HC Deb 11 June 1974 vol 874 cc1393-5
11. Mr. Biffen

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he is satisfied with the current progress of the social compact in respect of white collar and managerial trade unions.

10. Mr. McCrindle

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he is satisfied with the progress being made on the social contract.

Mr. Foot

Good progress, I believe, is being made in my discussions with others concerned about the arrangements which are to follow the abolition of compulsory wage controls.

Mr. Biffen

Would not it be wise and realistic to acknowledge that the reaction of the white collar and managerial unions is decidedly less than enthusiastic towards the social contract? In view of the fact that tomorrow the executive of NALGO will be presenting to its conference a highly critical resolution on the TUC General Council's relationship with the social contract, would not this be a convenient opportunity for the right hon. Gentleman to comment on the resolution?

Mr. Foot

I do not know about commenting on the resolution, but I am happy to comment on the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question. Everything that I have heard from the white collar and managerial trade unions concurs with the view that they wish to see the removal of compulsory wage controls. Whatever variations there may be about what should follow, there is growing support for that. I think it is almost unanimous now that wage controls should be removed, and I am glad to see that the white collar unions are in full support of that aspect of Government policy.

Mr. Christopher Price

Is my right hon. Friend aware that 3,000 London schoolchildren were sent home today because of the dissatisfaction of their teachers with the present state of their pay structure? Is he aware, further, that there is a great need for urgency in the inquiries which have been launched into the pay of both teachers and nurses? Can my right hon. Friend say when he expects those two inquiries to be completed so that we may give teachers, nurses and others a clear view of what their future pay structure is likely to be?

Mr. Foot

I appreciate what my hon. Friend says about the urgency of these matters. It is not for me to state the exact dates when this will happen because these matters fall within the responsibilities of the Department of Education and Science and, in the case of nurses, the Department of Health and Social Security. But we are trying to have these inquiries and reviews speeded up as much as possible. As my hon. Friend is aware, we have also arranged that the awards under the reviews shall be backdated. Therefore, I think the teachers will believe that the present Government have done their very best to meet the situation and to assist them generally. There is a further Question on the Order Paper relating to these matters. There will, however, be these full-scale reviews. We want them completed as soon as possible. In any event the resulting awards will be backdated, and that is one of the conditions for which the teachers have asked.

Mr. Barry Henderson

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider extending the social compact to envisage the possibility of a strikes holiday? Does he accept that if such an extension were made it could have a practical effect on the national economy in which there would be major advantages for employers to offer substantial increases in wages in order to encourage such a situation to be brought about?

Mr. Foot

Yes, we are doing everything possible to try to create the conditions whereby there can be industrial peace. That is one of the major reasons why we are getting rid of the 1971 Act. We think that is an essential process in trying to restore the prospect of industrial peace. But we are also taking action in every individual case in which we can. We cannot say that we are successful in every case, but we think that we have had quite a number of successes. For example, in the engineering union an overtime ban was proposed under the previous regime but we created conditions whereby that ban has been lifted and the prospect of industrial peace has broken out in the engineering union. We have not had much commendation from Opposition Members about it, but I am sure that they will come round to that point of view in the end. We are doing our best in every possible case to ensure industrial peace, which has to be sustained. But we know that in order to do that we have to create proper conditions for it, and that is what we are trying to do.