HL Deb 27 July 1966 vol 276 cc781-3

2.56 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many men were involved in official and unofficial industrial disputes, and the number of working days lost, in this country in the years 1960 to 1964; and how this compares with the men involved and working days lost in France and Germany in those years.]


My Lords, about 7½ million workers were involved in all stoppages of work, both official and unofficial, due to industrial disputes in progress in the years 1960 to 1964 in the United Kingdom. Workers involved in more than one stoppage are counted more than once in the total. The number of working days lost was nearly 16 million. Figures published in the I.L.O. Year Book of Labour Statistics 1965 for France and Germany for 1960 to 1964 were:

Workers involved Days lost
France 10,300,000 14,000,000
Germany (Federal Republic 440,000 2,400,000


My Lords, while thanking the Government for that informative reply, may I ask whether they agree that the state of affairs thus revealed may explain in some small degree our economic failure to keep up with, for instance, Western Germany in these years, and is a contributory cause of our balance-of-payments difficulties?


My Lords, I agree that this loss of work is to be deplored, and of course it is bound to have an effect on our economic situation. We should do everything possible to lessen the figures, but it is very largely a matter in which we expect good management to co-operate with responsible trade unionists to stop this loss of work.


My Lords, could my noble friend inform the House about the absenteeism arising from attendance at Ascot, Goodwood and Newmarket, and whether, if the people involved had not been attending those race meetings, their activities would have been of any use to the export drive or the national income?


My Lords, that is a slightly different slant on the Question originally put down. I have noticed that the attendance in this House falls off slightly on Derby Day, though not so considerably lately.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord, Lord Champion, whether, in view of the seriousness of the figures he has read out to the House, the Government intend to ask the Royal Commission to make an Interim Report?


My Lords, this is a matter which of course we shall consider. I agree with the noble Leader of the Opposition that it is a very serious matter. The sooner we can find the causes, and eliminate them, the better it will be for all concerned.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend to inform the House how the United Kingdom record as a whole compares with other countries in general? Would it be possible for him to express the number of days lost in percentage terms, according to the number of days of actual employment?


My Lords, I am glad to say that, despite what I said previously, our record in this connection is good. International Labour Organisation figures covering a wide range of industries for the same period show that only seven countries, out of seventeen, lost fewer days per thousand persons employed, and these include a number of fairly small countries. The United Kingdom position is even a little better when the longer period of ten years, from 1955 to 1964, is taken.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the last question sounds like a put-up one? He has read out all pat these details in answer to it. Could he tell the House how the trend continues since 1964, and whether to-day we are seeing an improvement on the situation which he described in answer to the principal Question.


My Lords, as an ex-Minister, the noble Lord should not give away ministerial secrets. I do not have later figures that I can give him, but if the noble Lord would care to put down a Question, I will give them to the House as soon as possible.