HC Deb 06 December 1961 vol 650 cc1381-2
34. Mr. Gresham Cooke

asked the Minister of Labour, what study he has made of the method of settlement of industrial disputes in Australia and the fall in working days lost between the years 1956 to 1959 as disclosed in the Labour Report, 1959, of the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, a copy of which has been sent to him by the hon. Member for Twickenham, with a view to improving the methods of limiting the number of industrial disputes in this country.

Mr. Hare

I have examined the situation in Australia and noted the statistics. The most recent International Labour Office figures relating to 1960 show that the number of days we lost per 1,000 workers through strikes in that year was lower than in Australia. Most of the days lost in this country are due to strikes in a small number of industries. I have been taking action to improve relations in those industries and I am sure this is the right way to tackle the problem.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Has my right hon. Friend seen the startling fall in the number of days lost by strikes in Australia, from 1,120,000 in 1956 to 365,000 in 1959? Is he aware that Australian employers in general think that the conditions have improved since the coming into force of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, 1956, whereby Ministry officials go to factories when a dispute is threatened and issue ballot papers to enable the workers to vote on whether or not they wish to strike?

Mr. Hare

I dare say that things have improved in Australia, but I, too, can quote figures to my hon. Friend. In 1960 the number of days lost per 1,000 workers in Australia was 380. The figure for the United Kingdom was 240.

Mr. Awbery

Is the Minister aware that the large number of industrial disputes which have occurred recently and those in the offing are due to the action of the Minister in interfering with the machinery laid down by the employers and the trade unions? Will he and the Chancellor of the Exchequer stop interfering with the wage negotiating machinery which now exists, and not try to break down that which has been built up for a number of years by the employers and employees?

Mr. Hare

With respect, I do not think that supplementary question has much to do with this Question.