HC Deb 30 April 1958 vol 587 cc352-3
10. Mr. Osborne

asked the Minister of Labour, in view of the fact that British shipbuilders booked no export orders at all during the first quarter of 1958, and that both Germany and Japan had higher productions and that Japanese prices are 25 per cent. lower than ours, if he will call a conference of both sides of the industry to investigate how far all restrictive practices can be ended, and British prices reduced in order to forestall widespread unemployment; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Iain Macleod

As the House will recall, the general question of restrictive labour practices has been under consideration by the National Joint Advisory Council. The Council took the view, with which I fully agree, that, while it could encourage both sides of industry to set up machinery for the purpose of examining these problems, it was for each industry concerned to conduct the examination in the light of its own needs and circumstances. The shipbuilding industry is doing this.

Mr. Osborne

Does my right hon. Friend recognise that these talks have been going on for a long time and that so far, I believe, they have produced no concrete results? Since I put down this Question the Cunard has cancelled an order for a big liner. The outlook in the shipbuilding industry is very bleak unless we can get our costs down. Can my right hon. Friend urge both sides to get down to it before unemployment occurs in the industry?

Mr. Macleod

This is a very difficult and intricate problem. I differ from my hon. Friend only about the method of tackling it. The N.J.A.C. believes and I believe that this question can best be tackled through the industry. Recommendations were made by the Shipbuilding Court of Inquiry on this matter only a year ago, and some meetings have taken place. I agree that progress has been disappointingly slow, and I am ready to urge and encourage the parties to go further, but I believe the examination should be left to them.

Mr. Isaacs

Is it not a fact that previous examination of this question has shown that there is no real evidence of the actual restrictive practices about which the employers complain?

Mr. Macleod

No, I could not accept that.