Oral Answers to Questions — Textile Industry Dispute, Yorkshire.

– in the House of Commons on 5th August 1925.

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Photo of Mr Walter Forrest Mr Walter Forrest , Batley and Morley

39.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he can make any statement as to the suggestions, unofficial or official, of negotiations to settle the dispute in the heavy textile trade; and whether he has made, or will make, inquiries as to the effect on production of the proposed 5 per cent. reduction?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

Attempts have been made both by the Minister of Labour and by other persons, and are still being made, to bring together the parties in this dispute, but so far without success. The effect on production of the proposed reduction in wage rates is a matter of argument between the two parties, on which I cannot express an opinion.

Photo of Mr Philip Snowden Mr Philip Snowden , Colne Valley

Is it not a fact that the workpeople are quite willing that this matter should be referred to the Industrial Council? Are we to understand that the obstacle to these negotiations is on the part of the employers, and, in these circumstances, will the hon. Member renew his pressure upon the employers to induce them to agree to the matter being referred to the Industrial Council?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

I cannot answer definitely the specific point put with regard to the Industrial Council, but the representative of the Ministry is at this moment in Bradford, and I am quite certain—I can say with assurance—that anything he sees can be done in that direction will be done by him. This point will be borne in mind by him.

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

(Later): Does the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Riley) wish to put his private notice question, in view of the answer given to Question No. 39;

Photo of Mr Benjamin Riley Mr Benjamin Riley , Dewsbury

(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister what steps are being taken, or have been taken, to deal with the dispute in the woollen and worsted trade in. the West Riding of Yorkshire and Lancashire; and whether the Prime Minister, in view of the present deadlock, is prepared to institute an inquiry into the situation or invite the two parties to meet him with a view to finding a basis for settlement?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

I have been asked to reply. An officer of my Department has gone to Bradford and is in communication with both sides in the dispute in order to ascertain whether a meeting can be arranged. I do not consider that an inquiry would serve any useful purpose at the present moment.

Photo of Mr James Thomas Mr James Thomas , Derby

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in this case the refusal to go to arbitration is the employers' absolutely? When the workers refuse, great publicity is given to the fact, and could not the Government now say of their own accord—as they have the power to do so—that they will institute an independent inquiry, at least to give some encouragement to those who believe in conciliation?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

As I have already said, my right hon. Friend does not think at present the inquiry suggested by the right hon. Gentleman would serve any useful purpose.

Photo of Mr James Thomas Mr James Thomas , Derby

The present dispute has already lasted a week—[HON. MEMBERS: "A fortnight!"]—and it is likely to spread. Surely, if any inquiry is to be held, the sooner it is held the better.

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

My right Ron. Friend had all these considerations in mind in arriving at the conclusion which I have just indicated.

Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINTCK:

When does the Eon. Gentleman consider that an inquiry will serve any useful purpose?

Photo of Mr Ramsay Macdonald Mr Ramsay Macdonald , Aberavon

Has any report been sent from the Ministry's officer stating that he has approached the employers and suggested an inquiry or a conference or any organisation for conciliation, and that the employers have refused whilst the workers have accepted?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

I have not myself seen such a report, and I do not know whether there is such a report in existence. The officer in question is still there, and therefore a final report has not yet been received.

Photo of Mr James Thomas Mr James Thomas , Derby

Cannot the Government themselves institute an inquiry before this dispute spreads? If the employers refuse to take part, surely the Government have precedents for setting up an inquiry themselves?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

That is really the same question which the right hon. Gentleman put previously, and the answer is that my right hon. Friend has considered this, and he does not think that an inquiry would serve any useful purpose at the present time.

Photo of Mr William Greenwood Mr William Greenwood , Stockport

Will the Government consider bringing forward proposals for compulsory arbitration in these trade disputes?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

That is an entirely different question, raising very broad issues which cannot be dealt with by question and answer.

Photo of Lord Henry Cavendish-Bentinck Lord Henry Cavendish-Bentinck , Nottingham South

When is the Labour Ministry going to make some contribution to industrial peace? So far they have only knocked people off unemployment benefit.

Photo of Mr Benjamin Riley Mr Benjamin Riley , Dewsbury

Does the Minister appreciate the situation which exists in the West Riding—that there are now over 1,000 mills standing idle, and 200,000 men, women and children involved, and does he recognise that great suffering is likely to occur unless a settlement is arrived at? May I also ask if, in his replies, the hon. Gentleman has borne in mind the fact that his officer has been there for 10 days and that further steps might now be taken.

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

My right hon. Friend is cognisant of the seriousness of the dispute and its consequences, and for that reason he sent the officer up to Bradford, and the officer is there now doing what he can to bring this unfortunate dispute to a close.

Photo of Mr Ramsay Macdonald Mr Ramsay Macdonald , Aberavon

May we not bring this to a very definite issue? Is the decision of the Minister not to establish a court of inquiry the result of inquiries made by his officer at Bradford to which the. answer from the employers was that they did not want an inquiry?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

The right hon. Gentleman must not read more into my answer than there is in it. My answer was, "I do not consider that an inquiry would serve any useful purpose at the present moment."

Photo of Mr John Jones Mr John Jones , West Ham Silvertown

Does it require a stoppage of the entire industry of the country before the Government take any action? Is it because this industry cannot stop every other industry that the Government are not going to do anything?

Photo of Mr James Hudson Mr James Hudson , Huddersfield

What are the grounds upon which the Minister would consider that an inquiry should be held? Why is it at this moment, when a very important section of our trade is involved in a serious dispute, no inquiry can be considered, whilst in another matter an inquiry has been agreed to? What are the conditions which prevent the institution of an inquiry in this case?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

Conditions obviously vary in different cases, and in the present case, as I have said, my right hon. Friend thinks no useful purpose could be served at the moment by an inquiry—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] —

Photo of Mr David Kirkwood Mr David Kirkwood , Dumbarton District of Burghs

Because the miners have instilled fear into those in power.

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

—or that an inquiry would be likely to bring any useful results at present.

Mr. MacDOMALD:

May we ask whether this matter will not be considered during to-day, so that there might be a chance of a different reply to this question if it is repeated to-morrow?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

I will certainly go into it, and with your consent, Mr. Speaker, if the right hon. Gentleman cares to put down a private notice question for to-morrow, I am sure my right hon. Friend will be only too ready to answer.