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Shipyard, Birkenhead (Demarcation Dispute)

Volume 644: debated on Wednesday 12 July 1961

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asked the Minister of Labour what action he is now taking to end the inter-union demarcation dispute at Cammell Laird's shipbuilding yard at Birkenhead.

The General Council of the Trades Union Congress arranged a meeting of the two unions concerned in this dispute on 6th July. They agreed to seek clarification of an earlier arbitration award dealing with work claimed by each of them. I have arranged for the arbitrator to hear representatives of the unions on Friday next.

Whilst welcoming that statement, may I ask if my right hon. Friend does not agree that these continued disputes are completely destroying confidence in the British shipbuilding industry? Does he not consider that there is a duty on his Department to take positive steps to prevent their recurrence instead of intervening at a late stage when the damage has already been done?

I agree with my hon. Friend about the very serious effects which these disputes have. I think that they do great damage to the industry as a whole, as well as, of course, to the individual men who work in the industry. I should point out that there is a demarcation procedure agreement which has been agreed by the unions. I hope that they can make more use of it. As a result of the meeting on 6th July, a member of the General Council of the T.U.C. is to act as chairman of a meeting between the executives of the two unions. The object is to go over the whole question of the relationship of these unions and the operation of the procedure agreement dealing with demarcation issues. No date has been fixed for the meeting, but I hope that useful results will flow from it.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise—surprising though it may seem to him—how relieved we on this side of the House are to see him back again and how glad we are that we could prevent his stand-in from doing any damage while he was away?

Order. It is very difficult to discover how that arises from the Answer.