HC Deb 13 April 1961 vol 638 cc457-8
1. Mr. C. Osborne

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is aware that industrial production for January went up by only 1 per cent. to 120, which compares with 120 for January, 1960, and 100 for 1954; since wages and salaries and dividends have increased in the last seven years to a far greater extent, if he will call a conference of industrial and trade union leaders and appeal for a standstill in wages, salaries and dividends for two years so as to keep down prices and help export sales; and if he will make a statement.

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Anthony Barber)

My right hon. and learned Friend is well aware of the facts mentioned by my hon. Friend.

He neglects no useful opportunity of urging on all concerned that a continuation of anything like the recent rate of increase in wages, salaries and other income will intensify the pressure on costs and prices at home and will damage our exports. The action of all who sincerely desire full employment and economic expansion should be based on a full recognition of these facts. I do not think, however, that a conference and an appeal on the lines suggested would help at this juncture.

Mr. Osborne

In view of the fact that last year there was no increased industrial production and that we paid ourselves 6½ per cent. more to produce the same amount of goods, may I ask my hon. Friend whether he is saying that we must accept this creeping paralysis of inflation all the time? Will he not do what Sir Stafford Cripps did in 1948—bring both sides of industry together and have a freeze so that we get stable prices?

Mr. Barber

My hon. Friend realises that there are forums such as the National Production Advisory Council for Industry, where the Chancellor of the Exchequer can, and regularly does, consult representatives of the trade unions and of employers upon these matters. As to the method of setting about this problem, the experience of previous wage and dividend freezes shows that they result in a damming up and that when we take away the dam they are succeeded by a burst. I therefore think that it is best to proceed on the lines which my right hon. Friend is following.