HC Deb 11 July 1966 vol 731 cc944-5
4. Mr. Higgins

asked the Minister of Labour how he will interpret the confirmation of wages council orders, in view of his increased responsibilities for the incomes policy; and if he will make a statement.

6. Mr. John Hall

asked the Minister of Labour if he proposes to remit for further consideration wages council orders that are not consistent with the Government's prices and incomes policy.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

Proposals from a wages council are considered in accordance with the duties and powers of the Minister of Labour under Section 11(4) of the Wages Councils Act. These require the Minister on receiving proposals to give them legal effect unless in his opinion it is necessary to refer them back to the council for reconsideration. He cannot amend or reject them. Each case is considered on its merits and taking into account the prices and incomes policy.

Mr. Higgins

Would not the hon. Lady agree that all industries covered by these orders are likely to bring in increases equal to or above the norm? Can she envisage any circumstances in which it is likely that it will be below the norm?

Mrs. Williams

In answer to the first part of the question, yes, normally, because by definition wages councils are in industries where there is no collective bargaining and, consequently, wages tend to fall well below the average level of earning; in the country. When efficient collective bargaining is established it is usual for the wages councils to be lifted.

Mr. Hall

Am I to understand that if a wages council order is not in accordance with Government policy the Minister can do nothing about it?

Mrs. Williams

Under the Act as it stands he can refer it back, but if the council decides to confirm it there is nothing he can do.

Sir K. Joseph

Will the Minister in fact use his power to refer back, or are we to take it from what happened in the road haulage case that he will never have the guts to refer back a wages council recommendation even when by his own admission he is worried by its impact on the Government's Prices and Incomes policy?

Mrs. Williams

The right hon. Gentleman will know that there have been references back. He will also be aware, however, that most of these trades are such that they subscribe to the condition of the Prices and Incomes White Paper which covers very lowly-paid trades.