HC Deb 20 April 1953 vol 514 cc620-1
8. Mr. Pannell

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he is aware that his Department have refused to have further negotiations with the staff side of his Departmental Whitley Council until they have repudiated an article published in the journal of one of their affiliated unions and until they have agreed to take whatever steps are necessary in future to prevent any recurrence of the publication of similar articles; if he is aware that the staff side have no constitutional authority to express comment on articles published by affiliated unions and no power to take any steps to stop any union publishing what it likes; and if, in these circumstances, he will instruct his officials that the benefits of Whitley Council working are not to be withheld from the whole of his Department's staff because the staff side will not accede to official demands to take action and to give assurances which are outside their constitutional powers.

The Minister of Fuel and Power (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd)

Relations between the official and staff sides of the Departmental Whitley Council in my Department have never been severed, and I am glad to say that the difficulties caused by the publication of the offending article to which the hon. Member refers have now been settled through Whitley Council procedure.

Mr. Pannell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I cannot accept the first part of his answer—that negotiations have never been severed—in so far as the trade unions concerned have assured me that that is so? Is he further aware that the fact that negotiations are now proceeding is due in large measure to the continuing postponements of this Question? If I may ask him a rather more serious question, has he brought home to the high grade civil servants who represent the official side of the Whitley Council that they must always presume to speak in his name and never in their own, and that they should not take actions that embarrass the right hon. Gentleman on the Floor of the House and which appear abruptly to break off negotiations with the trade union side? I am flatly asking the Minister whether he has brought home to these people the fact that he is ultimately responsible for their indiscretions.

Mr. Lloyd

I have no reason to believe that the official side acted incorrectly.

Mr. Callaghan

Is the Minister aware that the union itself said that the Ministry of Fuel and Power had, in fact, suspended completely the work of their Whitley Council? That is the allegation that was made. Is it not the case that a month elapsed before the Permanent Secretary called the Whitley Council together to explain that they had not been suspended? May I follow up my hon. Friend's Question further by asking whether the Minister has in mind any change in the personnel of the Directorate of Establishments who jeopardised the operations of the Whitley machinery on a very slender complaint?

Mr. Lloyd

My information is that relations were not severed. I have not in mind any change in the Establishments Division of my Ministry. I should have thought that now that the Whitley Council have themselves—through their own procedure—solved this question, it would be wiser to leave it at that.

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