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Volume 130: debated on Tuesday 29 March 1988

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To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many working days were lost through strikes in November 1987; and what was the comparable figure for November 1978.

In November 1978 almost 2 million working days were lost through strikes. In November 1987 the figure was 103,000—the lowest November figure for 29 years.

Is not the fact that the November 1987 figure was one of the lowest for many years a tribute to the wisdom of the Government's industrial relations policies, which are recognised by some unions, though not by the Transport and General Workers Union, whose job-destroying attitudes apparently continue unabated?

There is certainly no question but that the TGWU has found a new way of destroying jobs, which will be widely condemned throughout the country. I have no doubt that the Government's reform of industrial relations law has led to some of the improvements that we have seen in those figures.

How many days were lost in strike action in Dundee in the early part of this decade when, as a direct result of Government action, 3,000 Dundee jute workers were redundant—

I am asking the Secretary of State how many strikes took place in 1979 and 1980 when 3,000 jute workers in Dundee were made redundant as a direct result of Government action. Does the Secretary of State believe that there will be more strikes, or fewer strikes, if employers blackmail Britain into selecting particular unions and force employees to join those unions?

That is a particularly pathetic defence of the TGWU's position. The figure that I can give is that the TGWU has probably lost Dundee more than 1,000 jobs.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the lesson of November is that the Government's legislation has worked and has shown clearly how effective it is? Surely another lesson that has come out of Dundee is that more legislation will probably be required to deal with such situations. Ford was prepared to come to Dundee, but required one-union agreement, and perhaps we should bring in legislation to make that possible in future.

I hope, first and foremost, that the unions concerned come to their senses and take the sensible action that is necessary before we need to consider further legislation.

If the Government are so concerned about the number of working days lost through strikes, why are they so indifferent to the far greater number of working days lost through industrial injury? Is the Minister not ashamed of the fact that the fatal and serious accident rate has increased since 1979 by 36 per cent. in manufacturing? Are not the Government directly responsible because they have cut the factory inspectorate by 20 per cent. and the annual number of prosecutions by 17 per cent.? —[Interruption.]

Order. Hon. Members should not point across the Chamber. I am listening to the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher).

The hon. Gentleman's supplementary question has nothing whatever to do with the original question, but clearly we are concerned about industrial injuries and all our policies will be pursued to seek to reduce them. The hon. Gentleman should recognise that the number of working days lost in each of the past two years is the lowest for 10 years and the number of stoppages in each of the past three years is the lowest since 1940. That is the Government's achievement and it contrasts strongly with the industrial anarchy that the hon. Gentleman left behind him.