HC Deb 25 January 1955 vol 536 cc4-7
6. Mr. Ernest Davies

asked the Minister of Labour what steps he proposes to take to implement the Report of the Court of Inquiry into the railway dispute.

10. Mr. Grimond

asked the Minister of Labour if he will make a statement on the recent Court of Inquiry set up to examine the claims of the railwaymen; and which of the recommendations and suggestions have been accepted by Her Majesty's Government.

12. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Minister of Labour, in view of the terms of settlement of the recent dispute on railwaymen's wages, what consultations he has held; and what proposals Her Majesty's Government have in respect of means by which the extra financial burden to be borne by British Railways can be met.

Mr. Watkinson

The Final Report of the Court of Inquiry will be available to Members in the Vote Office at 6.30 this evening. I propose to invite representatives of the British Transport Commission, the National Union of Railwaymen and the other unions concerned to discuss with me, within the next few days, matters arising out of the Report which affect my Department. I am not in a position to make any further statement until after these discussions have taken place.

Mr. Davies

While I am sure the House welcomes the discussions which are proposed, may I ask whether the Parliamentary Secretary is aware that, whatever amplification there is in the Final Report which we are now awaiting, the Government must take full responsibility for the deficit which is likely to be incurred by the British Transport Commission because of the fact that a reversal of transport policy is responsible for the present position?

Mr. Watkinson

It is always bad to go into negotiations if one has made up one's mind beforehand. I would prefer to await the outcome of the negotiations I am going to have.

Mr. Grimond

Is it not a fact that the findings of the Court of Inquiry in its Interim Report must affect the other nationalised industries, especially the suggestion that Parliament, having willed the end, must will the means? Will the Government make a statement on their general, wide policy on wages in the nationalised industries?

Mr. Watkinson

It would be only fair to the Court of Inquiry—which, incidentally, did a lot of work al very short notice and literally worked night and day to bring out the Interim Report, which was in the interests of the country as a whole—to say that the Report was aimed solely at one thing, to provide a basis for the settlement of the dispute on the railways. The Report which will be in the Vote Office this evening is a wider and much amplified document, and the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) ought to read it before he starts talking about ends and means.

Mr. Sorensen

Am I right in assuming that the inference to be drawn from the Minister's statement is that the discussions which are about to take place will determine how the financial burden of the railways is to be borne by the Government? Could not the hon. Gentleman indicate the principle on which the Government intend to proceed?

Mr. Watkinson

I am glad the hon. Member has asked that question, because it enables me to make plain my duty, which is to see the parties and ask them for their observations on the Final Report. The hon. Gentleman should put questions on financial implications to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr. Callaghan

On this rather important matter, may I ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether the Minister of Transport is to be associated with him in these negotiations? The hon. Gentleman speaks of negotiations. Is he going to the unions and to the British Transport Commission to make plain to them what financial assistance the Government in-tend to give to the Commission? If not, what are the negotiations about?

Mr. Watkinson

I am glad to have the opportunity of saying what I meant by "negotiation." I meant that there will be a free interchange of views, as I was careful to say in my answer, on matters which concern my Department, such as human relations and the proper use of manpower. As the hon. Gentleman has asked me the question, I should like to make it plain that this discussion will certainly not include the financial implications.

Mr. Callaghan

The whole country is interested in this matter. When do the Government intend to make clear their policy about making up the deficit which the Commission will incur as the result of the Government's intervention in this matter?

Mr. Watkinson

That question should be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. It is possible that the right hon. Gentleman may make a business statement at the end of Questions.