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Industrial Dispute (Rail Services)

Volume 888: debated on Tuesday 18 March 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment what records his Department keeps regarding the extent of disruption of rail services by industrial disputes.

My Department keeps no records of this kind. Details of any disruption to rail services are given to the Government by British Rail.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it would be a good thing if a record were kept of the extent of the inconvenience and the loss of working hours caused to commuters who suffer from endless go-slows, work-to-rules and inter-union disputes which occur on the railways during the winter months almost every year? Would it not be a good idea to institute an inquiry into industrial relations in this nationalised industry before embarking on the nationalisation of other industries and bringing them down to the same level?

I do not think that the kind of inquiry which the hon. Gentleman suggests would be helpful. I deplore the inconvenience and trouble which so many commuters were put to in the recent dispute. I would not describe that as an inter-union dispute. The results of the attitude taken by the Government, the National Union of Railwaymen and the board show that we were taking the right course. I know that there were earlier disputes on the railways, and I hope that the general restructuring agreement reached last year will contribute to ensuring that we do not return to difficulties of that kind.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that thanks to the efforts of the NUR and the sensible approach of his Department to the signalmen's dispute the matter was concluded satisfactorily and fairly speedily? Will my right hon. Friend ignore the nonsense uttered by Opposition Members who would not know a railway signal box from a greenhouse?

I agree with my hon. Friend that the NUR deserves congratulations for the effort it made to bring these difficulties to an end. I believe that the signalmen have taken the right course in seeking to settle the matter through the machinery of the NUR.