HC Deb 04 February 1958 vol 581 cc959-61
18. Mr. Osborne

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, since the increase in wages and salaries by £700 million in 1956, without an increase in national productivity, was the prime cause of inflation, what were the corresponding figures for 1957, and what are the prospects for 1958.

Mr. Amory

I would refer my hon. Friend to the January issue of Economic Trends, which shows that, while the increase in wages and salaries between 1955 and 1956 was £900 million, or 9 per cent., the increase for the first nine months of 1957 over the corresponding period of 1956 was £495 million, or 6 per cent. Figures for the last quarter of 1957 are not yet available, and I am not prepared to speculate on the prospects for 1958.

Mr. Osborne

Will my right hon. Friend do his best to emphasise to the country that if increased wages are paid for the same amount of work prices must inevitably go up?

Mr. Amory

Yes, my hon. Friend has put the crux of the matter very succinctly.

Mr. H. Wilson

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen reports in this morning's Press of the wage claim put in by stockbrokers? Does he consider this demand for higher minimum commissions to be inflationary or not? Will he refer the matter to arbitration, and does he intend to keep such a strict rein—

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

On a point of order. Should the right hon. Gentleman he allowed to exercise his prerogative of consistently putting supplementary questions without relevance to the facts?

Mr. Speaker

I was waiting to see the relevance of the right hon. Gentleman's question.

Mr. Wilson

The Question refers to wages and salaries and productivity. Since the right hon. Gentleman has referred to the importance of not increasing wages and salaries without an increase in productivity, I now ask him whether he intends to refer this matter to arbitration and to keep the supply of money so scarce that this wage demand cannot be granted?

Mr. Amory

My difficulty in answering the right hon. Gentleman's question is that I have not yet had time to look at today's newspapers. Apart from that, I think the right hon. Gentleman imagines my powers and responsibilities are rather wider than, in fact, they are.

Mr. Jay

But as the right hon. Gentleman said himself this week-end at Dawlish that it was the Government now, as in 1956, who were preventing any expansion of production, what is the good of lecturing other people about productivity?

Mr. Amory

I hope the right hon. Gentleman will do me the justice of reading all of what I said at Dawlish, because it was relevant to our present situation.

Mr. Jay

But does the Chancellor deny that he did say at Dawlish that it was the policy of the Government at present to defer any general increase in production?

Mr. Amory

Again, I ask the right hon. Gentleman and everybody else interested to read precisely what I said at Dawlish.