HC Deb 01 May 1973 vol 855 cc971-3
8. Mr. Montgomery

asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many strikes have taken place in 1973 to the latest available date; and what are the figures for 1969, 1970, 1971 and 1972.

18. Mr. Adam Butler

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what have been the number of working days lost through industrial disputes this year up to the latest available date, compared with the same period for 1972.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

As the reply consists of a table of figures I will, with permission, circulate this in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Montgomery

Will my hon. Friend estimate what effect today's silly strike will have on the figures for lost days of work for this year?

Mr. Chichester-Clark

Quite clearly I cannot estimate what effect today's silly strike, as my hon. Friend calls it, will have. I can tell him that the number of work days lost this year, to which hon. Members attach the greatest importance, shows a percentage decrease in 1973 in the first quarter over the 1972 first quarter of 82 per cent.

Mr. William Price

Will the Minister set alongside the table the number of working days lost during the first two and a half years of his Government compared with the number of working days lost during the first two and a half years of the previous Government?

Mr. Chichester-Clark

I think that the hon. Gentleman should table a Question about that. No doubt he will. As he is interested in the number of working days lost, he must remember that the increase did not start in 1970 but began in 1968. While it is true that the number has increased by 400 per cent., perhaps he should remember that rather over half that increase took place in 1968–70 and rather under half from 1970–72.

Mr. Butler

My hon. Friend's figures relating to the number of working days lost show that the rate this year is one-fifth of what it was last year. Is not that evidence of the success of the Governments' handling of industrial relations? Does it not show that the majority of people, including the majority of trade unionists, are fed up with the use of the strike as the first rather than the last resort?

Mr. Chichester-Clark

I agree with my hon. Friend. It would have been interesting, had there been a ballot of the Parliamentary Labour Party, to see whether Labour Members approved of the strike taking place today.

Mr. Concannon

From 1926 to 1972 the coal industry figures were always left out of the statistics. I wonder what the hon. Gentleman's reply would be like if he took the coal industry's strike out of last year's figures and compared them with this year's figures in the way that was formerly done.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

The figures have been given on previous occasions. If the hon. Gentleman wants to know, no doubt he will table a Question to that effect.

Sir P. Bryan

When the next set of figures of lost working days is published, will my hon. Friend point out how many of those days lost are due to strikes which have been approved and backed by the official Opposition?

Mr. Chichester-Clark

It is always rather difficult to determine whether strikes are being backed by the official Opposition. It is just as difficult, looking at the attendance here this afternoon, to see whether today's strike has been approved and backed by the official Opposition.

Mr. Prentice

Would it not be a fair description of questions on this topic from Conservative back benchers and previous exercises during Question Time to say that they are engaged in a double-edged propaganda exercise under which, if strikes increase, they blame the unions, and if they decrease they claim credit for the Government? As for today's events, have not the Government the unique distinction of being the first Government in modern times to carry out a policy so outrageously unfair as to provoke the kind of action which is taking place today?

Mr. Chichester-Clark

I do not accept what the right hon. Gentleman says. I am not concerned with propaganda. The right hon. Gentleman should find out whether his own friends are backing the strike today, and he might also look at the vote of the National Executive of the Labour Party in which it was possible to abstain.

Following is the information:

Period 1st January to 31st March Stoppages beginning in period Working days lost in stoppages in progress in period
1969 718 1,552,000
1970 1,212 2,201,000
1971 627 9,496,000
1972 519 12,523,000
1973 (provisional) 678 2,206,000
Working days lost: percentage decrease 1973 (first quarter) over 1972 (first quarter):—82.