HC Deb 11 December 1978 vol 960 cc25-6
30. Mr. Wall

asked the Lord President of the Council if he will now take steps, by legislation if necessary, to stop the duties of Members of Parliament being interrupted by industrial action.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)

I shall continue to take such steps as are necessary to ensure the proper working of the House, but I do not consider that legislation would be appropriate.

Mr. Wall

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the disruption to the work of Members of Parliament caused by repeated industrial action over the years by those employed at Her Majesty's Stationery Office? If Parliament matters to both the country and the Government, is not it time that the Government took positive action to stop this impedance of the work of Parliament?

Mr. Foot

I accept fully that the disruption which sometimes takes place is a serious matter not only for Members of Parliament but for the public who are concerned about the transaction of our business. I do not minimise that. But I do not believe that legislation is the way to solve the problem.

Mr. Skinner

Will the Leader of the House bear in mind that in the real world a little industrial action here and there does not do any harm, so it should not come amiss to Members of Parliament? Will my right hon. Friend take on board also that if he goes on as he is doing, with a three-month recess in the summer, a month at Christmas, a month at Easter and a month later on, we shall get to a six-month Parliament and there will not be much time for industrial action?

Mr. Foot

I hope that my hon. Friend is not inciting anyone to get it in quickly while there is still a chance. I think that he has extended the dates somewhat. But I do not think that anything my hon. Friend says, even in his more lighthearted moments, should encourage people to believe that the disruption of the flow of supplies of papers to this House is other than a very serious matter.

Mr. Brittan

If the Lord President thinks that that disruption is a very serious matter but takes the view that legislation is not the appropriate way of dealing with it, will he indicate the alternative steps which he proposes to take in the discharge of his responsibilities to make sure that this ill is at least mitigated, if not removed?

Mr. Foot

Several months ago we set up a reference to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, and it has produced a very intelligent report on the subject. Some of its recommendations have already been put into operation. Others of its recommendations are being considered by the management of Her Majesty's Stationery Office. I believe that that is the intelligent way to proceed—to try to get a settlement which is agreed by the people who are responsible for the management and those who do the work.

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