§ 4.5 p.m.
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, with the permission of the House, I should like to make a statement on the shipbuilding strike situation in similar terms to that which is being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Minister of Labour and National Service.
Since my statement to the House yesterday, my right honourable friend has seen representatives of the Engineering Employers' Federation. They informed him that they are willing to go to arbitration and accept the award if the unions will do the same. The unions have, however, made it clear that their attitude towards arbitration is unchanged. My right honourable friend has just come from a meeting with the representatives of the Shipbuilding Employers' Federation, and he is meeting the union representatives later this afternoon. Your Lordships will appreciate that as my right honourable friend is in the middle of these discussions it would not be appropriate for me to make any further statement.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord for making that statement, and I appreciate the point to which he draws attention in the last few lines. However, I must say that I am disturbed about the way this matter is dragging on, and at the terms of the statement to-day as to the attitude of the Shipbuilding Employers' Federation, in which I see a sign of concerted action to revert to something like the pre-war practice in these matters, when determinations were made alone by the employers, which often led to long lockouts as well as strikes.
As I say, I am very disturbed about the matter. We are all anxious, in all parts of the country, and I am sure on 713 all sides of this House, to get peace in this difficult matter at the earliest possible moment, and I thought we were fairly well agreed in the House yesterday that the quickest way to do that is to get both sides together for negotiation. Instead of that, we merely have the repeat on the Shipbuilding Employers' Federation side that they will go to arbitration, which, as has already been indicated, the unions will not accept without negotiation. That has come to be, if not the established right, at any rate the established practice of the unions. It is a great pity that this matter should take this kind of aspect. I hope that when the next report is made to your Lordships' House we may hear of some change and of more concentration on getting both sides together, instead of finding things held up by the fact that the Minister has in advance not only offered arbitration but appointed a single arbitrator before there is any opportunity to get the two sides together to negotiate.
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, I can assure the noble Viscount that there is nothing my right honourable friend the Minister wants more than to get the two sides together with all possible speed.
My Lords, could the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, add to the statement he has made something about the attempt to delay the "Queen Mary," which I hear on all sides is creating a bad impression throughout the country, as many people think it is quite unjustified.
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, I understand that the Cunard Company would have taken the "Queen Mary" to sea at twelve noon on Saturday last if she had been scheduled to leave. All repairs were complete and only clearing up and boxing-in remained to be done. These were jobs which could quite properly be done by ship's engineers, and the union concerned, the Merchant Navy and Air Line Officers' Association, raised no objection. The refusal of shore gangs and tug crews to handle the "Queen Mary" was therefore unjustified, and the ship was clear of the strike. Her Majesty's Government, therefore, in the national interest, made Admiralty Dockyard tugs available to the master of the "Queen Mary" to get her away.