HC Deb 09 May 1952 vol 500 cc719-21
Sir Waldron Smithers

(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that the trade unions concerned with the operators printing the "City Press" newspaper have insisted on the deletion from the "City Press" this week of an article supporting the case of Messrs. D. C. Thomson & Co., of Dundee, and that the proprietors of the newspaper have refused deletion on the grounds that an important matter of principle involving the whole question of the freedom of the Press and freedom of expression is involved, and that the newspaper has had to close down; and what steps he is taking to deal with the dispute.

The Minister of Labour (Sir Walter Monckton)

I am aware of the stoppage to which my hon. Friend refers. I am glad to say that the Union has succeeded in bringing about a full resumption of work this morning. I desire, however, to take this opportunity to make a statement to the House as to the dispute involving D. C. Thomson & Co., Ltd., with which the stoppage mentioned by my hon. Friend is related.

I informed the House in the course of my reply to the hon. Member for Trades-ton (Mr. Rankin) on 29th April that I had received conflicting accounts about the origin of the dispute. I have not succeeded in my efforts to bring the parties together to discuss their differences. It would appear, however, that the issues involved are of a far-reaching character and my Department has been endeavouring to avoid a spreading of the area of conflict, but I fear that there is now a real risk of an extension which might seriously inconvenience the public and interfere with the supply of news.

In these circumstances, I have decided to set up forthwith a Court of Inquiry under the Industrial Courts Act, 1919, to inquire into the causes and circumstances of the dispute and to report. I will announce as soon as possible the composition of the Court and its terms of reference. It will, of course, be my duty under the Act to lay the report before Parliament. Meantime, I would ask all concerned not to take any action which might extend the dispute.

Sir W. Smithers

May I ask my right hon. and learned Friend whether he will also make it known that such action by extremists in the trade union movement will not be tolerated and that no one must be allowed to interfere with the freedom of the Press in a free Britain?

Sir W. Monckton

All I want to say that is concerned with the original dispute is that I am happy to leave it where, with the assistance of the union concerned, it now is; the men are back at work.

Mr. Alfred Robens

May I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman if he is aware of the satisfaction with which his announcement is greeted on this side of the House? We are conscious of extremists on the employers' side who lead to this kind of dispute, and I would express the hope, on behalf of my hon. Friends and myself, that both the trade unions and the printing trade employers will accept this decision of the right hon. and learned Gentleman in the spirit in which it has been given and that there will be no extension of this conflict while the inquiry is being continued.

Sir W. Monckton

I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for what he has said, and I hope it will be generally known, by his having said it here, that on these matters we all hope there will be no extension until the court has had an opportunity of dealing with the matter.

Mr. E. Shinwell

While no one on this side of the House wishes to interfere with the freedom of the Press, can we be assured that there is no one on the other side of the House who wishes to interfere with the freedom of men and women to join a trade union and not be deprived of employment because they do so?

Sir W. Monckton

I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that, although I follow what he is saying, the less I say now that the court is to sit, the better.

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