HC Deb 24 October 1966 vol 734 cc634-6
44. Mr. Luard

asked the Minister of Labour if he is satisfied that adequate consultation with employees and their representatives took place before the notice of dismissal announced by the British Motor Corporation in Oxford on 28th September; and what steps he is taking to ensure that adequate consultation takes place on such matters in similar cases in the future.

Mr. Gunter

I understand that eight weeks before discharges were due information about the Corporation's plans was given centrally to officers of the unions concerned, following which advance information about the reductions to be made in individual factories was given to shop stewards and suggestions as to the method of making the reductions discussed. The Chairman of B.M.C. also had a meeting to discuss the redundancies with shop stewards from the factories concerned. My Department constantly urges on employers the need for adequate consultation in such cases.

Mr. Luard

Does my right hon. Friend not agree that there is no decision by an employer on which it is more important to have effective consultation with the employees than one which affects their whole future livelihood and employment? Does he not agree that merely to inform employees what a decision is, sometimes only a few days before the decision has taken place, without any effective general warning about a reconsideration of the decision, does not represent consultation in any reasonable sense of the word?

Mr. Gunter

As my hon. Friend knows, my officers and I are continually emphasising to employers the desirability, indeed the necessity, of as much long-term notice, and indeed consultation, as is possible. I would, however, draw his attention to what I said. The employers discussed this with the central union offices eight weeks before.

Mr. Chapman

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there was no real consultation at the meeting that he mentioned but only the provision of information? Does it not bring us back to the point made by my hon. Friend, that we ought to be pressing the B.M.C. to realise that good and courteous information is not a substitute for real consultation before decisions are made?

Mr. Gunter

I would entirely agree with my hon. Friend. Whether it be fortunate or unfortunate, I have no power or authority to lay down the exact rules by which consultation shall take place. However, I would certainly emphasise what my hon. Friend said; consultation ought to be consultation.