HC Deb 22 February 1965 vol 707 cc28-9
34. Mr. Higgins

asked the Minister of Labour whether he proposes to publish figures for wage drift in each Ministry of Labour standard region, broken down by industries.

Mr. Thornton

No, Sir. The technical difficulties make this impracticable. The calculation of wage drift is extremely complicated and it is difficult to produce useful results for the country as a whole and all industries combined. Figures broken down, by industry and region, would not be reliable enough to be useful. The Ministry does, of course, publish regional estimates of men's average earnings by industry and for some occupations in "Statistics on Incomes, Prices, Employment and Production", copies of which are available in the Library.

Mr. Higgins

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that, unless he is prepared to publish such figures and to do the spadework necessary to give them to the House, it is quite impossible for us to appraise the success or failure of the Government's incomes policy? Does not he realise that, unless he wishes the incomes policy to be regarded as mere window-dressing, he must look into the whole matter?

Mr. Thornton

The incomes policy is by no means window-dressing. A number of assumptions have to be taken into account in making a global calculation for the country as a whole, and by industries. I will give the hon. Gentleman an example. An assessment has to be made of the overtime element, some of which is at time and a third, some at time and a quarter, some at time and a half, and some at double time for Sunday. An assessment has to be made on that basis. In breaking the position down for regions and for each industry within regions, the margin of error would increase and the final result would be practically valueless.

Mr. Biffen

For clarification, could the hon. Gentleman tell the House whether it is his view that his Ministry is unable to produce any figures of wage drift which are meaningful or useful for those who have to carry out the incomes policy?

Mr. Thornton

This is a matter which is receiving our close attention. I have answered the particular Question I was asked.