HC Deb 01 July 1968 vol 767 cc1079-80
65. Mr. Rankin

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity if she will make a further statement on the matter in dispute between the British Overseas Air Corporation and their pilots.

Mrs. Castle

Since I last reported to the House on 17th June, my Department has had informal discussions with B.O.A.C. and B.A.L.P.A. and on 28th June I appointed Professor John Wood of Sheffield University, with the agreement of the two sides, to act as an independent chairman to assist them in seeking a basis for a resumption of work and in the subsequent negotiations on outstanding matters.

Following a meeting of the two sides under Professor Wood's chairmanship on 29th June, the B.A.L.P.A. representatives reported yesterday to their Committee and B.A.L.P.A. is seeking clarification of certain outstanding points at a further joint meeting under my Department's chairmanship today.

Mr. Rankin

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on that appointment. She may recollect that that was one of the first things I suggested to her. May we hope that the professor succeeds in bringing this disastrous dispute to a successful and speedy conclusion?

Mrs. Castle

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for those remarks. I am sure that he will be the first to understand that, as the talks are now at a very delicate and hopeful stage, it would be unwise for us to pursue any details at this stage.

Mr. Lubbock

Will Captain Merrifield and Sir Giles Guthrie meet across the table personally? Does the right hon. Lady agree that it would have been much better if they had been started off on those lines instead of hurling insults at each other?

Mrs. Castle

I think that the hon. Gentleman is a little out of date in his supplementary question. The negotiations are now at a very hopeful stage. I should not like to say anything in the House which might jeopardise them.

Mr. Fortescue

Once the aeroplanes are flying again, will the right hon. Lady consider consulting the President of the Board of Trade to see what can be done to improve industrial relations in B.O.A.C.?

Mrs. Castle

The hon. Gentleman will understand that that is not a question for me.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Will the right hon. Lady try to get the air services resumed while the negotiations are going on, because it seems a pity that that should not be the case?

Mrs. Castle

I do not want to be drawn into any more details.