HC Deb 28 January 1971 vol 810 cc793-6
11. Mr. Hayhoe

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will list those industrial disputes concerned with pay which have led to strikes or other industrial action involving more than 10,000 employees since 1st July, 1970, and indicate those in which the claim for an increase had been first made before 1st June, 1970.

Mr. Bryan

As the reply is somewhat lengthy I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Hayhoe

That is not a great deal of information upon which to base a supplementary Question.

Mr. Speaker

Supplementaries are not compulsory.

Mr. Hayhoe

May I ask whether the reply, when I see it, will indicate that many or some of these wage claims started before the election and that, therefore, the impact of this rush of substantial wage claims is the inheritance of six years of Labour Government and indicates just how bad conditions had become throughout industry, so that the unions involved felt it necessary to put these substantial wage claims forward?

Mr. Bryan

Yes, Sir. The full answer will show that it is a fact rather than a debating point that the Government took over a situation of excessive claims that were likely to lead to disputes unless the employers made settlements which were bound to be inflationary.

Mr. Sillars

Does not the hon. Gentleman recall that the first wage claim dealt with by the present Government was that of the doctors? Is it not fair and equitable that working people should base their wage claims on the 20 per cent. criterion laid down in that case by the Government?

Mr. Bryan

That claim was not a once-a-year claim.

Mr. Frederick Lee

When the Minister is producing his list, will he include those disputes which would not have taken place if the provisions of the Industrial Relations Bill had been in force?

Mr. Bryan

That is not the Question I have been asked.

Mr. Harold Walker

Did not the Prime Minister make a substantial contribution to the generation of inflationary pressures when on television in February and April, 1970, he said that wages in this country were low compared with other Western European countries and that he was in favour of high wages? Was not that an incitement?

Mr. Bryan

I do not think that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite can slide away from their responsibilities in this way. The background to the question with which we are dealing is the situation starting at the beginning of last year when the Government were laying down a norm of 2½ per cent. to 4½ per cent. for 1970, which was absolutely meaningless against the background of wage settlements which were made.

Mrs. Castle

Equally the Government cannot slide away from their ancestry. Is it not a fact that the present Government fought and won the election on the proposition that inflation could not be blamed on the wage demands of workers but on the level of prices and that the right way to cure it was not by trying to hold wage rates down, of which they accused the Labour Government, but by acting directly and immediately on prices? And did not the Government win the election on a lie?

Mr. Bryan

At no time during the election campaign, or at any other time, did the Prime Minister give the slightest inclination that he would condone wage rises of the type that we have had recently.

Following is the information:

The following stoppages of work since 1st July, 1970 were the result of pay disputes and involved more than 10,000 employees: the national stoppage by dock workers between 13th and 31st July: the local authority manual workers' stoppage between 29th September and 13th November: the stoppage in the coal mining industry between 26th October and 20th November: and the current stoppage by Post Office workers. The dispute involving some municipal and company busmen led to stoppages in some areas and other industrial action between 5th September and 21st November. Industrial action short of a strike was taken in three instances: by industrial staff in electricity supply from 7th to 14th December, by some employees in civil air transport from 14th December, and by members of the Fire Brigade Union from 17th December. In two cases, the claims were made before 1st June, 1970. That for local authority manual workers was first presented in April, 1970 and the latest in a series of claims which finally led to the stoppage by dock workers was presented in March, 1970.

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