HC Deb 19 March 1974 vol 870 cc835-6
8. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether, in view of the Pay Board's warning notice to Glasgow Corporation regarding the payment of travelling allowances to firemen in its employ, he will dismiss the Chairman of the Pay Board.

Mr. Foot

No, Sir. I am not responsible for the conduct of the Pay Board, but, as I understand it, the Pay Board's action was in accordance with its statutory responsibilities.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us, in view of the tangle into which the Pay Board got itself over this matter, whether in this instance he intends to use the powers to which he referred in his speech yesterday? If he does not intend to use those powers, can he assure the House that the Pay Board will be expected not merely to prevent the future payment of a travelling allowance which it has decided is against the law but to require Glasgow Corporation to recover the money that has already been paid to the Glasgow firemen in order to ensure that nothing has been done against the law. And the best of British luck to the Pay Board!

Mr. Foot

As I have said in answer to previous Questions, I have only the narrowest powers under the Counter-Inflation Act to use the power of consent. I can use it only in exceptional circumstances, which means, by definition, that I cannot use it frequently. The hon. Member complains about what happens under the apparatus of the Pay Board. Many people complain about it—indeed, every day I receive complaints in my Department about the way in which it is operating, not at all, I would say, because the Pay Board is acting outside its responsibilities, but because it is carrying out the policy laid down by the previous Government. That is my problem, and I hope that I shall have the assistance of the Opposition when I try to deal with the matter properly.

Mr. Edward Taylor

Will the Minister give an assurance that he will consult people other than my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne) before he reaches a decision about the Glasgow firemen? Will he bear in mind particularly the fire hazards in Glasgow? According to official figures, published a few weeks ago, they are unique and the job of the Glasgow firemen is extremely difficult.

Mr. Foot

I have great sympathy with what the hon. Gentleman says. It is distressing to see divergences of opinion emerging from that side of the House, but if I have to choose between the two I shall, reluctantly, have to side with the hon. Gentleman.

Forward to