HC Deb 13 May 1968 vol 764 cc835-7
6. Mr. Biffen

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity if she will make a statement on the national wage claim submitted on behalf of workers in the engineering industry, indicating the extent to which it is consistent with the Government's prices and incomes policy.

15. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity whether the wage claim of the engineering employees is consistent with the Government's prices and incomes policy.

Mrs. Castle

I have met both sides of the industry with a view to clarifying their respective positions and to indicating the incomes policy considerations involved.

Mr. Biffen

As a result of those meetings, can the right hon. Lady say, on the evidence now available to her, whether this claim is consistent with the criteria of the prices and incomes policy, and, if it is not, whether it is her Department's policy so to use its influence as to stiffen the resistance of the employers?

Mrs. Castle

The claim is in very broad and general terms and it has not been quantified even by the unions involved. What I have done in discussing this matter with the Confederation has been to point out that various mixed possibilities are available under the prices and incomes policy, and I am hopeful that, as a result of further negotiations, we shall be able to see an outcome which is consistent with the Government's objectives.

Mr. Orme

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, unless the employers drastically alter their offer, there will be no chance of a settlement without severe industrial unrest? Does she realise that the proposal made, for instance, for low-paid workers, which she makes great play of, is that by 1971 a labourer in the industry will be in receipt of only £12 7s. 4d. a week, which is totally unacceptable?

Mrs. Castle

These are some of the considerations which were explained to me when I met the C.S.E.U. I am aware of all the arguments which the unions have put forward. I hope that negotiations will be resumed shortly. As I say, there is room for a variety of solutions within the context of the prices and incomes policy.

Mr. Hooson

Although, as the right hon. Lady rightly says, the claim has not been quantified, can she not say whether it is in accordance with the Government's policy? If it is not, ought she not to give an indication to the employers and the unions of what the Government's attitude will be?

Mrs. Castle

I know that hon. Members opposite would like to embroil me in a row with the engineering unions, and I am refusing to be embroiled. What I am seeking is not a headlong clash. I am seeking a peaceful settlement and a constructive outcome. I have urged upon the unions in this context, as I have in many contexts, that it is essential that any agreements should pay particular regard to the productivity aspects of the prices and incomes policy. There is room here for increases to be made which do not add to labour unit costs if they are backed by a proper productivity give-and-take.

Forward to