HC Deb 13 May 1968 vol 764 cc827-30
1. Mr. Ridley

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity what arrangements will be made under Her Majesty's Government's prices and incomes policy to limit the wage increases of groups of workers under 100 in number.

The First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity (Mrs. Barbara Castle)

The Government's incomes policy applies to these groups as to other workers and the White Paper "Productivity Prices and Incomes Policy in 1968 and 1969" calls for early warning of all pay increases which might be significant.

Mr. Ridley

But as all groups of 100 and under do not have to warn of pay increases, how will the right hon. Lady enforce policy over small numbers of employees, as in this category?

Mrs. Castle

Because we have a great deal of information about what is going on and we are sure that we can identify by various means those increases which are significant: we can then examine them and refer them if necessary.

Mr. John Page

Would the right hon. Lady let the House have more of this information, because all we have had so far is the fact that only 6 million of the 24 million employees in this country are employed by manufacturing companies employing more than 100 people each? What about the other 18 million? How are they employed, where, and in what numbers?

Mrs. Castle

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman's figure is correct. I believe that the percentage of the total of employees in manufacturing establishments employing fewer than 100 workers each is about 25 per cent.

5. Mr. Biffen

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity what consultations she has had with the Trades Union Congress in order to ascertain to what extent that body can undertake the supervision of the Government's prices and incomes policy.

Mrs. Castle

We have welcomed the development of the wage-vetting work of the Trades Union Congress, but the Government must retain responsibility for the supervision of their own policy.

Mr. Biffen

Can the right hon. Lady confirm that any forthcoming legislation will fully reflect her anxiety to have the maximum co-operation of the T.U.C. in her foredoomed search for an incomes policy?

Mrs. Castle

The Government will continue, as I shall, to seek maximum co-operation with the T.U.C. We have fully taken into account its views as set out in the "Economic Review". There are to be further discussions on the "Economic Review" with the T.U.C., including a meeting which will deal with the prices and incomes policy, and I hope that that meeting will be later this month.

10. Mr. Ridley

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity what limit there is to be upon pay increases based on productivity increases during the next phase of the policy for prices and incomes.

Mrs. Castle

None, provided that they can be fully justified under the guidelines in Appendix II to the White Paper "Productivity, Prices and Incomes Policy in 1968 and 1969".

Mr. Ridley

Is the right hon. Lady sure that it is entirely fair to have a policy under which some people get no increase and others in whose businesses large injections of capital have been made can have limited increases although that involves no extra effort on their part?

Mrs. Castle

The hon. Member is not correctly summarising the policy in the White Paper nor the Government's intention. The Government's intention is that as there are some fields in which an increase in productivity is less easy to obtain—although it is surprising in how many areas it is possible to get some increase in productivity—it is essential that we should maximise the relationship between productivity and pay increases elsewhere to give us a margin to meet the needs of others who are not on such a lucrative production line.

11. Mr. William Price

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity by what percentage she expects incomes to rise during 1968.

Mrs. Castle

It is not the policy of the Government to publish estimates of future trends in incomes.

Mr. Price

Is it not clear that overall wages have not been frozen in the past 18 months and are not likely to be frozen in the next 18 months? Therefore, is it worth while upsetting millions of workers by a psychological policy based on the mistaken belief that salvation lies in having low wages?

Mrs. Castle

My hon. Friend is perfectly correct in saying that wage increases have not been frozen and nor are they likely to be frozen. I deduce from that that because we want to get away from a negative policy to a positive policy we are pressing ahead with the White Paper and with legislation.

Mr. Sharples

Can the right hon. Lady say whether or not Government policy is for a nil norm or a 3½ per cent. norm?

Mrs. Castle

Government policy, as laid down in the White Paper, is for a ceiling of 3½ per cent., but the White Paper points out that increases within that ceiling must match certain criteria. There is also scope for exceptions above the ceiling in cases of really watertight productivity agreements which substantially reduce labour unit costs.