War and Wages, 1914-18

Shortly after the end of the Second World War I had the opportunity to hear Sir Frederick Leggett, the Chief Industrial Commissioner during that war, discussing his experiences. He told me that attitudes to incomes policy in the Second World War had been powerfully influenced by what had happened in the previous war. 'The full story of the chaos and confusion over wages policy in the First World War', he recounted, 'would never be told'.

Lord Askwith, who was Sir Frederick's forerunner as Chief Commissioner in the 1914-18 war, has nevertheless given us a good inkling of what the situation must have been like. He recorded his reactions in his Industrial Problems and Disputes (1920). 'In labour matters', he wrote:

the Government had no policy, never gave signs of having a policy, and could not be induced to have a policy ... No Minister of Labour could have had success when hampered b the absence of policy the force of disintegration resulting from the maze of authorities, and the opportunist arrangements one or other authority continuously made.

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