HC Deb 21 February 1957 vol 565 cc584-5
31 and 32. Mr. Allaun

asked the Minister of Labour (1) if he is aware that for two years the Municipal Mutual Insurance Limited have refused to meet representatives of the Guild of Insurance Officials to which a majority of their employees belong; and if he will use his offices to attempt to secure such a meeting, recognition of the union, and settlement of the dispute;

(2) what reasons were given him by the Municipal Mutual Insurance Limited for refusing either to meet representatives of the Guild of Insurance Officials or to hold a ballot among their employees as to whether they wished the union to be recognised by the undertaking in wage and other negotiations.

33. Mr. Redhead

asked the Minister of Labour whether the attention of his Department has been drawn to the dispute arising from the refusal of the Municipal Mutual Insurance Company Limited to accord recognition to the Guild of Insurance Officials, a registered trade union claiming to represent 70 per cent. of the employees of the company; and what action he proposes to take in the matter.

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

The Guild first sought the assistance of my Department in 1955 and my conciliation officer has been in touch with the parties on several occasions since. The company is not willing to recognise or meet representatives of the Guild as it considers that the existing staff consultative committee is operating satisfactorily. My officer met the company again on Monday, when he was informed that its views had not changed. He will, of course, take any opportunity of assisting in this matter.

Mr. Allaun

In view of the union's conciliatory attitude, does not the right hon. Gentleman think that it is bad for industrial relations for the company to behave so arrogantly? Will he have another go at it?

Mr. Macleod

As my Answer indicates, I am very ready to help if I possibly can, but one of the major difficulties here is that the Minister of Labour has no standing in a matter of recognition between a union and an employer, nor is such a matter generally arbitrable.

Mr. Redhead

Does not the Minister agree that it is an exceedingly regrettable feature that a company of this character, with very large associations with the vast number of local authorities, should behave in this way, having regard to the fact that local authorities normally observe the conditions of the fair wages clause? Is not that a point which his Department might press upon the company in this matter?

Mr. Macleod

It is perfectly true that this company specialises in local authority insurance. It is also true, as I am sure the hon. Member knows, that there is no national negotiating machinery, in general, for insurance staffs.

Mr. Bowles

May I, as a life member of the Guild, ask the Minister whether, when he retires from office and becomes, possibly, chairman of this company, he will then take steps to see that this Guild is recognised?

Mr. Robens

Will the right hon. Gentleman take note that on this side of the House we have very strong objections to company unions, and that that is obviously the case here, and that it would be as well if he could use his influence perhaps rather more than he has done in this matter, otherwise it will, at some time, be a question of a law in relation to the recognition of qualified trade unions?

Mr. Macleod

I take note, without comment, of what the right hon. Gentleman says, but, as I have indicated in response to two previous supplementary questions, first of all, as he knows very well, the Minister of Labour has no standing in this sort of dispute. Secondly, this practice is in no way exceptional in the insurance field; indeed, it is the common rule.