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LETTER: Economic decline of post-war Britain: myths and realities

From Mr Reg Parker

Sir: The extract from Corelli Barnett's new book gives, in my opinion, a distorted view of the cause of Britain's post-war industrial decline. My work, during the 15 years immediately after the Second World War, took me into several shipyards and heavy engineering works in the Midlands and north-east England. It was during this period that many of the industries were nationalised and the "feather bedding" of the trade unions introduced; this resulted in the "closed" shop policy and the "British disease" - symptoms of the Labour government and management bowing to the trade unions.

All the restrictive practices I observed are too numerous to list here, but the two I remember particularly are: washing hands and queuing at the time clock up to 10 minutes before the "whistle", and a shop steward getting a man dismissed because he produced more than his "quota" and thereby "spoiling" the piece work price for the "job". Most of these shipyards and factories are not in existence today, destroyed by the inefficient partnership of the Labour Party and the trade unions.

In contrast, from 1958 until 1987, I frequently visited factories in Germany where a worker works a full shift, arriving at his workplace before start time and stays until finish time. In this period the value of the deutschmark has increased more than fourfold compared to the pound.

Yours sincerely,


Newcastle upon Tyne

29 April