§ 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.