Skip to main content

Post Office Workers (Industrial Action)

Volume 933: debated on Monday 13 June 1977

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


asked the Secretary of State for Industry what plans he has to change the law in relation to organising Post Office workers to strike.

I intend to propose amendments to Post Office legislation so as to enable Post Office workers to take normal industrial action without the fear of incurring criminal prosecution.

Has the right hon. Gentleman consulted the Liberal Party about whether its Members will support such legislation? [HON. MEMBERS: "Where are they? "] Secondly, in view of the Lord President's obvious belief that the general posting public would like their mail interrupted so that Post Office workers may pursue political vendettas in other countries, can the right hon. Gentleman at the same time arrange for the Post Office monopoly to be broken so that those of us who wish our mail to be delivered may rely on other organisations to do it?

The Post Office monopoly will not be broken arising out of any changes which I propose to make.

As for the question of consultation, we shall be consulting a wide range of views, including the Post Office management and the Post Office Users' National Council. If the arrangements existing between the Government and the Liberal Party exist by the time that I bring forward proposals, I. have no doubt that we shall consult the Liberal Party too. I dare say that the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkes-bury (Mr. Ridley) will have views which he will express from time to time. I hope to bring forward proposals as soon as possible.

Will my right hon. Friend, who no doubt recalls that Post Office workers recently gave their support to people out on strike at the Grunwick Processing Laboratories, state what action he proposes to take, in view of the fact that at least 50 people have been arrested outside those laboratories today, to ensure that the ACAS recommendation is carried out, tht ACAS is recognised and that this bitter and unnecessary dispute is brought to an end?

I have heard that there has been difficulty at Grunwick today, although I have not received an authoritative report. The matter no doubt will be considered by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment, who, I am sure, will take steps to see whether he can be of assistance.

Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to include the right of Post Office workers selectively to black or to refuse to deliver mail on political grounds?

I cannot understand why Conservative Members are getting themselves worked up into a lather about this matter.

If the hon. Gentleman will give me time, I shall try to do so. The hon. Gentleman should contain himself, be patient and not be so impetuous, because usually when he is impetuous he is extremely offensive. The decision of the Court of Appeal on the Gouriet case put in doubt the right of Post Office workers to strike, a right which we had always thought existed and which the previous Conservative Government thought existed. We are trying to remove the uncertainty.

As the Post Office has no monopoly in the collection and delivery of parcels and newspapers, will the right hon. Gentleman use the opportunity of the legislation to remove the monopoly in the collection and delivery of letters?

No, Sir. Our proposal will be laid before the House in due course to clear up the uncertainty. When there was a strike of Post Office workers in 1971, the previous Conservative Government took no action. No legislative changes were made then nor, as far as I can recall, did the Conservative Government take any action when there was a selective boycott of France in 1973. The Conservatives must not have double standards in this matter.