HC Deb 15 January 1964 vol 687 cc222-3
Mr. K. Lewis

(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Labour if he will make a statement with regard to the present dispute at the Steel Company of Wales.

The Minister of Labour (Mr. J. B. Godber)

I had meetings on Monday with representatives of the company and of the Amalgamated Engineering Union which led to direct discussions between the two sides yesterday. As the House will know, these talks have not succeeded in breaking the deadlock. I have met representatives of the company again this morning and have invited the union to come to see me later today.

Mr. Lewis

Is my right hon. Friend aware that both sides of the House will, I am sure, appreciate the efforts he is making to get a solution to this dispute? Is he further aware that there is a strong feeling—in the country, at any rate—that the unions reallyought to agree that this matter should go to some form of arbitration—[Interruption.]—and that if they persist in not so agreeing because they believe, as has been stated, that arbitration will not go in their favour, what they are really saying is that they will have arbitration only if it will be favourable to them in the end? Will my right hon. Friend therefore press both sides in this dispute to get back to work—because this stoppage is causing disruption of both our home and our export trade—and, after they have got back to work, allow a solution to be arrived at through some form of intervention by arbitration?

Mr. Godber

I am very anxious to get work started, but I think that it will be better if I do not comment now.

Mr. Gunter

Is the Minister aware—I am sure that he is—of the deep concern we all feel about the continuance of this very difficult and complicated dispute; and we wish him well in any efforts he makes today? I am very glad that he has continued the discussions during the day. I would only add, if I might, that it would be far better if hon. Members reflected a little before adding fuel to the fire.

Mr. Godber

I understand the hon. Gentleman's concern, which is general in the House. We all want to see this dispute brought to an end, but I really think that I had better not say any more.

Mr. J. Morris

May I thank the Minister for the part that he and his officers have so far played and press on him to continue to be personally interested in the matter, as he has been to date, and to ensure that there are no unjustifiable gaps to negotiations in the future and that no stone is left unturned to discover a solution to this dispute?

May I also ask him, on behalf of my colleagues and hon. Members in South Wales, to consult his right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance about the widespread dissatisfaction that has so far arisen over many of the claims made by members of the A.E.U., the E.T.U. and other craft unions for unemployment benefit, particularly those employed by subcontractors, and also over claims for sickness benefits?

Mr. Godber

On the first part of the hon. Member's supplementary question, I will only say that I shall continue to do my best. On the second part, I will bring his comments to the notice of my right hon. Friend.