§ Sir W. Monckton
I announced in my last statement to the House that I had set up a Court of Inquiry to examine the causes and circumstances of this dispute and, as hon. Members are aware, the Court has since concluded its inquiries and issued its Report, which was laid before the House last Wednesday, 13th April.
A meeting of all the interested parties with officers of my Department took place the next day. At this meeting the representatives of the Newspaper Proprietors' Association stated that they accepted the conclusions of the Court of Inquiry, but the representatives of the Amalgamated Engineering Union and the Electrical Trades Union were not prepared to recommend a resumption of work on the basis of the employers' present offer, as suggested by the Court. The talks with the parties to the dispute went on throughout the day and the representatives of the unions affiliated to the Printing and Kindred Trades Federation, many of whose members are now unemployed in consequence of the strike, took part in the discussions at various stages.
The position that was eventally reached was that an offer had been made by the Newspaper Proprietors' Association that, if the members of the Amalgamated Engineering Union and the Electrical Trades Union would return to work without prejudice on the basis of the employers' present offer, the employers 15 were prepared to enter into fresh negotiations on wages with all the unions concerned as soon as they were able to complete re-examination of all the factors involved. The Association undertook that it would start fresh negotiations not later than 30th June.
This offer was, however, rejected by the Amalgamated Engineering Union and the Electrical Trades Union, whose representatives insisted on an immediate resumption of negotiations on the current claim, with an indication that there would be an increase on the employers' last offer. In these circumstances, no agreement could be reached.
I discussed the situation with members of the General Purposes Committee of the T.U.C. General Council and, as the House will be aware, a meeting was held yesterday between the Amalgamated Engineering Union and the Electrical Trades Union and the printing trade unions, presided over by the Chairman of the General Council. As a result of this meeting discussions between the unions and the Newspaper Proprietors' Association were arranged for this morning.
As these talks are still in progress, I feel sure that the House will appreciate that it would be preferable for me to refrain at this stage from further comment on the issues involved.
§ Mr. Albu
Whilst I entirely agree with the Minister—as I am sure the House will—that it would be quite wrong to pursue the matter further whilst discussions are continuing, may I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to use his influence to see that provocative statements and actions are not made or taken outside this House—actions of a character which would be provocative to the whole trade union movement?
§ Sir W. Monckton
I think it is most desirable that, while these discussions are in progress, inside and outside the House everyone should refrain from provocation.