HL Deb 18 December 1968 vol 298 cc802-4

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 what steps they propose to take in the immediate future, now that Professor Robertson's report on the Girling dispute has been published, to prevent such relatively trivial disputes from causing such widespread damage.]


My Lords, the Government will shortly publish a White Paper giving their proposals on this and other aspects of industrial relations in the light of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Trade Unions and Employers' Associations.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for that reply, may I ask whether he is aware that this was an extremely trivial dispute? Nothing was revealed by the report which does not occur up and down the country very frequently. Is it really satisfactory to have waited so long and to have had all the paraphernalia of the prices and incomes policy in force while doing nothing to check the very serious effect of this kind of dispute throughout the car industry?


My Lords, I am not quite sure that I follow the drift of the noble Lord's question, but the fact is that since July consultations with the Confederation of British Industry, the Trades Union Congress and the nationalised industries have been held by the Department of Employment and Productivity. These are extremely important discussions which we hope will lead to legislation which will help solve these disputes. This sort of legislation must be based on thorough-going discussions which we hope will lead to agreement among the parties concerned. Although there has been delay, I think it is obvious to the House that there has to be sufficient time for the greatest measure of agreement to be arrived at before publishing a White Paper on such an important issue.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that while we deplore unofficial strikes we should realise that it would take Solomon himself to try to stop them? Is he further aware that it is hoped that the White Paper will not suggest repressive legislation, which will cause more unofficial strikes, and that if it contains sanctions the gaols with not hold those who come out on strike?


My Lords, I think there has been a failure, which must be attributed to both sides of industry, to develop the types of institutions of an explicit sort which could lead everybody in industry on both sides to see that there are means of solving these disputes if we put on our thinking caps. We must not be too despairing about this matter. We cannot hope for a return of Solomon; we must do something about it.


My Lords, does my noble friend not think that instead of considering legislation in this direction we should encourage people in factories to develop better labour relations among themselves?


My Lords, the question is: how do we encourage them?


My Lords, is the noble Lord able to give a date for the publication of the White Paper? Will it come out during the Christmas Recess?


My Lords, it is very difficult to give a date in these matters. The Prime Minister announced in another place in November that it might be two months. I think that is the best estimate I can give. We are hoping to get it as soon as possible, but the discussions will determine the date.