HC Deb 08 June 1964 vol 696 cc26-9
20. Mr. Edelman

asked the Minister of Labour if he will make a statement about the Decorwall trade dispute.

27. Mr. Loughlin

asked the Minister of Labour what further steps his Department have taken to resolve the dispute now existing; between the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers and Decorwall Ltd.

28. Mr. Fernyhough

asked the Minister of Labour if he will make a further effort to intervene in the dispute now existing between Decorwall and the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers.

29. Mr. Crossman

asked the Minister of Labour what further communication he has received from Wallpaper Manufacturers Limited, with regard to the Decorwall dispute.

Mr. Whitelaw

As my right hon. Friend and I have indicated in earlier replies, the dispute at this firm arises from the dismissal of the manager of a shop. I understand that the firm gave their reasons in writing to the employee concerned at the time of dismissal. The firm subsequently dismissed a number of employees who went on strike following the manager's dismissal. The union concerned take the view that the reason for these dismissals was that the employees concerned were trade union members. The firm have given an assurance that this is not so. In discussions with officers of the Ministry, the firm have said that they are not prepared to reconsider the dismissals nor to meet union representatives. A further approach has however been made to the firm, who, I hope, will agree to an early meeting with officers of the Ministry. In reply to a supplementary question from the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Gunter) on 11th May, I referred to the good relations between this firm and its trade union. I wish to make it clear that I was referring to the manufacturing side of the firm's activities, which is covered by a Joint Industrial Council.

Mr. Edelman

Is the Minister aware that, while his endeavours are welcome in this matter, it is appropriate that he should now point out that this matter is of considerable principle, since Wallpaper Manufacturers Limited is a monopoly company and since Decorwall has consistently refused to meet the trade union in this matter and, in the meantime, it has put forward a statement, which was supported by the hon. Member for Coventry, South (Mr. Hocking), to whom I gave notice that I intended to mention him, that this man was sacked not, as was the case, for wanting to join a trade union, but for a misdemeanour? In view of this unfounded charge, will not the Minister take the opportunity, first, to refute it and, secondly, to insist that Wallpaper Manufacturers should at an early date take the opportunity of confronting the manager who has been so grossly abused and give him an opportunity of stating his case, together with his trade union associates?

Mr. Whitelaw

I have indicated in my reply that we are making a further approach to the firm and that I hope that it will agree to an early meeting with the officers of our Ministry. I think that in these circumstances it would be wise for me to make no further comment, one way or the other, so far as the matters of dispute are concerned.

Mr. Loughlin

May I thank the Parliamentary Secretary for the statement he has made this afternoon and indicate that I do not wish to make any remarks which are likely to create any difficulties for his Department? But will the Parliamentary Secretary make quite clear to this firm that this union has a first-class record on strikes and that this company must not assume that reasonableness is weakness, and that we intend to take every possible action to defend the rights of this union to be recognised as the appropriate trade union in cases of this kind?

Mr. Whitelaw

I am grateful to the hon. Member for his realisation that it is important not to say much at this stage of the proceedings. As to the rest of what he said, all I would say to him is that his words will be read very carefully by all concerned.

Mr. Crossman

While appreciating the difficulties for his Department, may I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he understands that this firm's attitude, in refusing week after week to meet the union, and in insultingly refusing to meet the Minister's own officials, has created great bitterness in Coventry? Will he make it quite clear first of all that the procedure by the firm is not one we could possibly approve of?

Mr. Whitelaw

All I would say in answer to the hon. Member is that it is true that the firm did meet our officers previously and did discuss the matter with them. As I said in my original statement, it did meet our officers before; we have asked it to meet us again, and I should like to wait and see what reply it will give on this occasion.

Mr. K. Lewis

While not wanting to prejudge any meeting which may take place between the Minister and the firm, may I ask my hon. Friend if he will confirm that this man can go to law, if he so wishes, to get whatever restitution he thinks is possible?

Hon. Members


Mr. Whitelaw

My hon. Friend asked a practical question, and the answer, as the House will very well know, is that, of course, this man has his legal rights. All I am saying at this stage is that we are making an approach to the firm again. I think that this is the best way of proceeding at this stage.