HC Deb 03 August 1965 vol 717 cc1266-7
Q2. Mr. Hamling

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the increasing importance of the allocation of manpower and industrial training in the British economy, and the declining significance of strikes, he will re-designate the Ministry of Labour, and call it the Ministry of Manpower and Training.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir, though I agree that the names of Government Departments should be reviewed from time to time in the light of changes in their functions.

Mr. Hamling

Would not the Prime Minister agree that under this Government the functions of this Ministry have been made much more progressive than they were under the last Government?

The Prime Minister

I think that in the concluding months of the late Government a great drive started in the matter of training and of retraining, and this is continuing and being developed. I was hoping to say something about that as well last night. One of the other essential jobs of the Ministry—and I am not sure how one recognises it in the title—is to deal with certain of the matters to which I referred last night in connection with reducing the impediment to production by getting rid of restrictive practices within industry.

Mr. Godber

As the Question refers to the significance of strikes, may I ask the Prime Minister whether he can confirm that although the number of official strikes may have fallen, there has been a disturbing increase in the number of unofficial strikes this year? Will he say what steps the Government propose in regard to restoring a greater degree of authority to trade union leaders generally?

The Prime Minister

We must get this in perspective. I think that the right hon. Gentleman said this last year. In terms of international comparisons, our strike record is much better than that of most other countries. On the other hand—and I have said this many times, both in Opposition and in Government—I agree that we cannot afford a single unofficial strike, and we must do our best to avoid official strikes as well. Certainly some of these have been disturbing, and, while quite small in the number of man days lost, have had a disproportionate effect in terms of total production. We would do everything in our power to strengthen the hands of the official leadership to prevent these unofficial strikes, and this is one of the issues that will no doubt be considered by the Royal Commission.

Mr. Chataway

On the subject of industrial training, to which the Question refers, may I ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware that the stop on the building of technical colleges, which has just been announced, has dealt a very serious blow to industrial training and to the expansion of the technical colleges which has gathered pace since 1957? Before changing the name of any Ministry or creating any new ones, will he give some priority to industrial training instead of talking about it?

The Prime Minister

I do not propose to change any names, as I said in my original Answer. The point raised by the hon. Gentleman is not, in any case, a matter within the field of the Ministry of Labour. As the hon. Gentleman knows, it is within the field of the Ministry of Education. As I explained last week, and as my right hon. Friend explained, the total build-up of public works contracts and building contracts, as a result of the programme which has been getting under way for the last year or two is such that far too many contracts have been started and not enough finished. Just as in 1953 Mr. Macmillan had to hold back all building to get the housing, we feel that we shall get more and quicker results within all these fields by this temporary suspension of contracts.

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