HC Deb 11 September 1941 vol 374 cc277-8
11. Mr. Higgs

asked the Minister of Labour whether it is his intention to exercise the powers conferred upon him by Defence Regulation 58AA to impose fixed wages in industries or trades which are not concerned in war production and in which there is no threat of disputes between employers and employees; whether he can indicate the need for the secrecy surrounding the deliberations of the retail joint industrial councils; and whether he will give an assurance that he will make no order imposing fixed wages in retail trades to the prejudice of the interests of small and family shopkeepers without prior notice to this House?

Mr. Bevin

Regulation 58AA does not authorise me to prescribe specific rates of wages, but does empower me to establish a tribunal for the settlement of trade disputes and to require employers to observe such terms and conditions of employment as may be determined to be, or to be, not less favourable than the recognised terms and conditions, both of which I have done by the Conditions of Employment and Arbitration Order, which applies to the retail trades as to other trades. The decisions of the retail joint industrial councils would be taken into account by the tribunal in appropriate cases arising under the Order but are not in themselves of compulsory effect. I am not aware of any special circumstances of secrecy in connection with the deliberations of the councils, which are voluntary bodies and regulate their own procedure.

Mr. Higgs

The Minister has not replied to the important part of my Question, in which I asked whether he would communicate with the House before making an Order fixing wages in the retail trades.

Mr. Bevin

It is clear that the decisions of the councils are not subject to, and are not embodied in, an Order, In the case of any retail distributer before an industrial court, the standard rates of wages laid down by these councils are taken into account.

Mr. Leslie

Is it not the case that the relations between organised workers on the one hand and organised employers on the other have become much better since these councils were established?

Mr. Bevin

I am rather proud of the fact that, after about 10 years' deliberations, I have succeeded in establishing joint councils for the whole of the distributive trades.

Mr. Thorne

If there is a dispute between an employer and workmen, would it not be a dispute within the meaning of the Act?