HC Deb 26 February 1970 vol 796 cc1387-9
28. Mr. Scott

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity what further consultations she has had with the Trades Union Congress concerning the implementation of their programme of action.

Mrs. Castle

My Department is in regular and frequent consultation with the T.U.C. about serious industrial disputes and, as the House will be aware, the T.U.C. has intervened successfully in a number of important cases.

Mr. Scott

In the face of the figures which we have heard this afternoon of the large and growing number of industrial stoppages, is there a shred of evidence that the right hon. Lady can place before the House that the T.U.C. alone can operate a successful voluntary policy?

Mrs. Castle

There is a considerable amount of evidence that I can put before the House that there has been a transformation in the interventionist role of the T.U.C. since the agreement last June. There can be no doubt whatsoever about that. In a large number of inter-union disputes it has been remarkably successful.

May I remind the House of what the T.U.C. undertook to do in unconstitutional stoppages? It undertook to place an obligation on the unions to keep the General Council informed, so that the General Council could intervene if necessary, but it also said that it would place an obligation on the trade union concerned to take energetic steps to secure an immediate resumption of work. In one of the three major unconstitutional disputes that have been worrying the motor industry, Scottish Stampings, the workers are to go back tomorrow, as a result of their union's intervention; in the other two disputes, the unions are continuing their efforts to secure a resumption of work. This is what we asked for, and this is what we have received.

Mr. Orme

Would my right hon. Friend care to forecast what industrial relations would be like under a Conservative Government, with the current industrial militancy? Will she not give more publicity to the need to reform agreements, as this is a major cause of industrial disputes, particularly in the engineering and manufacturing industries?

Mrs. Castle

I am sorry, I cannot give the forecast for which my hon. Friend asks about Opposition policy and its effect, as the Opposition have been careful not to be explicit with the House and with the country. They know perfectly well that, if their policy were merely to make collective agreements legally enforceable by the will of both sides, the policy would be totally irrelevant and totally meaningless. If they mean something more than that, that the Government should impose collective agreements and the Government should enforce them in the courts, then they would be destroying the whole system of collective bargaining.

Sir R. Cary

On a point of order. Is this being debated, Mr. Speaker? Is the rule suspended?

Mr. Speaker

Order. Questions to the Prime Minister.