HC Deb 21 February 1966 vol 725 cc6-7
9. Mr. Howe

asked the Minister of Labour what proportion of the stoppages of work due to industrial disputes in 1965 was caused by unconstitutional strikes, that is to say strikes that were in breach of procedure agreements.

Mr. Gunter

From the known figures of official strikes it can be estimated that from 90 to 95 per cent. of the strikes which occurred in 1965 and in the preceding five years were unofficial and most of these strikes were in breach of procedure agreements.

Mr. Howe

Do not the figures which the Minister has given reveal a very serious state of affairs and make out an extremely strong case for the proposal put forward by my right hon. and hon. Friends that procedure agreements should be made enforceable as the best way of stopping unconstitutional strikes?

Mr. Gunter

The position has been serious for five years—indeed, for more than that. But I am not yet convinced by the arguments of right hon. and hon. Members opposite that legislation is the way to deal with this matter. It is now being argued at length, and evidence is pouring in to the Royal Commission with different views on the question of legislation. Let us not forget that unofficial strikes can sometimes be laid at the door of the employers.

Mr. Orme

Can my right hon. Friend say how many of the disputes which started as unofficial were later designated as official and dispute pay paid by the appropriate trade unions?

Mr. Gunter

Not without notice.

Sir K. Joseph

I recognise that we cannot judge the merits of a dispute without knowing the facts, but if the Minister has not decided that legislation is necessary, why did his Department come out virtually in favour of the proposal just put from this Box by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bebington (Mr. Howe)?

Mr. Gunter

My Ministry put before the Royal Commission what I thought was a first-class document weighing the pros and cons of this argument. I should have thought that the very nature of its evidence would lead us to leave the matter until all these things can be gathered together. If labour courts are to be created, let us make a good job of them.