HC Deb 05 November 1970 vol 805 cc1258-9
Q6. Mrs. Castle

asked the Prime Minister to whom he intends to transfer responsibility for the conciliation services of the Department of Employment and Productivity under his machinery of Government proposals.

The Prime Minister

I am not contemplating any transfer.

Mrs. Castle

I quite accept that there is not much left to transfer, but does the right hon. Gentleman remember that, when the Ministry of Labour became the Department of Employment and Productivity, he himself demanded that what he called the Ministry of Labour's statutory duty to conciliate should not be subordinated to considerations of incomes policy? Is he now satisfied with his right hon. Friend's refusal to conciliate in the local government manual workers' strike, and, if so, how does he justify that refusal?

The Prime Minister

Because both in law, under the Conciliation Act, 1896, and in practice, the Secretary of State's powers to conciliate are discretionary.

Mr. Bob Brown

Will the Prime Minister accept that, if the new definition of conciliation as applied in the municipal employees' strike continues to be generally applied, it will be almost like abolishing the conciliation machinery of the Department altogether?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir: I do not accept that.

Mr. Michael Foot

As the discretion of the Minister in this matter has led to his decision, or his failure to conciliate, in the municipal workers' strike, is there any possibility of discretion being used to stop the disaster of a spreading national coal strike?

The Prime Minister

As it is a discretionary matter for the Secretary of State, he will decide each issue as he thinks best at the time.