HC Deb 10 December 1970 vol 808 cc647-8
7. Mr. Adam Butler

asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether he will consider legislation to provide an automatic national adjustment to wages and salaries, related to changes in the cost of living index.

Mr. Bryan

No, Sir. I do not think that it would he appropriate to impose such a requirement on negotiators by legislation.

Mr. Butler

But would not an adjustment of this kind remove one of the principal justifications for wage demands at present? It would not be inflationary. If my hon. Friend will reconsider the question, will he think in terms of a flat-rate payment and not a percentage based on earnings?

Mr. Bryan

I follow my hon. Friend's argument, but the cost of living is only one factor influencing negotiations. Productivity, comparability, differentials, the position of the lower-paid worker—all these factors cannot simply be banished from negotiations.

Mr. Atkinson

Does the Minister accept that the cost of living has increased by 7 per cent. over the past 12 months, and that for an average family of man, wife and one child, earning the average wage today, a further 4 per cent. is needed to cover the increased cost of tax and insurance contributions, so that the combined total of 11 per cent. means that the minimum wage increase today for such an average family on an average wage must be 11 per cent. to enable them to stand still and maintain their living standards from one year to the next.

Mr. Bryan

I should have to confirm the figures, which I do not carry in my head, but what I can say is that the Government have shown a bigger concern for lower-paid workers than have any previous Government.