§ 17. Mr. Biffen
asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the current pattern of wage and salary settlements; and what representations he has received advocating their statutory control.
§ Mr. Biffen
In view of the right hon. Gentleman's long-standing and honourable record of inveterate opposition to the statutory control of salaries and incomes, may we assume that he would regard any measure of statutory control of incomes as a resigning issue?
§ Mr. Heffer
Can my right hon. Friend give us his view of precisely what is an excessive wage claim or an excessive settlement, as many Government supporters believe that a lot of wage settlements have not been excessive at all? Secondly, in giving us an assurance that there will not be a statutory incomes policy, can my right hon. Friend also indicate that the Government will not fall into the trap of an "either/or" situation—either a statutory incomes policy or excessive unemployment? Cannot he indicate that the time has come for alternative economic policies along the lines indicated by my hon. Friend in a statement last week?
§ Mr. Foot
Certainly I want to do everything possible to avoid both an increase in unemployment and the imposition of any statutory system for the control of wages. I believe that one of the best ways of helping to ensure that neither of those perils occurs and that neither of those dangers develops is by ensuring that we carry out the kind of proposals contained in the guidelines under the social contract and the kind of proposals that the TUC has been discussing with the Government for implementation over the coming period.
I agree that there may be much dispute about what is excessive. What I meant by excessive settlements is what was described as "excessive" in the guidelines of the TUC themselves.