HC Deb 01 February 1951 vol 483 cc1064-6
43. Mr. Logan

asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware that 25,000 men of Merseyside engineering and shipbuilding unions refuse to work overtime until their wage increase is determined; and what steps he is taking to bring about a wage settlement.

44. Mr. Oakshott

asked the Minister of Labour if he will make a statement regarding the ban imposed on overtime working in shipyards on Merseyside and elsewhere; and if he will make every effort to see that a settlement is reached and overtime working resumed.

71. Mr. J. R. Bevins

asked the Minister of Labour what action he proposes to take to remove the ban on overtime working in Merseyside shipyards.

Mr. Bevan

Some difficulty has arisen in ship repairing establishments on Merseyside in regard to the local application of the recent National Wages Agreement for the shipbuilding and ship-repairing industry. This agreement provides that any questions in regard to the interpretation or application of the agreement shall be dealt with through the recognised industry procedure, and it is clear, therefore, that there is adequate machinery for dealing with this difficulty without recourse to unconstitutional action. Meetings have taken place between the official parties concerned in the district, and if these local discussions are unable to resolve the difficulty, the matter should then be referred, under the agreed procedure, to the national machinery of the industry. The effect of the ban on overtime is not yet clear.

Mr. Logan

Is the Minister aware that these negotiations have been prolonged for a long time, that the men have been very much dissatisfied, and that I am anxious to know whether he would intervene at the earliest opportunity? Would he meet both sides in Liverpool in order to bring about settlement and ease the crisis'?

Mr. Bevan

I am watching the position, but it would not be wise for the Ministry of Labour to intervene in the place of the recognised machinery for negotiation.

Mr. Oakshott

Has the Minister's attention been called to the reported statements of the leader of the movement on Merseyside, who is an avowed Communist, that this ban will continue whatever the emergency? In view of the gravity of the Prime Minister's statement on Monday, will he realise how important it is to get an immediate settlement, and to prevent a recurrence?

Mr. Bevan

I should have thought that the statements made by this person would undoubtedly have affected his relationship with the men he is misleading.

Mr. McCorquodale

Would the Minister take every step to impress on all sides the necessity of honouring agreements freely entered into as being the basis of all collective bargaining?

Mr. Bevan

That is the reason why we are not prepared to intervene when the ordinary machinery of negotiation has yet to be used.

Mr. Bevins

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, whatever the merits or demerits of the men's case may be, this ban on overtime has been instigated by a small Communist minority which is not interested in the welfare of the men, but in the welfare of a foreign State?

Mr. Bevan

It is not always wise to interpret these acts in that way. It exalts the influence of the Communists in a most extraordinary fashion—[An HON. MEMBER: "Whose side is the right hon. Gentleman on?"]—to suggest always that they are responsible.

Mr. W. Fletcher

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware how reminiscent his replies are of those made at the beginning of the London dock strike, which dragged on for a very long time and, in the end, had to be settled by the Ministry?

Mr. Bevan

I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the reminiscences of the hon. Member.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

I do not think these questions are helping to settle the dispute.