HC Deb 07 March 1967 vol 742 cc1259-60
Q5. Mr. Stratton Mills

asked the Prime Minister if the public speech of the Minister of Labour in Glasgow on 12th February on an incomes policy represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Mills

Has a final decision been made to retain some form of statutory control over incomes?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman knows, negotiations with the T.U.C. and the C.B.I. have been continuing for some time. I met the T.U.C. representatives last week on the eve of their meeting of trade union executives. Discussions will, of course, continue with the T.U.C. about what is needed to supplement its voluntary scheme, on which, I am sure, the whole House will wish to congratulate the T.U.C., by other means particularly while the scheme is getting under way.


Will my right hon. Friend agree that the voluntary approach as proposed by the T.U.C. is much more constructive than the continuance of punitive legislation, and will he accept that the possibilities of success of this voluntary approach would be gravely endangered if the Government were to seek to introduce new legislative powers?

The Prime Minister

It is not quite so simple as the antithesis between purely voluntary means and purely statutory means. We have always taken the view that the policy could never succeed by statutory means alone. Indeed, the great success of the last six months of last year was due above all to the voluntary co-operation given to the Government. At the same time, we have doubt about whether, particularly in the early months when there will be a number of claims which have been postponed awaiting settlement, when the new machinery is getting into operation, it can function successfully unaided. That is the basis on which we are having discussions with the T.U.C.

Mr. Heath

When will the House be told what the proposals are? They are being discussed very widely outside and conveyed to the Press. Cannot the House of Commons be told what the proposals are and also be allowed to debate them?

The Prime Minister

I know that the right hon. Gentleman appreciates the great importance of achieving a successful and effective policy in this field. I saw in the gossip columns of The Times yesterday that he has now made this plain. [HON. MEMBERS: "Get on with it."] I think it rather important that the right hon. Gentleman should make clear where he stands on this. As regards the discussions themselves, having regard to the nature of the matter, the right hon. Gentleman, as a former Minister of Labour, will know how important it is that we continue to discuss even if these things do reach the light of day. As regards a statement in the House and a possible debate, I thought that the right hon. Gentleman had said a little time ago that he would propose an economic debate on the first available Supply Day. We shall be very glad to go into these questions with him on that occasion.

Mr. Ashley

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that, although the vote of the trade union executives in support of a voluntary prices and incomes policy is to be welcomed, there were nearly one million votes cast against that voluntary policy. In view of this, is it not necessary for him to retain some powers of delay under Part II of the Act rather than Part IV when it finishes in August?

The Prime Minister

As I said last week, not only the decision to have a continuing incomes policy but the surrender of sovereignty by individual unions to the T.U.C. was a historic decision which all of us must welcome. The only doubt arising, I think, relates to the treatment of minorities who seek their own selfish interests and also to the early period when, as I say, there will be all the delayed wage claims in the pipeline. This is why we feel that it needs some supplementation, and that is what we are discussing with them.

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