HC Deb 17 June 1968 vol 766 cc676-7
3. Mr. Chichester-Clark

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works what representation he has received from both sides of the construction industry regarding the proposed reference of construction industry wages to the National Board for Prices and Incomes; and what reply he has sent.

Mr. Mellish

I have at various times met representatives of the National Federation of Building Trades Employers, the National Federation of Building Trade Operatives, the Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors and the Civil Engineering Conciliation Board. Their main concern was that the reference might undermine the established negotiating machinery of the industry. I explained why the reference was required, and in particular that it was not intended or expected to prejudice the working of the normal machinery.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

Now that the reference has been made, although it was opposed by both sides of the industry and sabotaged the current wage negotiations, may we have an assurance that there will be quick decision on the current wage claim and then a long-term study of productivity and incentives?

Mr. Mellish

I do not accept the implication that this is a sabotage of existing wage negotiations. I hope that the Report by the Board will be in the hands of both sides of the industry before they make a final decision in regard to an actual wage settlement. The alternative was to wait until they reached some sort of agreement, then refer it to the N.B.P.I. and then delay, in the hope of a better situation.

Mr. McNamara

When does my right hon. Friend hope that the Report will be received?

Mr. Mellish

I hope that we shall get the Report from the N.B.P.I. in the early autumn. The new wage structure is expected to take effect from November.

Miss Harvie Anderson

Does not the right hon. Gentleman find it difficult to reconcile this reference with his former statement that he thought it right to allow the industry to get on with its own job?

Mr. Mellish

This was a settlement and negotiation in one of the largest industries in the country. That eventually it would go to the Board was not doubted, but the timing was in dispute. Hon. Members have the right to their opinions on this.