Archive : Car workers demonstrate, call for price reduction

By our Parliamentary Staff

About two hundred workers from the motor industry in the Midlands yesterday held a demonstration at Westminster. A resolution was passed calling for prompt reduction of purchase tax, the freeing of hire purchase restrictions, and the setting-up of a national committee on the motor industry on which the trade unions would be represented as well as the motor manufacturers and the Government.

After the meeting , which was addressed by two Coventry MPs, Mr Maurice Edelman and Mr Philip Hocking, as well as Mr Harold Wilson—the workers lobbied individual MPs. Mr Hocking, who is the Conservative member for Coventry South, was given a very mixed reception, and his suggestion that the car industry was going to change very much in the next few months so that they would all soon be back on overtime was greeted with some derision. Mr Hocking pointed out that the last part of the resolution was superfluous since there already existed a committee composed of representatives of the trade unions, motor manufacturers, and the Government, and it would be far better to make that committee work rather than set up an entirely new one.

Mr Hocking was confident after seeing the Chancellor of the Exchequer that hire purchase restrictions would be changed very shortly. He urged that more should be done to improve the car industry from inside. He drives Standard Vanguard made in Coventry and he ” now realised why some are not sold so easily overseas.”

Labour Party inquiry

One of the points which won considerable applause at the meeting was made from the floor by a worker who felt that the price of Coventry products could be brought down ; and he and others complained of the profit taken by the middleman. Mr Harold Wilson explained that since the demonstration of three weeks ago the Parliamentary Labour party had set up a special working committee which was studying and preparing a policy for the motor industry.

Initial suggestions were that either a development council , which would include independent members as well as both sides of industry , should be set up, or else a working party on the lines of those appointed by Sir Stafford Cripps just after the war. Then it might be possible to look at the problems of the industry and its expansion as a whole. Mr Wilson, too, emphasised that much could be done within the industry itself.

This point was reinforced by the fact that those taking part in the demonstration represented a number of different factories, and not all had been equally hit. A worker from the Jaguar factory felt that some of the others might concentrate more on providing competitive value, but this was not an opinion which he advanced to the meeting as a whole. Another resolution carried by the meeting called for legislation to alter the regulations governing unemployment Benefit. Much hardship was being caused, it was said, since a man on short-time working for only three days a week could not draw any benefit.

Keith Adams

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