HC Deb 26 July 1965 vol 717 cc20-2
26. Mr. Goodhart

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will make a special investigation of the industrial dispute involved in unofficial stoppages and working to rule on the Southern Region of British Railways.

Mr. Gunter

I hope that the majority decision yesterday of delegates from branches of the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen will lead to an immediate resumption of normal working and that following the national conference of the Society fixed for 10th August, it will be possible to reach a settlement by negotiation. This is clearly the right course and preferable to an investigation, but I shall keep a close watch on the position and not hesitate to take any action which I may consider appropriate.

Mr. Goodhart

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, although some of the motormen have changed their minds, a great many of the trains are still running extremely late? Does he recall that he said that the Government would not stand aside if the unofficial action continued? What specific action does he intend to take if it does continue?

Mr. Gunter

I thought my answer conveyed it. Hon. Members should not use exaggerated language, there was, in fact, an improvement this morning. Delays at Cannon Street and Charing Cross were down to 8 minutes. However, that is not good enough. I hope that the meeting this morning between the unions and the motormen will reinforce the decision taken yesterday. I shall watch the position.

27. Mr. Deedes

asked the Minister of Labour if he will make a statement on the industrial dispute which has led to working to rule on the Southern Region of British Railways.

Mr. Gunter

At a meeting of delegates from branches of the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen yesterday it was decided by a majority vote to advise their members to end the "non-co-operation" which has been disrupting services in recent weeks. I hope, therefore, that there will be an immediate resumption of normal working by all concerned, but I shall, of course, keep a very close watch on the situation.

Mr. Deedes

While sharing the right hon. Gentleman's hopes, which, I think, will be reflected on both sides of the House, may I ask whether he does not think that the circumstances which gave rise to the dispute and which have caused such widespread disruption and inconvenience should now be looked at further? Has he in mind any sort of further inquiry which might bring a little light to bear on the circumstances which have led to this situation?

Mr. Gunter

Not at this stage. I hope that when negotiations are resumed following the conference of 10th August—and I will say a prayer that they start on the 11th or 12th—we will be able to look more clearly at the position.

Mr. Godber

I am sure that we are all glad, in all parts of the House, at the improvement which has taken place since we debated this matter last week. May I, however, ask the right hon. Gentleman how he sees the position developing? He stated in his last reply that he hopes to get further negotiations started. He will, I know, agree that that will be the start of further problems which may arise in getting a settlement. Will he use his good offices in every way to get the matter cleared up satisfactorily?

Mr. Gunter

The right hon. Gentleman is quite correct. When the negotiations reopen—I hope immediately after 10th August—there will then be highlighted many of the deep complications that lie not only behind the row with the locomotive men but filter through to many of the other workers.

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