HC Deb 30 April 1969 vol 782 cc1432-4
10. Mr. Onslow

asked the President of the Board of Trade what estimate he has made of the cost to the economy of the British Overseas Airways Corporation pilots' strike.

18. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will publish in a White Paper a synopsis of the claim of British Overseas Airways Corporation pilots and their remuneration compared with other international airlines; and what loss of revenue and of foreign exchange resulted from the British Overseas Airways Corporation pilots' strike.

Mr. Crosland

B.O.A.C.'s preliminary estimate is that the strike caused a loss of revenue of about £5 million and a loss of profits of £4 million. The loss of foreign exchange will have been of the same order and magnitude. I do not propose to publish a White Paper on the lines suggested.

Mr. Onslow

Is the Minister aware that many people feel that this trouble was not only very expensive but highly unnecessary, and that it was the product of an unfortunate breakdown in management-pilot relations over a considerable time? What action is he taking to ensure that it does not happen again? Would he, in particular, consider making available to the House some of the findings of Professor Woods?

Mr. Crosland

I do not want this afternoon to try to apportion blame between the two sides in the industry, but I do not agree with the hon. Member that, as we all know, we have had for some time labour relations in B.O.A.C. which have certainly not been satisfactory. I think that the most urgent job now is that an effort should be made by both sides—by both sides—to get these labour relations on a very much more satisfactory footing, and I have made quite clear to B.O.A.C. that this is my view. As to the question of Professor Woods' reports, I shall have to consider that, because they were reports made to my right hon. Friend the First Secretary.

Sir G. Nabarro

Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that this air corporation is in an unique position among our nationalised industries, having to compete with very many foreign corporations of a similar character, and what has he now to tell the House about permanent reform of the consultative machinery among the highly paid executives and pilots of B.O.A.C. which would frustrate the possibility of another crisis of this kind, with heavy losses, from which he excluded the consequential losses?

Mr. Crosland

I certainly have the same objective in mind as the hon. Gentleman does, but it is not my province as a Minister to get too involved in the detail of industrial relations in a nationalised corporation, although I think the machinery, as well as the attitude, does need improving. But I am bound to leave that to the responsibility of the management of the Corporation.

Mr. Rankin

Would my right hon. Friend agree that usually it takes two to make a quarrel?

Mr. Crosland

Well, I have already said in reply to an earlier question that I thought that there were, clearly, faults on both sides. What there is no point in doing is trying to apportion blame precisely between the two sides; the thing is not now to rake over the past but to try to make sure that it does not happen again.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that most international airlines have a senior captain on their board or on the management? This has not happened in B.O.A.C., with a consequential rift between management and the 1,200 aircrew. Would it not be logical to find a suitable man out of those 1,200 to fill this senior appointment, bridge the gap, and bring about better relations?

Mr. Crosland

I take note of the point the hon. Gentleman raises but I do not propose to interfere to that degree of detail in the management of B.O.A.C.