HC Deb 21 February 1966 vol 725 cc10-1
18. Sir J. Eden

asked the Minister of Labour what steps he will take to reduce the number of cases where productivity is impaired by union insistence on unreasonable manning practices.

34. Mr. Weatherill

asked the Minister of Labour what steps he will take to prevent continued limitation of output by the occurrence of demarcation disputes.

Mr. Gunter

I shall continue to give all the help and encouragement I can to both employers and trade unions to follow up their undertakings in the Joint Declaration of Intent to lead a sustained attack on all obstacles to efficiency.

Sir J. Eden

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the situation demands that he should act with a greater sense of urgency than that? Is there not sufficient evidence to show that the requirement to over-man machines is seriously delaying the introduction of new industrial techniques throughout British industry. Will he not do more about it?

Mr. Gunter

I am always open to advice, but it is generally accepted by a lot of hon. Members opposite that over-manning in industry is always the fault of the unions. It is not true at all. A lot of the over-manning in industry today is caused by management, for reasons which I understand. On the other hand, a lot of over-manning restrictions that are placed, to our detriment, on the introduction of new machines are because men fear the loss of their jobs—which is an atmosphere in which some of us will be operating for a few months.

Mr. Heffer

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many employers hang on to workers for longer than is necessary in order to maintain a labour force as against their competitors?

Mr. Gunter

That is true. There is over-manning in industry today which arises from the shortage of skilled labour. Employers hold on to it when perhaps they would be serving the economy better if they released it.

Mr. Howe

Can the Minister give the House an assurance on one aspect of the problem? The Prices and Incomes Board has already identified a number of cases of over-manning and restrictive practices. Have the Government in mind the establishment of an effective body for following up, as far as they can be followed up, those practices with a view to removing practices about which we already know?

Mr. Gunter

If the hon. and learned Gentleman will read some of the reports, the emphasis that was placed by the Prices and Incomes Board was that management and trade unions should get together. I could not say offhand in how many, but following reports in three or four cases there have been moves by both sides in industry to try to come to terms with the problems outlined in those reports.