HC Deb 23 February 1983 vol 37 cc933-4
30. Mr. Edwin Wainwright

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment on how many occasions he has met the chairmen of the regional water authorities during the present wages dispute; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. King

I have met some of the chairmen of the regional water authorities several times during the present dispute over water workers' pay. The hon. Gentleman should be aware that I have referred to these discussions several times during exchanges in the House and I do not propose to make a statement on this matter, except the one that I shall make shortly.

Mr. Wainwright

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the settlement has caused a sigh of relief to be breathed in thousands of homes in this country? Next time anything similar happens in the water industry, may I beg the right hon. Gentleman to be careful how he intervenes? Does he not think that his interference in reducing the 6 per cent. offer to 4 per cent. had a grave influence on the dispute? For goodness sake talk to the people involved, but do not interfere with the figures.

Mr. King

This is an opportunity to clear one point. The suggestion that I intervened and instructed the water employers that 4 per cent. and no more should be offered is quite untrue. The hon. Gentleman knows that the employers' opening offer was 4 per cent. As a result of the gap that then divided the two sides, the employers offered arbitration as long ago as last November. There might have been a happier outcome if that offer had been accepted then. The water employers at no time had any intention of opening at 6 per cent. and made that abundantly clear.