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Manpower Situation

Volume 640: debated on Wednesday 10 May 1961

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asked the Minister of Labour if he will make a statement on the recent discussions of his National Joint Advisory Council on the manpower situation.

At its last meeting the National Joint Advisory Council considered a paper on the manpower situation which had been submitted by the British Employers' Confederation. This emphasised particularly the shortages of skilled labour and suggested a number of points which the Council might discuss. It was agreed at the meeting that my Ministry should seek some further information, particularly about the composition of the unemployed labour force and that a working party of the Council would consider the whole problem.

While welcoming that statement, and hoping that these further discussions will have constructive results, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will say what views were expressed at the last meeting of the Council about the payroll tax? What was the view of the employers' representatives and of the T.U.C. representatives about the effect of this tax on the manpower situation?

Again, that is hardly to do with the original Question. The employers' representatives asked me to convey to my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer their feelings about the payroll tax, but very little expression was given about the matter by the trade union representatives. That applied purely to discussion on the payroll tax—not to the discussion to which I referred in reply to the Question on the Order Paper.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether both sides are against the payroll tax?

While not desiring to create difficulties, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to bear in mind that the trade unions catering for highly-skilled tradesmen have another point of view on this matter in view of their experience in the last twenty years? Will he also bear in mind that certain hon. Members who have made so many observations about this are not necessarily representing the trade union point of view about it?

This is a complicated and difficult subject, and there are many aspects to it. That is why it will be useful to have the working party, which will consider all those aspects, including the point which the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) has in mind.