HL Deb 26 March 1957 vol 202 cc752-3

3.41 p.m.


My Lords, direct negotiations began yesterday between the Shipbuilding Employers' Federation and the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions on the Confederation's wages claim, but broke down late in the afternoon. Representatives of both sides were then invited to the Ministry of Labour for further discussions with my right honourable friend and his officers. It became clear that no progress was possible by way of conciliation, and he decided to appoint a Court of Inquiry to inquire into the dispute. In view of this decision the unions were asked to call off the strike. The unions have not yet given their answer to that request, but both they and the employers have indicated their readiness to cooperate fully with the Court. The union representatives have had meetings with my right honourable friend and his officers to-day and further discussions with both sides, which will relate to both the shipbuilding and engineering disputes, are due to take place later in the day.


My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord for giving us this statement. We are now in a very difficult situation. I sense in this statement that there is just a little progress in one direction, which is that the Court of Inquiry is to be set up, and that both sides have agreed to co-operate in the use of the Court of Inquiry. That is undoubtedly some progress, and whatever strong feelings some of us may feel about one side or the other, I think we should for the moment be entirely neutral until we can see what further progress is being made. I hope it will be real progress.