HC Deb 07 December 1971 vol 827 cc1120-2
Q5. Mr. Strang

asked the Prime Minister if he is satisfied with the co-ordination between the Ministers responsible for the nationalised industries and the Secretary of State for Employment on dealing with the problems caused by redundancies in the nationalised industries; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. Any decision to declare redundancies is one for the nationalised industries themselves: but the Department of Employment does all it can to assist those who lose their jobs to find alternative employment.

Mr. Strang

Is the Prime Minister aware that thousands of workers are due to be made redundant by the nationalised industries during the next six months? In Scotland alone the British Steel Corporation, British Railways and the National Coal Board between them during the next three or four months will make between 1,000 and 2,000 workers redundant. Does the Prime Minister agree that those workers have hardly any chance of obtaining an alternative job, and will he use his good offices to press the nationalised industries to implement a freeze on redundancies until unemployment falls to more reasonable levels?

The Prime Minister

I do not think it would be right for the Government to insist that nationalised industries should freeze their existing situation. The responsibility must be on the boards of the nationalised industries, whether it is coal, which may be of particular interest to the hon. Gentleman, or whether it is the railways or steel. The steel industry was nationalised, on the arguments of the hon. Gentleman's party, to bring about a rationalisation. The railways have a particular problem. On coal, which particularly concerns the hon. Gentleman, I understand that most of the workers engaged in the colliery which has been closed have been put into other jobs in collieries.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Does my right hon. Friend recall that it was as a result of the policies of the Labour Party that the Scottish-based steel companies were replaced by the nationalised concern, which has since, to the complaint of hon. Gentlemen opposite, been removing jobs from Scotland? How can their complaints on this matter be reconciled with their demand for an extension of nationalisation?

The Prime Minister

It is their job to reconcile them. The other aspect is that the nationalised industries are at the same time putting a massive amount of money into fresh investment.

Mr. Bob Brown

Surely the Prime Minister cannot hope to get away with that reply. He must accept that interference in the pricing policies of the nationalised industries, particularly steel, is advancing many of the redundancies which are arising this winter?

The Prime Minister

It is difficult to argue, when the Government have said to the nationalised industries that they should carry out the same policy as the C.B.I. of keeping prices down, that they are thereby creating redundancies. Actually, the reverse is true.

Mr. Ross

Who is co-ordinating with whom about the Barassie workshops in Ayrshire, and with what result?

The Prime Minister

That was a decision of the British Railways Board, who carried out their undertakings to consult the trade unions. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport Industries went further and saw the unions and fully explained the position to them. This was, therefore, a decision of the Railways Board, after carrying out the obligations they had undertaken of consultation with the unions.

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