HC Deb 25 February 1959 vol 600 cc1110-2
38. Mr. Osborne

asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware that 2,250 tradesmen, employed in the Glasgow shipyard of Alexander Stephen & Sons, Limited, are in danger of losing their jobs because of an inter-union demarcation dispute; and what steps he is taking to bring this dispute to an end.

73. Mr. Rankin

asked the Minister of Labour if he will make a statement on the agreement which has now been reached in the dispute at Stephen's Shipyard in the division of the hon. Member for Govan.

Mr. Iain Macleod

My officers have been in close touch with the parties to this dispute for some weeks past and convened a meeting on 11th and 12th February at which an agreement was reached as to the means of settling the differences between the two unions concerned. Members of the Shipwrights' Association employed at the shipyard decided on 20th February to resume work on Monday last on the basis of this agreement, and discussions between the shop committees of that union and of the Boilermakers' Society are now proceeding under the chairmanship of my Industrial Relations Officer for Scotland.

Mr. Osborne

While I wish success to the negotiations, might I ask my right hon. Friend whether he can take steps to bring home to the workers— [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]— this has nothing to do with the employers—that, as we have to export 30 per cent. of all we produce to keep ourselves fit and no one can compel the foreigner to buy British, action like this is folly?

Mr. Macleod

It is very sad that in this fine shipyard, which has gone in for a great deal of modernisation, these disputes persist. They are, as I am sure the House knows, the most baffling of all labour problems to deal with. It can only be a matter of judgment as to the moment at which I or my officers try to intervene. On this occasion we went in very early, and with some success, and I think that was the right thing to do.

Mr. Rankin

Is the Minister aware that workers in Govan are fully alive to the matters which the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) raised? In view of the fact that the two executives are at this moment in Newcastle, seeking to find an amicable outcome to negotiations on this dispute, is not it better that we should be wishing them good luck in their efforts rather than putting provocative questions, such as that put by the hon. Member for Louth?

Mr. Macleod

I do not, with respect, accept that. I am certain that we wish them good luck, but these are enormously important matters and it is quite right that the House of Commons should be concerned with them. I hope very much that the talks now going on under the chairmanship of one of my officers will be fruitful.

Mr. Lee

Would the Minister draw the correct inference from his reply, when he rightly pointed out that this was a progressive shipyard in which modernisation had gone ahead at great pace? Would he inform the House that those are the conditions, with which we have to go along, but which really bring demarcation disputes? Would he point out that this is a period in which industry changes rapidly and it is quite wrong for us to believe that this new type of operation can be settled overnight?

Mr. Macleod

That is so. Increasing prefabrication upsets the earlier, perhaps almost traditional, balance of work but we must all be ready, whatever the inconvenience to us, to move with that, otherwise it would be impossible to introduce modernisation into British industry.

Mr. Robens

Is the Minister aware that in these great changes in industry it is far more difficult to get arrangements between workers in relation to demarcation when there is fear of unemployment hanging over their heads? Is not it the task, therefore, of the Government to secure conditions of full employment in which these matters can be more easily settled?