§ Mr. Brotherton
asked the Secretary of State for Employment what are the functions of the wages councils; whether he is satisfied that those functions are being properly carried out; whether he believes that their wage awards are in line with the Government's policy on inflation; and if he will make a statement about their future.
§ Mr. Jim Lester
A wages council may make orders fixing the remuneration, requiring holidays to be allowed and fixing any other terms and conditions for all or any of the workers in relation to whom the council operates. In general I am satisfied that wages councils carry out these functions satisfactorily, where there are defects we are seeking to remedy them.
Wages councils determine minimum rates of pay. These minima are relatively low; few presently exceed £53 per week. Actual rates of pay above the minima are a matter for individual negotiations. It is for wage negotiators to judge what level of pay increase to agree. But the Government have made it clear that a sharp reduction in the general level of wage settlements is needed to prevent a further loss of competitiveness and so of jobs.
The need for particular wages councils is kept under review. An order has been laid before the House providing for the abolition for the pin, hook and eye and snap fastener wages council. Notices of intention to merge two councils concerned with manufacture of aerated waters and, separately, seven wages councils for the clothing industry have been published.