HL Deb 27 July 1955 vol 193 cc1073-5

My Lords, I beg to ask Her Majesty's Government the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether it is the case that during the recent strike of footplate men on the railways the Prime Minister broadcast personally an announcement that the strike was contrary to national interests, and that many footplate men remained at, or returned to, their posts and drove the trains to which they were directed; whether it is not also the case that since the conclusion of the strike those who remained at work have been subjected to victimisation by those who had been on strike; and, if this is so, what arrangements were made by Her Majesty's Government with the Transport Commission to prevent this state of things occurring and what Her Majesty's Government are doing to protect those who obeyed the Prime Minister by remaining at their posts.]


My Lords, as an aftermath of the railway strike there have been cases where ill-feeling has been shown between men who had been on strike and others who had remained at work. The British Transport Commission have been in contact with the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen in the light of the agreement which they concluded with that Union, and the officers of the Society have, I am told, taken appropriate action in a number of cases. The trouble has died down considerably and is restricted now to a few cases only. The British Transport Commission are doing all they can to help in the restoration of good relations between all members of their staff. I do not consider that Her Majesty's Government can usefully take further action.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his Answer and am glad that some action is being taken in the matter. May I ask whether the Department have been steadily in touch with the situation and watching it since the trouble ended, and whether they will continue so to do?


I think my right honourable friend the Minister of Labour and his Department are well aware of what is going on.


My Lords, would Her Majesty's Government not agree that the time is opportune for some measure of protection to be given to those who, not only now but in the past, have suf- fered this persecution and this cruel ostracism, as a result, so frequently, of their patriotism and their moral courage in putting the country's needs before those of purely sectional, and frequently purely selfish, interest?


I should have thought it would be very much better to leave this sort of thing to the people most directly concerned—namely, the unions and employers. Speaking for myself, I should think it inappropriate for the Government to intervene in matters of this sort.


My Lords, would not matters of this sort fall, to some extent, within the scope of the debate which we are to have later in the afternoon, and would the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, bear the noble Lord's question in mind when he replies?


My Lords, arising out of the noble Lord's last answer, may I also ask whether the responsibility does not fall directly upon the Government, in view of the Prime Minister's broadcast and his appeal to the loyalty of the men to remain at work?


My Lords, the agreement which settled the rail strike was entered into between the Transport Commission and the union concerned, and there was in that agreement a clause that there should be no victimisation. As I said in my Answer, I do not think the Government can usefully intervene any more.


My Lords, to facilitate the course of the debate later to-day, may I ask the Leader of the House to give us some guidance? The point has been raised by the noble Lord the Leader of the Liberal Party that the substance of this Question might fall within the terms of that debate. Is that the sort of line that he, as Leader of the House, would like your Lordships to follow?


My Lords, the Rules of Order in this House are very wide and elastic, but I should have thought that this particular point still came rather outside the question of monopolies.