HC Deb 03 March 1971 vol 812 cc1709-11
Mrs. Castle (by Private Notice)

asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether he will make a statement on what further efforts he has made to resolve the deadlock in the postal workers dispute.

The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Robert Carr)

As the House will know, I yesterday met, at their request, representatives of the U.P.W. who put forward proposals which they asked me to convey to the Post Office. I did so, and, on my suggestion, the two sides later met under my chairmanship and agreed to resume discussions today. These discussions began just before lunch, and when I had to leave my Department they were still in progress. In the circumstances, the House will understand that I am unable to say anything further at this moment. I therefore ask the House not to press me to do so.

Mrs. Castle

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we welcome, as I am sure the whole country will welcome, the initiative which the union has once again taken to try to find a basis for the settlement of this dispute? As long as constructive and meaningful talks are going on, of course we would not wish to press the right hon. Gentleman for details.

First, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman will make a statement to the House tomorrow; and, secondly, whether he personally will dedicate himself to seeing that this time the talks, so important to the country, do not break down?

Mr. Carr

I have had to stop dedicating myself to this matter for a short time to come to answer this Question. I make no complaint about that. I assure the right hon. Lady that I shall return, just as soon as I can, to continue dedicating myself to bring these talks to a successful conclusion.

I ask the House at this juncture not to try to apportion praise or blame, initiative or lack of initiative, to either party.

Mr. David Steel

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues to refrain, now or in future, from using the figure of £25 as the average pay of postmen, hearing in mind that in many parts of the country, including my constituency of Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles, there is no opportunity for overtime, and, therefore, this figure is entirely misleading.

Mr. Carr

Averages are averages and must be used if we are talking about them.

Mr. Charles R. Morris

Hon. Members on both sides and the nation will hope that the negotiations lead to an acceptable conclusion to the strike, which has now extended over 43 days. The Post Office has lost revenue to the extent of £27 million and more than 7 million Post Office staff working days have been lost. Against that background, does the right hon. Gentleman accept that it is a matter of growing concern that the dispute should be brought to an acceptable end? Will he also bear in mind that in the discussions one of the important factors is to re-establish relationships between the management of the Post Office and that section of the staff represented by the U.P.W.?

Hon. Members

Too long.

Mr. Morris

Will the Secretary of State further accept that a step in the right direction will be a moratorium on statements and declarations on the dispute by his Minister of State, the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications and of Posts and Telecommunications, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

Mr. Carr

I share the hon. Gentleman's hope that the discussions will lead to the end of the dispute. I think that those who ask for moratoria should observe them.

Mrs. Castle

Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to make a statement to the House tomorrow?

Mr. Carr

I beg the right hon. Lady's pardon for forgetting that part of her question. I will certainly make a statement at the earliest possible moment, and I hope that that may be tomorrow.