HC Deb 27 May 1965 vol 713 cc828-31
23. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs whether he intends to refer the recent wage agreement relating to the plumbing industry in Scotland to the Prices and Incomes Board.

Mr. Albu

My right hon. Friend—

Sir G. Nicholson

On a point of order. Although not a matter of order, is it not customary for a Minister in these circumstances to say, "I have been asked to reply"?

Mr. Speaker

I think the hon. Gentleman is mistaken; not when the Minister concerned is a junior Minister of the Department as opposed to a Minister from another Department.

Mr. Albu

I take it that hon. Members opposite want answers to their Questions. My right hon. Friend is considering, in the light of further information which the Scottish plumbing employers have now supplied at his request, whether any investigation by the Board is desirable.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Can the hon. Gentleman get his right hon. Friend to hurry up about this? This award involves a 20 per cent. increase over 12 months. Is it necessary for the right hon. Gentleman, who cannot come here to answer Questions, to spend all this time working out whether this award is inflationary and should be referred to the Board?

Mr. Albu

My right hon. Friend recently met the Scottish plumbing employers and asked for further information about the earnings and hours of work of Scottish plumbers and the implications of the recent agreement on prices. The federation undertook a special inquiry into the earnings of its members and the results were sent to my right hon. Friend the First Secretary only last week.

Mr. Godber

Would the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that there could be very widespread repercussions in this matter, as on a previous occasion, and will he urge his right hon Friend to come to a speedy agreement?

Mr. Albu

We are certainly very concerned with the implications of this agreement on prices, but I must not say any more at present.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is my hon. Friend aware that many Scottish plumbers are considering forming themselves into limited liability companies in order to avoid the Capital Gains Tax?

24. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what percentage of wage agreements, measured by the number of workers involved, reached since 1st January, 1965, and what percentage of wage claims currently awaiting settlement, respectively, fall within the limits of the 3 to 3½ per cent. norm for wages and incomes.

Mr. Albu

The majority of the wage settlements since 1st January, 1965, have been in excess of the 3–3½ per cent. norm. It is not possible to give precise figures because some of the agreements are complex and are, for example, designed to give the greater benefit to lower paid workers. Nor can a useful figure be arrived at in respect of outstanding claims, since many do not specify precise amounts but are expressed in general terms.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Is it not rather unsatisfactory that the Department of Economic Affairs should appear to be the only body which is unaware of what is happening to its incomes policy? In view of what is happening to its incomes policy, would the hon. Gentleman suggest to his right hon. Friend that he might try what an injection of a little competition into the economy would do?

Mr. Albu

We are fully agreed about the necessity to inject a little competition and, as the hon. Gentleman will know, we are strengthening the Monopolies Commission. We are fully aware of what has been taking place with prices and incomes, and we are very concerned about it, but we have only just started such a policy and we have never said that it would be easy to achieve. So far as I know, no previous Government succeeded in carrying out such a policy.

Mr. Peter Walker

Could the hon. Gentleman give details of any claims which have come within the 3 to 3½ per cent. range?

Mr. Albu

There are some, but I do not have the details with me at the moment.

Mr. Snow

Would my right hon. Friend consider republishing the White Paper on Prices and Incomes Policy in the simplest language possible so that Members of the Opposition can understand the provisions of paragraph 15 dealing with the need to raise the levels of certain industries which are far too low as it is?

Dame Irene Ward

On a point of order. Is it in order for the hon. Member for Litchfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) to address a question to a ghost? He addressed it to the right hon. Gentleman, who is not here.

Mr. Speaker

In this instance, the ghost can be personified by a junior Minister.

Mr. Albu

In reply to my hon. Friend, may I say that there is an extremely good pamphlet produced by the T.U.C. Perhaps hon. Members opposite would like to read it.

Mr. Ridsdale

Why is the First Secretary having difficulty in working out a wages policy? Does he work overtime at Question Time in order to work out an incomes policy?

Mr. Albu

I am absolutely amazed and horrified at the utter frivolity of hon. Members opposite.

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. The noise delays progress with Questions. For that reason it is inappropriate.