HC Deb 08 April 1937 vol 322 cc328-9
3. Mr. Gallacher

asked the Minister of Labour how many occupied people have their wages regulated by collective agreements based on a cost-of-living sliding scale; and how many others among the occupied population, if any, have their wages automatically regulated according to the cost-of-living index?

Mr. E. Brown

The only arrangements known to my Department under which rates of wages are automatically regulated in accordance with movements in the cost-of-living index number are those embodied in collective agreements or in orders under the Trade Boards Acts. The total number of employés covered by these arrangements is estimated at between 1,250,000 and 1,500,000. A number of the agreements, however, estimated to cover nearly 500,000 work-people, are at present suspended or will not come into effective operation unless there is a substantial rise in the cost-of-living index figure above the present level.

16. Mr. Mander

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will consider the advisability of making arrangements by which it shall be an obligation upon any employer to state on the green card which a prospective employé brings to him from the Employment Exchange the wages he intends to pay to that worker?

Mr. Brown

I do not think this would be practicable.

Mr. Mander

Would not this be a very valuable means of keeping up the standard of wages, and will not my right hon. Friend consider the practicability of doing it?

Mr. Brown

There is a number of other factors to be taken into consideration. If the hon. Member will consult with me about it, I shall be very glad to show him why I say that there is a number of other factors.

Mr. Kelly

Will the right hon. Gentleman state some of the reasons why it is not advisable?

Mr. Brown

Not in answer to a supplementary question.

26. Mr. Shinwell

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware of the rising discontent among workers of all grades, and particularly in establishments engaged in the production of war-like material, owing to the low level of wages paid, the rising cost of living, and the belief that manufacturers and others are making large profits out of national needs; and whether he intends to approach the trade unions in the matter or take any other action which would lead to a more satisfactory state of affairs and secure for the workers a more reasonable standard of living?

Mr. Brown

There is in all the major industries machinery for collective negotiation, which, I am satisfied, can be relied upon to take proper account of all these factors without the necessity of prior approach by the Government. I should like to take this opportunity of paying a tribute to the manner in which this machinery has operated in the handling of the many difficult problems necessarily raised in a period of continuously improving employment.

Mr. Shinwell

Has not the right hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to the very large number of disputes now occurring in the industries of the country, particularly as regards armaments production? Moreover, is he aware that the cost of living has increased, and that wages are not following that increase, and does he propose to take any action in the matter?

Mr. Brown

I cannot accept the statement that there is a large number of disputes. I think that is a great exaggeration. I would like to add, as I pointed out in answer to a previous question, that whereas in March, 1937, the cost of living figure was 51, in March, 1924, when the hon. Member's party was in office, it was 78.

Mr. Shinwell

Will the right hon. Gentleman obtain information relating not to 1924, but to 1935 and 1936?

Mr. Brown

I have that information.