23. Mr. Lee
asked the Minister of Labour whether he is now in a position to make a statement with regard to the dispute between D. C. Thomson Limited and the National Society of Operative Printers and Assistants.
§ Mr. Watkinson
As the House will be aware, the firm of D. C. Thomson Limited informed my right hon. and learned Friend in September last that they would cease their insistence on any of their employees signing an agreement not to belong to a trade union. This settled the fundamental issue of principle underlying this dispute, and the trade unions decided on 17th September to take the necessary 747 action to end any ban imposed on supplies and distribution affecting the firm. There remained the question of the reinstatement of the men, members of the National Society of Operative Printers and Assistants, who had come out on strike at Glasgow last April.
It was hoped that, as soon as the firm's supplies and distribution of its publications were restored to normal, conditions would be created in which a mutually acceptable settlement of this outstanding question might be found, but I regret that this has not so far proved to be possible. A deputation from the Trades Union Congress on this subject was received last Friday by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Labour, and consideration is being given to what further steps could be taken.
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that to expect any trade union to call an end to a dispute while a considerable number of its members is still being victimised in pursuance of a principle which we as a nation have accepted within the convention of the I.L.O. is really asking too much? Would he ask his right hon. and learned Friend whether he would now agree that arbitration should be resorted to?
§ Mr. Watkinson
I hope the hon. Member will not press that subject at the moment. I am sure he will agree that it is the desire of my right hon. and learned Friend to get a settlement as soon as he can, and I think that if we argue the point too much at the moment it will undoubtedly make that task much more difficult.
§ Mr. Woodburn
Would not the Minister ask the Prime Minister to use his longstanding friendship with D. C. Thomson Limited to end this dispute?
§ Sir W. Smithers
On a point of order. Might I point out that on the very important question of D. C. Thomson Limited not one question was allowed from this side of the House?
§ Mr. Speaker
That is a matter for the discretion of the Chair. The answer of the Minister seemed to indicate that further consideration was being given to the question.