The National Incomes Commission was established by royal warrant of 5 November 1962 as a standing royal commission, and comprised experts in the economic, industrial deployment and management fields. The members of the Commission were Sir Geoffrey Lawrence QC (chair), H S Kirkaldy CBE (deputy chair), Sir Harold Banwell; L C Hawkins CBE, and Professor R C Tress.
The Commission's functions, as set out in the royal warrant and described in a white paper, National Incomes Commission (Cmnd.1844), consisted in providing impartial and authoritative advice on certain matters relating to incomes. Provision was made for the following three types of cases to be referred to the Commission:
- (i) any current claim or specific question relating to pay or other conditions of service or employment could be referred by the parties immediately concerned for enquiry by the Commission;
- (ii) any matter relating to pay or other conditions of service or employment where some or all of the cost is met from the Exchequer could be referred by the Government for review by the Commission;
- (iii) any particular settlement relating to pay or other conditions of service or employment could be referred by the Government for retrospective examination by the Commission.
In considering any such reference, the Commission was required to have regard to evidence and submissions both from the Government and from all parties interested.
The Commission was further required to consider both the circumstances of each case and the national interest, including in particular:
- (a) the desirability of keeping the rate of increase of the aggregate of monetary incomes within the long-term rate of increase of national production;
- (b) the desirability of paying a fair reward for the work concerned;
- (c) the manpower needs of the service, industry or employment concerned, taking into account any regional or local differences in such needs, and the importance of securing the most efficient deployment and use of national resources including manpower;
- (d) the policies and practices in the service, industry or employment concerned, in such matters (where appropriate) as pricing, profit margins, dividends, efficient use of manpower and equipment, and organisation;
- (e) the repercussions which a particular settlement in the case concerned might have in other employments.
The Commission published its findings and recommendations, together with the reasons for them, and was also required to report from time to time on the need, if any, for action to be taken with regard to the Government's pledge to restrain any undue growth in the aggregate of profits which could result from restraint in earned income.
The only inquiries conducted by the Commission concerned the Scottish plumbers' and builders' agreements of 1962; agreements in the electrical contracting, heating, ventilating, domestic engineering and exhibition contracting industries in March 1963; the remuneration of academic staff in universities and colleges of advanced technology; and the agreements covering the engineering and shipbuilding industries of December 1963.
In 1965 the Commission was succeeded by the National Board for Prices and Incomes.