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Ministry Of Labour (Chancellor Of The Duchy Of Lancaster)

Volume 643: debated on Wednesday 28 June 1961

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(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the Government changes announced last night, he will state the arrangements that he is making for answering Questions about industrial disputes during the absence of the Minister of Labour.

I have been asked to reply.

In accordance with the usual practice, Questions addressed to the Minister of Labour will, in the ordinary way, be answered during the Minister's short absence abroad by the Parliamentary Secretary. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will deal with any Parliamentary business—

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will deal with any Parliamentary business of particular importance relating to the responsibilities of the Ministry.

As I understood—I find it very hard to believe—the Home Secretary said that his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster would help out on this subject. May I ask whether he thinks it really is a contribution to peace in industrial relations that the man who is known in every factory in Luton—and, for all I know, in every factory in the country—as "Chuck it Charlie" should be brought into this field?

Secondly, may I ask the Home Secretary whether he is aware that the only public announcement that I have been able to find which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has made on these affairs was when he said that wages must take second place to prices? All these things being known, does the Home Secretary think that this is a particularly helpful arrangement? Is he really telling us that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will not only answer in the House, but will also handle disputes outside the House?

I was asked, in the first place, about Parliamentary business. I think that both the House and the country will ignore the observations of a personal character made by the right hon. Gentleman about my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. The Prime Minister is perfectly satisfied that this is the best arrangement that could be made. [Laughter.] My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour will—[Interruption.]

Order. I have the greatest difficulty in being sure that the Leader of the House is remaining in order unless I can hear what he is saying.

I was about to say, Mr. Speaker, that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour will be returning next week, and that I think that these arrangements are the very best that can be made in the meantime.

There has been, as you have observed, Mr. Speaker, a certain amount of noise. Did I understand the Leader of the House to be saying that the credit of the Government is so low that this is the best they can do in the meantime? If so, it is a miserable best.

We are quite accustomed to the attitude of the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) when he thinks that he is on a funny point. I can assure him that he has not got across to the House this afternoon. I am sure that the arrangement made by my right hon. Friend will be to the complete satisfaction of the House.

Is the Leader of the House aware that there may be a point in saying that we must not underrate the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, because he has great experience in threatening the Government with strike action? It may be that the Government are working on the theory that poachers turned gamekeepers are very experienced, though I would advise the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Rouse that he should remember that we are apt to look askance at gamekeepers these days.

Is the Leader of the House aware that, quite apart from answering in this House, a great responsibility rests upon any person making decisions in the Ministry of Labour at a time like this? Can the Leader of the House assure us that when decisions are taken by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster about what will take place in the event of trouble in industry, he, and he alone, will accept the responsibility for the outcome of those decisions?

We must not take too simple a view of this. When there is an important industrial issue, the decision is, naturally, taken by the Government as a whole and under the leadership of the Prime Minister. The House may be perfectly satisfied that in a period of acute industrial difficulty the Government will take the responsibility, led by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

Will the Leader of the House tell us who will do the job of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster while he is applying his mind to industrial relations?

I think that the broad-ranging abilities of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will be sufficient to cover both duties.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster represents Luton with an increased majority and that the majority of the men there work in the motor industry, which shows that they consider that he is the best qualified man to do the job? Furthermore, may I suggest that if the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would devote his attention to unofficial strike leaders, people outside the House would be more satisfied with him?

Is the Home Secretary aware that some of us are even more nervous about what is to happen to the Common Market while the Minister of Labour is abroad than we are about what is to happen to industrial relations in this country?

Will the right hon. Gentleman take up the point about how far the House was misled yesterday, in so far as the Prime Minister was not frank with hon. Members in view of the fact that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour at that time was already on his way out? Did it come as a surprise to the best Prime Minister that we have at present when he found that the hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Green) had been appointed?

There is a normal practice relating to announcements of Ministerial appointments. They are not announced ahead and cognisance of them is not taken until they are announced. That exactly explains the position as it was yesterday.

In view of the fact that there is now a rather serious position in the motor car industry, has the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster any statement to make today?