HL Deb 13 November 1961 vol 235 cc503-4

2.5 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have in mind to change the existing structure of wage negotiation and arbitration, and if so what the intended changes are.]


My Lords, negotiation and arbitration take place within the framework of agreements between representatives of employers and employees in the different industries, and it is not the intention of the Government to interfere with that framework. What the Government think essential is to secure a sensible, long-term relationship between increases in incomes and increases in productivity. As my right honourable and learned friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer explained in another place on October 23, this means that thought must be given to the modification of traditional attitudes and practices. These are matters which will have to be discussed with the two sides of industry, and I cannot yet say what the outcome of such discussions will be.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Viscount for his reply, I must confess that I cannot fit that in with what the noble Viscount said in his speech on the Address in Reply to the gracious Speech on November 7. For this is what he said [col. 339]: What we"— presumably "we" is "the Government"— have in mind is not to overthrow the system but to develop it. Having said what I have, I would try to allay the suspicion, which is undoubtedly genuine, in the minds of those who have complained of what we have done. This is not yet a complete edifice. We have still to build it up and build into it some correcting or governing mechanism which will protect the public interest". That contemplates, surely, a modification and change of the structure; not of the purpose, but of the structure.


No, my Lords. I think what I said is exactly in line with what my right honourable friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister of Labour said in another place. Obviously the words were mine, but I do not think the meaning was different.


My Lords, are we then to assume that there is no change in structure contemplated—merely an endeavour to relate wages to productivity?


My Lords, I think that when the noble Lord sees my reply, he will see the answer to that supplementary question.

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