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Pay Settlements

Volume 938: debated on Thursday 10 November 1977

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9.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will make a statement on his policy regarding firms found to be in breach of the Government's guidelines for wage settlements in the current pay round.

The Government will seek to ensure that such firms renegotiate their settlements to bring them within the guidelines.

How can the Chancellor defend the crude and disgraceful political log-rolling in which smallish firms like Mackie's get sanctions but the Ford Motor Company gets off scot-free and why the Chief Secretary refused on Tuesday to give me the names of the firms which have had sanctions imposed on them? What sort of cover-up is going on?

I must say that that sort of pompous outrage seemed a little factitious to me. The fact is that the hon. Member knows very well that Mackie's company, after repeated approaches from the Government, persisted in maintaining a settlement of 22 per cent. The Ford Company brought its settlement down to just under 12 per cent.

If the hon. Gentleman wants to say anything, perhaps he will rear himself to his feet, if he is able to do so. I think that the House must understand—I do not think that there is any disagreement on this, at least between the two Front Benches, and the right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe) has said that he wants to see the 10 per cent. guideline maintained —that the Government have accepted an obligation to ensure that the guidelines are maintained in the public sector and that we do not finance settlements in the public sector outside them. In the interests of avoiding discrimination against people in the public sector, it is essential that the Government should not finance settlements outside the guidelines in the private sector. That means that types of assistance which the Government are free to give or to withhold, according to their view of the national interest, should be withheld in cases where there is a breach of the guidelines.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that any relaxation of the policy which he has just stated will be very unfair to those firms and trade unions which have conformed to the Government's pay policy?

Is the Chancellor aware that the Opposition do not accept the doctrine that the ends justify the means, particularly if those means are wholly arbitrary? Is he aware, too, that the. Prime Minister quite recently justified an incomes policy on the ground that it prevented the lions from getting the lions' share? Does he consider the workers of Mackie to be the lions, and. if so, in what category does he put the miners—the lambs?

I am fascinated by the doctrine asserted by the hon. Gentleman, particularly as he supported a Government who created a pre-election boom late in 1964 and sought to do the same in 1974, at the cost of grave damage to the nation's trade and to our chance of containing inflation.