HC Deb 21 June 1960 vol 625 cc214-6
40. Mrs. Castle

asked the Prime Minister whether he has yet reached a decision on the best method of securing rights of trade union negotiation and joint consultation for the staff of the House.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

I am advised that this is a Question for you, Mr. Speaker, not for Her Majesty's Government.

Mrs. Castle

Has the Prime Minister forgotten that just before the Whitsuntide Recess he promised personally to look into the matter and discuss it through the usual channels? Is he aware that the usual channels have now reached a dead end? Is he further aware that six years ago an all-party Committee of this House—the Stokes Committee—investigated this matter and recommended that the best way to deal with it was to allow a representative Commission of this House to discuss the best ways of achieving the principle of collective bargaining, in the special circumstances which obtain here? Will not the Prime Minister now give his mind to this matter?

The Prime Minister

It is quite true that on 24th May I said that if right hon. and hon. Members wished it we would be quite willing to discuss the matter through the usual channels. Nevertheless, I am advised that any decision to allow the staff of the House of Commons trade union representation in negotiations and consultations would be for the Commissioners as a whole, so far as salaries or fees were concerned, and for you, Mr. Speaker, alone, so far as conditions of work were concerned. I understand that shortly before the Whitsun Recess you received representations on the subject from hon. Members and that you are in the process of finding out the views of those interested. That being so, I would have thought that the best thing to do would be to allow this process to continue until you report to the House that you wish some other process to be substituted.

Mrs. Castle

Is not the Prime Minister aware that it was just because the Commissioners failed to carry out this principle of collective bargaining that the Stokes Report—which, I repeat, was a unanimous and an all-party one—suggested that the Commissioners procedure should be changed. Hon. Members on this side of the House are pressing for the implementation of the Stokes Report, so that a body more representative of all sides of this House can be in control in this matter.

The Prime Minister

The facts are as I have stated them. I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you will agree that it is right that we should ask you to continue the work which you have kindly undertaken to do, and which it is your duty to do, and then report to the House as a whole if you wish to suggest that some changes are desirable.

Mr. Shinwell

Do I understand that the right hon. Gentleman agrees with my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) that the usual channels have reached a dead end? That is what I have been thinking for quite a long time.

The Prime Minister

The trouble is that the usual channels work fairly well in this House except when, as happens on some occasions, they tend to spread out into a delta.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is the Prime Minister aware that, far from having reached a dead end in this case, the usual channels in fact reached an understanding that Her Majesty's Government would make approaches to you, Mr. Speaker, with a view to your considering whether some new arrangement could be made with regard to trade union recognition? Is the Prime Minister further aware that it is a ridiculous state of affairs that in every Royal Palace except this one trade unions are recognised? Would it not be a good idea to offer the services of the Minister of Labour to advise you, Mr. Speaker, on how similar arrangements could be made for the Palace of Westminster?

The Prime Minister

I think that certain views have been expressed to Mr. Speaker and Mr. Speaker is now charged with the matter, as indeed is his function under the law.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

I think I had better say—I was keeping quiet so as not to involve the Chair in anything that may have a semblance of inter-party argument—that at the moment my information is not quite complete. When it is complete I will consider whether or no I think it right to recommend to the House that a change should be made. Should I decide against the introduction of some new system of representation, I have already undertaken that I will receive further representations about it.