§ Mr. NAYLOR
asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware that the officials of the Conciliation Department of the Ministry do not approach the parties in a trade dispute unless directly requested to do so by the parties affected; and, if so, whether, seeing how important it is that intervention should take place before strike or lock-out notices expire, he will consider the advisability of making a practice of offering the services of the Department as soon as notices have been tendered by either party in a dispute?
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
From his knowledge of the difficulties attendant820W upon trade disputes and apprehended disputes, the hon. Member will be aware that it is impracticable to lay down any rigid rules for the exercise of the good offices of the Ministry of Labour. Each case must be considered in the light of the circumstances that surround it. It is, I think, well known that the services of the Ministry are always at the disposal of the parties to a dispute if they desire to utilise them. So far as intervention by the Ministry is concerned, it is the policy of the Department not to intervene in a dispute where effective joint machinery exists unless and until that machinery has broken down or has failed to effect a settlement. In practice, officials of the Ministry are generally in touch informally with the parties if circumstances are such that a trade dispute of any importance may seriously be apprehended. Premature action on my part, whether in inviting parties formally to meet me to discuss the situation or in taking the procedure elaborated in the Industrial Courts Act, is open to the same objection in either case, namely, that the certainty or even the strong likelihood of early intervention would impair the value of existing machinery for negotiation between the parties themselves.