HC Deb 22 July 1925 vol 186 cc2216-8
Mr. FENBY by Private Notice

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is taking any, and if so what steps, to bring together the parties in the threatened dispute in the woollen trade in Yorkshire?

Mr. RILEY by Private Notice

asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware that notices to enforce a reduction of wages on over 200,000 textile operatives in the West Riding of Yorkshire expire to-morrow; that the operatives' union has declined to accept the proposed reduction, and that unless an agreement to withdraw the notices is come to by to-morrow 200,000 textile operatives are likely to cease work; and if in view of the seriousness of the situation the Minister will state what steps he has already taken to bring the parties together; if he is prepared to invite both sides to submit their case to a public inquiry and in the meantime to ask the employers to withdraw the notices pending the result of an inquiry?


I am aware of the position in the wool textile industry. Officers of my Department have been in touch with both sides, and I have to-day caused letters to be sent to both sides reminding them that the industry has for long been accustomed to settle its differences without outside help, and suggesting that they should hold a further meeting with a view to finding means of avoiding a stoppage.


Is the right hon. Gentle-man also aware that up to to-day all attempts to get the parties together have failed, and that to-morrow the notices expire, and, in view of that contingency, is he prepared to take special steps to induce the employers to withdraw the notices in order that negotiations may be re-opened?


I am quite aware of the position, and I have taken what I think are the best possible stops for ensuring peace. As the hon. Member knows, there has been for a long time a most successful Joint Industrial Council in the woollen trade, and they have been accustomed to settle their difficulties quite successfully. In the present case some other trade unions besides those in the Joint Industrial Council are also involved, and, therefore, to that extent the Joint Industrial Council, as such, cannot function; but as the trade as a whole has boon so successful in settling its own differences before. I have taken the initiative in trying to bring the parties together, but I think that under the circumstances far the best plan is to see if once again they will not settle their own questions first, as the best chance of settling the matter.


In view of the urgency of this question, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman why he should have sent a letter? I presume that if that letter has been sent to-day, as he stated, it will not be received until to-morrow, and the notices expire to-morrow. Could he not have taken some steps which would have notified the parties of his desire earlier?


Perhaps I have not given the right hon. Gentleman the right impression. I sent an officer of my Department up to Bradford for the purpose. He is up there, and the letters are being delivered by hand, which is quite the quickest way of dealing with this matter.


Does the right hon. Gentleman recall the fact that this matter has been pending since May, when it became perfectly clear that a serious industrial dispute would emerge unless means of winning peace were taken, and

does the right hon. Gentleman think that he is carrying out the desires of the Prime Minister for "peace in our time" in waiting until the very eve of the dispute before any effective action is taken.