HC Deb 21 February 1956 vol 549 cc177-9
24. Mr. John Hall

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the average industrial wage today; and what wage would be required to give the same purchasing value after the tax as the average industrial wage in 1938.

Mr. H. Macmillan

The average weekly earnings of men aged 21 and over in manufacturing and certain other industries covered by the regular Ministry of Labour inquiries were £3 9s. in October, 1938. A married man with two children would require weekly earnings of £9 2s. at the present time to provide the same purchasing power, after tax. The actual average earnings in April, 1955, the latest date for which figures are available, were £10 17s. 5d.

Mr. Hall

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the whole House will welcome this further evidence of the improved standard of living of the industrial worker? Will he see if it is not possible to give some relief to the professional and executive classes, whose not inconsiderable contribution to the general welfare has been rewarded, on the whole, by a drastic reduction in true income below the level of 1938?

Mr. Macmillan

All these matters require, of course, careful consideration.

Mr. H. Wilson

Especially after the opening passages of his speech yesterday, would not the Chancellor agree that an average wage of £3 9s. for a family man in 1938 was abysmally low and reflected the unemployment prevailing at that time? Would he not also agree that that figure of £3 9s. itself reflected a great deal of short-time working or underemployment—for instance, in the cotton weaving industry?

Mr. Macmillan

Of course, 1938 was not a year of great unemployment. [Interruption.] No, if I remember aright the worst years were between 1930 and 1935. There were three million unemployed at one period. The worst year was not 1938, which was about one-third of the worst year. All I say is that I am very glad to feel that the whole House, as my hon. Friend has said, rejoices at this improved standard which has come of recent years.

Mr. Wilson

Will not the Chancellor get his figures right—figures which show that in 1938 there was a recession and that the unemployment figures climbed again to about two million in January, 1939? We all agree that the figure of three million occurred in 1933.

Mr. Nicholson

Do the figures given by my right hon. Friend take into account the value of increased social services?

Mr. Macmillan

Oh, no, Sir.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Will the Chancellor break down these figures? Will he indicate the average wage of miners, agricultural workers and a lot of other workers in 1938? Does not the average figure show a completely false position?

Mr. Macmillan

If the right hon. Gentleman puts down a Question asking for details, I will, of course, give them. I was asked for an average, and I have given an average. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) so nobly explained to the House yesterday, an average is reached by adding a number of things and then dividing the result by that number.