HC Deb 28 January 1971 vol 810 cc799-801
15. Mr. J. H. Osborn

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what was the average weekly wage at 1st January; how this figure is broken down expressed as earnings for male worker and female worker, respectively; and how the wages index has changed, compared to that of the retail prices index over the last five years.

Mr. Bryan

Figures of average weekly earnings are not available for 1st January but are available for October of each year.

At October, 1970, the provisional figures of average weekly earnings of full-time manual workers were £28 Os. 11d. for men aged 21 years and over, and £13 19s. 10d. for women aged 18 years and over. Between October, 1965 and October, 1970, average earnings of all workers covered by the regular inquiry rose by 45.9 per cent. and the general index of retail prices by 26.4 per cent.

Mr. Osborn

While thanking my hon. Friend for that detailed Answer, may I ask him whether it is not a fact that wages and salaries account for a figure of £29,000 million out of a national income of £35,000 million? Is this not evidence that one man's pay rise today is another man's price rise and that if the nation is to level out incomes then there is no alternative to higher wage and salary earners accepting a reduction for the benefit of the lower wage and salary earners?

Mr. Bryan

My hon. Friend would be surprised if I could absolutely confirm the figures he gave at the beginning of his supplementary question. Although it is never argued that prices rise in absolute direct relation to wages, undoubtedly the excessive wage claims that we have had are a major cause of the excessive price rises.

Mr. Grimond

Is the Minister aware that there are women in the Shetlands who last year were earning only £10 to £13 a week? While it may be impossible to have the type of detailed prices and incomes policy which we have attempted from time to time, does not he agree that we must have an incomes policy which ensures justice, otherwise those at the top of the scale and those who are highly organised get enormous increases and those at the bottom of the scale are left behind altogether?

Mr. Bryan

The whole accent of the Government's policy has been in favour of the lower-paid worker. At the same time, when this country had a statutory wages policy the lower-paid worker suffered and gained no advantage from it.

Mr. Wilkinson

Is my hon. Friend aware that male industrial earnings in the West Riding of Yorkshire are about 25 per cent. lower than the average, and that unemployment in that region is rising faster than anywhere else in the country? Will he do his best to bring the new science-based industries to this region, which are so crucially needed for diversification and high earnings?

Mr. Bryan

The West Riding of Yorkshire is an area which I know very well, for I have lived and worked there, and I realise the needs which my hon. Friend describes. However, regional policy, with which the Government are extremely exercised, comes under my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

Mrs. Castle

If the Government's policy is designed to help the low-paid worker against the higher-paid worker, why have the Government done their best to prevent postmen getting more than an 8 per cent. increase, whereas, when the Secretary of State was informed last December by Chrysler directors that they intended to give an 18 per cent. increase to their workers at Lynwood, he raised no objection?

Mr. Bryan

Neither of these statements is true.

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