HC Deb 02 February 1956 vol 548 cc1074-5
40. Mr. Lee

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer his policy towards dividend limitation.

57. Sir F. Medlicott

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement of his policy in respect of the limitation of wages and dividends.

Sir E. Boyle

My right hon. Friend does not favour the statutory limitation of dividends since it is impracticable to lay down in a Statute standards which would equitably treat all the widely varying circumstances and needs of the companies concerned. But my right hon. Friend proposes to continue the policy of his predecessor in taking every opportunity to impress on all the partners in industry the urgent need for moderation in their claims.

Mr. Lee

Why can Ministers be so specific in urging wage limitations upon employees but always come with this kind of mumbo-jumbo when asked a specific question as to whether they are in favour of dividend restraint? Is the Economic Secretary aware that this sort of thing will never get any kind of support from people who genuinely are concerned about the economic position of the country but who are fed up with the bias shown by the Government in these matters?

Sir E. Boyle

My Answer was reasonably specific both on the point of view of the statutory limitation of dividends and also on the need for restraint.

Sir F. Medlicott

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind the importance of approaching this subject on the broadest possible front, so that if there is any question of the limitation of dividends, it shall extend also, preferably by agreement, to the limitation of wages and other inflationary tendencies?

Mr. McKay

What is the benefit of the limitation of dividends if prices can still be raised? Would the Economic Secretary consider the principle of operating a maximum price limit so long as the average earnings of any industry, or its total profits before taxation, were not below the average of 1953, 1954 and 1955? Would he then consider some special concession in taxation to any industry which reduced its prices?

Sir E. Boyle

I know the hon. Member's sincerity in these matters but they are issues which are much too wide to discuss now.

Mr. Gaitskell

In view of the complete failure of the policy of the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer in this matter, is it really beyond the wit of the hon. Gentleman and of the new Chancellor of the Exchequer to think of something new in this direction? May I ask him carefully to avoid any measures on a broad front?

Sir E. Boyle

I remind the right hon. Gentleman that neither dividends nor Stock Exchange prices ever rose faster than during the three months after the April Budget of 1951, when the right hon. Gentleman was Chancellor of the Exchequer.

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