HC Deb 09 July 1958 vol 591 cc377-80
20. Mr. Rees-Davies

asked the Minister of Labour whether he has considered the views expressed in recent annual Reports of the Catering Wages Commission on the subject of workers in unlicensed residential establishments; and if he will now state what action he proposes to take.

Mr. Iain Macleod

The Catering Wages Commission has repeatedly drawn attention to the need for revision of the Catering Wages Act, 1943, and to the unsatisfactory position of the Unlicensed Residential Establishment Wages Board, which during its period of activity from 1946 to 1949 never submitted any recommendations to the Minister. Since 1950 the Board has not been reconstituted.

It does not appear that the problem can be solved without legislation. When Parliamentary time permits, and that will not be possible this Session, Her Majesty's Government propose to repeal the Catering Wages Act, abolish the Catering Wages Commission and to convert into Wages Councils the four Catering Wages Boards now functioning. The wages and holiday regulations made under the Catering Wages Act will remain in force.

Only after an Act has been passed will it be possible to appoint a Commission of Inquiry under the Wages Councils Acts to consider whether a Wages Council should be established for workers in unlicensed hotels and boarding houses. Such a Commission of Inquiry would be free from the legal restrictions which have hampered the work of the Catering Wages Commission.

Mr. Rees-Davies

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, as I am quite sure it will, the whole catering industry—and, no less, my hon. Friends on this side of the House—will be delighted with what the Minister has just said about the future of this important industry? Since the Minister has covered a great deal of ground in his Answer, may I pose this further question to him?

With regard to the Catering Wages Act, may we take it that legislation will be introduced in the forthcoming year, and that it will cover what one might call the whole of the ground which is dealt with in the Reports of the Catering Wages Commission and will be a comprehensive review?

Mr. Macleod

Legislation, when it can be introduced, will take the form of an amendment to the Wages Councils Acts. I cannot give a guarantee about the time, beyond what is included in my main Answer, but it is certainly intended to cover all the main points to which I have referred in reply to the Question.

Mr. Robens

May I, first, thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving the House such early notice of his intention to repeal the Catering Wages Act and to take the other steps which he has indicated, which will give us good time to consider the implications, because, as he will appreciate, this may be a very controversial matter?

May I ask him whether the decision he has made has been based upon consultations between all the parties concerned in the industry—that is to say, representatives of the organised workers, hoteliers and others—and whether it is on their advice that he has proposed to do this?

May I also ask him if he would recognise that, while his hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) may be particularly interested in protecting the interests of those who own and control these establishments, we on this side of the House, and I hope also the right hon. Gentleman himself, are very much more concerned with protecting the workers? Will the Minister see that this is adequately done?

Mr. Macleod

I understand the point which the right hon. Gentleman has made. On the question of consultation, this is a Government decision which I am announcing. I have discussed this, particularly in the light of the series of Reports, with which the House is familiar, with Professor Shimmin, the chairman of the Catering Wages Commission. As to the position of the fifth board, dealing with small boarding-houses, it is really impossible, as has been pointed out on many occasions, to solve it in the situation as it is at present, and, therefore, after a great deal of thought, I have brought forward this solution. I believe it is the most flexible way of dealing with the problem, because it has been made clear that the Catering Wages Act, 1943, is too inflexible for the catering and tourist industry.

Mr. Shinwell

Can the right hon. Gentleman give us some assurance that this new legislation which is contemplated by the Government, no doubt, after careful thought by the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, will not lead to any reduction in the present wages standards, but, on the contrary, may lead to some improvement?

Mr. Macleod

I made it clear in my Answer, and, because it is important, I will repeat the sentence: The wages and holiday regulations made under the Catering Wages Act will remain in force. What I have said today does not affect that in the least. As to the future, the Wages Boards, which will become Wages Councils, are the main authorities in matters of that sort. I do not direct to them what their standards should be.

Mr. Lee

Can the right hon. Gentleman be more specific on the point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) about the attitude of the trade unions concerned? Has he discussed this with them, and have they given an opinion?

Mr. Macleod

No, Sir. I have based this on the position as laid down in the Reports of the Catering Wages Commission over a period of years. I have had no discussions beyond that informal discussion which I have already indicated.

Mr. Robens

In view of the decision and the right hon. Gentleman's reply, may I ask him whether it is his intention, as is normal when dealing with legislation of this kind, to have informal discussions with both sides of the industry before finally making up his mind on the nature of the legislation?

Mr. Macleod

Yes, indeed. I am putting these matters to the National Joint Advisory Council in a fortnight's time.

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