HC Deb 22 May 1978 vol 950 cc1093-4
5. Mr. Durant

asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he next plans to meet the chairman of the British Productivity Council.

Mr. Les Huckfield

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has met the chairman of the British Productivity Council on a number of occasions, but there are at present no plans for a further meeting.

Mr. Durant

Will the hon. Gentleman agree, in spite of the slight upturn in productivity, that there is an essential need to increase this nation's productivity, which is falling sadly behind? In his discussions with the chairman of the council, will he discuss wage costs per unit, which are now escalating alarmingly in a way which will affect productivity and wage costs?

Mr. Huckfield

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will recognise that our wage costs per unit are among the lowest in Europe. I hope that he will also take into account the fact that, with inflation down to 8 per cent., manufacturing investment up 14 per cent., our decline in the share of world trade halted and employment in manufacturing actually rising until February this year, that is not a bad record.

Mr. Gwilym Roberts

But, in view of the important contribution to productivity made by sector working party reports, will my hon. Friend accept that there is some disappointment on both sides of industry and there is a feeling that the Department is passing the buck, since it has now suggested that many of the recommedations of those working parties should be worked out in the companies rather than being given a direct departmental lead?

Mr. Huckfield

Although I take note of what my hon. Friend says, I cannot agree with him. I should not like him to think that my Department has in any way abandoned the sector working parties. It takes careful note of what they say and is anxious to ensure that their recommendations get down to company level.