§ 10. Mr. Harold Walker
asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many days' production have been lost by strikes in protest against the introduction of the Industrial Relations Bill.
§ 25. Mr. John Page
asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement about the strikes called or proposed by certain trade unions against the Industrial Relations Bill on 1st and 18th March.
§ 31. Mr. Kenneth Lewis
asked the Secretary of State for Employment what estimate of the cost to the economy he has made of the one-day strike by the Amalgamated Engineering and Foundry-workers Union which took place on 1st March.
§ 33. Mr. J. H. Osborn
asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many people were on strike on Monday 1st March and again on 18th March in protest against the Industrial Relations Bill, how many turned up to work in factories which were unable to start production and were paid datal rates; how many were locked out by their employers because of inability to start production; how many companies were involved; and how many agreements were broken.
§ 34. Mr. James Hill
asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is the estimated number of days lost this year through strikes called in protest against the Industrial Relations Bill.
§ 39. Mr. David Mitchell
asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is his estimate of the number of working days lost in strikes during 1971 where the cause of strike action was attached to political objection to the Industrial Relations Bill.
§ Mr. R. Carr
Just over three million man-days have been lost in one-day strikes, including 1.2 million on 1st March and 1.26 million on 18th March. It is not possible to estimate the cost of these strikes or how many other employees were prevented from working by them.
§ Mr. Walker
Is it not an extraordinary indictment of a Measure which is put to the country as being designed to bring about an improvement in industrial relations that, before it gets on the Statute Book, it is itself directly responsible for losing almost as much production time as we should lose in the course of a normal year?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I propose to follow the usual practice of first calling to ask supplementaries hon. Members who have put down Questions.
§ Mr. Carr
No. It is impossible to quantify. It will be of interest to the House to know, however, that the engineering Employers' Federation, which represents the industry most seriously affected, estimates that on the first of the two days, namely, 1st March, some 80 per cent. of its 4,500 member firms were affected and lost output to the value of approximately £70 million. One must presume that at least the equivalent happened on 18th March. The engineering industry includes our most important export industries.
§ Mr. Osborn
Will my right hon. Friend tell us what were the consequential layoffs as a result of the strike, which was for political motives, and what was the adverse effect on cash flow, therefore undermining the security of future employment?
§ Mr. Hill
Does my right hon. Friend agree that this form of strike is adequately covered by the Industrial Relations Bill and that it shows only too clearly how a militant minority could bring this country to its knees?
§ Mr. Mitchell
Is my right hon. Friend able to advise the House whether these politically motivated strikes are lawful under existing legislation? If not, am I right in assuming that there is a right of redress for those who have been victim- 862 ised and disciplined by their unions for working?
§ Mr. Carr
The power of a trade union to discipline its members derives from its rules. Whether a particular strike is an industrial dispute or a political act and whether, and if so to what extent, the rules apply if it is a political act are matters which can be decided only by the courts. Any members of unions who feel aggrieved will be well advised to seek legal advice.
§ Mr. Bidwell
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, according to his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General, in answer to a contribution made by the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran), it is quite plain that a purely political strike is outside the scope of the Bill? Does he further agree that if workers are prevented from having the cherished freedom to strike in normal circumstances, we might see a growth of political strikes as opposed to those which arise from industrial disputes proper?