§ 3.33 p.m.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, with permission, I will answer the Private Notice Question which was put earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn. Representatives of the Engineering Employers' Federation and the full Executive of the Federation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions met under my right honourable friend's chairmanship last night. Detailed discussion then continued for four hours in a small joint working party under official chairmanship. This morning a further plenary meeting received a report on the working party's discussion, and the two sides then met separately at the Department to consider matters arising. My right honourable friend is chairing further discussions this afternoon. I am sure the noble Lord will appreciate that it would be inappropriate for me to say anything further at this stage.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, I should like to start by thanking the noble Lord for the statement which he has made to the House. I am sure that he is aware of the very great importance which the country attaches to this matter. May I ask him this question? Whatever view we may take about who is to say what is in the national interest and what is not, would the Government agree that there are two things which are quite clearly in the national interest at the present? The first is that the threatened strike next Monday should be avoided; and the second is that in any settlement which provides for a substantial rise in wages there should at the same time be an arrangement for increased productivity. Is the noble Lord aware that this, as we all know, is in line with the Government's prices and incomes policy, and may I ask him what steps the Government are taking to make sure that this is brought about?
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I agree with what the noble Lord said about the importance of the discussions which are at this very moment taking place. I agree with him that anything which sets back production and interferes with our export drive is to be avoided. He asked me about the prices and incomes policy and, of course, that is a matter which will be very much borne in mind by those who are taking part in the discussions which are now taking place under the chairmanship of my right honourable friend.