HC Deb 12 May 1964 vol 695 cc218-9
Q2. Mr. Lubbock

asked the Prime Minister what action the Minister of Labour and the Chancellor of the Exchequer are taking with a view to preparing a joint scheme for placing before the National Economic Development Council proposals for the phased introduction throughout all sectors of employment of the 40-hour week, three weeks' holiday with pay and equal pay for women for equal work, as a contribution towards a positive incomes policy.

The Prime Minister

Our first task must be to secure agreement on the general principles of an incomes policy, and I very much hope that the National Economic Development Council will continue its discussions of these most important matters. Within the framework of these general principles, specific decisions on terms and conditions of employment, including the choice between more leisure and more goods and services, would continue to be matters for collective bargaining between employers and workers.

Mr. Lubbock

Can the Prime Minister explain to me what the difference is between general principles and the sort of harmless platitudes which we have been getting from the Government on a national incomes policy? In order that a national incomes policy may succeed, are not positive objectives needed, and does not the right hon. Gentleman recognise that the matters mentioned in my Question are being discussed at trade union conferences and that it would be much better if we could develop long-term policies for dealing with them in an orderly manner rather than leave them for the kind of competitive "rat-race" we have had so far?

The Prime Minister

I can think of cases in which general principles are almost indistinguishable from harmless platitudes, but I shall spare the hon. Gentleman any embarrassment. If we are to have an incomes policy in this country, it must be, in a free society, by consent. We hope to reach it in that way.

Mr. K. Lewis

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I have calculated that we in this House work more than a 40-hour week and that we intend to do our best to ensure that the national effort is assisted by permitting the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock), after the next election, to get a job where he does work a 40-hour week?