HC Deb 22 July 1965 vol 716 cc1820-2
26. Mr. Arthur Lewis

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs in view of the claim of the Chairman of the British Printing Corporation to a salary of £270,000 per annum, in addition to expense allowance, if he will require the National Board for Prices and Incomes to investigate the salaries and expenses paid to all large industrial undertakings.

Mr. George Brown

No, Sir.

Mr. Lewis

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the fact that workers on small and limited incomes and those who have or are negotiating wage rates through their trade unions, such as the printers, feel a little upset at the fact that their wages and conditions are being referred to the Board whereas those in higher income groups appear not to be so treated? Does not my right hon. Friend feel that an incomes policy would be better received and the trade unions would respond more favourably if they felt that this was being done?

Mr. Brown

I am sorry, but my hon. Friend is not quite up to date. A Question was answered last week on my behalf in which we made it quite clear that we regard the level of remuneration as being quite unjustified. The reason why I am not referring it to the Board is that things are going on at the moment as far as the company is concerned and I prefer to wait what happens there.

Mr. Dean

As the gentleman referred to has worked in my constituency for 40 years, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that this salary figure is grossly exaggerated? Is he aware that my information is that the salary is £1,250 and that anything over and above that depends upon profit, and that the gentleman concerned has waived a substantial part of the profit due to him and has never drawn anything like £270,000 a year?

Mr. Brown

I had better say that if those are the facts no doubt they will be put before the shareholders and made public in due course when we can all assess them.

Mr. William Hamilton

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the desirability of his Department collecting statistics to indicate the trend of incomes of directors and higher executives of companies? Ought not these in certain circumstances to be referred to the Board in the same way as the ordinary wages of ordinary workpeople?

Mr. Brown

There is no difference between us on what can be referred. One has to decide in each case whether it would achieve the end which one has in mind by that kind of reference. In the case of this individual I did not think so, but that does not rule out all kinds of incomes, wages and salaries.

Mr. Shinwell

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that it indicates a large measure of prosperity under a Labour Government when somebody can get £270,000?

Mr. Lubbock

If this man had over £90,000 expenses disallowed in one year, does not that indicate that tax avoiders are rather less successful than the Chancellor of the Exchequer imagines?

Mr. Brown

We are getting near prejudging here matters which are subject to consideration elsewhere and I would prefer not to be drawn further.

28. Mr. Wilkins

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs whether he has now considered the documents relating to the affairs of the British Printing Corporation submitted to him by the hon. Member for Bristol, South; and whether he will refer the affairs of this company to the Prices and Incomes Board, to be considered concurrently with the present reference of wages in the printing industry.

Mr. George Brown

I have no doubt that the Board is already aware of the case of the directors of the British Printing Corporation, and I do not consider it necessary to take any action to bring it to its attention or to require a separate investigation.

Mr. Wilkins

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that the workers in the printing industry, the people who produce the goods, will be very disappointed with the reply which he has now given to me? Is he aware that they fail to understand why it is that he should refer a wage settlement, negotiated nearly two years ago and only just honoured, to the Board when he allows a salary of this astronomical size to go unchallenged? Is my right hon. Friend aware that neither he nor anyone else can explain this to the workers in the terms which he has now used?

Mr. Brown

May I take another shot at explaining it? The Board is aware of this case, and I have not the slightest doubt that it will bear that in mind when it considers the reference which I have already made to it. It does not seem to me that I need to take special steps to ensure that that is so.