HC Deb 17 October 1961 vol 646 cc5-7
Mr. Morris

(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Labour whether he will make a statement on the strike situation at Port Talbot.

The Minister of Labour (Mr. John Hare)

This stoppage has been caused by a breakdown in wage negotiations between the Steel Company of Wales and maintenance workers in membership of the Amalgamated Union of Building Trade Workers. About 350 bricklayers have been on strike since 13th September. They have been supported by about 700 mates and labourers in membership of the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation.

Further, since 12th October, maintenance workers belonging to the Amalgamated Engineering Union have refused to work both on equipment which they regard as "black" and with employees who have been undertaking repair work in place of the bricklayers on strike. The firm has decided to close down operations and about 15,000 workers have now been laid off.

My officers held separate meetings with the parties last Friday and are meeting them again today. These talks are in progress at the moment and I hope that the hon. Member will agree that it would be advisable not to say anything that might prejudice the talks.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Morris.

Mr. C. Pannell

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will you inquire whether the acoustics of this place have been affected, or whether the amplification system is working properly? A few moments ago I was very distressed because I could not even hear the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) when he put his point of order.

Mr. Speaker

I am fortunate in being able to hear the hon. Member. I hope that what he has been saying will have been heard by those concerned with the control of the apparatus employed in these matters.

Mr. Morris

If I may now put my supplementary question, may I express my appreciation of the work which has already been done by the industrial relations staff at the Ministry in Wales last Friday, for the work being done today and the talks which are now in progress? I quite agree with the Minister that this is not a matter for comment at this stage and that the only thing is to hope that the talks today will be successful. But if there is no solution today, will the Minister bear in mind, in considering whatever steps he can take, the widespread effect of this dispute?

As he said, about 15,000 men in my division are unemployed today. The dispute affects almost everybody in Port Talbot and Glamorgan and the effect may spread to Velindre and Trostre and to west South Wales generally? Will he bear in mind the widespread effect of the dispute?

Mr. Hare

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we are aware of the serious effects of this closure. I will certainly bear in mind what he has said.

Mr. Pargiter

The Minister said that his officers were in touch on Friday last. Having regard to the time that this dispute has been official, or, at any rate, has been in progress, may I ask whether that is the first occasion on which his officers have been in touch with those concerned in the dispute?

Mr. Hare

No, Sir. My officers have been in close touch with both parties since 13th September. In fact, they have held themselves constantly available to help as soon as the parties thought that they could usefully intervene.

Mr. G. Brown

In view of the importance of not carrying this matter further today, in the light of the meeting to take place this afternoon, may I ask the Minister whether he will undertake to make a statement to the House, perhaps tomorrow, on the outcome of today's meeting? In view of the difficulties sometimes in doing these things at local level, will the Minister hold himself available to discuss this with the parties to the dispute?

Mr. Hare

I should like to fall in with the wishes of the House, but until we know how the talks have gone this afternoon I think that it would be unwise for me to go further.

Mr. Brown

Will the right hon. Gentleman make a statement?

Mr. Hare

If I think that it would be helpful and if the House wants it.