise that, I thought it only my duty to bring it into the debate.

I can understand why the employers wish to keep the cartel in its present form. I am not sure, but I believe that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is trying to break up what seems to be a monopoly in certain areas of Government work. If that is so, and if at the same time it is argued that the fair wages resolution is now dated and no longer protects anyone but a collective cartel, mainly of larger employers, I believe that my right hon. Friend is on the right track. I have no doubt that in the old days it was possible to have a Government contract, sub-contract most of the work and make an incredible profit. Those days are over.

The artisan, carpenter and bricklayer are in great demand and can almost decide their own wage packets. That happens in the construction industry in my area. A builder friend of mine wanted a first-fixing carpenter. He went to the jobcentre and was sent four men. The first could not fix toffee on a handkerchief. The three others were available for work, but not at the rate of pay being offered in my area. Being unemployed men with two, three or four children, the allowances are such that it does not pay them to have a job. Employers in this wonderful cartel cannot give better wages to the artisans. There are no artisans available. I cannot speak for all areas, but if people in the construction industry are prepared to move south there is no doubt that it is a good area.

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin , Glasgow Springburn

I should not like the hon. Gentleman to give the impression that that applies to construction workers all over the country. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in some parts of my constituency there is a 30 per cent. unemployment rate? Large numbers of unemployed people belong to the construction industry, and I am sure that they would be glad of the opportunities that exist in the hon. Gentleman's part of the world.

Photo of Mr James Hill Mr James Hill , Southampton, Test

It is extremely difficult for men to move their families. Some of them are tied to council accommodation and we know how difficult it is to transfer from the North to the South.

I am anxious that the Secretary of State should be allowed to obtain better value for taxpayers. We are all taxpayers, but, unfortunately, some of us are prepared to pay more and more for less and less. I have heard that it is verboten for some reason to mention wages councils. The abolition of the fair wages resolution tonight would be the first step in the abolition of wages councils in 1985.

In my constituency there is a club which employs a steward and his wife. Unfortunately, the last round of wages council pay increases was too much for the club to afford. Any hon. Members who have experience of service industries will know that the wages council brings out first a green form. That is a warning to the employer. The employer looks at his staff numbers and the proposed wage increases. In the service industries such as catering, there is a tendency to balance the wages increase by releasing one or two employees.

If we are taking the first step towards the abolition of wages councils, I hope that I shall be here to support the Government in 1985. I appreciate the Opposition's fear that the abolition of wages councils will mean that everyone will be working for £15 or £20 a week. That is not likely. There are not sufficient people available in the service industries. However, it would be better for many small leisure service employers if the wages council system could in the interim be streamlined. It may be suspected that the abolition of the fair wages resolution is intended to help the privatisation of certain public sector industries. I am not sure how far the ILO convention 94 goes. The hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) said that if the fair wages resolution was abolished there would be an increased privatisation of refuse cleaning departments and general services to hospitals. I do not believe that the fair wages resolution affects any of that. I am sure that the Minister will tell us how far it extends. Does it cover parts of local government, the National Health Service and Whitehall? How far is Whitehall covered by the manufacturing provisions?

Many hon. Members have not been aware of the impact of the fair wages resolution, and some of us have only heard about it recently. We know about wages councils and realise the dangers of creating more unemployment because of the lack of liquidity in certain industries. Not many hon. Members know the finer details of this resolution, but if we are to abolish it perhaps we do not need to know.

A defence of employers seemed strange coming from the Opposition. I can see their point of view. If I were running a construction firm, I should like a set wage throughout my area because it would set the standard. A major employer in the construction industry such as—

Photo of Mr James Hill Mr James Hill , Southampton, Test

I had in mind Wimpey, but there are many others. Such an employer could set the standard for the entire district. From then on no small firms could secure any contracts because they would be priced out This is a good programme for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment. He has many problems to overcome. Many pyramids have been built in the past and the FWR is nearly 100 years old. It was given the breath of life in 1946 and now its days are numbered. We shall be the first State to leave the convention. However, the whole of Europe is still under the cloud of recession. There are those who have expressed the hope that the Council of Europe will take up the case. Some Labour Members are members of the Council and I am sure that the case could be taken up at that forum. I do not know how far it would go because I do not know what support Labour Members would get from the other 20 nations.

Time has gradually overtaken the usefulness of the FWR, and I am pleased that my right hon. Friend is proposing to rescind it, with the aid of a vote at 10 o'clock.

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin , Glasgow Springburn 8:20 pm, 16th December 1982

I shall draw on some of my experiences as a full-time officer representing poorly paid workers. The importance of the fair wages resolution lies not so much in the way in which it can be used but in the fact that it is available. It was an important part of my negotiations with employers.

When legislation was available—for example, schedule 11, the FWR and the Employment Protection Act 1975—I was able to demonstrate to an employer that the union would win the case if the issue went to a fair wages council or if we pursued it under schedule 11. Most reasonable employers would accept that and would not waste their time by taking the matter any further. That refutes the Minister's argument that only a few cases have been taken the full distance. That has not happened because there are good trade union relations in many industries and many employers are prepared to accept a reasonable argument.

I am sorry that the resolution is to be removed. It gives some assurance to the low-paid in our society that the Government of the day are prepared to try to ensure that they have a minimum wage. Conservative Members have argued that the FWR is not the setter of minimum wages. However, when Government employees' wages are compared with private employees' wages in an equivalent industry, we find that Government employees are receiving the basic wage. We are talking not about the average wage, but the basic wage. Government Departments, Government agencies and local authorities are known for paying the national rate, whereas in private industry, especially the engineering sector, the national agreement is usually the basic to which everything else is added. In local government and Government Departments the basic is the actual wage. This means that we are talking about basic wages.

We are approaching Christmas, which is a Christian festival. Every day in this place we start with a Christian prayer. Every Christian I know would argue that a worker is entitled to dignified conditions and a decent wage. The Government of the day should always take that argument on board.

The hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill) mentioned the construction industry. I was never employed in that industry, although when I was a metal worker my company sometimes sent me out on a construction contract. Most private construction companies usually work on a 5 per cent. profit margin when they put in a tender. Many construction companies have gone to the wall during the recession, because their margins are so low. They argue that they must work on such margins because, if they do not, their competitors will beat them to contracts.

One safeguard that a construction company has is that it has an idea of the basic wage for the job. Therefore, it can calculate labour costs before putting in a tender. Any large contract worth discussing is usually with the Government or a local authority and is subject to a strict tendering procedure. Therefore, construction firms must get their sums right before they put in tenders. We are endangering not only employers in general, but the very people whom the Tory Party has been trying to protect during the years—the small business man and even some large business men.

One of the construction industry's present worries is labour. We went through all the arguments about lump labour in debates on the Employment Bill in Committee. I do not wish to go through all of them again, but the danger of lump labour especially affects electricians and heating and domestic engineers. In such jobs, all that the skilled man needs to go on a building site is a bag of tools. The danger is that more people—those who are here today and gone tomorrow—will go on to building sites. It can take months before it is known whether a person has done a good or a bad welding job. Before anyone knows whether the job has been done safely, a fatality may have occurred. We shall have more cowboys on building sites.

Another problem worries legitimate building contrac-tors. The Inland Revenue will be given more headaches if cowboy operators are on the site one day and off the following week. There is no way in which the Inland Revenue can get the full amount of tax due from them.

When a person is employed from week to week as a normal employee, if business gets slack, a good employer still tries to keep him on, but lump labour is off the site as soon as the job is finished. That means that it is difficult to get people off the dole.

A few days ago the House discussed the problems of female labour and how it was affected by the recession. Employees of Government contractors in the building, printing or defence industries have good, strong negotiating positions. The women who are being exploited are employed in the catering industry or in jobs such as cleaning. It is hypocritical to say that we wish to do more for women and at the same time to take away any safeguards that they may have.

I am not ashamed to say that, were it not for the cleaning job that my mother had, at times my family would not have had a proper meal on the table. My mother had to endure many indignities and much hardship because, when she was bringing up the family, she could work only at certain hours. She could not leave home at 7 am and return at 5 pm. She had to get up at 5.30 am, come back at 9 am to send the children to school, and then go out again at 5 pm, by which time the eldest child was home from school and could look after the younger children. Some unscrupulous employers know that that is the position of many women in our society, and there is no doubt that they exploit those women. It is unfair to abolish this resolution without at least providing protection for such women. If the Government are serious when they say that they wish to give equal opportunities to women, they must consider that factor.

Sometimes the words "equal opportunities" roll off the tongue too easily. It is all very well, in a highly paid industry, to give women equal pay, but in the poorly paid industries women are on a treadmill and they cannot be compared with someone else in a similar industry unless the Government take a responsible line and ensure that we have some legislation to help them.

As a very new Member of Parliament I took part in the debate on schedule 11. I expressed anxiety that the Government were endangering some sections of the community by abolishing that schedule. The Government were worried, because of the previous wage restraint, that work forces were using schedule 11 to get round the social contract. Many of those workers would have preferred to be involved in normal negotiations rather than to look for loopholes.

The problem with the abolition of schedule 11 was that many charitable institutions performed an identical job to that done by the health services and social work departments. Those institutions included the Cheshire homes, the Jewish old people's homes, Church of Scotland homes, Church of England homes and many Catholic institutions. They advertised for people with nursing qualifications to work in old people's homes or in schools. Those organisations do not have the expertise to become involved in day-to-day negotiations. However, because many of the positions offered were on a live-in basis, with flats supplied by the employer, the institutions had to negotiate what they would charge the employee for heating, lighting and rent. The beauty of schedule 11 was that if, as a full-time officer, I went along to such an establishment, I could point to the Whitley council agreements and tell the institutions that not only did the Health Service have certain wage rates for nurses, matrons or superintendents, but that it made certain charges for accommodation, heating and lighting. That helped employers who knew nothing about negotiation—most of whom were fair-minded people—but who were prepared to pay wages and provide conditions equal to those in local government or in the Health Service.

By abolishing the fair wages resolution and schedule 11, we shall endanger people who do not have the muscle or the will to take industrial action. People who work in charitable institutions do not want to get involved in industrial action. Therefore, we are going down a road which will endanger workers whom this Government say that they admire. If the Government want more such workers, they will have to give them some protection.

In an intervention in the speech of the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon) I said that if workers fall below a certain wage, the State should step in with rent and rate rebates and family income supplement. Society would have to subsidise unscrupulous employers. In my opinion, it is wrong for the Government to use taxpayers' money in that way. It is also wrong that many workers should have to undergo the indignity of having to make claims when, if they are employed, they should be getting a reasonable rate for the job.

Conservative Members have been reluctant to talk about wages councils. The Minister has said that he would like to do away with them, but that he cannot do so until 1985. However, he is going the right way about it. The figures that I got from the Library show that in 1979 there were 177 inspectors for wages councils, covering 2·7 million workers. In March 1982, the number was down to 119. The Minister should come clean and tell us exactly what he is up to.

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham 8:37 pm, 16th December 1982

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin) made an interesting and informative speech, based on personal knowledge, which always adds force to an argument. I was struck while he spoke, as I have been throughout the debate, by the irony that the Opposition are arguing, in effect, that the lot of working people on Government contracts—we are talking about Government contracts, because that is what the fair wages resolution relates to—will deteriorate catastrophically if there is no compulsion to make pay and conditions match those of the relevant parts of the capitalist private sector. That is the gist of their argument. That is their case. However, most Opposition Members spent a good deal of time and many words avoiding the implications of their arguments, although I absolve the hon. Member for Springburn from that, because he acknowledged that fact early in his speech.

I am happy to acknowledge the covert, perhaps unconscious, tributes that were paid by the Opposition to the advantages that private enterprise brings to its employees.

Nevertheless, I believe that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is right to seek to dispense with the fair wages resolution. As he made plain when he opened the debate, the resolution is a net disbenefit to the economy and therefore to working people.

The first reason for that is that the fair wages resolution cuts across the free bargaining process in which employers and employees make their own arrangements to fit the circumstances of their firm. The right hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker) needed all his intellectual subtlety to construct out of that a support for the collective bargaining system. The fair wages resolution substitutes a form of enforced comparability for the proper and flexible practice of relating pay to productivity and the other factors which are relevant to the businesses concerned. That has nothing to do with bargaining, free, collective or otherwise.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) was indignant at the suggestion that part of the reason for this measure was that it would allow free collective bargaining to operate more certainly. He said that Governments intervened by the back door and set standards for parts of the public sector when they were negotiating wages. However, they must do that because they are directly involved. They are not intervening in something to which they are a third party when the money that is to be dispensed in any settlement comes from the taxpayer via the Exchequer.

My second reason for supporting what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is seeking to do is that the fair wages legislation militates against competition which gives the opportunity for firms and individuals to price themselves into work and offer a more economic service. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen) read out a list of organisations which oppose what my right hon. Friend is seeking to do. He explained that one of them consisted of employers who did 90 per cent. of the work in the public sector already. That fact was assumed to add validity to their argument, though I am not sure what that 90 per cent. represented. However, the truth is surely that the present arrangements suit very well those who already have the contracts. Of course they do not want any change in the situation which would make it possible for smaller firms to come in and compete with cheaper service.

Springing from that is the third reason why I believe my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is right. Everybody knows that public sector funds are necessarily limited. It is thus destructive of employment if the cost of a public project is inflated by the fair wages resolution because there will be fewer projects and fewer jobs. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) said, there would then be fewer chances for people to come off the dole queues.

The hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton), who is back in his place, took much pleasure in horrifying himself with expectations of wage cuts among the low-paid. The hon. Member for Mary hill did the same but with considerably less relish.

That brings me to my fourth and most important reason for supporting my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. When the fair wages resolution inflates wages—if it does not do that on occasion, there is no purpose in having it—it is not the low-paid who benefit, even in the short term, because the device has generally been used by the better paid with strong union representation to raise their remuneration and improve still further their terms of employment.

Low pay is usually associated with particular types of work that stretch beyond the public sector into the private sector. Much has been heard in this debate of cleaning ladies, but such as they get little benefit from the resolution. Indeed, "fair wages resolution" is a misnomer. What is really at issue is not fairness but comparability. I have a great deal of sympathy with Opposition Members when they talk about the genuinely low-paid, but comparability is the crucial factor across an industrial sector where wages are low, and the only effect of the fair wages resolution is to leave them low.

It is significant that many of our effective competitors, not noted for low wages or inefficiency—Germany, Sweden and Switzerland—have not adhered to the ILO convention at any stage. It is time, for the reason stated from the Government Benches, that we joined them by rescinding the resolution.

Photo of Mr John Grant Mr John Grant , Islington Central 8:46 pm, 16th December 1982

I apologise for not being present for a great deal of the debate. I was, however, here at the outset. I shall therefore be brief.

I have a long-standing interest in this subject. For three years I had ministerial responsibility within the Department of Employment for this area of activity, especially for wages council matters. It is appropriate that only this week the Government have been reported to the Council of Europe for failing to meet their obligations under the European charter for the low-paid. It is timely that the complaint, lodged by the Low Pay Unit, an independent body, comes as the Government prepare to use their majority to get through Parliament tonight the abolition of the fair wages resolution and the denunciation of the related ILO convention.

The decision follows the steady erosion of protection for the low-paid. There has already been reference to schedule 11. The decision follows the erosion that started with the Employment Act 1980, which removed the across-the-board fair wages provisions in industry. It weakens the position of these workers still further. Despite what the Secretary of State said in reply to my intervention, I am certain that there is a good deal more to come.

The hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Lloyd) suggested that the fair wages resolution prevents competition. It does nothing of the sort. The resolution protects the wage levels of workers on public sector contracts. It stops second rate contractors using cheap labour to undercut their rivals when they tender for central and local government work. I do not see how that squares with unfair competition. The resolution was approved in 1946. It was hailed at the time by Mr. Harold Macmillan as the protector not only of living standards but of the standards of competence and honour of industry as a whole".—[Official Report. 14 October 1946; Vol 427, c. 633.] Mr. Macmillan was rather prophetic. He warned that some future Treasury sponsored economy drive would turn the screws on departmental contracts and the resolution would again be the great protector of living standards and of co-operation within industry

Mr. Macmillan's brand of Conservatism is now dead and buried. Today's harsh and abrasive style is reflected in the Secretary of State's letter to employers and unions, in which he asserted bluntly that social and economic conditions had changed considerably so that the protection was now undesirable, and the right hon. Gentleman repeated that today.

The right hon. Gentleman said that the statutory minimum requirement for wages and working conditions priced workers out of jobs. It would be surprising if that never happened, but all efforts to produce worthwhile and objective evidence of that on any scale have failed. The Secretary of State tonight spoke about evidence, but when he was challenged he had nothing to say about the actual evidence. There is none. What is more significant—I rely on the findings of the Low Pay Unit and its representation to the Council of Europe—is that about 3½ million adults in Britain are now earning less than the 68 per cent. of average earnings, now estimated at £93 a week, which the Council of Europe has defined as fair remuneration.

The claim of the Low Pay Unit in 1979—I do not think the Government are challenging this—was that one in every 10 male manual workers was below the defined level, and last year the proportion was one in six. Manual women workers were similarly adversely affected.

The worst hit areas are those covered by the wages councils, which set limited statutory rates for about 3 million low-paid workers in industries such as distribution, hotel, clothing and catering. There is well-founded anxiety that this resolution is the forerunner of a more sweeping attack on the whole wages council system.

The Wages Inspectorate of the Department of Employment has already been slashed and is less able than ever to cope with the increasing illegal underpayments that are taking place. The number of inspections of premises has decreased and the morale of the officials in the inspectorate is at a low ebb.

The Secretary of State's attitude has understandably encouraged Conservative Members who are campaigning vigorously to abolish the wages council system. It has taken a long time for the trade unions to overcome their traditional hostility to the wages councils. The contention was that workers would not bother to join unions where wages councils would operate on their behalf. That position has changed and they now support the councils, whatever their level of enthusiasm. They find it uneconomic to recruit and service workers, who very often are scattered throughout a multiplicity of small firms. Unionisation in those areas remains low.

It is fair for the Secretary of State to say that the fair wages resolution may have had rather less importance in practice than Mr. Macmillan anticipated all those years ago, but if the right hon. Gentleman is allowed to follow his natural instincts and abolish the wages councils, there will be even more serious and far-reaching consequences for these poorly paid and badly organised workers.

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service has proposed—it was put cautiously in its most recent annual report—that it might carry out an inquiry into the function of wages councils. If that took place, the Secretary of State would not get the answer that he wants. We know the answer that he wants. He wants to get rid of them. He has quite pointedly ignored that recommendation. There is no progress in that respect.

The fair wages resolution will go out of the window tonight. We know that the Government will use their majority. We shall not get a result similar to that in the wee small hours of this morning. This is a very different situation. Any critical position adopted by the Council of Europe under the Charter, which is the economic and social counterpart of the European Convention on Human Rights in relation to the Government's position on the fair wages resolution, will be brushed aside. Those affected at their places of work in these circumstances do not have industrial muscle and political clout.

The Government are not impressed and do not care. There will be no Tory revolt tonight. The Government, who declare their dedication to helping the worst off in our society, will have demonstrated once again the hollow sham an outrageous claim. I doubt whether Mr. Harold Macmillan will tonight be proud of his latter-day counterparts.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Central Fife 8:54 pm, 16th December 1982

The public must be wondering what on earth we are up to by spending a whole day on the fair wages resolution at a time when 4 million people are on the dole and the number is increasing hourly. They may well ask "What the devil are they doing down there?" Knowing the Government's record, it is reasonable to suppose that they are not doing this to improve the prospects of the workers about whom we are talking. They are removing such protection that exists.

As the hon. Member for Islington, Central (Mr. Grant) said, we are talking about people, many of them women, who are badly organised and have little trade union clout. They are the very people to whom this House should be giving maximum protection.

We have heard about the long tradition underlying the fair wages resolution, which goes back to 1891. It is a long and honourable history, and it has been sustained by successive Governments—Tory, Labour and Liberal—over the years. Many people who supported the ruthlessness of the capitalist system, such as Harold Macmillan, shrunk from its more extreme consequences and well understood the cruelties and inhumanities within that system. Even the Tory Government of 1970–74 never took this kind of action. That reflects the basic inhumanity and harshness of the present Government.

When a crime is committed, the police look for motives. I look for a motive tonight. It is perfectly clear. The Government object to anything other than the forces of a free market, be it labour or capital, to determine wage levels. If the workers sink below starvation level, the Government's attitude is "Too bad, mate".

If such a doctrine is accepted, it paves the way for the extension of private enterprise in the public sector. During the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton), a Conservative Member spoke about private contracts in the Health Service. In his view, if private contractors were allowed to get their clammy claws on Health Service contracts, £400 million would be saved which could go towards nurses' pay. What a load of rubbish. Does anybody think, even assuming that the £400 million can be saved in that way, that this Government, with the present Secretary of State for Social Services and the present Prime Minister, would automatically transfer the money to the nurses? All the evidence points to the contrary.

The low pay review has been quoted today, and it gives an example on page 10 of a management study of an NHS hospital where a private contractor was employed to clean the hospital. The costs were £78,900 more to clean the hospital than direct labour charges would cost. Nevertheless, the private contractor was given the job. That was reported in The Guardian on 16 July 1982.

Presumably local government contracts will be covered by this resolution. A case is quoted in the Labour research department document "Public or Private". It quotes the example of Pritchard Maintenance Services Ltd, employed by Wandswoth council to clean the borough streets. In its first four months of operation, the company had to forfeit £4,000 of its payment because of bad work.

The hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Lloyd) talked about competition bringing down prices, as if both these things were necessarily desirable and would automatically increase efficiency. Some of the laundry firms that have been invited to put in bids for doing the laundry of hospitals have made it clear that they are not prepared to take soiled laundry. Anybody who has seen a soiled sheet from a hospital knows that that is the crux of the matter.

The laundry people employed by the NHS have one of the most filthy jobs in the hospital service. I have a relation who does this job, so I know what I am talking about. I have told him that if the Government get their way and put the laundry work out to private contract he will probably be out of a job. Laundries are inadequately unionised, and the union will be split up, with a separate union dealing with the laundry people in Newcastle, a different one in Edinburgh, another in Plymouth and so on. That will make it much easier for unscrupulous private contractors to beat down the wages of the unorganised laundry workers.

The hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Best) poured scorn on the Opposition because we are defending something that was started in 1891. The Ten Commandments date from 2,000 years ago. Will the Prime Minister now say "Two thousand years ago? Let us scrap the Ten Commandments"? She has already done so. The same could be said of the Sermon on the Mount.

If we are to use the argument that something is wrong because it is out of date, we had better look at the statute book because there are books and volumes of it going right back to Magna Carta on which our freedoms are based. Let the Tories use that argument.

The document from which I have been quoting shows clearly that many organisations today believe that the resolution is highly relevant to the present circumstances, and the Minister knows that. The Secretary of State was shot down in flames by my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster. He produced evidence of massive support for our view and relatively little support for the Government's view. I should like the Minister to give the names and number of organisations that support what he will do tonight. We can then compare them with the relative strength of the organisations that oppose it. It is clear that the fair wages resolution has been acknowledged as a means of improving industrial relations and strengthening collective agreements.

Some hon. Members seem to think that the fair wages resolution takes the place of free bargaining. In fact after the bargaining has taken place and when the trade unions and employers have agreed on the wages scale, it is stated what the minimum will be below which they shall riot go. If one takes away that support, unscrupulous employers could have their way. By heaven, there are many unscrupulous employers around. They are the people who will be laughing tonight. I shall give two examples. I could give names and addresses.

I took up one case with the Department and got no change at all. The only job that a young lad aged between 19 and 20 from Cowdenbeath could get was as an apprentice butcher with a firm in Kinross, which is miles up the road. He had to pay £4 or £5 a week in bus fares to get there. That employer worked the lad all hours of the day and night. He was never paid overtime, although he worked overtime. He was paid £1 an hour. The Minister said to me "Too bad, mate." The wages council offered no protection and no inspector.

The other example is of a son of a friend of mine who lives in Thornton, in Fife. He left school and could not get a job. He did a year's training course in catering at Kirkcaldy technical college but still could not get a job. Therefore, he went along to the local hotel and did a few hours' work on banquets and so on at £1 an hour. He was so exploited that he gave up the job.

When the boy went down to the exchange, the people said "Oh, you gave up your job, so there is no dole for you." That would not be covered by the resolution as it was not a public contract. However, the employer could have been a private catering contractor in the National Health Service. The boy could have been paid low wages by that employer and if he left that employer he would have been told the same at the employment exchange: "No, you have left your job, so no unemployment benefit for you."

Those examples show the inevitable consequence of what the Government are doing. It is a carte blanche for the most undesirable, unscrupulous and exploiting employers in the country. There are thousands of them just waiting for this opportunity. The Minister poured scorn on us. The traitor who left us talked about us being the mouthpieces of the trade unions. Let me say to him and the Government that we are proud to have our origins in the trade union movement. The only way that workers can protect themselves from unscrupulous employers is by organisation in trade unions.

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Barkston Ash

I do not want to raise unnecessarily a point of order, but the hon. Gentleman should reconsider his use of the word "traitor" in respect of my right hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Prentice) and withdraw it.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Central Fife

I shall try to think of a more appropriate word, but I cannot at the moment. Meanwhile, I withdraw it. There must be more appropriate words that come within parliamentary courtesy, but I cannot think of one at the moment.

The motion fits in with the Government's philosophy. They seek to convince people that most of our problems stem from the greed of labour, that the Government are blameless, and that if only labour would behave and work for nothing, or something near it, our problems would be solved. They say that only the greedy trade unionists are creating our problems. The rescission of the resolution is part and parcel of that. The Secretary of State is the mouthpiece and the favourite son of the Prime Minister because he uses the same jargon as she does. People are told "Get on your bike if you want a job", or it is said to that lad in Fife "Accept a pound an hour from that unscrupulous hotel owner or else you will get nothing—no dole, nothing at all. Accept those exploiting wages or do without."

There will be no protection for any worker. The Government's move today is a prelude to getting rid of the wages councils. It is part of the Government's slave-driving philosophy.

Photo of Mr George Park Mr George Park , Coventry North East 9:10 pm, 16th December 1982

The hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill) said that he did not know how far this fair wages resolution went, but that it was a good idea to abolish it. That about summed up the opening speech by the Secretary of State. The right hon. Gentleman pushed to one side the long history of the fair wages resolution, the fact that it was adopted unanimously in the House and that it was strengthened by Governments of various complexions, and even by a coalition Government. We were told that times have changed and it is now an anachronism. Times have changed. We have never before experienced such unemployment, which is due to the Government's policy.

I listened carefully to discover why the Secretary of State was so eager to introduce the motion. All I heard was a series of condemnatory assertions. That is the only way that I can describe them. We were told that the fair wages resolution imposed on employers a level of wages about which they had no say; impeded competitiveness and destroyed jobs; priced people out of jobs; brought less responsibility to wage negotiations; and interfered with free wage bargaining. Those are samples of the flimsy back-up produced by the Secretary of State to support his views.

When referring to free wage bargaining there was an implication that all workers in this country belong to trade unions. Would that it were so. In fact, only half of them belong to trade unions. The fair wages resolution protects those who are not members of trade unions. It is hard to organise groups such as industrial cleaners or catering workers into trade unions. It is difficult for trade unions to get them into organisations.

It is no accident that the building industry has been mentioned time and again during the debate. The industry is wide open to shoddy work and fly-by-night operators. Therefore, it was no surprise to me when my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker) produced evidence of building trade employers who were completely against what the Government are trying to do today.

The fair wages resolution—this has not been touched on very much—has over the years contributed to good industrial relations. The existence of the fair wages resolution has often meant that matters that might otherwise have erupted into industrial disputes have been taken to the arbitration committee and settled quietly, and the job has gone on.

The Secretary of State lauded the refuse collectors in Birmingham for taking on the job of collecting the rubbish. He mentioned only incidentally that 200 fewer would be required. In discussing the economies which would result, I did not hear him take into account the benefits that would have to be paid to those 200 workers who will now be on the dole.

The hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) used an expression that is common usage among Conservative Members—"pricing oneself back into a job". I have always wondered what that means. Recently, I have heard of people who are so desperate for work that they have found out the rate for a job and offered to do it for less. Obviously, a young single man with no family commitments can offer to do the job for less than a married man. However, if the married man is left on the dole, the Government will have to pay even greater contributions in benefits. That is the only interpretation that I can put on that expression.

I can only think that the motive behind the Government's action today is that it is to be a set piece at the Tory Party conference. The Secretary of State for Employment will stand up and say "I have set you free." He has set the cowboys free. Perhaps that is why he feels so at home with what he is doing today.

Photo of Mr Eric Varley Mr Eric Varley , Chesterfield 9:15 pm, 16th December 1982

Every Opposition Member who has taken part in the debate has said that this is a sad day for the House. It should be a day of shame. We have noted the Conservative Members who have taken part in the debate. When we have employment debates we are usually graced with the presence of the chairman of the Conservative employment group, the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton), but today he has not shown his face in the Chamber. Indeed, the hon. Members for Chippenham (Mr. Needham), for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst), for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Madel) and for Beeston (Mr. Lester) have not taken part in the debate because they do not want to have anything to do with it.

The contributions that have been made by Conservative Members have come from the Thatcherite wing of the Conservative Party; from the kind of hon. Member who voted against the Home Secretary last night. The motion is entirely in keeping with what the Secretary of State for Employment, the Prime Minister and their colleagues want to see. They want the resolution to be rescinded, and they want those on low pay to suffer even more.

We had the usual sanctimonious speech from the right hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Prentice). I am getting a bit fed up with him lecturing us about how good he was on industrial relations. It is difficult to believe that he was nurtured and sustained as a Member of Parliament for many years by the Transport and General Workers Union. It is difficult to believe that the same right hon. Gentleman voted against the Tory Industrial Relations Act 1971.

It is difficult to believe that the right hon. Member for Daventry was in the same Cabinet room when the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act was authorised. According to the Secretary of State for Employment and his colleagues, that was all the work of the devil. It is also difficult to believe that the right hon. Member for Daventry voted for the Employment Protection Act, for the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Act, to establish the National Enterprise Board and the British National Oil Corporation. Now he wants us to take him seriously on these issues.

Photo of Mr Reginald Prentice Mr Reginald Prentice , Daventry

I should love to have the opportunity to debate each of those points with the right hon. Gentleman, but clearly there is no time now. When I occupied the position enjoyed by the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Varley) as Shadow Secretary of State for Employment I criticised the Government of the day, but I was also prepared to criticise the unions when I thought that they were wrong. Has the right hon. Gentleman ever criticised the unions from that Dispatch Box since becoming the Shadow spokesman?

Photo of Mr Eric Varley Mr Eric Varley , Chesterfield

The right hon. Gentleman has not been following events. If he believes that we mirror everything that the TUC wants, he has not been following any of the debates or looking at the comments made by the TUC.

We have not today been debating what some people regard as the major issues of the moment, such as disarmament, which is incomparably the most important issue facing the nation. We have not been debating mass unemployment—a situation which has deliberately been created by the collapse of the economy. In about 40 minutes' time we shall divide on a motion which proposes to remove from the most vulnerable workers in the country the protection that they have enjoyed for about 100 years.

Tory Members of Parliament will vote to allow unscrupulous employers to reduce the wages and to worsen the conditions of employment of those whom they employ. So far, and especially recently, only a tiny minority of employers have behaved in that way, but when the House decides to rescind the fair wages resolution many more employers will behave badly. The fair wages resolution was intended not only to protect workers from exploitation but to maintain a standard of work and to protect enlightened employers from unfair competition based on wage undercutting.

It seems almost incredible that, after nearly 100 years during which Britain has operated some form of fair wages resolution, the Secretary of State for Employment should introduce such a mean-minded and spiteful motion. I said "almost incredible". We ought not to be surprised at anything that this Secretary of State will do to weaken the safeguards for and conditions of work of ordinary working people.

The Secretary of State said that the abolition of the fair wages resolution was first mooted in September 1979 by his right hon. Friend who is now the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. However, that Secretary of State abandoned the idea. He saw the sense of retaining the resolution. That is not true of this Secretary of State. It is entirely within the character and temperament of the knee-in-the-groin bovver boy who now heads the Department of Employment to seek out the weakest section of our working community for a going over.

We are told that there will be a reshuffle any day now. I hope that as long as this Conservative Government exist the present Home Secretary will remain in his post. But if he goes, there is no doubt who will be the candidate for Home Secretaryship. We shall have hanging and flogging before we can bat an eyelid. The Secretary of State rubs his hands in glee at the prospect.

The right hon. Gentleman gave no reason for rescinding the fair wages resolution, but he says that there are two reasons for doing so. His first reason is that the resolution no longer fulfils its original purpose of combating low pay. His second reason is that it is little used.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker) gave many examples to rebut the first reason that the Secretary of State gave, based on information that was supplied by the Department of Employment. I shall give just one example. I need not do so at any length, as it has already been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen).

I have seen correspondence between the Department of Employment and the Scottish and Northern Ireland joint industry board for the plumbing industry. My hon. Friend the Member for Maryhill did not point out that it is not an insignificant body. It represents 1,000 firms. It is vehemently opposed to the abolition of the fair wages resolution. I wrote to the Secretary of State for Employment and received a reply from the Minister of State, who said: We do not believe that abolition of a little used and outdated measure will have the adverse consequences you fear The board went to great lengths to point out that abolition would have exactly the impact that it had described to the Secretary of State. It said: The joint industry board has been concerned for some time that some firms in the Industry are not complying and continue not to comply with the Industry's Working Rules in operating, in particular, the Holidays with Pay, Sickness Benefit and Pensions Schemes which are obligatory on all firms employing plumbing labour. As I have said, this is not a small federation. It is a reputable federation of employers representing 1,000 firms.

It is true that relatively few breaches of the fair wages resolution have been taken to the industrial courts and the Central Arbitration Committee in recent years. No doubt that is why the Secretary of State and the Minister of State say that the measure is now little used, but that does not mean that it has been ineffective.

Photo of Mr Eric Varley Mr Eric Varley , Chesterfield

As my hon. Friend says, it is a deterrent. It has deterred backward and rogue employers who would otherwise undercut wages.

Despite the overwhelming evidence of the effectiveness of the resolution, the Government persist in their plan to abolish it. They fail to understand—or, more likely, refuse to acknowledge—that the resolution is now incorporated into the arrangements and practices of certain industries and acts as a safety net for workers employed in them. Nowhere is the resolution more important than in the construction industry. In many cases the mere threat of a breach of the resolution is enough to make employers desist from undercutting wages. The resolution thus ensures that the workers continue to receive the recognised rate for the job.

There is not a shred of evidence to support the Government's view that the operation of the fair wages resolution has disrupted collective bargaining. The opposite is nearer the mark. It has established the rate for the job and supported collective bargaining. The existence of the resolution has served only to bring wages and conditions up to the recognised general level. For that level to be exceeded has been the exception. On most occasions wages have merely been brought up to the agreed level.

It would be far more honest for the Government to admit what everyone else knows. They wish to abolish the resolution because they are no longer prepared to safeguard the interests of workers employed by those who have or will receive Government contracts. In doing so, they are renouncing what successive Governments have always recognised—that protection and safeguards are needed for those who are unorganised and, in the main, low-paid.

The Government have not only failed to produce any coherent reasons for abolishing the resolution; they have failed to consult industry and the trade unions properly in accordance with the ILO convention. It is no use the Secretary of State sitting there with a pained grimace on his face. He knows that what I say is true. Under ILO convention 94, before moving to rescind the resolution the Government are expected to consult representative organisations.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster outlined the widespread objections that were sent to the Department of Employment. By no stretch of the imagination can the Government claim properly to have consulted the TUC. On 25 May the Secretary of State wrote to the TUC inviting its views. Shortly after that the TUC replied that it opposed abolition and asked that the whole matter be reconsidered. Two weeks later the Secretary of State wrote again to the TUC, saying that he would give "due weight" to its views. Almost immediately thereafter, without giving the TUC a chance to make representations to him, and without taking any further evidence from it, the Secretary of State announced on the eve of the Summer Recess, in answer to a planted written question, that he intended to go ahead with abolition.

That is not consultation. It is diktat—a mere perfunctory exchange of correspondence which the Secretary of State believes will fulfil the obligations under the convention. It is the minimum required to pave the way for the miserable motion that we are debating.

The Government could not provide any good reasons for rescinding the fair wages resolution. In those circumstances, we can only assume that they are motivated by a desire to cut the cost of any contracts that go to the private sector and that they hope to do so at the expense of wages. I am in favour of cost cutting through greater efficiency, investment and the introduction of safe technology. Any benefit that the Government or Treasury obtain from the abolition of the fair wages resolution will be at the expense of wages and the conditions of employment of people working on Government contracts. The Government want savings on the contracts that they award, but it will not be as a result of any improvement in efficiency, investment or new technology; it will be as a result of cut-throat competition between employers for the cheapest available labour. By rescinding the resolution the Government are giving the green light to reactionary employers.

Many Opposition Members have mentioned Mr. Harold Macmillan's words when he spoke at the Dispatch Box in 1946 in support of the fair wages resolution. His words were true then and they are true today. The low-paid need fair wages most. In industries where the workers are highly organised and the trade unions are recognised by employers there is no need to go to the Central Arbitration Committee. There is mutual respect and collective agreements are observed.

Trade unionism is at its weakest in the lowest paid industries, and it is in those industries that the fair wages resolution has been most beneficial. Every objective analysis shows that the provisions of the fair wages resolution have been very successful in protecting those earning below average wages.

The Government's industrial relations policy is based on mass unemployment, but the fair wages resolution has not hindered good industrial relations. On the contrary, its existence has helped to ensure that agreements are not undercut at the expense of some employers and employees. It has provided employers with protection from damaging industrial action. The independent Central Arbitration Committee has reported more than once that the fair wages resolution has provided a means of solving disputes without recourse to damaging industrial strife.

The Secretary of State, in his pleasing and inimitable style, proposes to press ahead and rescind the fair wages resolution after 91 years of operation. There has been no clamour or great representation from any section of industry asking the Secretary of State to get rid of it. It has had no damaging effects on the economy. On the contrary, in the main it has been beneficial. It has not benefited the higher paid; it has protected the low-paid. It has not distorted the labour market. It has been good for industrial relations.

The Government want to put the clock back a century for workers employed on Government contracts. It will leave them open to a reduction in wages and conditions of employment. Their conditions will no doubt deteriorate. Inevitably, some employers will be encouraged to abandon collective agreements in the search for Government contracts.

I have been handed a copy of the statutory notice that has to be displayed in factories and workplaces throughout the country when employers enter into Government contracts. It says: The contractor shall pay rates of wages and observe hours and conditions of labour not less favourable than those established for the trade or industry in the district where the work is carried out … The contractor shall at all times during the continuance of a contract display, for the information of his workpeople, in every factory, workshop or place occupied or used by him for the execution of the contract a copy of this Resolution. No longer will that take place.

I know that the Secretary of State travels around the country a great deal during weekends. I hope that wherever he goes over the next few months there will be an arrangement for him to visit a factory where one of these notices is displayed. There can be a little "taking down" ceremony and then he can wear it as a badge of shame.

The Secretary of State is spearheading the abandonment of a measure that has enjoyed a long tradition of all-party support in the House. Some of the weakest and lowest paid will suffer. To judge from what the right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon, he takes pride and joy in the action that he takes. That is typical of him.

Great damage will be done. Great damage has been done to our economy over the past three and a half years. During that period 2 million have lost their jobs and about 1 million have been out of work for more than a year. We know that 20 per cent. of our industry has been destroyed. Practically everyone pays more tax. However, none of that is as mean, despicable and contemptible as the motion that we are debating. That is why the Opposition will vote against it.

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Barkston Ash 9:37 pm, 16th December 1982

A stranger to our proceedings who listened to the debate throughout would have heard for hour after hour the passionate and vehement attacks on what the Government are proposing to do and could be forgiven for imagining that we were about to unleash on the British people some unthinkable act of despotism or barbarity. Judging by the way in which the right hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker) opened the debate on behalf of the Opposition and the way in which the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Varley) replied to it, the impression has been given that we are about to reintroduce hanging for sheep stealing. The right hon. Member for Chesterfield, with a piece of subliminal black propaganda, managed to suggest that my right hon. Friend is about to hang us all.

The level of denunciation from the Opposition is not in touch with the real world. My right hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Prentice) was right to say that the more modest the measure the more hysterical the language. That applies in this instance. I must start by asking the House to place the motion in its proper perspective in relation to the real world.

The 1946 resolution, which the Government are inviting the House to rescind, is the last in line of three such resolutions originally concerned with sweated labour conditions in the nineteenth century. The first one, incidentally, was introduced by a Conservative Government in 1891. Each successive resolution in the line of three has had progressively less to contribute in the sphere of fair wages and conditions for employees.

The reason for that is that other factors, such as the growth of trade unions or even the development of employment protection legislation, have appeared on the employment scene and have moved progressively towards the centre of the stage. Indeed, the very first clause of the current resolution, under which contractors are required to observe terms and conditions for employment established by the trade or industry in the district by representative joint negotiating machinery or arbitration, shows how deeply a trade union or other representative negotiating framework is presupposed by the resolution. Therefore, at its best the resolution is merely an appendage. If that was true in 1946, when the work force was about 43 per cent. unionised, it applies with even more force now, when the figure is nearer 50 per cent. More significantly, over 70 per cent. of all workers now have their pay determined by some sort of collective bargaining arrangement.

The right hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker) tried to argue that the fair wages resolution was a prop for free collective bargaining, but his argument does not stand up to an examination of the facts. I have been glancing through a summary of the Central Arbitration Committee's fair wages resolution awards for 1981–82. In at least two of the 22 awards, the companies against which the award was made paid rates in accordance with national agreements, reached between the Engineering Employers' Federation and the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions. In another case, involving Cammell Laird, the CAC accepted that the award might affect internal differentials, but the company was paying wage rates in line with national agreements. Far from the fair wages resolution being a prop of free collective bargaining, on the contrary it tends in many ways to undermine it.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster

I quoted the National Federation of Building Trades Employers, one of the largest employers' organisations in the country. The fair wages resolution was a buttress—my word, not its—for collective bargaining in the construction industry.

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Barkston Ash

Whatever the arguments in favour of the idea that the fair wages resolution is a buttress, they are belied by what has happened with award claims taken to the CAC.

When one adds to this perspective the fact that the resolution applies directly only to central Government contracts, the limited character, indeed the veritable modesty of our motion's implications, becomes even clearer. Workers employed on Government contracts are only a relatively small proportion of the work force. The Government have acted and will continue to act responsibly in placing contracts. There will be no relaxation of the standards with which Government contractors are expected to comply.

I remind the House that in practice—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why change it?"] I shall try to answer the question, "Why change it?" if I am given the chance to proceed with my speech.

In practice the Government will continue to set an example, as the hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) asked us to do. The example is a good one. It is that those placing contracts should not attempt to interfere with the pay and conditions agreed by contractors and their employees. We hope that other public sector employers will behave in the same way.

I urge the Opposition to recognise that we shall continue to act in a completely responsible way over central Government contracts. It should be noted that the fair wages resolution already depends upon the moral rather than the legal authority of the Government. The decision reached by the final arbiter in a question raised under the resolution—the Central Arbitration Committee's decision and its award—is not directly enforceable at law, as my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Best) reminded us.

Contractors are simply expected to comply with the terms of any award made. If they fail to do so, woe betide their future expectation as Government contractors. Exactly the same sanctions will continue to apply in maintaining Government standards for contractors, whether or not the resolution is enforced.

I remind Opposition Members again that the level of claims and awards since 1946, when related to the number of firms in the economy—of which there must be well in excess of 500,000—places the whole operation in the realm of the indisputably marginal. In the entire period from 1946 to 1975—some 30 years—only 65 claims were made, of which only 13 were established in whole or in part. I concede that there followed a span of four years when the claims went up a little: 122 in 1976, 328 in 1977, 570 in 1978, and 135 in 1979. But in 1980, claims again dropped back to 50, of which only 12 were established, and in 1981—the last complete year—only four claims were established out of a total of 50 made.

Some hon. Members might argue that the relatively small number of claims shows that the fair wages resolution is successful in promoting good practice, but that argument cannot be sustained. The facts show exactly the opposite, which is that it is redundant. That can be seen in the fact that there was a relatively large upsurge of claims in the four years between 1975 and 1979. Those were the years of the Labour Government's four phases of incomes policy. The figures show—this is an important part of the argument—that when normal collective bargaining is superseded, there is a tendency for fair wages resolution claims to burgeon and to develop.

In 1975, only six claims were received. In July of that year the White Paper "The Attack on Inflation", with its proposal for a £6 a week maximum increase, was introduced by the Labour Government. As a result of that in 1976 the number of claims jumped from six to 122. In 1977, the White Paper "The Attack on Inflation after 31 July 1977" was introduced with a 5 per cent. or £4 a week maximum. The minimum allowed was £2·50. What a marvellous bonus that was for the low-paid in the face of the prices and incomes policy. That is what the Labour Party was talking about before the recent National Health Service dispute. As a result of that, the number of claims in 1977 shot up to 328.

In 1978, the Labour Government published the White Paper "Winning the Battle Against Inflation". The total increase for any group compared with the previous year was to be not more than 5 per cent. The health workers have done well under the Tory Government compared with the latter phase of prices and incomes policy of the previous Government. Due to the 5 per cent. maximum increase across the board, the number of fair wages resolution bids leapt from six in 1976 to 570. It was only in 1979, when we got rid of the prices and incomes policy, that it began to drop again.

The clear conclusion to be drawn from the figures is that, marginally, the fair wages resolution tends to be resorted to when normal free collective bargaining is inhibited. It is difficult to see how a party such as the SDP, which has now officially and openly espoused the policy of regulated wages and prices, can advocate the retention of a device such as the fair wages resolution that has been used most actively in the past 10 years to buck the prices and incomes system.

This might be the appropriate time for me to try to scotch one myth that has found repeated expression in Opposition Members' speeches today. The myth is that by rescinding the resolution we shall be attacking the low paid, or at least removing from them a real protection. However, that argument cannot be sustained. The fair wages resolution compares the pay of workers in the same industry or occupation. Therefore, it cannot be instrumental in raising the general level of pay in traditionally low-paid industries or occupations.

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin , Glasgow Springburn

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Barkston Ash

No. I must get on with this part of the argument.

That can be illustrated by examining recent awards. In 1981–82, there were about 20 awards that were not related to absolute pay levels. Two awards found breaches of the resolution in claims involving workers earning up to £10,000 and £6,192 a year respectively. One found a breach for those in the range of £62 to £94 a week. A similar spread is found among claims where no breach is found. Two awards found no breach with earnings in the range of £74 to £96 a week. Four awards found no breach among workers whose earnings were at a maximum of £7,000 a year or more.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Daventry asked about the spread of low pay that was to be found in Central Arbitration Committee fair wages resolution awards for 1981 and 1982. I have studied the list carefully. I have it here, and it is an exhaustive one, giving all 22 awards. Of the 22, only two awards put in by bodies of workers came remotely near the level of weekly pay which is a feature of the wages council sector. On average, they were at least £20 or £30 a week above the average for the wages council sector. Therefore, the argument that the awards were a protection for the low paid is absolute nonsense.

I recognise that one danger in the argument of irrelevance of the fair wages resolution is that it could be stood on its head. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen), with his subtle approach, said to me, "If it is doing no harm and is not very effective, why not let it wither on the branch?" The answer is not grounds of ideology, but the fact that it has a direct bearing upon jobs.

To sustain my argument, I should like to make one quotation. It comes from a letter written to my Department by the industrial relations director of Courtaulds. I know that the right hon. Member for Doncaster will remember the letter, because it was quoted in the debate in Parliament in 1980. It relates to the decision to try to do away with schedule 11 of the 1975 Act. It said: The 'handing down' of wage awards, from remote central bodies, creates in employees' minds the vision of a bottomless pit of wealth, irrespective of the circumstances of their particular enterprise and totally at variance with the Government's philosophy based upon 'ability to pay'. No amount of explanation of the economic facts of life can stand up against the background of an apparent source of cash unrelated to the workplace circumstances … Because substantial pay increases can be achieved through the easy route"— described in the letter— it becomes extremely difficult to carry out effective bargaining on a productivity basis within individual companies or workplaces: instead of the exchange of commitments, which is an essential element in true bargaining, we have a virtual one-way traffic in increased pay". The essential message in the passage I have quoted is that the kind of provision which the now inoperative schedule 11 made, and which the resolution makes, produces an obstacle to employment. I heard the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Radice), from a sedentary position, asking me what evidence that showed. It is corroborated by one of the cases which came to the CAC and which resulted in an award in the 1981–82 phase. As a result, the company had to declare redundant two of its 14 workers, because of a wage award which it could not afford.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster

In 1980, the Government got rid of schedule 11. If it had the effect that the Minister describes, will he explain why Courtaulds, since then, has shed thousands of jobs? The man-made fibre industry has lost more than 20,000 jobs, and the Government have created an additional 2 million unemployed. If schedule 11 was a barrier to full employment, will the Minister say why its removal had those consequences?

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Barkston Ash

There is nothing that I should like more than to enter into a general debate with the right hon. Member for Doncaster about the extent to which the failure to maintain relations between pay and productivity has put the British competitive position in hock to our foreign competitors. That is what it amounts to.

In the course of quoting the letter from the industrial relations director of Courtaulds, I was talking about the abolition of schedule 11. An interesting point, therefore, arises in connection with what the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon) said in his intervention. He seemed to be fulminating on low pay grounds about our motion to do away with the resolution. Therefore, he will presumably support the Opposition in resisting the abolition of the resolution and oppose the Government's motion. However, he should realise that the abolition of schedule 11 which took place in 1980 is exactly the same in principle as the abolition of the resolution that we are seeking tonight, although immeasurably wider and more far-reaching. What are we to make of what his hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) said on 17 December 1979? He said: I welcome clause 16, especially the proposal to abolish schedule 11 to the Employment Protection Act 1975, which has been grossly abused by some unions".—[Official Report,17 December 1979; Vol. 976, c. 130.] Will the hon. Member for Truro go into the Lobby tonight with the Labour Party in support of the fair wages resolution when his hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale supported the abolition of schedule 11 which is the fair wages resolution writ large? I urge the hon. Gentleman to think hard and long before he votes with the Opposition tonight.

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Barkston Ash

I want finally to say something about the allegation that we have not been—

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Barkston Ash

I am sorry, I have little time left. [Interruption.] The noise is affording me a useful opportunity to find a piece of paper.

The allegation has been repeatedly made—the last occasion was by the right hon. Member for Chesterfield—that we have not been doing what we should have done in terms of consultation. I do not understand why the TUC complains that we have not properly consulted it. If it had wanted more, it could have asked for that. We wrote to the TUC in March on another ILO matter—a draft White Paper on the Government attitude towards the ILO conventions and recommendations adopted by the ILO conference in 1981. Owing to a misunderstanding the TUC thought that it was not being consulted properly and it asked for a meeting.— [Interruption]—I hope that the right hon. Members for Chesterfield and for Doncaster will listen carefully to what I have to say.

The TUC asked for a meeting specifically to talk about an ILO recommendation and a convention. That meeting was willingly granted and the TUC came along. It was able to give me its views clearly. It was Bill Keys and one or two others who came to see me. I reported to the Secretary of State, who considered the representations that had been made to me. As a result, a small change was made in the White Paper relating to the subject that we discussed.

If the TUC had asked for a meeting to discuss the rescission of the fair wages resolution and the denunciation of ILO convention No. 94, it would have been willingly granted. However, Len Murray, when he wrote to ask for the meeting to which Bill Keys came to talk to me about the ILO, said in his letter that he hoped that the Government would talk to him at the same time about another matter which it was proposed to denounce, referring to the fair wages resolution motion.

When they came along to discuss the ILO Bill Keys concentrated entirely on the ILO's views on collective bargaining and did not bother to mention the fair wages resolution. However, that meeting took place, they said they wanted to talk about it, but did not do so. There could not have been a greater opportunity for consultation than when they came into the Department to speak to me. Quite apart from the letters that have flowed backwards and forwards, they had an opportunity to talk to us but they did not bother to do so. Therefore, I can unreservedly ask the House to support the motion for the abolition of the resolution and to resist the amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 240, Noes 300.

Division No. 35][10 pm
AYES
Abse, LeoBenn, Rt Hon Tony
Adams, AllenBennett, Andrew (St'kp't N)
Allaun, FrankBidwell, Sydney
Alton, DavidBooth, Rt Hon Albert
Anderson, DonaldBottomley, Rt Hon b. (M'b'ro)
Archer, Rt Hon PeterBray, Dr Jeremy
Ashley, Rt Hon JackBrown, Hugh D. (Provan)
Ashton, JoeBrown, R. C. (N'castle W)
Atkinson, N. (H'gey,)Brown, Ronald W. (H'ckn'y S)
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)Buchan, Norman
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd)Callaghan, Rt Hon J.
Beith, A. J.Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n & P)
Campbell, IanJay, Rt Hon Douglas
Campbell-Savours, DaleJenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)
Canavan, DennisJohn, Brynmor
Cant, R. B.Johnson, James (Hull West)
Carmichael, NeilJohnson, Walter (Derby S)
Carter-Jones, LewisJones, Rt Hon Alec (Rh'dda)
Cartwright, JohnJones, Barry (East Flint)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Clarke, Thomas (C'b'dge, A'rie)Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S)Kerr, Russell
Cohen, StanleyKilfedder, James A.
Coleman, DonaldKilroy-Silk, Robert
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.Kinnock, Neil
Conlan, BernardLamond, James
Cook, Robin F.Leadbitter, Ted
Cowans, HarryLeighton, Ronald
Cox, T. (W'dsW'th, Toot'g)Lestor, Miss Joan
Craigen, J. M. (G'gow, M'hill)Lewis, Arthur (N'ham NW)
Crowther, StanLitherland, Robert
Cryer, BobLofthouse, Geoffrey
Dalyell, TamLyon, Alexander (York)
Davidson, ArthurLyons, Edward (Bradf'd W)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)McCartney, Hugh
Davis, Terry (B'ham, Stechf'd)McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Deakins, EricMcElhone, Mrs Helen
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)McGuire, Michael (Ince)
Dewar, DonaldMcKay, Allen (Penistone)
Dixon, DonaldMcKelvey, William
Dobson, FrankMacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Dormand, JackMaclennan, Robert
Douglas, DickMcNally, Thomas
Dubs, AlfredMcNamara, Kevin
Duffy, A. E. P.McTaggart, Robert
Dunnett, JackMcWilliam, John
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.Marks, Kenneth
Eastham, KenMarshall, D (G'gow S'ton)
Edwards, R. (W'hampt'n S E)Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're)Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)Martin, M (G'gow S'burn)
Ennals, Rt Hon DavidMason, Rt Hon Roy
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)Maxton, John
Evans, John (Newton)Maynard, Miss Joan
Ewing, HarryMeacher, Michael
Faulds, AndrewMikardo, Ian
Flannery, MartinMillan, Rt Hon Bruce
Foot, Rt Hon MichaelMiller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Ford, BenMitchell, Austin (Grimsby)
Forrester, JohnMitchell, R. C. (Soton Itchen)
Foster, DerekMorris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Foulkes, GeorgeMorris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)
Fraser, J. (Lamb'th, N'w'd)Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Freeson, Rt Hon ReginaldMoyle, Rt Hon Roland
Freud, ClementMulley, Rt Hon Frederick
Garrett, John (Norwich S)Newens, Stanley
George, BruceOakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr JohnO'Neill, Martin
Golding, JohnOrme, Rt Hon Stanley
Graham, TedOwen, Rt Hon Dr David
Grant, John (Islington C)Palmer, Arthur
Hamilton, James (Bothwell)Park, George
Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife)Parker, John
Harman, Harriet (Peckham)Parry, Robert
Harrison, Rt Hon WalterPavitt, Laurie
Hart, Rt Hon Dame JudithPenhaligon, David
Hattersley, Rt Hon RoyPowell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Haynes, FrankPrescott, John
Healey, Rt Hon DenisPrice, C. (Lewisham W)
Heffer, Eric S.Race, Reg
Hogg, N. (E Dunb't'nshire)Radice, Giles
Holland, S. (L'b'th, Vauxh'll)Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S)
Home Robertson, JohnRichardson, Jo
Homewood, WilliamRoberts, Albert (Normanton)
Hooley, FrankRoberts, Allan (Bootle)
Howells, GeraintRoberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Hoyle, DouglasRoberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Huckfield, LesRobertson, George
Hughes, Mark (Durham)Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Rodgers, Rt Hon William
Hughes, Roy (Newport)Rooker, J. W.
Janner, Hon GrevilleRoper, John
Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)Tilley, John
Rowlands, TedTinn, James
Ryman, JohnTorney, Tom
Sever, JohnUrwin, Rt Hon Tom
Sheerman, BarryVarley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Sheldon, Rt Hon R.Wainwright, E. (Dearne V)
Shore, Rt Hon PeterWalker, Rt Hon H. (D'caster)
Short, Mrs RenéeWardell, Gareth
Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford)Watkins, David
Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)Weetch, Ken
Silverman, JuliusWelsh, Michael
Skinner, DennisWhite, Frank R.
Smith, Rt Hon J. (N Lanark)White, J. (G'gow Pollok)
Snape, PeterWhitehead, Phillip
Soley, CliveWigley, Dafydd
Spearing, NigelWilley, Rt Hon Frederick
Spellar, John Francis (B'ham)Williams, Rt Hon A. (S'sea W)
Spriggs, LeslieWilliams, Rt Hon Mrs (Crosby)
Stallard, A. W.Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Steel, Rt Hon DavidWilson, Rt Hon Sir H. (H'ton)
Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)Wilson, William (C'try SE)
Stoddart, DavidWinnick, David
Stott, RogerWoodall, Alec
Strang, GavinWright, Sheila
Straw, JackYoung, David (Bolton E)
Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)Tellers for the Ayes:
Thomas, Dr R.(Carmarthen)Mr. Lawrence Cunliffe and
Thorne, Stan (Preston South)Mr. George Morton.
NOES
Adley, RobertChannon, Rt. Hon. Paul
Aitken, JonathanChapman, Sydney
Alexander, RichardChurchill, W. S.
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelClark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)
Amery, Rt Hon JulianClark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Ancram, MichaelClarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Arnold, TomClegg, Sir Walter
Aspinwall, JackCockeram, Eric
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (S'thorne)Colvin, Michael
Atkins, Robert (Preston N)Cope, John
Atkinson, David (B'm'th,E)Cormack, Patrick
Baker, Kenneth (St.M'bone)Corrie, John
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)Costain, Sir Albert
Banks, RobertCranborne, Viscount
Bendall, VivianCritchley, Julian
Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay)Crouch, David
Benyon, Thomas (A'don)Dickens, Geoffrey
Benyon, W. (Buckingham)Dorrell, Stephen
Berry, Hon AnthonyDouglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Best, KeithDover, Denshore
Bevan, David Gilroydu Cann, Rt Hon Edward
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnDunn, Robert (Dartford)
Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnDurant, Tony
Blackburn, JohnDykes, Hugh
Blaker, PeterEden, Rt Hon Sir John
Body, RichardEdwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W)Eggar, Tim
Bowden, AndrewElliott, Sir William
Boyson, Dr RhodesEmery, Sir Peter
Braine, Sir BernardEyre, Reginald
Bright, GrahamFairbairn, Nicholas
Brinton, TimFaith, Mrs Sheila
Brittan, Rt. Hon. LeonFarr, John
Brooke, Hon PeterFell, Sir Anthony
Brotherton, MichaelFanner, Mrs Peggy
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'n)Finsberg, Geoffrey
Browne, John (Winchester)Fisher, Sir Nigel
Bruce-Gardyne, JohnFletcher, A. (Ed'nb'gh N)
Bryan, Sir PaulFletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles
Buchanan-Smith, Rt. Hon. A.Fookes, Miss Janet
Buck, AntonyForman, Nigel
Budgen, NickFowler, Rt Hon Norman
Bulmer, EsmondFox, Marcus
Burden, Sir FrederickFraser, Peter (South Angus)
Butcher, JohnFry, Peter
Carlisle, John (Luton West)Gardiner, George (Reigate)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n)Garel-Jones, Tristan
Chalker, Mrs. LyndaGilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Glyn, Dr AlanMellor, David
Goodhart, Sir PhilipMeyer, Sir Anthony
Goodhew, Sir VictorMiller, Hal (B'grove)
Goodlad, AlastairMills, Iain (Meriden)
Gorst, JohnMills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Gow, IanMiscampbell, Norman
Gower, Sir RaymondMitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Gray, Rt Hon HamishMoate, Roger
Greenway, HarryMontgomery, Fergus
Griffiths, E. (B'y St. Edm'ds)Morgan, Geraint
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)Morris, M. (N'hampton S)
Grist, IanMorrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Grylls, MichaelMorrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Gummer, John SelwynMudd, David
Hamilton, Hon A.Murphy, Christopher
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Myles, David
Hampson, Dr KeithNeale, Gerrard
Hannam, JohnNeedham, Richard
Haselhurst, AlanNelson, Anthony
Havers, Rt Hon Sir MichaelNeubert, Michael
Hawksley, WarrenNott, Rt Hon John
Hayhoe, BarneyOnslow, Cranley
Heath, Rt Hon EdwardOsborn, John
Heddle, JohnPage, John (Harrow, West)
Henderson, BarryPage, Richard (SW Herts)
Hicks, RobertParkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.Parris, Matthew
Hill, JamesPatten, Christopher (Bath)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Patten, John (Oxford)
Holland, Philip (Carlton)Pattie, Geoffrey
Hooson, TomPawsey, James
Hordern, PeterPercival, Sir Ian
Howe, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyPink, R. Bonner
Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd)Pollock, Alexander
Hunt, David (Wirral)Porter, Barry
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Hurd, Rt Hon DouglasPrice, Sir David (Eastleigh)
Irvine, Rt Hon Bryant GodmanProctor, K. Harvey
Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Jenkin, Rt Hon PatrickRathbone, Tim
Jessel, TobyRees, Peter (Dover and Deal)
Johnson Smith, Sir GeoffreyRees-Davies, W. R.
Jopling, Rt Hon MichaelRenton, Tim
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir KeithRhodes James, Robert
Kaberry, Sir DonaldRhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Kershaw, Sir AnthonyRidley, Hon Nicholas
King, Rt Hon TomRidsdale, Sir Julian
Kitson, Sir TimothyRifkind, Malcolm
Knight, Mrs JillRippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Knox, DavidRoberts, M. (Cardiff NW)
Lamont, NormanRoberts, Wyn (Conway)
Lang, IanRossi, Hugh
Lawrence, IvanRost, Peter
Lawson, Rt Hon NigelRoyle, Sir Anthony
Lee, JohnSainsbury, Hon Timothy
Lester, Jim (Beeston)St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Scott, Nicholas
Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo)Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Luce, RichardShelton, William (Streatham)
Lyell, NicholasShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
McCrindle, RobertShepherd, Richard
Macfarlane, NeilShersby, Michael
MacGregor, JohnSilvester, Fred
MacKay, John (Argyll)Sims, Roger
Macmillan, Rt Hon M.Skeet, T. H. H.
McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)Smith, Dudley
McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
McQuarrie, AlbertSpeed, Keith
Madel, DavidSpeller, Tony
Major, JohnSpence, John
Marland, PaulSpicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Marlow, AntonySproat, Iain
Marten, Rt Hon NeilSquire, Robin
Mates, MichaelStanbrook, Ivor
Maude, Rt Hon Sir AngusStanley, John
Mawby, RaySteen, Anthony
Mawhinney, Dr BrianStevens, Martin
Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinStewart, A. (E Renfrewshire)
Mayhew, PatrickStewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Stokes, JohnWalker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D.
Stradling Thomas, J.Wall, Sir Patrick
Tapsell, PeterWaller, Gary
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)Walters, Dennis
Tebbit, Rt Hon NormanWard, John
Temple-Morris, PeterWarren, Kenneth
Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.Watson, John
Thomas, Rt Hon PeterWells, Bowen
Thompson, DonaldWells, John (Maidstone)
Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)Wheeler, John
Thornton, MalcolmWhitelaw, Rt Hon William
Townend, John (Bridlington)Whitney, Raymond
Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)Wickenden, Keith
Trippier, DavidWiggin, Jerry
Trotter, NevilleWilkinson, John
van Straubenzee, Sir W.Williams, D. (Montgomery)
Vaughan, Dr GerardWinterton, Nicholas
Viggers, PeterYoung, Sir George (Acton)
Waddington, DavidYounger, Rt Hon George
Wakeham, John
Waldegrave, Hon WilliamTellers for the Noes:
Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)Mr. Carol Mather and
Walker, B. (Perth)Mr. Robert Boscawen.

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 300, Noes 235.

Division No. 36][10.14 pm
AYES
Adley, RobertChapman, Sydney
Aitken, JonathanChurchill, W. S.
Alexander, RichardClark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelClark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Amery, Rt Hon JulianClarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Ancram, MichaelClegg, Sir Walter
Arnold, TomCockeram, Eric
Aspinwall, JackColvin, Michael
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (S'thorne)Cope, John
Atkins, Robert (Preston N)Cormack, Patrick
Atkinson, David (B'm'th,E)Corrie, John
Baker, Kenneth (St.M'bone)Costain, Sir Albert
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)Cranborne, Viscount
Banks, RobertCritchley, Julian
Bendall, VivianCrouch, David
Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay)Dickens, Geoffrey
Benyon, Thomas (A'don)Dorrell, Stephen
Benyon, W. (Buckingham)Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Berry, Hon AnthonyDover, Denshore
Best, Keithdu Cann, Rt Hon Edward
Bevan, David GilroyDunn, Robert (Dartford)
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnDurant, Tony
Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnDykes, Hugh
Blackburn, JohnEden, Rt Hon Sir John
Blaker, PeterEdwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)
Body, RichardEggar, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W)Elliott, Sir William
Bowden, AndrewEmery, Sir Peter
Boyson, Dr RhodesEyre, Reginald
Braine, Sir BernardFairbairn, Nicholas
Bright, GrahamFaith, Mrs Sheila
Brinton, TimFarr, John
Brittan, Rt. Hon. LeonFell, Sir Anthony
Brooke, Hon PeterFenner, Mrs Peggy
Brotherton, MichaelFinsberg, Geoffrey
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'n)Fisher, Sir Nigel
Browne, John (Winchester)Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'gh N)
Bruce-Gardyne, JohnFletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles
Bryan, Sir PaulFookes, Miss Janet
Buchanan-Smith, Rt. Hon. A.Forman, Nigel
Buck, AntonyFowler, Rt Hon Norman
Budgen, NickFox, Marcus
Bulmer, EsmondFraser, Peter (South Angus)
Burden, Sir FrederickFry, Peter
Butcher, JohnGardiner, George (Reigate)
Carlisle, John (Luton West)Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Garel-Jones, Tristan
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n)Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Chalker, Mrs. LyndaGlyn, Dr Alan
Channon, Rt. Hon. PaulGoodhart, Sir Philip
Goodhew, Sir VictorMeyer, Sir Anthony
Goodlad, AlastairMiller, Hal (B'grove)
Gorst, JohnMills, Iain (Meriden)
Gow, IanMills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Gower, Sir RaymondMiscampbell, Norman
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Gray, Rt Hon HamishMoate, Roger
Greenway, HarryMontgomery, Fergus
Griffiths, E. (B'y St. Edm'ds)Morgan, Geraint
Griffiths, Peter Portsm'th N)Morris, M. (N'hampton S)
Grist, IanMorrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Grylls, MichaelMorrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Gummer, John SelwynMudd, David
Hamilton, Hon A.Murphy, Christopher
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Myles, David
Hampson, Dr KeithNeale, Gerrard
Hannam, JohnNeedham, Richard
Haselhurst, AlanNelson, Anthony
Havers, Rt Hon Sir MichaelNeubert, Michael
Hawksley, WarrenNott, Rt Hon John
Hayhoe, BarneyOnslow, Cranley
Heath, Rt Hon EdwardOsborn, John
Heddle, JohnPage, John (Harrow, West)
Henderson, BarryPage, Richard (SW Herts)
Hicks, RobertParkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.Parris, Matthew
Hill, JamesPatten, Christopher (Bath)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Patten, John (Oxford)
Holland, Philip (Carlton)Pattie, Geoffrey
Hooson, TomPawsey, James
Hordern, PeterPercival, Sir Ian
Howe, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyPink, R. Bonner
Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd)Pollock, Alexander
Hunt, David (Wirral)Porter, Barry
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Hurd, Rt Hon DouglasPrice, Sir David (Eastleigh)
Irvine, Rt Hon Bryant GodmanProctor, K. Harvey
Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Jenkin, Rt Hon PatrickRathbone, Tim
Jessel, TobyRees, Peter (Dover and Deal)
Johnson Smith, Sir GeoffreyRees-Davies, W. R.
Jopling, Rt Hon MichaelRenton, Tim
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir KeithRhodes James, Robert
Kaberry, Sir DonaldRhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Kershaw, Sir AnthonyRidley, Hon Nicholas
King, Rt Hon TomRidsdale, Sir Julian
Kitson, Sir TimothyRifkind, Malcolm
Knight, Mrs JillRippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Knox, DavidRoberts, M. (Cardiff NW)
Lamont, NormanRoberts, Wyn (Conway)
Lang, IanRossi, Hugh
Lawrence, IvanRost, Peter
Lawson, Rt Hon NigelRoyle, Sir Anthony
Lee, JohnSainsbury, Hon Timothy
Lester, Jim (Beeston)St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Scott, Nicholas
Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo)Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Luce, RichardShelton, William (Streatham)
Lyell, NicholasShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
McCrindle, RobertShepherd, Richard
Macfarlane, NeilShersby, Michael
MacGregor, JohnSilvester, Fred
MacKay, John (Argyll)Sims, Roger
Macmillan, Rt Hon M.Skeet, T. H. H.
McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)Smith, Dudley
McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
McQuarrie, AlbertSpeed, Keith
Madel, DavidSpeller, Tony
Major, JohnSpence, John
Marland, PaulSpicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Marlow, AntonySproat, Iain
Marten, Rt Hon NeilSquire, Robin
Mates, MichaelStanbrook, Ivor
Maude, Rt Hon Sir AngusStanley, John
Mawby, RaySteen, Anthony
Mawhinney, Dr BrianStevens, Martin
Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinStewart, A. (E Renfrewshire)
Mayhew, PatrickStewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Mellor, DavidStokes, John
Stradling Thomas, J.Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D.
Tapsell, PeterWaller, Gary
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)Walters, Dennis
Tebbit, Rt Hon NormanWard, John
Temple-Morris, PeterWarren, Kenneth
Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.Watson, John
Thomas, Rt Hon PeterWells, Bowen
Thompson, DonaldWells, John (Maidstone)
Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)Wheeler, John
Thornton, MalcolmWhitelaw, Rt Hon William
Townend, John (Bridlington)Whitney, Raymond
Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)Wickenden, Keith
Trippier, DavidWiggin, Jerry
Trotter, NevilleWilkinson, John
van Straubenzee, Sir W.Williams, D. (Montgomery)
Vaughan, Dr GerardWinterton, Nicholas
Viggers, PeterYoung, Sir George (Acton)
Waddington, DavidYounger, Rt Hon George
Wakeham, John
Waldegrave, Hon WilliamTellers for the Ayes:
Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)Mr. Carol Mather and
Walker, B. (Perth)Mr. Robert Boscawen.
NOES
Abse, LeoDormand, Jack
Adams, AllenDouglas, Dick
Allaun, FrankDubs, Alfred
Alton, DavidDuffy, A. E. P.
Anderson, DonaldDunnett, Jack
Archer, Rt Hon PeterDunwoody, Hon Mrs G.
Ashley, Rt Hon JackEastham, Ken
Ashton, JoeEdwards, R. (W'hampt'n S E)
Atkinson, N. (H'gey,)Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're)
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)Ennals, Rt Hon David
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd)Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)
Beith, A. J.Evans, John (Newton)
Benn, Rt Hon TonyEwing, Harry
Bennett, Andrew (St'kp't N)Faulds, Andrew
Bidwell, SydneyFlannery, Martin
Booth, Rt Hon AlbertFoot, Rt Hon Michael
Bottomley, Rt Hon A. (M'b'ro)Forrester, John
Bray, Dr JeremyFoster, Derek
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Foulkes, George
Brown, R. C. (N'castle W)Fraser, J. (Lamb'th, N'w'd)
Brown, Ronald W. (H'ckn'y S)Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)Freud, Clement
Buchan, NormanGarrett, John (Norwich S)
Callaghan, Rt Hon J.Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)
Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n & P)George, Bruce
Campbell, IanGilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Campbell-Savours, DaleGolding, John
Canavan, DennisGraham, Ted
Cant, R. B.Grant, John (Islington C)
Carmichael, NeilHamilton, James (Bothwell)
Carter-Jones, LewisHamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife)
Cartwright, JohnHarman, Harriet (Peckham)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Clarke, Thomas (C'b'dge, A'rie)Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S)Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Cohen, StanleyHealey, Rt Hon Denis
Coleman, DonaldHeffer, Eric S.
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.Hogg, N. (E Dunb't'nshire)
Conlan, BernardHolland, S. (L'b'th, Vauxh'll)
Cook, Robin F.Home Robertson, John
Cowans, HarryHomewood, William
Cox, T. (W'dsw'th, Toot'g)Hooley, Frank
Craigen, J. M. (G'gow, M'hill)Howells, Geraint
Crowther, StanHoyle, Douglas
Cryer, BobHuckfield, Les
Cunliffe, LawrenceHughes, Mark (Durham)
Dalyell, TamHughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Davidson, ArthurHughes, Roy (Newport)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)Janner, Hon Greville
Davis, Terry (B'ham, Stechf'd)Jay, Rt Hon Douglas
Deakins, EricJenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)John, Brynmor
Dewar, DonaldJohnson, James (Hull West)
Dixon, DonaldJohnson, Walter (Derby S)
Dobson, FrankJones, Rt Hon Alec (Rh'dda)
Jones, Barry (East Flint)Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Jones, Dan (Burnley)Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldRobinson, G. (Coventry NW>
Kerr, RussellRodgers, Rt Hon William
Kilfedder, James A.Rooker, J. W.
Kilroy-Silk, RobertRoper, John
Kinnock, NeilRoss, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Lamond, JamesRowlands, Ted
Leadbitter, TedRyman, John
Leighton, RonaldSever, John
Lestor, Miss JoanSheerman, Barry
Litherland, RobertSheldon, Rt Hon R.
Lofthouse, GeoffreyShore, Rt Hon Peter
Lyon, Alexander (York)Short, Mrs Renée
Lyons, Edward (Bradf'd W)Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford)
McCartney, HughSilkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
McDonald, Dr OonaghSilverman, Julius
McElhone, Mrs HelenSkinner, Dennis
McGuire, Michael (Ince)Smith, Rt Hon J. (N Lanark)
McKay, Allen (Penistone)Snape, Peter
McKelvey, WilliamSoley, Clive
MacKenzie, Rt Hon GregorSpearing, Nigel
Maclennan, RobertSpellar, John Francis (B'ham)
McNally, ThomasSpriggs, Leslie
McNamara, KevinStallard, A. W.
McTaggart, RobertSteel, Rt Hon David
McWilliam, JohnStewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Marks, KennethStoddart, David
Marshall, D (G'gow S'ton)Stott, Roger
Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)Strang, Gavin
Martin, M (G'gow S'burn)Straw, Jack
Mason, Rt Hon RoySummerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Maxton, JohnThomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Maynard, Miss JoanThomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Meacher, MichaelThorne, Stan (Preston South)
Mikardo, IanTilley, John
Millan, Rt Hon BruceTinn, James
Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)Torney, Tom
Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby)Urwin, Rt Hon Tom
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)Wainwright, E. (Dearne V)
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)Walker, Rt Hon H. (D'caster)
Moyle, Rt Hon RolandWarden, Gareth
Mulley, Rt Hon FrederickWatkins, David
Newens, StanleyWeetch, Ken
Oakes, Rt Hon GordonWelsh, Michael
O'Neill, MartinWhite, Frank R.
Orme, Rt Hon StanleyWhite, J. (G'gow Pollok)
Owen, Rt Hon Dr DavidWhitehead, Phillip
Palmer, ArthurWigley, Dafydd
Park, GeorgeWilliams, Rt Hon A. (S'sea W)
Parker, JohnWilliams.Rt Hon Mrs (Crosby
Parry, RobertWilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Pavitt, LaurieWilson, Rt Hon Sir H. (H'ton)
Penhaligon, DavidWilson, William (C'try SE)
Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)Winnick, David
Prescott, JohnWoodall, Alec
Price, C, (Lewisham W)Wright, Sheila
Race, RegYoung, David (Bolton E)
Radice, Giles
Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S)Tellers for the Noes:
Richardson, JoMr. Frank Haynes and
Roberts, Albert (Normanton)Mr. George Morton.
Roberts, Allan (Bootle)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved,That the Resolution of this House of 14 October 1946 relating to Fair Wages Clauses in Government contracts be rescinded as from 21 September 1983.