§ 4.2 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (LORD CHAMPION)
My Lords, with your Lordships' permission, I should like to make a Statement, similar to that which my right honourable friend the First Secretary of State has just made in another place, on Prices and Incomes Policy. If I may, I will use his own words, which are as follows: "Following the signing of the Joint Statement of Intent on Productivity, Prices and Incomes last December, I laid before the House on February 11 a memorandum on the machinery of prices and incomes policy, prepared by the Government in agreement with the representatives of Management and Unions (Cmnd. 2577). This memorandum stated that the National Economic Development Council would keep under review the general movement of prices and of money incomes of all kinds; and that a National Board for Prices and Incomes would be set up to examine particular cases in order to advise whether or not the behaviour of prices or of wages, salaries or other money incomes is in the national interest as defined by the Government after consultation with management and unions.
194 "I am glad to tell the House that agreement has now been reached on the considerations which, in the national interest, should guide all concerned with prices and incomes, including the National Board for Prices and Incomes in its investigation of individual cases referred to it by the Government. These considerations are set out in a further memorandum which has been endorsed by the National Economic Development Council and accepted by the representatives of the Trades Union Congress and of the four employers' organisations who were concerned with the two previous stages of our discussions on prices and incomes policy. This memorandum is being published in a White Paper which is now available in the Vote Office.
"This concludes the third stage of our discussions on prices and incomes. Although the main discussions have had to be confined to those organisations which are most generally representative of the interests of employers and workers, the conclusions as endorsed by N.E.D.C. will, I hope, be accepted by all organisations and individuals concerned with questions of prices and incomes. Their acceptance will be an essential factor in implementing the national plan for economic development and so making possible a more rapid rise in real, as opposed to money, incomes.
"I am also authorised by the Prime Minister to inform the House that Her Majesty the Queen has been pleased to indicate her approval of the membership and terms of reference of the National Board for Prices and Incomes to be appointed under Royal Warrant. Details are set out in the second part of the White Paper published to-day.
"In addition to the Right Honourable Aubrey Jones, the Chairman, the Board will include:
§ Joint Deputy Chairman
§ The Right Honourable Hilary Marquand.
- Mr. J. F. Knight
- Mr. R. G. Middleton
- Dr. Joan Mitchell
- Lord Peddie
- Mr. P. E. Trench
- Mr. R. Willis
§ I hope to announce the name of the second Joint Deputy Chairman very soon."
§ My Lords, that is the end of the Statement. The White Paper referred to is now available in the Printed Paper Office.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
My Lords, I am glad to hear that the third stage of the Government's discussions about prices and incomes has now been concluded, and I hope that the increase in the cost of living during the fourth and subsequent stages will not be quite so rapid as it has been during the first three. Of course, we cannot discuss the considerations which are going to govern the behaviour of all concerned in prices and incomes until we have read them in the White Paper which has just been released in the Vote Office, but I should like to ask the noble Lord whether he has tried to work out the increase in production costs which will result from the 50 per cent. increase in duty on commercial vehicles and the increased petrol tax which have been imposed by the Government. Will these come within the purview of the National Board for Prices and Incomes?
§ LORD CHAMPION
My Lords, these are of course considerations which the Board will have to take into account when questions relating to increases in prices are referred to them. In answer to the noble Earl's first point regarding the period up to now, I am bound to say that I hope our efforts will be very much more successful than the attempts made by the last Government to control and manage incomes and prices.
§ LORD WADE
My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord for his Statement, and ask him a question? The Statement mentions reference of individual cases to the National Board for investigation. Can we have some assurance that where the employees of a particular firm reach agreement with the management whereby restrictive practices are eliminated, and in return the employees become entitled to substantial increases in income, that will not be the type of case requiring investigation by the National Board?
§ LORD CHAMPION
My Lords, it will be for the Government, and particularly for the Minister, to consider which cases will be referred to the National Board. 196 Clearly the points that the noble Lord has set out would not only be in the mind of the Government if they decided to refer, but would also be major matters for consideration by the Board if the case were so referred. I do not think there are any dangers in this field. All these points are extremely important ones, and will be taken into consideration.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, may I ask a question about the Joint Deputy Chairmen? I notice that Mr. Marquand is one of them. Does this mean that Mr. Marquand is relinquishing his appointment with the International Labour Organisation? Is it a full-time appointment or just a part-time one?
§ LORD CHAMPION
Yes, my Lords, in the case of Mr. Hilary Marquand, he will be employed in a full-time capacity as Joint Deputy Chairman.