HC Deb 11 March 1969 vol 779 cc1142-5
5. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works whether he will make a statement on his consultations with the building trade unions about the Mann Reports.

6. Mr. Kirk

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works upon what criteria he based his decision not to publish the second and third Reports of the Mann Committee; and whether he will now reconsider that decision.

7. Mr. Ridley

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works whether he will make a statement on the inquiry into work at the Bournemouth depot of his Department, undertaken in the light of the Mann Committee Reports.

13. Mr. Jopling

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works whether he will make a statement on the second and third Reports of the Mann Committee.

Mr. Mellish

I am having discussions with the trade unions, both centrally and in the regions, and I am meeting them again next Thursday. As soon as these consultations are completed and I have decided on my future policy, I will make a statement. I am not publishing the second and third Reports of the Mann Committee because supplementary inquiries have since been conducted not only in the Bournemouth area but over the country generally. All this material will be considered as a whole before policy decisions are taken, and announced.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Do not the Mann Reports bring out the unsatisfactory productivity in the right hon. Gentleman's direct labour force? Have the unions discussed with him in his consultations the problem of the lower pay which direct labour tends to provide as compared with private enterprise?

Mr. Mellish

The second Report of the Mann Committee has a sample survey of a number of my depôts. To find out whether the conclusions reached were correct, I have undertaken a national survey and have carried the trade unions with me, and we have almost completed it. In the light of those conclusions I shall have to take certain decisions and then perhaps report to the House. Until then, I am not prepared to say anything more on this.

Mr. Kirk

Was the Bournemouth survey typical of the rest of the country? If so, why were further surveys necessary?

Mr. Mellish

That is not so. The depôts in my regions throughout Britain are quite different from each other in their types of work. In some of the services direct labour is very much cheaper than contract labour and vice versa, in other regions. The principle has been accepted and we are applying it across the country.

Mr. Ridley

Does not the right hon. Gentleman acknowledge that the public have an interest in knowing what these Reports said? If he is spending public money wastefully, surely the providers of that money should be told about it. Will he agree to publishing the Reports?

Mr. Mellish

There have been three Reports. The first was on contractual arrangements, and this we have largely implemented. The second was a comparison between direct and contract labour. The third was in connection with incentive bonus schemes. These were Reports to a Minister about his own Department. They were only sample surveys. I have many people in my Department who have been employed there 30 or 40 years and it would be totally wrong of me to allow a Report of this kind to be published in this form without my having done a detailed survey to find out if it is even accurate.

Mr. Jopling

But the Report has been leaked to at least three newspapers and now the right hon. Gentleman is conducting negotiations with the trade unions. Surely Parliament has a right to know these things. Will he not tell us what the Report contains?

Mr. Mellish

I have done no leaking and I am doing what I think is right, as Minister, that I should do. I discussed the sample survey with the trade unions and got their goodwill. On the basis of that, I am conducting a complete national survey. I shall not publish the Report until I believe that it is absolutely right and justified so to do.

Mr. C. Pannell

As the Minister responsible for the first Mann Report, may I urge my right hon. Friend to stick to his line of policy, on which he has consulted me? Is he aware that, if we were dealing with the professions—medical, teaching, architectural or anything else—we would pay sufficient respect to them to see that they were properly represented? Does not he also agree that here we are dealing with people who have spent a lifetime of service in Government industry?

Mr. Mellish

My right hon. Friend is on the point. I am dealing with the livelihood of about 31,000 people, many of whom have been employed by my Department for as long as 30 or 40 years. I am not going to be party to the publication of a Report which could convey the impression that the vast majority of my men are uneconomic, since this is just not true.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

I want to revert to the point put by my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling). There is some concern in the House, which might be well worth bearing in mind for the future, about the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has kept the House in the dark about this while he has, it seems, opened his mind to the technical Press.

Mr. Mellish

A lot of what I have read in the Press is not accurate, although it is said that there have been inspired leaks. But I will give the hon. Gentleman an example of my policy. My Department employs 170 people at Londonderry and is going through the same procedure there. Would he like me to publish some report about those men suggesting that they are inefficient? Should I sack the lot without investigating such a report?

Mr. Marks

Is my right hon. Friend aware that efficient direct works departments are the last thing that hon. Members opposite want to see and that, where such departments are efficient, as in Manchester, they will seek to destroy them in the interests of their own financial backers? Is he further aware that the Conservative Chairman of the Manchester Direct Works Committee has resigned in protest against his own party's decision to reduce the department and sell off its depôt facilities? Will he consider purchasing this depôt and using it in the interests of the public?

Mr. Mellish

I know the problem being faced in Manchester by the direct labour department and it is a tragedy that this highly efficient labour force has to be dismantled not for economic considerations but purely on political grounds. This is why I, as Minister responsible for over 30,000 men, want to be certain that any statement I make to the House is backed by facts and not by suppositions.