HC Deb 08 December 1967 vol 755 cc1835-6
Mr. R. Carr

(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Labour if he will make a further statement on the dispute between the B.O.A.C. and the British Air Line Pilots' Association following his recent discussions with both parties, particularly in view of the danger of the dispute now spreading to British European Airways.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Roy Hattersley)

As the House will know, my right hon. Friend, who is at this moment engaged in important discussions on another matter, held yesterday a series of meetings, which lasted late into the night, with representatives of the British Air Line Pilots' Association, the two Air Corporations and the National Joint Council for Civil Air Transport. Discussions are continuing at the Ministry this morning.

In the circumstances, the House will, I am sure, realise that I am not able to make any further statement.

Mr. Carr

We certainly understand both the absence of the right hon. Gentleman and the difficulty of the Parliamentary Secretary in making a substantive statement to us. May I say that we very much support the action of the right hon. Gentleman in bringing the parties together to talk, and support the continuation of the talks today and wish for their success.

I do not wish to embarrass what is going on in any way, but I hope that I might be speaking for both sides of the House if I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he will bring to the notice of all parties the following points? First, the importance which we all attach to the avoidance of yet another strike in another great industry so much in the eye of the public and the world and the effect that it would have on the national interest.

Secondly, will he consider perhaps, if necessary, requesting the British Air Line Pilots' Association, now that talks have begun, at least to agree to postponing the date on which it is proposing strike action?

Thirdly, if the British Air Line Pilots' Association were prepared to do that, if it were necessary, because talks could not be completed successfully before tonight, would he suggest to the other parties—and by other parties I mean both the airline managements and Mr. Clive Jenkins, representing the National Joint Council for Civil Air Transport—that they should be as conciliatory as possible in response to such action by the pilots?

Mr. Hattersley

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the first part of his question. He asked me to see that my right hon. Friend raises three specific points with the parties. Let him and the House rest assured that the first point, the importance of avoiding a strike, was raised in the discussions yesterday and it will be again today.

Concerning the other two detailed points, it would be improper and unwise for me to comment on those while discussions are still in progress.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Will the Minister note that while the general public have great appreciation of pilots as a fine body of men, on the whole they would not have sympathy if a strike were to follow these negotiations? The public would also feel that this is a time for all people, during a period of economic crisis, freeze, squeeze and so on, to contain any impulses towards striking that they may have.

Mr. Scott

Without wishing in any way to complicate the meeting, I wonder whether the Minister would acknowledge that the threatened strike is not merely about pay, but about recognition, which is quite different from what was implied by my hon. Friend?

Mr. Hattersley

I think that the hon. Gentleman understands very well that we perhaps make mistakes if we assume that any strike is about one specific issue. I do want to try to unravel the issues behind this dispute.

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