HL Deb 01 February 1983 vol 438 cc681-2

2.55 p.m.

Lord Kennet

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 effect they expect "non-cash pay", which they favour, to have on the mutual disclosure of their incomes between husband and wife, and on the arrangements between them about housekeeping money.

The Secretary of State for Trade (Lord Cockfield)

My Lords, as cashless pay would always be accompanied by a payslip, it is difficult to see how it would have any appreciable bearing on the matters to which the noble Lord refers.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, would the noble Lord not agree that in common sense a man is more likely to share his weekly pay packet with his wife if he has pound notes in his pocket than if he does not have pound notes in his pocket? Before going further with the proposal of cashless pay, will the Government make sure that they have up-to-date statistical knowledge of the number of wives in the country who do not know what their husbands earn, wish that they did and fear that things might be worse if cashless pay were introduced generally?

Lord Cockfield

My Lords, a variety of views have been expressed on this subject. Some people take the view, as the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, does, that the fact that the husband will no longer bring home every Friday a pay packet containing his wages in pound notes and coin of the realm, will prejudice the wife's position. There are other people who take the view that because the husband will always have a pay slip and, in addition, the bank will render a monthly statement showing in that statement the amount of pay he has received, the wife's position will be improved. These are all matters of speculation. I think that, as Terence said, "Tot homines, quot sententiae".

Lord Derwent

My Lords, can my noble friend say what on earth this Question has to do with Her Majesty's Government?

Lord Cockfield

Yes, my Lords. My noble friend raises an important point. Her Majesty's Government are in favour of cashless pay, which, in the sense that it would avoid the handling by employers and employees of large amounts of cash, would represent a significant improvement in respect both of the work involved and of the security risks. It would also encourage the spread of banking. Indeed, the number of working people with bank accounts has increased dramatically in the last 10 years. Apparently about 71 per cent. of all people at work now have bank accounts. The matter was discussed at the last meeting of the National Economic Development Council. It was supported on all sides not only by the Government but also by the TUC.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether it would still be possible for a man to be paid in cash if he so wished?

Lord Cockfield

Yes, my Lords, we have taken the view that this is a matter for negotiation between employers and employees.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, may I press the Secretary of State for an answer to part of my earlier supplementary question? Is it the Government's intention to arm themselves with proper statistical information about the opinion of wives on this matter?

Lord Cockfield

My Lords, the issue has been discussed at great length in public. Very few views of the kind that the noble Lord has expressed have been put forward. In fact, the tendency is for people to stress the opposite point of view; namely, that with the pay paid through a bank it will be more possible for the wife to see what the husband is receiving, if, in fact, the husband is prepared to make that information available.

Lord Spens

My Lords, are Her Majesty's Government going to abolish the Truck Acts in order to do this? If so, when?

Lord Cockfield

My Lords, it is not necessary to abolish the Truck Acts if this is done by way of voluntary agreement, which is what we have in mind. The general question of the future of the Truck Acts is one of the numerous matters which are under careful consideration.

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