HC Deb 23 July 1964 vol 699 cc692-4

Mr. Holt(by Private Notice) asked the Postmaster-General what steps Her Majesty's Government are taking to secure the maintenance of postal services in view of the postal strike called to begin at midnight on Saturday.

The Postmaster-General (Mr. Reginald Bevins)

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I saw representatives of the Union of Post Office Workers this morning and put a proposal to them. The Emergency Committee of the Union is now considering this proposal.

Mr. Holt

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the whole House and the country will be greatly relieved if a satisfactory result arises from these further negotiations? Will he bear in mind that perhaps the most important of the recommendations of the Armitage Committee was that negotiations could not be brought to a successful conclusion merely by depending on statistics?

Is the right hon. Gentleman further aware, with regard to comments made about the position of civil servants to men who believe that they have been left behind, that it is no answer to suggest to these men that, if they are given an extra increase, this will then put them out of line with others who have already accepted a smaller increase?

Mr. Bevins

The Government have made it clear, both in advance of the Armitage Committee Report and subsequently, that they completely accept the recommendations and conclusions of the Report.

Mr. K. Lewis

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a general feeling in the country now that the important thing to do is to negotiate and that the negotiations should be carried on without duress? Is he aware that there is also a general feeling of sadness that the postmen have besmirched their record as civil servants by indulging in strikes and in threats of strikes?

Is my right hon. Friend also aware that the country has the feeling that neither the party opposite nor the T.U.C. has given much support to finding a solution without a strike and that they have paid only lip-service to what they claim to believe in—appropriate arbitration and acceptance of an incomes policy?

Mr. Bevins

Quite clearly, the Govern-men hope that the strike will be called off and that negotiations will follow.

Mr. Mason

It is sufficient at this delicate stage to say that, recognising that throughout the dispute the Union of Post Office Workers has been prepared to negotiate, we earnestly hope that the proposals put forward by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Postmaster-General prove conciliatory enough to be a sound basis for successful negotiations, as it is only on that basis that there is any prospect of peace in the Post Office.

Mr. Randall

Is the Postmaster-General aware that, after the Private Notice Question of my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason), a few days ago, there was left a clear indication that it was the wish of the House that the right hon. Gentleman should make a more imaginative offer? I hope that the offer now made is imaginative and that some success may come out of these discussions.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that an offer to the postmen would be worth while and that he would recoup himself handsomely with an asset which would be very valuable at the moment—the restoration of good will.

Mr. Bevins

I take note of what the hon. Gentleman has said. At this stage, it would not be in the public interest to reveal details of the Government's proposals.