HC Deb 31 October 1966 vol 735 cc6-7
9. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

asked the Minister of Labour what guidance he is giving to employers in the light of the decision of the Edmonton County Court judge in the case of Allen versus Thorn Electrical Industries Limited.

Mr. Gunter

I am advising employers that they should continue to seek the agreement of their employees to the deferment of pay increases. Now that Part IV of the Prices and Incomes Act is in force, Section 30 provides them with a legal defence for disregarding pay increases in contracts made before 6th October, 1966, after they have given not less than one week's written notice of their intention to pay not less than the rate paid immediately before Part IV came into force.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Does it not follow from that that, where there are such agreements, the union and its members are entitled to the increases due under the agreements up to at any rate 6th October or perhaps for some days thereafter? Will the right hon. Gentleman give guidance to employers whether, in those circumstances, an employer is to fight a hopeless action in the courts or pay up?

Mr. Gunter

The right hon. Gentleman knows the position as well as I do, and perhaps better. In our view, Section 30 of the Act protects any employer who withholds a pay increase due after 6th October. It also provides the defence in respect of any period after that date for an employer who withholds an increase before 6th October but not paid by that date. In any particular case, the application of Section 30 must depend on the facts of the case. In the last resort, it is a matter for the courts. I would re-emphasise that I hope the employer will continue to seek agreement to the deferment of the pay increase.

Mr. A. J. Irvine

If the Opposition favour the Government's telling employers what to do should proceedings be taken against them, is not that inconsistent with their criticism that the Government encroach unduly on the liberties of the subject?

Mr. Gunter

I should think that that is a fair deduction.