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Dockyards (Whitley Councils)

Volume 441: debated on Wednesday 30 July 1947

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asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he will arrange for regular weekly or fortnightly meetings of the Whitley Councils in His Majesty's dockyards for the purpose of achieving, through regular periodic discussions with representatives of the management and workers, schemes for the more efficient working of the dockyards and for utilising to the full any suggestions of value which operatives may desire make; or whether he will set up production committees in each of His Majesty's dockyards to work to the same ends.

Suggestions for improvements of methods and organisation of work are among matters which may be discussed at meetings of the yard committees. So far as workpeople are concerned, the Whitley constitution provides that these committees may meet as frequently as once a month, if necessary, at the request of either the staff side or the official side; and evidence shows that yard committees in each of the three home dockyards have met on four occasions during the past twelve months. In addition, following discussion with the trade union side of the Admiralty Industrial Council, in 1943, machinery for setting up joint production committees was agreed, and is still operative. Non-industrial Whitley committees in the dockyards are also empowered to meet as often as necessary, and full provision is made for the receipt and examination of suggestions for improvements in methods and organisation of work.

Is my hon. Friend aware that many men in the dockyards are of the opinion that the present machinery is not efficient enough to bring organisation and production up to the level at which it could be brought? Will he overhaul the machinery, to add to the efficiency of the dockyards, and at the same time give a lead on behalf of the Government to other backward industries?

This Question concerns the setting up of joint production committees. I have said that agreement has been arrived at with the trade union side that these committees will be operative. We shall be only too glad to welcome any assistance from the staff side.

Will my hon. Friend say what initiative will be exercised by his Department in ensuring that committee meetings take place more frequently than once a quarter? Is he aware that the opinion of many trade unionists in the Royal dockyards is that the facilities in those dockyards are not being used to the best advantage?

There may be that opinion, and there can be opinions about various other industries. We are trying to make the dockyards most efficient. The question of calling meetings oftener has been left to the staff side, for them to make application if they think that a useful purpose would be served by holding a meeting. I think it is far better to do it in that way than to call a meeting merely for the sake of having a talk.

Does not my hon. Friend agree that the trade unions concerned were signatories to this machinery, and that there is a clause in it whereby, if necessary, a special meeting can be called at the request of either side?

That is true, and I think it is far better to deal with the trade union side of the Admiralty Industrial Council rather than pursue this matter by question and answer.