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Workers (Deputations To Minister)

Volume 387: debated on Tuesday 23 March 1943

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asked the Minister of Labour the grounds for his refusal to receive deputations, even when accompanied by Members of this House, unless also accompanied by trade union officials?

I assume that my hon. Friends refers to cases where workers seek to make direct representations with regard to matters which are properly dealt with through the recognised negotiating machinery of the industry. This must necessarily have the effect of weakening the authority of the unions, and it is my right hon. Friend's practice not to receive such direct representations if made independently of the unions. My right hon. Friend would ask members to support him in keeping these matters within the proper agreed channels.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this has been the use and wont in this House to my personal knowledge for 20 years, and that this bar was never put up until the present Minister became Minister of Labour, and that it means abrogating the power of the House of Commons to the trade union movement? I want to know what the hon. Gentleman has to say in reply to that.

I would suggest that it is not abrogating the power of the House of Commons, and that where constituents of Members come seeking to see the Minister they have not been refused, but that when they have come making direct representations with regard to trade practices the recognised channel is the trade union.

Is it not unreasonable to expect the hon. Gentleman to answer a Supplementary Question of such great gravity, and ought not the Government to reconsider this whole question? Is it not a very serious matter indeed when Ministers can refuse to receive Members of this House?

Arising out of this Question and the replies given, has the Minister not in fact stated that a Member of this House wishing, for certain purposes, to take a deputation is to be refused unless he is accompanied by a trade union official? Is not that a complete innovation and against all the traditional usages of this House?

I think the statement that has been made is inconsistent with the reply that has been given.

I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he will look into this matter and have a suitable reply made in this House.

I have not previously been involved in this field of discussion, but I will certainly look into it. I cannot think that the supplementary suggestion that was made by the hon. Gentleman was in any way warranted by the answer.

If the Prime Minister will look at the Question on the Paper and take that in conjunction with the reply given by the Minister, he will find that the matter does arise.

Arising out of that reply by the Prime Minister, is the Prime Minister aware that if he reads the Question he will see that the Minister of Labour has laid it down definitely not only to Members but to Cabinet Ministers that they are not to receive a deputation, supposing it is headed by a Member of Parliament, unless that deputation and the Member of Parliament have also a trade union official with them?

We have had a very great success in this war in getting along without great stoppages in industry, and we have done it very largely by our reliance on the great trade unions. I am sure that Members of Parliament would wish to have their co-operation as fully as possible.