HL Deb 18 July 1977 vol 386 cc9-25

2.51 p.m.

Report received.

The Earl of MANSFIELD moved manuscript Amendment No. 1A: After Clause 4, insert the following new clause:

Twelve month rule

"In the event that no resolution in effect continuing the twelve month interval between major pay increases is passed at the Trades Union Congress in September 1977, the provisions in section 4(2)(b) and section 5(2)(a) of this Act and all other provisions in this Act directly consequent upon them shall be in abeyance until such a resolution has been passed at a subsequent meeting, or until an order or document to such effect has been laid before Parliament by command of Her Majesty".

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I appreciate that it is not considered wholly desirable to have manuscript Amendments at this stage of a Bill's passage, and in many ways this Amendment would have been better tabled on Third Reading, after a reasonable period for pause and reflection in which we may all take stock of the events of the last few days. But as it has been agreed that Report and Third Reading should be taken on the same day—in other words today—and as it was thought desirable that this arrangement should be adhered to and not disturbed, this is the only way in which the developments which have taken place can be ventilated in your Lordships' House before the Bill goes back to the other place.

There most certainly have been developments, and it would appear that they crowd upon each other too fast for the Government and certainly far too fast for the Bill; I say that against the background of the Government's Social Contract which, as I understand it, has always been the cornerstone of their efforts to contain inflation. The fact of the matter is that these efforts have not entirely been crowned with success. Each year prominent members of the Cabinet confidently go on record as forecasting a rate of inflation in single figures or thereabouts in the not too distant future, but the rate of inflation remains obstinately in the teens and one rather supposes that it is likely to do so for some period in the future.

The causes of the continuing failure to brine down inflation are outside the scope of the Bill and this debate, but in the ruins of the Social Contract much of the justification for the provisions of the Bill deserve even greater scrutiny than perhaps they did before. Both the miners and the railway workers have now gone on record to state what they regard as proper wage settlements in their respective cases during the next round, and it is safe to say that a forecast that wage settlements or increases will be of the order of a maximum of 10 per cent. would be optimistic rather than realistic.

I say all this because companies and undertakings which will have the duty of trying to make bargains with the unions over pay will now not only have to do so without a meaningful set of guidelines but they will still have to operate within the terms of this Bill. To take one example, Clause 17 of the Bill purports to extend the operation of Section 1 of the Remuneration, Charges and Grants Act 1975, and that section is of course dependent on pay limits set out in a White Paper. In his Statement in the other place last Friday this point was reinforced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he said: It is necessary to continue the provisions in relation to employers in the Remuneration, Charges and Grants Act 1975 to the extent needed to support and enforce the TUC guidance on the 12 month rule. An order will be required under that Act to achieve all these purposes ".—[Official Report (Commons), 15/7/77; col. 990]. Previously, of course, Section 1 was always dependent on pay limits which were set out in a White Paper, so unless we are to have a White Paper and unless, as I understand it, that White Paper deals with limits, Section 1 cannot be renewed. Therefore I ask the Government to tell the House, and more importantly to tell those outside who are trying to rethink their lives and how they propose to run them, how they propose to deal with the situation. If a White Paper containing what I might call the 12 month rule is produced, that will scarcely suffice in my estimation; if any reference is made to 10 per cent. as a maximum, that, I suggest, will be greeted with cries of derision by those trade unions which have already voted at their conferences to obtain much more for their members if they can do so. One is therefore faced with that immediate question in relation to this Bill and this clause within it.

I come to the question of sanctions, where there seems to have been a great deal of confusion, and I wish to give the Government an opportunity to deal with the matter today if the noble Lord, Lord Oram, is in a position to do so. When I talk about sanctions I refer, of course, to firms which, probably through no desire of their own, are compelled, if that is the right word, to give in to demands which are outside the policy either as regards the size of a settlement or its frequency.

It is not difficult to envisage what I might call a Scylla and Charybdis situation. A firm will be squeezed between the Scylla of a powerful union which wishes, in terms of a perfectly properly conducted meeting or conference, to press for a wage claim which it considers is desirable and deserved, and the Charybdis, the whirlpool of the possible sanctions which will be imposed against a company or undertaking by the Government if it gives in to the wage demand which has been put forward by the union concerned.

What is Government policy likely to be in such a situation? If I may say so, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was extremely vague. He said in effect that the Government would take into account such bargains or wage settlements which are outside whatever policy is left; the Government would take that into account in public purchasing policy and the placing of contracts, and in the consideration of industrial assistance.

The newspapers, on which one places as much or as little reliance according to one's political position and inclination, have taken this to be twofold so far as possible Government action is concerned. First, it is said that if a company has "sinned" the Price Commission will be instructed to refuse to allow the company to claw back whatever it has paid out by way of the unjustified increase by curtailing its next price increase which will come about after the wage settlement. If that is so—and a great many respected commentators, at least in the Sunday Press, were saying that it was—it makes a nonsence of the often-repeated assurances, which we have been given in this House and in the other place, that the Price Commission will be a wholly independent body in that it will not take orders from the Secretary of State, except where enjoined to do so by Statute, its chairman will be like Caesar's wife, it will try to do justice as between the company and the consumer, and will be independent in terms of the public interest. If, as I say, a company is to be punished in this way, it will make nonsense of all the assurances we have been given until now, and it will be a matter which we shall want to consider very carefully in the short time the Bill remains in this House.

On the other hand, it may be that nothing so sinister is to be read into it, and that the Government will invoke no sanction other than in the two matters to which the Chancellor referred directly: public purchasing policy and the placing of contracts, and the consideration of industrial assistance. As many companies are quite outside that field in both limbs, it is difficult to see that any meaningful sanction at all is placed in their way, if they take the easy way out.

I appreciate that all kinds of points regarding drafting and semantics might be hurled at the Amendment—though the noble Lord shakes his head, and for that I am obliged, if not grateful. In the Amendment we have tried to give the Government an opportunity of stating—I was going to say the "form", but that is much too frivolous a word. We are concerned with the idea with regard to the Bill. The noble Lord knows very well, and those Members of your Lordships' House who have read the Bill will divine, that Clauses 4 and 5 place sanctions against firms whose activities in the form of a price increase, or margins, are being investigated. We have tried to say to the Government—not altogether successfully, I feel—that the one thing about which many firms are anxious is the freeze which will be the inevitable outcome of such a notification, or investigation, by the Commission.

In one sense we are all in agreement that if there is no norm, or no 10 per cent. maximum to be imposed, the only way in which there will not be galloping inflation will be by the 12 months' rule. Members of the Government have repeated their commitment to it fairly recently. At the same time, I believe it is realised, at any rate at the moment, even by the Government, that one cannot just pay lip-service. I have here a quotation of what the Chancellor said at a union conference on 24th April: It is no good relying just on vague expressions of good will to deal with the pay policy problem. We tried that 10 years ago with the famous solemn and binding declaration. It melted away like butter in the sun". The Prime Minister himself said on 18th May this year: I beg all trade unionists, let us not have productivity agreements that are just cosmetic. That will merely disguise the true increase. They will only give the Government a fig leaf, which I do not want. I do not want to deceive people". That last sentence must be the most famous under-statement of the year.

The Amendment proposes that unless and until the Trades Union Congress, which is the means by which the whole trade union movement expresses its intentions for a coming period, comes down and reinforces what the Government tell us should be done, the penal provisions included in Clauses 4 and 5 of the Bill will not come into effect. I shall be interested in what the Government have to say, and in what our Liberal colleagues have to say. They have gone on record, quite rightly, as saying that they are as determined as any other Party that there should be a meaningful prices, but also an incomes, policy for this country. I suggest that at the moment the incomes policy is in ruins, and it would be useful to know their reaction to it.

3.7 p.m.


My Lords, it has been said that a week is a long time in politics, and the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, was quite right to point to last week as having been a little unusually long in terms of negotiations about pay policy, and so on. But I think that it will become clear that important, indeed dramatic, though some of the developments of last week were, the effect on the Bill now before your Lordships' House is much less dramatic than might appear at first blush. The noble Earl quite understandably, prefaced his moving of the Amendment with a number of observations about economic policy in general, referring to the history of the Social Contract. On that point I would urge him to consider his own dictum that the causes of inflation over the past two years have been outside the parameters of the Bill and, indeed, to a large extent, outside the operations of the Social Contract.

I would say that any fair assessment of the past two years must acknowledge that restraint on the part of the trade union movement in fulfilment of its part of the Social Contract has been commendable. As we well know, there have been factors causing inflation outside trade union demands, but there can be no doubt that the Social Contract has made a major contribution to the economic situation over the past two years. It is true that the events of last week begin to point to a change of emphasis and a change of direction, and that, as the Statement of my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer made clear, we now see ourselves moving into a new phase, which we characterise in the phrase, "the ordered return to collective bargaining". But, although I make no complaint that the noble Earl introduced these general considerations into his speech, I would remind him and your Lordships that in two days' time we are to have a major economic debate, and I would suggest that we can turn our thoughts to the particular provisions of the Amendments before us and leave more general economic considerations to that debate, to which I am sure we are all looking forward with eagerness.

The noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, then went on, taking as his starting point Clause 17 and the reference therein to the Remuneration, Charges and Grants Act. He pointed out, quite rightly, that that refers to pay limits; and he wondered what was the Government's position in respect to this. He was asking about the White Paper, in particular. He quoted (and I shall therefore not need to do so) the significant phrase from the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Statement on Friday, indicating that an order will be necessary. I can go on to indicate, in direct answer to the noble Earl, that a White Paper will be issued and an order will be made, and that this will be done within the next two weeks, before we go into Recess. That information, of course, could have been understood from the statement that the noble Earl read out, but I have now put it more certainly on the record; and it seems to me, if I may say so, to a large extent to invalidate at least the opening phrases of the Amendment that we are now considering.

My Lords, the Amendment and the speech from the noble Earl to which we have listened link the "freeze" power which is provided in the Bill almost exclusively to the immediate pay situation. I shook my head when the noble Earl thought that I might be going into technical drafting matters. I do not propose to do that, but there is one small slip that I think he would wish me to point out. I believe that the reference in the Amendment to Section 5(2)(a) should in fact be to Section 5(3)(a), but that is an understandable slip. As I was saying, the Amendment links the freeze powers of the Bill to the immediate pay situation; but the Government have made it clear many times in another place—and I recall that I tried to do so at the Committee stage last week—that this freeze power contained in Clause 4(2)(b) and Clause 5(3)(a) is an important part of the permanent investigatory powers, which have a long-term purpose connected with competition policy as well as the shorter-term role in counter-inflation policy. The power must be seen as having the two purposes, and I would say that the first, long-term purpose connected with competition policy is, in this context, the more significant. For that reason alone, the Amendment cannot be accepted by the Government. The removal of the freeze powers would completely undermine the effectiveness of investigation because, again as we were saying last week, there would not even be a roll-back power which would be available after investigations in order to cut back unjustified price increases.

The noble Earl went on to deal with the question of the pay sanction, and I hope now to make that position clear in response to his inquiries. The position of companies which breach the guidelines for the next 12 months which were announced last week was, as I have said, clearly stated in the announcement from which the noble Earl quoted and which I also mentioned. A White Paper will be published very shortly, and, by means of an order under Section 1 of the Remuneration, Charges and Grants Act, will enable the continuation of the 12 month interval between pay settlements to be supported by sanctions against companies which breach the 12 month rule. The sanction in the price controls will be the disallowance of the full cost of the relevant settlement in calculations made of the margin controls in the Price Code, and this sanction—and this is a point in which I think the noble Earl was particularly interested—will not be used to support other aspects of the Statement on pay policy. Nor will it involve the use of the freeze power in the Bill, which will continue to be governed by the requirement on the Price Commission to have regard to the criteria in Clause 2. Therefore, my Lords, the Amendment is unnecessary because the 12 month rule will, as I have said, be promulgated in a White Paper which will be laid before both Houses in a draft order under the Remuneration, Charges and Grants Act. It will be debated before the end of the month. Of course, in reference to the opening words of the Amendment, it is clear that that will be well before the TUC meets in September.

Surely we all recognise that we are in a very delicate situation economically, and I think that we are all anxious—the CBI and the TUC have made it clear—not to have a wage explosion. This means that we shall all have to play our part in avoiding such a wage explosion. As I have indicated in respect to the 12 month rule, the CBI has made its position clear; the TUC has made its position clear; and the Government have made their position clear, as I have spelt out several times already this afternoon. I would urge that, in facing this delicate economic situation, all of us should play our part to avoid a wage explosion.

Baroness SEEAR

My Lords, as the noble Earl has said, we on these Benches have always been, and still are, strongly in favour of a policy to exercise control over both pay and prices. Therefore, we attach the greatest importance to the continuation of the 12 month rule. This was why I raised the issue of the 12 month rule after the Statement had been read last Friday by the noble Lord the Leader of the House. I received a reply in writing—a very courteous reply, if I may say so—from the noble Lord, Lord Oram, confirming, as he has again confirmed today, that the 12 month rule stands.

Of course, if you are going to have a return to something like free collective bargaining—and we understand that the Tory Front Bench wants a return to free collective bargaining—and are at the same time going to have some control exercised by Government over excessive pay claims and, particularly in this case, over abuse of the 12 months' rule, it follows inevitably that employers entering into negotiation are in the front line. That is the position in which, I believe, they choose to put themselves if they favour a return to free collective bargaining. They will have to stand to the problems which arise when they are caught, as they see themselves caught, between the pressures of the trade unions pushing to breach the 12 months' rule (if, and in so far as, they do so) and the absolute necessity of the Government maintaining the control of prices.

There is no way out of this. Therefore, we warmly welcome the Minister's reaffirmation that the 12 months' rule holds. If employers in negotiation are unable to resist the pressures of trade unions—and in collective bargaining it is part of their role to do this, part of what they are paid to do as managers in resisting excessive wage claims—it inevitably follows that some sanctions will have to be exercised through the price control system.

Even if this were not so, in our view the Amendment as it stands is inappropriate. It is not the right way in which it should be worded to require that a statement should come from the TUC over which this House has no direct jurisdiction in any way. What we want, and what I understand we have got from the Government, is affirmation that the Government will enforce the 12 months' rule. We want to see the Government strong in their determination to ensure that there are effective controls over pay increases. One instrument here is, and must remain, that of setting price controls. May I say that we go along with the Minister in saying that the power to investigate is part, not of establishing the pay policy alone, although this is important, but part of getting a more effective competition policy, and it must be maintained for those reasons. It also stands to reason in this extremely delicate situation, in which so much depends on the public recognising the importance of not having a wage explosion, that it must be seen that there are to be, where necessary, controls of prices. We cannot support this Amendment.

3.23 p.m.


It seems to me that the Opposition have not quite made up their mind whether we are again debating their Amendment of last week or anticipating the debate of Wednesday next. We debated this principle last week and I ventured to ask whether the Opposition do or do not want an incomes policy. The noble Lord who is now sitting on the Front Bench opposite told us that, on balance, he preferred an incomes policy. I was reading of where his right honourable Leader was sneering at the effects that the incomes policy had had over the last two years. They must make up their minds. People like me are in the clear. I want an incomes policy. I have wanted one for over 30 years. I believe that it is a retrograde step to go away from one. Will somebody opposite get up and say that?

I listened to the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, who first based himself on his fears which were acute because of what the miners had said, what the T. & G. had said and what the engineers had said. All those fears would be at once assuaged, he said, if the TUC tell us not to take any notice of them. The noble Earl should know that the TUC has no executive powers over its components. Therefore, to say that one would be satisfied with a declaration from the TUC is either very naive or very hypocritical. One cannot have it both ways.

The noble Earl said that he was afraid that the employers were going to be squeezed between militant trade unions and the Government which would penalise them. I do not want to go too far back, but years ago when we had the Prices and Incomes Board (which the Tories obliterated) we used to take care of this. We had the early warning system and when employers told us that they were to ask for increases in their prices, if they referred to foodstuffs or products of that kind the matter went to the Ministry of Agriculture who did an absolutely first-class job in assisting the employers either to modernise their structure in order that they could diminish the amount of increase that they were claiming, or to wipe out the need for the increase at all.

Had not the Party opposite been so keen to wipe out Mr. Aubrey Jones and his board, that position could have maintained until now and this dilemma in which the noble Earl finds himself would not occur at all. I understand his apprehension—I share it—on the 12 months' rule. I was pleased to hear my noble friend say what he said. But one fine day all of us, either in this House or in the other place, will have to get around to the fact that the time factor is not the important one in this respect. Productivity is the important factor. We reached the stage not long ago where we were paying ourselves 30 per cent. increases while the GNP was falling. If we do not have the 12 months' factor (which I accept as a minimum) Heaven only knows where we would finish. We must begin to bend our minds to a different proposition of the time factor. If you are in an inflationary situation in which Governments dare not expand the economy, how can you possibly say that in 12 months from now we can all go for another x per cent. and we shall be all right?

I am pleased to hear that the time factor will stay, that the 12 months' rule will maintain; but I do not think it is the kind of assurance which the nation would want to hear. At this moment I am still a seeker after knowledge. I want to know whether the Tory Front Bench in another place is right or the Tory Front Bench in this House is right. They cannot both be right. I should like it if the noble Earl were to grant me the privilege of letting me know which attitude in the end the Tory Party is going to take. I should be grateful.


I should like also to ask a question, but to ask it more appropriately of the Minister responsible. I am bound to say that I am inclined to agree with Lord Oram's criticisms of the exact terminology of the Amendment which we are debating, but he has such an agreeable "Box-side", almost bedside, manner that I think perhaps he did lull some of us into not concentrating on what seems to me to be the most important practical point behind this Amendment. That point, it seems to me, is the position in which private employers now stand in view of the fact that the right honourable gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer virtually said last Friday that wage control goes and price control—and, for that matter, dividend control—remains.

We have been told—indeed the Chancellor of the Exchequer told us on Friday—of the dire and terrible penalties which would be inflicted on employers who give way to wage demands which were in excess of the guidelines which the Government have indicated. The noble Baroness on the Liberal Benches seemed to think that on the whole it would be a rather wholesome discipline for employers to be exposed to this situation. With respect, the matter cannot be brushed off as easily or as lightly as that. There are industries, especially of a capital intensive nature, where a continuous process is required or where grave loss is suffered from stopping plant, in which, particularly in view of the limited number of men employed in relation to the capital employed, it is obviously in the ultimate interests of the company and its shareholders to go quite a long way in response to wage demands. It is not all that easy without some help from the Government to deal with the situation in which the management of such a company—particularly a continuous process, high capital intensive industry with a limited amount of labour—is placed when it has to choose between a total addition to the wage bill which, though it will outrage the Government's guidelines, will be comparatively small in relation to the turnover of the company and the appalling loss which a halt to its productive process, and the putting of all its expensive capital equipment into silence, will produce.

We have heard of the penalties which the Government will impose. I should like to ask the noble Lord what help they will give to a company which, having a high sense of public duty and fully accepting what the noble Lord himself has said as to the delicacy and difficulty of the situation, despite its own economic interests, and despite the interests of its shareholders, none the less resists such a claim? This thought is tied up with and lies behind the phraseology of this Amendment. As things stand, we have the penalties spelt out, either by the Chancellor or under the Bill before us. We have not heard what help is to be given. We have heard a great deal about the stick, but not even a nuance of mousse of carrot has been dangled in front of us.

If the Government are, as I hope, to have the support of the private industrial sector on this, from the point of view of the future of our nation's economy, gravest of national issues, they must first take account of the very different circumstances of different types of industry. They must recognise that labour intensive industry and capital intensive industry are in a totally different position in respect of these matters. They must show some understanding, particularly of the needs of the capital-intensive section, and give some indication that if, contrary to the apparent interests of their shareholders, the management of such a company stands firm, the Government will see to it that, at the end, the company does not suffer for it.

3.33 p.m.


My Lords, I wish to question some of the remarks that the noble Lord has made. On the train a short while ago I read the Chancellor's Statement to the House last Friday. It would not be correct to say that a company which breaks the rules of guidelines is threatened with dire and terrible punishment. I believe that those were the words that the noble Lord used. On the contrary, I thought that the measures were rather mild. They mean that a company which does not follow the guidelines but gives a wage increase in excess of them, may be put at a disadvantage in the award of Government contracts. That is about as far as the Statement went. That was very far short of the demands of many people, particularly the Liberal Party, that the company which does this should have the excess payments taken out of its profits, either through price control or some other instrument. The Government were rather mild.

When one takes the other part of the question—concerning the help which the Government give to firms which try to follow the guidelines—the Chancellor made it clear that it would not be possible for the Government to give positive help other than ensuring that a company will be favourably treated in Government contracts, and so on. It was said that the employers' organisations were discussing the possibility of providing such help. I do not think that it would be right to say that dire or terrible punishments are proposed: nor would I agree that capital-intensive industry is under greater danger here than a labour-intensive one. It is precisely the capital-intensive industry which provides little labour and, therefore, can afford to pay high wages without much disadvantage to itself. It is the labour-intensive industries who face the threat of going out of business.


My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to speak? I must have failed to make myself clear, because I agree with him on that point. It is the capital-intensive industry which, because it can so easily afford to pay increased wages, is under the greatest temptation, in the interests of its own prosperity, to accept excessive wage claims.

3.36 p.m.


My Lords, if I may suggest it, we are drifting a little from the Bill. The purpose of this Amendment is to modify, if not remove the effects of the freeze in the event of there being no declared policy which is capable of implementation, either on the part of the Trades Union Congress—and I know that there are objections and the noble Lord, Lord Lee of Newton, made this point earlier—being called upon to exercise authority because its position is not one which enables it to do that easily, or on the part of the Government. We were promised a White Paper last Friday, if one is to believe the newspapers, and we did not get one. I forget whether there was any public statement to this effect. We received a Statement from the Chancellor.

The Statement from the Chancellor said many things, but it did not have the authority of a White Paper document or even the laying of a draft order, and so it seems therefore that one needs to have another look. The game has changed since the Committee stage last Monday and Tuesday; we have a new picture. Whereas last Monday and Tuesday we were arguing in relation to this subject of the price freeze for four months or three months, depending on which clause applies, under conditions in which there might have been some pay restraint—whether imposed by the TUC, as it has been in the past couple of years, or by the Government is of no import—we now have a picture in which this price freeze is liable to be imposed when there is not a corresponding restraint on pay.

To put it simply, this is unfair; but of course that is by the way. In this environment, perhaps fairness is not the issue which would claim your Lordships' greatest consideration. But, apart from that, we argued very strongly on Monday last about why the question of a freeze can be so damaging to companies and, indeed, can in its turn lead to the smaller companies for sure, and probably some of the bigger companies as well, going out of business because of the increases in costs which may come their way during the course of the four months. I admit that then and, I think, now the main increase in cost to which we are addressing our thoughts is that caused by costs of overseas raw materials.

In that area we are particularly worried, because the experience of the past two or three years has from time to time shown that there can be a cost increase of an order which would wipe out the possible price increase of which somebody had given notification which would lead to an investigation in the short period of four months. It is that situation against which we ought to be safeguarding companies which would find themselves in such difficulties that they caused the very situation we want to avoid—increased unemployment—due to the necessity to reduce their activities considerably because of the effects of this four month period.

Your Lordships will have seen last week that, after I think three years, the Monopolies Commission reported on the bread industry. They found that the low profits of the industry were caused entirely by Government interference and not by a misuse of power by the three big bread-making concerns of this country. That bears out the fact that any increases people are going to apply during the immediate future in any competitive industry are not going to be applied because people are going to misuse their powers, but because the market requires it of them. Therefore, if people apply for a price increase and need to have it in order to make their business competitive, they are applying for purely business reasons and not because they are wicked, cruel, unkind or any of those other things. So it seems quite unreasonable for there to be built into this Bill the ability to freeze prices—because people will be asking for increases only because they need them and not because they want to take advantage of the situation, or something of that nature.

For that reason, it seems to me that we need to consider very carefully what we are dealing with in this Amendment. We are dealing with the fact, as I suspect it to be, that the Government's reason for putting in a price freeze was as a bargaining counter to ensure that they got a viable, meaningful and enforceable form of pay restraint. Indeed, in another place the Secretary of State said as much, although in other words. But they have not got a viable, enforceable pay restraint as things stand at the moment.

I was delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Oram, said there would be a White Paper before Parliament went into Recess. That may be what we are seeking: if so, well and good. In that case the Amendment, as phrased, is more than covered. There will be every reason for saying that this Amendment should be agreed to by your Lordships because it says that if there is a viable document which takes care of the situation within the Amendment, then there will be no need to put these things into abeyance.

I personally have doubts about the wisdom of that because, as I tried to indicate, I believe this price freeze section is misconceived in the first place; but if it is purely a bargaining counter, let us treat it as such—in which case, though there may well be all sorts of technical faults in my noble friend's Amendment, for heavens sake! let us treat it as a bargaining counter, put it in the Bill and, if the Government come up with a White Paper, that will be jolly good and the effects of this Amendment will not be realised. I would say to my noble friends that if they felt it right to press this Amendment I should be happy to support them.