HC Deb 12 April 1965 vol 710 cc935-7
16. Mr. Onslow

asked the Minister of Labour what action he is taking to eliminate restrictive practices in the printing industry.

Mr. Gunter

The most effective action on this can be taken by the employers in consultation with the trade unions, but I shall not neglect any chance of encouraging them to make progress.

Mr. Onslow

Will the Minister adopt a slightly more urgent approach to this situation which is having an adverse effect on the balance of payments? Does he realise, for instance, that at least one major printing contract worth £2 million annually is undertaken in Germany because a British firm which could do it is prevented from recruiting the 16 men who could undertake the work, and Italian printers also are winning a larger share of our market? Will he intervene more directly in this situation?

Mr. Gunter

I have already said that steps have been taken. The national newspaper industry has set up its joint board and the other section of the industry is undertaking a joint study of manpower. I shall do all I can to hasten their conclusions.

Mr. Wilkins

Will my right hon. Friend keep in mind that what the Tories call restrictive practices are very often protective practices which we have had to adopt in years gone by, but will he consult the unions concerned as this question is rather unfortunately timed, coming at a moment when negotiations are taking place on the issues of demarcation and other matters within the printing industry?

Mr. Gunter

I understand the point of my hon. Friend's remark, and that is why I should be reluctant to say too much at this stage.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Is not the printing industry more riddled with restrictive or protective practices than almost any other industry, and does the Minister intend to wait for both sides to sort things out for themselves when he knows perfectly well that printing orders are being lost every month to the Continent? Will he address himself, to start with, to some of the 22 points contained in the 1959 memorandum of the Federation of Master Printers about which very little has been done on both sides of the industry?

Mr. Gunter

I should not care to reflect upon which section of our society is more hag-ridden by restrictive practices. The hon. Gentleman had better look at his own.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

Will the Minister look at the splendid example of the Pitman works at Belfast where, by agreement with both sides, training for as little as 18 months has produced a very fine workshop printing some of the most difficult and elaborate work in the world, with great export success? Does not that show what can be done if both sides of the industry are prepared to get down to it?

Mr. Gunter

I agree that an awful lot could be done. It is a matter of persuading both sides of the industry to get down to the job.