HC Deb 16 October 1969 vol 788 cc596-8
Q2. Mr. Molloy

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a further statement on his negotiations with the Trades Union Congress on industrial relations.

Q3. Mr. Marten

asked the Prime Minister if he will convene and preside over another meeting with the Trades Union Congress to discuss industrial relations.

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State will be continuing consultations on these matters with the T.U.C., the C.B.I. and the other organisations concerned.

Mr. Molloy

Does my right hon. Friend contemplate holding discussions with the T.U.C., particularly having regard to the new machinery of government and especially since the T.U.C. has co-operated so successfully and helpfully in resolving industrial disputes?

The Prime Minister

As the House knows, I shall be having a meeting with the General Council of the T.U.C. next Wednesday to discuss a number of questions in relation to economic organisation, and, of course, as occasion requires I shall always be ready to discuss with it any problem of industrial relations where it is felt it could intervene successfully to deal with a dispute.

Mr. Marten

In view of the situation in the motor industry, with unofficial strikes producing what was described last Tuesday by the Society of Motor Manufacturers as a state of near-anarchy, and of the situation in the coal mining industry, is the Prime Minister satisfied that the solemn and binding undertaking given by the T.U.C. is working as effectively as he hoped, and if not, why not?

The Prime Minister

I certainly share the hon. Gentleman's concern about the motor industry. It has been a continuing problem for many years. The problem of militancy in relation to often quite small groups of men is one that the House has been concerned with on a number of occasions. There has been successful intervention by the T.U.C. in some of these cases but it has not been successful in others; nor would any other solution I am aware of deal with some of these problems. Certainly the T.U.C. will be pressed by all of us to do everything it can when it can usefully intervene. On the coal mining industry point, again I share the hon. Gentleman's concern. I have nothing to add to what my right hon. Friend said in answer to a Question on Tuesday.

Mr. Eadie

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that in carrying out any negotiations with the T.U.C. he will be in a much stronger position than if he were to do it with the C. B.I., which has recently become known as an organisation for ambitious Tory Party candidates?

The Prime Minister

I would not go so far as to say that. Was it not the C.B.I. or the Institute of Directors which had some pointed criticism to make of the Conservative Party recently?

Mr. R. Carr

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall the very strong words he used about duty in this House in June when interpreting the binding commitment? He said the duty of trade unions was to use their rule books against members who continued with unofficial strikes. We made clear our dislike of that policy, but it was a policy on which he was depending.

The Prime Minister

The T.U.C. takes this undertaking extremely seriously. We cannot go over the whole debate again. As I understand it, the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman, which we consider totally unworkable—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer the question."]—would involve exactly what the T.U.C. undertaking involves at the end of the day, in that they place on the unions the responsibility to use their rule books and the rest for dealing with their members. This has already been done, very toughly indeed, since June in two or three cases. In the motor industry, as I have said, this is of uniquely special difficulty and I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman, like us, in his recent speech emphasised some of the things that have to be done to improve the atmosphere in industry, apart from coercing the men.