HC Deb 09 November 1966 vol 735 cc1313-6
Sir K. Joseph (by Private Notice)

asked the Minister of Labour if he is now considering intervening in the strike at Morris Radiators, Oxford, in view of the proposed discussions between B.M.C. and the union concerned.

The Minister of Labour (Mr. R. J. Gunter)

I understand that at a meeting this morning between representatives of the British Motor Corporation, the Amalgamated Engineering Union and the Transport and General Workers' Union, the Corporation's representatives felt unable to make an exception in the case of the 24 redundant employees at Morris Radiators Ltd., Oxford, by reinstating them in the company's employment. I understand that the Amalgamated Engineering Union Executive will be meeting at York tomorrow.

I am keeping in close touch with both sides.

Sir K. Joseph

Will the Minister tell the House, first, about how many thousands of men are out of work on account of these 24 men? Secondly, will he will tell us whether, in his opinion, the men at Morris Radiators would be back at work if Sir William Carron had attended the meeting last night? Thirdly, will he answer my Question and tell us whether he is considering intervening in the strike at Morris Radiators?

Mr. Gunter

The question of Sir William Carron's appearance on the Executive is entirely a matter for Sir William and has nothing to do with me. The number of employees affected by the strike at Morris Radiators is approximately 27,760. As for my intervention, a meeting is taking place at Oxford this afternoon. The A.E.U. Executive is meeting tomorrow and I am in close touch with both sides and will consider what action I might take tomorrow.

Mr. Hector Hughes

On a point of order. Would you be so kind, Mr. Speaker, as to give the Secretary of State for Scotland an opportunity to answer Question No. 66, on the ground that it refers to an inquiry which will be taking place before Scottish Questions can again be reached and which deals with a matter involving the loss of the lives of citizens of Aberdeen?

Mr. Speaker

I venture to say that it is almost discourteous of the hon. and learned Gentleman to intervene with this point at this stage, when another Question is before the House. The answer to his point of order is that I have no power to request the right hon. Gentleman to answer the hon. and learned Gentleman's Question. I have had no intimation from the Secretary of State for Scotland that he desires to answer the hon. and learned Gentleman's Question at the end of Question Time.

Mr. Chapman

Does not the situation at Oxford again indicate to my right hon. Friend that discussions about the precise number to be made redundant at this factory having to take place at this very late stage is a very grave reflection on the consultation procedure which has been followed up to this very late stage? Would not my right hon. Friend consider what I have already suggested—that when all this is finished there ought to be a full inquiry into the industrial relations in this firm?

Mr. Gunter

I have already given my opinion that the industrial relations in B.M.C. have left a lot to be desired and that when the dust has settled over the present row it may be that we can look at the situation again. But the main point to be remembered in this argument about Morris Radiators is that the attitude of the Corporation—I neither defend nor attack it—is that the 24 men involved ought not to have preferential or favourable treatment over men who have already been made redundant with longer service. One of the facts which has emerged is that not one of the 24 who are in dispute at Morris Radiators has as yet even 12 months' service with the firm.

Mr. Eyre

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Government's measures and the strike are having a devastating effect on Birmingham homes? Will he assure the House that he will intervene in this strike at the earliest opportunity, to bring about a settlement?

Mr. Gunter

I understand the effect which it is having on many working-class homes in the West Midlands area. I am as desirous as anybody that the matter should be settled and I undertake that as soon as I see the result of what is now taking place I shall not hesitate to intervene if I think that intervention can be useful.

Mr. Ogden

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that it is not a matter of how soon he can intervene, but of his intervening so that he gets the best result, and that the House must accept his judgment about when to intervene?

Mr. Gunter

I am grateful for that assessment of the situation. I said some days ago in the House that the most difficult think was the balance of judgment of when to move and when not to move. It is always a bit of a nightmare to know whether one is leaving undone things which ought to be done, or whether it is the other way round. As previous Ministers of Labour know full well, there is no monopoly of virtue or knowledge at the Ministry of Labour, particularly the former.

Mr. Frederic Harris

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is the result of the Government's policy which has brought all this about in the first place?

Mr. Gunter

I do not accept that allegation. The hon. Gentleman wants me to be tempted into false trails, as to whether the planning in terms of manpower or anything else has been adequate or proper in the past. I shall not be tempted.

Mr. Maxwell

As my right hon. Friend may be aware, several hundred of my constituents are engaged in work at Vauxhalls. The new management of those works has been trailing its coat for a fight with the trade unions in the works. What steps does my right hon. Friend propose to take now to prevent the threatened closure of that works?

Mr. Gunter

The original Question is directed to the dispute with B.M.C. Vauxhalls is an entirely different matter.

Mr. Marten

As my constituents are involved in this strike, will the right hon. Gentleman clear up one point for me? He referred to a meeting at Oxford this afternoon. A meeting between the strikers and whom?

Mr. Gunter

I think that it is a meeting of the strikers on their own.