HL Deb 12 November 1969 vol 305 cc628-30

2.40 p.m.


My Lords, with the leave of the House, and I hope in the absence of too much chinking of coins, I should like to make a further Statement about the situation at the Stationery Office and the position of Parliamentary Papers in your Lordships' House. Your Lordships will mostly be aware that neither the Minutes nor the Hansard of yesterday's proceedings are available in the Printed Paper Office as yet, although I understand that a number of copies of Hansard may be available in the Printed Paper Office in the course of the afternoon. Emergency arrangements, therefore, are in operation to meet essential Parliamentary requirements. Despite the pressing nature of the circumstances, I am sure the House will agree with me that the Parliament Office are to be congratulated on the steps they are taking, and will continue to take.

On the last occasion when we exchanged words on this subject the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, asked me whether I could say something on the nature of the dispute. For reasons that I indicated then, I do not want to be too far drawn, but I think it is right that I should tell the House that the difficulties at the St. Stephen's Press of the Stationery Office arise out of unofficial action on the part of a single chapel, following a return to work by the members of the chapels involved on the basis of an interim wage offer. Although there are some unresolved issues there is no official dispute and no official support for a go-slow. Nevertheless, the output is irregular and has resulted in the delay in the production of Parliamentary Papers. I can only repeat that a variety of measures have been taken to ensure in one way or another the continued supply of essential Papers, and I would, with apologies, ask your Lordships to help as much as possible by not placing too much of a burden, other than is essential, on the now diminished resources of the Printed Paper Office.


My Lords, as usual, we are grateful to the noble Lord the Leader of the House for that Statement and explanation, and I join with him in thanking the Printed Paper Office and those who make it possible for the life of Parliament to continue at all. But he would be the first person to recognise that this is a very unsatisfactory situation. None of us can read what is said in another place; none of us knows even what has been said here if we were not in the Chamber. We do not know what is going to happen, because the Minutes of the day do not appear until the last moment. It is a situation which is profoundly unsatisfactory. The noble Lord tells us that this is the result of an unofficial strike. I do not want to make things any worse, but if Parliament is of any importance the Government should at some time take some steps to see that we get our Papers at the right time so that the life of Parliament can continue.


My Lords, I agree that the situation is very unsatisfactory, and everything that the noble Lord has said I have already thought myself. I will not attempt to deceive the House that everything is going along all right. But the noble Lord is not entirely accurate; we have the Commons Hansard for yesterday. But I fully admit this difficulty. I am not attempting to do more than indicate that the Government are taking steps, and the House authorities, in particular, are taking steps, to provide the best service they can to Members of both Houses of Parliament. I agree that there are important issues. I can only report as accurately and truthfully as I can on the situation. I will certainly take note of what the noble Lord and other noble Lords have said. I may say that I myself have spent a good many hours trying to cope with this problem.