§ 4.4 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I apologise for interrupting the debate, but with your permission I should like to repeat a Statement that is being made in another place by my right honourable friend the First Secretary to the Treasury about the industrial dispute at the Cornwall House Publications warehouse of Her Majesty's Stationery Office. The Statement is as follows:
"After a pay claim by H.M. Stationery Office employees at the warehouse who are members of the Society of Graphical and Allied Trades, discussions have been proceeding for some time about a proposed pay and productivity agreement. The S.O.G.A.T. chapel at the warehouse came out on strike last week. They have refused to return to work until a final agreement is concluded. The details of an agreement have been extensively discussed in negotiations which are temporarily adjourned while various points are considered. The House will understand that it is difficult for me to say more at this stage without possibly prejudicing the negotiations."
1288 My Lords, I should also like to say a few words about the effect of this dispute, so far as your Lordships' House is concerned. In the first place, I am assured that an adequate supply of all Parliamentary Papers (which includes new prints of Bills and Amendments, the daily Hansard and Minutes of Proceedings) will continue to be available in the Printed Paper Office. Your Lordships may remember that I indicated last week that the problem is not so much the availability of printed copies of Parliamentary Papers as their postal distribution. The House authorities are making every effort to ensure that postal distribution of at any rate the Minutes of Proceedings and Notices and Orders of the Day, will continue. I hope that this may also extend to other Papers, but I trust that noble Lords will appreciate that it is essential we should all make every effort we can to collect any Papers from the Printed Paper Office ourselves—and particularly prints of Bills, Amendments and so on. Perhaps I may add that we should, if possible, retain copies we have taken or even perhaps, if we have no further use for them, return them to the Printed Paper Office. I confess that there have been times when I have felt rather guilty about getting the fourth copy of a Bill in a few days. I am sure that noble Lords will make every effort to assist the Officers of the House who are doing all they can to assist us.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Lord for repeating that Statement. I do not of course want to say anything that would prejudice negotiations; but would the noble Lord perhaps agree that this strike illustrates the lack at the present time of appropriate mechanism to enable strikes of this kind to be dealt with quickly—and particularly strikes which directly affect the national interest? Would the noble Lord the Leader of the House also agree that it is the duty of the Government so to arrange things that Parliament can conduct its business properly?
§ LORD BYERS
My Lords, I do not want to comment on the substance of the Statement but I think that the whole House will appreciate what the Printed Paper Office are doing to overcome the difficulties that they are facing.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I appreciate the noble Lord's remarks. I do not think I will comment on the wider issues which we have recently debated on the White Paper. I note what the noble Lord has said: he emphasised the responsibility of the Government. The Government will do their utmost to cope with any difficult situation as it develops.
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON
My Lords, we appreciate what the Printed Paper Office are doing and will co-operate in every way. May I ask the noble Lord this question? Will copies of the Finance Bill be available for collection from the Printed Paper Office?
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I do not know whether copies of the Finance Bill are actually available in this House, officially, at the moment. But if they are, they are limited in number. I know that this is a sensitive issue down at the other end, and I hope that we shall exercise economy in the matter. I am told that there are some copies available—though I hope there will not be an ugly rush to get them.