HC Deb 03 April 1969 vol 781 cc668-86

12.26 p.m.

Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)

It is very appropriate that the first debate on the Easter Adjournment should be on the subject on which my right hon. Friend has made her statement. Having listened to it, I wonder why the National Board for Prices and Incomes under Aubrey Jones investigated this problem at all. I hope that when the Cabinet met this morning it came to a unanimous decision on the statement my right hon. Friend has just made.

I would be the last in this House to pretend that this is a problem easy to solve. It is not, and the statement my right hon. Friend has just made has made very little contribution to its solution. It is significant that the origin of the reference of this problem to the Board began with a row which blew up in the House of Commons over an increase of pay of £100 a week to Mr. Jocelyn Hambro. I believe it was a supplementary question that was answered by the Under-Secretary off the cuff that set in train the investigation, the Report on which was published a week or two ago. The reference was made on 2nd July, 1968.

The Under-Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity (Mr. Harold Walker)

I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend but I want him to understand clearly at the outset of this debate that the reply to which he has referred which I gave in July last year in reference to Mr. Hambro was not made off the cuff. It arose from a main Question and my main Answer. It was a carefully prepared, deliberate Answer.

Mr. Hamilton

I have a very strong recollection that my hon. Friend informed some of us that he was hauled over the coals a little for what he said on that occasion, but we will leave that matter there.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State fortified herself today, as she did at our party meeting last week, with quotations from the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries' Report, paragraph 308 and subsequent paragraphs. The membership of that Committee is, and was, a highly respected and authoritative cross-section of the House of Commons. My hon. Friend the Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) was the Chairman and on the Committee were my hon. Friends the Members for Feltham (Mr. Russell Kerr) and Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Horner), who one might say are on the Left fringe of the Labour Party, and on the outside Right of the Tory Party, the hon. Members for Walsall, South (Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid), Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison) and the hon. and gallant Member for South Fylde (Colonel Lancaster). One could scarcely find a more respectable bunch than that and no one could dismiss lightly a unanimous Report signed by Members of that calibre.

Of course it may plausibly be argued that the present great disparities between the salaries paid to top people in the public and private sectors respectively militate against the kind of efficiency that we all want in the nationalised industries. The argument adduced by the Prices and Incomes Board was simply that, because the salary ceiling in the nationalised industries was too low, the incentives below that level were not and are not sufficient to create a satisfactory career structure and to give incentives to employees below that level to seek promotion and added responsibilities.

Evidence was given to the Nationalised Industries Sub-Committee by Sir Stanley Raymond and others on this matter in general terms—clearly, no names were mentioned. I recall that the then Minister of Power, now the Minister of Transport, gave evidence to the effect that it was difficult to find men of sufficient calibre to man the boards. The House will recall that when he was Minister of Power my right hon. Friend appointed Mr. Cecil King as a part-time member of the Coal Board, and one cannot be driven to greater depths of despair than that.

This clearly poses a considerable problem. On the other hand, referring to the difficulties in the nationalised industries the Chief Secretary to the Treasury in his evidence said: I am answering in the context of the Minister who recently made a speech in the House of Commons and was interrupted by one of his backbenchers, this backbencher being very keen on wages policy and anxious that dividend policy should march hand in hand with wages policy. I would not expect that any such Member—and there must be many such—would welcome at the present time an increase in salary"— an increase in salary, not 2½ per cent., or 3 per cent., or anything else— of those who are getting £250–£500 a week within the terms of a wages policy. I repeat, there may be much logic in the Report of the Prices and Incomes Board but, as often happens, what appears to be defensible in logic may not necessarily be acceptable in political terms.

For instance, the Lawrence Committee on Ministerial and M.P.s' salaries recommended that senior Ministers should get £14,000, on the ground that there had not been an increase in their salaries, not since 1944, but since 1831. Her Majesty's Government at that time decided, even though it could be logically argued that Ministers were entitled to the full increase suggested, to give themselves half the recommended increase. They took that decision because they knew that if they accepted the full increase recommended by the Lawrence Committee, there would be a political backlash which they chose to avoid.

Despite what my right hon. Friend has said today, she has sought to get the best of both worlds and, in a sense, she has got the worst of both. She has offended many people, both in the House and, no doubt, Lord Robens and others outside, who were expecting their £7,500. Within the context of the policy, the recommendations of the Aubrey Jones Report will be seen as a top brass charter and Aubrey Jones will be looked upon by Lord Melchett, Lord Robens and Sir Paul Chambers as their very own most militant and successful shop steward, far more successful than anybody at Fords or anywhere else.

Although my right hon. Friend is not implementing the Report fully, its recommendations and, I suspect, the recommendations made by my right hon. Friend will make no contribution to the evaluation of a new salary structure for any industry, private or public. The salaries of the chairmen and members of the boards of nationalised industries will still be far below those offered in private industry, and none of those salaries relates to productivity, job evaluation, working hours or anything of that kind, although those things are meticulously examined in detail when assessing the claims of nurses, bank clerks, farm workers and others in the low income groups.

I recommend my right hon. Friend to have a look at a report, published last year by Social Research Development Ltd., on the work and remuneration of directors. It concluded that the remuneration of chairmen and directors, primarily those in private industry, was increasing appreciably and more than adequately. It said: It seems difficult to see how they can be either underpaid or lacking incentive, even after taxation, seeing that their incomes today are much larger than they were then."— referring to 1963.

Salaries in the nationalised sector and those in the private sector to a much greater extent tell much less than the whole story. The report of Social Research Development Ltd. listed 12 different types of fringe benefits—medical insurance, family allowances provided by employers, accident insurance, pensions, including top-hat benefits, share options and the like. It estimated that those fringe benefits could amount to £2,000 per annum for someone on a basic salary of £7,000, and that £2,000 additional did not include some of the larger items.

The Prices and Incomes Board's Report estimates the annual cost of providing fringe benefits at £187 a year in the private sector and £64 a year in the nationalised industries, but that is a lot of rubbish and nobody believes it. One has only to recall the example of Sir Bernard Docker some years ago. I quote Anthony Bambridge in The Observer of last Sunday when talking of the ex-chairman of an electrical company who was reckoned to hold the record and who enjoyed a mile of trout fishing, 100 acres of shooting, a country house, a flat in town and three company cars. That article went on: For most managers fringe benefits are modest—a company car, a modicum of free booze, and expenses that the Revenue watches like a hawk. It does not watch as much like a hawk as some of us should like.

I quote from the Labour Party's "Economic Brief". I presume that my right hon. Friend had some influence in drafting this. This is the brief which was handed out to us—for public speeches, presumably—dated November, 1968. It speaks about these very inquiries which were then under investigation—the Aubrey Jones one, and one by the Department— into the pay of administration and executive staff in 30,000 firms, covering more than 100,000 people. It goes on to talk about fringe benefits and says: It would mean also that the very substantial growth in fringe benefits in recent years—and the widening differentials between management and workers". to which my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) referred in a supplementary question to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State earlier— to wich they have contributed—would be considered fully and fairly within the framework of the incomes policy. Finally it would mean opening to the public eye and public debate the whole basis of a managerial payment and management-workers' pay differentials. At the moment the whole area abounds with vague unsubstantiated myths. That was a propaganda sheet which was handed out by the Labour Party to party members.

When the prices and incomes policy was first introduced it was emphasised by Ministers time and time again that this was not a scientific thing at all: it was rough justice. This was the expression which was used. It has become increasingly clear—the impression has not been minimised by right hon. Friend's statement today—that the justice is very much rougher for some than for others.

There now seem to be at least three prices and incomes policies. There is one for the weak and defenceless—that is, those who will not strike, for one reason or another, like nurses. I am an unapologetic and unremitting defender of the rights of nurses. I think that they are probably the most exploited group in the country today. Only in the last week or so, under the dicta of the same Prices and Incomes Board, chaired by the same Aubrey Jones, those nurses are now paying for every meal they get in their hospitals. As a result of that, at the end of the year they will probably be getting less pay net than they were at the beginning. This compares very strangely with the salaries proposed for Lord Robens and company. Who would suggest that our nursing profession is less vital to the well-being of the nation as a whole and to the standard of living as a whole than the chairmen and board members of nationalised industries? This is the kind of dual standard that some of us will not tolerate any longer.

The second prices and incomes policy applies to those who, because of inadequacy of funds or for other reasons, cannot strike. Agricultural workers come within this category. It is very difficult for them to organise strikes. The police cannot.

Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)


Mr. Hamilton

All public servants and local government people generally are within this category.

Then there is the third group, whose withdrawal of labour the Government would view with indifference. I suppose the miners might almost come within this category now. This is probably one of the reason why we are not getting as many strikes in the mines as we used to have: the miners have probably made a shrewd assessment of the position and recognise that coal is not in as great demand now as it was. Bank clerks, too, I suppose would come into this category. The Government would not care a hoot if the bank clerks struck—not as much as they would if the dockers or the car workers struck. A very different approach to incomes policy is taken if the dockers or tally clerks threaten to strike from that which is taken if the bank clerks or N.A.L.G.O. or the National Union of Agricultural Workers or the Building Trade Workers Union threaten to strike.

Now we have another incomes policy for top executives. My right hon. Friend has not said that she rejects the Report. She simply said, "I want to get over this difficult Easter period and get through until the Summer Recess. Then we will have another prices and incomes policy, perhaps backed by further legislation". I warn my right hon. Friend that some of us who supported the legislation previously will not support any further legislation on this matter. My right hon. Friend has argued today that these proposals fall within the criteria of the National Board for Prices and Incomes. I do not believe it. I am sure that those among whom I move in West Fife will not believe it either. I shall not try to persuade them that they do.

Some arguments, I suppose—the same arguments that my right hon. Friend used—could be adduced for raising her own salary. She has not had an increase since 1964. I have not. Nobody in the House has. The poor Members of the House of Lords have been on 4½ guineas a day for a long time.

Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)

We want to keep them that way.

Mr. Hamilton

Why not refer them to Aubrey Jones? The practical realities are that lower-paid workers will not accept even what my right hon. Friend has suggested today. They will regard this document and the statement that she has made today as unjust, inequitable, and discriminating in favour of the "haves" against the "have-nots".

I again quote from the brief from which I quoted earlier. This is the Labour Party's own document: Why, for example, should a man who had the luck to inherit a particular mental or intellectual skill be paid so much more than someone who did not? Why should a man doing the most menial kind of work often in the worst sort of working conditions need so much less financial incentive than a man in a highly responsible, and generally highly congenial job? This is the problem that we are facing. People are increasingly questioning the gross inequalities in society today and the singularly unsuccessful attempts by the Government since 1964 to reduce them. On the contrary, there is evidence that the inequalities are widening rather than reducing. People have a right to expect our Government to provide the answers.

Contrary to what some newspapers say, those of us who oppose the implementation of these proposals do not do it out of envy. I envy nobody who is running a nationalised industry. I want as much as anybody to see these industries run as efficiently as private industry—in fact, more efficiently than private industry. I think that that is the case now. There is no evidence whatever that the nationalised industries are run any less efficiently today than the most efficient private industry. The productivity record of the nationalised coal industry, or the gas industry, or the electricity industry, proves that they can tear the pants off any private industry.

Mr. John Biffen (Oswestry)

indicated dissent.

Mr. Hamilton

The hon. Gentleman should compare the productivity record of the nationalised coal industry over the last four or five years with any private industry he cares to take. He will find that the coal industry's record compares very favourably. One of the reasons for this is that the motivation for serving in a nationalised industry may be different, and I think is different, from the motivation for serving at the top of a private concern. Lord Robens has said that. He has said, "I could get three times what I am now getting with the Coal Board". I would not like to pay Lord Robens three times what he is getting now. Maybe this is one of the reasons why we are in some of the difficulties we are, if private industry is prepared to pay Lord Robens three times what he is getting now. I have no reason to disbelieve Lord Robens. However, if he can get £40,000 outside, he must be enjoying the job he is doing in the nationalised industry. I think he is.

What I think would have been more acceptable than what my right hon. Friend suggested today would be, first of all, to improve the pension prospects of the chairmen of the nationalised industries—they compare very unfavourably with the private sector—and, secondly, to give help to the middle and upper executive ranges within the nationalised industries, although this might sometimes mean that their salaries would be higher than the salaries of the board chairmen. That is accepted now. It is accepted in the steel industry. Lord Melchett, the Chairman, gets £16,000 and the Deputy-chairman gets £20,000 to £24,000. The Minister of Power gets £9,000 or £10,000. He is Lord Roben's boss, and he is the boss of Lord Melchett; he is the boss of all these people in the fuel industries. Perhaps he will put in a claim to Aubrey Jones on the grounds of comparability.

There is nothing surprising or exceptional about that. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) said at a party meeting last week that we either have the prices and incomes policy or we have this Report; we cannot have both. He is right. The only people who are accepting the principles of this Report are, first of all, the extreme Left and militant people in the Labour movement who see the acceptance of the Report as a breaking point in the prices and incomes policy, and hon. Members opposite who see a prospect of stirring up political unrest in our party. Of course, they are quite right. We are all political animals here. They see the implementation of these proposals as grist to their political mills and they are quite right. They are entitled to do what they can.

But the Ministers have this Report on their hands. They asked a silly question; they got a silly answer, and they made a silly riposte. Now they are stewing in their own juice. Please do not let us look for any more trouble. We have enough without looking for it. We have got it on our hands now. The corridors of power for Ministers start on these benches, and the sooner they realise that the better. Their existence depends on us and on our support. I wish they would understand that a little more than they do. We should have far more concern for the lower-paid and for those people of whom I have spoken—the nurses, the bricklayers, the labourers and the lower grades of skilled workers—than we have for the kind of people on whom we are spending our time here. We should devote a great deal more effort between now and the election on seeking a more equitable distribution of national wealth. All that my right hon. Friend said today and all that Aubrey Jones said in his Report make absolutely no contribution whatever to that end.

Mr. Speaker

I must remind the House that this debate will end at 1.15 exactly. I must protect the other business. The Minister will rise just after 1 o'clock. Therefore, speeches must be very brief.

12.54 p.m.

Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)

I shall be very brief, Mr. Speaker.

The right hon. Lady the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity had a difficult job to do today, but too many veils covered the meaning of what she was saying. They were having to be torn away. Nobody who listened carefully to her at the beginning of her speech could possibly have understood that what she meant was, "I am giving them stage 1 and we are going to look at the other stages in a year's time."

The hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) spoke of the importance of fringe benefits. Paragraph 24 of Chapter I of the National Board for Prices and Incomes Report, No. 107, states: 'Fringe benefits' were also measured and found not to be of major importance in either sector of the economy —in either the private or the public sector. Therefore, I suggest that that part of the hon. Member's equalitarian speech did not have any logical basis.

The reason that the right hon. Lady gave in her statement for accepting stage 1 was merely that those concerned had not had a rise for a long time. This was not the main reason given in the Report, nor, of course, is it one of the major criteria in the White Paper. The main reason given in the Report for stages 1, 2 and 3 was that there were to be major reorganisations of wage and salary structures which could be justified on productivity and efficiency grounds. Of course the right hon. Lady was right logically in accepting that there had to be an increase. Of course there had to be an increase. The previous Conservative Government showed courage in this respect when they offered a very high salary to get Lord Beeching in to run the railways, and all that he did while he had that job showed that he was worth it.

But, having said that, I do not believe that those who are employed in the nationalised industries resent the fact that the chairmen of the boards should get higher salaries. What they do resent is that their own salaries, freely negotiated between employer and employee, should be held down by the Government. It is the statutory aspect of the incomes policy which is really resented. It is resented by the bank clerks, the ambulance drivers and the dockers. It is this very fact that it is the say-so of the right hon. Lady by which the whole of their future increases will be measured.

The right hon. Lady should say that she will give stage 1 today. She should also say that, having given that, she realises that the statutory prices and incomes policy on which she is working is not worth the paper on which it is written. It has no more credence in the country. It is resented by every person employed in business and industry. It does not do its job and it should be scrapped immediately. That would make sense of her statement today.

12.58 p.m.

Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)

I understand that I have only two or three minutes in which to speak, and I am conscious that there are Members who have other matters to raise.

There are certain things which are just not on in this life. They cannot be lined up according to logic, comparability or anything else. Take, for example, the question of Gibraltar. A statement can be made and it can be argued that Spain has a case, but this House would not accept it. Only time prevents me from giving other examples. What the right hon. Lady has done today is to remove a wedge from the log jam that is at present in the whole of professional life, particularly among the salaried employees. She has removed that, and certain consequences immediately follow.

The Permanent Secretaries will be first in the queue—make no mistake about that. Then there is the hierachy of the Civil Service. That will be followed immediately by comparability claims from the town clerks. Once we get the town clerk's claim the comparability of every other chief officer will come into the picture. The chief officers, administrators and consultants of the National Health Service will be next. One only has to remember 1964 and what happened when the Ministers decided to take only half of what the Lawrence Committee recommended. The judges asked for no less. Here, in parenthesis, to suggest that judges' responsibilities, with all their pensions at the end of the day, are comparable to a Cabinet Minister's responsibilities, is a trifle ridiculous. Of course, Mr. Speaker's comparability also is tied up with this, but I will not go into that because I would be out of order in doing so.

Now we have the nationalised industries. If we take the personalities at the head of the nationalised industries and how they got there—I am not speaking in a derogatory sense—they got into offices of great prestige, and all sorts of advantages follow because of the prestige of these offices when they leave them. They will not be disadvantaged. One could mention Members' salaries, too, and the time when there was a terrific outcry, after we had waited longer than five years, and it was said that, as a gesture, we should not get an increase in 1964.

Then we moved on to the prices and incomes policy. But the Minister has herself often argued that craftsmen should give up some of their differentials to bring up the pay of women. I have as good a record on that as my right hon. Friend; I moved resolutions calling for equal pay in 1952, and I have always been associated with the movement. But I have never used that argument; I have taken it on balance of work and worth. Quite often, we hear an argument against craftsmen—of whom I could claim to be one once, though I should be pretty rusty now—that somehow our differentials should be given away for the lower-paid, although they are our incentives.

I say to my right hon. Friend, therefore, that she will create difficulties in the nationalised industries themselves. She will have no answer to all those people over the £3,000 and £4,000 mark who will want to be brought up into comparable relationship with their bosses. With the greatest good will, I suggest to my right hon. Friend that she has let something loose here. It is a good thing to consider the consequences of one's acts, but one should go on to consider the consequences of the consequences. That has not been done here. I can only say that among her most loyal colleagues she will make it more difficult to defend her prices and incomes policy. That is why I said that I thought that the timing of what she has done would have been far better when she could see the end of that legislation. It is in sorrow rather than in anger that I am speaking to her now.

1.2 p.m.

Mr. Terence L. Higgins (Worthing)

I am glad to have the opportunity to speak in this severely curtailed but none the less important debate, and I quite understand that I have only about two minutes in which to make my comments. It is right, therefore, that I should concentrate on the actual statement made to us this morning.

It is unfortunate, to say the least, that the Minister should phrase her statement to the House today in such a way as to give the impression that the increase being given is only 2½ per cent. and then to base her argument on the fact that the pay was effectively taking into account that there had not been an increase in a previous period. It is apparent from the Report of the Prices and Incomes Board itself, paragraph 93 in particular—the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) pointed this out—that some of the increases will amount to 20 per cent. This means that the Minister is bound to set off a series of pay claims, justified or not, which will endanger her policy, or, rather, aggravate even further the general chaos which is the result of her policy.

That being so, the Minister has the worst of both worlds. Even what she has done will not give the nationalised industries sufficient headroom to reorganise their structure in the way they ought to organise it, and, by accepting the Board's use of a major reorganisation as a loophole through which one can put in a wage claim, the right hon. Lady is opening the door to many other wage claims throughout industry. She has effectively enlarged the criteria far beyond the narrow criteria which have hitherto been applicable.

One final point. The Board itself in considering top salaries in industry points out on page 32 we cannot necessarily say whether the policy has been strictly adhered to. The fact of the matter is that the Government still do not have, and are unlikely to produce, a wide survey of what is happening to salaries, and the result of the piecemeal policy which they are adopting is bound to be unfair because they simply do not have the data on which to found a comprehensive policy. I do not believe that a comprehensive policy is possible, but the overall effect will be to pursue a statutory policy, a policy which will inevitably be unfair and, I believe, against the economic interests of this country.

1.4 p.m.

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

The hon. Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) and my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) both tried to argue that the Government had got the worst of both worlds. But that is a familiar criticism and one easy to make when a Government face conflicts of need—national need, social need and needs of equity—and try to find a way of avoiding grave injustices to either side. That is what we have done. What we have done, as, I believe, most of the House would wish us to do, has been to face up to the real problems of management which are now developing in nationalised industries, recognising that the situation is really urgent, while at the same time doing it in recognition of the fact that in a period when we are calling for restraint all down the line we have to have regard, and ought to have regard, to the criteria of our own prices and incomes policy.

I realise that a good many of my hon. Friends do not like the policy. My hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West had a great deal of fun with it. But I make two comments in reply to him. First and foremost, when the salaries policy exists we ought surely to apply it as equitably as is humanly possible. Second, my hon. Friend has left us no clearer in this debate than in previous debates on what would be his alternative wages and salaries policy. That is the weakness of my hon. Friend's whole case, as it is, above all, the weakness of the Opposition's case. The Opposition continue their chanting about our wicked prices and incomes policy. But we have still to discuss and resolve in the House the basis on which equity and justice can be done in an age when differentials are bound to be paramount.

My hon. Friend said that I had presented a "top brass" charter. He is far too intelligent to believe that. He knows very well what the position is in nationalised industry. As the Board itself points out, these people have double the responsibilities for half the pay. We are not the pace-setters here, and we still shall not be, for we have deliberately kept them behind in order to challenge some of the assumptions on which top salaries are being paid today in the private sector. I draw to my hon. Friend's attention the consultations which I am having with the C.B.I. and the T.U.C. about the possibility of referring, as the Board suggests, salary structures in individual firms for examination.

Does my hon. Friend think that we introduced a "top brass" charter back in 1946 and 1947 when we nationalised coal and transport and set up the National Coal Boad and British Transport Commission, fixing the salaries for their chairmen then, at a time when there was no prices and incomes policy? Since then, average weekly earnings for men have risen by 250 per cent. The salaries of the chairman of the boards have increased by only 50 per cent. from the figure which we fixed. We thought that those salaries were right in those days when the Labour Government created the boards. That is what we felt when in Government, having been elected on a great programme for the extension of public ownership. We fixed those salaries then, and we have allowed them systematically to fall behind. I do not believe that that is a Socialist way of doing things.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) said that there were some things which were just not on in life and that what I had done was, as he put it, to remove a wedge from the log jam of professional salaries. He gibed at me, as others have done, for putting this over as I did, first making clear that we should apply the increase at 1st April and, second, bringing to the attention of the House what it means in terms of prices and incomes percentages. I was laughed at for doing that, but do not my hon. Friends realise that it is this containment of increases within the prices and incomes criteria that alone can help us to prevent the log jam from bursting, as my hon. Friend feared? One cannot have it both ways. It is because I believe that these are the criteria—and the Board's Reports have all helped us to discuss relativities in a meaningful way—that I think my hon. Friends are dismissing far too easily the advantages that have flowed from what is admittedly a difficult thing to operate, a prices and incomes policy.

I repeat that we accept the principles that the Board has outlined. As the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page) pointed out, one of the principles is that the increase is justified not merely by the lapse of time but on the grounds of productivity and efficiency, because it paves the way for a major restructuring of salaries under board level on principles which the Board points out should not be reward for length of service or seniority but for greater responsibility and performance.

I think that we have found the correct way to help to sustain the great Socialist instruments of the nationalised industries, while not doing violence to the principles of the prices and incomes policy. It is for that reason that I am sure that the House, on reflection, will be satisfied that we have taken the right course.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)

Mr. Taylor.

Mr. William Hamilton


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I called Mr. Taylor.

1.12 p.m.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)

We have had an example of real Stone Age——

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I called Mr. Taylor. I must ask the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) to resume his seat. I did not understand that he was intervening.

Mr. Taylor

In the three minutes left I want to say that while I deplore nationalisation as a principle, and deplore a prices and incomes policy, I think that it is distinctly encouraging, at a time when the Government seem to be falling to pieces, to have one Minister who seems to have some guts. I applaud the right hon. Lady for being prepared to make this very difficult decision, which is bound to cause her a great deal of embarrassment. A few months ago the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) asked in a Question how many millions of pounds the nationalised industries had had written off their capital since the Government came to power. He was given an Answer which showed that it had been written off at the rate of £1 million a day. Is the hon. Gentleman now saying that we should not have men with a proper salary in charge of those industries? There are ludicrous anomalies. Members of the Railways Board are being paid more than their chairman, who I believe is trying his very best in a difficult situation. We have the ludicrous position of wages being utterly out of line. I have made it clear time and time again that I think a wages policy imposed by Government is nonsense, but so long as we have one, Mr. Gourlay——

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We are in the House, not in Committee.

Mr. Taylor

I am sorry—Mr. Deputy Speaker.

So long as we have a wages policy it must be fair. Should not the increase in the cost of living since the last increase in the wages of the chairmen be taken into account? Bearing in mind the millions of pounds we are pouring into nationalised industries, which I would want to stop, and the millions of pounds we are writing off their capital, which I do not like, I believe that it is in the national interest that we should get the best men to do the job. We should also remember the difficulty the Government are having in appointing people to many of the new boards, councils and commissions we are setting up.

I hope that we shall once and for all abandon the Stone Age Socialist nonsense we heard from the hon. Member for Fife, West today. I hope that the day will come when the nationalised industries are diminished and a Government prices and incomes policy is abolished. But as we approach a Recess with the Government falling to pieces, and Ministers abandoning ship, when we have one Minister prepared to stand up to her party and give it some of the facts of life, we should not go away without saying, "Well done."

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Sir John Gilmour.

Mr. Heffer

There was one minute left.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I thought that the hon. Gentleman was rising on a point of order. I call the hon. Gentleman on a point or order.

Mr. Heffer

On a point of order. There was one minute left in the debate. What I wanted to say could have been said very clearly in one minute.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. There is no specific timetable in a debate of this kind.

Mr. Heffer

Further to that point of order. We were told by Mr. Speaker that there was a specific timetable and that the debate on the Prices and Incomes Board Report would end by 1.15 p.m. sharp.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. There is a time set out on the list in the Lobby as a guide to the Chair and the Members participating in the debate, but no Guillotine or sharp time is proposed. I called the hon. Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Gilmour) because it was approximately 1.15, as I saw the clock.

Mr. John Page

Further to that point of order. The beginning of the debate was held up for some time. As we lost half an hour at the beginning, it might be fair to give other hon. Members from both sides an opportunity to take part, as I did.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The time allocated for the debate took into account circumstances which might arise after Question Time.