HC Deb 20 February 1941 vol 369 cc262-3
8. Sir William Davison

asked the Minister of Labour what is the total increase in wages and war-time allowances granted to railway workers since the beginning of the war; whether such increases are comparable to those granted in other industries; and whether the Government have now given further consideration to the question of fixing a standard wage which can be paid in all industries concerned with the national war effort?

Mr. Bevin

Apart from certain increases in the wage rates of lower-paid workers which, though operative from the end of October, 1939, were awarded in respect of claims made before the outbreak of war, the wage increases granted to railway workers since the outbreak of war amount to 7s. per week, in the case of conciliation grades, 8s. in the case of shopmen and £18 per annum in the case of salaried staff. There have been corresponding increases for women and juveniles. In addition the lower-paid workers received, shortly after the outbreak of war, increases varying from 6d. to 5s. per week as the result of an increase in the weekly minimum rates of men and women in the conciliation grades. The average increase in rates of wages varies widely in different industries. In all the industries combined, excluding agriculture, it is estimated that the average is about 14 to 15 per cent. As regards the last part of the Question, I have nothing to add to the statement made in the course of my speech in the House on 21st January.

Sir W. Davison

Do not the Government consider it desirable that increases of wages, which are mainly due to the increase in the cost of living, should be generally comparable in all industries, and that it is undesirable that smaller industries which are not as highly organised as the railways and other big industries should have the same advantages as those which are highly organised?

Mr. Bevin

The Government are averse to a political settlement of wages. We believe that if it were introduced, it would have the same effect as it did in the end of the last war, when it led to rapid and disastrous inflation. The second point made by my hon. Friend is surely unjustified, because powerful unions like those of the railwaymen and engineers have refrained from using their power, and have referred their cases to arbitration. Surely it is not suggested that arbitration courts would be influenced in their decision as to whether a trade was or was not well organised. They have to decide cases on the facts, and without interference