HC Deb 16 April 1958 vol 586 cc148-50
22. Mr. Willis

asked the Minister of Labour what reply he has given to the petitions presented by the staffs of the Royal Bank of Scotland and the British Linen Bank concerning the Joint Conciliation Council of the Scottish Banking Industry.

27. Mr. G. M. Thomson

asked the Minister of Labour whether he has considered the petition from 72 per cent. of the staff of the Royal Bank of Scotland and 76 per cent. of the staff of the British Linen Bank, appealing to him to persuade the respective managements to meet the representatives of the National Union of Bank Employees in order to discuss the setting up of mutually-acceptable negotiating machinery; and what answer he has given.

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

In effect, the staffs are asking in these petitions that the banks should recognise the National Union of Bank Employees. This is a matter for the employers, and I am arranging for it to be discussed with them.

Mr. Willis

As the Minister knows, this has been going on for a long time. Is there any likelihood of the employers agreeing to meet the N.U.B.E. to discuss the matter?

Mr. Macleod

I do not know what is in the employers' minds. Certainly, my Chief Industrial Relations Officer in Scotland is bringing these petitions to the notice of the banks with the intention of discussing the position with them.

Mr. Woodburn

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this is an argument which has been going on certainly for over 20 years, and that it gives the impression that these banks are quite contemptuous of modern methods of discussing relations between employees and employers? Will the Minister recommend that banks should at least bring themselves up to date in the public mind by having amicable and yet quite free discussions with the employees rather than give the taint of company unions to all their regulations?

Mr. Macleod

It is certainly true that this has been going on for a long time. It is also true that recently a substantial additional number have joined the N.U.B.E.; and that is certainly a relevant factor in the present position. The right hon. Gentleman, with his experience of office, knows well, however, that there is here a real difficulty and that no Minister of Labour ever lays down to an employer which organisations he should recognise.

Commander Donaldson

While I appreciate the answer given by my right hon. Friend concerning consultations between bank management and the N.U.B.E., which wishes to represent its case, may I ask whether it is a fact that without any political bias there is a genuine feeling that these discussions should take place? Can my right hon. Friend give the House some idea when they will take place?

Mr. Macleod

I cannot give a precise date. As I said, I am moving as quickly as I can on the petitions that I have had and I will be ready to report to the House through Question and Answer as soon as possible.

Mr. Thomson

In view of the overwhelming majority of the bank officials concerned who have signed these petitions, does not the Minister consider that it is now time for himself, as Minister of Labour, to recognise publicly the right of people in this position to have independent trade union representation of their own choice?

Mr. Macleod

No, that goes far too wide, as I think most hon. Members would agree. If we are to get into the position in which a Minister of Labour lays down to employers or to anybody else whom they should recognise, that would seem to me an impossible position to maintain. I am quite prepared, through the machinery that is available to me, to do what I can to have these petitions properly and fairly discussed. The final decision, however, cannot be one for a Minister.

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