HC Deb 19 January 1971 vol 809 cc717-9
Q6. Mr. Barnett

asked the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a copy of his speech on wage inflation to the Young Conservatives on 5th December, 1970.

Q9. Mr. Sheldon

asked the Prime Minister if he will place a copy of his public speech made to the Young Conservatives on 5th December on industrial relations in the House of Commons Library.

Mr. Maudling

I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend did so on 9th December.

Mr. Barnett

Is not the speech very much out of date now, in view of the 18 per cent. Chrysler wage settlement which has shown that the Government's attempt to make an example of the public sector is not working? In such circumstances, how can the right hon. Gentleman expect the generally lower-paid public employees to accept the Government's policy of less than 10 per cent., when it is seen to be so grotesquely unfair?

Mr. Maudling

The question of comparabilities is complicated and they should be looked at in some detail. The experience of the previous Administration did not show that a rigid statutory control of all incomes was a great success.

Mr. Sheldon

As the fight with public employees is manifestly failing to influence the private sector, when will the Government take responsibility themselves for economic action instead of leaving it to courts of inquiry?

Mr. Maudling

I do not accept that the attitude which the Government have taken on incomes in the public sector has failed to influence the general attitude of employers in the private sector, too, in recognising that for everyone in this country there is a common interest in bringing a halt to the present inflation.

Sir G. Nabarro

I thoroughly endorse the last part of my right hon. Friend's reply, but will he now apply himself fundamentally to wage inflation and understand that if, on the old-Etonian "palsy-walsy" network, Lord Melchett has a rise from £16,000 to £25,000 a year, it is utterly impossible to convince ordinary workshop floor workers that 5 per cent. is correct?

Mr. Maudling

I still think that there is something in the principle of the rate for the job.

Mr. Harold Walker

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House at what point the Government consider that a wage or salary settlement becomes inflationary?

Mr. Maudling

This is more a matter for the Chancellor of the Exchequer than for me, but it must be generally and mathematically obvious that an increase in money wages which goes beyond the increase in productivity inevitably gives a push to inflation.

Mr. Biffen

Reverting to the point made concerning the wage award by Chrysler (U.K.) Limited, would not my right hon. Friend agree that the size of that award is entirely within the competence of the commercial judgment of the management concerned, provided that the company does not subsequently come to the House and expect the taxpayer to bail it out of any difficulties into which it falls?

Mr. Maudling

It is certainly within its legal competence, but I should not like to comment on that award without notice.

Mr. Harold Wilson

I have drawn the right hon. Gentleman's attention in advance of today to an interesting article which he wrote in the Spectator before the election. Does he recall that in that article just before the election, he said that in all the circumstances we need to have a prices and incomes policy? I recognise that he is not proposing a statutory policy, but will he tell us why the rest of his colleagues have taken no cognisance of his important views on this matter? Or does he think that they have a prices and incomes policy, and, if so, what is it?

Mr. Maudling

The right hon. Gentleman was kind enough to tell me that he has been reading my article in the Spectator. I meant to look it up but, quite honestly, I forgot. The simple fact is that the Government have a policy about both incomes and prices. It has been explained many times in the House. It is very different from the policy of the previous Administration, and will prove to be much more effective.