HC Deb 01 May 1956 vol 552 cc197-9
44. Mr. Lee

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will make a statement with regard to his discussions with the National Joint Advisory Council on restrictive practices in industry.

Mr. Iain Macleod

The Council considered the question of restrictive labour practices on 25th April. There was general agreement that this is one aspect of the wider problem of increasing productive efficiency and making the most effective use in all industries of the manpower available. It was also recognised, however, that this is not a subject which can usefully be dealt with by broad generalisations, but is one to be examined by each individual industry in the context of its own special needs and circumstances.

It was, therefore, agreed to draw the attention of the employers and trade unions concerned in individual industries to the urgent need for a new and positive examination of practices which impede the full and efficient use of manpower resources. The detailed implementation of the Council's decision is to be worked out by the Joint Consultative Committee.

I am glad to say that our discussions of this subject were characterised by a constructive and co-operative approach from all sides of the Council, who were united in their wish to secure the most effective use of our labour resources. I am sure that if the spirit in the Council can be conveyed to those who actually have to tackle the problem in the factory and on the shop floor, we shall have taken an important step forward in the direction of greater efficiency and productivity.

Mr. Lee

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how this is to be done? Is the N.J.A.C. to take each industry separately? If so, can we then have a report of its findings upon each industry?

Mr. Macleod

The N.J.A.C., having taken the broad decision which is outlined in my reply, have remitted the problem to the J.C.C.—which is a subcommittee—for a detailed examination of how it is to be implemented. The J.C.C. is to meet on 9th May, in a few days' time, so that there will be no delay in this matter. That Committee is to consider how best the two sides of industry can approach the different industries in which such practices take place.

Mr. Page

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some of us feel that these restrictive practices in labour are a very great obstacle to national production? Is he confident that merely calling the attention of the employers and unions to the problem will be at all effective?

Mr. Macleod

I am hopeful that this approach is a good deal more than just calling the attention of employers and unions to the problem. We all recognise that this problem exists, and that it is an important one, but the only way in which it can be tackled is by an industry-by-industry approach, and that is what we are setting out to do.

Mr. Lee

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that on the last occasion when my right hon. Friend, the Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) was Minister of Labour, when this question was referred to the N.J.A.C., it was not the trade unions who backed out of it at the last moment?

Mr. Macleod

The main thing that went wrong last time—so far as I can gather from the papers—is that the problem was bogged down in definition. I am a good deal more interested in results than in definition. That is why I think that this approach has a reasonable chance of success.