§ Mr. Gibson
(by Private Notice) asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what alteration there has been in the policy of His Majesty's Government as regards wages since his Budget Statement.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir Stafford Cripps)
I have no doubt that my hon. Friend has in mind the statement recently issued by the Trades Union Congress. I welcome the realistic account which this document gives of our present economic situation.
In my Budget speech I pointed out that it was not possible to continue indefinitely the rigidity of the policy in regard to personal incomes which was initiated immediately after the devaluation of sterling last autumn and that some degree of relaxation would be called for. At the 36 same time, I remarked that it was necessary that we should try and secure that any relaxation was brought about by some orderly method which paid full regard to the continuing dangers of inflation. The policy of restraint hitherto exercised, which was intensified after devaluation, has had a striking degree of success and thanks to the co-operation of all sections of the community has contributed greatly towards the improvement in our affairs which has taken place since this time last year.
Although therefore our economic situation appears more favourable today than it was, there is still a great need for continued restraint in the matter of personal incomes, as is pointed out in the statement issued by the T.U.C. We cannot at present afford anything but a limited degree of relaxation of the very rigid standards laid down after devaluation, and I therefore hope that all those concerned with the fixing or negotiation of personal incomes will bear in mind the principles set out in the White Paper and the continued need for a large measure of restraint so that we may not lose the benefits earned by our efforts during and since the war, and particularly since devaluation. If we were now to abandon this policy we should set in motion a wave of inflation which could do the utmost damage to our economy with very great harm to the living standards of the workers.
§ Mr. John Cooper
Will my right hon. and learned Friend say whether, in view of the changed circumstances, he contemplates issuing a further White Paper?
§ Sir S. Cripps
No, Sir. I think the original White Paper stands in its full force, but not as reinforced after devaluation.
§ Sir H. Williams
Does the Chancellor propose to send a copy of that statement to the employees of the State who are now refusing to transport meat in London?
§ Mr. A. Fenner Brockway
Does my right hon. and learned Friend now see a hope of the amount available for wage increases being given in the first instance to the lower paid workers?
§ Sir S. Cripps
If my hon. Friend will look at the White Paper to which I have referred, he will see the answer.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson
Is the Chancellor aware that the progressive rise in the cost of living bears very heavily on the lower paid workers? What steps does he propose to take to check the rise in the cost of living?
The Chancellor has said that increases in wages could only come out of increased productivity. Could he tell the House by how much national productivity has increased since his Budget Statement?
§ Sir W. Smithers
Is not the real cause of the trouble the fact that the purchasing power of the pound has gone down because the Socialist Government have ruined our credit?