(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity if she will make a statement on the terms of the agreement which has been reached between B.O.A.C. and its pilots.
At a meeting of B.O.A.C. and B.A.L.P.A. representatives under my Department's chairmanship yesterday arrangements for a return to work by B.O.A.C. were discussed.The talks covered clarification on the scope of the forthcoming negotiations on pay structure under the independent chairmanship of Professor Wood, an undertaking by both sides that there would be no victimisation by either side, including measures to ensure that the pension and seniority rights of pilots who have been on strike are not adversely affected and arrangements for the restoration as soon as possible of the Corporation's services. At the conclusion of the discussions, B.A.L.P.A. called off the strike and B.O.A.C. has agreed to reinstate all pilots on the Corporation's payroll from tomorrow, when its services will restart. B.O.A.C. and B.A.L.P.A. have met today under Professor Wood's chairmanship to begin their negotiations on pay structure. He will in due course prepare a general report on these negotiations which will be available to assist the P.I.B. in the reference on pilots' pay and productivity which is at present before it.
I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House welcome the progress that has been made so far and also hope that the continued meetings and negotiations will result in a full settlement which is satisfactory both to B.O.A.C. and the pilots. I am sure that no hon. Member on either side of the House would want to do or say anything today that would hinder a speedy settlement.
I endorse everything that my hon. Friend has said. As I have said in my reply, negotiations have already started on the detailed pay talks under Professor Wood this morning, and we must all hope that they will reach a satisfactory conclusion. In the meantime the pilots are going back to work.
There are still some issues outstanding. Can the right hon. Lady give us some idea of what those issues are? A number of contrasting statements have been made from both sides. Further, can the right hon. Lady give us some indication of the nature of Professor Wood's position? Is he an arbitrator? Has any agreement been arrived at that his findings will be held to be binding on either side?
There are no issues outstanding which would prevent the resumption of work. Agreement has been made to resume work as from one minute after midnight tonight, the earliest practicable date by which B.O.A.C. could arrange for services to be resumed. Professor Wood's terms of reference were, first, to assist the parties in finding a basis for a resumption of work and, secondly, to help them in the forthcoming negotiations on pay structure and other outstanding matters—for example, the pilots' agreement for services.
Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that no agreement will be approved by her unless it comes strictly within all the criteria laid down in the prices and incomes policy?
In my statement, I said that Professor Wood will in due course be making a general report to the P.I.B. on the outcome of the negotiations. It has always been understood and accepted by the pilots that at the conclusion of their talks with B.O.A.C. the outcome would be referred to the P.I.B.
To bring about a better relationship between the management and air crew, will the right hon. Lady take into account the fact that Sir Giles Guthrie has been carrying a tremendous burden as chairman of a large executive for four and a half years? Will she consider filling the existing vacancy on the Board with a senior captain who can bring about the kind of liaison which most other airlines have?
I am sure that the hon. Member will realise that the composition of the Board of B.O.A.C. is not for me, but for the President of the Board of Trade.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the whole trade union movement will watch these negotiations with a great deal of interest, and especially their outcome? In this case, will her well-known theme of linking any pay increases with productivity be maintained?
Certainly—these are pay and productivity talks. I can tell my hon. Friend that they have always been accepted by the pilots in that sense. We have made it clear time and again that pay linked with productivity is within the criteria.
We all hope for a happy outcome to these negotiatons, but is the right hon. Lady aware that a great deal of carrying trade has been lost by Britain due to this dispute? Will she ask her right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade seriously to reconsider his turning down of applications for licences by various independent companies—for example, Caledonian Airways—which would have helped to fill the gap while this dispute was going on?
I am sure that the House realises that matters like this are not for me but for my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, who will no doubt note what the hon. Member has said.
Following up the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme), which is a very important one, will my right hon. Friend say—now that the question of incomes is an essential part of discussions in the House—what precisely are the terms of reference of Professor Wood? Secondly, will the question of comparability with airlines in other parts of the country be included? Thirdly, are we to understand that this is to be a genuine productivity agreement and not a "phoney" productivity agreement?
I thought that I had made the terms of reference of Professor Wood quite clear. They are to help the parties in the forthcoming negotiations on pay structure and on other outstanding matters, such as the pilots' agreement for service. He will preside over the talks to help the parties reach agreement. I have also made it clear that he will then make a report to the Prices and Incomes Board on the outcome of the negotiations and help it in relation to the reference on pilots' pay and productivity that is currently before the Board. I am sure that we can accept that the normal procedure in these matters is being followed.
In view of the fact that the pilots are reported to be negotiating for an increase about 15 times above the ceiling of the prices and incomes policy, may we assume that the talks at the right hon. Lady's Department anticipated a roughly similar kind of increase in productivity?
I have said time and again that these are pay and productivity talks. They have always been accepted as such. There clearly must be a relationship between the two sides. I suggest that we wait and see what comes out of the talks.