HC Deb 04 November 1975 vol 899 cc219-21
Q1. Mr. Pardoe

asked the Prime Minister which Minister is responsible for working out and negotiating the next stage of the Government's pay policy to cover the period beyond August 1976.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

A number of Ministers will inevitably be involved, but the main responsibility rests with my right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Employment.

Mr. Pardoe

I thank the Prime Minister for that reply. Does he agree that, taking the most optimistic view, the rate of inflation in the United Kingdom will still be higher than that of most of our industrial competitors after August 1976? Therefore, does he not now accept that an incomes policy is not a policy of short-term shifts and starts but a policy that will be with us until major restructuring and fundamental changes have been made in our industrial and economic society?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Employment, made clear in an Answer last week, we are principally concerned—as is the whole House—with the fact that the initial success of the policy, its observance by negotiators and all involved, shall be maintained. That is the first priority. I have said in the House—the trade union leaders have also made this point—that early enough before the end of the period covered by the policy agreed by the House we shall need to get down to the task of examining the situation thereafter.

Mr. Guy Barnett

I recognise the need for incomes restraint, and bear in mind the problems involved in the level of unemployment, but will the Prime Minister investigate the possibility of including in public contracts made by national Government and by local government a clause requiring companies to have regard to the lengths of shifts worked and the amount of overtime worked, so that as a consequence, we do not have situations such as those that exist in the construction industry, in which relatively few people earn inflated incomes at the expense of many others who have no job at all?

The Prime Minister

It might be difficult to import into contracts rigidities of the kind suggested by my hon. Friend. It is an important suggestion. However, I cannot answer it off the cuff, because the matter should be studied.

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