§ 3.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Alfred Robens (Blyth)
I beg to move,That this House views with grave concern the industrial and social policies of Her Majesty's Government which, in addition to producing growing economic difficulties, are are also resulting in serious damage to relations in industry and threaten to provoke grave industrial unrest.We are having this debate today in the shadow of the economic debates that have recently been held and the hangover from the October debate in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft), who was then the Chancellor of the Exchequer, spoke, together with the Minister of Labour.
We also meet in a rather grave economic situation. The employment prospects are not very optimistic. My hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) raised only a few minutes ago the problem of the growing unemployment in Wales. There have been added to that the danger spots in Northern Ireland—where the figure is about 10 per cent. unemployed of the population—Anglesey, and the Isle of Wight. I select those places only because they are the places in which there is considerable difficulty about finding alternative work for those who are now being displaced.
Steel production is now under total capacity. Only the other day, most, if not all, Members of Parliament received a number of documents from the Shipbuilding Conference drawing attention to the very serious fall in orders being received by the shipbuilding industry, a falling off whose effect on the industry will not be immediate, but which will make it certain that there will be some future unemployment not only in the shipbuilding industry, but in the supply industries as well.
Britain is facing a drop in its share of world markets. Other countries are gaining at what might be regarded as our 1356 expense. At present, there is a gloomy outlook which is manifesting itself in very great unrest and anxiety among many millions of workers and industrialists. It is not that the world is saturated with consumer and capital goods of all kinds. That is certainly not the case, because great numbers of underdeveloped areas require enormous development and in countries which are developed there are tremendous potentialities for increasing consumer markets.
In Britain, we ought to be proud that we have some signal achievements to our credit, some described by the Minister of Power in a speech in another place the other day. No matter how much we may discuss these matters in the House and listen to Ministers, economists and others, the truth is that the future prosperity of Britain lies in increasing our production and our productivity.
To get an increase in production, and especially in productivity, we have to have industrial peace, and not only industrial peace, but true co-operation between management and workers. It is because we feel very sincerely that the policies which have been pursued by the Government do not lend themselves to industrial peace and real co-operation between workers and management that we have put this Motion on the Order Paper.
It would be a great mistake for anyone in the House to cry stinking fish and to give the world the impression that we have a bad industrial record. In fact, we have a first-class industrial record, one of which we should be proud and one which other nations envy. We have built up the very good record of industrial relations not over a short period, but over a very long period, indeed, over a century, and today we can be proud of that record.
Taking account of the difference in the sizes of the working populations, America, a great industrial country, has six times the number of days lost in industrial disputes that we have. The common cold probably accounts for more days lost than do industrial disputes. However, while we can be proud of that record, we must recognise that Britain has no fat upon which to live and that we cannot afford to lose even a single hour of production which can be saved.
1357 Merely because we have a good record is no reason for resting upon it. We must move forward and seek a situation in which we are free from all industrial unrest, in which we have closer co-operation between management and workers, and in which we can go ahead in prosperity ensuring that the shares in that prosperity are equitably and fairly distributed.
Anyone studying the figures of days lost over the last few years must be disturbed, particularly in view of last year's figure. Over the last two or three years we lost 2 million or 3 million days a year, but last year there was a jump. I think that only the provisional figures for 1957 are available, but they show a jump of from about 2 million in 1956 to nearly 8½ million days lost in disputes in 1957. Disputes do not arise because nothing has happened to cause them to arise. They do not arise because someone suddenly decides that there should be a disturbance in industry. There is a cause and that cause we have to seek and root out if we are to get industrial peace.
No trade union leader—as can be said of any leading industrialist—wants a strike. We all regard strikes as an anachronism in the second half of this twentieth century. A strike is not a sensible way of settling disputes, any more than war between nations is a sensible way of settling disputes between nations.
Today, strikes do not serve the purpose which they originally served when men first began to withdraw their labour to secure justice as they saw it. We have moved into a managerial society in which strikes are no longer against a private owner and, therefore, damaging to his pocket. Nowadays, industry is owned by shareholders who are remote from management and is run by self-perpetuating boards of directors, many of whom do not own large shareholdings in the companies which they run.
Therefore, when there is a strike, it no longer hurts individual managing directors, because they do not suffer any reduction in their salaries. What does happen is that there is a tremendous fall of production, which is a loss to the nation, and a tremendous amount of public inconvenience, if the strike occurs 1358 in a service industry. What is probably much worse is that when there are strikes in essential industries—and I am speaking now of the private sector—investors abroad lose confidence in Britain's ability to produce the goods when they are wanted, so orders are placed elsewhere and capital invested in this country is withdrawn. Thus, a whole series of industrial disputes can cause the country grave hurt.
It is as well to have this debate today so that we can show how to prevent that happening and to say why we think that the Government are embarking upon policies which, unless they are very careful, can bring about that state of affairs. When there is a strike in the publicly-owned sector, no damage at all is done to those running the industry on behalf of the State. In that case, the damage falls wholly upon the consumers of the service and on the nation as a whole. It is, therefore, to the advantage of all of us to try to arrange a settlement of disputes—which will inevitably arise where human being are working together—on a peaceful basis.
I say immediately that the task of maintaining industrial peace does not lie solely with the trade union movement, but also with the Government and managements. To try to seek to put all the blame or responsibility on the trade union movement is to fail to recognise the true facts of the situation. The trade union movement cannot of its own volition deal with this problem, but it can, and is, willing, in association with the Government and management, to do its best to make a contribution towards industrial peace.
There are many enlightened managements in the country today whose relations with the trade union movement are first-class and who have a splendid record of settlement of disputes by peaceful means. In the steel industry, for example—and I could quote many other industries, such as the chemical industry—where there are all the possibilities of disputes, and where many disputes take place, there is a superb record of settling disputes without recourse to industrial war. That is because management and workers, over many years, have got together and found methods by which they can deal with disputes. No one must assume that disputes do not arise 1359 in the steel industry. They do arise, but they are settled.
I noticed an article in the News Chronicle the other day by Miss Margaret Stewart, who had interviewed Mr. Dick, the Managing Director of the Standard Motor Company, which had had some big labour disputes in its Coventry factories. Mr. Dick is a young manager who, obviously, is doing all he can, with the trade unions in his factories, to settle some very grievous problems. He says,Tell the workers directly. Keep them posted about your plans and policies. Make each man feel that he is somebody, and has a valuable job to do.Those are good words from management. If management would take that view throughout all industry, it would make things a little easier. I do not want to raise the temperature of the debate by quoting managements which are not as good and which create problems for trade union leaders.
There are enlightened managements and most people would say that trade union leadership at the top is enlightened. More than one Minister has paid tribute at the Dispatch Box to the way in which trade union leadership has made its contribution to the nation's welfare. It is not long ago since the Ministry of Labour referred in appreciation to the work of trade union leaders in connection with the National Productivity Council. The trade union leaders have full knowledge of the economic situation. We do not have to preach to them about the country's economic problems. They know them and they are in close contact, through various consultative arrangements made between the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Minister of Labour and industry generally, with what is happening day by day. They are well aware of their duties.
It should be remembered, however, that the managing director of a company as distinct from management, is able to give instructions and that those instructions will be carried out by those whom he employs. The trade union leader is in a very different position. He has a much more difficult job than the managing director. The trade union leader can give a lead, and he does so, but in the final analysis it is his rank and file membership who give the instructions. This must be remembered. 1360 It is an important aspect of this whole problem.
We cannot say to a trade union leader, "This is what your union or your membership should do." He may know that, but he has the much more difficult task of consulting his rank and file workers, not ordering them or instructing them. He has to persuade them that such and such a way is the right way to go about their business. All these things must be taken into account when we consider the Government's actions and policy.
It must be remembered that the trade union movement, which is made up of 9 million people, is composed of many layers, from the man who never goes near a trade union meeting to the very active people who give wonderful service, quite voluntarily, to assist their union movement and to help those for whom they work to have better conditions. When I listen to lectures given to trade unionists I am led to believe that those who speak to them imagine that the trade union movement is composed entirely of trained economists when, in fact, trade unionists are very ordinary, decent people. [Laughter.] That was unintentional, but I admit that it was very funny. They are very decent people who try to understand the peculiarities of our economic system. If they were as trained in economics as some people imagine they are, they would not be workers. They would be managing industries, or running their own industries.
It must be remembered that the rank and file workers can be persuaded to adopt a certain line of action only by explaining clearly to them what the objectives are. It depends very largely upon the skill of a trade union leader and the confidence which the membership has in him as to whether he will be successful in leading his members into the ways which he feels are best for them.
I think that the Government's objectives are reasonably clear. They are two. They want a policy of wage restraint, which does not mean no advances in pay but that advances in pay should keep pace with productivity so that inflation should not be created. Secondly, they want to ensure industrial peace. I hope that I have stated those two objectives fairly. I share belief in them.
1361 It is no use the workers having larger wage-packets if the £ notes in the packets buy less each week. It is not the size of the wage-packet that brings the higher standard of life to the wage earner. It is what the money inside the wage packet will buy. Therefore, the Government's two objectives are not wrong in themselves. Our charge against the Government is that their industrial and social policies will not bring about either of those two objectives.
On the policy of wage restraint, I would say that the blunder which the Government have made is that they themselves, by their policy and without outside pressures, have created the demand for wages which are unrelated to production and productivity. In relation to industrial peace, as a result particularly of the statements made from last October up to date, the Government have cast considerable doubt upon the impartiality of our age-long, free wage-negotiating machinery.
As to the first charge, a few days ago the Treasury issued a report showing incomes before taxation in this country. I do not want to make any sort of party point about the fact that many more people have gone into the millionaire class, but it will be seen from the report that 12½ million people who are gainfully employed, or who have income received, before taxation, less than £12 a week. Only 20 million people are listed by the Treasury and, therefore, a very substantial proportion receive less than £12 a week before tax. If off-takes are added, including tax, National Insurance contributions and the like, the take-home pay is at least £1, and probably more than £1, below that figure of £12 a week. In many cases they have to sustain a wife and family. In other cases more than one wage is going into the household.
§ Sir Spencer Summers (Aylesbury)
For clarification, does the figure of 12½ million include part-timers and women?
§ Mr. Robens
It includes all those in the statement issued by the Treasury, so presumably it covers everybody who makes a return of their earnings to the Income Tax authorities. So it will include part-timers and married women, and I will say something about the latter in a moment or two. My point is that the level of wages, in view of what it costs to live, is not very high.
1362 Let us look at another figure, bearing in mind the 12½ million people with probably less than £11 a week to take home. According to the last statement, April, 1957—the Minister may have a later one—the average earnings in all industry are about £10 a week, which is not high. About 300,000 are employed in the railway industry, and it should be remembered that 80 per cent. of railwaymen have a basic wage of less than £9 a week gross. Anything they receive above that is because of extra duties, and bonuses of one kind or another, for which they must work extra, so it is related to productivity. Again, the miners, who are the highest paid wage earners in the country, are not living in the lap of luxury. The basic figure for the underground worker is £9 10s. 6d., and for the surface worker £8 10s. 6d.
These are not high rates of pay, and I am bound to say, on behalf of all these people, that if they had exercised their power in a sellers' market, with full employment, the position being as it has been since the war, these rates—if Tory freedom had worked for them would—have been twice what they are today. I say that considerable restraint has been exercised by the trade union movement. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Oh yes, and the evidence of that is the very low basic wage that exists in agreements today. I will say this, too. If it were not that a vast number of married women are working, and so taking wages into the household, these rates would never be where they are at present.
§ Mr. Robens
My hon. Friend says that it ought to be discouraged, but it will always be for the individual concerned to decide.
Let us take this a step further. There are many married women who would like to be earning and bringing something into the household, but cannot do so because they have young children. It is in that sphere where the burden of a rising cost of living falls most heavily—in the household with a single income, with young children, with wage rates approaching the ones I have mentioned. I do not know how they manage to live on the money. 1363 If a man really wants to know what things cost, let him, instead of looking at the indices, go shopping for his wife and, as he brings home what we regard as necessities, let him recall what has happened to his Treasury notes. Honestly, I do not know how, in some households where only one wage is taken home, people can manage to live in anything like decency or comfort. It is there, at the bottom, that the pressure for increased pay starts, not at the top when, as a result of Government action, there is a deliberate increase in the cost of living.
Looking through some of our debates and at some of the figures, which cannot be challenged, I thought what a wonderful opportunity the Conservative Government have had to keep down the cost of living. That, they have utterly failed to do. I say that, because during their administration, there has been a fall in world prices. I will not weary the House with details, because they have often been given from this Bench but, roughly, import prices during their period of office are down by 8.8 per cent. overall and there has been no increase in the price of food, drink and tobacco although, at the same time, the cost of living rose by 30 per cent. and prices by 44 per cent.
Why did it happen? How does it come about that if world prices are coming down the consumer at home pays more? The answer is because the Government, in following their slogan of "Tory freedom works", decided to shift the incidence of taxation from the shoulders of those who could bear it most easily to the great mass of workers about whom we are talking today. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, then, let us see. This has been a deliberate policy of shifting the burden, because during the period of Labour administration we deliberately shifted the burden the other way, and would do so again. We would shift the burden to those shoulders which can bear it most easily.
This has been reversed by the Government, and it is no use right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite saying that it is not the case. The very elimination of the food subsidies at the beginning started this. It may well have been that if the Government had waited, price levels remaining as they were and world prices 1364 coming down, the subsidies would themselves have begun to be reduced. Instead, the Government deliberately took them off, without waiting for world prices to come down to enable them to be relieved of part of that bill. I do not want to make attacks about promises made at the General Election, but the Government deliberately took off food subsidies and immediately this burden found itself lying very heavily on the kind of family about which I am speaking, the one-income family with children.
What was the result? Pressure for more money, a pressure that was driven hard as other things took place. I do not want to spend a lot of time in giving a list of them. They are small things, namely, the increase in the price of school meals, the increase in the cost of milk and bread, the prescription charges, the increase in the National Insurance contributions. Much worse, of course, were the higher interest rates which the Government began to introduce.
Long before the Rent Act rents were going up. Because the ordinary men or women who pay the rent collector or the landlord regard what they pay as rent, they do not differentiate between that part which the landlord has and that which goes to the local authority for rates. As a result of higher interest charges, rates have gone up. As a result of the withdrawal of housing subsidies, rates have gone up, with the consequence that the total amount which the individual is paying to the rent collector has been growing consistently. This has not given any more rent to the owner of the property, but it has taken more out of the income of the household for the privilege of living in the house.
This was capped with the Rent Act and we have not reached the end of the repercussions of that Act. Indeed, I believe that this is the most inflationary thing the Government have done, and I do not see to what purpose. There have been many discussions about the Rent Act and I will not go into it in great detail except to say that it is a very inflationary Measure. It is because of the deliberate fiscal policy of the Government that we have a situation in which the cost of living has risen while world food and other prices have fallen.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
The right hon. Gentleman has said that the Government have shifted the burden. Would he not agree that in this country the difference between the better paid and the lower paid is probably smaller than in most comparable countries? Also, would he not agree that the impact of taxation on those who are the higher paid in this country is probably heavier than in any other country?
§ Mr. Robens
All that may well be, but we are calling for industrial peace and for co-operation between management and worker. The hon. Member must understand that in this country, unlike many others, there is a strong desire to see a good deal more social equality than we have even at present.
I shall come to the higher paid workers; I shall not forget them. These pressures which I have tried to describe come from those who can only barely get by on their wages, but they are not the only people who want increased pay. I remember the town clerks. It was not long ago that the Government themselves decided—I do not remember any trade union making an application—on substantial increases in pay for those who run the nationalised industries. Why did they do it? They did it to make the rewards more commensurate with what is paid in private industry. We assume, therefore, that rewards in private industry are even better for those who occupy such jobs than for those in nationalised industry.
This pressure for increased incomes, whether by way of salary or reward of one kind or another, is not confined to the great mass of the ordinary working-class people. Everybody is in it, to the highest-paid in the land. Hon. Members opposite should remember that everybody is going for as much money as he can possibly get, but that those at the top have a much easier method of getting it than the great mass of people who are represented by their trade unions.
I say, therefore, on the first charge of wanting a policy of wage restraint, that the Government have made the greatest contribution to pressure for wages by their fiscal and social policies and that they have prevented increased earnings out of increased productivity by their own investment policy, which has stagnated production instead of improving it.
1366 The second charge is that the Government have contributed to industrial unrest by political interference with the free negotiating machinery in industry. This is the latest and, perhaps, much more serious thing. There have been three very heavy body blows at collective bargaining as we know it.
§ Mr. Robens
The first was in October, by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Member for Monmouth. It may well be that he does not interpret his own words as they have been interpreted outside, but I assure him that the words which he used—and which I have with me, if anyone wishes them to be quoted—seemed to serve notice on the trade union movement that arbitrators, in cases of arbitration, should not give increases in pay. [HON. MEMBERS: "No.] All right. Hon. Members say that that is not so.
Then, I come to the Minister of Labour himself. Let us see what he makes out of his own words. It would be wrong to pursue the former Chancellor of the Exchequer on this, because he is no longer in a position to influence policy, but the Minister of Labour is in that position and he took up this matter the next day. In connection with the railwaymen's application, he said:I intended to make clear to hon. Gentlemen and to everyone else our continuing determination that we will not finance inflationary awards whether obtained through negotiation or arbitration."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th October, 1957; Vol. 575, c. 236.]My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and I pressed the Minister to interpret that statement. What is an "inflationary award"? We can search the columns of HANSARD, but we will not find the right hon. Gentleman's answer, because he has not given it. Whether he will give it this afternoon, I do not know.
Those words, coupled with those of the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, were, in the view of many people, a direct instruction to arbitration courts that they must not merely look at the case submitted but must realise that the Government are saying that there must be no pay advances at all. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will deal with this in his speech. What the trade union movement will want to know is his interpretation of his own words. What does 1367 he mean by an "inflationary award", and, secondly, who is to decide what is inflationary?
§ Mr. Robens
This is fantastic. One would imagine that arbitrators were chosen by picking names out of a hat, or by walking into the street and finding the first available person. The arbitrators are selected because of their very special skill and knowledge. In fact, an arbitrator takes into consideration everything which he considers is germane to the case which is being presented. The national economic position is bound to form a consideration in his judgment. It is quite superfluous—I do not understand this attitude of the Government—to tell an arbitrator that he must take all these things into consideration.
The arbitrators are men of great skill, knowledge and long experience. They always take into consideration all the factors surrounding a wage claim. Therefore, the injunction to the arbitrators was unnecessary and, indeed, insulting. Consequently, it could only be a clear warning to those who were taking cases to arbitration that they must expect nothing from the arbitrators.
There are some who challenge my statement that the Government's action cast wide doubts on the value of arbitration. It is interesting to see what happened within days of that decision and those words by the Minister of Labour. There was before the Co-operative movement an application for an advance in pay of, I think, £1 a week. Mr. Alan Birch, the General Secretary of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, was presenting the case on behalf not only of his own union, but of two other unions bigger than his own, the Transport and General Workers' Union and the National Union of General and Municipal Workers.
Discussions on the wage claim for the Co-operative workers took place almost immediately after the Minister Labour had made that statement. Let hon. Members listen to what Mr. Alan Birch said about arbitration and remember that Mr. Birch is one of the newer, younger type of trade union leader, sensible, sound and 1368 progressive, a member of the General Council, and chairman of the Economic Committee, of the Trades Union Congress. What he has to say should, therefore, be given some weight. According to the report at the time,Mr. Alan Birch, the leader of the joint trade union committee, made it clear that in the present situation the trade union members would not allow the claim to be decided by arbitration. He said he would, if necessary"—this is the answer to the Minister about the railways—go through the constitutional procedure of having recourse to the conciliation board, but his members would refuse to accept any arbitration award. Mr. Birch claimed that this attitude was understandable in view of the Government's actions and present policy. It had set a doubt in the minds of the trade unions about the value of arbitration by any arbitrator, however high he might stand in the minds of industry or the unions. That situation, Mr. Birch told us, would mean the end of national agreements and national negotiations, and if this arose the trade unions would be forced to have recourse to local applications in the future.The National Wages Board did not want that to happen and an agreement was thereupon made for a 12s. advance. It was not many days afterwards that the busmen in London also turned down arbitration for the very same reason. If the Minister and the Chancellor had not used the words they did—and in my view they did no good—the busmen's claim might have gone to arbitration in the first place, when Mr. Cousins was trying to persuade his members to go to arbitration. The man who prevented those members from being persuaded by Mr. Cousins was the Minister of Labour. I shall return later to some other aspects of that matter, although my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), who is an official of the union concerned and has spent many years in its service, may have a good deal more to say about this dispute in winding up the debate for this side.
I want to draw the attention of the House to a very significant feature of Mr. Alan Birch's pronouncement. If national negotiations are cut out because of a lack of confidence in the arbitration machinery we could have a whole series of wildcat strikes. In the days before the war, when I was a trade union official, that is precisely what we had. Only in a very few industries did we have national negotiations. We organised the workers in a firm and obtained wages and 1369 conditions based upon the strength of our organisation and by way of direct negotiations with the employers. The right hon. Gentleman must remember that national negotiations came into being principally because of the war, and that they make the task of trade union leaders even more difficult. Negotiations today are very remote from the rank and file who make the application.
In the days of which I am speaking we went in and out of the managing director's office, having spent an hour or two arguing the matters in dispute, and met the workers concerned at lunch-time, when we gave them a report of our meeting, together with guidance and instructions. That cannot be done today. That loss of contact was carried out quite deliberately by the trade union movement in the interests of national settlements, arbitration and industrial peace. It was a big sacrifice to make. There are many industries in which the members of the trade unions concerned would be very glad to go back to the old guerrilla warfare. Many workers in certain companies could obtain very much better wages and conditions if they did that instead of proceeding through national negotiations.
A dangerous situation is emerging as a result of what was said by the right hon. Gentleman in October, and what has happened since. The London busmen's problem has brought this matter into the public eye. Unless the Government, through some words of the right hon. Gentleman, can restore confidence in national arbitration, there will be a real danger of a drive back to the ending of national negotiations and a return to the kind of warfare in which the strength of organisation and the ability to pay, rather than the general welfare of the industry, will be the determining factors. That would be calamitous. I put the responsibility for this at the door of the right hon. Gentleman. If his colleague had not resigned from the Cabinet I would have put it at his door, also, but the right hon. Gentleman must now bear it alone.
The second blow came through the actions of the Government as employers. I need not dwell too much upon this matter, because we discussed it in the House not long ago. This was the blow that the Government delivered through the Minister of Health, who, obviously, acted under instructions; he would never 1370 have acted on his own. He turned down the recommendation of the Whitley Council for the clerical health workers. The Whitley Council machinery, based upon recommendations, has worked very well, but the workers' side of all these councils now doubt whether it is worth while having an agreed recommendation.
The Post Office workers, who refused to accept an agreed recommendation and went before a tribunal, have done better. While the Minister has a statutory right to turn down a recommendation, he must carry out an arbitration award. What will happen to the Whitley Council machinery now? If I were speaking on behalf of the health workers I would never advise them to accept an agreed recommendation. They cannot strike, so what is the point of having a recommendation which a single Minister, acting under the direction of his Cabinet colleagues, can wipe out? I should ensure that my case went straight to arbitration. Is this how we want Whitley Council machinery to work? I should not have thought so.
The third blow was the amazing handling of the London busmen's dispute by the Minister. The more one reads the comments about this matter the more fantastic the situation becomes. I shall not go into the merits or demerits of the wage claim; that is not my business. But I must spend some time at least in trying to persuade the Minister to tell us why he acted as he did.
When this matter first blew up the Minister had already prevented the use of arbitration, because the membership of that section of the union had no faith in it and said so, despite the advice of their leader. On 10th January discussions took place between the London Transport Executive, the union leaders, and the Chief Industrial Commissioner. The Financial Times says that a suggestion for this kind of inquiry came from Sir Wilfred Neden. The Minister says that it did not and we will accept his word for it, discounting the Financial Times and all other industrial newspaper reporters who said that it did.
I think that the Minister will agree that the suggestion was considered at a meeting between Sir Wilfred Neden, the London Transport Executive and union leaders, among others. In a way, therefore, he was party to it. The other day, when I 1371 told the Minister that he was the first Minister of Labour to do it, my reference was not to the exercising of his judgment, as he well knew—although he turned my remark off on that path—but to the rejection of an understanding, to put it no higher, that his Chief Industrial Commissioner had reached with the two sides of the industry for the settlement of the dispute.
Does the Minister say that he did not know what had transpired at that meeting on 10th January? Does he say that he never discussed this matter with Sir Wilfred Neden, and that Sir Wilfred did not report to him fully upon talks that had taken place and, roughly, the kind of advice given, and also the advice that both sides would be prepared to accept?
That meeting took place on 10th January. The right hon. Gentleman reads the newspapers, even if he did not talk to Sir Wilfred Neden, and he must have known that Mr. Harry Nicholas, the leader of the busmen, persuaded those members who had rejected arbitration to accept it in another form. That was no mean feat. It took Mr. Nicholas a long time to persuade his suspicious members that this committee of inquiry was something quite different from arbitration. The Minister knew that Mr. Nicholas had had a very difficult time in getting the men's agreement, but he did not decide there and then that he would reject the advice given him. No; he let the time go by. He waited until 20th January before agreeing to consider the appointment of a committee.
During that time discussions had been taking place about the selection of an arbitrator for the court of inquiry. Both parties were preparing their cases. If the Transport and General Workers' Union was deceived, so was the London Transport Executive. It was not until 26th January that the Minister of Labour refused to set up an inquiry, and suggested something else.
§ The Minister of Labour and National Service (Mr. Iain Macleod)
It was the 24th.
§ Mr. Robens
If the Minister says that it was 24th January I will accept it from him—but, in any case, it was fourteen days later. From the moment when he knew that this had been suggested, did it really take him a fortnight to decide, after that suggestion officially came to 1372 him, whether he would reject it or not? If he was going to reject it, why was he not honest enough to say to Sir Wilfred Neden "Even if you come with that, I cannot accept it, for these reasons"? Why did he not do that?
Why did he humiliate the trade union leaders by getting them to persuade their members to take a line of action which they had virtually refused before, and then turn the matter in the way he has done? I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman realises the work which men who have to lead the unions have to do in any case, quite apart from having it made much more difficult by the Minister of Labour. I say that the right hon. Gentleman has grossly let down the trade union movement, and has not carried out the functions of mediator laid upon him as Minister of Labour.
The right hon. Gentleman told this House that he came to this conclusion himself, and, constitutionally, the decision must be his, after consideration with some of his colleagues. This was a Cabinet decision, even though the meeting was not in the Cabinet room. This was not the right hon. Gentleman's decision, made entirely on his own, because if it had been, it would not have taken fourteen days to make it. The decision was finally made after the right hon. Gentleman had consulted his senior colleagues. This was political interference with the free negotiating machinery that has been painfully built up.
In rather different circumstances, the right hon. Member for Monmouth resigned from the Government when he felt that the Cabinet was letting him down, whereas the Minister of Labour preferred to stay in, probably because he valued his future political advancement—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—preferring that to carrying out the duties as Minister of Labour that are laid upon him by Statute. Unless the right hon. Gentleman has a very good explanation to make for taking fourteen days to make up his mind about this, and why he permitted men of good will to go to all the trouble they did to find this solution—
§ Mr. Robens
I shall go on saying it. This is important; this is what the right hon. Gentleman did.
1373 It took Mr. Frank Cousins twelve hours of negotiations to stop a but strike, and the bus strike has been averted in London by the efforts of the leaders of the trade union movement, and not those of the Minister, whose duty it was. There are three examples which I have given to show how Government policy, in my view, is leading to industrial unrest.
To sum up, I believe that the Government have created a situation in which wage claims unrelated to productivity are made. Having created this unrest, they cast doubt on the impartiality of the peace-making mediation of the Ministry of Labour, and have now given a strong impression of political interference in what, up to now, has been the free, voluntary negotiating machinery for the settlement of wages and conditions in industry. For these reasons, we shall divide the House tonight.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ The Minister of Labour and National Service (Mr. Iain Macleod)
The Motion which the Leader of the Opposition has put down for debate today goes so wide in its wording that we could debate any single aspect of the domestic, social, or industrial policy of the Government, but I think it would probably make for a more coherent debate if I tried to follow the line taken by the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) on the many points of great importance on industrial relations which he has made.
Perhaps I could say this. I thought the first twenty minutes of the right hon. Gentleman's speech represented about the best contribution to industrial relations in this country that I have heard in this House. I think the end of his speech, particularly, if I may say so, his contemptible attack on myself, was entirely unworthy of him, but I will not fail to deal with both.
This debate, in part at least, had its origin in a decision taken by myself—a decision widely criticised, I agree, but also widely commended—in relation to the London bus dispute. I think the House might like to know the latest position. I received yesterday a letter from the union stating that a dispute existed between themselves and the London Transport Executive, and inviting me to refer it to the Industrial Court, which, as the House knows, is a form of voluntary 1374 arbitration. I contacted the London Transport Executive, which is agreeable to that course being pursued, as indeed it always has been.
Now, and I very much welcome this result, the case will be referred without delay to the Industrial Court, and I am so informing—indeed, I have already informed—the parties. I do not know how long that will take, but it will be only a comparatively short time—two or three weeks, or something like that—before the matter can be dealt with.
I will come straight away to other points on the London bus dispute, because I should like to get this part of my speech out of the way before I turn to some of the wider aspects of arbitration and other matters which have aroused great interest lately. I would point out that I knew perfectly well—indeed, there was no need for the harangue about it, because I announced it on two occasions and in Press statements from my Ministry—that these matters were discussed at these meetings at which my Chief Industrial Commissioner was present.
In effect, the first charge is that, quite apart from the warnings—and they were by no means formal warnings, nor should they ever be taken as formal warnings—that a Minister's position is reserved—it is important to keep that, as the right hon. Gentleman will agree—but quite apart from that, it is suggested, and the right hon. Gentleman has repeated it today, that I should have taken steps, particularly at the time when Mr. Nicholas was putting forward his case, against some opposition, to his union members, to make known either my disapproval or possible disapproval of the course that was taken.
I should like to make two points here, without heat at all. The first is that if we put that suggestion into terms of any other discussion going on in any other union or dispute, or even at an earlier stage or earlier scene of this same story, we shall see that it is not a tenable argument.
If, for example, and the right hon. Gentleman also referred to it, at the union meeting in December, when Mr. Cousins and Mr. Nicholas failed to persuade their union to take this case to arbitration, suppose I had given an indication that I thought the leaders of 1375 the union were right, as I did, and that the men were wrong, the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that there would have been a Private Notice Question in the House the next morning. It would have been said that that was a very serious interference with the ordinary way in which these affairs are conducted.
On that point, I would just say this. A Minister should not, in my view, express his opinion on schemes that are not fully formulated, that are not at that stage fully agreed and have not been presented to him, because if correct procedure is an important part of the functions of trade union officials it is equally an important part of the functions of the Minister of Labour.
If I may put it colloquially, the right hon. Gentleman asks why I did not declare much earlier that this entry was a "non-runner." The simple answer, which I have given to the House, is because I did not think that. I said in my statement after my meeting with Mr. Cousins that all courses had some attractions and some disadvantages. I thought this course had very considerable attractions, and what I also thought was important and what weighed heavily on me was the successful work that Mr. Nicholas had done. I genuinely considered this particular application with a bias in favour of accepting when finally the proposal came to me on 21st January. But the more closely I looked at it the more I became convinced of the difficulties of this course. I am not arguing on arbitration for the moment but on the question of the narrower as against the wider committee of inquiry.
I know it is said that there was a proposal on my desk and that I should deal with that case in isolation; that it was no business of mine what wage claims might or might not follow from any section of the industry. But I maintain that that attitude would put the Minister of Labour and National Service into blinkers. I know as well as anyone else in this country and as well as anyone in this House the sequence of events which took place in this industry, and I came to that conclusion. The right hon. Gentleman is quite right when he says that a number of preparations went on in anticipation that this might be the way 1376 out. I even drew up terms of reference and looked at them myself, and I came to the conclusion in the end—I may be right or wrong, but it is genuinely my own opinion—that it was not right to have the narrower inquiry.
Of course, it is true that to have arbitration now does not dispose of the point of view in the first part of the letter of Sir Wilfred Neden. It does not dispose of what I might call the leapfrogging argument. Of course not. But I drew the attention of the unions to their right either to compulsory or voluntary arbitration. They have exercised one of their rights, and I am very pleased indeed that they have done so. But, of course, it is true that the wider danger remains, and it might be right that at the same time I should embark—with the agreement of all the parties when this is out of the way—on an examination of the wider situation in the whole of this industry. I think that might be to the benefit of everyone.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the question, and because we are anxious that there should be no dispute about his good faith in this matter—
§ Mr. Pannell
—I wish to know this. The suggestion is put up that there should be an inquiry into the London busmen. I heard that first on the television, and so it may be that mine is the normal reaction of the average citizen, and, as I understand it, the Minister boggled at that. He did not want a national inquiry. Would it not have been possible to have reconciled these things, to have had an inquiry into the London bus dispute and its impact on the country? I cannot think why a compromise could not have been made on that issue.
§ Mr. Macleod
Indeed, I do not think that was impossible, and I did indicate that in the context of a wider inquiry it might well have been possible—perhaps this will still come in the wider inquiry I am talking about—to look at the London claim.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
The Minister has explained why he accepts the Industrial Court, which is not binding and consists of a Ministry-appointed 1377 chairman and assessors from both sides, even though it does not deal with the wider issue. Will he now explain what is the advantage of accepting that and refusing an ad hoc committee set up in exactly the same way to do exactly the same job?
§ Mr. Macleod
It does not do the same job. I do not know what view will he taken, nor have we yet drawn up agreed terms of reference—though I do not anticipate any difficulty in doing so—for the particular hearing at the Industrial Court. The difference between that and the original inquiry—an unprecedented one, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman recognises, for so far as I know there is no precedent for it—was that this new body would report back to the parties and not, as in the ordinary Court of Inquiry, to the Minister. It seemed to me unwise, for the reasons I have given, to take that on the narrow view. I want to say something in a minute about the point about Industrial Court awards.
I wish to deal straight away—I should like to get this also out of the way—with what the right hon. Gentleman said about me and the decision that was taken. I hope that on reflection he will regret what he said. This was a decision taken fully on my own responsibility. Many people in the Press have said, and the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) raised it cogently in the last debate, that there is emerging a dilemma for the Minister of Labour, with his traditional functions and his membership of the Cabinet. I dealt with that point in my speech during the economic debate, and I do not want to go over the ground again. It is perhaps a little strange that, in the same week in which we have been discussing what is supposed to be a case of divided loyalties among directors of the Bank of England, we should also discuss what is supposed to be the case of the possible divided loyalties of a Minister.
I do not think anyone who has had anything to do with public life can ever have felt wholly free from dilemmas of this sort, but I think that the difficulties are very much overstated, just as they were overstated in the debates we had earlier this week. There are other examples in this country. We do not think it strange, for example, that the Lord Chancellor should go from a 1378 Cabinet meeting to preside over the highest judicial tribunal in the land; nor that he should, in the same day, go from the Woolsack to a party meeting. Essentially this must be a question for the man or the woman—the person—most closely concerned, and in this case that is myself.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the resignation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his colleagues on what they thought was a matter of principle. I disagreed with them, I did not think it was a matter of principle. If they did, then they were right, and, as they have said, they are content about it. In exactly the same way I am not aware and have not been conscious of any dilemma betwen the two positions that I have held and which Ministers of Labour have always held. If I may, I would repeat briefly what I said in the last debate. All Chancellors of the Exchequer have had policies of wage restraint; all Ministers of Labour have been privy to them. In some degree, at least, this dilemma always exists, but I genuinely do not believe it is as formidable as the right hon. Gentleman indicated or as some Press comment has mentioned.
I should like to come to what I think will be the central theme of the debate, the question of arbitration; what is right and what is wrong to say to those who adjudicate and exactly on what basis should those who judge consider a case that is put before them, including, in particular, the very interesting point about whether, and if so how, what is referred to as the national interest should be put before them. Let me say this about arbitration. The right hon. Gentleman made a tremendous attack upon us and said that we had destroyed faith in it. It is easy to say that, and it would be just as easy for me to deny it. But I prefer to give the actual figures which I have looked up for the last three months—following the Government's announcement of policy on 19th September. I have compared the applications for voluntary and for compulsory arbitration with those for the year before. In the last three months the figure for voluntary arbitration is 20 and for the year before it is 20. For compulsory arbitration in the last three months the figure is 64, and for the year before it is 63. How can anyone say, on the 1379 figures of 84 against 83, that there is any major change?
There is one more important consideration. There is much good wisdom in the trade union movement.
§ Mr. Macleod
No. I cannot give way. May I go on? There is one very important fact about arbitration which we should keep in mind. We are very apt to talk about arbitration as if it decided the whole pattern of wage negotiation in this country. It is interesting to realise what a small percentage of matters is dealt with at arbitration, and it is to the credit of everybody concerned in industry.
The figures for the make-up of the additions to the wage bill last year—they are percentage additions, taken to the nearest 1 per cent.—are as follows: By direct negotiation, 41 per cent.; by joint industrial councils, 28 per cent.; by wage boards and wage councils, 21 per cent.; by sliding-scales linked to the Retail Price Index, 7 per cent.; by arbitration, 2 per cent.; and by other forms of voluntary agreement, 1 per cent. It should be said, in credit to the trade union movement and to the employers of this country, what a very small percentage goes to arbitration, in spite of what is said in the Press and in this House.
We have given no instructions, formal or informal, to the arbitrators, but what we have said from the Box in this House, and notably the statement by my right hon. Friend the late Chancellor in HANSARD of 29th October, to which the right hon. Member for Blyth has referred. We have not gone further than that statement, nor in any way do we retreat from it; but it raises a number of interesting questions. I want to come to one of them straight away, and I know that on this one at least I may be caught in a cross-fire because some of my hon. Friends will disagree with what I am about to say.
It is often said that there is an unheard third party—the national interest or consumer interest—which goes unrepresented at these great tribunals which have such an important effect upon the economy of our country. I want to put one argument in relation to what is called the "national interest" or "consumer interest" which 1380 seems to me formidable if not actually decisive.
If we say that the national interest should be represented at the tribunal we come straight into the question, "National interest as defined by whom?" That, presumably, can only mean by Ministers, and Ministers change and Governments change, and perhaps the conception of the national interest changes with them. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I have full confidence in Her Majesty's present advisers to represent faithfully the national interest, but I could not expect that enthusiasm to be shared in the same degree on the benches opposite. Therefore, if we are to have a conception of the national interest coming from a Government, it is bound to be suspect.
If we say that the consumers' interest should be represented, I reply that the interest of the consumers, unless they are directly involved in the particular wage claim, is that no one should get increases at all. When people say that the consumer interest should be represented I always get a picture of a large formidable lady sitting next to the chairman of the tribunal and saying, "No one is to get anything, except my George." I have a feeling that it is not practical politics to have a statement of what is called the "national" or the "consumer" interest at these tribunals.
Just because one tries to dismiss the idea with two answers, one does not dismiss the problem. It is a very real problem and it will face all Governments. It is in two parts. Attention was drawn to the first part by Professor Jack in the engineering and shipbuilding disputes, echoing something which was said in the earlier inquiries by Lord Justice Morris, to the effect that it was difficult for arbitrators to know, in the context of the immediate claim before them, what sort of impact very big wage claims had upon the national economy. That is one part of the argument.
The second part is for the public themselves, who, in the end, must be carried with any policy on these lines. Is it going to be possible for the public to understand the issues which are involved? How do we try to educate the general public to understand this particular point of the dilemma of economic stability?
§ Mr. Stan Awbery (Bristol, Central)
Is it not clearly understood by arbitrators, when their names are placed on the panel as such, that they shall have regard at all times to the economic position of the country and the effects of the claim upon it, as well as to the case put forward by the employers and employees? Why was it necessary to emphasise from that Box what is laid down in the appointment of arbitrators?
§ Mr. Macleod
I will deal with the point about what it is right to lay down from this Box and answer the hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Awbery) straight away. The Socialist Government went far beyond anything we have done. The 1948 White Paper made it clear that claims should be considered on their national merit. The then Minister of Labour—I do not dissent from what he did—thought it right to write to wage boards, wage councils and similar bodies, drawing attention to what the Prime Minister had said in the House of Commons and in the White Paper. He even wrote to joint industrial councils on the eve of their deciding very great affairs, hoping that both sides of the council would have regard to what had been said in the House of Commons. Nobody can say that what the Socialist Government did did not go far further to push tribunals of one sort or another towards the policies the Government were advocating.
§ Mr. Macleod
Although I do not believe that those are the only two answers about the national interest and consumer interest, the problem remains, and I believe we shall have a major contribution towards solving this problem from Lord Cohen's Council on Productivity, Prices and Incomes, which arises directly out of the recommendation to which I have referred. I believe the first Report of the Council is coming in a few days. It was said, when this body was first appointed, that there was nothing new for it to say. I do not believe that to be true. Even so, it does not dispose of the point.
If old, wise and true things can be said again by people who may, in the end, be taken, for all the misgivings there have been, as giving an impartial point of view, it may get us a long way forward along this road. The 1948 Socialist 1382 White Paper was an excellent, fair, factual document, free of political and party bias. The document that the Conservative Party calls, "The Economic Implications of Full Employment," would qualify under exactly the same heading; but they have not the same impact they could have because they come from the Treasury, from the Government. It is correctly thought that Governments have a great interest in what emerges from these tribunals. In exactly the same way an economic analysis from the T.U.C. would be suspect. That has been proved to be so in the past.
If we get from this Council the sort of impartial analysis that I have been hoping we should be able to obtain, it may be of great value to everybody. I am glad that, after some initial hesitation, the trade union movement thought it right—I am sure they were very wise—to give evidence. At the very lowest, the report by the people of distinction who form that Council and which will shortly be coming out, will be well worth reading. It may well be that it will do more than that to help overcome the main problem of achieving stability which confronts us all.
The right hon. Member charged me with many things. He often does. I have debated with him many times, and one of the endearing things about him is the obstinate fidelity with which he blames me, not only for everything that has happened, but for everything that has not happened. When I hear him saying as he did last week, and as I have heard him say on other occasions, that we are at a turning point in industrial relations and that every statement I make is a grave statement which is bedevilling relations between my Ministry and the trade union movement, I remain unbowed, because I draw comfort sometimes from looking at HANSARD for 21st July, 1952. It was the same scene; the right hon. Member had a Private Notice Question to my noble Friend Lord Monckton, who was then Minister of Labour and National Service. From the intervention of the right hon. Member I take these words:this is a serious interference with the free, voluntary wage negotiation machinery…this may be a turning point in the relations between the trade union movement and his Government…in any case it is likely to bedevil relations between his Department and the trade union movement…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st July, 1952; Vol. 504, c. 36.]
§ Mr. Robens
Will the right hon. Gentleman also tell the House that after I made those statements Lord Monckton signed the wage agreement which up to that moment he had refused to do?
§ Mr. Macleod
Six years have passed and nothing, not even a word, has changed. The Government are still about to have a terrible clash with the trade union movement—probably next week—the Government are still poised at a turning point in their relations, and I suppose, as the right hon. Member said in 1952, we are going to have one million unemployed, perhaps this Christmas. Unchanged in a changing world, Alfred goes on burning the cakes.
§ Mr. Macleod
I should like to be allowed to continue. This attitude, which has a certain endearing consistency about it, is also to some extent a mirror of the way the party of the right hon. Member looks at industrial relations. I think it is entirely out of date. If the right hon. Member and the House really study what has happened to industrial relations, particularly over the last twenty years and since the coming of full employment, and compare that with what happened in the thirties, they will see that it is full employment itself, the good fairy, and not wickedness on the Government Front Bench or the Front Bench opposite which has created a great change. I do not believe we have yet begun to understand what a solvent full employment can be for our difficulties.
I think it is partly because of that that so much of what we say in this House seems meaningless outside. We should remember, for example, that the young boy who left school in 1939 is now in his middle thirties and does not make much sense of some of the stuff which is tossed backwards and forwards across the Floor of this House. We never debate, or practically never debate, industrial relations in this House. That is a great mistake. If I may speak for a moment as a Member of the House of Commons and not just as a Minister, I do not think we in this House of Commons give the lead in industrial affairs which we ought to give.
That is not because we cannot give it, for there are any number of people now 1384 listening to me who have a first-rate knowledge of industry at all levels and all forms of industry from the boardroom down to the shop floor, but somehow we have always felt estopped from discussing industrial relations. That is why I welcome this debate. Ministers usually say they welcome a debate, which is a stock phrase, but I do welcome this debate because I believe we may be able to make a start here in giving a lead. When hon. Members opposite have finished the agreeable parliamentary exercise of pulling the mote out of my eye, they should consider the beam in their own. They will then see that most of the battles they have here have been won long ago. If we look at industry, we find it full of restrictive practices on both sides. Those practices grew up in the frightened days of the twenties and thirties, and have no meaning at all in the fifties.
We will find, also, that much of our policy, and indeed, some of our legislation, actually assumes the existence of fairly heavy unemployment. We see that the whole nexus of industrial relations is still too often conceived in terms of struggle instead of terms of partnership. That is why I hope the debate will be very wide today. I do not think we should exclude anything from our consideration. If the trade union movement is—as I believe it is, and often say it is—the finest in the world, it will not be weakened but will be strengthened by being discussed in this House.
It is now thirty years since there was any investigation into the collective bargaining system of this country. That means it has never been examined in the context of full employment to which I have referred. We do not know exactly what sort of pattern arbitration should take in future. In spite of all our efforts, we have not yet succeeded in finding the right relationship for the great public sector between responsibility to a Minister in this House on one side and commercial freedom which a great enterprise must have on the other.
All these are proper matters for discussion, and I hope they will be discussed today. I do not for a second say that we ought to have a bipartisan approach to industrial relations—there are far too many matters which reasonably divide us—but I do say that we might be able to 1385 speak in this House with something of a sense of common purpose. If so, we may be able to contribute to the leadership which many people are trying to give, the leadership coming from the trade union movement, from the British Employers' Confederation and men in great and small firms, great and small units. Thereby, we may be able to contribute to the industrial leadership which this country is going to need desperately in the years ahead, whatever Government may be in power.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Allen (Bosworth)
It is so long since I ventured to speak in this House that I feel almost disposed to ask for consideration. My chief purpose in speaking on this occasion is to try to deal with some of the points raised referring to the machinery of arbitration and conciliation within a condition of full employment.
It is with pride that I mention the fact that some time ago I completed fifty years' membership of my union, the Boot and Shoe Operatives' Union, a very good union. It is a union which, from its earliest years, has relied on methods of conciliation and arbitration. Not since 1895 has there been a major stoppage in the industry, although in 1905 the Army boot workers of Raunds marched on London and their leader, "Jimmy" Gribble, sought to address this House from the Strangers' Gallery. I am afraid he did not stay there for very long.
There has not been a major dispute in the industry since 1895. There have been local strikes, as I well remember, but they have been brought about in order to enforce an agreement already made between the two parties. A national strike in the boot and shoe industry would have hurt no one; we could not have held the economy to ransom. Who would have cared? We had to resort to arbitration. In effect, we had no economic power to exert. I believe in arbitration and I believe in conciliation. I believe in arbitration because I believe in reason in these matters.
I am satisfied that one of the reasons why the boot and shoe industry has been relatively trouble-free is that under the agreement between the parties a conference between employers and employed is held every two years for the purpose 1386 of discussing the workers' claims. There is an element of security in that. People know that this conference will take place. The conference decides and fixes rates of wages and working conditions for two years, and that gives stability in the Industry.
In past years we often met in an atmosphere of suspicion because we suspected the relevant statistics as to wages and output placed before us by the manufacturers. In these days these statistics are put in the hands of the union's executive council some time before the conference meets. They are, therefore, open to scrutiny. It makes all the difference to the atmosphere of the conference that the basic facts are agreed beforehand. All too often labour relations are bedevilled by suspicion. We are greatly helped in our conferences because they were presided over in my day by men like Addington Willis and the late Sir Charles Doughty.
My first plea is that arbitration should be universally resorted to and that all relevant statistics should be in the hands of the men's representatives before negotiations begin. It is exasperating to be met with facts and figures in debate which one does not believe to be true or of which one starts by being suspicious the moment one steps inside the conference room.
Having reached agreement, it is essential that decisions arrived at after conference should be sacrosanct, even if they are not legally binding. How far agreements should have the force of law is not within my province to discuss. Nevertheless, it is of the greatest importance that decisions arrived at by arbitration should secure acceptance and observance.
Whatever justification the Minister of Health feels that he may have had for acting in turning down the decision of the Whitley Council, his action did no good to the cause of arbitration—and all for a miserable 3 per cent. However bad things may be, they are not as bad as all that. How silly it seems now when set alongside the recent increases to Post Office engineering workers. What, in the name of heaven, can he the reason for this discrimination?
Let me turn for a moment to the London busmen's dispute. I so much agree with what the Minister of Labour said in the latter part of his speech 1387 that I find it difficult to disagree with him here, but I have made up my mind to disagree with him on this matter and I will try to say what I had it in mind to say.
The Minister's case is that he did not want the men's claim to be dealt with in isolation; that is what he said. He wanted an inquiry covering the whole of the passenger transport industry. He said that he wanted to prevent leapfrogging. In effect, what the Minister proposes is that in the passenger transport industry the differentials between London and the provinces should be planned on a basis of equity.
As a proposal I can find no fault with it. The only objection to it is the time it would take before a decision could be reached. What I want to stress is that the Minister's proposal carries us a step nearer to a wage policy. It is a proposal which takes us further away from the higgling of the market to a consideration of what is just and equitable between one section of workers and another. As being that, I welcome it. We need further extensions of this idea. But what a mess the Minister is making of the laws of supply and demand—and that I cannot understand.
I always understood that the Tory Party based its standing in these matters on the higgling of the market and the laws of supply and demand. In this proposal the Minister of Labour is getting right away from any such consideration; there would be no leap-frogging, no decision enforced on the basis of economic strength, but there would be what is just and equitable as between man and man. That is to be the determining factor. It does not accord with Tory philosophy, but it makes sense to me.
More and more it seems to me tint that is the direction which must be followed. A policy of full employment makes it essential; given full employment, there must be more planning and less higgling. What is needed is a wages policy based on considerations of justice and equity. If, under a condition of full employment, workers seek their own immediate advantage in forcing up wages, they end in exploiting one another. To force up wages without consideration of workers in other industries and the effect of rising prices on 1388 others is a condition of fraternal exploitation.
The facts are clear enough respecting the public sector of industry. It can be seen quite plainly what will happen in the public sector of industry if wage increases are made without any relation at all to increases in productivity. I want to draw a distinction between the public sector and the private sector of industry because inequity arises between one and the other. What is quite clear in the public sector with respect to increases in wages when there is no accompanying increase in productivity is not as clear in the private sector.
May I take the case of the miners as an instance of what I mean about people working in the public sector of industry? Their economic strength is such that if they so minded they could bring down the whole economy about our ears. The facts of the situation are apparent. Given an increase in wages without an increase in production, they would inevitably force up the price of coal or increase the indebtedness of the National Coal Board. That would be the immediate and inescapable effect of wage increases.
The miners' case on this is that the costs of distribution are excessive. I am not trying to teach my grandmother to suck eggs; the miners' officials and the men know the position perfectly well. I am trying to explain the difference between the public sector and the private sector of industry because, eventually, I want to deal with the Minister's veto on wage increases in the public sector. I understand that the miners' case is that the cost of distribution is excessive and that there is room for manœuvre and for an increase in wages if distribution is made economic. It is quite wrong that the miners' wages should be detrimentally affected because of the inefficiency of distribution.
Let me next take the case of the railwaymen. Again, I hesitate to talk about it, but I want to stress that if there is an increase in wages in the railway industry, inevitably the cost of freight and the cost of travel rises. There is no escape from that. There is no profit margin out of which increased wages can be taken. I am merely stating a fact.
The fact is that for workers in the public sector there are no profits out of 1389 which wage increases can he paid. Under full employment the facts are the same in the private sector of industry, although they are less apparent. Full employment for workers is also full employment for industrial organisations. Increased wages are increased costs, and are automatically reflected in increased prices, always provided, again, that there is no increase in production.
But the whole trouble, on grounds of equity, between the public and the private sectors lies in the fact that, in the public sector, the Government can say "No." Ministers are empowered by Statute to do so, and have done so. A Minister's veto is an anomaly and an injustice. It is not based in equity, because it cannot be made universal in both the public and the private sectors. It is a strange new world into which we have blundered, in which wages in the most essential industries are to be kept clown by Government decree, while in the less essential industries the sky is the limit, because the Government decree does not run that far.
I want to plead that in conditions of full employment some measure of planning within the economy is inevitable and inescapable, whether our party is in power or whether there is a Conservative Government in office. Given full employment, certain eventualities are inevitable. Without planning, too much of our economic strength can be, and is, wasted in the production of non-essentials at the same time as the more essential and basic industries are starved of the requisite capital for expansion.
With full employment without essential financial controls, too much money is let loose within the economy. That seems to me to be a situation entirely different from that envisaged by the advocates of social credit in the days before the war, when they used to say that the economy suffered from unemployment because the industrial system did not generate the requisite amount of money to keep the wheels of industry turning. Under full employment, the tendency is just the exact opposite. As I say, with full employment without essential financial controls, too much money is let loose within the economy.
From that, we get demand inflation. Unless restraint is exercised by the 1390 unions, the situation is aggravated by the fact that we get a wage-cost inflation as well as demand inflation. Inflationary pressure is inseparable from a condition of full employment, and we must all recognise that fact. Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I am a decent chap, and not an economist—in spite of what I am saying. I believe that at one time I did possess a diploma from Oxford University, but when I asked my wife what had become of it she said that she had given it away because the ink had faded.
It is the duty of any Government to hold inflation in check. Inflation is a curse. It is the easy way to perdition. It is inequitable as between section and section within the community, and it can lead finally to economic disaster; and even to the end of democracy. The great problem facing democracy is to marry full employment to stable money. It is a problem not only for Governments, but for unions. If, under full employment, unions pushed up wages beyond the point warranted by increased production, increased prices would follow. It is possible to create a condition of economic anarchy in which workers end by exploiting one another. I am not so sure that we have not reached it.
Let me now say a word about the effects of inflation upon the Welfare State. We were very proud of the welfare structure that we built in 1948 and in the years immediately afterwards. Now look at it. It is being, or stands in danger of being, undermined by inflation. There is no sense in pursuing a policy of social welfare based upon benefits fixed in terms of money if the value of those benefits is undermined by inflation.
In an inflationary situation, the strong exploit the weak. Unions become instruments of exploitation, instead of being instruments of social amelioration. Especially is this so if they force up the cost of living against old-age pensioners and others living on fixed incomes. I assure the House that this is not a new gospel so far as I am concerned. It is the kind of thing I used to say to my members.
We cannot have social justice on a basis of depreciating money. A sound structure is not built on a foundation stuffed with paper. We do not want to return to 1391 the stupid deflationary policy of the interwar years, but if we are to have a continuance of full employment there must be full co-operation between the Government and the unions. There must be restraint. Every responsible trade union official knows this, but I must say that the Government have done little to make things easy for the responsible trade union official. Both unions and Government must agree, in co-operation with one another, to hold steady the cost of living and the general level of prices.
The Government—I started by craving their indulgence, but let me now blot my copybook—have not helped responsible trade union officials in the least. On the contrary, they have been provocative in that they have, in several ways, put up the cost of living and deliberately put up the cost—of living. They have increased the burdens on the workers, while relieving the wealthy of taxation. They have given remissions of taxation to those in receipt of bonus shares—a quite unjustifiable act. Bonus shares are a provocation, and should be prohibited. A defence of them is mere economic sophistry. I am all for a policy of restraint by the unions, but the Government must be helpful, not provocative.
In the past, the Government have encouraged inflation by a too rapid abandonment of controls, both import and financial. In so far as they have resorted to restriction of credit and the increase of interest rates, they have not discriminated between the good and the bad, the essential and the inessential, and the sense of urgency within the economy no longer exists. People are just apathetic, and indifferent, and careless, and somehow or other we have to bring home these great economic truths to the mass of the people, in whatever industry they may be working.
When the Government came into power, in 1951 the T.U.C. immediately offered wholehearted co-operation in nursing the nation back to a condition of economic and financial help. Immediately, the Trades Union Congress sent a message to them offering its closest co-operation, given consultation. Since then, there has been consultation from time to time, but no co-operation. If we are to maintain a condition of full employment 1392 on a basis of stable money, there must be full understanding and complete co-operation between the Government and organised workers.
The Government must restrict the supply of money to inessential enterprises, and the trade unions must not press claims for increases without reference to the effect on prices. Differentiation between the essential and the inessential is a job for the Government, not for the banks. It is right that the effect on the economy must be considered in all wage negotiations. In that, I entirely agree with the Minister of Labour and, of course, I also find myself in wholehearted agreement with the document distributed by the Labour Government in 1948, on the eve of negotiations that were to take place.
There it is. I am most anxious that under conditions of full employment it should be fully recognised that inflation is inseparable from that condition; that we are, all the time, on the verge of inflation; and that everybody, whether Government, employers or employees, must co-operate to defeat this social evil of inflation, because it undermines equity and creates social evils that, if we were to act reasonably in these matters, we would not permit.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. John Rodgers (Sevenoaks)
It is a treat, a rare treat, I regret to say, to follow the hon. Member for Bosworth (Mr. A. Allen). Sagacity, wisdom and courage shone through his speech. Although it may sound almost as if I am following a maiden speaker, I express the hope that we may hear his voice on many occasions. One of the reasons, perhaps, that we have not heard him very often is, as my right hon. Friend the Minister said, that the House has so seldom devoted any time to this most important of all subjects, industrial relations. In the last few years, we have not had a major debate on the subject. It has been raised occasionally on the Adjournment, but, whether by design or accident, the deplorable fact is that we seldom have any opportunity to discuss the subject, and I very much hope that it will be brought before us at frequent intervals in the future.
I am grateful to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite for putting down the Motion which enables us to talk about 1393 labour relations today. Their reaction to Motions is always pessimistic; they are born Jeremiahs. Crisis and disaster always loom ahead; they never welcome Motions; they accept. They deplore, they regret, and they view with great concern.
§ Mr. Rodgers
The mere words of the Motion indicate, to my mind, how far out of touch with reality right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are.
§ Mr. Rodgers
The economic policies of the Government are, in all directions, proving successful. No mention has been made so far of the effect of recent measures on our balance of payments, yet only this week the Treasury announced that the gold and dollar reserves for January, for instance, were up by £47 million, the largest single increase since May, 1954. Already, we have recovered half the reserves lost during August and September. Surely, this is news which should not be regarded with grave concern. It is something which should be welcomed by all hon. Members of the House.
The trouble with a great many hon. Members opposite is that they are "Bourbons"; they forget nothing—and sometimes they learn nothing. As for the gloomy prognostications about mass unemployment which is always going to follow in the wake of a Tory Government, we know how false they have proved. In recent months, as I understand it, since these measures were taken by the Government, days lost through industrial disputes from September until today are actually fewer than they have been for the corresponding period in any of the last eight years. This, surely, is nothing to be gloomy about. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite always have a tendency to cry "Wolf" much too often on the subject of full employment.
The policy of Her Majesty's Government is not one of wage-freeze, as has been alleged, nor is it an attack on the British system of free, voluntary wage negotiations in industry. I sincerely urge 1394 all hon. Gentlemen, whatever their political affiliations, to face the economic facts. It is true, as any objective person will recognise, that we have paid ourselves as a nation—all sections of it—more than we have earned. The last Chancellor of the Exchequer pointed out that, in 1956, we paid in wages and salaries about £900 million more than we did in the year before, although production had hardly risen at all. That state of affairs can lead only to inflation. The latest figures, given the other day by the Minister of Power, show that last year industrial output rose by 1½ per cent. but wage rates rose by 5 per cent. and industrial profits rose by a similar amount.
§ Mr. Rodgers
I will come to that. If wages rise above productivity, home costs inevitably increase. The right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) pointed out, quite rightly, that order books are not as full as they were. The reason is that order books will not be so full if our costs continue to rise at a time when export prices are going down, when industry needs profits in order to keep plant modernised, conduct research and extend into new markets.
In the circumstances, it is surely right for any Government to call for stability. If the party opposite were in power at the moment, it would be entitled, as it did in 1948, to issue appeals for wage stability. We need stability, not only in wages but in salaries and dividends. I entirely agree on that. As The Times points out in its leader today, warnings and appeals were given in 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1950 by the party opposite. Today, when the situation is more grave than it was then, I hope that we shall be more successful in trying to bring about wage-cost stability than the party opposite was.
§ Mr. G. Brown
If the hon. Gentleman is right in saying that wages rose by 5 per cent. last year and productivity rose by 1½ per cent., will he not tell us also—I thought he was going to that prices went up by 4½ per cent.? If one deducts the wage rise which was due to a rise in the price index in the face of falling world prices from the total wage increase, one then sees that wages went up by less than the increase in the workers' productivity. Does that not destroy his point?
§ Mr. Rodgers
Not entirely; that is another argument altogether, which I will not pursue now. What I was about to say is that some people suggest that, while we have urged restraint in regard to wage increases, we have done nothing about profits and dividends. I believe that the measures the Government have taken in putting up the Bank Rate, restricting bank credit, and the like, have a more direct influence on profits and dividends, as will be proved soon, than anything they can do directly affecting wages.
The Government must show not only our own people but the rest of the world that honest money is still the basis of our policy. The hon. Member for Bosworth stressed this strongly, and I entirely share his view about the grave danger to the living conditions of ordinary people resulting from continuing inflation.
In pursuit of their policy, the Government were right to ask for the co-operation of all sections of the community, trade union leaders and management—in fact, from all people who in any way are responsible for costs and prices. Any failure to match wages and profits with income and production will not only weigh heavily upon many sections of the public, particularly pensioners and the like, but it will in the end—this is the vital point—jeopardise the achievement which both parties now take pride in, that is, the continuance of full employment. If the Government had not acted as they did last September, the situation would have deteriorated rapidly and we might very well by now have seen the beginning of real unemployment.
The Government are not deliberately—this accusation has been made by certain hon. Members—restricting production in order to create unemployment. This is a very unworthy suggestion, from whatever quarter it comes. Nor are the Government committed to a policy of wage-freeze. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the Health Service?"] The Government base their policy on the need not only to increase productivity but to reduce costs too. In other words, we must raise productivity without raising costs. That is our real problem. To achieve that end, we need genuine co-operation, as the right hon. Member for Blyth said. I was delighted to hear my 1396 right hon. Friend the Minister make his passionate plea also to that end today.
Both sides, unfortunately, still maintain stultifying attitudes and outmoded traditions. Too often—I want this to be said from this side—management itself has failed. Too many managers regard their workers with old fashioned paternalism—a "father knows best" sort of attitude. Too few managers genuinely encourage a sense of partnership or enthusiastically welcome joint consultations, discussions, and arbitrations on grievances and disputes. Too many managers think that any concession to the trade unions is wrong, only a cue for further demands, and that they must resist claims at all costs. Hardly ever do we hear of employers coming forward with offers of wage increases made possible by productivity; they wait for claims to be submitted. This is all wrong.
§ Mr. Rodgers
Too often management ignores the basic necessity of keeping all ranks fully informed on matters which will stimulate interest in the work and foster a true spirit of co-operation.
I welcome the Minister's announcement some days ago that he was about to publish a booklet giving examples of the best sort of positive employment policies, which would cover such things as status, benefits, contracts of service and redundancy policies. I hope it will not be long before we have this document. It will be a notable step forward in achieving some of the things for which many of us on this side have striven for many years.
It is to be hoped that the pursuit of these more enlightened policies by management will do much to change the somewhat stubborn attitude of certain trade unionists. I do not want to mention which trade unionists I have in mind except one; but we all know the trade union leader who says, "The British working man is going to have his rights and productivity be damned," or as Mr. Ted Hill, an admittedly irresponsible union member, said, "Our members come before the country." No wonder public opinion was outraged by remarks like that and asked whether there was something wrong with trade union leaders. 1397 Management may be wrong and at fault, but let us he honest. Some trade union leaders have been at fault, too. Wages have on the whole risen faster than productivity and the cost of living. The public in the end suffer from this. Workers are ultimately the public in another capacity. They are not different chaps. They are the same people consuming each other's goods.
I want to be quite frank about this. There are certain trends in trade union practice which are worrying and which ought to be denounced. The public have been alarmed in recent months over demarcation disputes. For example, the public were very much upset at the apparent failure of the unions to take charge of the shipbuilding dispute, when nobody was advantaged.
People are very alarmed equally at the present system of wage negotiations in the nationalised sector of industry. I am very glad that my right hon. Friend mentioned this matter. Inadequate attention has been paid to the changed conditions and the changes that nationalisation has brought about with full employment in these major sectors of our life with regard to wage negotiations. I believe very much that the Minister of Labour should not leave it to pious sentiments, saying that conditions have been changing, but should take a step forward and appoint a Royal Commission, special committee or investigating body to see whether the present negotiating system regarding wages in nationalised industries is the right one.
§ Mr. C. R. Hobson
The hon. Gentleman has had a wide experience in these matters. The least he could have done would be to be gracious and give credit to the T.U.C., who settled the disputes. It was the unions and not the employers who settled the disputes.
§ Mr. Rodgers
I am willing to give credit to the unions in accepting that, but the individual trade unionists are not without guilt in the matter.
I want to take up a point made by the right hon. Member for Blyth about arbitration. He seemed to think that it was an insult to tell the men in charge of wage negotiations arbitration what factors ought to be taken into account. Should they take into account the productivity in the particular industry, or 1398 the index of national productivity, the ability of the industry to pay, or the standing of the industry compared with other industries? The public are entitled to know what factors arbitrators consider. It is true that only 2 per cent. of the wage claims are submitted to arbitration. If we knew the headings under which the claims were adjudicated, and if it was obligatory on arbitrators to publish the reasons for their award, a body of opinion would grow up which would help in the 41 per cent. of voluntary negotiations and obtain a fairer deal all round. I hope that the Minister of Labour will pay attention to this question of arbitration.
I hope that the Cohen Committee—whose Report apparently will be published in a few days' time after. I think, an unconscionable delay—will throw some light on this matter and help to provide a back cloth, a general picture, against which individual wage claims can be judged in relation to the national position.
§ Mr. H. Hynd
The hon. Gentleman said that 2 per cent. of the disputes were settled by arbitration and 40 per cent. by direct negotiation. I do not know whether he is aware of it, but that is 2 per cent. of the value of the wage increases involved, not 2 per cent. of the number of disputes.
§ Mr. Rodgers
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that correction, but I did realise that. Too often in the public mind it appears that all that arbitrators do after days or weeks spent in deliberation, is to take the figure asked for by the unions and the figure offered by the employers, divide it roughly by two and award the resulting figure. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I do not say that it is right, but I can assure the House that this is what many people up and down the country are saying. It is because I wish to dispel that feeling that I wish the arbitrators to publish the reasons for their awards. It would be very good for public opinion to have those reasons given.
§ Mr. Lindgren
Surely the hon. Gentleman knows that in an application before a tribunal, those who are prosecuting the claim state their reasons for the claim, the ability of the industry to pay, its relationship with other industries and the risk involved, while the employers 1399 argue their case as to their inability to pay. Those two cases are published. It is the arbitrator's reasons which are not published.
§ Mr. Rodgers
I agree that both sides put forward their case, but the reasons for the arbitrator's decision are not published, and that is what I want to see published.
The unions have today rightly achieved immense power and position. I would like to pay a tribute to the excellent and most patriotic work that the T.U.C. have done with regard to labour relations. But there are certain disturbing things about trade unions. It is essential that the T.U.C. should be prepared to put its house in order.
§ Mr. Rodgers
I know that it is not its house. I do not want to go into the whole structure of the trade union movement, but when we have things such as the closed shop, or have to adjudicate whether a man should be allowed to work in the industry or be fined for working too hard and men are sent to Coventry because they disagree with their fellows, the public's mind is disturbed. Voting in certain unions is open to great doubt by many members of the public. It is right that we should focus attention on this matter, not because it reflects badly on the trade unions as such, but because it reflects on the solid good strength of the trade union movement. We can bring out these isolated instances without undermining the great position that trade unions occupy. Nevertheless, to say that there are blemishes on the trade union movement is not to say that it is of itself unhealthy. I am not saying that at all. But if the unions do not look into these problems, they must not be surprised if there is agitation by the public for a public inquiry into the way that unions are working in order to protect certain sections of the community.
Personally, I have the highest faith in the present T.U.C. leaders and in their basic good sense. To my mind, the first step to better labour relations must come not from the trade unions, but from management. I believe that management must adopt a more creative policy towards labour relations. It must anticipate labour demands. It must convince organised labour that it is willing 1400 and anxious to pay more, provided that workers get rid of restrictive practices and produce more at lower costs.
Labour now is—and I rejoice at it—very expensive. It will remain expensive, and management must use men more efficiently and replace them whenever possible with machines. That has been the secret of the success of America. It can well be ours, but it can be ours only if management can succeed in the formidable task of convincing labour that its best interests and management's best interests are identical and that prosperity must be earned before it can be shared.
In this difficult task, we are sometimes not helped by the attitude of the party opposite, which still seems to forget that Karl Marx is dead and that the whole concept of class warfare is outmoded. As the Minister himself said, what we must now move into is a period of real partnership and co-operation. People want higher wages, and it is right that they should want higher wages, and it is right that they should get higher wages. But we must try to devise some way, and that is what the Government are doing, whereby they can earn higher wages without higher wage costs.
§ 5.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Jack Jones (Rotherham)
I have been looking at the clock. There are fewer than four hours to the end of the debate, yet there are dozens of hon. Members who wish to speak—as one would expect in a debate of this kind. I regret that we can spend days discussing such matters as the crisis arising from the Bank Rate leakage, which affect some people, and only a short time discussing a financial crisis which is in almost every home in Britain almost every weekend.
The Government are rightly looking forward to this debate resulting in harmony, cohesion and co-operation in industry and all the other things which will help to offset those things which the Government have deliberately caused. How, in the name of all that is holy, Tory Ministers and hon. Members opposite can expect "Bill Brown," who saw what he saw last year, now to remain quiet and peaceably sit down and listen to his union telling him that he deserves a little more, but that, in his own interests, he ought not to have it, I do not know.
1401 There have been industrial disputes since history began. I was once asked by some German children, in Germany, if I could remember the first industrial dispute. Of course I could not and I do not think that anybody can, but I do remember that Pharaoh had a dispute with somebody who refused to make bricks without straw. There will always be rows if the Tories, or anybody else, expect British workers to make goods without proper remuneration with which to buy the food to get the sustenance from which to have the strength to make those goods.
During the past twelve months, we have seen the effect of the removal of food subsidies and an increase in the Bank Rate, but no attempt to restrain increases in the prices of commodities. This morning I found that the ordinary working man is expected to pay 5d. a lb. for potatoes, 11d. a lb. for sprouts, 6s. 9d. a lb. for steak, and 2s. 3d. a lb. for apples. In addition to all that, rents have been increased. Personally, I am not very much affected by those prices, but they worry millions of working men and their wives.
Much has been said about the T.U.C., which is a body just like the House of Commons in that it has differences of opinion. If any hon. Member thinks that the T.U.C. is composed of men who sit together and say "Aye", he needs to think again. The T.U.C. has its internal differences. It is a fine body and it has a democratic majority of sane, level-headed trade union leaders with only the odd fool, as has been said, who says that industrial action will bring about the solving of Britain's economic ills. Nothing so daft has ever been said by any responsible person in this country.
There are still a few diehard employers. They are learning the hard way, but there are still a few who think that it is right and proper to squeeze the last drop of blood out of harassed, helpless people who are forced into the trade union movement to protect themselves. There would have been no Labour Party and no trade union movement if those who owned and controlled industry had been decent and Christian in their attitude towards the masses of the people. The movement was born of hardship and of exploitation. 1402 Let us hear less talk about what the Tory Government want to do. The hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. J. Rodgers) said that we had full employment. He should take a look at my industry, the industry about which I claim to know a little, the steel industry. The hon. Member talked about an industry being decent, but it is the duty of an industry to do what is right and decent for its membership and for the nation. I agree with the view that the nation should come first, and I disagree with the man who puts the nation last. When our constitutional way of life disappears, there will be no parties and no arguments and we shall have those terrible things which I have seen in other places.
We have had a row about busmen's wages. I ride in a bus, but I am thankful that I do not have to drive one. I passed a driving test during the last six months. That was not easy. How men can manage to drive a bus without having to take a pill at every stop to steady their nerves, I do not know. But I do know that they do a grand job of work for the people of the finest city under the sun, and for a very small wage.
In spite of that, the Minister has said, in effect—and this is how the busmen regard it—"You have proved your case and you ought to get £x extra, but you will not have it". How can the Government expect men in industry—whether they are working in coal mines, in the steel industry, driving buses, or whatever it may be—to go to their work feeling content when they believe that that is what is happening? The former Chancellor of the Exchequer resigned, and well he might. He should have resigned when he gave the Surtax payers £37 million last year. He was able to do that and yet, within months, the busmen are being denied their extra money.
The hon. Member for Sevenoaks referred to unemployment. The executive of my trade union had a special meeting last Thursday—I could produce its report if I had time—to discuss the unemployment position in steelworks all over the country. The House can take it from me that there is a terrible slump on the way.
§ Mr. Jones
It is not nonsense. I can give figures. In West and South Wales, 1403 14,000 to 15,000 men are unemployed. Hundreds are being paid off in Scotland. Men are working on short time in some of our busiest factories. Members who interject "Nonsense" should have access to the facts, as I had last Thursday. I am not usually accused of speaking nonsense.
§ Sir S. Summers
The hon. Member said that he had proof that a great recession was coming in the future, but he produced figures from the past to prove it.
§ Mr. Jones
The figures I produced are figures to show what is happening at the moment. My hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) last week referred to 600 steelworkers becoming redundant. Those men occupy a key position in the steel industry, for they make the steel. The hon. Member for Aylesbury should not intervene unless he has the facts.
Within months, Barrow could easily become another Jarrow. Barrow is on the way out. Why? Is it because of lazy trade unionists or bad trade union leadership, or because of anything which is applicable to the trade union movement? Not at all. In the main, it is because of Suez, which created a climate of opinion in Egypt that has led the Egyptians to say that they will no longer buy from us the commodities upon which Barrow primarily depends for its prosperity. If the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Summers) denies that, let him telephone to Barrow now and ask the people there how many furnaces are working. They will tell him.
We are on the fringe of a very bad depression in the British steel industry. America is working to less than 60 per cent. of its steel capacity and some of our finest and most modern plants are now extending the area from which it is hoped to obtain orders. The hon. Member knows something about the Federation's activities in that respect. Labour relations in the steel industry are good. The men sit with the management. They take their case to area officials, who bring it to London, where it is discussed in the light of all the circumstances.
The unemployed of West Wales do not march on London, or create an atmosphere of strike and industrial strife. They have sent deputations to the House 1404 and to the Ministries. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour knows that these deputations have been seen by his Ministry recently. The interjection "Nonsense" can be discounted. It is the sort of interjection that is made by people who draw benefits from an industry into which they put nothing. Some people live out of industries, but do not seem to know what is going on in them.
This is a most important debate. Never was it more necessary that leaders, managements, owners, controllers and trade unionists should get together. We are not beset only with our own internal problems. We are beset by keen foreign competition. Prices have been quoted today f.o.b. for the delivery of steel in this country at £8 per ton below our own cost of production. There is competition from Luxembourg, Belgium, East Germany, and particularly West Germany. There is also competition from Italy. We do not hear a great deal about Italy's steel production, but last year it showed the greatest percentage increase of any country in the world. Great steel factories are also going up in India and elsewhere.
We are beset with external competition and, therefore, it behoves us to get on and to get down to industrial harmony. But we shall not have that harmony as long as the average man does not have the situation clearly explained to him. He does not understand the balance of payments and O.E.E.C. and some of the other things which even we who try to study them find difficulty in understanding. The average man is concerned with having a job to go to and with doing an honest-to-goodness day's work.
I am not one of those who say that every British trade unionist gives of his best. I know that in an era of full employment, when it is easy to get a job, one can adopt an attitude of laissez-faire. Many of our people have done so. Let us be fair about it. Too many of our people have adopted that attitude and have said, "This is easy. It will go on for ever. I can forget discipline. I can thumb my nose at the boss and get another job down the street." Those days are nearly over now. We are running into economic problems which must concern both sides of the House if we are to see to it that Britain keeps her place in the sun.
1405 Markets are getting more and more difficult. Every businessman knows it. It may be that people like the hon. Member for Aylesbury, who is concerned with one of the most modern, best-equipped and best-run industrial enterprises in a section of the trade which has not yet felt the draught, may not realise what is going on in other sections. But some of us have the global picture, and that picture is far from reassuring. I can give the hon. Member the figures and he can see the documents, which he can study for himself.
We must do our job and must give the facts to our trade union movement, to our constituents and to employers. I spent a part of last Sunday with the managing director of a company with which I am associated and of which I am the welfare supervisor. I spent the time arranging dates and times of meetings at which he was to tell the employees what is expected to happen next year and what the order book is like. Not enough of that is done in industry generally. There is too wide a gulf between the man at the top and the fellow on the shop floor. Somehow or other, we must close that gap and secure unity of purpose to maintain the status of Britain among the nations of the world.
There must be employers who have the guts to stand up personally and tell employees the real facts of the situation. We must have trade union leaders with the guts, which most of them have, to tell their people that we are in an economic situation which behoves every one of us to play his part and pull his weight. If we fail, Britain will find herself either without the right to argue about her economic situation or very much behind in world affairs.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Ray Mawby (Totnes)
The right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) emphasised that, wherever possible, we should try to widen a point of agreement rather than concentrate on points of disagreement when we discuss industrial problems. I should like to deal first, therefore, with the question which has been raised throughout the country of whether the Government are in some way interfering with collective bargaining.
We in the House realise, what so many people outside fail to appreciate, that 1406 collective bargaining covers a multitude of arrangements and agreements made by different employers with their employees at different levels, both national and local. There is a general impression that the trade union movement is one large body which comes to general agreement on one point and goes forward with a certain policy, but in fact, of course, the trade union movement consists of a large number of trade unions, some with a membership of one million or more and others with a very small membership indeed. My experience is that whatever its affiliations may be, each of these unions tends in the main to be concerned with the interests of its own members.
§ Mr. Mawby
There are so many people in the country, and even large numbers of trade unionists, who do not realise that fact. It is so important that it should be repeated.
If that is the fact, we must accept that, whatever its affiliations, each union will be interested in seeing that its own members are kept abreast of members of other unions and workers in other crafts and industries. We therefore find a steady queue of unions, not only trying to keep their members on equal terms with or even ahead of members of other unions, but also concentrating on such problems as requiring their members to assert claims to higher craftsmanship and, therefore, to an increased differential in wages.
All these forces are acting and reacting on each other, and they are covered by the phrase "collective bargaining". It is essential, therefore, that we should know what we are talking about. In the main we have accepted the fact of an annual wage queue in which we are all interested—mainly for the members of our own unions—which, whilst giving us a certain rise in wages, means that at the end of the year, because of the inevitable extra costs involved, everyone concerned 1407 is back where he was at the beginning of the year.
At the same time, and in the process, each of us has delivered a hefty kick in the teeth to our parents and probably also to the chap who taught us our job, because he is now on a pension. I say that the Government of the day have a responsibility to ensure that their policy at least makes certain that those without a cushion against inflation are looked after properly. So the policy of a Government, whatever its colour, must be to prevent inflation and the erosion that this brings about.
From time to time in our economic debates the Opposition has put forward the suggestion that if the policies advanced by it were in operation today there would be no inflation. I have been asked why, if that is so, it did not work when it was put into operation. I was not in this House at the time. I was pursuing a job as an electrician and as a shop steward for my workmates, and so I saw things from another angle. In 1948 my union, along with all other unions in the country, accepted the terms of the 1948 White Paper and agreed to accept voluntary wage restraint on the understanding that the Government were intent on solving this problem and, what was more, that they had the policy to solve it.
The position was at "set fair", and I think the trade union movement did a first-class job in carrying out that policy of wage restraint, which they kept in being for some time. When it was broken, the basis of the wage claim put forward on behalf of the Confederation of Engineering Workers, of which my union was a member, was that the cost of living had risen by 18 per cent. As a result we have to accept the fact that even with a policy of wage restraint to which everyone voluntarily agreed, inflation continued.
§ Mr. Robens
Surely the hon. Gentleman knows that steel prices went sky-high during the period of the Korean War, and that over the whole period import prices were up by about 113 per cent.?
§ Mr. Mawby
If world prices were up by 113 per cent. let us analyse that, because I understand that the content of a finished product in this country is about 20 per cent. of the total cost represented by the cost of imported raw material. So, even taking that into account, one can say that the Socialist policy did not work.
Another point has been raised with me when I have spoken to trade union meetings. People have said, "Yes, we agreed on a policy of wage restraint, but the Government at that time did not restrain prices and dividends." I have said in reply, "If that is so, can you trust the Socialist Government, if ever there is another, to make certain that they do not sell you a pup again?" They have replied, "No."
§ Mr. Mawby
It is also important to remember that the employers turned down the wage claim made by the Confederation. That was not new; it has happened before and I dare Say it will happen again. As a result, there was an agreement by the unions inside the Confederation to hold a ballot of all their members asking them to answer the question, "Do you want to go to arbitration or do you want to strike?" It is interesting to note that the ballot was overwhelmingly in favour of arbitration.
It seems odd to me that in all the disputes that have occurred since, the trade union leaders have assumed that all their members have changed their minds, without 1409 giving them a chance to vote. I would have thought that the status quo would operate and that it would be assumed that they still wanted arbitration in the case of the next dispute unless a vote proved the contrary.
As a result of the decision to hold that ballot, the Minister of Labour of the day did not do a great deal to help, because he said in the House:The alternatives presented to the voting members imply that there is a choice between strike action and reporting a dispute to the National Arbitration Tribunal whereas in fact under the Conditions of Employment and National Arbitration Orders strikes and lockouts are in general prohibited…. Moreover, the reference of any dispute to the National Arbitration Tribunal is a matter for me and is not left to the choice of either party."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th April, 1950; Vol. 474, c. 16 and 17.]This is interesting because it showed to these in the trade union movement that, even with the repeal of the Trades Disputes Act—which they were told would give them back their right to strike—the Labour Government still had in operation an order under a Defence Regulation which made all strikes illegal. The Minister also said that it was not a question of either party being free to go to arbitration or not; it was a matter for him to decide.
Before any hon. or right hon. Gentlemen opposite say that the Minister of Labour of the day is interfering with collective bargaining, or with the right to go to arbitration, he should ponder those words. It is necessary to ask whether trade unions are relinquishing their rights, for which they have fought hard throughout the years—particularly the right to withdraw one's labour and the right to resort to impartial arbitration—just because of the political party which is in office. In passing, it is interesting to note that freedom to strike was returned on the last effective day of the Labour Government when Order No. 1376 of 2nd August removed the penal part of Order No. 1305.
§ Mr. Mellish
Is the hon. Member telling us that while the Labour Party was in power from 1945 to 1950 there were regulations which prevented men from going on strike and that this was a very wicked thing which should not have happened? Representing dock workers, I can only say that it did not seem to have much effect on them.
§ Mr. Mawby
My recollection—and I know the hon. Member will correct me if I am wrong—is that during that period the then Attorney-General attempted to take a number of dockers to court.
Strikes did occur during that period; I took part in strikes during that period, but my trade union leaders said, "It is not official. We cannot pay you strike pay. You are on your own, brothers." A number of our members tended to ask whether these leaders were working for us or for the Government.
§ Mr. Lawson
Is not the hon. Member speaking of a regulation which was brought into force during the Second World War?
§ Mr. Mawby
I am referring to an order which was based on a Defence Regulation introduced during the war but kept in being until the last effective day of the Labour Government in 1950. Why was it necessary to have that order still in existence? If it was necessary to have it in existence all that time, was it purely a coincidence that it was altered on the last effective day of the Socialist Government?
Whatever people may say, the trade unions are now accepted by the general public as part of society. The trend of feeling is that they must be welded into society. Their future standing in the community and the respect in which they are held will depend upon the vigour which they exert in keeping their own house in order.
This brings me to my own backdoor—the E.T.U., of which I am a member. The badge of my union, which I wear—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where is it?"] I am wearing the wrong suit today. The badge bears the caption, "Light and liberty."
It is essential that we should not speak with two voices, and I feel that it is very important that we should be prepared to see that a position is never reached in which those who joined a union to be protected have to ask another organisation to protect them from their protectors. This is a fundamental point with which any trade unionist will agree. The rules of a union should always conform to minimum standards consistent with individual freedom. I know that some of the older hands with whom I have worked have said to me that we have gone through very difficult periods during 1411 which we had employers who would not have a trade unionist within the gates. They have said that we fought for years for that right. [HON. MEMBERS: "We?"] As a member of a trade union for fifteen years, may I not refer to the movement as including me?
The Trades Union Congress is recognised by many as a body of people with very few powers. It is an advisory body. Nevertheless, it is a body which can and does exert a great influence upon the unions which are affiliated to it. If, through the T.U.C., trade unions are to be recognised as one of the estates of the Realm, which I feel they deserve, they must accept the responsibility that affiliated unions shall carry out their duties to their members and to the movement as a whole.
In these circumstances, I feel that the T.U.C. can do a great deal to help to see that members, particularly of my own union, have those rights of individual freedom which every citizen in this country expects. With power comes responsibility, and we know that if we deny one we lose the other. We should say that we are worried about inflation and that we do not intend to seek to contract out of our own obligation to find the solution to it. We cannot object to profits and also bemoan the lack of capital investment.
May I make a wider plea to management as well as to trade unionists—indeed, to everyone in the nation who is interested in this problem? It is far better to remember the old adage, "United we stand, divided we fall". We should be prepared to look inflation solidly in the face and we should decide to fight it and to stop fighting one another.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
It is not a particular pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby); he is a nonsuch as far as the trade union movement is concerned. He is the only one on that side of the House, where he sits among the traditional enemies of the trade union movement. At times, when he got his brief mixed up, I did not know whether he was speaking for the Tory Central Office or as an agent provocateur for the Communist Party.
1412 The Government cannot complain of the reception which they received from the trade union movement when they came into power in 1951. Voices were raised at that time suggesting that, bearing in mind our collective memory—and we cannot temper justice without memory—the trade unions should gang up against the then Conservative Government. As a matter of fact, hon. Members opposite had already announced policies against the trade union movement. They had threatened the livelihood of 60,000 of our citizens by the denationalisation of road haulage.
This was political action which touched on industrial action. Voices were raised in the country and there was a great deal of ferment in various yards and workshops to the effect that the trade unions should take some industrial action for political ends. The trade union movement itself frowned on that. Indeed, every responsible hon. Member frowned upon it because, fundamentally, we believe in political democracy. In any case, hon. Members opposite had received a mandate. The fact that that mandate was largely inoperative in regard to road haulage, and that they had to attempt to take back into nationalisation what they had tried to denationalise, is beside the point.
The Trades Union Congress said that this country had to live and earn its daily bread from week to week, and it was prepared to trust the Government. Not one leading trade unionist today is prepared to do so. Some have been disillusioned and some disenchanted. They need not have been surprised, however, because the Tory Party has merely reverted to type. As its standing in the country sinks it turns upon the trade union movement as an excuse for its own failure.
I have given the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) notice that I should refer to something that he said, and I hope that I have been speaking for a sufficiently long time to allow him to get to the Chamber. The trade union movement no longer believes that this Government put full employment first in the queue. The resignation speech of the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) illustrates what all the row was about. I take the speech made by the hon. Member for 1413 Somerset, North, at Liverpool, as evidence of the sort of thing which is put out by hon. Members opposite. He said that if Mr. Frank Cousins insisted on asserting the divine right of trade unions, sooner or later the British people would "chop his head off."
I wrote to the hon. Member and he wrote to me in return, saying that he was drawing an analogy with Charles II. My imagination fails me. He says:the Labour Party and the trade union leaders are saying…that if they make a claim it must he right, and damn everybody else: that they have a divine right to demand a wage increase every single year with complete disregard for the economic conditions of the country, and that anyone who dares to stand up to them and put the interest of the country first is 'provoking' them.We should first study the way in which wage demands start. What causes Mr. Cousins to ask for increases? Trade union leaders want comfortable and quiet lives when they can get them. There is nothing they like better than full employment, with no applications for wage increases, so long as the lads are satisfied.
The trouble is that the cost of living goes up, and rents go up. Perhaps a bus driver speaks to his conductor and discusses the Bank Rate leak—mention was made earlier of Mr. Hill, of the United Society of Boilermakers. Shipbuilders and Structural Workers, who said that he put his members before the country; that is just what Mr. Keswick did—and perhaps says, referring to his wife, "Do you think that I give her enough?" The greatest social problem of the age is not what we are discussing this afternoon, but that of mean husbands and extravagant wives. The bus driver and the bus conductor probably talk to the shop steward; there is then a shop meeting, and later a branch meeting—and then considerable pressure upon Mr. Cousins.
§ Sir Keith Joseph (Leeds, North-East)rose—
§ Mr. Pannell
I have explained that I served notice upon the hon. Member for Somerset, North, that I would refer to 1414 his speech. I gave him adequate notice. I do not know whom else he is impugning outside the House. Hon. Members opposite made no protests when Mr Hill's name was dragged in. The hon. Member represents a rather lesser constituency in Leeds than I represent, and he will be responsible to his constituents.
All Mr. Cousins' efforts have been towards peace. There have been many negotiations between Sir Wilfred Neden and Mr. Nicholas, and some of us who have taken part in such negotiations consider that they had now gone past the point of principle. I regard discussions as having gone past that point when the parties begin to decide who shall be the chairman of the inquiry, and where it should take place. If, having carried forward the negotiations to that extent, somebody then says that I cannot continue, I regard myself as being the victim of a double-cross. I still say that the Minister could have widened the terms of reference so that the inquiry could have dealt with national issues and not merely with those of London.
The trade union movement draws the inference that the health employees are easy. They are black-coated, white-collar workers, so respectable that their union is not affiliated to the Trades Union Congress. The probation officers are just a push-over; we heard about them this afternoon. Hon. Members opposite, including the hon. Member for Somerset, North, are rearing to "have a go." They are saying, "At least take on the middleweights." I put the Transport and General Workers' Union among the middleweights.
The Government tried the heavyweights last year—the A.E.U.—and they came unstuck. The whole business went off at half-cock. The engineering employers were encouraged to "have a go" at the engineering unions, but when they saw that it was to be a full-dress showdown with the engineering unions they withdrew, and they have now come back to this one. In fact, all these moves, whether in regard to the engineers, the transport workers or the busmen, are sporadic attempts to set up a national wages policy on Tory lines. Everything has gone off at half-cock so far.
Why is it that the trade union leadership takes a different view of the Government than it did in days gone by? 1415 I have been reading the OFFICIAL REPORT of the debates of 1944 upon the White Paper introduced by the late Mr. Ernest Bevin. The trade unions believed that the Government, from that day on, would make full employment their first priority. When Mr. Bevin was seeing the men of the 50th Division off to France on D-Day they said to him, "What are you going to bring us back to, Ernie—the dole?" He said, "No." The House pledged itself to make full employment the first priority.
Bevin was a commanding figure in the Government for many days to come. In effect, with a man like Bevin a loyalty is evoked from those people behind him who are part of the same movement. He stood for certain standards on the part of the Ministry of Labour and the Government. People like Arthur Deakin, Jack Tanner and Will Lawther were prepared to co-operate during those years, and they took a good many things on trust, including wage restraint.
After Sir Stafford Cripps, in 1949, however, the wage freeze became as dead as the dodo; it is out, never to return. The fact is that the trade union leaders who have come to power during the period of office of the Tory Government are different people, because they do not have a Government in which they can place any confidence. Mr. Cousins and Mr. Carron look forward to the return of a Labour Government at the earliest possible moment.
It is strange that this idea of wage restraint should come from the Tories now, because in former days the trade unions were urged by the Tories, and the Tory Press, to stand up and fight for their members against wage restraint.
§ Mr. Pannell
And the Communists—that is a natural corollary.
The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) says that he does not mind me saying this. I remember walking down Whitehall with him during the last few days of the Labour Government, when he was saying, "I do not believe in this policy of wage restraint. Get what you can." Today the same trade unionists are being urged to exercise restraint by a Government 1416 which has kicked away the foundations of loyalty by rich men's Budgets, dearer food and higher rents.
The trouble with hon. Gentlemen opposite is that, being members of an old-fashioned party, they do not remember that we had an Education Act in 1870. They do not think that the average trade unionist can read. He can read, and, as a matter of fact, he does not have the same rosy interpretation of the Report of the Bank Rate Tribunal as one hon. Gentleman here did the other day. I do not say anything at all about that, and I do not want to go over the Report, but, if we take one phrase which has been seized upon—It is anti-British and derogatory to sterling, but, on balance, if one is free to do so, it makes sense to me.we see that the relevant words in that sentence are—…if one is free to do so,and under this Government, people are free to do so. That is the point.
Of course, it is really just an alternative to that old-fashioned colloquialism "Damn you, Jack; I am doing nicely; pull up the ladder." What sort of restraint, in the public interest, is that? It was just the same with the Vickers issue. It seems quite incomprehensible to the average trade unionist that merchant bankers in the City can talk about postponing an increase in the Bank Rate to make an accommodation for the Vickers issue.
When I first went into the engineering industry, I was always told that I must diligently train myself to deserve the highest wage that my skill could demand. I remember this being said to me: "But, once you are qualified, see that you get it." It is time that we got our minds clear about the functions of the trade unions and what we mean by wage restraint. There is a good deal of nonsense spoken about it, sometimes by hon. Members on this side of the House. Let us face the fact that restraint in this concept means giving up something which one has the power to get; and if one cannot get it, it is not restraint. No professional bodies, no merchant bankers, have yet reached that height of altruism. Tory philosophy tells them not to aspire to it, anyway. The trade unions exist and their whole struggle has been to 1417 promote the welfare of their members, and the principal element in welfare is wages—how big a share of the cake they can get.
Having said that, I want to say that inflation is a reality, and so are our stretched national resources. The duty of the Government, and of any Government, is to safeguard the consumers—the largest common denominator—and that is the widest public interest. The dilemma of our society is the need to reconcile the claims of producers with the interests of consumers, and the Government have done nothing at all towards that. They have done very much the reverse.
When the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, the present Home Secretary, speaks, for Election purposes, of an increase in the standard of life of 25 per cent. over the next ten years, how does the right hon. Gentleman think we will get it? It will not happen without constant trade union pressure, for an employer will not give it without being confronted with claimant power.
The trade union pressure for higher wages is a substantial element in promoting automation, higher mechanisation, more efficiency and reduced costs; that is part of the American example—reduced costs to meet higher wages and to capture wider markets. We may as well face this idea here, because we take such a negative view of this country. In other countries, they say that bigger motor cars mean bigger roads, but in this country when we see more motor cars on the roads we try to drive them off again, and install more parking meters. The idea is to drive them off the roads and make the people use the public transport.
This is all part of man's upward march—this idea that we should have motor cars for the working classes, television sets, and holidays abroad—and it will not stop. Let no one be deceived about it. When people speak about restraint, they remind us that if riches do not bring happiness at least one can be miserable in comfort. The Government, indeed, any Government, must create the economic and social climate to meet this challenge; incentives to efficiency and higher productivity with disincentives to sloth and "spivvery." There must be rewards for worthwhile effort, but taxation on 1418 unworked-for capital gains. We need a great advance in a different sort of education in order to put this over—not the sort of circular which we have seen recently.
The only alternative to this expansionist idea is the deliberate creation of a pool of unemployment, and I am assuming that hon. Gentlemen opposite do not want that, though their policies might well produce it. Most of all, I suggest that in this dilemma between the claims of producer and consumer the Government must always appear to hold the ring and to give justice between man and man. That is the principal indictment against the Government, and what they have done. They have done exactly the reverse. This is a partisan Government. They have done, in effect, what we have always known they would do—foster a class war, stand for a caste society, and throw over a belief in full employment—because they are the natural friends of the well-to-do unemployed.
At the end of the day, the Government will get a verdict in the Lobbies, but it will be a verdict achieved by a Tory Party returned to power on a quite fraudulent prospectus, in 1955. Of course, at Rochdale next week, another brother of my trade union will enter the House. That is as sure as sure can be. Where the Liberals, who are conspicuous by their absence this evening, will be is always problematical.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) said in Rochdale last week, "Having walked the tightrope for so long, they may now be inclined to pirouette into second place, like a ballet dancer." Wherever the Liberals may be, the Government have had notice served upon them by the trade unionists that, by their social policy, they have completely forfeited any right to confidence, and I have no doubt at all that the Election, whenever it comes, will give the party to which I belong a massive and overwhelming majority.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ Miss Mervyn Pike (Melton)
I do not intend to follow the speech of the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell), because I should like to turn the attention of the House to a rather narrow aspect of industrial relations, which is also a very important aspect of 1419 our industrial life—the training and prospects for young people entering industry at the present time.
Industrial peace is something for which we all strive, and which we all want to preserve, and our industrial relations could not be good without peace in our industrial life. Peace, by itself, however, could be a stagnant and an arid thing, and we do not want stagnation. What we must have are good human relations in industry that promote the dynamic driving force which will enable us to use to the full the mechanisation and the great technical developments of our present industrial situation. When we build nuclear power stations, we have to have deeper foundations than is the case with ordinary power stations in order to sustain the great power which they generate, and in our modern industrial life the foundations must be based upon a deeper and wider human understanding of the difficulties that confront us at this time. We must also turn our attention to the problems not only before us at this moment, but to those requiring us to face up to the challenge of the future.
I have spent most of my life in a mining town in the West Riding of Yorkshire, and I am well aware of the very important human problem of successful enterprise, a situation that is very well summed up in the shrewd phrase—From clogs to clogs in three generations.It is so often the case that the second generation, having gained the prosperity provided by the first, then neglects to provide the real foundations on which the third generation could carry on that prosperity by its skill and its outlook towards the problems facing it.
As a nation, we are leaving our clogs behind. We are getting better working conditions, better education, better security and better welfare than ever we had before in our lives. Young people in industry can have a better future with better opportunities and more advantages than was ever the case before; but they have greater responsibilities and must carry heavier burdens. The challenge of measuring up to those responsibilities is a very heavy one.
The Government's responsibility is to ensure that the young people have the best possible technical training. The young people have a right to demand the 1420 opportunity to develop their abilities to the full and they have a right to ask that their labour shall be used in the most efficient way. We have the responsibility of meeting their demand.
The Conservative Government have gone a long way towards fulfilling that responsibility. There are more technical training courses, better educational opportunities, more advanced courses in technology and more sandwich courses than we had before. In addition, there is all that has been done by the Hives Committee. Yet we are still doing too little as a nation about training schemes for skilled and unskilled workers. The Can Committee, of which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour is Chairman, is looking into this matter. When it reports, in a very short time, we shall know more fully what training schemes and other opportunities they propose for our industrial workers. When we have them, we must be certain that they are efficiently administered so that British industry and the trade union movement may co-operate in greater activity in that field.
The time is short. We have at this moment an opportunity which will never come to us again. Not only some of our training courses but our apprenticeship schemes are in many cases out of date. Working in industry as I do, I cannot help but be struck by the changes that could be made. In many cases the regulations applying to training schemes and apprenticeship were laid down more than 100 years ago. In modern conditions we want the children as they leave school to become skilled in industry. We must, therefore, ensure that they can go to courses where they can gain greater skill. I hope that industry and the trade union movement will give a great deal of attention to bringing apprenticeship schemes up to date in the light of modern requirements and developments.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
Is the hon. Lady aware that in the Central Lobby at this very moment are hundreds of E.T.U. members protesting against the Government's action against their apprentice scheme? Will she not realise that these cheap economies cause great distress?
§ Miss Pike
I do not think that the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. 1421 Mellish) understood me. I want to see not only the introduction of apprenticeship schemes but the refurbishing of many of them. Perhaps hon. Members will afterwards finish my education in these matters. As I said, I do not presume to be able to advise them but, looking over the whole pattern of industry. I am certain there is a great deal that we can do to make our apprenticeship schemes more attractive. A great many industries need them. We must bring forward many schemes of development and training throughout the whole of industry. We have to train people, not only to give the right sort of attention, but to give more attention to them.
I hope hon. Members will excuse me, but this is one of my hobby horses. We must pay more attention to the selection and training of our young people as they enter industry. Officials of the Ministry of Labour could help a great deal more in providing opportunities in this way. They have a great deal of knowledge and experience. I would like to see more use made of that experience. I would like us not only to give opportunities to young people entering industry, but also to ensure that their labour is used in the most efficient possible way.
The hon. Member who has just passed his driving test has gone out of the Chamber. He would know that often when we talk to people who drive motor cars we find they believe that they are the good drivers; it is always the other people who are the bad drivers. We never find in industry people who do not believe that they know most of the answers about labour management. It is always the other firms who can benefit most from scientific management.
Hon. Members may have seen in the Observer last Sunday an article about Messrs. Marks and Spencer's, who have been able to bring down their prices not only because the prices of raw materials are falling but because the firm has found in the last few years that it was not as efficient as it believed it was, and that it could cut out still a great deal of waste in its commercial departments.
In Melton Mowbray we have the Production Engineers' Research Association, one of the most efficient organisations of its kind. Hon. Members might wonder why they find in Melton Mowbray such a congenial atmosphere in which to 1422 work. They ought to know that the science of riding a horse across country is that of getting over the greatest possible distance at the greatest speed with the greatest economy of energy. That should be the aim of British industry. All levels of industry have a great deal to learn from organisations like the Production Engineers Research Association, which is being helped by the Government in the management of its affairs.
The Government have great obligations to provide further opportunities for young people going into industry for the first time. The most formative years of life are when we go into our first job. It is not only a question of having the right training but of having the right opportunities and of our labour being used to the full. The attitudes of mind we pick up in those early years are of the greatest importance. In that respect we all have great responsibility. I hope that in the months ahead both sides of industry and people in all walks of social life will give greater attention to enabling young people to bear on their shoulders the burden of the future prosperity for which we all hope, and that we shall give them the encouragement and the example that they deserve.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. C. R. Hobson (Keighley)
I listened very carefully to the speech of the hon. Member for Melton (Miss Pike) and found myself largely in agreement with what she said, particularly about the development of apprenticeship schemes and the training of the young worker in industry.
We are having this debate against a background of full employment and its concomitant, inflation. That state of affairs has continued since the end of the war, but, apart from the last decade, it is something entirely new in capitalist society. It is only since the end of the war that we have had full employment. In my view, no Government have solved the problem of full employment and I do not think that any Government or any party has thoroughly thought out the consequences of full employment, particularly in a free society. It is an easy problem in a dictatorship, but an entirely different one in a free society such as we have in Britain, for the simple reason that there are more jobs than men to fill them.
1423 The nearest we came to solving the problem was under the late Sir Stafford Cripps, about 1948 and 1949. Reference has been made to the White Paper on Personal Incomes, Costs and Prices. There were wage increases during that period, but they were related entirely to production. It came to be known as the "wage freeze", but many increases were granted. The same policy was pursued under my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. It was not quite so successful, because there was the advent of the Korean War, with increased costs of raw materials plus the added incubus of taxation arising from increased defence costs.
Broadly speaking, the present Government have continued a policy of economic planning, and to the extent that there has been economic planning and control of investment have we enjoyed full employment. They have, however, destroyed the complete Crippsian idea and policy in regard to a controlled economy. I will not enumerate the controls they have removed; that has been done by previous speakers. There is not the slightest doubt that, when faced with full employment such as we have today, if we are to ensure that prices remain stable and to attack the problem of inflation there has got to be a measure of controls. Right hon. and hon. Members opposite will have to cast aside their doctrinaire approach to this problem and have some form of controls. Otherwise, inflation with full employment will go on and on, particularly to the detriment of those who are not in organisations where wages and salaries can be kept up to prices.
The dilemma of the Government is how to deal with the problem of rising prices with full employment and, at the same time, to preserve the normal wage bargaining between employer and employee. Up to the autumn they did so, but there has been a great change. The Government have ceased to leave the tribunals with complete impartiality. Up to October, the Government were prepared to allow increased wages and to allow the fiduciary issue to be increased to provide the money to pay for those increased wages. Outward prosperity was being financed by the operation of the printing press.
1424 Since October, I think that the Minister of Labour has changed the rôle of impartiality between employer and employee. In my view, there has not been the impression created among trade unionists of freedom for both sides of industry to negotiate wage claims. There has been a tendency by the Government to pursue a policy of wage fixation. That, unequestionably, has given rise to a lot of loss of confidence in the Ministry of Labour's Department.
I was not completely satisfied with the explanation given this afternoon by the Minister about his rôle during the busmen's dispute. I do not want to pursue that, but there was also his action with reference to the negotiated increase for Health Service workers. There, there was direct Government intervention and the statement was made by the Minister of Health, who was a remote employer, that the award would not be honoured. That was a complete change of Government policy. It was a change in the policy of the present Government. If there is to be free arbitration and negotiation of wages, particularly by the form of machinery such as negotiated these wage claims, surely the Government were in honour bound, in the case of the Health Service workers, to honour the agreement.
The Government made it perfectly clear by Question and Answer in this House that they were not prepared to find the necessary money for the Transport Commission, which, admittedly, was running at a deficit, to meet a wage claim which might be granted by the Commission. To take such action is to disregard entirely the merits of the claim. If the conclusion is to be drawn by trade unionists and industrialists, such as those in the transport industry, that awards are not to be judged on their merits and that the Transport Commission is not able to give an increase in pay which has been granted because the Government will not provide the necessary money, the Government are definitely taking sides.
§ Sir S. Summers
Surely the hon. Member must realise that if an award is granted in the transport industry on its merits it must still be open to the undertaking to find other ways of producing the money to meet the award.
§ Mr. Hobson
I do not want to go into the economics of the transport industry. That is not relevant and there is not time to do so. All I say on that is that the party opposite has got itself into this difficulty largely by denationalising the profitable part of the British Transport Commission's undertaking, road transport. In very few countries in the world today are railways run at a profit. I am concerned that here wages and wage applications are not to be decided on their merits because of the financial action taken by the Government.
There is another example. There was the directive given by the Government that there should be no wage or salary increase for civil servants unless there were corresponding economies. That means that in that section there can be no wage increase unless there is a reduction of staff, which seems a very unfair attitude to adopt. It also means that when arbitrators are considering an award they are given the intentions of the Government before hand. There were three occasions on which I consider there was a definite interference in the normal, free operation of wage negotiations. Under those circumstances, it is hypocritical of the Government to say that there is no wage freeze and no interference with established customs and practice.
I am convinced that as this attitude of the Government becomes known they will be risking serious industrial conflict. Having succeeded in the case of the partially organised Health Service workers in getting their way without any serious dispute, the Government now seem to be giving an indication that they are prepared to take on more powerful unions. If that is done we shall have a very serious spate of industrial unrest, which can only be harmful to the country.
Strangely enough, the Government's actions are unfair on other sections of the workers. Only a passing reference was made by the Minister of Labour—and I do not blame him for that, in view of the time that he had at his disposal—to those workers whose wages are governed by cost-of-living increases. The building trades workers are a case in point. Where there is inflation, and the inflationary pressure is to continue, the workers covered by cost-of-living 1426 agreements are always in a position to recoup themselves automatically, because those are negotiated agreements. Therefore, as a result of the Government's policy, we have one section of the workers always able to keep level with the increases in costs, whereas other workers subject to these directives—and I am convinced that they are directives—irrespective of the merits of their case, are not to have their wages increased. That is entirely wrong.
Further, the actions of the Government, of course, make the position of the trade union leaders very difficult indeed. We did not get joint negotiating machinery readily accepted in the early 'twenties. Indeed, acceptance largely followed on the 1926 General Strike. It all came along very gradually, but we now have negotiating machinery in this country that is second to none, and which, by and large, brings about an industrial peace that is the envy of the world.
If, however, we are to have this Government action, it will be very difficult for the trade union leaders to convince their members of the value of negotiating machinery. Trade union officials, particularly those in the engineering industry, are often criticised about the sloth of the negotiating machinery. The York memorandum has been a favourite butt of speakers for many years, but it is certain that, although it is tedious, it puts through a very fine sieve indeed the engineering unions' references to York. But it will be very difficult for the trade union leaders to maintain existing machinery if there is a shadow of doubt that the Government are trying to influence the awards that may be made.
The Minister of Labour has made references this afternoon to restrictive practices, as have other hon. Members opposite. It is about time that we had a statement, or definition, of what restrictive practices are. There is often great confusion between restrictive practices, on the one hand, and the normal trade demarcations, on the other. As one who has had experience of shipyards and shipbuilding, I know all about the problems of demarcations. I could quote case after case, but there is often a very good reason for them.
One of the difficulties that still remain today is that managements, particularly 1427 in the shipbuilding industry, do not pay sufficient attention to the correct flow of work in the building, and particularly in the finishing, of the vessel. If they did, there would not be this alleged idle or wasted time. That, however, is entirely different from restrictive practices, and, as I say, I await a definition of restrictive practices with interest.
I know that on this side we often mention the restrictive practices of the employers, but when we are talking in wide, general terms like that, what we mean, more often than not, is price fixing. Therefore, while we ourselves may be nebulous in our definition, it does behove hon. Members opposite, in particular, precisely to define what restrictive practices are. After all, hon. Members opposite do largely represent the employers' side in general, and that is broadly the division between us. There should be some adequate definition of what we really mean.
The whole purpose of my intervention was to give examples of where I consider there has been Government interference. I have quoted three cases. I do not propose to deal with the bus dispute at all. I have heard the Minister of Labour's explanation and, by and large, it seemed to me to be reasonable and fair. If the position is as he says, then I can only say that his public relations department has been singularly lacking in making it clear. There was one period when the dispute appeared to be likely to develop into an immediate strike and when even The Times was saying that the Minister ought to set up a court of inquiry. But I will leave it there.
The Government must ensure that the organised workers have faith and confidence in all forms of the negotiating machinery. That is essential. There are indications, certainly from supporters of the Government—and sometimes, I think, from members of the Government—that now is the time to try to stop the increased cost of food and materials by putting a stop to wage increases. I have formed that conclusion after very careful examination of some of the statements that have been made.
All I can say is that the Government must use a firm hand. They must control some of their supporters; some of their 1428 campanologists must be muted—that is absolutely essential. The Government would be well advised, and so would the Minister of Labour, to bear that in mind. Indeed, the Parliamentary Secretary who, I believe, is to reply to this debate, should give to the House, and to our people, a general assurance that the Government will abide by all the decisions arrived at through the negotiating machinery. If they do that, I think that we shall continue to have industrial peace. If they do not, I am afraid that we shall embark on a series of disputes that can only be harmful to this great country of ours.
§ 7.17 p.m.
§ Sir Alexander Spearman (Scarborough and Whitby)
The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. C. R. Hobson) began his speech by saying that our real problem was how to get full employment and stable prices. We know that either, by itself, is easy to get, but no Government in this country, and I would go further and say that no Government in any free country, has yet completely solved that real problem. The hon. Gentleman said that it required economic planning of a high order, and with that I entirely agree. He also said that it required physical controls, and there I shall show where I disagree.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) expressed some doubts about the arbitration machinery at the present time. For rather different reasons, I share those doubts. I realise how useful it has been in the past, and will be again, but I think that in recent years we have expected too much from arbitration. In present conditions, we cannot get a long-term settlement of our problems by arbitration when there is not a proper balance between the country's money incomes and its resources. Indeed, I believe that it is the prime duty of the Government to get demand into the proper relation. That is their first economic duty, and about the most difficult job they have to do.
I would make two assumptions which would, I think, meet with general agreement. The first is that wages must go up as productivity increases. The second is that we are quite certain to have inflation if the average level of wages rises faster than the average increases in productivity. In that, I can call for the support of 1429 the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition because, in Encounter, in November, 1955, he wrote:When wages rise faster than productivity manufacturers tend to pass on higher costs in higher prices and are able to do so because of the increased demand generated by the rise in wages.Roughly speaking, the Government have three alternatives. The first need only be stated to be rejected, and it is that they should so contract demand, as happened in the inter-war years, as to achieve stability in that way. I am quite sure that none of us, on whichever side of the House he sits, wishes to buy stable prices at the cost of mass unemployment, poverty and slump. I believe that as long as we get the raw materials our knowledge today is such as to cut that possibility out altogether. There is no longer any question of mass unemployment, except when we cannot get the raw materials. I believe that that bogey ought to be laid at rest, because it does a great deal of harm in encouraging unnecessary restrictive practices.
The second alternative for the Government is so to manage expenditure that whatever the wage level there will be sufficient demand for labour to maintain full employment. My right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) told us earlier in the week that that had been the policy of all recent Governments until quite lately. I think that is the policy of the right hon. Member for Blyth, who opened the debate, and of the Leader of the Opposition. I mean the policy of stepping up demand and restraining wages by voluntary arrangement. As reported in column 1292, the Leader of the Opposition said:I would say to the right hon. Gentleman that he must seek understanding with the unions on the basis of all-round restraint relating to all incomes—dividends, salaries, and everything else."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd January, 1958; vol. 580, c. 1292]I think that this is the difference between myself, those who think as I do—and I will include in this, although it may embarrass him very much, the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell)—and, on the other hand, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and others who think like him. I do not know how many do think like the right hon. Gentleman.
1430 I am not at all sure that a wage freeze or a dividend freeze is desirable. I am fairly sure that in a condition of excess demand, such as we have had lately, a wage freeze—which, after all, could not be an earnings freeze—is impracticable. I believe that in their anxiety to keep labour employers would find ways round it, and I also believe that trade union leaders would have to press for more wages when their rank and file knew that they would succeed in getting them. It is only human nature.
We have not reached that state of perfection when we can have voluntary restraint of that sort, and I think we must make our plans on the assumption that men are not as we should like them to be but as they actually are. I feel sure that so long as employers know that demand is so great that they can push up their prices, so long will they give increases in wages out of all proportion to or regardless of the increase in productivity. If that went on long enough we could have a runaway inflation—not just an inflation which, as at present, causes great suffering to those with fixed incomes but an inflation which was catastrophic.
In talking about catastrophic inflations in Europe—and we know that they have happened in Germany and elsewhere—the Leader of the Opposition once said. "It could happen here." I believe that they were very wise words, and I think we have to recognise that nothing in this island makes us immune from such a situation. We could push things so far that we had not merely a painful inflation but a disastrous inflation. I believe that a boom, which in its first stages is a more comfortable illness than a slump, could in the long run be just as fatal.
The third alternative, which I may describe as the "new look" in economic policy, is that the Government should manage expenditure so that demand is sufficient to ensure a high level of employment at wage rates which do not increase more rapidly than productivity. If employers cannot raise their prices, then they can give wage increases only by being more efficient or by cutting down their numbers.
§ Mr. Mikardo
I am a little surprised at an omission from the hon Member's list of possibilities, because we usually 1431 expect him to be more progressive than most of his hon. and right hon. Friends. Everyone on the other side of the House seems to assume that if wages have risen faster than productivity the thing to do is to hold down wages. Why does not any hon. Member opposite, not even the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Sir A. Spearman), suggest that the right thing to do is to push up productivity?
§ Sir A. Spearman
That has been the whole theme of my speech: we must get rid of excess demand in order to get more productivity. When it is as easy to sell as it has been recently, there is no incentive to work harder, to be enterprising or to make full use of machinery. We could do far more with existing machinery by working more than one shift than we could by a lot of increased investment. Competition is very necessary. We know that the donkey has to have a little of the stick as well as the carrot. That applies to industry too. I entirely agree here with the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo), although I may not often do so; I am sure that we must do everything we can to increase production and productivity.
The hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Awbery) says that we should do it out of profits. If employers are to cut down some of their activities in order to be able to pay higher wages, they will cut down their marginal activities on which there is not much profit. In the broader field at present half of profits go in taxation and three-quarters of the rest are ploughed back into the companies. However much industry cut back its distributed profits, there is not a great deal which could be done in this direction.
§ Mr. Awbery
The hon. Member is missing the point. Productivity is shared not only with the workers but with the landlords. The landlord receives his share, the investor receives his share and the worker receives his share. The hon. Member's assumption is that the worker alone stakes the productivity, instead of sharing it with the others.
§ Sir A. Spearman
Obviously I have not made myself clear to the hon. Member. I was trying to say that the Government should create a climate of 1432 opinion which would induce worker and employer to do everything in their power to increase productivity. I think that is the Government's job—not to direct people, but to create a climate in which, in their own enlightened self-interest, people will do what is in the interests of the nation.
§ Mr. Christopher Boyd (Bristol, North-West)
I am sorry to add to the many interruptions during the hon. Member's speech, but it shows the interest which he is provoking on this side of the House. His remarks made me wonder that if the problem is how to persuade the employer not to increase his prices and not to concede all demands, whether inflationary or otherwise, would it not meet the problem if the Government exercised a wide control over prices so that it was at least difficult to make a price increase? The employer would then be left with the necessity to expand his turnover if he wished to increase his return and he would give increases in incomes only if there had been increases in productivity.
§ Sir A. Spearman
I believe that the Government should create a climate of demand in which the employer will not be able to put up his prices. If he is forced by physical controls, human nature being what it is, he will make those things which we do not want and on which there is not a price control. In other words, we should have to control everything, and then we should have to have rationing again and black markets. I do not think that that is a very good solution.
I feel sure that trade union leaders will be forced to press for higher wages when they know that employers can put up prices and their members know that they will get the wages. But I do not believe that trade union leaders need do that when it is a matter of employers cutting down their activities and reducing their numbers. In other words, once we get rid of excess demand and get it out of the system, it is then a practical proposition to call upon trade union leaders to co-operate.
I am saying two things, really: first, that we can hope to stop inflation only if we get rid of excess demand, and, second, that, once we have got rid of excess demand, how much unemployment we have will depend very largely upon 1433 the trade union leaders. I know that hon. Members opposite have great influence in these matters, and I hope that they will not think it very impertinent of me if I urge upon them that they should exercise that influence now. I listened to the right hon. Member for Blyth praising the trade union leaders. I should like to say how much I support that. I know that, sometimes, some of them find it necessary to say things which seem rather wild, but I would rather judge them by what I believe to be their thoughts and by their deeds. During the last few years, taking into account the strength of their position, they have, I think, shown a great measure of moderation and responsibility. Indeed, wages have gone up just as much in domestic service and other employments in which trade union leaders have taken no part.
It seems to me that, in late years, there has, very naturally, been a rather unholy alliance between employers and employees to push up wages and put the increase on the price the consumer pays. I should like to see a holy alliance between employers and employees to see what they can do to get rid of restrictive practices and increase productivity. Only in this way can we possibly make real wages effectively and permanently higher.
§ 7.32 p.m.
§ Mr. William Blyton (Houghton-le-Spring)
I hope that the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Sir A. Spearman) will forgive me if I do not follow his argument, except to say that I believe that the debate today has justified itself in the light of the statement of Government policies since October of last year. What is troubling the country and, particularly, the trade unions, today is the problem of keeping incomes and prices stable so that people will know, at least for months ahead, what their money will buy.
A good deal of the inflation in our economy today is due entirely to the political actions of the Government. Once they decided to set the people free—as the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) put it some time ago—and once they decided to scrap all physical controls and planning, letting prices, profits and rents find their natural level, inflation was as certain as night 1434 follows day. It has always been rather remarkable, when Tory Governments have been in power, that when workers were weak and poorly organised, they could reach equilibrium on a policy of that sort, at the cost of unemployment and a cut in the standard of life of working people. But that policy cannot succeed today against the opposition of a strong trade union movement, because the trade union movement has the power to keep wages somewhere near prices and also to demand a share in the increased national product whenever it is there.
It is no use the Tories, as they have been doing, trying to blame the trade unions for the present situation. The trade unions did not start this insane gamble. In fact, they warned the Government many times against it, but the Government took no notice. This, at least, can be said of the trade unions, that when the economy was regulated in the immediate, difficult post-war years, they did hold wage demands in check at a time when, with their power, they could have got any increase they liked. Why did they do that? They accepted wage restraints in those days because they believed that there was a genuine effort being made to build up the country's resources, and that the division of the national product would be made on the basis of equity. Who benefits today if the trade unions accept a cut in the real standard of life of their members?—the Stock Exchange governors, the landlords, the drawers of dividends, the take-over merchants, the private enterprise firms which take large profits.
There is no purpose today in our economy, but a scramble for personal gain, and the tragedy of it all is that many decent people suffer because they are not strong enough to defend themselves. The Government, having neither purpose nor resolution, are trying to get out of their difficulties by two methods, both of which will prove disastrous to the country. One is the slashing of the social services, the cutting of capital expenditure—the insurance policy for our national future—and the creation of some unemployment, I believe, to weaken the trade unions. The second is the jeopardising of free negotiations between trade unions and employers, dictating to arbitrators who have to judge the claims of the workers.
1435 As trade unionists, we have always said that our job is to keep wages in line with rising prices. The Government cannot expect the trade unions to sit complacently by, doing nothing, while they, by political actions, reduce the standard of life of the workers. It is noteworthy that, since the Government came to power, their policy has resulted in an almost continuous wage struggle, and they have most certainly created a general lack of confidence in the future of our conciliation machinery.
I believe that the only way the Tory Party can carry out its policies is by the creation of unemployment and a reduction of the standard of life of the people. In other words, Tory policies can be carried out only by the sacrifice of workers to rent, interests and profits. Their policy worked in the 1920s. I reiterate that it cannot work today, because first, the trade unions will resist it, and, second, the Government and all employers in the country know that it would mean their political extinction.
Because the wages of workers in industry are basically a political issue, we have raised the whole matter in this debate. They have become a political issue because of Government statements, particularly in the nationalised sector, first, that what is called the national situation must be considered in relation to wages, and, second, even after that, that they will not find the money to meet any decision made unless it comes out of savings or increased production.
Let us examine these statements. The Government have increased the Bank Rate to 7 per cent. This, surely, was a measure to stop enterprise and stifle industrial development. It is a step taken at a time when we are spending less on new equipment than any other industrial Power in Europe. This action is now beginning to show increasing unemployment. By the end of the year it will be considerably higher. There is no need for me to guess what the Government are trying to achieve. All my experience in the past has shown that the instrument of high interest rates cuts down the volume of industrial activity. The resulting unemployment makes it easier to resist wage claims or even to cut wages.
The Government have been shouting for a long time for a show-down with 1436 the trade unions. They have been urging employers to get tough. The engineering and shipbuilding strike last year was the first attempt to do it. But it failed. Now the Government are reinforcing the employer by their financial methods. I believe it is their fervent hope to make it easier for them in this round to defeat the trade unions.
The abolition of subsidies, the increases in prices, in rents, in the price of the National Insurance stamp, and in the Bank Rate since the last increase in wages was given have all been achieved by political action and have brought about the present wage demands.
The ex-Chancellor's statement about not finding the money in the nationalised sector has shattered free negotiation in the basic industries. If that is the case, the Government are in trouble in the nationalised sector. Railways, transport and miners are all to be tested, and the arbitrators cannot decide their cases on merit. Even if the arbitrator takes into consideration the national interest and awards an increase, according to my interpretation of the statements made, they will not get it because the present Chancellor says that he supports the policy not to give them the money. I presume from that that the Government will not allow increased prices to meet wage awards and, even if the award is given, they will not increase prices and allow the nationalised industries to go into the "red" to meet the award.
We get a situation like this. The mining industry, which, according to the Press, will be refused a wage increase, will have to go to compulsory arbitration under its agreement. If an award is given, will the Minister refuse to give that industry an increased price to meet the cost of the award? If this happens, the mining industry will either have to go into the "red" or say to the Government that it will not go into the "red". It cannot meet the award of an arbitration court because the money is not being provided, as the Minister has refused an increase in the price of coal. I foresee that that situation can be dynamite industrially.
The unions, on the basis of maintaining the same purchasing power of wages up to the last increase, have a stonewall case for an increase that is now before the 1437 different employers in the country. In the light of what I have said, the Government must not be surprised in the months that lie ahead if all the unions that are now in the arbitration court, and who have their applications refused, rightly say that the disallowance is due to Government interference with the arbitrators. So shaken is the faith of the unions in the conciliation machinery that we shall have a lot of this, because there was much free negotiation before last October. Unions will now refuse to go through the process of arbitration. Therefore, if, because of the Government's decisions and statements, arbitrators make refusal after refusal in the light of circumstances of this character, the Government must not be surprised if unions ignore their arbitration agreement and go back to a war of attrition, which means the use of the strike weapon.
Trade unions must not retreat to the past. If the Government persist in their policies, no matter how unpleasant it may be and no matter how we dislike to face the last resort we have, namely, to strike—some of us have done a lot of that in the past and we do not want any more of it if it can be avoided—it would be better for the trade unions to face this than sink into national decrepitude to which the Tory policies are condemning us.
I support the Motion because it seems to me that in all this shouting about a show-down with the trade unions, the Government are trying to make the worker in industry the scapegoat for their disastrous economic policies. If it should arise, the blame must rest squarely on the Government. In every case that I have known the trade unions have acted patiently and constitutionally. There have been no national strikes, and negotiating machinery has been followed, but the belief is persisting that the Government are sabotaging the agreements and the conciliation machinery. There can be no foundation for charges of irresponsibility by the trade unions if this country is plunged into industrial strife. It is the Government who have created this terrible belief that collective bargaining is in jeopardy and that arbitrations are now loaded against them.
The trade unions today are in many cases asking for an advance equivalent only to the increase in last year's cost of living which, according to the figures 1438 of the Ministry of Labour, is 4½ per cent. But the price rises vary from 2 per cent. for clothing to 11½ per cent. for rent and housing. It is because of the Government's policy that we find these demands coming in. I believe that the Government's objective is a wage standstill policy, but it cannot take place. There is £100 million per annum going to the landlords in increased rent. There is at least another £100 million extra interest on the National Debt to be found because of the increased Bank Rate. There is the increased rake-off to moneylenders on loans for private building, council buildings and council projects. Last year £35 million was given to the Surtax payer. All this has to be paid for with increased effort and more production if the worker is to maintain his standard of life.
Last year profits went up by 5 per cent. above 1956, and dividends went up by over 6 per cent. Bonus shares were issued, and although the Government have made appeals about profits, they have not taken the same tough line with the companies as they have with the trade unions. There are two sentences in the ex-Chancellor's speech in which he says that a lot of profit should not be distributed. There are columns about trade union wages and the standstill which ought to take place. If in the light of all that trade unions cease their wage demands, will not industry seize that as an opportunity to push up profits even further? It is against those facts that the Government and industry are trying to browbeat the unions into accepting what I regard as an actual reduction in wages.
There is a parallel to the present situation. I remember that after I left the Navy after the First World War we had a great election which Lloyd George won with a predominantly Conservative Government and in which he said, "We will make this land fit for heroes to live in." How true that slogan was, because in the twenty years that followed I found that it took a hero to live in the pits! What was our lot in those days? In the early 1920s it was the same as now—abolish controls, let us fight inflation, let us retain and capture export markets. How was it done? The forebears of hon. Members opposite did it by forcing much unemployment. Wages were attacked, strikes took place 1439 and the standards of the workers were forced down to a very low level.
It must not be forgotten that during those years the Tory Party backed the employers against the working people. We saw the social services slashed. We saw unemployment pay brought to a low level, and we can still remember that when those of us in the mining industry were unemployed we got 1s. a week to keep our children. Now we see a situation, not as bad as then, revealing itself. Unemployment is growing and is likely to increase. The social services, so the Press tells us, are to be slashed, and we have higher contributions to pay. The Government have been urging employers to get tough with wages. In the nationalised sector of industry, the Government are preventing negotiations by their edicts and by their statements that they will not finance wage awards. The policies of the Government are identical with those of Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain, with the days of the man we shall never forget, Montagu Norman, the former Governor of the Bank of England.
The only difference between then and now is that the Labour Party is now stronger and the trade union movement is strong and well. I believe that the trade unions cannot accept the present position and that no self-respecting body of men will accept a reduction in their standard of life without a struggle. It is the busmen who are first in the firing line. The trade unions should stand behind the busmen, because if the busmen fail, as happened in the 1920s, it will be the other unions in their turn who will get the same medicine. The trade union slogan is "Unity is strength". They will need that strength in the months that lie ahead.
The Tories have never been the friends of the unions in my lifetime. We have had to fight them every time and I am not being taken in by sweet and honeyed words from the benches opposite. Their policy is one of defending rent, interest and profit against the workers and I hope that we shall not be misguided by what we have heard tonight. They will try, because they cannot face the country with their political policies, to get an election slogan "The trade unions versus the State". I do not believe that the country 1440 would be misled by a slogan of that kind, nor do I believe that the workers would accept a reduction in their standard of living.
The only way to save the country from the disaster which looms ahead in the policies and announcement of the Government since October last year is to have an early Election and to let the country decide the issue. It is only by a change of policies that we can stave off the impending disaster, which surely lies ahead, for collective bargaining and arbitration agreements in the great industries of this country.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Sir Spencer Summers (Aylesbury)
When one has taken some trouble to prepare a few points for a debate of this kind, it is regrettable to have to divert for any length of time to comment on a preceding speech, so I will content myself, therefore, with saying that if the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Blyton) really thinks that some of his descriptions of the facts we are now dealing with, which he described with all the bitterness he could put into his speech, are relevant to the present situation, it is time he thought again. I am certain it is quite false to bring into discussions of wages and profits and industrial relations the kind of bitterness which the hon. Member injected into his speech.
I am much more concerned with the title of the debate, industrial relations, than with economic aspects which have been the guise of most of the speeches to which we have listened. If it is not presumptuous, I should like to say that I noticed that when my right hon. Friend went to the Box to open the debate he had a brief in his hand—I do not know what the brief contained—but that he never looked at it from beginning to end and, whatever it contained, it could not have been half as good as the speech he made without it.
He was quite right to say that this was an occasion to apply our minds to some of the problems which have by no means yet been solved, namely, how to reconcile full employment and stable prices. There are many, certainly outside the House, and perhaps inside, too, who are coming to the conclusion that it is lacking in imagination, in this annual round of wage increases leading up to almost trials of 1441 strength at a period of full employment, If we cannot find some improved technique than that to which we have become accustomed in recent years.
There are some who, aware of the many anomalies in rates of pay between one occupation and another, claim that we ought to impose what is called a wages policy. I am not certain how it is to be applied, but it is without doubt a genuine attempt to remove anomalies and perhaps give a little more justice as between one type of responsibility and service and another. However, as far as I am aware, it is a solution of the problem quite unacceptable to the trade unions and quite impracticable in its application, so that I do not propose to spend any great length of time on that solution, because I very much doubt whether wise men could be found whose judgment would be accepted by all to remove anomalies which may well exist.
There are some others who seem to regard it as a foregone conclusion—some hon. Members opposite are among them—that inflation is with us to stay and that we had therefore better make up our minds now about how much in wage increases we can safely give to take care of rising prices. I notice that one suggestion was that we should assume that the country is capable of an annual increase of productivity of so much, and that we should try to arrange with the trade union movement that the comparable addition to wages annually for four or five years should be the limit of the unions' demands' and that that should be the pattern followed in other industries. Lord Chandos has associated his name with a suggestion of that kind.
I do not believe that conditions in Britain are such as to enable us to make arrangements—even if it were possible to make arrangements at all—which both sides could feel confident of maintaining over a period of four or five years. The vulnerable conditions of this island and the ways in which we can be affected by recessions in America or elsewhere would preclude it. I have no doubt that if arrangements of that kind were made and if boom conditions arose there would be a demand for a greater increase in wage levels than those provided for by the original arrangements; and if the reverse took place there would he the utmost difficulty in honouring the 1442 arrangements. Therefore, I do not think that along that line lies the solution for which we are looking.
I think, however, that there are a numbers of ways in which our present procedure can be considerably improved to the advantage of us all. Reference has been made earlier in the debate to the point that both on the trade union side and on the employers' side there is scope for speeding up the process of consultation and negotiation to reach a decision, whatever it may be, so as to eliminate much of the feeling of frustration which must follow when negotiations are dragged on for months—a feeling that insufficient seriousness is applied to the problem. If there is dilatoriness on either side, I hope that it can be eliminated.
I believe it can be taken for granted that it is desirable to have a buffer between the two sides across the council table who may not be able to agree upon what change in wage levels is justified. We are getting into the sphere of what is called arbitration in a situation of that kind. But we are in danger of becoming rather confused in this matter because of the failure to distinguish between what I call conciliation and arbitration. There is a fundamental difference between the two which I shall try to explain, because that difference has a bearing upon the suggestion which I wish to make.
I regard conciliation as the task of a third, impartial party brought in to see whether it is possible to build a bridge between opposing views, without taking account of the national or any other outside interest: the third party acts as a mediator or conciliator between opposing views so as to avoid a misunderstanding or a false interpretation or a belief that there is a false intention and so bring the parties together. That is a very useful function which can frequently be performed.
Arbitration, however, is not the rôle of somebody who is trying to find out what the parties will accept mutually but of one who is trying to find out what the solution should be, which is an entirely different thing. There will be circumstances in which it is sound to appoint an impartial person or persons to settle the answer on behalf of the parties, knowing quite well in advance that they would be willing to accept that answer as final. That seems to me to be a case 1443 where the public interest is relevant in deciding what the answer ought to be.
If we accept the difference between conciliation and arbitration, in the sense that I have described it, it seems to me that one thing follows—that it ought to be compulsory, in the event of a difference of opinion, for either of the parties to take the other to conciliation, in the hope that failure to agree among themselves might be overcome by the assistance of an impartial third party. But I do not think that it is justified to compel the other party to a dispute to take it to arbitration if the findings are to be binding on both sides. If the parties are to go to an impartial group whose findings are to be binding, that should be a voluntary process to which both sides are willing to agree in advance.
If that reasoning is sound, I should like to show the difference between that and the practice as we know it now. The body to which one party to a dispute can compel the other to go—the tribunal—has authority to make its findings binding on the two parties. The body which is voluntary, and whose findings are not binding, is the body to which both parties must signify their willingness to go. Therefore, we have precisely the wrong body—the voluntary one—not having a binding force for its award, and the compulsory one having a binding force for its award. I suggest that it should be the other way round.
§ Mr. H. Hynd
Does the hon. Member recognise that, where there is no obligation to accept it, in nearly every case the award is accepted and honourably operated by both sides?
§ Sir S. Summers
That may well be, but I am concerned at the moment with the structure of the machinery which we are discussing. I am pointing out that it is not wise to make that body whose findings are binding the one to which one of the parties can compel the other to go.
§ Sir S. Summers
For the simple reason that if I am in dispute and I understand that the person to whom the dispute must go is to have the power to compel both parties to accept his decision, I believe that we should both go voluntarily to him.
§ Mr. Brown
We are aware that employers are raising questions about the Tribunal and suggesting that it should be brought to an end. We have had this Tribunal and its predecessors for 18 years, and I have been hoping that the hon. Member would tell us what has been wrong with its functioning up to now.
§ Sir S. Summers
I would certainly be prepared to say how, from experience of the Tribunal, it has been found unsatisfactory, but I am much more concerned with the juridical or academic question of the way in which this whole machinery should function. The findings of the body to which one party to the dispute can compulsorily take the other, and whose findings are binding, are in practice much more enforceable on the employer than on the other side. There is concern about the findings of the Tribunal because its decisions are not equally enforceable on both sides. If this type of instrument were used only if both sides wanted to use it, that disability would not arise.
It is time also that those cases where fringe benefits are negotiated should be taken much more into account than they are in the handling of straight wage negotiations, because there is just as much element of cost in them as there is in the straight wage. Much more account of them is taken in America than in this country.
Then I hope it will become increasingly the practice to extend in accordance with his service to his firm the period of notice which a worker may expect. Although it has been suggested that there are a number of industries which cannot tell for very long ahead what numbers will be wanted for employment, I think that such a period could be considerably longer than is normally the case now. Certainly, if redundancy is coming, the period of notice should be not less than a month and, for long service, three months might well be the order of the day, during which time the person concerned could arrange his own affairs.
1445 I am sure that we must look again at the negotiating instrument in use in the National Health Service because I do not believe it is satisfactory for those responsible for finding the money to be in the minority. I am well aware that the majority sitting on the same side of the table as the provincial representatives, if I may call them that, are the actual physical employers of the people with whom the negotiations are concerned. In fact, they are possibly even more familiar than are the representatives of the Minister with the conditions being discussed. I would have thought it was possible so to have arranged matters that they were available for consultation, even taking part in the discussions, but were under the authority of the Minister in respect of the amount of offer in negotiation which they were willing to make.
§ Sir S. Summers
That intervention is not helpful. I am suggesting that it will lead to trouble, which will come again, if the Minister has direct authority in this respect over some of the group on one side of the table but has no such authority over the other. The authority should be extended for this purpose, whether those concerned be civil servants in the Ministry or voluntary representatives from outside.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Percy Collick (Birkenhead)
I have listened throughout this debate and I propose to be brief so that some of my colleagues can take part in it.
We had two quite interesting speeches, one from each Front Bench, and most hon. Members would say that there was not much in either to which to take exception, though I was a little disappointed with the speech of the Minister. It was a good speech as Ministerial speeches go. It entertained the House, but it seemed to me that the Minister said everything except what we wanted him to say; in fact, what we were expecting him to say.
1446 As I understood, he was to take the opportunity of this debate to tell us a little more about the policy of the Government in the important matter of wage negotiations. Oddly enough, it was the one thing that he said nothing about. I am not naïve enough to believe that this was by mere accident. May I remind the Minister that my right hon. Friend the Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) posed a definite question to him—a question which arose out of my own intervention in the speech of the Minister previously.
My right hon. Friend asked the Minister to tell us a little more about it. The Minister may have forgotten or have missed the point; if so, I hope that he will take the opportunity later to intervene and tell us. So far, we have not had an answer to what seems to me to to be one of the most important parts of this matter, arising from the speech of the previous Chancellor, on 29th October. I expect that that speech is fairly fresh in the minds of most hon. Members, but I will quote the relevant part of it on the wages issue.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) said:Wages increases unrelated to, and going far beyond, the general growth of real wealth within the country are by far the greatest danger we have to face, and we should be deceiving ourselves if we pretended otherwise. Those who ask for wage increases, those who grant increases, and those who adjudicate about wages should have this fact firmly in the forefront of their minds. Any large mistake at this stage by any of them could do grievous damage to the nation as a whole. It is our duty as a Government to see that, and it is the duty of the Government as employers to act upon it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th October, 1957; Vol. 401, c. 57.]The right hon. Gentleman made that statement, as he makes most of his statements, in a forthright manner, and almost every hon. Member in the House that afternoon accepted it as a declaration of Government policy which meant a standstill on wages. If it did not mean that, to me it made no sense. I am sure that the whole House understood that. In fact, in the way in which it was said by the Chancellor, it sounded more like a declaration of war than any announcement on Government economic policy. If one reads HANSARD one can see the declaration of war.
This was followed the next day by the contribution of the Minister of Labour 1447 who, if I may say so in his presence, is a little more understanding in labour matters. He has the responsibility of handling labour policy. When I heard what the right hon. Gentleman said, immediately it crossed my mind that the Minister of Labour, aware of the damage which the speech of his right hon. Friend had done, was trying slightly to retract from that position, and I made an intervention to the Minister on this point. He will remember it well.
Then the Minister of Labour was good enough to reply to me. He said that the Government intended to make clear to Members…and to everyone else our continuing determination that we will not finance inflationary awards, however those awards are secured, whether through negotiation or through arbitration."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th October, 1957; Vol. 401, c. 236.]What I expected the right hon. Gentleman to try to do this afternoon—because I am sure he knows as well as I do that this matter is occupying the minds of hundreds of thousands of trade unionists—is what determines that a wage award is inflationary in character. I am posing a fair question. It is the Minister's own words that I have been using. All I want to know, on behalf of hundreds of thousands of railway trade unionists, is exactly what those words mean, particularly in the connotation of the claims of the railwaymen.
I will come back to this point in a moment, but may I say, first, that the statement of the previous Chancellor arose out of the declaration of his intention to deal with inflation. That is good. I have no desire for inflation. If anybody wanted to make a case against the Government politically, it would be for their failure to deal with inflation in all the years that they have been in power. That is our strongest case against the Government.
Every old railway pensioner, the engineman and the others, whom I have known since childhood and who now goes to collect his few paltry shillings a week, finds that his pension buys less than half of what it bought when he first drew it. During the period of office of the present Government these pensioners have suffered a loss of 4s. or 5s. in the purchasing power of their pensions. Their savings are merely figures in a book. 1448 Those are the people who know far more about inflation than anybody else. They are not like hon. Members opposite, who have so much of their possessions in real wealth. Inflation does not mean much to hon. Members opposite when their possessions are expressed in real wealth, in land, property, fixed items and securities, all of which appreciate in value.
If the former Chancellor of the Exchequer meant his statement, as I believe he did, to be a declaration of a standstill on wages, he should have understood as much as anybody that there cannot be a standstill on wages without a standstill, also, for the things that wages have to buy. I talked about a stable currency to my constituents at the time of the last Election. I want a stable currency and I believe that it should be the first aim of any Government, irrespective of party.
If the Government seriously intend to beat inflation, they must have a national plan and economic planning, but there is nobody on the benches opposite who believes in either of those things. No Prime Minister that this country has had for decades has done more to frustrate any idea of a national policy than the present Prime Minister, wherever he happens to be at the moment, whether in Australia or anywhere else. He has not been the Prime Minister to appeal to the nation.
The declaration by the former Chancellor of the Exchequer sounded like war and was interpreted by many of the trade unions as meaning war against them. Equally, there are many other intelligent people who are not trade unionists who believed that that was the Government's policy. I hope that the Minister of Labour has learned a thing or two. I warn him in the most gentle manner not to inherit the mantle of his right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth, as he has shown a willingness to do over the busmen's dispute. That was the policy originally of the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, and not of the Minister of Labour.
Last week, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Blyth was putting the case about industry, the Minister of Labour said that the railwaymen had sent their case to arbitration. The right hon. Gentleman was quite wrong. The railwaymen have not sent their case to 1449 arbitration. The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Summers) spoke of conciliation and arbitration. Let me tell him that the railwaymen never sent their case to arbitration. By his reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Blyth last week, the Minister got a good laugh from his own benches at my right hon. Friend's expense, but he happened to be quite wrong about it. What the railwaymen have done is to send their case now to the Railway Staff National Tribunal, which is the next stage in the conciliation machinery, and not to arbitration.
I have already said that if the Government are to have a policy of stable prices and wish to peg wages, they must peg the cost of what the wages have to buy. If words mean anything at all, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer has told the National Staff Tribunal in the plainest possible language to reject the railwaymen's claim. He has given the Transport Commission to understand that if it does anything about it, the money will not be forthcoming, anyhow; and the Minister of Labour, I know, shares that view. That is the position from which the railway men start the final stage of their machinery of negotiation.
If the Minister were to walk over to Nine Elms, or to King's Cross or Paddington, and ask a main line engine-man by how much his rent had risen since his last pay increase, he would be told that it had gone up by, perhaps, 12s. 6d., 15s. or £1 a week. If the railwaymen are not now to get any concession, the simple outcome is that they are worse off to the extent of 15s. or £1 a week, or whatever the figure may be, for which they are unable to recoup themselves.
It is the Government, and nobody else, who are responsible for that state of affairs. It is they who, having taken 15s. or £1 a week from a railwayman's pocket, now say to the Tribunal, "See that you do not give these chaps anything." That is the reality of the situation and that is the kind of subject to which the Minister of Labour should have addressed himself this afternoon. Since he did not, I can only conjecture why. It may be because he is not yet certain which line he will follow.
The tragedy of the Government is that they seem to make up their policy as they go along, week by week and day by day. 1450 They are never quite sure what they will do next week until something happens. If they are to follow the line of the right hon. Member for Monmouth, however, they had better be very careful. I urge the Minister not to fall into that trap—because he seems to have got very near it in connection with the London busmen's dispute.
If I were the assistant general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, instead of being what I am, and if I had been conducting delicate negotiations of this sort and had reached a point where I meant to follow a certain course, because I had reason to think that it was all right with the Minister of Labour; and if I had then staked my reputation and had said, "This is the line we will follow; this is the right line" and then, when everything was almost signed, sealed and settled, I had received a message from the Minister saying "Nothing doing," after his own Chief Industrial Adviser had told him what was going on. I should have regarded it as a very serious situation.
I do not dispute what the Minister said this afternoon, and I do not think that he will dispute the fact that his Chief Industrial Adviser was privy to the recommendation put forward. It is a very serious thing when he overthrows that recommendation. It was overthrown because of a Cabinet decision. The Cabinet have now come down heavily on one side of this issue. They cannot escape it; it is as crystal clear as anything can be.
The Manchester Guardian was not far off the mark when it said:If a Government embarks on a new policy of aggressive interference in wage claims…it is a serious departure from the traditional impartiality of British Governments in disputes between trade unions and employers.Later, it said—and this is very significant—The Government seems deliberately to have tried to provoke war.These people are not trade unionists, but people who are trying to hold a balance and see this issue fairly. Any Government should be wise enough to see that along the path the present one are taking lies ruin. They cannot do things today without the utmost measure of good will on the part of the trade union movement. 1451 Any Government worthy of being the Government of Britain should understand that, and act upon it.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)
It is quite clear from the speech of the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Collick) that my right hon. Friend was right when he said that no amount of direction from the Government to the arbitration tribunals about what is or is not in the national interest would be anything but suspect, because it is quite clear that the hon. Member has the greatest suspicions of the Government and, indeed, of my right hon. Friend, despite his speech this afternoon. It is also quite clear that my right hon. Friend was right when he said that if the national interest is to be put before arbitration tribunals the Government of the day were not the body to do it. However, I am more and more convinced that it must be done by someone.
The hon. Member said that the first duty of anybody should be the preservation of the currency. He was not the only hon. Member opposite to say that. It was a very welcome declaration. Presumably, he put it before the necessity for full employment, although I am not sure that I would. At any rate, it is a change. Even if he can dismiss from his mind all the sins that he visits upon the Government in regard to rents, food subsidies and such matters, how does he think our currency can be preserved with our present system of arbitration machinery, if we are to have leapfrogging wage claims of the type that we have had in the last ten years or more in conditions of full employment?
Hon. Members must admit that a large element in inflation—though not the only one—is the wages spiral, as it used to be called, or leap-frogging, as it is called today. That must be an element, and I think that most of the speeches have recognised it.
Looking at the future, and trying to get back to an atmosphere in which both sides of the House are vitally concerned—because right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, quite wrongly, think that they are likely to have these responsibilities soon—how are we as a nation to achieve a solution of this problem? My right 1452 hon. Friend said that only 2 per cent., in value rather than in number, of the disputes in this country go to arbitration, but I hope he will forgive me if I enter a note of caution there. I am myself convinced that the enormous number of voluntary settlements are, in fact, arrived at because the parties have a fairly good idea what would happen if they went to arbitration. It is the same with anything of that sort.
We may take the case of a breach of a commercial contract. I suppose that disputes about breaches of contract in this country are, in 98 per cent. of the cases, settled out of court. They are settled on terms that reflect the parties' idea of what would have happened if they had gone to court. Therefore, the rules and principles upon which arbitration tribunals operate, to my mind, influence enormously all the voluntary settlements that take place.
It is an extraordinary thing that ever today Members on both sides of the House are not certain on what principles these arbitration tribunals really operate, The right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens), in dealing with the Government's recent references, said that matters that were brought to the attention of arbitration tribunals are superfluous, because the arbitrators take the national interest into account as it is. If that is so, I do not see why that should be so bitterly attacked.
If, in fact, the arbitrators do take account of such things as provincial busman's wages and the probability that they would make a claim to preserve their existing differential, why, then, is it such a terrible thing to draw the arbitrator's attention to something which he will do, anyhow? It may be a waste of breath and a waste of time, but it cannot be more than that.
§ Mr. Awbery
Our complaint is that when the Minister intervenes, he destroys the confidence they have in this machinery.
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke
They must have very little confidence as it stands if all that the Minister is doing is to draw the attention of the arbitrator to one of his duties which he will perform, anyhow.
The truth of the matter is that arbitrators, on the whole, I suspect—although it cannot be more than a suspicion— 1453 do not do this at present, and that seems to be the best opinion. [Interruption.] I think so, because there is the phrase which is used a great deal by hon. Members opposite, and is, I think, used in most industrial negotiations, to the effect that these matters are settled on their merits, and "on their merits" is really the equivalent of "in isolation," in the sense that the conditions in other industries, and, particularly, the conditions of the general wage demand in relation to the productivity of the country, are not matters of decisive importance in the arbitrator's decision.
One only suspects that because arbitrators do not give reasons. I should like to join my plea to that of my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. J. Rodgers) in asking for them to be given, because we shall then know what they have considered prime matters to be taken into consideration and what they have considered to be secondary, if they give their reasons.
In fact, the Industrial Court, when it began in 1919, did give reasons, and the first President, Lord Amulree, was hoping that the reasons would be given in such a way that a body of case law and precedent would be built up so that people going before the tribunals would know what was likely to be the result from the different weight to be given to the different factors; but that has not been done for many years now.
Therefore, the suspicion grows, and, indeed, some of the figures have a remarkable coincidence, that arbitrators are really doing their job when arriving at the result that would be arrived at if, in fact, there were a clash, and that usually means halving the pay claim. That is not a reflection on the arbitrators, because, in the words of the 1919 Act, their job is to "settle the dispute." The 1919 Act does not empower an arbitrator, although he may do so, to take account of all sorts of new factors which have arisen over many years under full employment.
We must all admit that in arbitrations and negotiations between the employer and the employee today there is not the same clash of interest as there used to be. In the nationalised industries, profits do not come into the question, and in the private sector the employer as such has not the same interest, in conditions of full employment and of inflation, to resist 1454 as he used to have. I would go so far as to say that from the employers' point of view inflation is not nearly such a danger as it is to the employee, because employers, on the whole, live on credit. Industry works on credit. Employers are great debtors. Therefore, if they can pay their debts in a currency which is not as valuable as when they borrowed the money, it is not particularly to their financial disadvantage. But it is very much to the financial disadvantage of hundreds of people, including many annuitants and pensioners who are not represented by any voice at these arbitration hearings.
I plead with my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to give us some hope that the third voice will be heard. I agree that it must not be the Government's voice. We are hoping that a clear lead will be given from "the three wise men," although that I would regard as a rather frail voice at present. I hope that it will be strengthened. I plead that we should have an inquiry into all this machinery, because it grew up—and we are proud of it—in conditions which were very different from those of today. Surely we must not go on worshipping the past and thinking that what was good enough for our fathers is necessarily good enough for us. It cannot be so. We must move with the times, and the times demand an overhaul in arbitration machinery. The difficulties of the last four months show that.
Hon. Members opposite have levelled the charge of interfering with, and breach of confidence in, the machinery. That charge would not be made if the machinery were in tune with modern conditions of full employment. Before there is another change in the constitution of the Industrial Disputes Tribunal which, I understand, is in contemplation, cannot we have a high-powered committee to inquire into the whole system? I believe that we are to have new legislation quite soon, because a vital link of this machinery depends on wartime regulations, which must go. If we are to have new legislation, do not let it be a patch of legislation on this subject. Let us have a thorough review first and then a tidy Act. That will have to be done quickly, but it should be done. I do not see why the present should not be considered the best time for that, as there has been all this controversy about the existing machinery.
1455 I want to say a word in defence of a trade union leader who has been much attacked in this debate from both sides of the House. Mr. "Ted" Hill has been attacked by name from one side and by implication from the other. When Mr. Hill said that the national interest was no concern of his, he was saying in a brutal way something which, after all fundamentally, is right. He is the representative of his men. It is his job to offer what persuasion he can, because he is paid to do it, and to put their case before the arbitration tribunal, or whatever it is, as forcibly as he can. It is not his job to pull his punches, but to put the case as strongly as he can.
I believe that that is all he was saying. If, against it, there is no person or voice sufficiently strong to put the case for the railway superannuitants and all the other people to whom the last speaker referred, he, by the sheer force of his advocacy, will get away with it every time. We must have the third voice, because the second voice, that of the employers, is not, in conditions of full employment, sufficiently strong. On the whole, the employers and big business are not as concerned to stop inflation as they used to be, or as the consumer and the general public are. They thrive on expansion, and so do the workers, even if it is unrelated to productivity, though, in the end, a terrible disaster awaits them both if it goes on.
To avoid that disaster we must have the third voice there. Now is the chance, when the arbitration machinery has been brought into the spotlight of discussion, for a committee to examine it. If this is done, the next Government, whatever its complexion, will have a lot to thank the present Government for.
§ 8.47 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Hynd (Accrington)
In the few minutes at my disposal I would say a word on the phrase in the Motion—serious damage to relations in industry.The remarks of the hon. Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) are viewed with some suspicion on this side of the House. In the course of them he made threatening references to completely new negotiating machinery. No wonder I am very suspicious when I hear that the Government have that in mind. 1456 Then there is something more serious that causes suspicion. In his opening remarks, the Minister said that the battles we were discussing had been won long ago. At one time we thought that was so, but in recent times we have been wondering whether we are losing those battles again because of the deliberate campaign, not since last October, but long before then, against trade unions, against wage increases and against the normal negotiating machinery of British industry.
The Minister also said that the Labour Government went further in giving instructions to wage tribunals than the present Government had done, but the Labour Government never laid down the condition that the present Government are attempting to lay down that, in the nationalised industries, for example, no wage increases can be given until that money is taken out of the other expediture of those industries.
This campaign started long before last October. In the Observer of 7th July, 1957, a leading article said:The danger is that the Government is turning more and more to reliance on moral pressure to stop inflation.It went on to say that the Government had to realisethat there is only one way of checking inflation: through its own monetary and fiscal policies it must create conditions where excessive wage and price rises force the inefficient into unemployment or bankruptcy.In another reference to the appeal for voluntary restraint, the Observer says:In an economy based on free enterprise, everyone makes as much money as he can and no one can be expected to hold back voluntarily for the common good.That led to the recent speeches that have already been referred to, to the recent articles in the newspapers, and to what happened to the busmen, to the National Health Service workers and to others. That is why we say we have come to the conclusion that it is a deliberate policy on the part of the Government. That is one of the reasons why the Motion has been moved.
Some Government supporters have been talking as though it is the job and main purpose of trade union leaders to foster industrial strife. I have some connection with trade union work, and I can assure hon. Gentlemen that the main job of a trade union leader is to avoid industrial strife. Most of his time and 1457 energy are devoted to that purpose. I do not know what will happen in the railway industry when the present wage claim goes any further and the railwaymen find themselves up against the obstacle that if the Tribunal awards a wage increase the British Transport Commission will have to cut down its modernisation programme or find the money in some other way. The temptation in those circumstances for the Tribunal to say that it cannot award an increase is too obvious for me to comment on it.
I should like to remind hon. Members opposite that they seem to have their perspective on strikes quite wrong. If they look at the Ministry of Labour Gazette, they will see figures showing that in 1956 we lost only fifty minutes for every worker in industry through industrial disputes whereas we lost eight hours through industrial accidents and a hundred hours through sickness.
Again, wages are not the only cause of these disputes. The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Summers) reminded us that there are today fringe benefits of all kinds. I am not referring to directors of companies, who have various ways of dodging Income Tax and who have expense allowances, motor cars and all that sort of thing. I am referring to the extras attached to workers' wages which are regarded as almost a normal part of the wages. These not only should be dealt with by negotiating machinery but can be and are dealt with by that machinery.
Several hon. Members opposite referred to the danger arising from a depreciated £ and the necessity for a stable currency. My hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth (Mr. A. Allen) had a lot to say about it. One of our biggest difficulties is that under this Government the £ has shrunk to about 15s. in value, largely because of Government policy. I fail to understand how hon. Members opposite, particularly the hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby), who does not represent the E.T.U., can talk about the depreciated £ as though it were the fault of the trade unions.
It is much easier to keep industrial peace in totalitarian countries. It was much easier to keep industrial peace in this country many years ago. After the Industrial Revolution, however, this country began to look at the problems of 1458 industrial relationships, and in the past hundred years we have tried, first, compulsory arbitration, which proved unsuccessful, conciliation, trade boards and Whitley Councils. We have tried the Industrial Court, we have set up the National Arbitration Tribunal, with its successor, the Industrial Disputes Tribunal, and we have set up, as the latest, the Cohen Committee of the three wise men. The hon. Member for Darwen said he had not very much confidence in the probable outcome of the Cohen Committee. On that point I agree with him because, looking at the composition of the Committee, with its three very elderly gentlemen, and looking at their background, I have not very much confidence in the report which they are likely to produce.
The whole of the experience over that period of a hundred years has taught us one thing—that voluntary methods are usually the better. The hon. Member for Aylesbury tried to draw a distinction between conciliation, arbitration, and the tribunal. In British industrial experience these tight lines between different methods cannot be drawn. The fact is that we have to use all those methods. We have found by experience that where direct negotiation, which is best of all, fails, then a voluntary submission to arbitration, without any binding award, is most likely to bring permanent and satisfactory results.
The British system is not the result of any theory or any very close reasoning. It is the result of experience. With all the faults of an unplanned system, it has nevertheless given the best results. The Government should think again about their present attempt to destroy this machinery—for that is what they are doing. If they once succeed in destroying the confidence of the workers in the present negotiating machinery, there will be only one alternative, and that is industrial strife, which will be disastrous to the country and which the trade unions and trade unionists will be the first to deplore.
That is why this Motion has been moved. I regret that in his opening speech the Minister was unable to give us any indication of a change of mind on the part of the Government. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to say something a little more satisfactory when he winds up the debate.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
We have had a debate which, in part, has been very interesting, but which, in other parts, has also been rather surprising. From a number of excellent speeches from this side, I think my hon. Friends would agree with me when I single out my hon. Friends the Members for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd), Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Blyton), and Birkenhead (Mr. Collick). Those speeches, and a number of others, have shown just what is the problem we are now discussing.
The outstanding impression I have gained of the speeches I have heard from the other side—and I believe I have heard most of them—is how surprisingly little hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to understand what the problem is. We had the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Summers) criticising the workings of the Industrial Disputes Tribunal. When I pointed out that we had had that Tribunal for about eighteen years and asked him to say what he thought was wrong with it and why he wanted to change it, he said that he did not know that there was much wrong with it but that his was an academic point. That has run through contribution after contribution of hon. Members opposite. They have spoken as though arbitration, conciliation and industrial relations were all facets of an academic, theoretical issue. They are not. We are here dealing with the relations of human beings with other human beings.
One might write the most remarkable constitutions on a piece of paper to make for tidier relationships and then find that one had more disputes at the end of it all than under the present arrangements. To hon. Gentlemen who have recently suggested that one of the great contributions we could make towards improving the situation would be to have the arbitrators publish the reasons for their decisions, let me say, as one who has been nearly twenty-one years in the trade union movement, that, if they want a dispute, nothing would lead to it more quickly than that.
I return to the Minister's speech—I hoped that he would have been here before I reached this point. His, too, was an interesting speech, and to me there were three parts of the "Gospel according to the Minister." First of all, there was the very uncomfortable—and 1460 I think that no one, however charitable, would deny that it was uncomfortable—description of himself in the bus dispute—
§ Mr. Brown
I am always encouraged to believe myself right when the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin) says "nonsense". For those of us who had the benefit of seeing him, the Minister seemed very uncomfortable. That went for the first part of his speech, and I must say that he never persuaded me that his heart was in the arrangement that has now been arrived at. I had a very strong impression that his heart was in the arrangement that was attempted and would have been arrived at but for the last-minute change.
Then we had the middle bit on which he had burned a lot of oil, clearly in order to invent the phrase about my hon. Friend burning some cakes. It was very amusing, but it did not add much to the discussion. Then we had the final bit, and that was as full of platitudes about industrial relations as I have ever heard squeezed into a quarter of an hour. Everything that one would agree about in principle was there. Every sort of ambition and hope for better relations and better machinery was there. But there was not a single word, as my hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead pointed out, about the background to the whole problem; about the reason for our difficulties, if, indeed, we are in difficulties; about the reasons for the applications; about the reasons for the Government's feeling that they have to take special action to discourage arbitrators from giving awards; about the reason why the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Minister of Health had to intervene in a particular case. No background of that kind was ever discussed at all.
The root of the problem in some people's minds is the assumption that wage awards are inflationary if it can be shown that the advance granted exceeds the rise in productivity. We have had that said several times today. One hon. Gentleman said that the wage award was inflationary if the advance exceeded the rise in the cost of living. We have here the reason for much of the worry which 1461 hon. Gentlemen opposite feel, and which they need not feel. A wage advance may be justifiable on more than one ground.
If the Government allow the cost of living to rise, if they deliberately, for other reasons of policy, impose additional costs which have to be met out of the incomes of workers, then a wage advance may be justifiable to protect existing standards. But it does not then follow that, if the cost of living is itself covered, there can be no claim for a further award. We have never been in business in order to freeze the position of the British worker at the point reached at any particular moment of time. Let us have it quite clear. The British worker is far ahead of the position he occupied when even the youngest of us began, but, even so, his standard is nowhere near the standard of living enjoyed by many other British people. So long as the gap is even what it is, we feel that we are entitled to a rise in our standards.
The problem of the Government, I suggest, is two-fold. In the first place, they must provide the background of Government policy so that we do not need to push up money wages in order to maintain standards. Secondly, they must provide the background of Government policy so that we can win our improving standards altogether out of a rising productivity.
The main charge against the Minister is not that he is acting as a politician. I do not charge him with that at all. I always thought it a little unsatisfactory when his predecessor used to come here and pretend that he was not a political Minister. Of course, the Minister of Labour is and must be. The charge against the Minister is that he is allowing himself, as Minister of Labour, as the head of the Department and the man responsible for the conciliation machinery, to be used in that capacity in order to follow through the political policies of a Government who are failing to provide the background we need if wages are to be held stable and if our rising standards are to come out of productivity. He is using what should not be the political side in order to recover from the mistakes which are being made politically. I am surprised that he had nothing to say about that.
Before I return to that general charge with some evidence which I regard as 1462 important, I should like to say a word about the most unfortunate development in the London dispute. Speaking personally for a moment, I stepped on the very first rung of the ladder, if that is the way to put it, when I went to the Ministry of Labour as Parliamentary Private Secretary to my right hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs), and I was there associated with him and my right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards). I got to know Sir Wilfred Neden very well. He was not then a conciliator but was doing other work. This, I happen to know, is the year in which he finishes. I think it is a great tragedy that there should be a difficulty of this kind, which at the very best must leave him under a cloud. He must feel it as badly as anybody that there should have been—if it is a misunderstanding—a misunderstanding of this order during his last year. Some of the things one has to say, in view of all the Minister has said, must leave Sir Wilfred's position uncertain and, if it does, I regret it very much.
What we have not had clear yet is why the Minister allowed seventeen days to elapse, from 8th January to 24th January, during which time he made up his mind about the form of conciliation machinery to be used. After all, the original machinery differs very little from the form he has now agreed, except in name; it differs not at all in the makeup, it differs very little in responsibility, and it differs very little in powers. Why did he let seventeen days elapse before he stepped in and stopped the original one, whereas he is now prepared to accept this one?
He said that the suggestion of a committee of investigation did not come from the chief conciliation officer at the Ministry of Labour. He, like me, was not there. We are both relying on the evidence of those who were there during the negotiation, which is that they asked the conciliation officer to outline to them the possibilities that were open to them in view of the fact that he had said he could not act as a conciliator because there was nothing to conciliate, the L.T.E. having refused to make an advance.
Then they asked, "What can we do?" He outlined a number of possibilities, of 1463 which this was one. If that is true, what is the point of saying that the proposal did not come from the chief conciliation officer? It was one of the proposals that he offered. Nobody said that he selected that one. That was one of the alternatives offered. In that sense, therefore, it came from the Ministry.
No one who has been an officer in the Transport and General Workers' Union—and I have been one for twenty-one years—had heard of this Committee before. I have heard of committees of investigation that report to the Minister and, through the Minister, to this House, but this was a new proposition. It came because the union wanted a form of arbitration which would not impose an unalterable award, because the bus industry consists of so many complicated differentials and relative wages. We wanted it in a form which would leave it possible to negotiate the application. We did not want, as we did once before, to upset the whole complex structure by having to impose an award made by somebody who was not aware of all the difficulties.
That is why this proposal attracted us, and my industrial colleagues chose this one. From then on, every stage in the negotiations was carried on with the full knowledge of all the parties. I beg the House to understand, in assessing the Minister's defence, that we reached the position where we had agreed on the arbitrators, or the members of the Committee, leaving only the Minister to appoint his. The other two members had been agreed. We had agreed the terms of reference, the place of meeting, and we even discussed the date of the meeting. With great respect, all that would not be done if it were really understood that the Minister—whose approval is required—was likely to withhold consent.
It is true that Sir Wilfred Neden said, I gather, "that the Minister has to give his approval". The Minister has made much of that. It is also true that Sir Wilfred Neden said at his Press Conference afterwards—and has graciously said openly to my colleagues—that at no stage was any indication given that the Minister's approval would be withheld. So we get this situation which could have been an amicably accepted and voluntarily agreed form of arbitration.
1464 This was a cross between conciliation and arbitration. This was a body which was to have powers to recommend what should be done and to report to the parties for the parties to negotiate and arrange the matter. This report would have had every bit as much weight as the report which may come from the Industrial Court, which is likewise not binding but only a recommendation to the two parties. The Minister has made much of the leap-frogging argument and has said that he would have been in blinkers if he had agreed to the proposal. When I interjected, he said that he intended to say something about the Industrial Court but, perhaps because he did not use a brief, as his hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury pointed out, he did not say anything about it. The result is that we do not know why he and the Government could accept the possibility of leapfrogging when the recommendation came from the Industrial Court, but could not accept it when it came from some other form of similar machinery which the employers, workers and the Minister's chief industrial officer, with all his experience, had worked out amicably.
The Minister has said that what was in his mind was that the provincial busmen might use the claim of the London busmen as an arugment for a further claim of their own. That is a dangerous argument. It is not only the passenger transport industry which has more than one negotiating body. The engineering industry has more than one negotiating body. There are large firms which are not members of the federation and with whom one negotiates separately. In the motor industry, the B.M.C. is in the federation while Vauxhalls and Fords are not. In the chemical industry, about which I used to know a great deal, there are J.I.C.s for heavy chemicals and for light chemicals, while I.C.I. comes into neither of those negotiating bodies.
Are we being told that the Government will interfere politically if, when we make a claim on one set of negotiating machinery against one set of employers, the Government think that we will not do so well if we make it against all the employers in that industry? Where does our negotiating machinery stand in those circumstances? This is political intervention. As it happens, 1465 it has failed, but it was intended to alter our arrangements for industrial negotiations. Such a state of affairs could happen in other industries. It will be no use lecturing us about political action on our side if the Conservative Government insist that they have political rights to intervene in this way.
Whoever was responsible for the attempt to intervene has, in a sense, failed. My industrial colleagues in the union have persuaded the members to use the Industrial Court for the same purpose for which they were ready to use the other form of machinery. One can only hope that no further attempts will be made to influence the situation, but I reinforce what everybody else has said about this subject—a great blow has been struck at the impartiality of the conciliation machinery in the right hon. Gentleman's Ministry and there is now a great deal of doubt about its integrity.
I repeat, I am not objecting to the Minister of Labour being a political Minister. I am objecting very strongly on behalf of this side of the House to his intervening as a political Minister in what ought to be an entirely impartial and unhindered operation of the conciliation department, which must be impartial and unhindered if it is to be of any use.
The Minister has shown grossly bad judgment. He has left the Department under a cloud and he has left his chief industrial officer under a cloud and left a very unpleasant taste among trade unionists, among busmen and among workers in other industries, who feel that this is only one of a long series of interventions by the Government designed to arrange things so that they can hold up our wage advances. The hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) spoke the other day about Mr. Cousins having his head chopped off. We must realise that that kind of speech from Conservative Members, coinciding with this kind of action—whatever meaning the Minister intends the action to have—is given outside the House that interpretation which I have described and it can do nothing but the gravest harm.
I proceed to the wider allegation that we make against the Minister and the Government in general, with which he dealt not at all. When he gave us his 1466 final, beautiful lecture about what our attitude to industrial relations should he and said that we should look to the beam in our own eye, the Minister said that we should not look at industrial relations as conceived in terms of struggle. He said that there were too many restrictive provisions on either side. Let us be clear about this. I am young in this matter. I am young in years and young in the industry. I go back to 1926, but only just, not far enough back to carry all the bitterness, but far enough just to touch that period. It is impossible for me to convince myself, let alone convince hon. Members, that we are not in a period of struggle, even of class struggle, at this moment; and I shall show why.
If the Government do not want me to think this, they must act very differently from the way in which they are acting. They must have a policy which will show that we are not being deliberately acted against in a differential way. Let us look at the Government's economic and social policies and consider what is happening. We can leave out all the speeches that have been made, though I was prepared to quote from speeches made by various people against us. Let us leave out Lord Hailsham's speech. One leaves them out to save the time of the debate, but do not let us forget that they were made and repeated. Let us not forget the view that was expressed that the trade unions were to be singled out for attack. I have a whole host of cuttings about what has been said.
Let us turn to what was said by Lord Mills, the Minister of Power; and I understand that I must not quote from a Minister in another place. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] If I can quote from the Minister, that is excellent. When this kind of thing is said, one begins to believe that we are getting nearer the days when class struggle was a daily part of our life.
The noble Lord was talking about tremendous inflationary costs, and he said:…we have been transformed in the course of a very few years to what is known as a Welfare State. This, too, essential and desirable as the change was, is a heavy burden on our reduced resources.It is nothing of the sort. The Welfare State is a means of redistributing purchasing power between one section of the community and another. It is not an inflationary charge on our reduced resources.
1467 This is the old-fashioned, Conservative, capitalist, big business idea about it; and this is one of the reasons which the noble Lord produces for wanting to prevent wage advances. He wants to prevent them because we are looking after the old people decently, because we are looking after the sick decently, because the children are being looked after better, and all those things which are part of the Welfare State are being done.
Later in the same speech the noble Lord said:But at the same time we have been prepared to pay ourselves more for not doing enough.Let us have a look at who is paying who for not doing enough. The noble Lord added:The late Chancellor of the Exchequer drew attention to the fact that in 1956 we had added no less a sum than £900 million to wages and salaries with virtually no increase in production to offset it.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 4th February, 1958; Vol. 207, c. 351–2.]We are left to deduce that it is those who have had wage increases who are paying themselves too much for not doing enough.
I have here a list of wage rates which can be quoted, and to which hon. Members have referred during the debate. Not only is the average income, which admittedly includes women and juveniles, £10 a week, but the position of millions of wage-earners in the country is that their ordinary wage is between £7 10s. and £9 a week. Of course we can make it up with overtime. We can make it up with piece-work, provided we can get overtime, provided the deflationary policy will allow piece-work to continue. But is it really suggested that when we work longer hours, when we provide this extra productivity for which we are asked, this is inflationary?
It cannot be argued that the extra we earn by our longer work or our more efficient work is inflationary. If so, that is an argument for not improving techniques in industry. No, for this purpose it must be the basic rate. The rate is not tied to production. It is not tied to output. I repeat that millions are getting between £7 10s. and £9 a week in agriculture, building, chemicals, transport, on the buses, in the mines. All the way through men are on that level of wage. Does anybody really think that 1468 they are the men and women who are paying themselves too much for not doing enough?
This morning I read in the Daily Mirror—and I quote it only because millions of people have also read it—a description of the kitchen belonging to the Postmaster-General:The kitchen which Ernest had perfected before the couple married…is U-shaped. It has the latest of everything. There is a deepfreeze, a refrigerator big enough to walk into, and a deep fry like a fish shop's. There is a double-size gas cooker and an electric oven, two sinks, a washing machine—the lot.Who is being paid too much for doing too little? [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Trying to shout me down will not get away with it. There are people in this country who are living in an inflationary way, but they are not the people whose wage levels are between £7 10s. and £9 a week.
§ Mr. Brown
There are many of them. It is not a question of working hard to get there. I would have to be an employer in the contracting or civil engineering industry to do that, whilst builders are getting around £7 a week. Yet there are all over London at this moment people who occupy permanent suites in the Grosvenor, in the Dorchester and elsewhere, all of them being paid for by somebody, all of them inflationary, and they are not our people.
My point about this article, which millions have read, is that it is no use telling people who are getting £7, £8 or £9 a week—[An HON. MEMBER: "Include Shawcross."] Include him as well if you like. It is no use telling people on £7, £8 or £9 a week, who can only afford, after their deductions, to give their wives £6 a week for housekeeping, with a family to keep—it is no use telling them that they are the ones who are inflationary. It is no good telling them that they are the ones who are getting too much. It is like applying the medicine to the patient who is not sick of that particular disease. Therefore, I say, if hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite want us to listen to arguments about wages, they must drop this charge against us.
Look at it from another angle. From 1950 to last year the rise in earnings here 1469 was 61 per cent. whereas the rise in prices was 43 per cent. The difference is the extent to which we have improved our real situation—
§ Mr. Brown
I am not making that point at the moment; try to listen to the argument. In Germany, the rise in earnings was 59 per cent., whereas the rise in prices was 14 per cent. The difference was the rise in the real standard there. One could take any of the other countries of Europe one liked.
The evidence shows that it is not our rises in wages that have made us uncompetitive, because other people's wages have risen more than ours. Therefore, it is wrong to say that it is the inflationary effect of wage rises which is making it difficult for Britain to compete with Germany. Secondly, if the Government are arguing that the net increase of from 43 to 61 per cent. is too big a rise in the net living standards of the workers in this, one of the most highly-developed industrial democracies in the world, they are inviting the workers to make a very difficult political situation; because if we cannot improve our standards at that rate, there is something sadly wrong with the organisation of society in this country. We have to arrange things so that we can rise at that rate and so that we can harness the desire of our people for higher standards to our need for higher output.
When we look at profits and dividends, the story is very different. In the same period, the rise in profits and in dividends was over 100 per cent. The rise in rents, taking a figure of the order of £85–£100 million, means a redistribution from one group in the community—by and large, the poorer group—to another group. All this is evidence to show that the people whose standards have increased are the rentiers, those who live on rents, interest and profits. It is these which, by and large, are the inflationary increases.
Most of this has come from deliberate Government policy. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nonsense."] Of course it is true. The Government changed the arrangements that were in operation when we were in office so that it should be so, and they have put out their political propaganda 1470 claiming credit for it. On top of all this, there is the rise in rates, which again is deliberate policy. The rise in mortgage costs for anybody buying his own house is deliberate policy. There is a whole range of rises which come from the dear money policy.
I make those points for this reason. The party opposite says that it wants workers to take an interest in greater productivity. Every speech from the Government side today has said so. The answer to that is to provide both the psychological and the economic and social climate in which it can happen. Instead, the result of interfering with wage negotiations, disallowing wage advances which have been gained, and trying to interfere with the form of arbitration, side by side with increases in personal incomes of that size to other people, is to create a psychological effect entirely the other way. A restrictive credit policy, a general policy of deflation and the Prime Minister saying that the trouble is that we have all been doing too much, all provides an economic policy which pulls the other way.
If the Government tell the workers that they must damp down and impose restrictions and that they have been doing too much, the ordinary human reaction is for the worker to say, "Well, I will spread out what is here. I will make it last longer. I will not put myself or my mate out of a job. We will arrange it so that we can share what is going." That is a perfectly sensible and logical approach. If, however, the Government want the worker to be prepared to pull harder against the collar, they must convince him that the rewards will flow, that if he does it we can all live together because there will be more to share out and that the aim is to have an expansionist policy. None of these things have the Government done; they have provided exactly the opposite pull.
I want to say one more thing about productivity. [Interruption.] If hon. Members keep interrupting I shall stay here quite a time. We in the trade union movement can try to provide a climate among the workpeople which will enable them to accept productivity, new techniques, and all that goes with an improved rate of output per man and machine. We can try to negotiate over hurdles, but we cannot organise the belt system; we cannot 1471 organise the materials to flow; we cannot reorganise the layout on the factory floor, and we cannot devise new ways of handling transport. That management must do, and that, with great respect, management is not doing.
When management is asked about it, it says, "We cannot do it. Look at Government policy. At 7 per cent. it cannot be done. With restricted credit we cannot do it. We cannot get the money to do it. With the whole pressure in the direction of withholding effort we cannot do it." The Government must set the economic and industrial pattern within which management can work and within which we can play our part.
None of that are the Government doing. [Interruption.] It is easy for hon. Members who have been absent to shout and jeer now. Practically throughout the debate there have not been more than five Members on the benches opposite.
I want to put this argument to hon. Members opposite, because it is the crux of the matter: our industrial relations are not a matter of economic book planning; they are a mirror of the human attitudes which exist in industry, and those attitudes are conditioned largely by the economic and social climate which Government policy makes. Our claim is that the Minister has muddled up his Ministry of Labour and political hats very much in recent times—very largely because, as Minister of Labour, he has been trying to recover from the political mistakes that have been made. It is because we believe that, and because he had not a word to say about this important question, that we shall divide the House.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour and National Service (Mr. Robert Carr)
In opening the debate, my right hon. Friend said that he felt that we did not have enough industrial relations debates. If proof of that were needed it is to be found in the number of hon. Members who still wished to speak and were unable to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker. I join with my right hon. Friend in hoping that we may have such debates more frequently in future.
The right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) has made a powerful speech. He has stamped round the walls of the 1472 enemy city all right, and has blown his trumpet loud and long—but I am sorry to tell him that the walls have not fallen down. I do not believe that the more violent and pessimistic views and fears which he expressed are justified, or will be proved to be justified. I am content to wait upon events to prove that.
My right hon. Friend raised the debate to a level beyond that of party controversy. The right hon. Member for Belper may refer to what my right hon. Friend said as platitudes if he likes, but they were a great deal more constructive than anything the right hon. Gentleman said. What is more, I do not believe that those who listened to my right hon. Friend's speech—including hon. Members opposite—felt that it contained merely platitudes.
In winding up this debate, I want to spend most of the time left to me dealing with what I believe are serious matters affecting the future of industrial relations. I want to keep the more controversial part to a minimum, and to get it over first.
I think the House ought to look at the terms of the Motion which we are debating. It blames the Government's policy for…producing growing economic difficulties.In January, the gold and dollar reserves increased by 130 million dollars. [Laughter.] If the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) thinks that that is something to laugh at, he can, but it is not anything to laugh at at all.
§ Mr. Carr
It is not a parrot cry. It is a piece of recent news which happens to be of the utmost importance to this country.
Last month, also, the United Kingdom returned to a surplus in its trading with Europe. The £ is strong in world markets, so that unofficial commentators are no longer discussing the danger of its falling to the floor, but are rather discussing the fact that it is pressing against the ceiling. These are good pieces of news, and if the Opposition choose to call that failure, all I can say is, "Let us have more of it."
Another part of the Motion refers to our policies as likely to…threaten…grave industrial unrest.1473 This, too, is a charge not substantiated by the facts. The calmness and responsibility with which industrial relations are being conducted by leaders on both sides calls for comment, and welcome comment. In the last four months of 1957, following the introduction of the Government's policies referred to, there were fewer days lost in strikes than in those same four months in any year since 1951. Before the House passes a Motion of this kind, it would do well to examine the completely unfactual basis of its wording.
Another charge which has been made against the Government, and which I take seriously, is that it is not concerned with the maintenance of full employment. The best answer to that charge is in our deeds since we came to power. I ask the House to look at the record of the last six-and-a-half years of Conservative Government. Throughout this time, we have shown both our desire and our ability to maintain an extremely high level of employment. The maintenance of full employment, of course, should and must he the principal social objective of the Government, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has, on a number of occasions, expressed his beliefs about the evils of unemployment in words of great force and feeling. The House has also heard what my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour said about the same subject in his opening speech earlier this afternoon.
Let me state categorically thatIt is the firm policy of…Government to keep unemployment at the lowest level compatible with the avoidance of inflation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd March, 1951; Vol. 485, c. 319.]These are not my words; they are the words used by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition on 22nd March, 1951, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I am glad to adopt them without amendment.
Inflation is the mortal enemy of permanent full employment in this country, and it must be killed by any Government that cares for the long-term maintenance of a high level of employment. Continued progress in this direction is the best, and, indeed, the only, guarantee of maintaining full employment, not just this month or this year, but on a permanent basis.
1474 Of course, we all would like to see a new expansion, but before we can have a new expansion the Government insist upon the essential pre-condition of controlling inflation. When we have achieved this—the signs that we are moving towards this are not too unhopeful—we shall be ready then to resume a new expansion.
Now I come to the charge about the Government having aggravated industrial relations and wage claims by direct action which has had the effect of increasing prices and leading to industrial unrest. The example most often quoted by the Opposition has been the reduction in subsidies, particularly, of course, the food subsidies.
§ Mr. Carr
What is the position of the Opposition on this matter? The right hon. Member for Blyth spoke about the way in which the Government had deliberately shifted the burden of food subsidy. He went on to say that the Labour Government meant to shift the burden back again. Only ten days ago, the Leader of the Opposition was asked a direct question in a television interview and he gave an equally direct answer. He said that he would not restore the food subsidies. If it is wrong to restore them, how could it have been so wrong to remove them? [Interruption.] We gave a great deal of them back in social services. It is, plainly, inaccurate to say that it was given back to Surtax payers.
It would have been impossible to maintain our social service benefits at the level they are now without that operation, and right hon. Gentlemen opposite know that perfectly well. Whatever the Opposition may say about our social service benefits, the fact remains that those benefits are at a higher purchasing value than they have ever been, and are considerably higher than they were when the Opposition were in office. The Opposition cannot sustain any honest charge against the Government on food subsidies.
I come to the charge about rents. What is the Opposition's policy? They have a policy on rents. Their policy is municipalisation, but can anybody argue that that does not involve an increase in rents? It is bogus, and they know it. If, alas, there ever is a Labour Government let 1475 them see whether they can restore the subsidies and reduce rents. If they can, they will have something to talk about. At the moment, they have nothing. We have had plenty of debates upon that subject. The arguments are well known, and I maintain that the Opposition are equally committed to a policy which would raise rents.
I would now like to turn to some of the more serious matters concerned with the conduct of industrial relations as such, and would, first, say something about arbitration. One of the main charges of the Opposition is that the Government have prejudiced the independence of arbitration. My right hon. Friend dealt with that charge fully and faithfully in his speech. He pointed out that, on the giving of instructions to negotiating bodies, the Labour Government went a great deal further than anything the present Government have done. Let me reaffirm most sincerely that the Government believe in the value of arbitration. As employers, we will respect arbitration awards. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the Health Service workers?"] The hon. Gentleman knows the working of industrial relations, and he will know that that was not an arbitration award.
On the question of arbitration, I would deal with one point which has been mentioned in some sections of the Press recently and was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. J. Rodgers). It was also raised by the right hon. Member for Belper. It is the question about arbitration awards being accompanied by a statement of the reasons which led to those awards. The object of this suggestion is obviously twofold. First, it is to convince the parties to a dispute and the public at large of the justice of the award. Secondly, it is to build up a case law which can be applied to the settlement of subsequent disputes.
It is open to our various arbitration tribunals to give the reasons for their decisions whenever they think that would be helpful. In fact, there are numerous examples of where they have done that with, I believe, some useful effect, but equally, I want to make clear that arbitration tribunals are entirely independent bodies and, as the law stands at present, my right hon. Friend cannot instruct them to state their reasons. Nor do I 1476 think—here I am glad to say I quite agree with the right hon. Member for Belper—that it would be wise for my right hon. Friend to have that power. I should like to explain some of my reasons for that view. The circumstances of almost every dispute are different. A statement of the factors entering into an award would not necessarily be helpful, but might be positively embarrassing to arbitrators dealing with subsequent disputes.
We should remember that one of the features of our arbitration system is that arbitration courts are composed not only of independent persons, but also of representatives of employers and workers. I believe that the presence of those representatives, with their intimate experience of industry, its workings and its atmosphere, has added considerably to the effectiveness of arbitration and its acceptability to both sides. It might make the task which those representatives have to carry out more difficult if they had to set out the reasons for their conclusions.
Again, arbitration is intended to operate as a clear cut end to a controversial episode. An award which gave reasons, the validity of which might be challenged by either party, might merely carry on the dispute. That, I think, was the very valid point the right hon. Member had in mind. It seems to me that with the rapid changes we have experienced in the economic climate since the end of the war, the idea of a stable body of common law in these matters would, in fact, be unattainable in practice.
I am confirmed in that belief by what happened in the early days of the Industrial Court. This experiment was tried and elaborate machinery was set up, but it had to be abandoned.
§ Mr. Carr
For all these reasons it would not be helpful to make it compulsory for arbitrators to publish reasons for their awards. The hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) asked, "What about replying to the debate?" I should have thought that what the House ought to be concerned with was how we might make some constructive progress in improving industrial relations. I should have thought that that was the topic to which my right hon. Friend addressed himself and that it was right that I should do the same.
§ Mr. Carr
I cannot think that following the right hon. Member for Belper down his dangerous and violent path would contribute anything to the good of anybody in the country. [Interruption.] The reputation of the high officers of my Department is well known, well established and respected, and is in no danger at all.
I wish to turn to what has been said about collective bargaining and some of the fundamental problems underlying it. Since the war we have been trying to do what has never been done before—to achieve at one and the same time full employment, stable prices and free collective bargaining as a method of determining wages.
It is comparatively easy to have any two of those three things, but, as was mentioned by the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. C. R. Hobson) and also by my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitley (Sir A. Spearman), so far we have not succeeded, and no Government has succeeded, in achieving fully all those three things together. As both hon. Members said, this country has not been alone in facing this problem or in failing to solve it. Experiments in a type of national wages policy have been made in some countries abroad, but when we look at the statistics in those countries we find that at least in recent years the inflationary trends have been no more restrained than in this country.
Personally, I do not believe that direct State action can solve this dilemma without our giving to the Government powers to command the fixing of wages and the movement of labour which would be intolerable in a free society. Nevertheless, while believing in our system of free collective bargaining, I am equally certain that we cannot be complacent about how our present system works at the moment nor, I am sure, should the House be complacent.
There are a number of questions to which we ought to seek an answer. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] There are indeed. If, instead of stamping over old ground, trying to make trouble and trying to score party political points, right hon. Gentlemen opposite would try to help the constructive development of the economy of the country, we should 1478 all be a lot better off. Some hon. Members who have spoken in the debate are interested in these more constructive matters and I intend to deal with them.
For instance, is it possible to find satisfactory ways to contain total wage increases within the growth of national productivity? Is it possible and might it be advantageous, for example, to make wage settlements operative for longer periods? May it be that in some cases the area of negotiation is too wide? Can we, within our voluntary system, get some arrangements for co-ordination in cases where there is danger of competitive and leap-frogging claims? Why is it that in some industries relations work more smoothly than in others? What is the proper part to be played by the fringe benefits which have been mentioned? Are our arbitration and Conciliation procedures fitted to modern conditions? These are the kind of questions which I am sure the right hon. Member for Blyth cannot answer.
§ Mr. Carr
They happen to be the kind of questions which are important, and if the right hon. Member for Blyth knows the answers it is a great pity that he did not give them. They happen to be the kind of questions which I believe are important if what we all want to see happen is in fact to happen—namely, that our present system of free collective bargaining should grow responsibly and solve the problems which many people have posed in a free society with full employment.
In my opinion nobody in Government, in any party, in the trade unions, or among the employers knows the answers to all these questions. That is why I think that some leaders of industry, on both the employers' and the trade union side, such as Lord Chandos and Mr. Birch, to give two examples, have recently been airing problems such as these in public. It may be that the time has come to see whether the Government could not encourage a new initiative in finding the answers to these problems, for example, by some comprehensive and independent inquiry into the workings of our present system. My right hon. Friend said that it was something which we ought to consider and which we will consider.
1479 But I am deliberately, and properly, not saying what the answer to that consideration should be.
Perhaps I may be permitted to make two points that I believe are of great importance if we are to get the steady improvement in industrial relations that we all want. First, I believe that it is of great value to get the two sides of industry into the habit of meeting and talking together about problems other than wages. There are matters of topical importance that happen to provide a good opportunity for improving industrial relations at the moment. There is a most important need to increase the quantity and improve the quality of the opportunities in industry for training young people, both through apprenticeships and through other forms of training.
For the last two years, I have had the honour to be chairman of a small committee set up by the National Joint Advisory Council to examine this problem, and our report—which, I hope, will be found a useful and constructive one—will be published within the next two weeks. Here is an admirable opportunity for the two sides in each industry, which are already doing much in this field, to make a new and much greater effort to provide increased opportunities for the training in skills which will be of great importance both to the national economy, as it is developing, in the future, and to the greatly increased number of young people who will be leaving our schools in the next few years, and seeking progressive careers.
The second and final point of importance is that the growth of good industrial relations must start at the level of each firm and factory. Good relations at this unit level will, in the end, build up good relations at the national level as well. Where the management of a company
§ has, over a long period, made a conscious effort to inform and consult its workmen on the why and the wherefore of what is going on, to give them the greatest possible security and the feeling of belonging to something that is good and worth while, it will be found that good relations are developing.
§ It is to foster this growth of good human relations that the Ministry of Labour is about to publish a booklet on positive employment policies. We hope that this will encourage more firms to follow, as appropriate, the examples that some thoughtful and experienced employers are already setting.
§ Nearly eight years ago, Mr. Speaker, I had the good fortune to be able to make my maiden speech in this House in a debate on joint consultation in industry. I hope that the House will let me end on the theme that I developed then, and in which I believe just as strongly. Men will not find satisfaction in their leisure until they have first found satisfaction in their work. Moreover, if we can make a man's work more purposeful and satisfying we can release capacities for effort and co-operation that have, hitherto, been locked away. The pursuit of better human relations in the factory can be the solvent of our difficulties and problems, and provide that harmony and unity of purpose that is important in this country now, and will be still more important in the difficult years ahead.
§ I make no apology at all for talking about these more constructive matters of the future rather than embarking on a political tit for tat, of which I believe the country is heartily sick and which, I also believe, does the Opposition no good at all.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 251, Noes 318.1485
|Division No. 38.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Blackburn, F.||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Blenkinsop, A.||Carmichael, J.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Blyton, W. R.||Champion, A. J.|
|Anderson, Frank||Boardman, H.||Chapman, W. D.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Chetwynd, G. R.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Bowles, F. G.||Ctunie, J.|
|Baird, J.||Boyd, T. C.||Coldrick, W.|
|Balfour, A.||Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Brockway, A. F.||Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury)|
|Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Corbet, Mrs. Freda|
|Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.)||Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Cove, W. G.|
|Benson, G.||Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)|
|Beswick, Frank||Burton, Miss F. E.||Cronin, J. D.|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Rankin, John|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Redhead, E. C.|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Reeves, J.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Reid, William|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Rhodes, H.|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Deer, G.||King, Dr. H. M.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Lawson, G. M.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Delargy, H. J.||Ledger, R. J.||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Diamond, John||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Ross, William|
|Dodds, N. N.||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Royle, C.|
|Donnelly, D.L.||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Dye, S.||Lewis, Arthur||Short, E. W.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Lindgren, G. S.||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|Edelman, M.||Lipton, Marcus||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Logan, D. G.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||MacColl, J. E.||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||MacDermot, Niall||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||McGhee, H. G.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||McGovern, J.||Snow, J. W.|
|Fernyhough, E.||McInnes, J.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Finch, H. J.||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Fletcher, Eric||McLeavy, Frank||Sparks, J. A.|
|Foot, D. M.||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Steele, T.|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Mahon, Simon||Stonehouse, John|
|George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Car'then)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Gibson, C. W.||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Gooch, E. G.||Mason, Roy||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Cordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Mayhew, C. P.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Mellish, R. J.||Swingler, S. T.|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Messer, Sir F.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Grey, C. F.||Mikardo, Ian||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mitchison, G. R.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Monslow, W.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Moody, A. S.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Hale, Leslie||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Morrison, Rt. Hn. Herbert (Lewis'm, S.)||Timmons, J.|
|Hannan, W.||Mort, D. L.||Tomney, F.|
|Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)||Moss, R.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Hastings, S.||Moyle, A.||Usborne, H. C.|
|Hayman, F. H.||Mulley, F. W.||Viant, S. P.|
|Healey, Denis||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Warbey, W. N.|
|Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Walkins, T. E.|
|Herbison, Miss M.||O'Brien, Sir Thomas||Weitzman, D.|
|Hewitson, Capt. M.||Oram, A. E.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Hobson, C. R. (Keighley)||Orbach, M.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Holman, P.||Oswald, T.||West, D. G.|
|Holmes, Horace||Owen, W. J.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Houghton, Douglas||Padley, W. E.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Paget, R. T.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Wigg, George|
|Hoy, J. H.||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Hubbard, T. F.||Palmer, A. M. F.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Willey, Frederick|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Pargiter, G. A.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Parker, J.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|Hunter, A. E.||Parkin, B. T.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Paton, John||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Peart, T. F.||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Pentland, N.||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)|
|Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Popplewell, E.||Woof, R. E.|
|Janner, B.||Prentice, R. E.||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Jeger, George (Goole)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Zilliacus, K.|
|Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn & St. Pncs, S.)||Probert, A. R.|
|Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Proctor, W. T.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES|
|Johnson, James (Rugby)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Mr. Bowden and Mr. Pearson.|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech (Wakefield)||Randall, H. E.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Ashton, H.||Baxter, Sir Beverley|
|Aitken, W. T.||Astor, Hon. J. J.||Beamish, Col. Tufton|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Atkins, H. E.||Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Baldwin, A. E.||Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Balniel, Lord||Bennett, Dr. Reginald|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William||Barber, Anthony||Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Barlow, Sir John||Bidgood, J. C.|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Barter, John||Biggs-Davison, J. A.|
|Bingham, R. M.||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Lancaster)|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)||McLean, Neil (Inverness)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)|
|Black, C. W.||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)|
|Body, R. F.||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)|
|Bottom, Sir Alfred||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Maddan, Martin|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Hay, John||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)|
|Braithwalte, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.||Markham, Major Sir Frank|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Henderson-Stewart, Sir James||Marples, Rt. Hon. A. E.|
|Bryan, P.||Hesketh, R. F.||Marshall, Douglas|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.||Mathew, R.|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Maude, Angus|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Mawby, R. L.|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.|
|Campbell, Sir David||Hirst, Geoffrey||Medlicott, Sir Frank|
|Carr, Robert||Hobson, John (Warwick & Leam'gt'n)||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Channon, Sir Henry||Holt, A. F.||Moore, Sir Thomas|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hope, Lord John||Morrison, John (Salisbury)|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Hornhy, R. P.||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Cole, Norman||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Nabarro, G. D. N.|
|Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Horobin, Sir Ian||Neave, Airey|
|Cooke, Robert||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Nicholls, Harmar|
|Cooper, A. E.||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Howard, John (Test)||Noble, Comdr. Rt. Hon. Allan|
|Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Nugent, G. R. H.|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Hulbert, Sir Norman||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. D.|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip-Northwood)||Hutchison, Michael Clark (E'b'gh, S.)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Cunningham, Knox||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Hutchison, Sir James (Sootstoun)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-S-Mare)|
|Dance, J. C. C.||Hyde, Montgomery||Osborne, C.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry||Page, R. G.|
|D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Iremonger, T.L.||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)|
|Deedes, W. F.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Partridge, E.|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Peel, W. J.|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|du Cann, E. D. L.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Pitman, I. J.|
|Duncan, Sir James||Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)||Pott, H. P.|
|Duthie, W. S.||Joseph, Sir Keith||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Elliott, R. W. (N'castle upon Tyne, N.)||Kaberry, D.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Keegan, D.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Profumo, J. D.|
|Erroll, F. J.||Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||Kershaw, J. A.||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Fell, A.||Kimball, M.||Redmayne, M.|
|Finlay, Graeme||Lagden, G. W.||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Fisher, Nigel||Lambert, Hon. G.||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Lambton, Viscount||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Forrest, G.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Fort, R.||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Rippon, A. G. F.|
|Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Leather, E. H. C.||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale)||Leavey, J. A.||Robertson, Sir David|
|Freeth, Denzil||Leburn, W. G.||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||W. G. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Gammans, Lady||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.||Roper, Sir Harold|
|George, J. C. (Pollok)||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Gibson-Watt, D.||Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)||Russell, R. S.|
|Glover, D.||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Glyn, Col. Richard H.||Llewellyn, D. T.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Codber, J. B.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (Sutton Coldfield)||Sharples, R. C.|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Shepherd, William|
|Goodhart, Philip||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Gower, H. R.||Longden, Gilbert||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)|
|Grant, W. (Woodside)||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Soames, Christopher|
|Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Green, A.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Speir, R. M.|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. C.||McKibbin, Alan||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Gurden, Harold||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P||Wall, Major Patrick|
|Storey, S.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.||Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)|
|Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)||Tliey, A. (Bradford, W.)||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Studholme, Sir Henry||Tilney, John (Wavertree)||Webbe, Sir H.|
|Summers, Sir Spencer||Turner, H. F. L.||Whitelaw, W. S. I.|
|Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)||Turton, Rt Hon. R. H.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Tweedsmuir, Lady||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)||Vane, W. M. F.||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)|
|Teeling, W.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Temple, John M.||Vickers, Miss Joan||Woollam, John Victor|
|Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)||Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)||Wade, D. W.|
|Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES|
|Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek||Mr. Oakshott and Mr. E. Wakefield|