D. C. Thomson & Co., Dundee (Dispute)

Oral Answers to Questions — Employment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th April 1952.

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Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Tradeston 12:00 am, 29th April 1952

asked the Minister of Labour if he will make a statement on the reasons which led to the dismissal of a machine room employee from the Glasgow staff of D. C. Thomson & Company, newspaper proprietors, Dundee; and what steps he is taking to deal with the trade dispute which has developed as a consequence of the dismissal.

Photo of Sir Walter Monckton Sir Walter Monckton , Bristol West

As regards the first part of the Question, I am afraid I am not in possession of agreed views. The firm informs me that the man over whom the present difficulty at Glasgow arose was not dismissed but left the firm's employment. The other men involved also left their employment.

On the other hand, the union in communication to me and in public statements have declared that the man was dismissed without reason and that the other men, with the support of the union, have withdrawn their labour as a challenge to the authority of the firm in denying any workers employed by them the right to join a trade union if they choose. They have declared that there will be a full resumption of work immediately the non-union condition of labour is withdrawn.

As regards the second part of the Question, my officers have discussed with the firm in what way the Department can be of assistance in helping to resolve this dispute, but the firm do not feel that any attempt at conciliation would serve a useful purpose. My Department's services are, of course, available at all times if they can be of assistance and the firm have been so informed.

Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Tradeston

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman answer one or two further points? If the firm seeks to evade any of the conditions contained in the Notification of Vacancies Order which he imposed last November, will appropriate action be taken against it? Secondly, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman assure us that the Order will not be used solely against employed persons?

Photo of Sir Walter Monckton Sir Walter Monckton , Bristol West

Might I give the second assurance at once? Certainly it is not going to be so used. With regard to the first part of the supplementary question, if cases of evasion of the conditions of the Order are brought to my notice, I shall take appropriate action.

Photo of Sir Waldron Smithers Sir Waldron Smithers , Orpington

Will my right hon. and learned Friend tell the extreme members of the T.U.C. that the T.U.C. is not Her Majesty's Government?

Photo of Mr Evelyn Strachey Mr Evelyn Strachey , Dundee West

Does the Minister agree that it is an extraordinary anachronism that we should today have a firm asking its employees to sign a definite anti-trades union document, and will he express some adverse comment on such a practice at the present day?

Photo of Sir Walter Monckton Sir Walter Monckton , Bristol West

The first thing I would say to the right hon. Gentleman is that this anachronism, as he has described it, has been going on for some 25 years and that I cannot be responsible for all of it. I appreciate that it is a matter upon which strong views are held, but, if my Department is to help, the less I say at this stage the better.

Photo of Mr Frederick Lee Mr Frederick Lee , Newton

Under the Notification of Vacancies Order, is not this firm now bound to get new employees from the employment exchange? One of the points made by the firm is that any person desiring work with it must sign a document to the effect that he will not have anything to do with trade unions. If the manager at the employment exchange informs a person that there is a vacancy at Thomson's and that person is refused the employment because he is a trade unionist, does not that constitute an offence under the Order?

Photo of Sir Walter Monckton Sir Walter Monckton , Bristol West

I do not think the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that there would be an offence as the matter stands at present. As to any alteration in the existing law, I should not like to make a pronouncement now.

Photo of Mr George Isaacs Mr George Isaacs , Southwark

Is the Minister aware that he has been quite misled by that statement of the firm that this man left of his own accord, and that investigation would prove their statement to be inaccurate; is he further aware that all the trade unions in this matter are asking is, not for recognition, but merely that the men should be free to join a trade union if they so wish; is he further aware, so far as Mr. Thomson is concerned, of what the present Prime Minister said about this gentleman in a public speech in Dundee some time back, when he said: He is a narrow, bitter, unreasonable being, eaten up with his own conceit, consumed with his own petty arrogance, pursued from day to day and year to year by an unreasonable bee in his bonnet and that this gentleman, with this bee buzzing in his bonnet, will get badly stung if he continues as he is doing?

Photo of Sir Walter Monckton Sir Walter Monckton , Bristol West

I am very anxious not to get into trouble about bees in bonnets in Dundee.

Photo of Mr Thomas Cook Mr Thomas Cook , Dundee East

Is the Minister aware that, while it is true that this dispute has been going on for 25 years, there is now a very grave danger of the issue spreading to an area much wider than Dundee and Glasgow; and will he take steps to see that that does not happen?

Photo of Sir Walter Monckton Sir Walter Monckton , Bristol West

I am aware of the danger of the existing situation. As I said, the less I say now the more I may be able to help at a later stage.

Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Tradeston

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.