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Wages Councils

Volume 21: debated on Tuesday 30 March 1982

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14.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement as to the extent to which the United Kingdom's membership of the International Labour Organisation might restrict the Government's rights to propose to amend or abolish wages councils.

The United Kingdom's ratification of International Labour Convention No. 26 requires the Government to maintain minimum wage-fixing machinery in trades or parts of trades in which no arrangements exist for the regulation of wages by collective agreement or otherwise, and in which wages are exceptionally low; but partiular wages councils can be changed or abolished where appropriate under the provisions of the Wages Councils Act 1979.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the wages councils' regulations are making a mockery of the Government's attempts to create jobs for school leavers under the young workers schemes? As the ILO presumably has an interest in reducing unemployment, will the Government consider approaching that organisation to see whether it will agree to take 18-year-olds and under out of the jurisdiction of the wages councils? If not, will the Government take unilateral action and turn a Nelsonian blind eye?

I have no intention of trying to make myself heard over barracking from the Opposition.

Order. The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) must stop shouting all the time. I do not believe that anyone should have to fight to be heard in this House.

As I was saying, I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that excessive wages among youngsters or among older workers put people out of work —

The right hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker) may not understand that, but the Ford Motor Company, in cutting the prices of its products, understands it well enough. I shall certainly consider what my hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) said, and I am seriously studying how we can best avoid wages councils putting youngsters out of work and preventing others from coming into work. I notice that, in the light of representations made by employers, and perhaps in the light of the letter written by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, some wages councils have recently changed their provisional recommendations.