§ Mr. Stokes
asked the Secretary of State for Employment what are the present functions of wages 149W councils; and if he will reconsider their role in present circumstances, particularly having regard to lower wage settlements in the private sector and lower cash limits in the public sector.
§ Mr. Jim Lester
A wages council may make orders fixing remuneration, requiring holidays to be allowed and fixing any other terms and conditions for all or any of the workers in relation to whom the council operates. In general I am satisfied that wages councils carry out their functions satisfactorily; where there are defects we are seeking to remedy them.
Wages councils determine minimum rates of pay. These minima are relatively low; few presently exceed £55 per week. Actual rates above the minima are a matter for individual negotiations. It is for wage negotiators to judge for themselves what level of pay increases to agree, but the Government have made it clear that a sharp reduction in the general level of wage settlements is needed to prevent a further loss of competitiveness and so of jobs.