HC Deb 23 April 1968 vol 763 cc26-7
Q1. Mr. Marten

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the present economic situation, he will transfer complete responsibility for the prices and incomes policy to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

As the House knows, responsibility has been transferred to my right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State.

Mr. Marten

Is the Prime Minister aware that a certain amount of confusion has arisen because of this spread of responsibility between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Ministry of Productivity? To make it quite certain, can he confirm that the Government policy on wages is in fact a nil norm unless the criteria set out in the White Paper are justified?

The Prime Minister

Government policy is exactly as set out in the White Paper. There is no change from that. I considered very seriously whether Departmental responsibility should go to the Treasury as part of demand management, but having considered the matter very seriously and having discussed it with my right hon. Friends, I thought it right that responsibility for the co-ordination of prices, incomes and productivity policy should go to the Department which had to deal with the industries concerned.

Mr. Park

Is my right hon. Friend aware that bad policy is not improved by a change in either the personalities or the Departments responsible for its administration? Will he look again very carefully at the Government's present incomes policy and consider the real dangers of a serious clash between the industrial and political wings of the Labour movement?

The Prime Minister

I am aware that a necessary policy remains necessary no matter which Department is carrying it through. I felt the linking the general co-ordination with the day-to-day work of dealing with individual wage settlements would be more likely to get the right answer in individual cases and to make it more possible, particularly if one could start early enough in a particular wage claim, to link productivity with any wage settlement.

Mr. Heath

In view of some of the things recently said outside the House, will the Prime Minister confirm that 3½per cent. is not the norm and that the norm is nil and that other additions ought to be contained within the 3½per cent.?

The Prime Minister

The matter is set out in very great detail in the White Paper, and we stand firmly by the White Paper. We have set out the conditions in which we feel it to be possible to afford a 3½per cent. increase, and the criteria are all set out very clearly in the White Paper. What I have been doing in this transfer to the new Department is to stress the productivity criterion.