HC Deb 14 February 1956 vol 548 cc2173-4
Mr. Kirk (by Private Notice)

asked the Minister of Labour if he will make a statement on the present position in the trade dispute in the printing trade.

The Minister of Labour and National Service (Mr. Iain Macleod)

Since I last reported to the House on the disputes in the Printing Industry on 24th January the main development has been that, following unsuccessful discussions between the London Master Printers' Association and the London Typographical Society, the Association has recommended its members to dismiss on Wednesday, 15th February, those employees who will not undertake to observe the normal conditions of working. My officers saw representatives of the Association this morning and will be meeting representatives of the Society this afternoon.

Mr. Kirk

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, might I ask him whether these dismissals will apply in B.F.M.P. offices outside London, where working to rule has also been going on? Further, can he impress on both sides that a dispute of this kind will have an effect far outside the printing industry, particularly on free-lance journalists who depend on this sort of work for a lot of their income? Finally, if no settlement can be reached, would my right hon. Friend consider setting up a court of inquiry after tomorrow?

Mr. Macleod

To reply to the first of my hon. Friends three Questions, there is not, at the moment, any indication that provincial employers are contemplating this sort of dismissal. Secondly, it is, of course, true that in this, and indeed in any trade dispute, there may be considerable repercussions. Thirdly, a court of inquiry is certainly one of the matters which we are considering and which, if the climate is favourable, we might well set up.

Mr. J. Griffiths

May I ask the Minister whether, since his officers are in touch with the employers concerned, he would advise those employers to suspend the notices while the talks are proceeding?

Mr. Macleod

My Chief Industrial Commissioner saw the employers this morning and is seeing the unions concerned this afternoon. I do not think we will be in a position to get a full picture until after we have seen the unions, but that sort of possibility will, of course, be taken into account.

Mr. Bowles

Can the Minister say what is the position of Her Majesty's Stationery Office, and will he bear in mind the possibility that if printing stops there the work of this House might also stop until the dispute is over?

Mr. Macleod

The Stationery Office is not a party to the action that is being taken by the London Master Printers' Association and is not contemplating such dismissals. It is, of course, always possible that such a dispute might spread to the Stationery Office. In that case, emergency measures would have to be taken to ensure that the business of the Government and of the House goes forward.