HC Deb 21 March 1967 vol 743 cc1443-5
Q10. Mr. Grimond

asked the Prime Minister if he will define what is meant by a national dividend.

The Prime Minister

A national dividend is a means of expressing the total sum available in each year for distribution in increased wages, salaries and other incomes consistent with stability in the general level of prices.

Mr. Grimond

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for that enlightening Answer, may I ask whether it is the Government's intention now to distribute a dividend next year on these lines?

The Prime Minister

While, of course, under the right hon. Gentleman's leadership, his party never managed to work out an incomes policy, my hopes are that we now will. I think that the whole House agrees, whatever may be the views on methods, that we cannot as a nation afford to pay out in incomes more than we earn in productivity. That is the purpose of the national dividend proposal. In accordance with the T.U.C. document, we shall be discussing with the T.U.C. next autumn how much additional can be or should be paid out in incomes as a result of the increasing production that we expect to find from now on.

Mr. Whitaker

Can my right hon. Friend ensure that this dividend is paid to those who do the work as opposed to those who own shares?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend the First Secretary will be dealing with some of the criteria for the period following the six months of severe restraint, and my hon. Friend can be sure that the question of the allocation between dividends and earned incomes will be looked after in my right hon. Friend's statement.

Mr. Sharples

How does the right hon. Gentleman intend to assess the dividend when he is unable to forecast the rise in productivity in 1967?

The Prime Minister

I have said repeatedly that until we were certain that we had got a surplus on balance of payments we could not enter into a period of more steady advance, but the hon. Gentleman will have noted—with great satisfaction, I am sure, even if he is silent about it, like all his hon. Friends—the great progress shown in the figures published last week of a surplus.

Mr. Rankin

Would my right hon. Friend agree that tied up with the need for increased productivity there is also the need to deliver the goods at the delivery date, and not later?

The Prime Minister

If my hon. Friend is talking about the delivery of increased productivity, this is something that presents a challenge to all sides of industry; for example, to those who attended my recent productivity conference and who will attend the next, to the Government, to the people of this country, and even to the Opposition.

Mr. Higgins

Is not the Prime Minister's definition the same as that normally given in standard economic textbooks? [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."]

The Prime Minister

I have never seen the phrase "national dividend" described in a standard economic textbook, but if the hon. Gentleman will give me a copy of whatever Victorian textbook he reads, I will look at it.

Mr. Buck

If, by any chance, there was to be a small dividend available next year under the Prime Minister's régime, would he not agree that it appears likely to go on another 24,000 civil servants?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. If the hon. Gentleman would, after he has finished being funny, just sit down with a piece of paper and work out the total cost of the Civil Service, all voted for by this House, including those who have replaced the National Assistance Board and improved social security, and if he will then calculate how many "spivs" would have been borne [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] on the national account—[Interruption.]—I did not mean the cap to fit on the hon. and gallant Gentleman—if the hon. Gentleman will then calculate the number of "spivs" who, until the Land Commission came into being, have been operating on racketeering in land prices, he can then discern where the national interest lies.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. We are after Question Time.