Minister of Technology (Broadcast)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st April 1970.

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Photo of Mr Edward Milne Mr Edward Milne , Blyth 12:00 am, 21st April 1970

Q11. Mr. Milne asked the Prime Minister whether the broadcast speech by the Minister of Technology on the subject of worker participation in discussions on monopolies and mergers, on 5th April, represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

The Prime Minister: The full text of the interview recorded by my right hon. Friend, was in accordance with the Government's policy. Only edited extracts of the interview were broadcast.

Photo of Mr Edward Milne Mr Edward Milne , Blyth

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his reply is very welcome since it indicates an awareness of the part played by workers in industry in the economic improvement of the country and that this will increasingly occur in any discussions on mergers or take-overs in future?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I have read Press reports of my right hon. Friend's broadcast, I have studied the recordings of what was put out in what inevitably was an edited transcript, and I have also read the full text of what he has recorded. The full text gives a rather different impression from some of the reports.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor:

Would not the Prime Minister agree that there is a world of difference between consultation on redundancy and worker participation in management? In view of the fact that the introduction of a degree of worker participation in the steel industry has not resulted in improved labour relations but in more strikes, would he think carefully before extending it to the docks and other industries?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

The opening words by the hon. Gentleman are correct, and the first step is to make sure that there is far more consultation on redundancy procedures than sometimes is the case. With regard to worker participation, I am sure he will have studied the excellent document produced by the Labour Party in 1965 or 1966 on this question which is very informative and instructive. With regard to the steel industry, the difficulties there are not a result of a greater degree of worker participation enshrined in the Act. They result from fundamental difficulties which have existed for a long time, including inter-union problems in the steel industry.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that one of the greatest problems in large-scale industry is the problem of the alienation of the worker and that it is vital there should be schemes for worker participation in industrial management? Would he not agree that the time has come for our party in Government to be much more bold and radical in introducing schemes of this kind?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I referred to the document which was produced by our party and reference has been made to the Steel Act. We had better see how some of these things work, but I would support an extension of that principle, as I have always made clear. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite who are always telling us how much successful the Germans are than we are—though they have stopped doing so recently—have not always paid tribute to the provision of worker participation in German state law.

Photo of Sir Arthur Harvey Sir Arthur Harvey , Macclesfield

Does the Prime Minister not agree that this is a unique occasion in that, having taken five Questions together, and with the help of three Labour Members being absent, he has got through all his Questions?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I am grateful to hon. Gentleman for his concern in these matters. My own study of the relevant period over the last five-and-a-half years in answering Questions quantitatively and, I would modestly say, qualitatively, happens to be a little better than that of my predecessors.

Photo of Mr Will Howie Mr Will Howie , Luton

Would my right hon. Friend agree that, although it is important to have the fullest discussion with workers after a merger has taken place, it is also important that the workers should be involved in the discussion before the merger takes place and that in this particular case what is good for the shareholders is surely good for the workers as well?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Yes, Sir. That is why I have stressed at this Box, and why my right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State has carried it a good deal further, that there should be an effective code of conduct on mergers, so that not only the national and district trade unions, but the workers themselves, can be brought into consultation at the earliest possible opportunity. In the North-East last week I had a number of representations about a case where this does not seem to be happening.

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

On a point of order. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that during Question Time the Prime Minister described my Question No. Q1 as a waste of the time of the House. May I draw your attention to the fact that the Prime Minister chose to take with my Question Questions Nos. Q9 and Q10, which were in almost identical terms and were put down by his hon. Friends? Those two Questions were not put down on the first day when the list of Questions for today was opened. May I ask if the Prime Minister has altered his practice in this respect, or does the system depend on which side of the House the Question is asked?

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. This is not a matter of order. It is a matter of comment. Comment is free in the House of Commons.