§ 14. Mr. Jessel
asked the Secretary of State for Employment why statistics for days lost due to strikes exclude days lost from consequential lay-offs in firms other than those in which the strike takes place.
§ Mr. Booth
It would be impracticable to collect comprehensive information of this kind owing to the difficulty of identifying the ramifications of consequential lay-offs and the complex interrelationships between industries. Other countries experience the same difficulties, and this country's practice is in line with that followed by other members of OECD which also exclude consequential lay-offs from their statistics.
§ Mr. Jessel
Surely the right hon. Gentleman knows when and where lay-offs take place, especially if they are on a big scale, as in the motor industry. As stoppages in one factory can lead to lay-offs in other factories, is it not misleading to give part only of the figures for days lost, and is it not utterly illogical for the Department to include in the figures workers who are not party to a dispute but who are laid off in a factory where a strike is taking place, but not those who are laid off in other factories?
§ Mr. Booth
No. Our figures are completely consistent. When we give the figures of days lost due to strikes, we include only people in the plants affected 218 by the strikes. We know of certain other lay-offs in the motor industry, but we do not collect those figures on the same basis. Often, in fact, we learn of them from newspaper reports. Therefore, it would not be reasonable to publish statistics on that basis. The average strike in this country lasts for only four and a half days. Therefore, it is relatively rare for there to be large consequential layoffs in factories other than those affected by the dispute.
§ Mr. Rooker
Does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be very misleading to include consequential figures, because many of these so-called consequential lay-offs are actually bosses' sympathy lay-offs, used to put pressure on the firm in which the strike is taking place?
§ Mr. Booth
That could also affect the figures, but I believe that we should keep the common basis with the OECD, because international comparisons happen to favour this country. Far too often a bad impression has been given and business confidence has been damaged, particularly by some Opposition Members talking as though strikes in this country were somehow peculiar and other countries did not have strikes of the same magnitude.