HL Deb 19 January 1977 vol 379 cc25-6

2.48 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 what percentage of the parties contributing material for the comparability studies of the Pay Research Unit has been asked to allow publication of their material in a generalised form.

The LORD PRIVY SEAL (Lord Peart)

My Lords, as was explained to the noble Lord on 20th May 1976, and as I explained to him on 20th December 1976, the question of the need for confidentiality with regard to the comparability studies of the Pay Research Unit is under consideration. But the Civil Service pay research system is, of course, still suspended and its reactivation will have to be considered in the light of further developments in pay policy. It would therefore be premature at this time to ask the organisations participating in pay research whether they would agree to publication.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that more than a year ago his predecessor undertook to initiate a series of discussions, with those in the private sector who provide this information, to see under what conditions they would allow it to be provided? Is he further aware that we are not so much concerned as to the plans for the future, which we hope will be better based than those of the past, but as to the fact that it is the right of Parliament to know on what basis the past decisions were made? In view of the undertaking given by his predecessor, will the noble Lord and the Government now take steps to see what information can rightly be released to Parliament?


My Lords, I repeat that I am very much aware of this question, and I myself undertook that this should be looked into. But I am not yet in a position to make a statement on it.


My Lords, during the period of their consideration of the system before its reactivation, will the Government consider again the possible inclusion within the Pay Research Unit of someone from outside the Government service, because this would help to provide confidence among all concerned about genuine comparability?


My Lords, I think that the record of the Unit is such that there is confidence that it will be impartial. But as regards opening it up, this is a matter which we have to consider. I note what has been said by the noble Lord.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that, while we all admire the work of the Pay Research Unit, if the labour market is to work properly it is vital that negotiators have adequate information on which to base their negotiations? Therefore, I am sure my noble friend will agree that once the pay pause ends it is important that as much information about wages and salaries is published as is possible, consonant with confidentiality and so on.


My Lords, I agree with that.