HC Deb 22 February 1965 vol 707 cc26-7
31. Mr. Shinwell

asked the Minister of Labour what action is taken by him when an unofficial strike occurs to ascertain the cause of the dispute; and what is the nature of the action taken to bring such disputes to an end.

Mr. Gunter

My officers usually obtain information from the employer or employers' association and from the trade union. Most unofficial strikes are in breach of agreements and they frequently end as a result of the trade union officials persuading their members to allow the dispute to be dealt with through the agreed procedure of the industry.

Mr. Shinwell

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I deplore the unofficial strike as much as he does, but would he not agree that frequently criticisms indulged in against men who go on strike are unwarranted and that the trouble occurs because of delays in negotiations or because of interference with practices by management or those responsible for general administration? Would the right hon. Gentleman not ensure that in future when an unofficial strike occurs inquiries are held by his Ministry to ascertain the actual cause of the dispute?

Mr. Gunter

I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend that the causes of unofficial strikes have not been sufficiently analysed in the past. It is generally believed, however, that the majority of them are caused by bad communications within industry, for which managements must accept a great share of responsibility. On the other hand, there are unofficial strikes which are absolutely to be deplored, and I do not think that anybody should shrink from deploring them and stating so in public. On the question of investigation, the vast majority of unofficial strikes are over very quickly and it is generally thought that to have a real first-class inquiry and arouse the embers again would be dangerous. On the other hand, my right hon. Friend will know that the Trades Union Congress and the employers have agreed to investigate a selected number of unofficial strikes to see how they came about.

Mr. Godber

On the last point made by the Minister, that particular plan was started some months ago. Have the British Employers' Confederation and the Trades Union Congress put it in hand yet? The Minister will be aware that it was our intention that it should be a tripartite effort, with the Government involved, too. I still think that was the best way, but, on the assumption that they are going ahead on the bipartisan method, it is necessary that matters proceed immediately. Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that there are many industries in regard to which it is most valuable to bring the light of public knowledge to bear on unofficial strikes as soon as possible?

Mr. Gunter

I could not say exactly at what stage the procedure is at the moment. If the right hon. Gentleman will put down a Question, I shall give him an answer.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

In the event of the doctors coming out on strike, is it likely to be official or unofficial, and will my right hon. Friend deplore it in advance?

Mr. Gunter

The doctors are not, I am glad to say, within the limit of my responsibilities.