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Volume 949: debated on Tuesday 2 May 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is the latest estimate of the annual percentage increase in aggregate earnings in the current pay round.

The monthly index indicates that average earnings were about 10·4 per cent. higher in February this year than in February last year. This compares with an increase of about 10·3 per cent. in the previous 12 months.

How much evidence does the Minister of State have of bogus self-financing productivity deals, and what action does he intend to take in such cases?

I am not sure how that issue arises under this Question, but we look very carefully at productivity proposals. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman has noticed from the Press that we are making arrangements to vet them in the future.

Will the Minister of State indicate what is the rate of increase estimated for the public sector as opposed to the private sector, and give forecasts of how he sees the outturn during the present phase of pay policy?

I do not think that we produce separate figures for the public sector as opposed to the private sector. As to any guesstimates about the outturn, some people have been making speculative forecasts. I prefer not to indulge in that game, because past experience has shown how misleading it can be. Those who have been using figures such as 14 per cent. should be aware of the damage that they are doing to the economy and to our national interests.

With regard to bogus productivity deals—this clearly arises out of my hon. Friend's question—will the Minister say how many civil servants are engaged in monitoring what would be a quite futile exercise?

I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the figures offhand. If he will table a Question I shall try to inform him of the numbers involved. I hope that he would want us to monitor and vet productivity deals to ensure that they are not bogus. We are satisfied that those that have been before my Department and have been approved so far are genuine self-financing productivity deals.

Does my hon. Friend agree with me that the aggregate earnings are dependent to a very great extent not just on productivity deals but on overtime, and a great deal of it? Does he not agree further that it is rather sad that so much overtime is being worked when so many people are out of work? Could not something be done about this?

I think that we are at one in wishing to see a reduction in the volume of overtime being worked. I hope that my hon. Friend and all hon. Members will read the very informative article published in my Department's Gazette this month.