HC Deb 03 May 1937 vol 323 cc792-3
Mr. Attlee (by Private Notice)

asked the Minister of Labour whether he has any statement to make with regard to the London omnibus strike?

The Minister of Labour (Mr. Ernest Brown)

As the House is aware, I have appointed a Court of Inquiry to inquire into and report upon the questions of the hours of work, the working conditions and the circumstances of the employment of drivers and conductors in the London central omnibus services and the matters in issue between the London Passenger Transport Board and the Transport and General Workers' Union. I think the House will agree that the membership of the court is such as to give confidence to both sides as regards their capacity to consider fairly all facts placed before them. The court held a preliminary meeting on Friday. In view of the importance of the issues it was clear that a short interval was necessary for the purpose of the proper presentation of the case, and by agreement with the parties the court decided to commence hearing evidence to-day. The House will share my regret that the omnibus workers were unable to see their way to remain at work while the inquiry took place, seeing that there is a desire in all quarters that their circumstances shall be thoroughly examined and that a satisfactory solution should be found. I can only hope that, on consideration, they will realise this and that they will put an end to the great public inconvenience which is at present being caused. In the circumstances I should prefer to make no further comment on the position.

Mr. Dalton

Very biased.

Mr. Attlee

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman how soon he expects the report of the Court of Inquiry?

Mr. Brown

I could not say.

Mr. T. Johnston

Did the right hon. Gentleman take the advice of the Solicitor-General in drafting that reply?

Mr. Benjamin Smith

Will the right hon. Gentleman give the same measure of condemnation to the company as he has given to the men?

Mr. Brown

I have given no condemnation at all. I have expressed to the House what I expressed to the parties—my regret.

Sir P. Harris

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why it was not possible to appoint the Court of Inquiry at an earlier date? Why could it not have been operating East week?

Mr. Brown

In the negotiations an attempt was made to get an agreed inquiry. That did not succeed and it would have been impossible, therefore, to have appointed this Court of Inquiry before the delegate conference had taken their decision.

Mr. Stephen

Will the right hon. Gentleman not express his regret that the company did not agree to the reduction of hours before the Court of Inquiry was set up?

Mr. A. Henderson

May I ask the Prime Minister whether the vitriolic speech of the Solicitor-General on Friday of last week on this question, represents the views of the Government?

The Prime Minister (Mr. Baldwin)

I must ask for notice of a question like that. I do not read speeches.