HC Deb 14 April 1970 vol 799 cc1204-6
Q1. Mr. Lane

asked the Prime Minister if he will now assume direct responsibility for improving industrial relations.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Robert Howarth) on 18th March.—[Vol. 798, c. 146–7.]

Mr. Lane

How can the Prime Minister disclaim responsibility, in view of the deterioration during recent months, and with the number of strikes in January and February nearly 50 per cent. greater than in January and February, 1969? Is not it clear that in this as in other matters the Government are increasingly impotent?

The Prime Minister

I accept collective responsibility. That does not mean that I take over any particular Government Department. Our record, statistical or in any other way, in industrial relations bears favourable comparison with that of the last five years of Conservative Government.

Mr. Ashley

While the T.U.C. has been making progress in improving industrial relations, its efforts have been largely frustrated by the attitude of the C.B.I. Will my right hon. Friend remind the C.B.I. that the employers have just as great a responsibility as trade unionists for industrial relations and it is time they accepted it?

The Prime Minister

That conclusion was stated in Donovan, and of course it was in our White Paper. I notice, however, that the C.B.I. is extremely cynical about the industrial relations electioneering of right hon. Gentlemen opposite.

Mr. R. Carr

Will the Prime Minister correct his totally incorrect statement of a few moments ago? Surely he must be aware that, as the Government's own statistics show, apart from coal mining—and this was the criterion taken both by the Donovan Commission and the White Paper "In Place of Strife"—the number of strikes in the last 5½ years of Labour Government has been greater than during the whole 13 years of Conservative Government? Is not he aware, quite apart from that, that there has been an undeniable deterioration in the period since June? Will not he, therefore, publish a report analysing the reasons for the deterioration since last June and saying what action will be taken about it?

The Prime Minister

I notice that right hon. Gentlemen include or exclude coal mining as it suits them. The figures given in their speeches in the latter part of last year took credit, as they would regard it, for 1 million days lost in Yorkshire coal mining and elsewhere last October. I will give the right hon. Gentleman the figures. In the five years from October, 1964, to October, 1969, there were 11,634 stoppages, compared with 12,443 in the five years to October, 1964. There were 5,657,000 workers involved, against 7,464,000 in the last five years of the Tories. I will grant that the figure of man days lost was 17.2 million as against 15.9 million—hardly enough to justify the right hon. Gentleman's hyperbole of expression. They were longer strikes, yes, but the proposals put forward by the right hon. Gentleman would seem to be a prescription not only for more strikes but longer strikes.