HC Deb 31 March 1983 vol 40 c460
Q1. Mr Beith

asked the Prime Minister if she will give further consideration to the problem of low pay.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

My right hon. and learned Friend's Budget will benefit the low paid by taking 1¼ million people out of tax altogether. Since we took office we have raised the tax thresholds by over 5 per cent. in real terms. By last November the real level of family income supplement was 14 per cent. higher, for a family with two children, than it was when we took office. Next November child benefit will be increased to £6.50 a week, and should then reach its highest-ever level in real terms.

Mr. Beith

Has the Prime Minister studied the recent report from the Low Pay Unit on farm wages—a sector with many families on family income supplement? Does the right hon. Lady realise from this that high output, high efficiency and high productivity do not automatically bring about adequate wage in an industry, as she so often claims will happen over industry generally? Will the Prime Minister therefore charge her Ministers to make an urgent investigation into how something can be done about wages in agriculture? Will she revise her views about how the low-pay problem will be tackled over the economy generally?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman will know, although farm incomes themselves rose substantially last year—[Hon. MEMBERS: "Farmers."] I refer to the income of farmers. [Interruption.] Indeed, I am just about to make the point that although farm workers' incomes have gone up very considerably, the incomes of farmers have fallen very substantially, until this last year. That factor must be taken into account.

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

Will my right hon. Friend today comment on the appalling dispute about such trivia in the motor industry—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has overlooked the fact that this is not an open question.

Mr. Clinton Davis

When dealing with low pay and the whole question of her monetarist approach, has the right hon. Lady taken time to consider the devastating indictment of her policies by her right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir. I. Gilmour) in his latest book? Has she considered his conclusion that Dr. Pangloss is now in charge of our affairs, although the results make it appear that Dr. Strangelove is in charge?

The Prime Minister

What a studied and rather irrelevant question. The monetarist approach has got inflation down. As many right hon. and hon. Gentlemen said in the lifetime of the last Government, inflation is the worst enemy of jobs. Monetarism gets inflation down. Nothing better protects small savings than getting inflation down. The last Government plundered the savings of many people by their record level of inflation.

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