Oral Answers to Questions — Electrical Power Industry (Dispute)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th December 1949.

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Photo of Mr Anthony Eden Mr Anthony Eden , Warwick and Leamington 12:00 am, 14th December 1949

(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Labour whether he has any further statement to make about the situation in the electrical power industry.

Photo of Mr George Isaacs Mr George Isaacs , Southwark North

I am informed that the level of output at the power stations affected by the strike is rising, but that some load shedding is unavoidable. The trade union representatives on the National Joint Industrial Council this morning met the shop stewards from the various power stations in order to discuss the present situation and the events leading up to it. The meeting is still in progress.

Photo of Mr Anthony Eden Mr Anthony Eden , Warwick and Leamington

Will the right hon. Gentleman keep us posted and give us what information he can on this situation, which seems to be no more promising than it was last night? Is the statement correct, about which I have been informed and read on the tape, that they adjourned this morning after two and a half hours without reaching any decision at all?

Photo of Mr George Isaacs Mr George Isaacs , Southwark North

It is correct that they adjourned, but they only adjourned for lunch. [Laughter.] There is nothing to laugh about in this; it is a cold fact. They have resumed their discussions, and I have been in indirect contact with their leader, who has gone back into the conference and has promised to let me know immediately what the conference decides. For what it is worth, that man expressed his optimism.

Photo of Mr Anthony Eden Mr Anthony Eden , Warwick and Leamington

I should like to address one other Question to the Minister of Fuel and Power. Can the Minister say what is the position about the traffic tonight on the Underground Railway? Is it true, for instance, that there is to be a 15 per cent. reduction in that respect?

Photo of Mr Alfred Robens Mr Alfred Robens , Wansbeck

May I first express the apologies of my right hon. Friend for not being in his place in order to reply to the right hon. Gentleman, but he is fulfilling a long-standing engagement in the Kent coalfield and will not be back until this evening.

In answer to the right hon. Gentleman's Question, the position is that generation is steadily improving. Something between 30 and 35 per cent. Is now in operation and as the personnel come in and are trained it will improve. At the peak hours, however, there will be something like 25 per cent. less electricity being generated than is actually required, and to that extent, unfortunately, there will be some interference at the peak hours with public transport and other users of electricity.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

Is it not the case that the Minister of Labour misled the House on Monday when he said that no notification had been given of the dispute and the possibility of a strike at this station, and will he now withdraw the troops and thus give an opportunity for an amicable settlement of this dispute, which I am certain can be settled if the troops are withdrawn?

Photo of Mr George Isaacs Mr George Isaacs , Southwark North

I did not mislead the House. I stated the cold facts, and it is the people who have misled these men who ought to answer for their conduct.

Photo of Mr Arthur Palmer Mr Arthur Palmer , Wimbledon

Will not my right hon. Friend say a word of thanks and encouragement to the technical staff and the engineers in these power stations whose skill and sense of duty during the last few days in supervising the labour coming in from outside and whose sense of duty to the wider trade union movement have enabled to be maintained in a very good fashion the public supply of electricity over the past few days?

Photo of Mr George Isaacs Mr George Isaacs , Southwark North

Yes, Sir, I think it is right that the House should be aware of the care and attention and the extra work which these men have put in, but I think they are also to be praised, not only for having done their duty, but for not following the misguided course which other people have fallen for.

Photo of Viscount  Turnour Viscount Turnour , Horsham

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the unprecedented use—however necessary it may be—not made by his predecessors, of soldiers and sailors in these disputes means a serious interference in the training of National Service men, and will he say what steps he is taking to obtain volunteers in their place?

Photo of Mr Stanley Awbery Mr Stanley Awbery , Bristol Central

As negotiations are proceeding through the usual channels between the representatives of the employers and men, will the Minister give a report on this conference immediately it is terminated?

Photo of Mr George Isaacs Mr George Isaacs , Southwark North

I have already undertaken if it is possible, with your consent, Mr. Speaker, to give the House any further information, and I shall very gladly do so. But may I ask the House to remember that when dynamite is lying about, it is easy to have an explosion. The least said on this matter the better.

Photo of Viscount  Turnour Viscount Turnour , Horsham

Surely, the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to make some acknowledgment of the troops' services—up to the moment he has made none at all—and, in view of the interference with training, to make a further appeal for civilian volunteers?

Photo of Mr George Isaacs Mr George Isaacs , Southwark North

I expressed appreciation of the work done by the Services at the earliest opportunity.

Several Hon. Members:


Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

I do not think there is any point in pursuing the matter further.