HL Deb 11 February 1965 vol 263 cc295-7

4.32 p.m.


My Lords, it may be for your Lordships' convenience if I now repeat a Statement on Prices and Incomes Machinery that has just been made in another place by my right honourable friend the First Secretary. If I may, I will use his own words:

"The House will remember that on December 16 the Government joined representatives of trade unions and management in signing a Joint Statement of Intent on Productivity, Prices and Incomes. That Statement recorded agreement on the need to set up machinery, first, to keep under review the general movement of prices and of money incomes of all kinds; and, secondly, to examine particular cases in order to advise whether or not the behaviour of prices or of wages, salaries or other money incomes was in the national interest.

"I am now glad to be able to tell the House that after further consultations and after discussion in the National Economic Development Council we have reached agreement with the representatives of trade unions and of management on the machinery and procedures that are needed for these purposes. The first task which I mentioned—that of keeping under review general movements in prices and incomes of all kinds (profits, wages, salaries etc.)—will be undertaken by the N.E.D.C. The second task—that of examining par- ticular cases—will be undertaken by a National Board for Prices and Incomes. The Prime Minister has authorised me to inform the House that Her Majesty the Queen has been pleased to indicate that she would be prepared to approve that a Royal Commission be set up to discharge these duties. The National Incomes Commission would be dissolved at the same time.

"The new Board will have a vitally importantrô le to play, as its work develops, in making effective the whole policy for prices and incomes. I am confident not only that its recommendations will be accepted by the parties directly concerned but that they will have a growing influence on all who are responsible for settling the levels of prices and incomes.

"Fuller particulars of these proposals are set out in a memorandum, prepared in agreement with the Trades Union Congress and with the employers' organisations, which will be published as a White Paper and which is now available in the Vote Office."—

It will be in the Printed Paper Office of your Lordships' House—

"I understand that the Northern Ireland Government agree that the proposals in the White Paper should cover the whole of the United Kingdom.

"The next stage will be, after further consultations and discussion in N.E.D.C., to formulate the norm and criteria which will guide the National Board for Prices and Incomes.

"The discussions on these important questions of national policy have, as is right, been held with those organisations which are most generally representative of the interests of employers and of workers. We recognise, of course, that there are groups of workers and employers—many of them in the public sector—who have not been directly represented in these discussions. The Ministers concerned are in touch with the main bodies concerned."

My Lords, that is the end of the Statement.


My Lords, I see from the Statement that a White Paper is in the Printed Paper Office, and clearly it would be the general interest that we should not spend time in discussing this Statement until we have had a chance of reading the White Paper. I do not know whether I might ask, off the cuff, just one question of the noble Lord: that is, whether he can tell us what is the essential difference between this new National Board for Prices and Incomes, which I am delighted to see has the support of the trade unions, and the National Incomes Commission, which was also a Royal Commission and which, to our great regret, the trade unions would not support and which seemed designed for precisely the same purpose?


My Lords, the difference, I would suggest to the noble Earl, is this. It is a question of the climate under which the two bodies have been set up. The previous Administration were unable to obtain the co-operation and support of the trade unions for the National Incomes Commission. The setting up of this new Board is due to the consultations and understanding by all bodies and the spirit and the atmosphere that surrounded it; and that, I would suggest to the noble Earl, is one of the reasons why we, as a Labour Government, shall obtain this incomes policy upon which exports so very much depend.


My Lords, the difference is entirely due to the climate, and not to the policy or the plan. Did the noble Lord not say that there was another difference?


My Lords, the difference in this particular case is that the trade unions are prepared to work with this particular body.