Multiplex Designs Ltd., Sidcup

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th April 1972.

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Photo of Mr Edward Bishop Mr Edward Bishop , Newark 12:00 am, 20th April 1972

asked the Minister of State for Defence what action has been taken on the complaint made by the Technical and Supervisory Section of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering workers, on 7th February, 1972, of a breach of the Fair Wages Resolution by Multiplex Designs Limited, Marlow House, Station Road, Sidcup, Kent.

Photo of Mr Joe Ashton Mr Joe Ashton , Bassetlaw

asked the Minister of State for Defence how many orders have been placed with Multiplex Designs Limited, Marlow House, Station Road, Sidcup, Kent, since the complaint was made by the Technical and Supervisory Section of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers of breach of the Fair Wages Resolution.

Photo of Mr James Lamond Mr James Lamond , Oldham East

asked the Minister of State for Defence what reply was sent to the complaint made by the Technical and Supervisory Section of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers to the Ministry of Defence regarding the breach of the Fair Wages Resolution by Multiplex Designs Limited, Marlow House, Station Road, Sidcup, Kent.

Photo of Mr Albert Booth Mr Albert Booth , Barrow-in-Furness

asked the Minister of State for Defence whether it is his policy to place orders with Multiplex Designs Limited, Marlow House, Station Road, Sidcup, Kent, pending a decision on the complaint, made by the Technical and Supervisory Section of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers, of breach of the Fair Wages Resolution.

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

Multiplex Designs Limited was invited to comment on the complaints of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers and its explanations were conveyed to the union. The AUEW said that it was not satisfied with the firm's comments. The matter has therefore been referred to the Department of Employment, as provided for in the Fair Wages Resolution.

No new orders have been placed with the firm since receipt of the complaint. However, since at this stage a breach of the Fair Wages Resolution has not been established, there are no grounds for withholding orders.

Photo of Mr Edward Bishop Mr Edward Bishop , Newark

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that my hon. Friends and I are raising this matter with the knowledge of the hon. Member who represents the constituency concerned and as members of the union affected? Is he further aware that the fair wages clause which is part of this Ministry of Defence contract involves items such as holiday entitlement, the payment of fair wages agreed nationally and locally, and also trade union membership? Has not procrastination by the Ministry worsened the situation, which is now being dealt with rather late?

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

I am aware of the factors mentioned by the hon. Gentleman, but there has been no procrastination by my Ministry. It is best not to comment further until the matter is resolved.

Photo of Mr Joe Ashton Mr Joe Ashton , Bassetlaw

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that clause 4 of the Fair Wages Resolution provides that workpeople shall have freedom to join a union? Does he appreciate that at this firm the first worker who sought to do so was sacked and that when eight more tried to follow his example they too were sacked? What does the hon. Gentleman intend to do about the situation in regard to defence contracts?

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

I am aware about the first matter mentioned by the hon. Gentleman, but the other matters are in dispute. I prefer not to comment until the facts have definitely been established by the Department of Employment.

Photo of Mr James Lamond Mr James Lamond , Oldham East

How can the hon. Gentleman say so smoothly in his answer that there has been no procrastination in his Department? This matter was raised with him on 4th February and four weeks later, following a reminder from the AUEW, a letter was written to the firm. But the matter has still not been resolved. The Minister told us today that it is now the concern of the Industrial Arbitration Board, which I sincerely hope has been asked to examine the matter because there are members of the union who have been unemployed now for four months. [Hon. Members: "Speech."] Is this not in marked contrast to the Government's 24-hour ultimatum to the railway workers? It would appear that when our memebers are concerned a period of four months is not considered to be procrastination.

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

I was pleased to hear the hon. Gentleman say that he thought my answer was smooth. I do not agree with him that there has been any procrastination. We had to identify the complaint, and when something is referred to the Department of Employment it is as well that both sides should be heard and the matter properly investigated.

Photo of Mr Albert Booth Mr Albert Booth , Barrow-in-Furness

Since 10 weeks have elapsed since an official complaint of breach of the Fair Wages Resolution was notified to the Ministry of Defence and the Department of Employment, and since men have been put out of work as a result of this firm's activities, will the hon. Gentleman give an undertaking that no more orders will be placed with the firm until the complaint has been properly investigated? Should not this matter have been referred to the Industrial Arbitration Board? Since this has not happened, the Minister surely cannot say that he has taken all the proper steps which should have been taken in such a serious breach as this. How can the hon. Gentleman say that a breach has not been established when the firm is paying less than the minimum established two years ago for doing the job?

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

I repeat that it has not yet been established that a breach has taken place. If the facts as outlined by the union are true, a breach has taken place. But my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment will first conciliate, and if that fails he will refer the matter to the Industrial Arbitration Board. In the meantime no new orders will be placed with the firm.