HC Deb 24 November 1966 vol 736 cc1570-1
22. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs whether he will make a statement on the progress of his talks with the Confederation of British Industries and the Trades Union Congress on the criteria for prices and incomes determination during the period of severe restraint.

The First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (Mr. Michael Stewart)

The Government published on 22nd November the White Paper on the Period of Severe Restraint (Cmnd. 3150), following full discussion with the Confederation of British Industry and the Trades Union Congress.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

In view of the White Paper which the Government published on 22nd November, would the First Secretary take the opportunity of finding out what is meant by the phrase in the White Paper "excessive growth in aggregate profits"? Would he not agree that in the present economic situation, a firm, which makes any profit, let alone an excessive one, is more worthy of commendation for its enterprise than censure for its misdemeanours?

Mr. Stewart

I dealt with this in answer to a question after my statement yesterday. What one must ask oneself about profits is whether this is a genuine reward for enterprise, risk-taking and management. If so, it would not be described as excessive; but where profits are due to charging prices that could not be justified and is not a genuine reward in the way I describe, it would be excessive.

Mr. A. J. Irvine

Are these talks purely concerned with long-term objectives, including an acceptable method to ensure that the Government's views about the state of the economy are made known and given due weight in the course of wage negotiations between parties?

Mr. Stewart

The discussions I referred to in the Question were those that led up to the White Paper; but I shall be continuing discussions with both parties of the kind my hon. and learned Friend has in mind.