HC Deb 13 October 1969 vol 788 cc29-30
Sir J. Eden (by Private Notice)

asked the Minister of Technology and Power what consultations he has had concerning the unofficial strike in the whole of the Yorkshire coalfield, what action he proposes to take, and whether he will make a statement.

The Minister of Technology and Power (Mr. Anthony Wedgwood Benn)

This is a matter for the National Coal Board which is already engaged in national negotiations with the National Union of Mineworkers on the points at issue in this dispute.

Sir J. Eden

Can the right hon. Gentleman say for how long the board has been in negotiation with the union? Since this is an unofficial strike, the possibility of which has been known for some time, can he also say to what extent the new T.U.C. procedures have already been invoked?

Mr. Benn

The negotiations have been going on for some time. In fact, it was only last Thursday that the union gave its answer to the board's latest proposal and negotiations are still in progress. I think that it would be unwise of me to say anything more than that.

Mr. Emery

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the last part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question? Was it not the idea that the T.U.C. would intervene to stop unofficial strikes? Ought that not to have happened since last Thursday and be happening at this moment?

Mr. Benn

Questions about that would normally be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity, but my reply on the question of the T.U.C.'s rôle now is—not at this stage in respect of negotiations currently going on between the board and the union.

Sir J. Eden

Since everyone must hope that this strike will end as quickly as possible, and certainly that it will not spread to other areas, will the right hon. Gentleman use whatever influence he has with the T.U.C. to ensure that these new procedures operate?

Mr. Benn

The hon. Gentleman should recognise that my responsibilities do not involve duplicating the responsibilities either of Lord Robens or of the Minister responsible for industrial relations, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity. But the point made, addressed generally to the Government, will be borne in mind.

Mr. Speaker

The Prime Minister. Statement.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

With permission, Mr. Speaker—

Mr. Maxwell

On a point of order. Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman's point of order does not arise at this moment. The Prime Minister.