HC Deb 20 February 1956 vol 549 cc12-4
12. Mr. Gresham Cooke

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will issue a general direction to the Central Electricity Authority to consult local electricity boards before conceding wage claims.

Mr. Aubrey Jones

No, Sir. Under the Electricity Act, 1947, it is for the Central Electricity Authority and appropriate organisations of workers to establish and maintain machinery for settling terms and conditions of employment. The Authority has in practice consulted with the area boards in this matter, as the Statute requires it to do, and the negotiating machinery established in consequence ensures that the employer's side of the appropriate joint council includes representatives of the areas as well as of the Central Authority.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Has my right hon. Friend seen the letter from Mr. Randall, Chairman of the London Electricity Board, alleging that local electricity boards are not consulted; that the Central Electricity Authority is one of the ring leaders in the inflationary spiral, and that the wages situation would be much more under control if local electricity boards were consulted?

Mr. Jones

I have seen the correspondence in The Times, and, following that correspondence, I invited Mr. Randall to see me. I asked him the specific question whether or not he thought there was some defect in the existing wage negotiation machinery. He conveyed to me his view that there was no defect. For my part, I accepted that assurance, and I indicated to him my severest displeasure that he should have in the first instance indicated his views in the correspondence columns of The Times rather than directly to me. Further, I cannot but deprecate that differences of views between two appointees of mine should be ventilated in the Press rather than in other ways.

Mr. G. Brown

Will the Minister accept that we on this side support him entirely in the reply he made to Mr. Randall; and will he remind his hon. Friends that any interference in joint negotiating machinery at this time is bound to create the utmost difficulty in industrial relations?

Mr. Jones

I would say to the right hon. Gentleman that the relationship of a Minister with a nationalised undertaking is certainly a rather intangible and delicate one. But one thing I am perfectly certain about, and that is that a Minister ought not, without the gravest possible cause, to interfere in wage negotiations; and he ought not to endeavour to influence a nationalised undertaking either to concessions or to resistance.

Mr. Speaker


Dame Irene Ward

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would it not be possible to say something on Mr. Randall's behalf? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It is generally accepted in this House that if someone has a rather strong statement made against him, something should be said for him.

Mr. Speaker

I thought the Question had been completely exhausted. If the hon. Lady has another point to put, I think she ought to put down another Question.