HC Deb 21 July 1949 vol 467 cc1539-40
32. Major Guy Lloyd

asked the Minister of Labour whether he has considered the article in the journal of the General and Municipal Workers Union which has been sent to him, condemning the unjustified absenteeism being stimulated by sick-pay schemes; and whether he will appoint a departmental committee to investigate this subject throughout industry.

Mr. Ness Edwards

The terms and conditions of employment relating to wages, including conditions as regards payments during sickness absence, are, generally speaking, a matter for negotiation between representatives of employers and workers, and I do not think it would be appropriate for me to appoint a departmental committee to investigate their merits or demerits.

Major Lloyd

But the Parliamentary Secretary must be perfectly aware that this evil is spreading throughout the country and is admitted by trade union leaders, labour councils, local authorities and the public? Is the Ministry content to let it go on when all sections of the community realise that this growing malingering is a thing which ought to be stopped?

Mr. Ness Edwards

No, Sir, but I think all sides of the House should welcome any statements by responsible officials of the trade unions condemning this sort of development. On the other hand, I have no doubt that every citizen should have the same freedom as Members of Parliament, and will be as little inclined to malinger as hon. Members.

Mr. George Porter

On a point of Order. Is it in Order to ask questions in reference to a journal which is circulated for private and confidential purposes?

Mr. Speaker

Straightforward questions are not out of Order, but imputations and insinuations are.

Major Lloyd

Is it not right, when these journals let the cat out of the bag, that the cat should be shown to the public?

Mr. Tolley

Is not this entirely exaggerated? Have not many of these schemes been operated for many years with the general tendency being that workers have never taken advantage of them?

Mr. Ness Edwards

I think that both sides of industry can be relied upon to do the sensible thing. I think that by and large the workers are as little inclined to malinger as Members of Parliament.