HC Deb 02 April 1953 vol 513 cc1361-3
54. Mr. Chapman

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will now announce what steps he intends to take to help to bring to a conclusion the industrial dispute involving vehicle builders at the Austin Motor Company.

The Minister of Labour (Sir Walter Monckton)

I have decided that it is in the public interest for all the facts to be established by an independent body, and I am accordingly appointing a court of inquiry under the Industrial Courts Act inquire into all the causes and circumstances of the dispute, and to report. The constitution of the court will be announced in the course of today.

Mr. Chapman

May I first thank the Minister for the courtesy with which he has dealt with this matter all the way through, and express on behalf of many hon. Members congratulations on his decision? May I ask whether he can yet say if the management concerned are willing to co-operate, and if they have given any indication that they will accept the result of this inquiry?

Sir W. Monckton

I should make it plain that, having had a request from the union concerned to appoint a court of inquiry, I thought it right to give the management an opportunity of expressing a view. While they did not think the facts needed to be ascertained, they said that they welcomed the opportunity of seeing an independent body going into the matter. It is not a case in either instance of asking for conditions, because the consent of neither party is required, but I thought it right to ascertain the position.

Mr. M. Lindsay

How soon does my right hon. and learned Friend hope to receive this report?

Sir W. Monckton

I am afraid it is impossible to give a date. I have done all I can. I shall appoint the members today and tell them I want expedition.

Mr. Wigg

Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman take into account the view held by many men who have been excluded from work but who are not on strike? They think that has come about because there has been misrepresentation of the facts. For example, a number of sheet metal workers in my constituency were prevented from getting unemployment pay and forced on to the receipt of National Assistance for a period of some four or five weeks on the basis of a statement said to have been made by the Austin Motor Company that seven sheet metal workers were on strike. On investigation it was ascertained that of those seven, four had been continuously employed and three others could not be traced.

Sir W. Monckton

That, of course, is a matter for the court, who will determine whether it comes within their terms of reference.

Mr. Ellis Smith

Is the Minister aware that the unions were meeting in London last night, and their confederation this morning, and that it is their desire that there should be a full statement, and full production resumed as soon as possible?

Sir W. Monckton

I am delighted to hear that.

Mr. Chapman

Can the Minister say whether the court will hold their proceedings in public or in private?

Sir W. Monckton

That is a matter for the court to decide, but when they make their report I shall have to lay it before both Houses.

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