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Public Service Employees

Volume 889: debated on Wednesday 26 March 1975

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15.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether be has any plans to introduce a weighting allowance for public service employees in Scotland similar to the London weighting allowance.

Is the Minister aware that that answer will be received with deep disappointment and some anger in Scotland, particularly by people who work in the public services and whose cost of living is similar to that in the south-east of England, although they do not get the benefit of the weighting allowance which is paid to people working in the public services in London? Will not the Minister stand up for Scotland for a change and impress on his Cabinet colleagues the importance of securing social justice for the working people of Scotland as well as for the working people of London?

I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman said. The London weighting allowance is specifically directed to the high cost of housing and travelto-work in the London area. These matters have only recently been studied again by the Pay Board in a report which was initiated by the previous Government. No doubt the hon. Gentleman will be happy to have the information that the overall average earnings for all manual workers in all industries, on the latest figures available, are, in England £48.75 per week and in Scotland £48.37 per week, so that the figures are now absolutely, on all fours. I hope that that information will be set against the lying propaganda of the Scottish National Party in this matter. Generally speaking, it would be much to the detriment of Scotland, both in the public service and generally, to move from national agreements to a series of local agreements. It is a great illusion to imagine that Scotland would benefit from that system. In my opinion, it would suffer very much.

I recognise the general need for better wages, but will my hon. Friend remind the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) that according to Department of Employment statistics many Scottish workers earn more than do their London counterparts, because of the hard work of Scottish trade unionists working within the Labour movement? Will my hon. Friend also remind the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East that although he may never have attended a trade union meeting in his life, he can at least try to equalise Scottish wages by asking his fellow SNP member, Sir Hugh Fraser, to pay the lassies who work in his Scottish shops as high wages as those in his London shops.

I am sorry to hear that, Mr. Deputy Speaker because I thought that my hon. Friend made a very good point, which I hope will be noted. It is true that there are many industries in which Scottish wages are considerably ahead of wages in England. That applies, for example, to sections of the engineering industry in the west of Scotland. It is an illusion to believe that all these matters can be looked at in any general way. The situation is patchy. There are reasons for the present disparities which are sometimes to the detriment and sometimes to the benefit of Scotland. The idea that basing wages or salaries generally on local indices of cost of living would produce benefits for Scotland is a great illusion. I rest on that, whether one talks about Scotland generally or parts of Scotland like the west of Scotland or, for example, Aberdeen.