HC Deb 22 October 1953 vol 518 cc2149-50
Mr. Robens

(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Labour whether he has any statement to make about the strike of oil distribution workers in the London area.

The Minister of Labour (Sir Walter Monckton)

The strike of men employed by some of the principal oil companies started in London on 20th October. Over 2,500 drivers and staff concerned with the distribution of petrol and oil are involved. The strike is wholly unofficial. My Department has been in touch with the employers and the union concerned. The executive of the union is calling on the men to resume work forthwith. There is in the industry voluntary joint negotiating machinery by means of which the complaints of the men could be examined but they have not resorted to it and have gone on strike without any attempt to have their complaints discussed. If the strike continues, it is bound to have a serious effect on industry and cause widespread unemployment.

I deeply regret the hardship which is being unnecessarily imposed on the public and I earnestly urge the strikers to reflect on the serious injury which they are inflicting on the public and to return to work so that their complaints can be dealt with in a constitutional way through the machinery to which their own union is a party.

Mr. Robens

We on this side of the House wholeheartedly endorse the appeal which the Minister has made that the workmen concerned should use the proper negotiating machinery which has been set up. Meanwhile, however, the situation is rather serious; food distribution, hospitals, public utilities and public transport are likely to come to a stop. Have the Government any proposals or action ready to meet this serious situation in the London area?

Sir W. Monckton

The Government recognise their duty to ensure that essential services are maintained and to avoid unnecessary hardship to the public. Preparations to this end are now in hand and I shall be going back to them when I am released from the service of the House.

Sir H. Butcher

Will my right hon. and learned Friend make it clear to the strikers that the greatest hardship falls on the people with the smallest incomes, who are responsible for public transport and whose attendance at work is of the greatest importance, and that by their action the strikers will forfeit any sympathy they might have with legitimate claims?

Sir W. Monckton

I am sure that that will undoubtedly be pressed upon the strikers by their own union leaders when they make their points to them today.

Mr. Awbery

Is it clearly understood by the men on strike that if they return to work the ordinary machinery of negotiation will be set into operation immediately?

Sir W. Monckton

If it is not clearly understood already, I hope it will be now