asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity whether she will intervene in the 16-week old dispute over apprentices at Vickers' Barrow-in-Furness shipyard.
Officers of my Department, who have been in close touch with the company and the union since the dispute began, had discussions with both sides last week. A basis for settling the apprentices' dispute has been worked out, but this dispute has become linked with a demarcation issue at the same plant between A.E.F. and the plumbers' union, as a result of which 2,000 engineering workers are on strike. Efforts are now being made to refer this issue to a demarcation court to be set up by the parties, and my Department will continue to give every assistance in settling the outstanding difficulties.
I am glad to hear that the right hon. Lady's Department is now busily trying to sort out this strike, but would not she agree that this is one of the most fatuous examples of imbecility and stupidity in industrial relations, stretching over 18 weeks, that this country has experienced for a long time? Will she conduct a full inquiry into the whole circumstances of it and publish a White Paper so that all may know how badly conducted this exercise has been?
What the hon. Gentleman has suggested would not be exactly helpful, particularly as we believe that a settlement is now possibly within reach. Of course, one deplores the loss of production as a result of protracted disputes. However, I believe that hopeful developments are now taking place; and I do not want to say anything which might jeopardise them.