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British Railways (Disputes)

Volume 465: debated on Wednesday 1 June 1949

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(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Labour if he has any further statement to make regarding the position on the railways.

Yes, Sir. The Railway Executive yesterday made proposals to the Executives of the National Union of Railwaymen and the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen for joint action designed to explain to the men the conditions under which lodging away from home will apply on the east coast route, and to give them an assurance that the whole matter would be carefully and sympathetically considered. The National Union of Railwaymen have indicated that they have not found it possible to co-operate with the Railway Executive in this matter.

As regards the Sunday strikes in the North Eastern Region, my attention has been drawn to a report that the National Union of Railwaymen Executive regret its inability to take further action. In the circumstances, on my instructions a letter in the following terms has been addressed to the General Secretary of the Union this morning. The letter reads:
"The Minister's attention has been drawn to a report in the Press that following the talks which your Executive had with the Railway Executive regarding the Sunday strikes in the North Eastern Region, a statement was made on behalf of your Executive regretting its inability to take further action.
The Minister finds it difficult to believe the accuracy of this report in face of the serious dislocation of railway traffic and the inconvenience to the travelling public caused by these Sunday strikes. He has accordingly asked me to invite your Executive to inform him of the steps that they are taking to ensure there will be no continuance of this form of unofficial action."
As regards the negotiations on the wage claim, I am informed that invitations to a meeting on Friday have been addressed to and accepted by the National Union of Railwaymen, the Railway Clerks' Association, the Employees' Side of the Shopmen's Council and the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in all quarters of the House there will be general agreement with the letter he has addressed to the Union and the universal hope that that letter will produce satisfactory results?

Would it not have been better to have addressed a letter to the Railway Executive asking them to meet the demands of the menβ€”β€”

Is the Minister aware that if a strike that is being backed by American and British military officials in Berlin and is receiving the backing of the "Daily Herald"β€”β€”

The hon. Gentleman should not have gone out of his way to make these imputations, which were most unfair to both sides, and I would reprove him very strongly.

The situation is far too dangerous to be inflamed by unnecessary speeches, and it is unfortunate that an organisation with which the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) is associated has urged members that the only way to get redress is by unofficial strikes. At the moment the continuation of these "go slow" strikes is only handicapping the negotiators and making it more difficult for them to get a redress of the men's grievances.