HC Deb 26 October 1967 vol 751 cc1892-4

Mr. Patrick Jenkin (by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Power, in view of the impending dissolution of the B.I.S.F. on 31st October, what provision is to be made to compensate long-service employees of the Federation who do not accept the offer of transfer to the B.S.C. which reached them on 24th October, and whether he will make a statement.

The Minister of Power (Mr. Richard Marsh)

In accordance with the arrangements agreed between the British Steel Corporation and the British Iron and Steel Federation every one of the staff of the Federation has been offered transfer to the Corporation on the same terms as those on which they are now serving. The Corporation has undertaken in the case of those who accept, to treat service with the Federation and the Corporation as continuous. Whether those who decline are entitled to compensation will fall to be determined under the Redundancy Payments Act and their contracts of employment.

Mr. Jenkin

Does the right hon. Gentleman think that that is enough? Does he recollect the clear, categorical undertakings given by the Government, in Committee, that the Federation staff would be fully safeguarded by the highest standards of personnel responsibility? Does he believe that an offer which is refused by those to whom it is made and which gives no indication what will happen to the men when their existing employer disappears in five days' time measures up to those standards?

Mr. Marsh

I can only think that the hon. Member produced his second point before he had heard my Answer. I would have thought that the decision of the British Iron and Steel Corporation to offer every employee of the Federation a job with his existing conditions of service was about as generous as anything that could be expected.

Mr. Gardner

Would my right hon. Friend care to draw a contrast between the treatment offered by the Iron and Steel Corporation to former employees of the Federation with that offered by many private companies which take over other firms?

Mr. Marsh

If one were drawing conclusions, one could look at the shabby way in which the members of the last nationalised Steel Board were treated by right hon. Gentlemen opposite on the dissolution of the Board. I can only make the point—I do not know who has raised the point with the hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Patrick Jenkin)—that despite the shortage of time, up to this morning, which was only three days, over three-quarters of the Federation staff had already accepted the offer.

Sir J. Eden

In making it clear that this is an offer which the employees of the Federation are invited to accept or reject, the Minister must also imply that for those who choose to reject the offer their full contractual rights under the existing compensation and life assurance schemes will be honoured—or is he saying that he is going to rat on those obligations?

Mr. Marsh

This places me in a somewhat unusual position. As the Minister I am not responsible for the British Iron and Steel Federation. This is not a Governmental body, nor is there any Parliamentary accountability attached to it. The assurance that I gave in Committee—and this is the extent of my responsibility—was that the British Iron and Steel Corporation would act in a fair and responsible way in respect of its obligations towards these employees. To offer every single one of them a transfer on his existing conditions—not the Corporation's conditions—seems to me to be about as reasonable as one can get.

Mr. John Lee

I agree with my right hon. Friend that the terms are very generous, but does not he agree that it might have been wiser to make a condition of payment that these employees should under no circumstances agree to co-operate with any future Government that might be so ill-advised as to try to denationalise the steel industry?

Mr. Marsh

No, Sir.