§ 3.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Alfred Robens (Blyth)
I beg to move,That this House deplores the refusal of the Minister of Labour in pursuance of the economic and industrial policy of Her Majesty's Government to attempt to bring about a settlement of the London bus dispute which is causing great inconvenience and hardship to the general public.In moving the Motion I level four charges against the Government. They are: first, that the Government's economic and fiscal policy has created the pressure for increased wages by putting up the cost of living; secondly, that in an effort to stem the tide of public opinion against them they have tried to put the burden of responsibility for their own mismanagement upon the trade union movement by a deliberate campaign against it and its leaders; thirdly, that Government statements and actions have created grave doubts as to the impartiality of arbitration machinery, and, at the same time, have directly interfered with the well-established arrangements for freely negotiated agreements dealing with wages and conditions; and, fourthly, that in the London omnibus dispute the Minister of Labour has failed to take steps open to him to intervene in an endeavour to effect a settlement.
I shall produce what I believe to be overwhelming evidence in support of all those charges, and it will be for the House to make its decision when the pros and cons have been debated. I recognise right away that the automatic majority which the Government command will defeat this Motion in the Division tonight. If that gives comfort to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, I have no wish to take any of that comfort away from them; but what is important is that we should state—and I believe it to be the duty of the Opposition to do so—quite clearly and unmistakably where our points of difference lie with respect to the way in which the Government are dealing with matters in the industrial field today, and our opinion that, if they are permitted to go on in this way much longer, it can bring nothing but complete disaster to the country.
I am careless about the fact that a Motion of this character cannot be 1423 carried. I am satisfied that the public at large should know the issues as fairly and as honestly as we can put them. Therefore, I thought it just and right that at the beginning I should lay down the broad basis of the charges made against the Government, so that they have a full opportunity, from the moment the debate opens, to be thinking of their replies to those charges.
Taking the first charge, that is, that the Government's economic and fiscal policy has created pressure for wage increases, there have been innumerable debates in the House on successive Budgets and on the economic situation, in which, time and again, there have been warnings from these benches that the policies being pursued by the Government would inevitably lead to industrial difficulties. There can be no complaint from the Government that they have not had due and fair warning from this side of the House. The truth is that the Government have gone blindly on pursuing a policy which they translated into the slogan, "Tory Freedom Works." This slogan has motivated all their actions, the framing of their Budgets and the way that they are dealing with the economic situation generally.
But, of course, Tory freedom does not work, it has not worked and it cannot work. We cannot abolish price controls; we cannot abolish subsidies; we cannot put up the price of school milk and meals; increase the Health Service charges; put 2s. a week on National Insurance payments and then bring in the Rent Act—the most inflationary piece of legislation which could have been devised—and, at the same time, refuse to restrain dividends or profits; be very tender with dividend strippers and introduce successive Budgets which have the general effect of redistributing the national wealth in favour of the better off—these policies cannot be pursued without them having a serious and deleterious effect on the workers.
These policies are the reason why there is an increase in the cost of living in the United Kingdom, far higher than in Western European countries and, indeed, far higher than in the United States—[HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] Those hon. Members who say "Nonsense" need only turn up the statistics produced by the European organisation, O.E.E.C., and 1424 available to them in the Library, and they will see what is the position. Up to February of this year, the cost of living in the United Kingdom has risen by 31 per cent. from 1950. In Austria—[Interruption.]—oh, yes, hon. Gentlemen opposite can have all the facts they want. In Austria, the figure is 27 per cent.; in Italy, 21 per cent.; and in Denmark, 17 per cent. It is 9 per cent. in the United States and 8 per cent. in Western Germany——
§ Mr. Robens
I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members probably want to say that this is due to the increase in wages. In anticipation of that I will turn for a moment to Western Germany, a great competitor of this country.
Wage rates are important. From 1950 to 1957 the figure for the rise in earnings in Western Germany is 59 per cent. In Britain, it is 61 per cent. The rise in earnings in this country is higher by 2 per cent. than in Western Germany. But the rise in prices in Western Germany is 14 per cent. and in the United Kingdom it is 43 per cent., so that the real increase in the standard of living of the Germans is 45 per cent. compared with our 18 per cent.
The natural consequence—[Interruption.] I can well understand that hon. Gentlemen opposite do not welcome this speech. I can well understand them not liking the reception of their policies in the country, and I can appreciate that they may get some comfort in a debate of this character by grimacing as the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. D. Price) is able to do so well. But at least I have this advantage that, in opening the debate, I have all the time before me until ten o'clock; and I do not believe that anyone in the House would want to bear that—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Therefore, may I be allowed to go on with this narrative?
Taking the charge, of which due notice has been given, I should like to put the evidence. I say that the natural consequence of this is that the increase in the cost of living, deliberately brought about by the Government, has been for 1425 applications to be made for wage increases. Frankly, what else could hon. Members opposite expect? Is there anyone in the House, who, if his income per week was £9 13s. 6d. basic rate, would not ask his trade union to negotiate for an increase? Is the bus driver on such a rate really expected to believe that, if he gets a modest few shillings increase in his weekly wage, that will bring about a spiral of inflation, with all its dire economic consequences for the country? No bus driver, no workers on basic rates of that character, have ever believed that to be the case. But what they do know is that they are not getting what was promised to them by the Leader of the House when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer. These people were promised that their standard of living would be doubled in twenty-five years.
What is actually happening is that, as a result of the policies pursued by the Government, these workers are suffering a reduction in their standard of living. They are the people on marginal amounts. To those who earn £1,000 a year or more, perhaps 2s. or 3s. a week does not make much difference. But it makes a tremendous difference to the housewife where the family income is about £10 a week, and she has only £6 or £7 to spend on food and other necessities for a family of, say, four people. It is from that low level of income, obviously, that pressure for wage increases will come.
The Government will have to face the fact that in a modern industrial society—no matter how well it may have worked at the end of the last century—Tory freedom cannot work. The Government policy can work only if organised labour is denied its traditional freedom and there is a great pool of unemployment. Incidentally, another 11,000 has been added to the unemployment figures in the last month.
The Government cannot preach that Tory freedom works and then say to the workers, "Not for you. You must not have your freedom. Everybody else must have theirs, but in the field of wages there must be no freedom; there must be dictation." The view of the T.U.C., as expressed in its statement yesterday, and the view of hon. Members on this side of the House, is that overwhelming responsibility for the pressure for increased wages lies squarely on the shoulders of the Government. These applications for 1426 increases in pay are not attempts to increase the standard of living of those making the applications; they are a rearguard action to maintain the living standards that they have got. I believe that all the evidence, looked at impartially and objectively, is that charge No. 1 about the Government's policy having created this pressure for wages is well established.
I come to the second charge. They have got themselves into difficulties in the country, as has been evidenced in elections that have taken place, and they now wish to push the whole of the blame on to the trade union movement. This, in the minds of some hon. Members, would appear to be a way out, to shift the blame and make it appear that it was not really the Government but the great trade union movement which, careless of the interest of the nation as a whole, was to blame and that there are some trade union leaders who are a menace to society. Strangely enough, this was started off by a rather small voice, a Government Whip, I think the deputy Chief Whip. It was about September, 1956, after the tight money policy, that the hon. Member said, in reference to the TU.C. policy statement on it:The trade unions are too late because the position of employers has changed as a result of deliberate Government policies. The trade unions will find one thing—the atmosphere of negotiations when they come to employers will be very different from what it has been during the years since the war.A little later in September, the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft), then Chancellor of the Exchequer, was in Washington. He decided to deliver a speech addressed to the British workers, from a safe distance of more than 3,000 miles. Speaking of inflation, he said:What is needed to bring it to a halt is for the Government to be prepared to deny the extra cash whatever other painful consequence.I have no doubt that his American audience cheered him at that stage.
Not content with that, next day the right hon. Gentleman moved to Atlantic City and, repeating the same thought, he said to another American audience:The consequences may be painful but are much preferable to a decline in the value of the £.
§ Mr. Robens
The audience would no doubt cheer him as hon. Members opposite cheer. I should have thought the surest way to bring a decline in the £ would be to have a wave of industrial unrest in this country. I cannot see anything that would bring a decline in the £ more rapidly than a wave of industrial unrest. Therefore, I think it a little foolish to talk about consequences being painful and a mistake to threaten in this way. That is what the right hon. Gentleman did in the United States.
The Minister of Labour, not to be outdone, of course, a week or two later took up this point. He was speaking at Felixstowe on 4th October, and said:No one welcomes strikes, but we must not be afraid of them. Indeed I think we pay too much attention to strikes in this country.Then we had the recruit to campanology, the Lord President of the Council. He was in really great style and, not to be outdone by the right hon. Member for Monmouth or the Minister of Labour, he said, at Brighton:If it has a fault, the Conservative Party and the Government are almost too anxious to keep the peace with the trade unions and even the most blistering and rumbustious of their leaders.I wish I could be equally clear that there was not a conspiracy on foot between some of the more extreme leaders of the unions and some of the less scrupulous leaders of the Labour Party to sabotage our economic policy by irresponsible wage demands—and then …this is the plot—to claim that Conservative freedom has failed.Later, warming to his subject, he said:The Conservative Party is not against trade unions.He attackedirresponsible trade union leaders who abandon wage restraint. They have, in fact, declared war on the standards of life of all other members of the community except their own members.When leading members of the Government made those statements the pack were in hot pursuit. They were not going to be left out. We had the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) giving vent to his views on this matter. He said:If Mr. Frank Cousins insisted on asserting the divine right of trade unions, sooner or later the British public would out his head off.1428 This is the Mr. Frank Cousins whom I say, without fear of contradiction, has done everything he humanly could to stop this strike. When I come to that part of the charge I will deal with it in great detail and prove that.
I suppose that one could not leave out new recruits to the Government. The hon. Member for Oldham, East (Sir I. Horobin) got promoted for this one and became Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power. He said, in the House:This present inflation is caused by unreasonable wage claims. The cost of living today is the cost of Cousins."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th July, 1957; Vol. 574, c. 705.]Of course, I leave to the last our oldest ally, who seems to be missing from his normal place, the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke)—[An HON. MEMBER: "He is back again."] Oh, he is further along the bench. Speaking at Weymouth, he said:All you have to do is to think of a number, treble it, get it refused by the employers, go before an arbitration tribunal, halve it, take away the number you first thought of, and the answer is a fat wage increase and another round of inflation.The latest refinement is to do this once in six months instead of in twelve. A halt must be called to these arrogant and selfish actions.It is time the monopoly power of the trade unions to promote inflation and cut the standard of the middle classes year by year was put an end to.Finally, I make another quotation from the noble Lord. He said that the trade unions were on trial and thatThey must mend their ways or there will be an end to them.I have not the slightest doubt that the Minister of Labour, other right hon. Gentlemen who are members of the Government and hon. Members I have quoted, will say, "If you had read the whole of my speech you would have seen that I was pleading for peace in industry. What you have done is to take some of the phrases out of their context and make it appear rather different from what was intended."
All I say to them is this: they are all practised politicians, experienced in addressing audiences. They usually speak for half-an-hour or an hour. They know full well that any audience listening to a speaker takes home an impression of 1429 what the speaker said and very rarely a recollection of exactly what he said. These are merely a few of the quotations, because this sort of denunciation of the trade union movement went up and down the country.
Prospective Members, candidates, local politicians, Primrose Leaguers, all joined in, attacking the trade union movement, and it does not matter how many times hon. Members put the nice things in their speeches; the impression undoubtedly created is that there was a vicious attack by the Conservative Party upon the trade unions and particularly upon their leaders. I say that the evidence on that score is so overwhelming that charge No. 2 is proved up to the hilt.
Coincident with the attack upon the trade union movement, launched in the way I have described, came what I think are the more serious actions which are a subject of the third charge which I made—the effect of Government policy upon impartial tribunals. Everyone who has been connected with industry in any way knows full well that the present arrangements for dealing with wages, conditions and disputes have grown up over a very long period. This is not something which was magically conceived and put into operation. Through the years there has been built up a system of arbitration which has based itself on the complete impartiality of tribunals and those hearing cases and giving awards. This is fundamental, as indeed it is with our law, where we think of the impartiality of judges. Once it is felt for a single moment that this impartiality has gone, then confidence in arbitration disappears.
I say that that is precisely what the Government have done. Through the Chancellor of the Exchequer—again, the right hon. Member for Monmouth—the Government gave a clear warning about wages. The right hon. Gentleman said that this warning must be taken notice of bythose who ask for wage increases, those who grant wage increases and those who adjudicate about wages."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th October, 1957; Vol. 575, c. 57.]I do not think that anybody could have complained if he had left it at the first two—those who ask and those who grant. That is quite fair. But to say to arbitrators. "You must not now consider the evidence before you in relation to this 1430 claim, together with your own knowledge of the general economic situation, but you must take this as a warning from me that the Government do not intend to have any wage advances if they can possibly help it"——
§ Mr. Peter Thorneycroft (Monmouth) indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Robens
The right hon. Gentleman may not have used those exact words, but he must remember that people have to interpret what he means, and there could be only one meaning to an instruction to an arbitrator. Why should he mention arbitrators at all? They are the last people to be nobbled by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. They must be left entirely free. He would not dream of suggesting, no Minister would dream of suggesting, that with a court case pending the judge should be given some instruction from the Government Box. Yet that is precisely what the right hon. Gentleman did in relation to arbitration.
The right hon. Gentleman was followed the next day by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour, who said that the Governmentwill not finance inflationary awards however those awards are secured, whether through negotiation or through arbitration."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th October, 1957; Vol. 575, c. 236.]That put the seal upon it. He was instructing arbitrators as clearly as it is possible for anyone to do so. If he did not intend to instruct arbitrators, he did not make that clear. He was not very clear about what he meant by inflationary awards when he was challenged on this point by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition.
In any case, those who had the task of conducting the affairs of the organised workers, the leaders of the trade unions very seriously considered that there was an attempt to undermine the impartiality of arbitration proceedings. I remember that Mr. Alan Birch had a wage claim pending at that time. It was within three weeks of the statements made by the right hon. Member for Monmouth and the Minister of Labour. Mr. Alan Birch is not only General Secretary of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, but is Chairman of the Economic Committee of the T.U.C. There is not a single Minister of Labour 1431 who has not paid a tribute to Mr. Alan Birch as being one of the most reasonable trade union leaders that this country has at the present time.
Mr. Alan Birch had his members' claim to put to the employers. He refused to go to arbitration. He said that he would certainly go through the conciliation machinery laid down, but that he would not accept any conciliation award in view of what the Government had said—and he was referring to what they had said three weeks before. As a result, the negotiations continued and his members received an increase of about 12s. a week. The last man in the world who could be described in any way as irresponsible is Mr. Alan Birch, and he took the view that arbitration had been undermined. I think it is reasonable to say that that was the general view of trade union leaders throughout the country.
I will not bother to quote the article which Mr. Alan Birch wrote in The Times about that and other matters, but it is available for all to see and it clearly proves the third charge that, whether the Government intended it or not, certainly among those who have to negotiate there had been an undermining of the principle of arbitration.
This feeling was increased, with the decision of the Minister of Health on the Whitley Council recommendation. While it is true that this was not an arbitration award, it is always regarded in a way as a technicality for the Minister to subscribe to the recommendations. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] If hon. Members want to know why, it can easily be explained. It is the very purpose and function of the Whitley Councils. The Minister nominates his people on the Whitley Council as employers, as it were. They are known as the Official Side. When his representatives on the Council come to a decision, and a recommendation is made, then the Minister accepts what his people have done on his behalf. They are acting on his behalf. He would go there himself, but for the physical impossibility of arranging Whitley Council meetings so that he could be present at all of them. His representatives attend on his behalf. He appoints members of the Whitley Council and he is responsible for the decisions which they take.
1432 The Government took the little clerks in the Health Service—clerks who are handicapped because they are civil servants, low-paid clerks at that—and said, "These are the people we attack first." When the Whitley Council recommendation was received by the Minister, the Minister of Health, obviously on the instructions of the Cabinet—he would never dream of doing it unless he had Cabinet instructions—turned the recommendation down. This, again, brought on this feeling that decisions of this character could no longer be relied upon. It may be within the knowledge of the House that, at that time, there was a Post Office claim pending. The Post Office people went to arbitration rather than get an agreed recommendation through their own machinery because, in these circumstances, arbitration has to be accepted by the Minister.
Therefore, I say that if one looks at all the evidence, there is not the slightest doubt, whether the Government meant it or not—and I myself can read nothing else into what they say—that there was undoubtedly a weakening of belief in impartial arbitration which, in my view, could only be very harmful, and which substantiates my third charge.
So I come to the last charge, which is that the Minister of Labour failed to take steps open to him to intervene in the London bus dispute in an endeavour to bring about a settlement. I do not want to be tedious in this part of what I have to say but, very necessarily, I shall have to repeat some facts that are well known, because, when we are looking at this bus dispute, it is important that one sees the whole of the picture and not just one part.
First, it should be remembered that there had been no increase in the wages of these men from the end of 1956. An award was made early in 1957 which was back-dated, I think, about ten weeks. These men made their claim in October, 1957, for 25s. On the Cost-of-Living Index alone, if they had received 9s. they would have been just as well off as they were at the end of 1956. In other words, an award, or the agreed negotiation of 9s., would have done nothing to increase their standard of living, but would merely have brought them back to where they had been twelve months before.
1433 One could not say, therefore, that there was irresponsible leadership in making the claim. The function of a trade union is, after all, to look after the interests of its members, and one of the first things it must do is to make sure that its members are not slipping back in the race. It must see that, even if they are not moving forward, they at least maintain the standards they have already reached. There can, therefore, be no suggestion that there was irresponsibility in putting forward a claim like this.
Here, I think, is an interesting part of this discourse. The claim was made on 17th October, and five days later the Minister of Transport—not the Minister of Labour—sends a letter to the British Transport Commission to say that he is not prepared to find the money to cover any further increase in the Commission's deficit caused by increased costs. The relations between the London Passenger Transport Executive and the Transport Commission are well known, and the contents of that letter to Sir Brian Robertson would be very well known to Sir John Elliot in a few hours.
This was a clear indication that the Minister of Transport was being used to prevent proper negotiations on the busmen's claim. That was the purpose of his letter. Indeed, in a speech in March, he said:Some time ago I told the London Passenger Transport Executive that they would get no support for increased fares.So he made sure that not only did the first warning reach Sir John Elliot via Sir Brian Robertson but, subsequently, let the Executive know that it would not be permitted to be a free agent, because it would not be able to adjust its fares.
In November, the claim was rejected. After that, there was discussion, in which the Chief Conciliation Officer of the Ministry of Labour took part. During that period, the discussions centred around what method could be adopted of finding a formula by which a strike could be prevented, and a reasonable settlement arrived at. Here, it must be remembered that in the month after the application had been rejected, these busmen had said, "We shall not go to arbitration." They had lost confidence in any arbitration award.
1434 Arising out of the discussions at that meeting on 10th January, there was a suggestion of a committee of investigation. This was suggested by Sir Wilfred Neden in association with a number of others. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour shakes his head, but those who were present at those negotiations would say that a number of suggestions were made, and that this was one of them.
If Sir Wilfred Neden did not think that the Minister of Labour would accept that recommendation, why did he permit both sides to begin to select the people who would sit on the committee of investigation? Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman himself has, I think, told us that he was getting down either to drafting or discussing the terms of reference. The strange feature about all this is that it took the Minister of Labour fourteen days to decide that the suggestion that had emerged from this meeting with his Chief Conciliation Officer should be rejected.
What happened in those fourteen days? Why did it take fourteen days for the right hon. Gentleman to make that decision? No one who has served in the Minister's office thinks for a moment that Sir Wilfred Neden did not consult the Minister immediately after the meeting. The right hon. Gentleman must be in consultation day after day with his Chief Conciliation Officer. Therefore, he knew all about it, and it would have been just as easy for him to have made his decision known within a few days as in fourteen days.
I can only assume the reason for it—and I will be perfectly blunt and tell the right hon. Gentleman what I think the reason was. I think that the Government, urged on by their vociferous back benchers, really wanted a showdown with a trade union, but did not want a showdown with a trade union that would create economic havoc in the country. They therefore decided that this was the way in which the powerful Transport and General Workers' Union, and Mr. Cousins, in particular, could be attacked more easily, without any adverse effect except for hardship and inconvenience——
§ Mr. Robens
I can find no other reason than that. If the right hon. Gentleman says that that is not the case, let him tell us what happened in the fourteen days. Let him tell us what happened when he consulted his senior colleagues, and let him tell us, straightforwardly, whether he is now acting as a Minister of Labour or under instructions from the Cabinet. Which duty is he performing? Why, for example, did he feel it wrong at that stage to have a committee of investigation which, in my view, could have covered everything he raised with regard to the provincial busmen. I do not think that that matter could have been excluded at some point.
Why did he refuse to intervene on the Friday before the London dispute, when the sides were so closely together? Why did he refuse, when the strike broke out, to intervene? Why did he do that in the case of the buses, and yet do the sensible thing that he has done today, with the railways? Let him tell us the principles that caused him to act in one way in one dispute and in another way in another dispute. Let me say that I am very glad that he has taken this action in connection with the rail dispute. I hope that his efforts are successful, and that there will be a settlement of the railway dispute.
When I said that I thought that Mr. Cousins and his officers had done all that they possibly could to prevent a bus strike, there was a good deal of laughter and jeering from hon. Members opposite. I want to remind the House that when the committee of investigation was proposed, was accepted by both sides and arrangements made to go on with it, it took the leaders of that union twelve hours of solid argument with their members to get them to accept it. Is any hon. Member really saying that a trade union leader who spends twelve hours trying to get a committee of investigation has not done his best to stop a dispute? Is that the thanks and the reward to trade union leaders for taking a responsible attitude to the country, as well as to their own members?
What did Mr. Nicholas, the Assistant General Secretary, say? He, I think, was more disappointed than any man could possibly be about the right hon. Gentleman's decision. He said:The union has worked hard to keep this dispute away from a situation of war and to 1436 keep it within the bounds of peaceful negotiations. Now, it looks as if the Minister and the Government have thrown us back upon the battlefield. At no stage during the discussions with Sir Wilfred Neden was the union led to believe that the Minister would withhold his approval. The Minister knew full well that the advice of Sir Wilfred about setting up the Committee had been put to the London busmen's negotiating committee.The right hon. Gentleman has a good deal to explain to us as to why, at that stage, before tempers had begun to rise, he did not, in fact, accept that recommendation, because I am of the opinion myself that, had he done so, a settlement would have been arrived at. But it was turned down.
Now, I turn to the award, and, first, I must make it clear that when, finally, it was agreed to send this dispute for a decision to the Industrial Court, Mr. Frank Cousins had said quite plainly that he had got his members to agree to sending it to the Industrial Court in the knowledge that the decision would not be binding; in other words, he was saying quite clearly, "I have persuaded my members to go to the Industrial Court, but I cannot agree to sell them the findings of the Industrial Court." The findings of the Industrial Court would have to be equitable and fair and give justice to the men. He gave that warning.
So we come to the award, which is important to what the right hon. Gentleman subsequently said. The award said that there should be an increase in the weekly pay of drivers and conductors employed on buses and trolley-buses in the central road services—the House should note that, the central road services—of the London Passenger Transport Executive of 8s. 6d. per week.
Let me tell the House—the Minister knows, and there is no need to tell him—that this award is impracticable of application. We cannot apply it, and we cannot do so for this reason. The Central London busmen are not isolated within the machinery of the organisation of the London Passenger Transport Executive. There is an agreement between the Executive and the Union that all double-decker Green Line drivers shall, in fact, receive the same wages as the central busmen. Therefore, we cannot apply this award to the central busmen only. There had to be a variation of the award, which is something which the right hon. Gentlemen said there could not be. Quite 1437 clearly, there would have to be a variation.
There is another agreement. A single decker Green Line bus which is routed through London also has its driver paid on the basis of the Central London busmen, so that is another deviation from the award. Bit by bit, as the result of agreements that have been made over a long period of years, this award could not be implemented as it stood. All that could happen was that the award could be taken as a basis and arrangements made to fit that award in with all the other agreements which the union has got. If it failed to do that, it would start all over again the differentials which have taken the London Passenger Transport Executive and the union over twenty years to put right.
I would have thought myself that the Minister of Labour could easily have suggested to the parties, if he had got them together, that, as the award would have to be varied any way, they might even, with him, consult the Chairman of the Industrial Court as to the application of his award. There would have been no reason why he could not have done it, because in these discussions, the position of many other grades, maintenance people, and so on, who are also affected by the agreements, could have been ironed out.
Mr. Cousins himself looked at the point of view put by the Minister of Transport about increased costs, and said, "Very well, the total sum is roughly £1 million. Let us divide it up and clear up all these anomalies, and not create more, by a 6s. 6d. all round." The right hon. Gentleman was very pleased to stand at that Box because the tape said that this had been rejected by the busmen, who had not at that stage rejected it. They had not gone through the machinery of their union to get a final rejection. I have no doubt that, if the Minister had been prepared to call the parties together, even on that offer of Mr. Frank Cousins, Mr. Cousins would eventually, after perhaps many more 12-hour battles, probably have got his members to accept. That was the second time the Minister failed to take action when he could have done.
Then we come to the Friday before the strike took place. We pleaded with 1438 the Minister from this side of the House, saying, "Do not let this strike start on Monday. There are Friday, Saturday and Sunday, three days in which talks could go on. Sooner or later, whatever happens, they have got to get round the table and talk." I should have thought myself, though I may be wrong, that it is the duty of the Minister of Labour to try to bring people together and get the talking done before the warring starts, but, on that Friday, he refused point blank. On the Monday, when the strike broke out, we asked him whether he would intervene and bring the parties together to try to stop the strike going on. I will not speak of the answer he gave, because I think it was an insult to the House, but perhaps he is satisfied that that was the sort of answer that would brush us off.
A day or two later, you, Mr. Speaker, would not permit a further Private Notice Question, and I understand that. It is not because we did not want to raise the matter that further Private Notice Questions have not been put down. It is because the position in the House does not permit it.
I say that the right hon. Gentleman could have intervened on at least three occasions with tremendous advantage and that he did not do so. In my view, the whole procedure of negotiations under the Government concerning the railways and the buses is a farce, because those who are managing these two industries are not free agents. The Government have tied their hands. They cannot move in any direction; they have no flexibility. We cannot have negotiations on that basis. If the negotiations are with the Government, then let the Minister tell the unions to go and see the Government and negotiate with them.
For goodness' sake, do not keep up this pretence that the men can go to Sir John Elliot or to Sir Brian Robertson and argue the case on its merits. They simply cannot do so, because neither of those two gentlemen is a free agent in any way whatever. That is the conclusive evidence on the fourth charge that the Minister of Labour failed to intervene when there were occasions on which he could have intervened with great success.
What of the future? None of us can look with any degree of equanimity on an industrial situation which means 1439 widespread strikes throughout the country, yet we have to find the way by which we solve the problem that the Government have created. The right hon. Gentleman ought to get the bus dispute settled quickly, not merely because the dispute is causing hardship and inconvenience, but because a dispute of this character is bound to spread, however much all of us may regret it.
In the view of the unions, this is not just a bus dispute. It is regarded as a challenge by the Government to the trade union movement. The right hon. Gentleman should read carefully the statement of the T.U.C., which underlines what I have just said. I beg him to try to get the bus dispute settled. I believe that he can get it settled on honourable terms. I do not believe that anybody need lose face about it, but that it can be settled on terms which are reasonable and fair and which do justice all the way round.
§ Mr. Robens
I am glad that the Minister has intervened already in the railway dispute. That was the second piece of advice I intended to tender to him.
Thirdly, the Government as a whole must sit down and talk with the T.U.C. on the whole question. The Government and the T.U.C. must examine the problems and hammer out the solution. They will not be easy—they will be very difficult—but the country cannot afford strikes, one after another, in which industry will be run down and which will do more damage to the £ than any other single thing that could possibly happen. It will rob us of export trade, as the result of which we will all be poorer.
This is a job for all of us to do, and not just one side. I therefore conclude by putting what I regard as the two main problems facing our industrial life in the second half of the twentieth century. First, how is it possible in a modern society like ours, pledged to the maintenance of full employment and the Welfare State, to adjust personal incomes so as to provide an ever-increasing standard of living for all without inflation and without weakening the £? That is the 64,000 dollar question. [HON. MEMBERS: "Tell us."] When hon. Members opposite ask, "Tell us", I am always prepared to sit 1440 down with the other parties who must be in this to try to solve that one. That is why I suggest that if the Government were wise, they would settle these disputes and get together with the T.U.C. to hammer out that question.
Secondly, how, in the future, are we to deal with the wages of workers in nationalised industry? We cannot go on with this farce any longer. The unions have been led to believe that they could negotiate on the basis of complete freedom with a free employer. It is perfectly clear that they are not in that position. Some other method must be found.
A number of ideas come immediately to mind, but I am certain that on these two issues, which, in my view, are tremendously important and on the solving of which will depend very largely the industrial pattern for future years, the only way in which this can be done is for the Government to clear up the bad feeling and the disputes which now exist, sit down with the T.U.C., and, possibly, the employers, and try to hammer out questions like this. That is what I suggest to the Government.
Meanwhile, I can say only this: that on the Government's conduct of affairs over the last few years, with the resultant difficulties that we are having in the industrial field, about which they have been warned so many times, we have no alternative but to divide the House tonight.
§ 4.36 p.m.
§ The Minister of Labour and National Service (Mr. Iain Macleod)
I will deal carefully with the strictures that the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) thought it right to make on my conduct of my office and, in particular, on my handling of the London bus dispute, but I will not spend much time on the rest of his speech. That is partly because, in the first place, this is a Motion of censure on myself and I am entitled to reply in some little detail on that point, and I think that the House would wish to hear from me upon it; but, secondly, because it is an unrewarding task to try to follow the right hon. Gentleman and to pick up the points that he makes and the bricks that he drops.
To make just one comment on what the right hon. Gentleman said about economic affairs, when he threw in a few figures at the beginning he referred to the rise in the cost of living. Did he 1441 not attribute in those figures, under the Conservative Government, the year of 1951, for nine months of which his party was in power? By doing that, did he not completely distort the figures that he gave to the House? The right hon. Gentleman knows that that is so.
Before I come to the bus dispute, I would like to say one word about the decision I have taken today on the rail dispute. I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for welcoming what I have done. In case the House has not seen the news, I have invited the Chairman of the British Transport Commission and the leaders of the three railway unions to meet me tomorrow at 4 o'clock. They have all accepted. In view of that situation, it is difficult to refer to the merits of the rail claim and I cannot believe that it would be wise to do so. I will, however, return to this for a moment when, later, I discuss timing.
I should like straight away to answer the point put to me by the right hon. Gentleman: why I see a distinction between what he might call my inaction at this stage of the bus dispute and the action which I have taken in relation to the raid dispute? It seems to me that there are two simple reasons. The first is that I had no contact, nor had my Ministry, at any time, with the disputants in the rail argument. That is not so about the bus dispute. We had the discussions, to which I shall return in a few minutes, in January. It seemed wholly right that, at a moment when at least the question of the issue of strike notices was being considered, I should have the sort of discussion with the railway unions that had taken place in the bus dispute.
Secondly, I see a very real and important difference between the position in relation to arbitration, with the buses and with the railways. I have thought it a matter of principle, which I have stated in the House, that I should take no action which could in any way be interpreted as a variation of an award of the Industrial Court. That action is again a point to which I must return.
The machinery of looking into railway procedure is very different indeed. It was laid down from the beginning that it was certainly more than a recommendation but less than an award, and that there was no obligation on the parties to 1442 accept it. I therefore do not regard a question of principle in relation to arbitration as at stake in the same way in the rail dispute as I did in the bus dispute. It is, therefore, right to call in, as I have done, the parties to this dispute to discuss the present position with me tomorrow.
On Monday, which was the occasion that led ultimately to this debate, the right hon. Member for Blyth sought to move the Adjournment of the House on the ground that I was failing in my statutory duty. I do not wish in any way to rest upon a legalistic interpretation of my duties. I dare say that in the heat of debate the right hon. Gentleman used words that were not precise; but it is worth explaining just for a minute the legal position, before I come to the dispute.
There is, in fact, no such statutory obligation as the words of the right hon. Gentleman might have indicated. The Ministry of Labour was created in 1916. The two important Statutes in this case are the Conciliation Act, 1896, passed before the Ministry came into operation, and the Industrial Courts Act, 1919. The 1896 Act is an enabling Measure which lays down for the Minister certain procedures that he must follow, but only when he himself has selected on which particular course he should embark. In the same way, the Act of 1919, particularly Section 2, lays upon the Minister the duty, first, to consider the situation—and, of course, I have been doing this, as the right hon. Gentleman said, daily with my advisers for some time past—and, secondly, to take such steps as seem to him expedient.
In these matters, Parliament never intended, and wisely, because disputes vary enormously, to fetter the hands of the Minister either in the action which he should take or, and more important perhaps, in the timing. It was thought right to leave the Minister to be in common sense the judge of that, in the same way as, in strict law, he is. That is the legal position and it is perhaps as well to state it, although I would not dream of resting my case upon it. I now come to the dispute.
The course of the dispute is reasonably well known and I do not want to rehearse it. The right hon. Gentleman has done it. It started as a pay claim last October.
1443 It was in January this year that talks took place at my Ministry from which the idea of an inquiry emerged. The Press notice which was issued on 10th January from my Ministry made two things clear. The first was that the London Transport Executive had confirmed to my officials that it wasnot prepared at the present time to offer any increase in wages …and that in the light of that statement there was no room for what is ordinarily called conciliation. I do not think that that was in dispute, anyway, but it would not be right to think that this procedure or stage was not gone through. It was.
On the question of an inquiry, we had a discussion in the House by Private Notice Question in great detail, and I do not wish to make that speech again; but this I will say: I thought at the time that it would have been a more statesman-like approach to have a wider inquiry into the wage structure of the whole industry rather than a narrow inquiry in the way proposed. I can understand exactly the point of view of those who differ from me, but I believe that the suggestion put forward at that time was right and wise and I have not altered my opinion of that in any way.
Some people have suggested, and it has been suggested in the Press, that this idea of a wider inquiry might form part of a settlement in this dispute. I was asked that question, in effect, by my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) a few days ago. The House will see from my supplementary answer that I left the door ajar deliberately on it. I hold to my view that if there is to be an inquiry that is the right sort of inquiry, but I am bound to add that I do not see that it has great relevance to the present position. We would mislead ourselves if, at this stage anyway, we attached too much importance to that. I deliberately say that I have not excluded that inquiry from my thoughts.
I return to the course of events. The Industrial Court award was, as the right hon. Gentleman indicated, one of 8s. 6d. to the crews of Central London, and a unanimous finding, which is an important fact, against the claim for the other grades. The right hon. Gentleman raised today a point which was new to me, the difficulty of implementing this award. I have had time, even since then, to be 1444 advised on this point. I speak purely on the advice, as I have not had time to look at it myself. I am told that the London Transport Executive finds no difficulty in implementing this award and sees no particular problem on the lines suggested by the right hon. Gentleman. Nor was this particular suggestion raised by the unions in discussion at the time. The right hon. Gentleman is wrong when he says that this is a variation of an award, because an award which itself suggests a modification of a previously existing agreement does not vary that award. The award itself stands.
Later discussions between the parties produced the final position that the London Transport Executive offered to implement the award of 8s. 6d. for about two-thirds of those who were involved. It offered a further review, I think "in the autumn" were the words used, of all the grades not covered by the award and an accelerated review of the special case of the Green Line coach drivers. That was, in fact, its final word, which was rejected, and the strike took place.
I come for a moment to the Motion, which seems to reveal a fundamental misconception of my duties as Minister of Labour. I have never said, and I do not say now, that I will not take action in this dispute. What I have said, and what I insist on, is that the timing of that action must be for me. I know very well that no one in the House cannot be conscious of the inconvenience that the bus strike has caused. One should record one's admiration for those who work in and near London for the remarkable way in which they have responded, as they always do, to a very difficult situation.
The mere wish of the Minister of Labour to settle a dispute does not settle it. If it did, he would have a very easy life indeed. [An HON. MEMBER: "The Minister does not want to settle it."] Yes, I do; indeed I do. I will come back to that. For all settlements there must be some move by the parties in all disputes from entrenched positions. It was on this point that I was challenged by no less, I think, than seven "shadow" Ministers of Labour on Monday. I imagine that they probably had a jolly little discussion in the "shadow" Cabinet afterwards about it.
I do not think that anyone who has any real knowledge of industrial relations 1445 can possibly imagine that, in the first hours of a strike, attitudes which have been taken up deliberately for such a long period will be altered. Indeed, it would be much easier to cite precedents for non-intervention in the reasonably early days of a strike than it would be to find interventions. The Times, on Tuesday morning, talking not particularly of this dispute or of myself, said that the Ministry of Labour does not intervene until a psychological approach seems hopeful, and that rarely appears in the first week of the strike.
All the same, since the point was made by people who should have known better and, indeed, do know better, it is worth giving quickly one or two examples to the House. In the railway strike of 1955, the strike was called for 28th May, and Sir Walter Monckton, as he then was, intervened for the first time on 9th June. That was an interval of twelve days and, as far as I can remember, there was no particular comment.
In another case, in 1953, the strike in the electrical contracting industry broke out on 24th August. The Department intervened almost at once, on the 26th, but it intervened too soon, and the strikes were resumed on 1st September. The Department waited another eight or nine days before, finally, this time successfully, intervening. In the great unofficial strikes of 1948, in dockland, which hon. Members will remember so well, in London and on Merseyside, the strikes ran for a month and a day without any intervention, until a state of emergency was proclaimed and the Prime Minister broadcast to the nation.
One last example is the strike which the country knows as the "screwy" strike. It started on 11th November, 1955, and had been running for about six weeks when I became Minister of Labour. The strike worried me a great deal, because it tended to bring the trade union movement into a good deal of disrepute, because it was being mocked at. I myself always thought that this strike was never quite as simple as the newspapers made out because, in these sorts of clashes, where there is a clash between ancient skills and modern materials, it is extremely difficult, as the House knows, to get a settlement.
1446 That strike lasted four months. Everybody tried to stop it. The Trades Union Congress even came in at one point and failed. Finally, on 9th March, I appointed a committee of investigation which, in the end, brought the strike to an end. I do not think that the committee of investigation would have operated successfully at any earlier time. It was simply a question of timing. I have given examples when the intervention came after a few hours, a few days, a few weeks, and a few months. In all these cases, timing simply must be everything. It must be of the first importance, surely, in this particular case.
I genuinely believe that, in the particular circumstances of the bus dispute and the strike which we had on Monday, any of my predecessors would have done exactly the same. I do not, with respect to them, believe that they would have intervened on Monday—[HON. MEMBERS: "Before Monday."] Nor do I believe that they would have intervened——
§ Mr. Walter Monslow (Barrow-in-Furness)
I put a question last week to the right hon. Gentleman. Will he tell us whether Sir John Elliot or Sir Brian Robertson had the authority to effect a settlement without prior consultation with Her Majesty's Government?
§ Mr. Macleod
I answered that last week. As far as I am concerned, entirely, yes. If the hon. Gentleman wants to question any other Minister, he must, of course, ask him.
In all these disputes, there are three important stages. There is the stage of negotiation, which may well be protracted, and often is. There is the stage of conciliation, either by the Minister or the Ministry. There is the stage of arbitration. The House is very familiar with all these, and I will not go into detail about them. It is important to say, however, in view of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, that arbitration has always been regarded as the last and the final stage in a dispute.
As far as the Industrial Court is concerned, the position is as I stated it, that, although its awards are not legally binding, they have almost invariably been accepted. I think that it will deal a very savage blow indeed to the Industrial 1447 Court if the habit grows up of asking it for an opinion and not for a decision. It seems to me that that is a most unfortunate development.
No doubt many hon. Members in the House have read the powerful letter in The Times of 28th March from Sir Godfrey Ince, who has, of course, a matchless experience in these matters:The purpose of arbitration is to give a decision which will be final when the parties themselves cannot come to an agreement. If the award is to be questioned because it is not entirely satisfactory to one of the parties, a tribunal reference which was intended to bring about a settlement of the dispute will become no more than a device to test out the views of an outside body which can then be accepted or rejected at will. This, to my mind, would mean the end of arbitration as a means of preventing industrial strife.I repeat——
§ Mr. Percy Collick (Birkenhead) rose——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)
If the Minister does not give way, the hon. Gentleman must resume his seat.
§ Mr. Macleod
The House knows that there is practically nobody in the country, if there is, indeed, anybody at all, who has greater experience of these matters than Sir Godfrey Ince, and I do not doubt that his words carry very great weight, even if we do disagree, perhaps, about what action may have been taken in any particular dispute. In all the early stages of the dispute with which we are concerned——
§ Mr. Macleod rose——
§ Mr. Macleod
The right hon. Gentleman did not give way during his speech. I am, after all, answering a Motion of censure on myself. I have no wish ever to be discourteous to any hon. Member of the House, but I ask the House to realise that I must keep fairly narrowly 1448 to some of these charges made against me. I will give way.
§ Mr. Collick
Does not the right hon. Gentleman understand —[HON. MEMBERS: "Say 'Thank you'."]—that his attitude on this point in relation to Sir Godfrey's letter comes essentially near to making arbitration compulsory? Does he not understand—he would if he had the industrial experience of some of us—that the trade union movement is historically opposed to compulsory arbitration? That is exactly what the argument comes to.
§ Mr. Macleod
I do not think so. There is an obvious difference, of course, into which we need not go at any great length, between compulsory arbitration and the acceptance of an award. But the Industrial Disputes Tribunal, which is part of the machinery of the country, is, at least in one sense, compulsory, because, as the hon. Gentleman knows very well, an award made by it becomes an implied term of the contract.
This dispute followed the ordinary course in all its stages right to the end. Negotiation did take place, and it failed. Conciliation did take place, and it failed. Apart from this difference of view—and I assure the hon. Gentleman that it is a genuine one—about the value of a wide or narrow committee of inquiry, everything followed the normal course until the rejection by the union of the Industrial Court award. As far as we can trace at the Ministry, this is the first time that a major strike has followed the rejection of an Industrial Court award. For the reasons that I and Sir Godfrey Ince gave, I think that that is a serious development.
I do not in the least wish the hon. Members to think that I was obscurantist on Monday in refusing to share with them my trains of thought about what I proposed to do. It is simply not possible in these matters to define the future. One cannot script this particular drama, because one does not know what the leading actors in it are going to say; one does not know what attitudes they will take up and one does not know against what background the next few scenes will be played.
Therefore, it is not possible to announce in advance precisely how any given dispute should be dealt with or settled. If 1449 I am right in thinking that the action I have taken is, as it so obviously is, reasonable in law—although, of course, I do not rest on that, as I have said—and also right in common sense, and if I still find it attacked by the Opposition, it seems to me that it can only be attacked because I am a Tory and because the present Government is a Tory Government.
I come now to a point which I think we ought to look at for a moment, if we can, and I will try to do it not as a party Member but as a House of Commons Member. A new stage has grown up in industrial relations quite recently, which is the putting exclusively of the union case from the Opposition Dispatch Box. I do not suggest for a second that there is anything improper in that; let me be absolutely clear on that point. I know perfectly well that Labour Members of Parliament would argue that the link between their industrial and political wings is so close that it is inevitable. But if this is so, it is a very serious limitation upon their freedom.
I could give many examples to the House in which I have been critical of employers in industrial affairs. I was critical straight away in the B.M.C. dispute, as the House will remember. I was joined by my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Mr. M. Lindsay), and the late Walter Elliot, as the House will remember, tabled a Motion about it. All the things that I have been trying to do with regard to positive employment policies are not done with the approval of the British Employers' Confederation. They do not think that it is my business and they think that my proposals go too far.
But it seems to me that if one side of the House proposes to put forward only one side of the dispute, we ought to reflect for a moment on where we are going, because we are coming to the position when it is not possible for half the House to criticise an official strike, whatever the merits of it may be; we are coming to the position when it is not possible for half the House even to admit that restrictive labour practices exist in industry. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, that happens. We are even coming to the point where it is difficult to raise a healthy howl of anger from the whole of the 1450 House against a petty tyranny on either side of industry or even, as we know, if violence is used by a small minority of those who are on strike.
What will happen if a Socialist Government come to power? Will the unions' case be put by the Socialist Minister of Labour? I made this point to the House during the engineering and shipbuilding strike, when I said that it seemed to me wrong that we shouldplead the cause either of the unions or the employers",and that it seemed to be the job of the House to speak for those outside who weresick at heart at the folly of it all".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th March, 1957; Vol. 384. c. 391.]That is the point of view that I hold and it seems to me that it would be a sad day if the two of us come—if I may speak of him as the "shadow" Minister of Labour—to our respective Dispatch Boxes carefully briefed by representatives of one or other side of industry. I think that our responsibility is not to merely one side of industry, but to the whole of industry and to the community in general.
Yesterday, the Finance and General Purposes Committee of the T.U.C. issued a very important statement. It has been taken by many people as, in fact, signing the Motion of censure upon myself and the Government. I do not really believe that anybody is happy to see that. I do not believe that people who care as much as I assure the House I do about the future of industrial relations could be happy to see that done. I do not believe for a moment that all those who were present at that meeting were happy to see that done.
Frankly, I regard that as an extremely grave statement for the Committee to make. I do not propose to reply in any way to the personal reference to myself, although I think that it was unjust and unfair, but I leave that to the House. But again one comes to the point that we have heard again from the Dispatch Box opposite about the impartiality of arbitration. It is essential, I agree, that the impartiality of arbitration should be known to be independent, which means independent of the Government and of both sides of industry as well.
May I read to the House a letter in the Manchester Guardian of 17th April which 1451 was written by a very experienced man in these matters, Mr. Espley:May I say that for the past fifteen years it has been my privilege to serve on many and various arbitration bodies, including courts of inquiry, conciliation courts, arbitration tribunals, etc., and these have covered many professions and most of the industrial trades both at home and abroad. It has also been my privilege to be a member of the Industrial Court. At no time or in any circumstances have I ever received, or known any of my colleagues to have received, any pointer as to the bias or trend which our deliberations or award should take. This is equally true as applying to the employers, employees, or the Governmental Departments.
§ Mr. Macleod
This letter appears in the Manchester Guardian of 17th April.
I told the House in a recent debate that neither directly nor indirectly did we intend to give any guidance beyond what we said openly from the Dispatch Box. If hon. Members would like to refer to the 1948 White Paper on Personal Incomes, Profits and Prices, they will find that the Government of the day went much further than my right hon. Friend. If, all the time, we are to say to the arbitrators that they have been "nobbled" by Governments, that is a most serious reflection—on Governments, if you like, but we can answer from this Box—but also on the honour of the arbitrators themselves.
The simple truth of the matter is this. Men of honour will not umpire if they have to give "out" every time an appeal is made. Men and women who serve on commissions and committees of all sorts, on tribunals and on so many other bodies which are part of the fabric of the modern State, if they are to be told that they are biased because what they produce is not strictly in accordance with Socialist principles, will not serve on those bodies, to the great loss of this country.
§ Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools) rose——
§ Mr. Macleod
When we were debating the matter on Monday, and the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) asked me if I would intervene at the first available opportunity, he said that I must not complain of criticism. Indeed, no Minister of Labour could. I 1452 dare say that I have had more advice than any other man in the country, because every Member of Parliament, every man, every editor, journalist and cartoonist reckons that there are two jobs that he can do. One is his own and the other is the Minister of Labour's. All the time there are those who say, "You should intervene now", or "You should have intervened", or, "You should wait", or, "You should never intervene."
But I come back to the point that I have made, that after one has taken—and one takes it all the time—the opinion of the expert advisers—and they are matchless in their experience—who work with me at the Ministry of Labour, the moment always comes for a decision to be taken by the Minister. There is no escaping that decision. It must always be left to his judgment. His judgment, of course, can be criticised, but I say that it is a responsibility which is mine and which I cannot share. I cannot share it with the Opposition, or with the T.U.C., or with my own party.
What I said the other day applies; not by a day, not by an hour will I alter my judgment on what it is right to do. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the industrial situation is very serious indeed. I have deliberately not launched an attack on the right hon. Gentleman, or on the Labour Party; nor have I commented, as I thought at first I would, on the T.U.C. statement that was issued yesterday.
The House may, however, remember a saying of Mr. Marx, of whom I am a devoted follower—Groucho, not Karl—who said, "Sir, I never forget a face, but I will make an exception of yours." So the House may perhaps allow me quite briefly one exception to this. However carefully I try to frame my words about the criticism which has been made against me by the right hon. Gentleman, I am bound to say that I cannot conceal my scorn and contempt for the part that the Leader of the Opposition has played in this.
I think I am right in saying that the Opposition did not need to have this debate on Monday, but that they found my approach to the situation so unsatisfactory that it was decided to have an immediate debate upon the issue. That, I believe, is the case. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman the 1453 Leader of the Opposition really realises what that means. We have got this debate today. I cannot believe that anybody in the House wants to have it, and I hate taking part in it. It is bound to be a debate which will make industrial affairs and their settlement a good deal more difficult. We are having this debate because the Leader of the Opposition, in a Parliamentary scene on Monday, just could not control himself.
I do not believe that the leader of any other party would have allowed this particular debate to take place at the present time. I believe that it would be much wiser, even at this stage, if the Opposition did not vote on their Motion tonight. But if they are to vote—and, no doubt, they will—let us be quite clear where censure in this matter lies. Because of his refusal on Friday to say a single word that would uphold the authority of an arbitration award, because of his mischievous speech over the weekend, because of his lack of authority on Monday, if we are to vote tonight then let the censure of the House be on the right hon. Gentleman tonight and from the country tomorrow.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank McLeavy (Bradford, East)
In the first place, I want to express my regret that the Minister of Labour should have made an attack upon the Leader of the Opposition. There is no doubt in my mind that the duty of the Opposition is to draw attention before Parliament and the country to the action of the Government if it is felt that the action of the Government has been wrong and has endangered the industrial peace of the nation.
In putting down this Motion of censure on the Minister of Labour and the Government, the Leader of the Opposition and his colleeagues have done a service to the nation because, if any Government were deserving of a vote of censure, it is surely the present Tory Government. Their policy over many years has been to create a state of affairs in which demands for increases in wages have become inevitable.
I should like, if I may, to deal with some of the background of the bus industry. If the House and the nation are to appreciate the present claim of the bus workers, it is essential that we 1454 should look at the background of the situation. In 1938, London bus rates of pay were amongst the highest. Today they are well down the wage scale. Even twenty years ago their claim for a higher place in the wage table was accepted. Hon. Members may well ask, how then has deterioration taken place?
First let me refer to the sacrifice—and it was indeed a sacrifice—which was made by the bus workers throughout the country during the period of the war. They accepted what was virtually a wage freeze. It was because of their high sense of public duty, which was so strong nationally throughout the bus industry, that they refrained from taking advantage, as might well have been done, of wartime conditions to press for larger increases in wages. So bus fares were kept very low indeed, and the public enjoyed fares far below their real value.
I need hardly say how many tributes were paid to the busmen in London and throughout the country for their valuable services to the nation during the war. During the darkest hours of the war when London was being heavily bombed on every side they kept the wheels of the buses turning. The tragedy of this strike is that where Hitler failed in getting the London buses off the roads a Tory Government have succeeded. That is the indictment I make of the present Tory Government, that they have forced a group of industrial workers who have made such a great contribution to the economic and industrial development of this country into an unnecessary strike because they really want to have a showdown with the trade union movement.
§ Mr. McLeavy
Their sacrifice of wages during the war and their great heroism in running the buses under personal danger matters nothing to the Members of the Government Front Bench. They do not care about what these men did during the war. That is gone and forgotten. All they are concerned about in engineering this strike—and I deliberately say "engineering this strike"——
§ Mr. McLeavy
All they are concerned about is to try to have a showdown with the trade union movement in order to 1455 cover their disastrous economic policy over the past few years.
Let us look at the position. The London and Cambridge Bulletin on the Cost of Living showed that from 1939 to December, 1957, there was an overall increase in the cost of living of 170 per cent. If we compare this with what has been conceded to the workers by way of percentage increases since September, 1939, it shows that in the central bus section drivers received 115 per cent. and general hands 129.2 per cent.
These figures show that the wages of central bus drivers have fallen behind by 55 per cent. and those of general hands by 40.8 per cent. Whilst since 1939 there have been higher percentage increases for transport workers in the country services, the bus drivers even there have fallen behind the rise in the cost of living to the extent of 15.5 per cent., coach drivers by 45 per cent. and assistant craftsmen by 19.6 per cent. If, as I think we should do, we compare these percentage rises with other London public services since 1939, the fairness of the busmen's claim is clearly revealed.
Let us take the Fire Brigade. In September, 1939, their wages were 65s. a week. In February, 1958, these had risen to 223s. 6d. a week, a total increase on the basic rate of 158s. 6d. That is a percentage increase of 243.8. If we take the top rates of the Metropolitan Police, we find that in September, 1939, their basic pay was 65s. In February, 1958, it rose to 219s. 3d., an overall increase of 154s. 3d. That was a percentage increase of 237.3.
Now let us take the postmen. In September, 1939, they were receiving 75s. a week. In February, 1958, their wage was increased to 213s., an increase of 138s., or a percentage increase of 184. If we take the motormen of the L.T.E., we find that in September, 1939, they were receiving a weekly wage of 93s. In February, 1958, it was increased to 226s., an increase of 133s. That was a percentage increase of 143.
Now let us take the central London bus drivers. In September, 1939, they were paid 90s. In February, 1958, their pay rose to 193s. 6d., an increase of 103s. 6d. That was a percentage increase of 115. These figures show that in 1939 the Underground motorman and the 1456 central bus drivers were the highest paid public servants in the London public service. Today bus drivers are at the bottom of the list. Since 1952, in the central London bus area alone, staff requirements have been reduced by nearly 4,000 due to cuts in services. There is difficulty in the recruitment of staff, a difficulty which is shared throughout the country, due to the low rates of pay and the rather difficult conditions of employment.
In the London area alone, there is an overall staff shortage of some 2,915. That shows how difficult it is to find recruits on the present rates of pay for the transport services. This is a major problem for bus services throughout the country. Bus undertakings simply cannot run the number of buses which the public requires and ought to have because they are unable to get the staff necessary for those services.
The L.T.E. bus operations are not being run at a loss. They show a credit balance, but the L.T.E. also administers the Underground service, which is running at a loss. The bus services are therefore subsidising the Underground and have traditionally done so for some time, as was stated in the 1956 Report of the L.T.E. The L.T.E. buses now carry five times more passengers and travel twice as many miles as do the Underground services. That may be a startling revelation to many London people.
Hon. Members will recall that I have spoken in the House on many occasions about the incidence of taxation upon the passenger transport industry. In considering these matters, it is important that we should bear in mind how the burden of heavy rates of taxation on the transport industry has affected its ability to provide adequate services for the community and to pay those in its employment reasonable wages while providing them with reasonable and fair conditions.
The L.T.E. buses pay £800,000 per annum in vehicle licence duty and £4,200,000 in fuel tax. The figures in 1938 were £640,000 and £1½ million, respectively. What the travelling public does not realise is that every seat in a bus is taxed, whether it is used or not. Taxation alone represents about 3½d. per bus mile. That is a tremendous handicap to the passenger transport industry and one to which the House 1457 should pay especial attention. It is no good taxing an essential national industry up to the hilt and then expecting it to be able to meet its obligations.
We regard the farming industry as essential to the economic life of the nation. We not only subsidise that industry but exempt it from taxation on the oil and petrol it uses. I am not complaining about that but that an equally important national service, the passenger transport industry, does not receive the same consideration.
The Government have been making heavy weather of the refusal of the union to accept the Industrial Court award. I draw the attention of the House to one or two important facts. The setting up of the Industrial Court was the direct result of the refusal of the Minister of Labour to agree to the joint agreement reached by Sir Wilfrid Neden and the trade unions for the setting up of a committee of investigation. It should also be made clear that in eventually agreeing to state a case before the Industrial Court the unions made it clear that if the Court's award was unsatisfactory it would not be accepted.
It may reasonably be asked why the unions refused to be bound by the Industrial Court award. The reason is clear to every intelligent person. By their repeated interference in the normal procedure of negotiations, the Government have poisoned the very atmosphere of free examination of wage claims on their merits.
In order to get it clearly placed on record, I want to refer to the speech of the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer which was mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens). The ex-Chancellor said:Those who ask for wage increases, those who grant wage increases and those who adjudicate about wages should have this fact firmly in the forefront of their minds. Any large mistake by any of them could do grievous damage to the nation as a whole."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th October, 1957; Vol. 575, c. 57.]It would not be reasonable for the right hon. Gentleman to object to the interpretation which the Opposition have placed on that statement. To our minds, it was a clear indication to Whitley Councils and to arbitration boards to refuse to consider wage claims on their merits.
If arbitration courts or Whitley Councils are to refuse to consider wage claims 1458 upon their industrial merits, then industrial courts and Whitley Councils have been destroyed overnight. One of the greatest services rendered to society and industry has been the successful operation of Whitley Councils and all kinds of similar bodies for the regulation of wages and conditions of employment.
I believe that working in an absolutely free atmosphere, without interference and with no attempt to drive them, they would continue to render a great service to the industrial life of the country. I believe that that view is held generally by responsible people on both sides of industry. They believe that the most important thing is that both sides should try to preserve the principle of industrial peace, understanding and co-operation so as to enable this nation to get back to a position of financial stability. That must be done if the nation is to be saved from irreparable damage.
My complaint against the Minister of Labour is that he failed to take a golden opportunity of calling the parties together in order to seek a solution to the problem other than by strike action. I cannot understand why it was not possible for him to call both sides of the industry together, without there being any question of his interfering with the award. When he last spoke upon the subject, he told us that it was within the province of the London Transport Executive and the union to agree to a variation. In those circumstances, his position was very much narrowed. All he needed to do was to call the two sides together. If they had agreed among themselves upon a variation of the award, I can see no difficulty about finding a solution.
§ Sir Spencer Summers (Aylesbury)
Does not the hon. Member realise that the L.T.E. declined to vary the terms of the award and that the only scope for assistance which my right hon. Friend had was to try to persuade the Executive to change its mind—and that he was not willing to do that?
§ Mr. McLeavy
I do not accept the view behind that question. I believe that the Chairman of the Executive was acting under instructions from the Government. There is no question about it, because in all my considerable experience in the passenger transport industry I have never known an occasion upon which 1459 a strike was provoked under conditions such as exist at present. I come to that conclusion because, when sense and reason and non-interference politically held sway, we were able to get settlements.
The bus strike is of vital importance to the whole principle of Whitley Councils and industrial courts. I appeal to the Government at this late hour to call the parties together in order to try to reach a settlement which is just for both sides and to take the first opportunity of getting the buses back on the roads and providing Londoners with transport once more.
This strike should never have occurred—and the responsibility for it lies fully upon the Government.
§ Mr. McLeavy
The responsibility and duty of the Government now is to repair the damage that they have done and to restore to the London Passenger Transport industry a fair basis of wages and conditions of employment.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Thorneycroft (Monmouth)
We are engaged in a debate on a Motion of censure which criticises the handling by my right hon. Friends of the bus dispute and, more widely, challenges the general theme and economic policy which they pursue. I shall intervene only for a few moments. I recognise that in a debate of this kind views are held with deep sincerity on both sides and that they are sometimes expressed with considerable passion. The hon. Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy) addressed the House in terms of the utmost moderation and—speaking from my past experience—with very considerable knowledge of the transport industry.
I say in all sincerity that it looks as though we may be entering a very grave period in our affairs. It may be that in the days ahead those of us who honour our country—and they are the over-whelming majority on both sides of the House of Commons and industry—will do well to ponder the fact that the causes which we share in common are far more numerous than the issues which from time to time divide us. It is right to say that at this stage, in the light of what may be the difficult period lying ahead.
1460 We cannot isolate suffering if the £ sterling is brought under pressure, as it is under pressure today. Anyone who has been at the Exchequer and lived through periods when the £ sterling was under pressure knows what it means—the rate sliding down and the daily attempt to support it at the cost of hard-won gold and dollars; day by day seeing what we have all fought to bring in flowing out again because of our effort to hold the rate.
The right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) said: "If there is going to be pressure upon sterling, surely the last thing we must ever wish to do is to have an industrial dispute." There is force in that argument. I would only say that there might be something worse than having an industrial dispute. The something worse would be—by some action on the part of the Government—a recommencing of the whole sordid business of inflation all over again. I would say to my right hon. Friends that, if we have to choose between those two things, I have no doubt where the choice must lie. Under no circumstances whatever can we afford to take action which would restart the real pressure upon the £ and shake the confidence of those—many of them in the Commonwealth—who hold their money in this country and encourage them to withdraw it.
Having given the background to the situation, I now come closer to the issue. I have no criticism to make of Mr. Cousins. He is doing his job, and his job is to secure the best possible deal he can, by fair and democratic methods, for the men he represents. That is his job, and it is not for us to criticise. Nor is the claim without any merit whatsoever; no claims ever are. The right hon. Member for Blyth asked whether we would not ask for higher wages if we were busmen. Of course we would ask for higher wages—let us be realists in the House of Commons. But the fact that we would ask for higher wages is not an argument that they should be granted. That is an altogether different question. Moreover, Mr. Cousins is operating under another difficulty. For a long period now the practice of an almost annual round of wage increases has been common in this country. The story has been an unhappy one. In 1956–57, there was an enormous increase 1461 in the volume of money in the hands of the people in this country due to wage increases in that year.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
Indeed, the pumping out of £900 million of extra cash in wages was the biggest instrument in bumping up the profit margins that there was. With that amount of extra cash circulating in the country there was an infinite incentive for everybody to spend. The story is perfectly well known. Wage increases, the extra money, the prices going up, and the next year another rise of wages based on the principle of the cost of living having risen. That has been going on. On this occasion, the wage increase at the arbitral proceedings was not given on the cost of living increase.
I can quite see that that came as a shock or as a great disappointment to Mr. Cousins. But he said that this issue is crucial, and so it is. It is not crucial simply to the busmen or to the London Transport Executive, or to the travelling public in London. In my judgment, it is crucial to this nation. It is crucial to the future of our economy and to the success or failure of the policies which, rightly or wrongly—and all policies are controversial—Her Majesty's Government have been seeking to pursue.
The basic truth, as I see it, is that a settlement above the arbitral award in response to strike action accepted or imposed upon an industry which, in any event, lacks the cash to pay it would be a very considerable blow to those policies. I cannot conceive that such a settlement would end there. I have no doubt that it would spread much wider. We should be under no illusion about the price we pay for inflation, which is being paid and which would be paid in the future, or the benefits which all of us would gain, whether busmen or anybody else, if we could put an end to it.
In a few months we shall be entering a period when pressure on sterling really starts. We are not yet in it. We are in smooth water now. But in a few months 1462 the period of seasonal pressure starts. We are entering or, until a few days ago, we should have entered that period in a strong position; with the £ firm; with the reserves up; with gilt-edged in demand, and riding even an American recession, at any rate, far more satisfactorily than most of the economic commentators ever believed that we could. All this we have done against the background of a particular policy; a policy of high interest rates, a firm control on capital expenditure, and, above all, a firm determination not to make money available to pay wage schemes beyond the profitability of the industry concerned.
§ Mr. D. Jones
The right hon. Gentleman is telling us that the £1 million which is the cost of making this award to the London busmen, irrespective of how it is spread, will be fatal to the stability of the £. Did he have anything to say to his right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General when he increased Post Office charges by £42 million in July, 1957?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
If the arbitral award here was overridden, I am confident that it would not stop there. I am confident that the position in other industries would be well-nigh intolerable, not only for the Government or the House of Commons, but even for the trade union leaders concerned.
To say, as we have said in this policy, that the cash will not be made available to pay wage claims beyond the profitability of an industry, is not, as was said by the right hon. Member for Blyth, a denunciation of the trade union movement. It is nothing of the kind. The policy does not challenge or criticise the movement, or question the right of trade union leaders to do what they do so admirably in this country—the job of urging, fairly and forcibly, the case they wish to put forward. But it does what has to be done for the Government. It takes on the shoulders of the Government their own responsibility for saying how much public money can be made available. I believe that if we flinch from any of this policy now, or abandon this policy, as the T.U.C. openly invite us to do in its resolution, we shall court the very gravest disaster to this country.
If the perils of doing that are manifold, the prizes for holding on are equally plain. The right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) said in a speech the other 1463 day that we must put the £ sterling first. A bus man, in an article in the Daily Mail two days ago, said that he did not want a rise in wages, he wanted the cost of living to come down. Both were really saying the same thing. If ever there were a moment when we should be putting the £ sterling first, it is now. No greater prize could be given to the British public than to stabilise its currency and end for all time the shameful slide in the value of our money. I say deliberately, end it. I do not mean mitigate it, or slow it; I mean stop it. That is the policy upon which all of us should stand. If we end that slide, we end with it the erosion of the pension system in this country, which has been steadily going on. We make it possible to attract capital to this country, which is vital if we are to keep full employment in a free society, and we ensure the payment of real and not paper wages.
The other day it was said that a new situation has arisen here because a strike has taken place. I suppose that it is new in a sense. It is true that the strike has started. It is true that it may be harder still to pay any extra money if passengers go away from their habitual forms of transport. But, in my judgment, it is not new in some sense which would justify upsetting the arbitral award in any way. To go beyond that would be an action fraught with great danger. If that be done for Mr. Cousins and the bus men, I fail to see how we can refuse to do so in any other case that comes along. It seems to me that the greatest danger would lie in any uncertainty about the policy of the Government. If it is believed that they have room to manœuvre, that somehow or other they can go further without danger to the economy of this country, men may honourably be tempted to press them further. My message to the Government is that they—and, indeed, all of us since the war—have risked enough. Their duty now is to stand firm.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Mark Bonham Carter (Torrington)
I beg the House to extend to me the indulgence which it is its custom to show on these occasions. It is all the more difficult for me to make this naturally difficult speech having to follow the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft), whose learned and 1464 authoritative remarks will make mine seem all the more jejune.
What I am to speak of cannot by any stretch of the imagination be described as non-controversial. If, therefore, I say anything which exceeds the limits of the indulgence which the House is prepared to grant on these occasions, I must apologise in advance. I must say that I have been encouraged in this adventurous, not to say foolhardy, course by the uproarious welcome I received when I first entered this House and for which I should like to thank Members of all parties. This reception has led me to suppose that perhaps my words might be received with the same courteous and tolerant silence as my first appearance.
Perhaps the best thing that could be said about the Motion before us is that it has led us to discuss and to face the real and serious position in which we find ourselves today. As a result of this, the working population of London has to trudge to work each day because of a dispute between two parties whose common duty it is to serve that public. It was interesting to note that in the speech made by the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) reference to that public was altogether omitted.
A dispute, this is, which was in the end reduced to a difference of 2s. a week, about ten cigarettes a week, or less than 1 per cent. of the average bus driver's wage. One cannot help thinking that this gap might have been bridged, this very small gap, given a little more ingenuity, a little more elasticity and a little imagination on both sides, and given a little more political leadership on the part of Her Majesty's Government. After all, the original difference was between 25s. and nothing.
Having said that, and having said the part which Her Majesty's Government have not played, I must say one or two things about the way in which the union has handled this affair, things with which most people outside this House who are not closely committed to the political doctrines of any particular party would agree.
It is very difficult for anybody to defend those who are prepared to go to arbitration and then refuse to accept the award of the arbitrator; nor do I believe that it is any defence to say that the arbitrator has been nobbled or that the 1465 atmosphere has been poisoned. One does not go to an arbitrator who is corrupt. It makes a mockery of the whole system of arbitration to go to court on the condition that the court finds in your favour.
It has been said by a number of people, both in the Press and elsewhere, that this is a strike that nobody wants. Certainly the walker does not want it, and it is difficult to believe that London Transpot Executive wants it. The only question, therefore, is whether the busmen themselves want it. Whether there are doubts about this or not, they could have been settled with the greatest ease and dispelled had the strike been preceded by a ballot. The cases which have occurred in the last few years when individuals who have not conformed with their colleagues in these matters have been penalised make it seem more important and more desirable than ever before that this advance in trade union practice should occur.
As to the part which the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour has played, I find it difficult to see how he could have intervened between the two parties after the announcement of the Industrial Court's award and up to Sunday midnight, when it was still open to the two parties to accept it. After Sunday midnight, as Sir John Elliot indicated, the situation changed, very much, let it be said, for the worse. It is, I presume, open to the right hon. Gentleman to intervene now at any moment when he thinks that his intervention will be effective. I do not think anyone other than he can choose that moment or take that decision on his behalf. He is like a general in a battle, and we can judge him only by results.
There is one other rather wider consideration to which the present dispute and the possibility of another dispute on the railways draw attention at this moment; it is the basis on which wages are to be settled in nationalised industries which lose money. This is a question which we have to face and a problem which has not been solved since the war. London Transport Executive has a statutory duty to pay its way. In spite of this, between 1948 and 1956, its deficit amounted to approximately £16 million. In 1957, it broke even on its trading account, but this was, I think, an unearned increment of Suez. In 1958, 1466 another deficit is expected. Between 1950 and 1958, the number of passengers carried dropped by more than 15 per cent.
I think I am right in saying that every year since 1950 there has been a wage rise in this industry. This year, the Industrial Court decided that this rise should be 8s. 6d. for central area drivers and conductors. It is a misfortune that Industrial Courts, when making awards of this sort, do not state their reasons. That 8s. 6d. sounds an arbitrary sum, the justice of which must be obscure to everybody, and, in particular, to the persons to whom it is offered. It is a kind of metaphysical fair wage. If the Industrial Court were allowed to state the reasons for which its awards were given, it might be possible to build up a body of case law which would be of considerable value in the future in cases of this sort. At present, we have no such case law.
Broadly speaking, there are only two criteria by which, put in rather lurid terms, we can judge whether a wage rise is justified or not in an industry of this sort. There is the ordinary competitive criteria according to which the wage increase can be given only if there are profits or prospects of profits out of which the wages can be paid. Alternatively, London Transport might be regarded as a public service rather like the Metropolitan Police. It could be instructed to give certain services to the public, and the taxpayer would have to pay for them, to whatever cost they mounted. The present position is an unhappy compromise between those two extremes. No one would suggest that those two alternatives should be followed rigidly or without any compromise, but surely more emphasis should be laid upon the importance of nationalised industries paying their way.
In accordance with this, wage claims should be judged in the light of the following two principles: wages should obviously be related to productivity. It is clearly difficult in the case of an industry such as transport to increase productivity without larger buses, heavier traffic, or something of that sort, which the average worker can hardly control. On the other hand, most people would agree that in some sense the prosperity of each person in this country should be related to the prosperity of all and that therefore the quickest growing industries should not receive the whole of the net 1467 increase in productivity which they have earned and that the slower growing industries, such as the transport industry, should be allowed wage increases in step with the increase in national productivity as a whole.
The second and simpler principle is surely whether or not there is a shortage of labour in the industry concerned. In the case of London Transport, it is known that there was a shortage of drivers and conductors and trolley-bus drivers and conductors in the central area—a shortage, it has been said, of 2,695. It therefore seems that there was a valid claim for an increase among these men, as the Court admitted. It would also seem that the London Transport Executive might have been wise to have offered these men an increase before a demand was made by the union for that increase. And if it could be shown that the Government prevented the London Transport Executive from making such an offer, then indeed the Government should be condemned.
The union, however, has argued its claim without reference to any of the criteria which I have mentioned but largely by reference to the cost of living and to conditions in 1939. The sincerity of its emphasis on the cost of living is rendered much less convincing by its refusal to relate wages "up and down" to the cost of living index and by its refusal to argue its claim in the light of the economic situation in which this country finds itself today.
After all, there is a possibility that in the coming months prices will drop, and this surely is a prospect which hon. Members of all parties must most devoutly hope will be vouchsafed to us. But if the unions insist on regarding money wages as more important than real wages, and if the present strike were to be successful and were to lead in the coming months to other successful wage claims, then I believe that next October the unions might find that their policies had damaged not only their own reputation but also the interests of their members and of their country.
I referred earlier to what I described as the political weakness of the Government's leadership in this matter. What I meant was this: I believe that the country is facing a very critical situation at 1468 present, but I do not think that it is in any way aware of it. If the Government have an economic policy, the country does not know or understand what it is.
I think that a Government which claims that it will govern, cost what it may, must explain to the people and the country the direction in which it is governing and the end of that government. I sincerely believe that large numbers of ordinary working people in the country genuinely think that an attack is being made on their standard of living, and I believe that the country would be better served, if instead of making speeches on how to keep the Socialists out, Government spokesmen made speeches explaining their economic policy to the people of this country and related it to the problems and the opportunities that confront us.
I believe that the bus workers and the railway workers have been convinced that they have cause to be frightened of the Government's policies. I believe that they are bewildered by the Government's policies, because, like many other people, they are ignorant of the Government's intentions.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. E. H. C. Leather (Somerset, North)
I am grateful for being called at this moment. It is always a pleasure to follow a maiden speaker and to have the opportunity of congratulating him on his entry into the House. It is particularly a pleasure when one is in the rare position of being able to agree with a great deal of what he said. As the normal custom of the House is to call people from alternate sides, one often finds oneself in the position of having to congratulate a maiden speaker and to say how much one looks forward to hearing him again when in fact one loathed every word that he said and hopes that one will never hear him again. I am delighted that I can say with complete sincerity—and I know that the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Bonham Carter) will accept it as such—that I do not find myself in that position today.
Some people—I am certainly not one of them—are lucky to come here with a great party political tradition in their family behind them. The hon. Member for Torrington is one of the few I know who have come here with the tradition twice over. He has a tradition of public service, if I may so put it, in both his 1469 white corpuscles and his red corpuscles. Indeed, we were not quite sure that he would be the next member of his family to join our body, and, while not wishing ill fortune to any of my colleagues, I feel that when the other prominent member of his family joins us here, our discussions will be enlivened even more.
I congratulate him on the courage which he showed in launching into this highly controversial subject. Indeed, there was a lesson in his speech which all of us might take to heart. As I listened to him I could not help feeling that it might not be a bad thing if we could always organise debates like this to be made up solely of maiden speakers, because he had the courage to deal with many of the sacred cows which are lying about in the industrial field. If most of us dare to mention them, the House blows off its roof before we can get to the end of a sentence. That is what usually happens, and it does not make argument or serious discussion any easier.
The hon. Member referred to the question of secret ballots and to the question of arbitration courts publishing their findings. I do not necessarily agree with all the points he made, but I am certain that nothing but good can come out of their being discussed in the House. If only we could discuss them in a moderate and kindly way, with sincerity on both sides and without constantly interrupting and leaping to the defence of any particular sacred cow in which we happened to be interested, I am sure that it would add to the dignity of our assembly and would make discussion of these matters both more helpful and intelligible to the general public.
I want to refer to one or two points made by the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens). As my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) said, even in this field there must be many things on which we can agree. May I try to suggest two or three? The first is the immense complexity of this issue. The hon. Member for Torrington talked about the whole problem of wages in the nationalised industries, and surely no hon. Member would disagree when I say that it is extremely complex. Furthermore, none of us thinks that he knows the answer to it. It is a most complex problem.
1470 The more we try to tackle it, the more difficult it seems to become.
The issues of inflation, the cost of living and the position of wages in the economy are immensely complex. Surely, again, we can agree about that and we do not have to throw bricks at each other in order to say that inflation and the Government's place in controlling it are very complicated. It bedevils these issues and makes them even more complex if we do not accept that we are agreed about their complexity.
In the few remarks which I intend to make, I shall try to keep to certain simple, basic principles. Even if we cannot agree about them, I hope that my sincerity on them and my understanding of them will be accepted as equal to that of any other hon. Member in any other part of the House.
The next point on which I am sure we can agree is that none of us wants to say anything today which will exacerbate this issue. We all agree with the Minister and my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth that we are going through a highly critical and difficult period. This problem of the bus strike may be solved in a few days and it all may pass away quietly and peacefully. Or it may lead to far worse. None of us knows. But surely it can be accepted amongst us all on both sides of the House with complete sincerity that none of us wants deliberately to say anything which will make the position more difficult. If we can treat each other as maiden speakers and recognise the sincerity of those on both sides of the House who want to be helpful and not leap to false conclusions or unjustifiably judge other people's motives, we may possibly do something good in the debate, but if we merely turn it into a party wrangle, we shall do harm. I am sure that we are all agreed on that. There is no point in the argument which begins, "You did it first".
Finally, to the Labour Party, and particularly to the right hon. Member for Blyth, I say that, however sincerely he holds his views, I hold with equal sincerity that the ideas which he is trying to put forward in the House today are not in the interests of the wage-earner. As I say, I hold that view with equal sincerity and, if he will allow me to say 1471 so, I hope with equal practical experience of these matters. I certainly do not want to turn this into a battle between the middle classes and the working classes, as has been suggested. I do not believe in classes.
If we are to regard this as an argument between one section of the community and another, then all we can do is harm and we shall only make the position worse. Surely, again, we agree on that. Must some hon. Members be so partisan that it is too much of an effort for them to be objective and even to acknowledge that anybody else can have any sincerity on this subject at all? If so, heaven help us. I cannot believe that that is so.
I do not believe that the doctrine which the Labour Party is trying to put forward at present is in the interest of the wage-earner and I certainly do not believe that it is in the interest of the Labour Party, because I am quite certain that as and when they are called to take over responsibility, they will not be able to do what they are advocating today; and that would rebound in their own faces and cause them infinite damage.
The right hon. Member for Blyth made a great point that all this trouble was because the Government's economic policy was provoking a demand for wage increases. It was a fair political point. Everyone who was alive during the period 1945 to 1951 remembers that there was a demand for wage increases every single year. Is the right hon. Gentleman honestly saying that when a Tory Government are in power and the Government's policies allow, provoke or cause the cost of living to go up, that is provocative and a bad thing, but that when precisely the same thing happens under a Labour Government, it is perfectly all right and does not matter? Surely, he cannot maintain that assertion.
§ Mr. Collick
I am trying to follow the hon. Member's reasoning. What I find difficult to follow is this. I feel sure that the hon. Member must know that, because of the action of the Government which he is supporting, the rents of London busmen have been put up by 8s., 10s., 12s. 6d. or 15s. a week. [An HON. MEMBER: "Twenty-five shillings."] That is an understatement rather than an overstatement. Does not the hon. Mem- 1472 ber think it perfectly right and reasonable—and, I would add, perfectly proper—that the London busmen should recoup themselves at least to that extent?
§ Mr. Leather
That is a perfectly fair argument and I will come to it in time.
If that is the criterion which is to be used, it is equally fair for us to hark back to 1949, when Sir Stafford Cripps cut something like £170 million off the food subsidies, and to say that that was perfectly legitimate or that it was the other way round.
§ Mr. Leather
By the criterion of the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Collick), Sir Stafford Cripps was deliberately provoking the trade unions, but they did not regard it as such.
The fact remains—and not all the arguments or the talk about Surtax payers or anybody else can alter it—that when the party opposite had power, it suffered from inflation just the same as we have done and it suffered from a round of wage increases every year, just the same as we have. Those are facts——
§ Mr. Ernest Popplewell (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West) rose——
§ Mr. Leather
No, I cannot give way. Surely, it is misleading thinking for their own conscience for hon. Members opposite continually to try to make out that whenever anything happens under somebody else's direction, it is somebody else's fault, but that whenever it happens under their direction, it is just bad luck. That simply is not the case. I agree that the party opposite often deserve bad luck, but not even I would wish that kind of bad luck upon them.
I wonder whether I can have some measure of agreement on my next point. The trade union movement is a great and important part of the country. It has great and important rights. For many years, nobody has questioned that or attempted to deny it. The corollary follows, however, that the trade union section of the country is no more important than any other section. It has no more inherent rights than any other section. [HON. MEMBERS: "It has just as much."] That is the point. I am 1473 glad that we agree on that, because it is important to the argument.
There are two major principles which the party opposite is trying to state and which, I think, are wrong and against its own interests and which, I repeat, the party opposite certainly did not practise when it was in power. The corollary of what the right hon. Member for Blyth said is that the moment there is any kind of an industrial dispute, the Minister of Labour has to leap into the centre of the arena. [HON. MEMBERS: "He did not say that."] Yes, he did.
Some weeks ago, when the railway dispute was at one of its numerous critical stages, there was great pressure that the leaders of the unions and the employers should see the Prime Minister. I felt that that was a great mistake, but it was publicly applauded by the party opposite, both in this House and outside. Industrial disputes are difficult and dangerous enough in any conscience. If every major industrial dispute is to be dragged on to the Floor of the House of Commons and turned into a party wrangle, nothing but harm will be done. The more that politicians can stay out of these things, the easier they can be solved and the more likely we are not to get the whole issue befogged and befuddled with a lot of politics and vested interests right outside the original field of the dispute.
§ Mr. Stan Awbery (Bristol, Central)
Is the hon. Member aware that it is the duty of the Minister of Labour not only to settle disputes, but, under the Industrial Court Act, to prevent strikes?
§ Mr. Leather
It is true that that is part of the Minister of Labour's duty, but how he carries it out is, as my right hon. Friend himself made clear and as every Minister of Labour when the party opposite was in power made clear, left to his judgment at the time. The principle which is now being asserted that we should immediately drag any serious issue on to the Floor of the House of Commons is a dangerous one. It was not followed by the party opposite when in power and I do not believe that hon. Members opposite would do it if they were in power again, because it would only make matters worse. That is why I believe that this whole charge is completely off the mark.
1474 Hon. Members opposite say that they want the Minister to intervene. To do what? Let us consider for a moment what the Minister could do. There are only three possible headings under which his intervention could come. The first is to find some kind of compromise. I do not believe that the trade union leaders and the employers' leaders are so lacking in initiative or so dense that they cannot seek methods of compromise themselves. With the greatest respect to the people in St. James's Square, I do not believe that in order for them to explore every possible avenue of compromise and see where there is room to manœuvre, they must have a Minister from the Government coming along and holding their hands.
Surely, they have enough experience. Indeed, probably most of them have a great deal more experience than any Minister of Labour, because the longest period that any Minister of Labour is in office is no more than a few years, while experienced trade union leaders and employers have been at this game all their lives. I really cannot accept the argument that it is essential, in order to find some means of compromise, that we have to have the Minister of Labour stepping in. It simply will not wash.
There are two other possibilities. It might be urged that the Minister of Labour should step in to persuade the union to back down. Is that what they are after? Is that how they want the strike stopped? Is the Minister of Labour to come in to bully, bulldoze or persuade the union to back down? There is only one other alternative left. That is that they want the Minister of Labour to step in to force the employers to back down. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It is the only other course.
§ Mr. Lewis
May I give the hon. Gentleman another alternative? The Minister could come in and say that the Government have agreed, if the London Transport Executive agree that a wage increase is necessary, that they will help the Executive to find the money. If it is necessary to have an essential service, the Government should not put obstacles in the way of running that service.
§ Mr. Leather
I am deeply grateful to the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Lewis), and I will come to his point in just a moment. I stick to my point.
1475 It is quite clear that what the party opposite want is that the Minister should step in to force or persuade the employers to back down.
§ Mr. Leather
I have put forward every possible alternative, and the party opposite does not like any of them. That does not surprise me, either, but I think the charge has struck, and I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for proving it.
Of course, we can always avoid strikes and all industrial disputes. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, no."] Of course, we can. We can always avoid all wars if we are prepared to advocate a policy of peace at any price and if we are prepared to pay any price. There is no trick about having no industrial disputes or arguments at all. It is quite simple, but I wonder if this is really the policy which the party opposite are coming to. Are they, in fact, saying that in all circumstances the unions are always right, because if that is their doctrine, they ought to make it plain to the country? It is only fair that they should do so. I am not objecting to it; it is a perfectly fair doctrine for them.
§ Mr. Leather
I have not said that. If the party opposite say that a trade union, whenever it comes forward with a claim, must always have that claim admitted, that is a perfectly fair and logical policy. But they should tell the country quite clearly that that is what they mean, because the corollary is that they are saying that the employers must, by definition, always be wrong. Is that what they believe—even in the case of nationalised industries? We are dealing here with a nationalised industry and the hon. Member for West Ham, North brought us to the point very quickly. There is no argument about profits or where the money is to come from. The hon. Member says that this is a public service, and therefore he means a subsidy.
§ Mr. Lewis
No, I did not say that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, yes."] The hon. Gentleman is putting up his own Aunt Sallies and knocking them down by means of his own alternatives. He said that there 1476 were only three alternatives for the Minister of Labour, and I said that there was another, and that was that the Minister of Labour could ask his Government to tell the Executive that they should pay the increase, and that the cost——
§ Mr. Leather
If the hon. Gentleman is saying that the Executive could find the money, I am quite sure that if he could find the time to go to tell Sir John Elliot where to find the money, Sir John would be most grateful to him. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the only place from which the money could be found is from the taxpayers' pocket.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
Since the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) is making the point so vigorously, may I ask him if he has taken account of the fact that the omnibus undertaking of the London Transport Executive is, in fact, a highly profitable undertaking, which is used to subsidise other undertakings? As a matter of fact, the money is there.
§ Mr. Leather
The answer to that is so utterly obvious that I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman is so naïve, and I do not think, from all the years he has known me, that he thinks I am so naïve either. He knows perfectly well what the answer is. If we take money away from the buses to do this, what will we do when the next claim comes along in a few months' time from the Underground drivers?
The right hon. Member for Blyth slid beautifully over the same point. He said "How can you tell the poor bus driver that his wage increase in inflationary?" Of course, we can. The moment that we grant his increase, the whole crew are all coming in for theirs. We know that perfectly well. All that they are asking is that we should pass the problem from the bus drivers to somebody else. I say quite frankly, as a member for a country district—and any other Member from a country district knows it too—that if we want to name a group of workers unfairly paid in relation to the rest of industry, then the group par excellence in this country is that of the farm workers. But who are the people who kept the farm-workers at the bottom of the scale? The trade union movement, and nobody else.
1477 [Interruption.] The answer is perfectly simple, and hon. Gentlemen opposite know it just as well as I do.
Every single year up to this year we have had the same performance. The farm workers have had people who served on tribunals, first under Mr. Charles Doughty, and later under Mr. Honeyman, on which we had union representatives and employers' representatives and an independent chairman. The independent chairman of that tribunal, as a matter of fact, for a number of years was the sole economic dictator of this country, because every year the union said "Yes" and the employers said "No," and the independent chairman in the middle decided what increase the farmworkers should have.
§ Mr. Leather
Subsidy does not come into this at all.
The moment that happened, immediately, the whole of the rest of the trade union movement said, "We have a traditional differential over the farm-worker. Whatever he gets, we get x per cent. more." That has happened every single year. Do hon. Gentlemen opposite really suggest that if the Government did step in and completely reversed their policy, if the Minister of Labour now said, "I think these bus drivers are such splendid fellows that they must be moved up in the scale of wages in comparison with everybody else," that the whole of the rest of the trade union movement would say, "Good old bus drivers; now they are up on a higher level"?
Everybody will immediately say, "Whatever they have got, we must keep our differential". For the right hon. Gentleman to pretend that the bus driver has got to have explained to him why this extra £1 a week, or whatever it is, is inflationary and why he cannot have his fair share is, with great respect, completely insincere, because the right hon. Gentleman knows the answer as well as we do. He knows that this cannot be taken in isolation, that the whole of the trade union movement is merely waiting for this one log to break and then everybody will follow suit.
I do not believe that this is in the interests of people in general or the wage earners in particular. We have this very 1478 real issue of the cost of living. Are hon. Members saying that the wage earner has inherited the undeniable right to recoup himself every twelve months for every rise in the cost of living?
§ Mr. Leather
That is not my question. If hon. Members opposite say that the wage earner has that right, I would point out that that is not the policy which they followed when they were in power, and I do not believe they would follow that policy if they were to come into power again. If the trade unionist has an inherent right every year to make up his wage in accordance with every increase in the cost of living, why have not the rest of the community? If it is social justice always to be able to fix one's income in relation to the cost of living, does that apply to the rest of the community or not? Presumably hon. Members opposite are prepared to say that it applies to old-age pensioners. They did not say that when they were in power. Nobody believes that they would do so if they were to get power again. But if this is to apply to trade unionists, why should it not apply to pensioners, teachers and doctors?
One hon. Gentleman who spoke earlier mentioned a series of percentages showing how the wages of people in certain groups had risen since 1939 and showing that the bus drivers had a lower percentage than people in many other industies. If he had considered the situation of lawyers, doctors, teachers or clergymen he would have found that the percentages were a great deal lower still. Does the party opposite say that it is social justice for the clergy to have an increase every year to keep pace with the cost of living, or does social justice apply only to their own friends? That is the principle which they are trying to establish. Every year that this has gone on it has been the fixed income groups, the professional people, shopkeepers, doctors, lawyers and the retired on small incomes who have been the victims of inflation. Surely there can be no denial of that.
I ask hon. Members opposite in all fairness to face this issue if they are serious. If they state that an increase in the cost of living every year must be made up to the trade unionists, they will 1479 have to explain to the rest of the community why the trade unionists are a privileged class. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Of course. That is a privilege that is enjoyed by no other section of the community. No other section of the community is in a position to demand that——
§ Mr. Leather
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman is a director of more companies than I am. If he would tell me what are these boards which increase their fees automatically every year I would be grateful to join them.
§ Mr. Leather
I really cannot give way again. Hon. Members agreed with me earlier that the trade union section of the community had no more inherent rights than any other section of the community. The argument that they are now putting forward and the other argument which they normally put forward in the country cannot go together. They agree in the one breath that the trade unionist has no more rights than anybody else and at the same time they demand that the trade unionist should be in a privileged position vis-à-vis the rest of the community from the point of view of the cost of living.
If hon. Members opposite are really sincere in what they are saying, they are initiating a principle of political interference in strikes which, I repeat, they did not follow before when they were in power, and which could do nothing but harm. They must face the unpleasant fact that they say either that the Government must always interfere to force the employers to give way, or that inflation is enthroned for all time and that they do not give a damn. That is the inevitable conclusion to which they are driven and that is why I believe these charges are not only unproven but utterly insincere.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
The speech to which we have just listened was quite extraordinary. I hope that when the hon. Member for Somerset, 1480 North (Mr. Leather) reads in HANSARD what he said he will realise why many of us were bewildered.
I do not know how many questions the hon. Gentleman asked, but he started by saying that he thought that it was undesirable in a matter of this kind to be partisan. Then he spent two-thirds of his speech saying nasty things about the Labour Party. I do not blame him for that, but it was a speech with no sequence. He spent ten minutes congratulating the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Bonham Carter)——
§ Mr. Mellish
I certainly would join the hon. Member in those congratulations. I agree that when the hon. Member for Torrington entered the House hon. Members were silent and he got a quiet reception. The fact is that in the by-election at which the hon. Gentleman was returned there was a great deal of fuss and publicity. He had far more publicity than most of us get. He cannot expect to get it both inside and outside the House. He made a very good speech, however, and I should like to say how much I enjoyed it.
The hon. Member for Somerset, North asked a question which is fundamental—about the only one, so far as I could judge, which was worth answering. It related to the Cost-of-Living Index. He asked whether it was the view of the Labour Party—and of the trade union movement, I gathered—that when the cost of living rose the workers affected should get an increase in their wages. My answer, speaking purely for myself, is that I do not see any purpose in having a Cost-of-Living Index if we do not relate wages to it. Otherwise, what is the point of having the index? Much of the argument which has been adduced here is related to that very point, and I could not follow the hon. Gentleman in much of what he said.
I should like to make a personal statement about my intervention in this debate on the dispute. This is not the first time that we have debated in this House a trade dispute. I do not think the hon. Member for Somerset, North was here in 1945. Otherwise, he would be aware that we debated a dock strike, which debate was initiated by the Conservative Party, which was then in opposition.
1481 I took part in that debate, and at that time I declared that, in my opinion, the men on strike were wrong. I not only said it here, but I went to my constituency and I told the men concerned. I can assure the House that if I thought the busmen were wrong, or if I thought that my own trade union was wrong, I would say so tonight.
§ Mr. Mellish
The dock workers are my constituents and they have got votes. If I thought they were right, I would not come to the House and say that they were wrong. I would not ask whether the strike was official or unofficial. I am making the obvious point that on this issue I believe sincerely that these men are right, and I propose to show why. There is no question whether this is an official or unofficial strike.
First, I should like to say a word about the rôle of the trade union movement, and in this, I think, I shall carry the whole House with me. For more than fifty years, the trade unions have grown in strength and stature. As we all know, they are now, and have been for many years, a part of the Labour Party. I do not think that anyone—I see that the Minister of Labour is back—would deny that the unions are an important part of our way of life. I have had the privilege of going abroad and seeing the trade union movement in other countries. I have gone behind the Iron Curtain and seen it there. Every time I come back home I feel very proud of the British people, our British values and standards, and our own trade union movement.
Therefore, when the clash does come, we should ask the simple question. Are the faults entirely on the side of trade union members? It is said by a large proportion of our national Press that they are, and the same is said by hon. Members opposite. This bus dispute is an official dispute. The union has called the men out on strike. It is, therefore, to a large extent, being blamed for the action which has been taken. This debate is necessary so that at least some of the facts associated with the dispute may be put on record.
Now a word about my own organisation. I at once declare a personal interest. I am a member of the Transport and 1482 General Workers' Union, and have been since I was 14 years of age. I was an official of the union in 1939. Many statements are made about that union, that it is undemocratic, that it is too large, that the members are not able to express their point of view. I can say, from personal experience, that, from the time when Ernest Bevin formed it in the early 'twenties, no organisation in the country has had a more democratic structure than my union. Busmen, for example, have their own branches in their own garages; they have their own area committees, their own national committees, and they are represented on the national executive council which takes the final decisions. No man in the union, if he cares to take an interest, is denied the right of investigation into his particular troubles.
Now I want to refer to what I regard as the important function of the Ministry of Labour. Ernest Bevin revolutionised the Ministry when he became Minister. Until that time, it was known just as a place where a man signed on when unemployed and drew unemployment benefit. By and large, that is all it ever did. I do not deny that there was some great work in the years before 1939–40, but, by and large, that was true. In Ernest Bevin's time, the Ministry of Labour took on a new status; it became not just a Department functioning only in finding men employment. It became a welfare organisation. It became a conciliation body.
Right down to the counter clerk in the local Ministry of Labour exchanges, there was a new spirit. I know that the present Minister will not deny that. In fairness, I will add that, after Ernest Bevin's time, my right hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs), who succeeded him, carried on and maintained that great tradition. In fairness also to the Conservative Government, when they got into power, they, too, maintained it.
Somehow, the Ministry of Labour was really above the party political battle. Trade unionists and officials themselves, as I have heard them say many times, could go to the Ministry feeling that they were not talking to a Conservative or to a Labour man, but that they were talking to somebody impartial who was there to help. To the right hon. Gentleman himself I would pay the tribute that, until October, at any rate, there was no doubt that it was that function and that part 1483 he was fulfilling in his time. His reputation in the House was well known. Indeed, it is a reflection of his approach and the way in which he did his business that the number of Questions set down for the Ministry of Labour became smaller and smaller. That was until October. Thus, the Ministry of Labour's position had been maintained all the way through. Why is it today that we are involved in this wrangle, this argument, this fight, in which the Ministry is so heavily involved?
The bus dispute really starts from October last. The Transport and General Workers' Union had put in a claim to the employers for 25s. a week. London Transport Executive said it could not afford it. It said, "We cannot give it now. We are, by Act of Parliament, compelled to operate on a profit basis. We have to seek permission for any increase in fares. We are informed by the Government that this will not be permitted, and we cannot find the money. We must turn you down."
For the union, it must be said—hard things are often said about Mr. Cousins—that no union could have tried more to avert trouble than did the Transport and General Workers' Union. After the negotiations in October, the union went to the Minister of Labour, this man who was being impartial, who was being a friend, a conciliator, a man who wanted to help. It asked for help, and did not get it. It put up to him an agreement resulting from the Sir Wilfred Neden Committee about which we have heard, an agreement for an inquiry into the central buses. It was vetoed by the Minister himself; he did not believe that an inquiry of this kind would help. The inquiry must be, he said, of a much wider character and take in the whole country.
In the first place, the dispute concerned the central buses. If the inquiry were to be wider and review the entire country, there would be many complications and difficulties. If the Minister did not see the problems then, I hope that he sees them now. He would have brought within the ambit of the inquiry a great many municipal undertakings, for instance, where the rates of pay are far higher than can be hoped for at the moment in London Transport, with superannuation payments, and so on, the outcome of years and years of hard 1484 collective bargaining. No union wanted anyone to interfere with that sort of relationship.
I say to the Minister now that, in rejecting the investigating committee on the ground that he wanted it enlarged, he was asking for trouble. Quite properly, the unions did not agree. The dispute was about the central buses, and the union wanted an investigation into that. The truth is that the Minister vetoed this suggestion and, in so doing threw the unions right back to where they were in October. The vetoing of the inquiry meant that the claim for 25s. stood, and the union had to go back to negotiate again.
The criticism is offered—here again, the hon. Member for Somerset, North was so wrong—that it is quite improper in this dispute to expect the Government to do a number of things. My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Lewis) intervened during the hon. Gentleman's speech, and hon. Members opposite jeered him for his intervention. I wish to put certain simple, straightforward ways in which, in my view, the Government could have intervened and done something. First, we must recognise some of the financial obligations of the London Transport Executive. We are talking here about a nationalised undertaking, not about private employers. We are talking of an undertaking that is governed by an Act of Parliament, an undertaking for which the Front Bench opposite have been responsible during the last six years. It is no good sneering about nationalisation, or arguing whether it is good, bad or indifferent. For six years, the present Government have been running the outfit. The Labour Party has not been doing it and the Liberal Party has not been doing it. It sometimes seems to be forgotten that it is the Tory Government who have been running this nationalised industry; the implication always seems to be that any bad thing which comes out of nationalisation today is something for which we on this side should be blamed.
What has this nationalised undertaking to do by Act of Parliament? Some of the figures have been given, but let us recall them again. First, it must give to the parent body, the British Transport Commission, over £5 million. That is for administration expenses, capital redemption and interest. That is decided 1485 by this House. It has also, this year alone, to find another £500,000. This, too, is decided by the House. These are the financial obligations which we put upon the Executive. There is also the £800,000 licence duty and a fuel duty of about £4½ million which it has to find every year.
If there were any desire on the part of the Government to avert the dispute, quite apart from the Minister of Labour's veto on the inquiry in January, it lay in the hands of the Minister of Transport to help the Executive in the commitments imposed upon it by the House, particularly in capital redemption and interest charges. Certainly, the Government could have helped London Transport in the Budget. They gave away £18 million in Profits Tax changes. True, they gave something in Purchase Tax changes. But why was there not a reduction in fuel tax? Surely, this would have been one of the easiest ways not only of solving this particular problem, but many others too.
The Government were informed of trouble in the transport industry. Mr. Cousins had already, at that stage, gone to arbitration. The Government knew when they framed their Budget that there was a crisis coming in the transport industry. None knew it better than the Minister of Labour. Not a single effort was made by the Government to avert it. When we say, "We think you should have done this or that," immediately the cry comes back, "The wicked Labour Party is trying to exploit the position", whereas the Tories say, as though they have a Union Jack draped around them, "We are working in the national interest". One would not think that this crowd had been in power for six years and that the whole of our economic problems today are at their doorstep. Anybody would think that they had just been returned to power and had accepted all this as a legacy of the past. For six years they have been governing the country.
The right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) said, with tears in his eyes, "We are now in the grip of inflation, but we shall get out of it together". Who put us in the grip? [HON. MEMBERS: "The hon. Member's party."] Even the hon. Member for Somerset, North thinks that remark funny. For six years we have been out of power. If the 1486 Government cannot remedy something in six years, it is about time they got out.
What did the right hon. Member for Monmouth say? He said, "A wage increase can only be granted to the workers when there is a compatible increase in productivity." How can the busmen make a contribution? Let us be fair. No one denies that the busmen have done a fine job of work. The hours that they work, and the conditions under which they drive, are admitted by all. Of course, a charge has been made about the co-operation of the trade union movement. But the T.U.C. had already met the Government. It has been to the Government and suggested how it thinks the Government can improve production and how it is prepared to co-operate with them. Has a single proposal of the T.U.C. been adopted by the Government? Not one. We are told that we on this side are not co-operating. I think that the T.U.C. has given detailed plans of how it is prepared to co-operate and has made suggestions about certain action that should be taken by the Government, but the Government have not accepted one of them.
May I say a word about the Minister's case with regard to the implementation of Industrial Court awards? This is what the Minister hangs his hat on. He says, "Why I did not intervene in this dispute was because no one interferes with Industrial Court awards. They are absolutely sacrosanct. We must not interfere with them at all. That is why I did not interfere". It is not true that Industrial Court awards are necessarily accepted by either side. It is clearly understood within the trade union movement, and in industry generally, that if they do go to arbitration they can, and often do, reserve their right to decide whether or not to accept the award. That is a known practice, as the Minister knows.
The trade unions went to arbitration to prove to the country how anxious they were to avoid any suggestion that they were refusing to adopt existing machinery. This is where my argument about October comes in. The charge, as far as the Minister is concerned, is this. We on this side are convinced that arbitration machinery is now tainted because of statements made by the Government since October last. We sincerely believe that there is no genuine impartiality here because the Government have said, in 1487 respect of their own employees, people for whom they have responsibility for wages salaries and conditions, "We are determined not to give increases here". By implication, they must come all the way down the line.
Arbitration boards have been asked to consider what the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Government have said about these matters. Arbitration machinery is tainted, and every responsible trade union official says so. But does that make trade unionists unpatriotic? Does that make them evil men? It is the Government who have not co-operated with the T.U.C. The Government have expressed views which have made the machinery of collective bargaining tainted. This has happened in the reign of the Minister of Labour.
§ Mr. Macleod
How does the hon. Gentleman reconcile what he is saying about the London bus dispute with the fact that this was a unanimous award from which the assessor appointed from the T.U.C. panel did not dissent in any way?
§ Mr. Mellish
I put this to the right hon. Gentleman; it is a fair point. I have as much right as anyone to express this view. After the Industrial Court heard the case—and I read the evidence put by Mr. Nicholas, and he put it very brilliantly—whatever it thought of the justice of the argument it was governed by the knowledge that the Government's policy was against wage increases, particularly in the nationalised industries. The tribunal was unanimous in the sense that it gave some award, but the whole point of my earlier argument was that what the Minister has done since October has tainted arbitration machinery.
May I say a word about the award? One million pounds was awarded, and in spite of the union's plea not to interfere with the differentials the award left out about 13,400 men. As has been said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens), there is this anomaly. If the award had been implemented in the form awarded by the Industrial Court, Green Line coach drivers would not have received an increase at all. So the man driving a double decker Green Line bus from north to south, across London, would not have received a penny. There was a 1488 discussion with Sir John Elliot about the implementation of this award and that is why my right hon. Friend was so right when he said that the award could not be applied in the terms put forward by the Industrial Court.
It is to the everlasting credit of Mr. Cousins and his colleagues that they went to the L.T.E. and said, "£1 million is involved. We know the financial problems and we will help you by sharing the award". This offer was turned down. I do not know—we have not heard from the Minister on this point, and I doubt whether we shall hear from the Prime Minister in a matter of this kind—whether Sir John Elliot asked the Minister of Labour or the Minister of Transport for instructions, or whether it was a decision made entirely by Sir John Elliot to refuse to allow the sharing of the award. No self-respecting trade union officer could have gone back to his men and said, "Thirteen thousand four hundred of you get nothing at all, including the drivers of the Green Line coaches, but the others do". Would any Tory Member say that? Would the hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) get up and say it to members of a union? I wish that he had spoken first and I had followed him. I had some things that I wanted to say to him about his trade union membership.
§ Mr. Ray Mawby (Totnes)
I am hoping, of course, to catch Mr. Speaker's eye, and, therefore, I may follow the hon. Gentleman instead of the procedure being reversed.
§ Mr. Mellish
In fact, the position of the unions was that they had an award which they could not possibly go to their people on, and they offered to share it, and their offer was rejected. The unions were determined in their efforts to avoid a strike. That must go out from this House tonight, at least from this side.
Londoners are walking to work today and are walking back home and are undergoing hardship which the unions badly wanted to avoid. In October they started negotiations for a new increase in wages. In January, they appealed to the Minister and he applied a veto on the decision that had been made at that time. In February, they agreed to submit their claim to the Industrial Court. In April, when the Industrial 1489 Court had given the award, they offered to share it. This was rejected, and up to the last moment the Minister was expected to intervene to try to bring both sides together.
The Minister refused to do that. He let it go on, so the strike took place last Monday. I say that the Government must accept responsibility for a large measure of this strike—on economic grounds, and because their policies brought this situation about and the Minister of Labour himself did not attempt to intervene. To blame the unions for this strike by saying that it is entirely their fault, is improper and unfair. I sincerely hope that the public will put the responsibility where it clearly lies.
I cannot imagine the busmen's strike staying as just a busmen's strike. I live in an area where all sorts of industrial workers live and loyalties and passions are enormous. If anybody thinks that they will leave the busmen to fight the battle alone, he is quite wrong. The answer is that, of course, it will spread if it goes on. Will the Minister intervene? If so, when and how? He says that he is to be the judge. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman is a great card player. If so, I can only say that his judgment so far has been "lousy".
On the day after the strike began, there was a headline in the Press, "Londoners have won." By implication, they had defeated the busmen. Who are these busmen? They are Londoners, the very best of Londoners, too. Everybody knows their record. Not one of them wants to see his fellow Londoners walking to work. There is not one of them who does not want to get back to work. This is a dispute in which they have been involved through negligence, incompetence, bad economic policy and bad decisions by the Government. This debate was inevitable and must do good.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Mr. John Harvey (Walthamstow, East)
The hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) is one to whom we all listen with interest at all times, because we have come to associate quite an amount of common sense with much of what he has to say. He did not entirely let us down in that respect today, but I certainly am not prepared to follow him anything like all the way in his arguments.
1490 When the hon. Member seeks to suggest that it was quite wrong to try to blame the trade union movement for all the difficulties that Londoners are today suffering, and others may suffer tomorrow unless this dispute is brought under control, I say to the hon. Member that it is equally wrong to seek to place the whole of the blame, as too many hon. Members opposite are doing, at the doors of the Government. I shall deal at some length with many of the points that the hon. Member made.
I share the view of those who have said that it is most unfortunate that this subject should have been brought to debate today in the House of Commons in the middle of all the difficulties. No matter how much many of us, everywhere, may feel that we must try to exert moderation in what we say, it is not always easy to be completely impartial in face of some of the charges and counter-charges that are bound to be bandied about in these circumstances.
The hon. Member referred to some of the things that have been said widely in the Press. Perhaps he will permit me to quote from the News Chronicle, which he would not claim to be a paper which invariably supports the Government.
§ Mr. Harvey
From that, I take it that the hon. Member does not always agree with the News Chronicle. It said:This debate has splashed a political daub on the strike which cannot help the busmen, the Labour Party or the country. The censure Motion decided on in the heat of the moment looks uncommonly like a political tantrum.
§ Mr. Harvey
It does not make it wrong because the hon. Gentleman says so. That is why I say that up to a point this is an unfortunate debate at least in the sense of timing.
Before I came into this House I had at times listened to and heard some of the statements of the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens), who I am sorry to see is not at present in his place. I wondered what sort of man he was. Since I came here, I have come to realise that he is not such a bad chap, but he seems at times to have a wonderful gift for combining what looks like moderation 1491 with what I regard as real immoderation and provocation.
The right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon that he had warned the Minister of the industrial difficulties that we would be facing in our policies. I remember, however, that in the 1951 Election campaign the right hon. Gentleman was making speeches up and down the country warning the electorate that a Tory Government and the trade union movement could never get on together and that there would be industrial unrest if we had a Tory Government.
I remember that when the Tory Government were re-elected the right hon. Gentleman prophesied for some months, as far as one could tell almost with a certain amount of glee, that there would be one million unemployed before that first year of Tory Government was out.
The Rev. Llywelyn Williams (Abertillery)
On a point of order. Is it in order for an hon. Member to suggest that a former Minister of Labour would have claimed with glee that there would be unemployment?
§ Mr. Harvey
I was suggesting that the glee was not, perhaps, so much at the prospect of the unemployment, but because it would happen under a Tory Government and bring that Government down. It did not happen; it certainly has not happened since, and it will not happen. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the bus strike?"] Certainly I will come to it, but hon. Members opposite cannot dish out medicine all the afternoon without having just a little bit back now and again.
The right hon. Member for Blyth was Minister of Labour when, under a very different set of rules which made official strikes much more difficult than they are today, it was nevertheless necessary twice to proclaim a state of emergency. It will not do for hon. Members opposite to try to pose as the champions of the trade union movement or anybody else, or for the Leader of the Opposition to appear on television, as he did the other night, with Mr. Cousins and seek to suggest that if we had a Labour Government 1492 back everything would be very nice and friendly between the Government and the trade union movement.
It has been suggested in the course of today's debate that the Government are deliberately challenging the trade union movement. Hon. Members who say that must accept that hon. Members on this side are every bit as entitled to assume that the trade union movement is deliberately seeking to challenge the Government in some sort of alliance with the party opposite.
I have in my hand some proof of that. A few days ago I was sent a letter from the Harris Lebus Shop Stewards' Committee drawing my attention to the results of a questionnaire which that committee had put out among a large number of workers in the furniture industry. One thousand three hundred and thirty-seven questionnaires were returned completed, representing just over two-thirds of those which had been circulated.
At the end of this questionnaire come two questions which hold the key to what is going on today in the trade union movement and which, perhaps, hold the key to the statement made yesterday by the Trade Union Council in support of the strike. A lot of Aunt Sallies having been put up ahead of them, the last two questions ask:Do you agree that to bring this about"—that is, some new Utopia—a change of Government is necessary?The last question asks:Do you agree that we should, as organised workers, campaign for an early General Election and for the return of a Labour Government pledged to carry out a progressive policy?[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members say, "Hear, hear." Now let them listen to some of the other questions that were asked.
The questions dealt first with the effect of hire purchase restrictions, as follows:Do you agree that … Government cuts in house-building, schools and hospitals retard consumer demand for furniture and furnishings?What a misrepresentation of the facts. When we consider the number of new school places provided under this Government over the last few years, when we consider the immense output in housing under this Government over the last few years, when we consider the 1493 overall—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot take it. They are good at lashing out, but they do not like it the other way round.
The document then talks about the Rent Act without asking how many times the rent of people in council houses has been put up over the years. Incidentally, it is interesting to note that of the number of people circularised here on the Rent Act more than half stated that their rent had not been increased under the Act. That is a point which hon. Gentlemen opposite who are trying to play up the effect of the Act might like to bear in mind.
What we have here is a completely bogus prospectus put out by a union, which leads up to these questions suggesting that there ought to be a change of Government and that organised workers should campaign for such a change. In those circumstances, I am entitled to say that if anyone on this side of the House thinks there is at the moment a plot against the Government in the unions, we are entitled to hold that view.
§ Sir F. Messer
As one of those who has received a similar communication, and indeed in whose constituency the factory happens to be, can he tell us that this document has come from a trade union?
§ Mr. Harvey
Obviously the National Union of Furniture Trade Operatives is closely associated with this committee. The hon. Gentleman knows the factory and, therefore, knows the facts as well as I do. There are presumably a number of trade unions involved. I make no complaint in that sense, but it cannot be held from the opposite side of the House that the Government are conspiring against the trade unions in some way. This kind of thing is not good enough. There is at the moment some attempt in the country to bring about 1494 a defeat of the Government through unconstitutional means.
Having said that, I want to come back to the question of the present difficulties. The Manchester Guardian, not always friendly to Her Majesty's Government, said the other day:It is true that the Government could have settled this strike by directing the London Transport Executive to pay whatever the union asked, but that would not be settling a dispute—it would be buying industrial peace for an impossible price.And so it would. The fact is that when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Blyth referred to one of the duties of the trade unions as seeing that their members are not slipping back in the race, he hit on one of the great difficulties we face if today we try to tackle this problem seriously. There are thousands of people who do not have the advantage of being represented by any trade union who feel they have been constantly slipping back in a race with no one to champion their cause. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not even the Tory Government?"]
To those people we all, on both sides of the House, owe some duty. I suggest to hon. Gentlemen opposite that we must try to face this matter not as politicians advocating party political ends. I have said some harsh things, some harsh things have been said on the benches opposite. When all that is said and done, the general public outside this place sometimes tends to wonder what the heck all of us inside really are up to. The results of by-elections in recent months, more than anything else, show a disillusion outside the House over our constant party political wrangles inside it.
Those recent by-election results show a dislike on the part of the general public for the fact that almost every argument, irrespective of its merits, becomes a party political argument in this place. As a result, no matter how much hon. Gentlemen opposite may like to laugh at some of the recent by-election results, they can certainly take no heart from them, any more than those of us on this side of the House. That is one of the lessons we all need to learn in the interests of this country.
I suggest that the greatest service the Government can render is to try to get inflation under control. The hon. Member for Bermondsey said that if we could not do that in six years we were not much 1495 good. Let us try not to make a political point out of this. Neither party, in some thirteen years since the end of the war, has succeeded in doing very much about it. All the efforts have constantly been defeated by the fact that, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) said, almost annually—indeed, even more than annually—new wages claims adding millions and millions of pounds to the bill come up, so that every time a union thinks it has been made an advance on behalf of its members automatically the cost of living shoots up and the gain is lost.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
The hon. Gentleman is now saying that the Government's real object is to try to restrain inflation. It is also said, and the hon. Gentleman is supporting the point, that the Government's idea is that inflation cannot be restrained unless increases of wages are prevented. Why, then, does he argue so strongly and resent so passionately the suggestion on this side of the House that the Government's influence in this strike and in the talks that are now going on has been to prevent increases in wages? That is all we have said.
§ Mr. Harvey
That is a fair point with which I proposed to deal in any case. To come back to my theme, the greatest service the Government can render to everybody in this country is effectively to stop the cost of living going up. We have a situation at the moment in which that is probably more possible than it has been at any time since the war, for the simple reason that the general inflation going on virtually throughout the world since the war has eased considerably and has even in many cases tailed off. If in that situation we still vigorously pursue the kind of wages policies that have been pursued over these last few years, we shall certainly defeat all possibility of getting inflation under control.
In answer to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), the Government have at no time said that there must be no further wage increases. The Government have said that the only way inflation will come under control is by relating wage increases either to increased productivity or increased efficiency, or by some relationship between both. Obviously a bus driver cannot increase his productivity, but there can be 1496 increased efficiency within the service. Unless we aim at increased efficiency and increased productivity, we shall in the end have a completely shattered economy, and none of us can hope to benefit from the wage increases or other increases we may claim.
That is what has been happening year after year. That is what has been distressing the general electorate year after year ever since the war, namely, that every new apparent gain becomes a loss almost as soon as it is made. That is why it is necessary for some restraint to be shown at a time when we may well be in sight of the objective which both parties have been seeking ever since the war.
That is why, in the middle of all these difficulties, I urge that, despite the hard knocks we like to give one another as politicians every now and then, we should try to be a little moderate about these things. We should try to be a little more tolerant with one another. We should try to recognise that no matter how wicked a lot of people on the opposite side of the House may think that most of us on this side are, and no matter how wicked many of us on this side may think a lot of people opposite are, we cannot indefinitely continue in that way without both sides of the House suffering heavily in the process at the hands of a completely fed-up and disillusioned electorate.
The best way of serving the electorate is effectively to close the ranks in this battle against inflation by urging moderation all round and by asking the trade unions to show a little more patience at this moment when, more than ever since the war, victory in this important objective is in sight. Anything which is done for party political or other reasons which causes us again to lose the opportunity of securing victory at a moment such as this would be disastrous to the country as a whole, and, whatever our political views, we should all suffer equally in that disaster.
§ 7.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernest Popplewell (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West)
We have just listened to a very interesting Tory political speech which meant absolutely nothing. All it did was to follow the usual line, "When in difficulty, accept Tory policy; do not criticise it and all will be well; if you attempt to criticise it, you are 1497 making party capital out of the situation and doing a disservice to the nation." How often have we heard that type of blarney through the years.
The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour presented us with a very interesting scene when he spoke this afternoon. For a long time, there have been three leading members of the Conservative Party who have been regarded as somewhat advanced thinkers, progressive Tory thinkers. The Prime Minister has been one, the Leader of the House another, and the right hon. Gentleman himself the third. They created the impression that they were the leaders of progressive Conservative thought. After the events which have overtaken the nation, many people have considerably revised their opinions on that subject.
The right hon. Gentleman's speeches and actions since last October give rise to the question, "What has happened during recent months to convert these right hon. Gentlemen from progressive Tories to backwoodsmen, to make them adopt an eighteenth-century approach to industrial problems?" The Minister today appeared to be a man struggling with his previous advanced thinking and trying to adjust himself to the policy which he had to put forward on behalf of the Government. Mixed with all that was the suggestion that he felt that since becoming Minister of Labour he had a complete and divine right to decide what was the right time to intervene in industrial troubles and what was the right thing to do.
The right hon. Gentleman seemed to feel that it was sacrilege that my right hon. Friend the Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) should put forward a case now that the country was in trouble. The right hon. Gentleman taunted my right hon. Friend with attempting to put the trade union case. What utter nonsense that was. There is no question of a trade union case being put from these benches. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] We have not argued the details. We have left that to our colleagues in industry. We have presented arguments to show that the failure of the Government has led the nation into considerable trouble. It is our right as the Opposition to do that. Indeed, we should be grossly failing in our duty as the Opposition if we did not do that. Nevertheless, the right hon.
1498 Gentleman presented an interesting scene when he took umbrage because we on these benches had been performing our correct Parliamentary functions.
The right hon. Gentleman said that no one, except the Leader of the Opposition, wanted the debate. That shows how utterly divorced he is from present-day realities. It shows how he has returned to last-century Toryism when discussions of industrial problems in the House were extremely rare. In those days, it was thought that industrial problems were something to be settled by industry, and Parliament never gave a lead in those matters. The right hon. Gentleman's observations today indicate how he has slipped back into that line of thought.
The right hon. Gentleman said that discussion today would make settlement more difficult. Why should it? Discussion would give the Minister—if he were a true Parliamentarian, as I thought he was; an opinion which I am now questioning in view of his approach—an expression of view from a far wider range than he has previously had. The Opposition represent about half the electorate. Discussion of the problem has given an opportunity for varying views to be put and for attention to be called to the dangers of the Government's refusal to attempt to step in and prevent trouble and their preference for sitting back and waiting until trouble develops before taking action.
We cannot possibly accept that state of affairs. The Minister of Labour controls a great organisation which was built up, chiefly under the guidance and direction of the late Ernest Bevin, as a conciliatory body. A great organisation has been built which has been of tremendous service to the nation in the prevention of industrial trouble and industrial disputes. This organisation has endeavoured to oil the machinery, to adjust the industrial negotiating machine when it creaked and groaned and was liable to stop and so interfere with the life of the nation.
That has been one of its main objectives and it has been surprising that the Minister of Labour, knowing that a dispute was coming to a head, should have taken the attitude that he has adopted simply on the ground that the matter had been sent to arbitration and that the arbitrators had made an award with which he thought it wrong to interfere.
1499 What is the right hon. Gentleman preaching? He is preaching the principle of compulsory arbitration which he knows that the trade union movement and the employers will not accept. The vast majority of awards of industrial courts, tribunals and arbitrations, are not compulsory. Submissions are made to these organisations from both sides of industry, with the clear and distinct understanding that the findings are not necessarily binding. In a few instances, such as in the case of the miners, the findings are final and binding, although I am told that the miners are giving notice to end that situation. The Minister must realise that he is on the wrong foot in saying that this voluntary arbitration machinery shall make final and binding awards.
The Minister of Labour and the Prime Minister may wriggle, and try to convince us that their observations to people engaged in arbitration were not of such a character as to constitute directives or instructions, but the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) made no bones about it. He reiterated what he said when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer. He said that there was something far worse than an industrial dispute. The inference was that people engaged in arbitration must see to it that the principles he outlined as Chancellor must predominate in the assessment of claims, quite apart from their merits.
It is quite evident, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that we are moving into a very difficult period. He said that the £ is under considerable pressure and must be safeguarded. I do not think that those were very wise words for him to have uttered today. We have some vivid memories of this type of talk. We remember the time when our gold and dollar reserves were extremely high but unemployment had nearly reached the 3 million mark, and 1½ million people were in receipt of relief.
With this free-for-all policy of the Conservative Party it is difficult to link the building up of our gold and dollar reserves with a steady and continuing level of employment. If they want to build up and safeguard the £ in the way that the right hon. Member for Monmouth suggests, the Government can do it only with a reservoir of unemployment to assist them.
§ Mr. Popplewell
That is the trouble with the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd) and others. They do not realise the significance of the policy that they are supporting. They do not realise that a free-for-all, with the devil taking the hindmost, will have disastrous consequences. This is a lesson that we have been trying to teach them. The Government have been sheltering behind the Cohen Report—the Report of the "Three Wise Men." They are afraid to say, "This is Tory policy." These "Three Wise Men" are aged 72, 69 and 74, and they have little or no experience of industry. The Government dare not make this policy statement themselves; they have to hide behind the "Three Wise Men." The Labour Party's policy of a planned economy never came within their purview.
Let us have a further look at this new policy of compulsory arbitration which is now being followed by the Minister of Labour. Whether or not he realises it, that is what he is advocating. He is throwing completely overboard machinery which, with great travail over many years, has been built up with a view to settling industrial disputes, and which has reached the stage of voluntary arbitration. He is now saying that that arbitration must be compulsory.
This new-found dignity of his, of not interfering with these awards, just does not ring true. It is completely bogus, and deceives no one. Many of us believe that it is a policy deliberately aimed at creating industrial trouble.
§ Sir Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
That is a wicked thing to say. I am sure that the hon. Member does not really think that any British Government would deliberately wish to create industrial strife. He cannot mean that.
§ Mr. Popplewell
I know the hon. Member very well, and I certainly acquit him of that sort of wish; but he supports a policy which, in our opinion, is deliberately bringing this about. That is what I feel, and it is a feeling which is in the minds of half the country. The evidence will be found in the results of the elections which are taking place today. It has been seen in the past week, with the local government elections, and 1501 it is also plain from the by-elections, which are being fought on the fear of unemployment, and the rising cost of living.
Events have shown that in foreign affairs this country is playing a secondary rôle. Our influence in the world is very low. In colonial affairs it is difficult to find a bright spot anywhere; there is trouble wherever we turn. On the home front we find the Rent Act; the falling value of the £; a constantly soaring cost of living, and a gross neglect of old-age pensioners. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] The old-age pensioners think so. They know that the increases which have been given to them are not commensurate with the increases which have taken place in the cost of living. Hon. Members opposite may deny it, but that is the fact. In addition, there is a constant attack upon the social services, and particularly the Health Service.
In those circumstances it is not surprising that we see an application not only from the bus workers but from well over 5 million trade unionists for increased wages because the cost of living continues to rise as a result of the ineptitude of the Government.
With all this loss of popularity the Government know that they dare not go to the country now, unless they wish to face complete defeat. Many trade unionists and others look at the present actions of the Government as an effort to cloud the issue and to avoid this wave of unpopularity. They regard it as an effort on the part of the Government to say to the country, "Who shall rule, the trade unions or the Government?" That may provide a rallying cry for the Government and influence the people of the country to support them and return them for a further period of office. We remember the bell-ringing speech of the chairman of the Tory Party. We remember many speeches made by hon. Gentlemen opposite in which they attacked the trade union movement. We feel that there is a possibility that the Government are leading up to industrial trouble so that ultimately they may use the rallying cry which I have quoted to help them to get back to power.
Recently in a broadcast Mr. Frank Cousins, the leader of the Transport and General Workers' Union, and Alan Birch 1502 of U.S.D.A.W., chairman of the T.U.C. Special Committee, and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, told how the trade union movement and our party worked closely in association. Frank Cousins and Alan Birch distinctly said that the trade unions were prepared to work with any Government, if that Government would work with them. They also said that when discussions had taken place between the Trade Union Congress and the Tory Government, there had been no response at all from the Government. Any advice given by the T.U.C. with a view to keeping steady the cost of living and preventing the vicious spiral of inflation had been treated with contempt. It is understandable, therefore, if there be an association between the unions and people whose circumstances compel them to think alike.
I plead with the Government to do something quickly to end this dispute, if they are sincere and do not want trouble. If the London Transport Executive will spend £1 million to try to get a settlement, what does it matter to the Government how that money is spread? If the men agree to spread it over more of their number, why should not they be allowed to do so? Who is stopping them? The people who are stopping them sit on the Government Front Bench. The people entirely responsible for the trouble sit on that Front Bench. Many of us feel that this is the thin end of the wedge. It may be that a settlement will be arrived at with the railways; I hope so, but I do not know; and I say to the Minister of Labour and National Service that when he meets the railwaymen's trade unions tomorrow, he must not talk in the same way as his right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation has spoken in the past. He must go to the meeting with an offer which will have an immediate result. I hope for the sake of the nation that the right hon. Gentleman will do that.
This stoppage of the London buses will have no serious effect on the national life. But we feel that it might be a "try-out", a plan of campaign, which will develop in the way I have indicated and create a tremendous amount of industrial unrest with dire consequences for the nation. I beg the Government to examine this matter again. If they are sincere in what they are saying, they 1503 must change their views soon and see whether it is possible to get some sanity back into their counsel.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Mr. A. E. Cooper (Ilford, South)
We have listened to a lot of speeches from right hon. and hon. Members opposite, most of which, I suspect, were written yesterday, before they heard the speech of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour today. [HON. MEMBERS: "When did you write yours?"] I wrote my speech about an hour ago. Indeed, I had not intended to intervene in this debate but for the fact that yesterday I received a deputation from the bus workers at Seven King's Garage and, later in the evening, another deputation from the bus workers at the West Ham Garage. I wish to put the point of view of the men to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, who seem to have a very biased view of what all this trouble is about.
The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Popplewell) spoke of the strength of our gold and dollar reserves at the time when they were matched by 3 million unemployed. He forgot to say that at that time his own party formed the Government of the day, and that the highest level of unemployment ever reached in this country was in the 1929–1931 period of a Labour Government.
§ Mr. Popplewell
That is not true. I wonder how much longer the hon. Gentleman will continue this canard. The hon. Gentleman will know that there never was a full Labour Government in power until 1945.
§ Mr. Cooper
The hon. Gentleman opposite is quite correct, but his party formed the Government for nearly two years. During that period they had a sufficient majority, with the support of the Liberal Party, to repeal the McKenna duties and the Safeguarding of Industries Act, both of which actions on their part created unemployment.
§ Mr. H. Hynd (Accrington) rose——
§ Mr. Cooper
No, I cannot give way.
It is becoming a little hard for the House of Commons and the country to 1504 have to listen to interminable lectures from right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite on how the country should be governed. It really is an impertinence, when we consider their record from 1945 to 1951. Then, a Labour Government, with a huge majority, carried out their policies virtually unhindered. They brought the nation's industry to a standstill for three weeks. They devalued the £, which put up the cost of living by 30 per cent. They neglected the interests of the old-age pensioners. They had the most appalling housing record that any Government have ever had.
The Socialist Party's record in education is the most disgraceful for a hundred years. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It had in its hands the full paraphernalia of Socialist control and it failed, and when it got to 1951 it left this country in a devil of a mess, and we had to carry on. I would remind right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite that that was the second occasion in thirty years that the Conservative Party has been sent for by the country to clear up the mess created by the party opposite.
I have one question to put to the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) in connection with his speech. He talked about the award, which was not accepted by the Transport and General Workers' Union but was accepted by the London Transport Executive. What would have been the attitude of the Labour Party if the union had accepted this award and the London Transport Executive had refused to do so? [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] I will give way to the right hon. Gentleman if he wishes to answer.
§ Mr. Robens
In the first place, one does not answer hypothetical questions. Secondly, if we had been in power the situation would never have arisen.
§ Mr. Cooper
The first part of the right hon. Gentleman's answer was a complete evasion, and the second part was a piece of pure sophistry. We are debating, on an irresponsible Opposition Motion, an irresponsible and unwanted strike, both of which display the inadequacy of leadership in the Labour Party and in the Transport and General Workers' Union. It is difficult to assess which is the more culpable. It is certain that Lord Attlee, Ernest Bevin and Arthur Deakin would not have brought the Labour Party and 1505 the Transport and General Workers' Union to their present position.
The Leader of the Opposition has never displayed much knowledge of industrial affairs. That is probably because his knowedge and personal experience of industry are non-existent. The Labour Party Front Bench is filled with theorists and is barren of practical business men. The whole raison d'être of the Leader of the Opposition is to consolidate the Labour vote and to make sure that, at the proper time, the votes will be collected in and that the proper number of Labour Members will be returned to this House. However, the return of Labour Members is not necessarily in the best interests of the country. More than half the country will demonstrate that very effectively when the General Election takes place.
The recent television broadcast of two trade union leaders and the Leader of the Opposition disclosed a very close liaison between the two sections of the party. The country must be warned that a Labour Government can expect the full co-operation and restraint of the trade unions, but a Conservative Government cannot.
§ Mr. W. E. Padley (Ogmore)
Can the hon. Member quote one sentence either from Frank Cousins or Alan Birch to support that slanderous statement?
§ Mr. Cooper
The broadcast is within the knowledge of all of us. The hon. Gentleman has only to refer back to the issue of The Times of 5th May to read the statement made by Mr. Frank Cousins. I have the statement here, and it is also available to the hon. Gentleman in the Library.
§ Mr. Padley
The hon. Gentleman has charged the general secretaries of two of the largest trade unions in Great Britain with making statements that they did not make. Will he withdraw, or will he substantiate his charge?
§ Mr. Cooper
I will not withdraw a single word. If the hon. Gentleman will refer to The Times of 5th May he will find the statement made by Mr. Frank Cousins.
We must make it absolutely clear that the Government will remain in Parliament and will not be transferred to Transport House. I would like to ask the 1506 Leader of the Opposition what discussions his hon. Friends had with Frank Cousins and other leaders prior to this broadcast? We would also like to know what was the price the right hon. Gentleman had to pay for industrial action on the part of the trade unions to embarrass the present Government. We ought to know. Make no mistake about it, this is a political strike. It is a strike out of which the Labour Party seek to make the maximum of political capital to suit their own ends.
§ Mr. H. Hynd
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Parliamentary Privilege is very precious and we want to preserve it, but is it not rather stretching it when the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper), sheltering behind Parliamentary Privilege, makes such serious charges against trade union leaders?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Gordon Touche)
The hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) has said nothing out of order at all.
§ Mr. Robens
Further to the point of order. I understood the hon. Gentleman's suggestion to be that the Leader of the Opposition had been bribed by the trade unions. Is it right to say that hon. Members of this House have been bribed?
§ Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South-West)
I think it is within the recollection of the House that the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) said, in so many words, that a price had been paid by somebody outside this House which affected the judgment of the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition in the performance of his duty. You will use your judgment about this, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but it seems a great reflection upon the Leader of the Opposition and, at least, is not in accordance with the custom in our debates.
§ Mr. Cooper
If the right hon. Gentleman will be quiet I will repeat what I said. I said that the country ought to know what price the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition had to pay to secure industrial action on the part of the Transport and General Workers' Union.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker (Smethwick)
On a point of order. Surely the hon. Gentleman is now admitting that he is accusing a right hon. Member of this House of deliberate corruption of people outside. Is that a proper charge to make? He has repeated it openly before all of us.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I do not think that the hon. Member for Ilford. South intended that. He suggested that there was some sort of bargain.
§ Miss Jennie Lee (Cannock)
Can we take it that all these views were garnered by the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) last evening, when he was having a night out with the busmen?
§ Mr. Cooper
The hon. Lady ought not to be frivolous about this very serious matter. I want now to come to the immediate question of the strike. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] I have spoken of the discussion which I had yesterday. The busmen sent me a statement, which is not very controversial but which sets out their side of this controversy, and it shows that many of the Central London busmen would not be willing to accept 6s. 6d.—the watering down of the 8s. 6d. to 6s. 6d.
The memorandum, which I have here, says that most Central London busmen believe, rightly or wrongly, that the original claim was for 25s. to bring London busmen back to pre-war standards compared with industry in general. They do not know how the inside staff and country services came to be included, but they regard the inside staff as a race apart. The Central London drivers regarded themselves as the aristocracy of the British working class before the war, and they bitterly resent their present position. They have no sympathy whatever with the inside staff.
They go on to make a point which has not been stated either by the right hon. Member for Blyth or by my right hon. Friend. They say that a settlement was reached a short while ago on pay for 1508 the inside staff, by which they received a considerable bonus payment in consideration of accepting a reduction of staff. The drivers and conductors now ask, "Why should we go on strike for them?"
It is fairly clear that the general consensus of opinion in these two garages—I do not suggest that I speak for people beyond those two garages—is that the award of 8s. 6d. would have been accepted, although the men would have grumbled.
§ Mr. Cooper
This is from some busmen of the No. 17 garage, who came here last night to interview me.
§ Mr. Awbery
Is the hon. Member aware that out of 34,000 men involved in the dispute only 100 have gone back to work? What has become of his friends?
§ Mr. Cooper
I want to refer to that point, which is very important.
I believe that at present there has grown up a situation of which, quite frankly, I believe neither right hon. and hon. Members opposite nor my right hon. and hon. Friends approve. There is a feeling in some areas of union dictatorship of the rights and liberties of some people which finds its expression in victimisation and preventing men from exercising their rights as free men. There have been a number of cases in recent years in which men have been out on strike and have decided to go back to work, and when a settlement has been reached they have been victimised and sent to Coventry. Very unpleasant things have happened. I am quite sure that right hon. and hon. Members opposite do not approve of that sort of thing.
I believe that if there could be some guarantee now of non-victimisation against any bus driver or conductor, if he went back to work, the bus strike would be finished tomorrow, because the vast majority of London busmen do not want this strike. The amount for which they are striking is very small, Their families are committed by hire-purchase agreements and they will find themselves in very serious financial problems.
§ Mr. Cooper
It is not the Minister's fault. It is very largely due to the stupidity of the trade union concerned.
Finally, I want to refer to the meeting of busmen which took place at West Ham on Sunday. Busmen came to see me yesterday and reported the facts to me. They were not allowed to vote on whether they should go on strike or not. They were told on Sunday afternoon, at a meeting of more than 400 in West Ham, that the time for voting had passed; now they had to go on strike. Is this the free democratic country in which we live? They had not voted at all.
§ Mr. Cooper
They may have voted a month ago, but a month has passed and a new situation has arisen. On Sunday of last week, the day before the strike, these men had a perfect right to express their opinion. They had a perfect right to express it by a vote, but the chairman at the meeting refused to give them that right.
I believe that we have reached the stage at which we must take a good look at our industrial relations. This is not something we can play about with; we must work at it and get it right. The nation cannot go on, year after year, with threats of strikes, either implied or actual. By virtue of our population and the smallness of our island and our resources, our economy will always be on some kind of razor's edge. It is vital that both sides of industry should work together as a team, with complete co-operation. I say to the trade union leaders, "At this very serious moment do not overplay your hand, because the tide of public opinion may engulf you and leave you like so much flotsam on the sea shore."
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Captain M. Hewitson (Hull, West)
I am a national trade union leader of some standing, one of the fellows to whom the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) has been giving a lecture. Of all the nonsense and bilge I have listened to over many years of experience in the trade union movement, I have never heard such a speech as his. His facts were hopelessly wrong. He told us that he did not write his speech yesterday but had written it since the debate opened. That was sticking out a mile the whole time he was rambling on, because no thought had been 1510 given to it. All we could hear was Tory prejudice sticking out the whole time and a blatantly anti-trade union approach.
Let me get back to the debate. We have had smokescreen speeches from hon. Members opposite all day. The only thing which has not yet been mentioned is the atom bomb, although very few people seem to have mentioned the vote of censure against the Minister. I came into the House today to listen to the Minister's explanations, following a life of experience in how negotiating bodies carry on and how various people react in national crises. I have watched the situation over the years, starting as far back as the First World War, when we had industrial warfare, from industry to industry but very rarely national. Most of the time our people were suffering through intermittent strikes. During the first World War, the trade unions worked with the Government and pledged themselves as far as they could to kill this industrial warfare in the interests of the nation.
The hon. Member talks about price, but there was a price paid then. The price paid then by the Government of the day was to set up a joint committee under the chairmanship of Mr. Speaker Whitley. That Committee issued a Report, and as a result of that Report the first Whitley Council machinery was created at the end of the First World War. That was the beginning of real industrial peace in this country. First, the Whitley machinery covered such public services as electricity, gas and water, and they have not had a day of dispute since. Then other Whitley Councils for other industries came into being, and with the good will that was built up by decisions made on those councils we created arbitration machinery.
We had our teething troubles, of course, in the early 'twenties—we had the 1921 stoppage—and those troubles culminated with the great strike of 1926. Nevertheless, over the whole of the period, this machinery of good will has been building. Indeed, that machinery is reaching today into other sections, into the private sector of industry, and we have worked very well with it.
What has happened? Today I was prepared to listen quite honestly to the Minister's explanation, because for the life of me I could not understand why he fell down on his job a week before 1511 the strike started. I am quite certain that had the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, now in another place, been sitting in the Minister's place, the strike would never have taken place. The dispute was clumsily handled.
What is happening now? When we speak of arbitration we find a suspicion at workshop level, where the men ask, "What is the use of going to arbitration when the dice are loaded against us? These fellows have been instructed to turn down our case." The dockers are saying that. We know that 100,000 of them have had their claim turned down this week. When they are asked to go to arbitration, what will be the reaction? Will it be: "Are we to get the same treatment as the London busmen?"
A section of the mining industry has a motion on their conference agenda to instruct their national executive to withdraw from the compulsory arbitration machinery which now regulates that industry. That movement will grow and will repeat itself. Why? It is because the Minister fell down on his job. If ever a censure Motion was justified it is this one, yet the Minister was standing with his horns out and his pride sticking up behind his neck saying, "How could I interfere with an arbitration award?" Many times have we seen them interfered with—and not always in our favour, either.
During that last week the Minister could have done what previous Ministers have done. I recollect one national dispute that looked like stopping the country. The then Minister of Labour sent for the trade union side and put them in one room, and sent for the employers' side and put them in another. He then went into his room, called in the leaders from each side, and told them, quite simply, "I have got you fellows here. You can have the use of my expert staff to help you in your deliberations, but you are not leaving this blooming building until you find a settlement."
He told us that sandwiches and coffee would be provided from time to time. In the end, we were there for about twenty-two hours, but we found a settlement—probably out of sheer desperation. Had that simple technique been adopted last week by this Minister of Labour it would have paid dividends, because the 1512 employers did not want the strike, the busmen did not want the strike, and the Minister did not want the strike——
§ Captain Hewitson
Yes, I will give him the benefit of the doubt. I do not think the Minister wanted it, but probably the Government did. It is part of the overall pattern.
Had that technique been adopted last week we could probably have avoided the stoppage, because they would have found the answer. The arbitration award—it was compulsory arbitration—could easily have been broken down. If the men who are used every day of their lives to handling negotiations and wage and arbitration awards cannot find ways and means of letting an award maintain itself by just juggling it round a little and changing it a little so as to make it operate, they would not be doing their job. But there is grave suspicion now in the various trade union headquarters.
I am national officer of a union with about a million members, and that is not a light responsibility. The leaders of the great unions are saying to themselves, "What on earth is happening at the Ministry of Labour? Is the Minister doing this on his own, or is he fulfilling some policy dictated to him by the Cabinet?" That is what trade union leaders are asking themselves—and it is the trade unions along with the employers' organisations that have built up this great voluntary negotiating machinery that is the pride of the world. How often it is said to us at international conferences by leaders of trade unions in other countries, "If only we had a negotiating system similar to yours, how happy we would be."
Just look at what that machinery has done over the years. It has produced a reasonable standard of wages; pensions, in some industries; all kinds of welfare schemes from industry to industry; sickness pay in industry. That has not just grown on the trees and fallen off; it has all been negotiated through our free machinery, and we are now standing in danger of its destruction.
Let me say this to the Minister. He is playing with dynamite. If there is any attempt—and I do not use this in any way as a threat as a trade union 1513 leader—to break up that great voluntary machinery, we shall fight, and let him make no bones about it. And we shall fight with every weapon at our disposal.
If the Minister has done this on his own—because he could have settled this stoppage last week—the Prime Minister should sack him. If the Minister has been compelled to do this by the Cabinet and it is against his own personal belief—and I fully believe that it is—then he should be an honourable man and resign from his position and let someone else come in who will carry on with the job with the good will that we felt all the way through for his predecessor.
We never had any difficulty then. Hon. Members opposite say that the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor was too easy with the trade union head offices. They openly say that, but believe me, he was not easy at all. He was a tough boy to handle. Before he took over the Ministry of Labour he sat as national arbitrator. Naturally, when one was appearing there one would ask who was the arbitrator. When the name given was that of the right hon. and learned Gentleman who is now in another place, we used to say, "He is tough, but we will get a square deal." That, again, was part of the build-up of that national voluntary negotiating system that is slowly slipping away, and we are terrified about it. We have had one slip in the case of the London busmen, and no doubt it is uncomfortable for Londoners to be walking, but if such a slip took place with the National Union of Railwaymen and this country were brought to a stop because the situation was badly handled at Ministerial level, it would probably mean a disaster, and this country might have 2 million unemployed.
That is something which in a trade union head office we are now looking at, and we are terrified about the prospect. Listening to some of the blasé speeches from the other side of the House today, one would think that hon. Members opposite have not given it a single thought. Let me conclude with this thought, which I offer to hon. Gentlemen opposite. The trade union leaders who would strike for the fun of the thing would go to hell for pleasure.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. David Price (Eastleigh)
I think I know as well as most hon. Members of this House the very distinguished record which the hon. and gallant Member for Hull, West (Captain Hewitson) has in building up negotiating machinery between employers and trade unions. I think that he also knows that my superiors and predecessors in the company in which I work have a long record of good relations with his union. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that my noble Friend who was the predecessor of the present Minister of Labour, was tough but that one got a square deal from him. I think that those who have negotiated with the hon. and gallant Gentleman's union know that it too is tough, but that we get a square deal from it.
I should like to deal with one point made by the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) and about which I endeavoured to intervene. I apologise for upsetting the theme of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, but he was drawing attention in the first of the four charges he was making against my right hon. Friend, to a comparison between the increases in wages and prices in Britain as compared with those in a number of European countries, speaking particularly of Western Germany. It is a matter of considerable condemnation of what we have done here that the Germans have done better than us in recent years. I would point out that the policies which Dr. Adenauer and Dr. Erhard have been following, and still are following, are the precise reverse of the ones which right hon. Gentlemen opposite are inviting my right hon. Friend to pursue. If I make any criticism at all of my right hon. Friends, it is that their policies, in some respects, have not been as enthusiastic for expansion as those of Dr. Adenauer or Dr. Erhard. It ill becomes the right hon. Gentleman opposite to use those policies in Western Germany as a means of condemning that of my right hon. Friend.
The second charge which the right hon. Gentleman made was that we on this side of the House have been inclined to shift on to the trade unions the unpopularity that has come about with my right hon. Friend's policy. I do 1515 not know how much the right hon. Gentleman moves around the country—if it is only at the high level of which we read in the newspapers when he makes speeches, or whether he goes to the lower level of the shopping queues, bus queues and the like. One hears criticism of the trade unions from quite ordinary people. There is no desire on my part to work up anti-trade union feeling, and the right hon. Gentleman will know that I have always spoken up for the trade unions, but I have to report to him that, although I have done my best to stop it, there are certain sections in my own constituency in which anti-trade union feeling is very strong. I ask hon. Members opposite to realise that that feeling is quite strong among certain sections of the people. I do not like it, but I ask them to recognise it.
We have been invited by right hon. Gentlemen opposite to deplore—the refusal of the Minister of Labour in pursuance of the economic and industrial policy of Her Majesty's Government to attempt to bring about a settlement of the London bus dispute which is causing great inconvenience and hardship to the general public.I submit that every strike, if it is to be worth while, must inevitably cause inconvenience and hardship.—[An HON. MEMBER: "Nonsense.]—It is pretty obvious that a strike does cause hardship, so I think that is a stupid intervention. If it is in one of the public utilities, if the unions are striking against employers controlling public utilities, it must affect the public, but I feel that, on both sides of the House, we have really made a little too much of this hardship and inconvenience. Surely the hardship and inconvenience must be accepted by hon. Members in all quarters of the House because we accept the right to strike. What use is a strike unless it does cause hardship and inconvenience? If it does not, it is a completely pointless weapon.
Hon. Members have been talking as if there existed a beautifully geared wage structure which could at any given moment produce the right wage for the right job. Those who have been involved in wage negotiations know that the settlement depends upon a compromise in collective bargaining. I thought it was put very well in a leading article in the Daily Mirror of 6th May, when the leader writer wrote: 1516The right to strike for more pay and better conditions is still the democratic right of every trade unionist.Later the article said:But if a union has the right to strike, the employer who feels he cannot afford to give way has an equal right to resist.That is surely the way in which our collective bargaining works out. I am sure that in this House we are not entitled to "raise the roof" because occasionally a situation is reached in collective bargaining where a union exercises its right to strike and the employers exercise their right to resist.
§ Mr. Awbery
Is not the hon. Gentleman missing the point? The Motion refers to… the refusal of the Minister … to attempt to bring about a settlement …—not a strike.
§ Mr. Price
I will come to that point. The hon. Gentleman is assisting me, as he always does with his interventions.
I will not go through the details of my right hon. Friend's conduct, because we have heard a good many versions of it today. I would only say to the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), who mentioned the refusal of my right hon. Friend in January to set up a committee of inquiry into the London dispute, that, although I cannot speak for my right hon. Friend, it occurred to me at the time that he had a very good reason for wanting to make such an inquiry general to cover all buses over the whole country, because the House will recall that as recently as 19th July, 1957—six months before—the provincial bus drivers had come out on strike. The strike was eventually settled and the Industrial Disputes Tribunal awarded an increase of 11s. a week on the basis of the differential. Therefore, it was quite reasonable, if my right hon. Friend was being asked to provide his conciliatory services in the London bus dispute, that he should suggest that the inquiry should go wider.
I should like to go rather beyond the present dispute into the general morality of strikes, and this one in particular. I should like to mention a number of rules of guidance which have been put forward as to what makes a strike morally justifiable. If anyone thinks that this is a Tory invention, let me say that I have heard the same rules which I am about 1517 to enunciate from the lips of the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Sir T. O'Brien) on a number of occasion. I am afraid I have not got the relevant HANSARD reference with me.
The first rule is that the cause of the strike must be just; secondly, that all forms of negotiation must have been exhausted; thirdly, the good resulting from the strike must be greater than the damage done by it; fourthly, there must be a reasonable chance of success—that is, the strike must not be irresponsible; fifthly, consideration must be given to the harm that innocent parties and essential services may suffer as a result of the strike.
In the present instance is the cause of the strike just? I think most of us would say that that is a matter of opinion, but certainly nobody in this House would say that a demand by a union for more money was in itself unjust. Therefore, the supposition is that it is just. But I would warn the House in all humility against us sitting here judging the rights and wrongs of this, or any other, particular claim. We have not had deployed in front of us all the evidence that was submitted by both parties. Therefore, I suggest that we are arrogating unto ourselves the job of an industrial arbitrator which, with great respect to hon. Members, we are not competent to do, particularly in the inflammatory background of the cross benches and political warfare.
What it does become us to do is to discuss the general question of negotiating machinery. The actual merits of this award or any other award are not, I think, for us to express a detailed opinion upon. It seems to me, therefore, that it is right to assume that the first condition is fulfilled.
Secondly, all forms of negotiation must have been exhausted. When we put party politics aside, I believe that that is what divides the House. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, in their Motion of censure, say that they believe that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour was culpable in not having ensured that every form of negotiation had been used and exhausted. In all sincerity, I believe that we can narrow the issue down to that particular point. It is not for me to explain again to the House what my right 1518 hon. Friend said in explanation of his conduct. His explanation was good.
Thirdly, the good resulting from the strike must be greater than the damage done by it. In this context, I will quote from the leading article in the Manchester Guardian on 5th May, which said:Far from being a 'tight' for anybody else, the London strike is against the interests of every bus worker in the country, far it is an attempt to perpetuate an out-dated system of wage bargaining which lumps all bus workers into ill-assorted groups and prevents any real attempt to devise a fair rate for a particular busman's job. The rewards for skill and responsibility have declined severely since the war. The London strike is essentially an effort to down-grade them still further, and to insist that, if everyone cannot have more money, no one can.That article departs a little from my own note of warning about not going into the details, but I suggest that the good which is likely to flow from the strike is not great enough to justify all the political agitation which has surrounded it.
Fourthly, there must be a reasonable chance of success. I should like to take "counsel's opinion" from the hon. and gallant Member for Hull, West on the chances of success. Fifthly, consideration must be given to the harm which innocent parties and essential services may suffer.
My conclusion is that the Transport and General Workers' Union has fulfilled a democratic right, and so has the London Transport Executive. There may he more intelligent ways of determining wages. This applies not only to wages over all, but each of us in the House must know of many rates for skill which are inadequate, differentials which are too low, bonuses which are wrong, and so on. I myself believe, as a result of my own experience in a certain section of British industry, that, where unions and employers can work together, and, over the years, have built up confidence, lots of these things can be sorted out.
The modern technique of job evaluation goes a long way towards smoothing some of the rougher edges on the wage structure. But there is no scientific formula or book to which one can turn which will say what is right, what is just, what is productive and what should be the economic price for labour in a certain job at a certain moment. In the end it is done by negotiation and collective bargaining. If we in this House and in the country cannot improve upon the 1519 present system, I do not believe that we are entitled to get up and shout that it is a great tragedy if, from time to time, in pursuance of collective bargaining, a union sees fit to call a strike which is offensive to us personally and burdensome in our daily lives.
The inconvenience which the people of London are suffering today is, I submit, part of the price we pay for the right to strike. I beg the House not to exaggerate matters, even though we may feel that this strike is unfortunate. However, there is one aspect about which I have not been very happy and that was the political threat running through the statement of the T.U.C. The Daily Mirror, in the article to which I have already referred, said this:Strikes are only wicked if they seek to use industrial action for political ends.I do not believe and I have no reason to believe that this strike is industrial action for political ends. It seems to me a perfectly normal exercise of democratic right where collective bargaining has broken down. The part of the T.U.C. statement which I cannot quite tie up is where it says:The causes of the dispute do not lie in bad industrial relations in London Transport, where there has been no serious industrial disturbances since before the war. Nor is the real issue whether or not an award of the Industrial Court should be binding. This strike has been made unavoidable by the Government's determination to hold down wages in publicly owned industry and services, which, in times of rising prices, can only be done by cutting the living standards of the workers concerned.Those may be the political views of the individual members of the T.U.C. executive, but issuing a statement the next day about a strike which is three days old on the day the Opposition have tabled a Motion of censure, must leave the impression upon the reasonable reader that this is a political threat. I hope that the T.U.C. will not continue to give the impression that they support industrial action being used for political ends.
As I understand the position, it was in the Congress of 1928 that the trade union movement finally decided that it was not the unions task to go all out to overthrow the existing order of society and to substitute revolutionary Socialism. Nor did it think it was its task to stand aside from the ordering of industry. It thought that it had a constructive task to 1520 fulfil. I should like to quote the words of the motion passed by the Congress in 1928. It reads:… for the trade union movement to say boldly that not only is it concerned with the prosperity of industry but that it is going to have a voice as to the way industry is carried on, so that it can influence the new developments that are taking place. The ultimate policy of the movement can find more use for an efficient industry than for a derelict one, and the unions can use their power to promote and guide the scientific reorganisation of industry as well as to obtain material advantages from that reorganisation".In a very junior way, I have played a small part in co-operating with that spirit in the trade union movement, so for myself I hope very sincerely that the impression of industrial action for political ends that some people have gained, I hope mistakenly, from the T.U.C. statement will be dispelled by the future conduct of the T.U.C.
I beg right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite not to call industrial strike into being to restore the balance of power within the Labour Party. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite should not laugh, because they have recently seen the chairman of the Labour Party have to find his St. Helena in St. Helens. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite may desire to bring down the Government—and it is their democratic right so to do. But let them be careful about the means they use, for the end never justifies the means.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Gaitskell (Leeds, South)
The hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. D. Price) spoiled a useful and interesting speech by his rather jejune and not very well-informed comments at the end; but for what they were worth these comments were entertaining to us on this side.
I should like to begin by extending my congratulations to the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Bonham Carter) on his maiden speech. He was in no way deterred by the rather cool reception that he received when he came to this House for the first time, but showed himself to be very fluent. He put forward a number of interesting points. He was not entirely uncontroversial, but we may say that he was reasonably impartial as between the Government and the Opposition in the right sort of proportion for an hon. Member who sits on this side of the 1521 House, attacking the Government about four times for every once that he attacked the Opposition.
There will at least be general agreement—it has been expressed several times during the debate—that the industrial situation is very serious. The Minister of Labour himself used that phrase. After all, the bus strike in London is extremely inconvenient. It causes a great deal of hardship to a large number of persons. We should not allow ourselves to get into the frame of mind which implies that we can manage and that there is no need to worry about what people are suffering as a consequence of the strike.
Moreover, we all realise that another and more serious strike may follow. We hope very much that it will not, because whatever may be our point of view on the causes of the present situation, none of us, in any quarter of the House, would wish to see our economy suffering the damage which it will suffer if there is a railway strike. Furthermore, it cannot be denied that the relations between the Government and the General Council of the Trades Union Congress are worse than they have been for the past twenty years. That is a bad thing. We face, therefore, a difficult time.
In all these circumstances, I find it strange that some hon. Members and some newspapers should deplore the holding of this debate. If the House of Commons may not discuss the kind of situation with which we are confronted today, it is difficult to understand what it can discuss.
Perhaps it may be said by way of criticism that it is not the debate to which people object so much as the Motion on the Order Paper. The Motion happens to reflect the views of the Opposition on the causes of the situation and on the record of the Minister of Labour in handling this dispute. It is our right, and, indeed, our duty, when we feel as we do, when we hold certain opinions, that we should express them in this House.
The Minister of Labour ended his speech with a rather sharp, personal attack upon myself. I thought that it was a little studied, although the right hon. Gentleman has a long way to go yet before he can reach the level of the Prime Minister when it comes to showmanship or play acting. There is, however, nothing surprising in an attack on 1522 the Leader of the Opposition, any in than there is anything surprising n an attack upon the Minister of Labour. What I did find strange were the grounds of this attack. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to be very upset that I had announced last Monday that we would put a Motion upon the Order Paper. He seems to have forgotten that it was at the suggestion of Mr. Speaker that a Motion should be put down—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—if the Opposition wished to debate the matter, which they did. I am bound to say that since the Motion referred to the right hon. Gentleman, and is, as he himself said, a Motion of censure upon him, I would have thought he would have been a little more modest than he was in objecting to the Motion going on the Order Paper. As for the more general part of the Motion relating to the Government's policy, the right hon. Gentleman can hardly be surprised at our putting that down. We gave notice, in fact, that we were going to do so some little time ago, during the debate on the Budget.
I think, however, that we should make allowances for the right hon. Gentleman. He had just undergone a devastating attack by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens). He was far, far below his best form in replying, and even the somewhat excessive use of the first person pronoun in the latter part of his speech did not alter the general impression of feebleness which he created on these benches.
The Minister is in a difficult situation. After all, he is continually under watch, if not under attack, by his hon. Friends on the back benches. He has the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) thundering at him from behind, and we have some sympathy with the Minister because we know that he is having to pursue Government policies which assort very oddly with his functions as Minister of Labour. I think we may sum up the right hon. Gentleman's behaviour this afternoon by saying that he was like the barrister who, on reading the brief, wrote upon it, "No case. Abuse the plaintiff's attorney." The only difference is that the right hon. Gentleman is not the barrister; he is the man in the dock on this occasion.
We cannot, however, ignore certain rather peculiar remarks made by the Minister about the relationship between 1523 the Opposition and the trade union movement, and on what has been said by the Opposition from this Box. The right hon. Gentleman implied that for some time now there had been a tendency for speakers from this Box always to defend a particular trade union in a particular dispute, and he regretted that. I am bound to say I find this contrasting rather surprisingly with what he himself said during the debate on 6th February. Then the right hon. Gentleman expressed his enthusiasm for debates on industrial relations. This is what he said: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.
§ Mr. Macleod indicated assent.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
A little later he said: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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th February, 1958; Vol. 581, c. 1383–4.]However, in the debate of 6th February nothing was said about the Opposition always taking the side of trade unions in disputes.
The truth of the matter is that my right hon. Friend the Member for Blyth did not plead the case of the London bus workers in his speech. He might have done so, but he did not. It is true that a number of my hon. Friends who are members of the same union very naturally expressed their opinion upon this dispute. Who should blame them for that? It is not entirely unknown that on the other side of the House hon. Members speak up on behalf of the employers in particular industries. I make no complaint about that. It seems to me to be perfectly proper proceeding and I do not know why the right hon. Gentleman should complain.
However, it is not the case that in speeches from this Bench in this debate we were taking sides against the London Transport Executive. We were taking sides against Her Majesty's Government. We were not arguing about the merits of this wage claim, but we were arguing about the behaviour of the right hon. Gentleman. To that, for a moment or two, I now wish to turn.
1524 My right hon. Friend dealt with this question so thoroughly that it is not necessary for me to say much more, particularly in view of the totally unconvincing reply of the Minister of Labour, but I want to pick up, very briefly, the three points on which we criticised him—[HON. MEMBERS: "Four."] The three major points, anyway.
The first was the right hon. Gentleman's decision to reject the suggestion, which came from both sides of the industry, that there should be a committee of investigation under the chairmanship of Sir Wilfred Neden, on which both sides would be represented.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan) indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I believe that that was the idea. Anyway, it was a proposal for a committee, which the right hon. Gentleman himself said was a rather unusual one, because it was to report back to both parties. Frankly, the grounds on which he rejected that have never been clear to me, or to my hon. Friends. He said that, of course, it might be better and that he might take a different view if the inquiry were to be not merely into the wages of London busmen, but into the wages of bus workers in the country as a whole.
That is a point of view, I quite agree, but why, nevertheless, did he turn down that proposal? As my right hon. Friend said this afternoon, it was practically certain that any inquiry or committee of investigation of the kind proposed would certainly be led on to the more general question of wage differentials which the Minister had in mind. I can only conclude, from carefully rereading what he said on this subject in his speech of 6th February, that what he disliked about the proposal was that the committee would report back to the parties concerned. In other words, it was a piece of conciliation which was contemplated and not an arbitration.
With great respect to him, I think that he made a serious error then. If, at that stage, we had had further conciliation on the lines proposed, with some members appointed to the committee by the Minister, as was contemplated, I do not think that we should have got into the tangle which, as my right hon. Friend has explained, the arbitration award itself involves.
1525 The second charge we made against him was that he refused to intervene after the arbitration award was made—when he took his stand on precedent. He said, "It is wrong, and it has never been the case, that a Minister of Labour has ever intervened after an Industrial Court award has been made." I wish, first, to emphasise the background to the whole dispute. The Transport and General Workers' Union went to the Industrial Court, but that was not its first choice. Its first choice was a committee of inquiry. Furthermore, when it went to the Court, its general secretary announced, quite specifically and publicly, that it would not necessarily be bound by the award. That was made perfectly clear at the time.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
It is not unusual in this country to follow that course, and it was because the general secretary was doing then—and he has done since—everything possible to avoid a strike.
The Minister of Labour based his stand on precedent in this case, but he did not base his stand on precedent when it came to rejecting the proposal for an inquiry. I do not think that he can find a case where a Minister of Labour has done that before. Nor did the Minister of Health—another member of the Government—take his stand on precedent when he decided to reject the agreement of the Whitley Council for the increase in wages of Health Service workers. It seems as if the Government, and the Minister in particular, take their stand on precedent when it suits them and do not when it does not suit them.
Moreover, the argument the Minister used, that he could not intervene after the award, has been shot to pieces by his own action in deciding to meet the railway unions and the Transport Commission. I have seldom heard a more utterly unconvincing explanation of his change of front. He said that, after all, he had not seen the railway workers before. Well—it was a very long time since he had seen the bus workers, and all he did when he saw them was to reject their proposals for an inquiry. He said that there was a difference in the two cases, 1526 because one was a matter of arbitration under the Industrial Court and the other of arbitration under the scheme which the industry has for itself.
Everybody knows the real reason—and he might have admitted it. In principle, it is not to his discredit. It was because a rail strike is a very serious matter, and he knows that the consequences would be disastrous. But if he has taken that line—as he now has—he cannot justify his refusal to intervene in the bus dispute.
There are two more matters to which I want to refer before I leave the right hon. Gentleman alone. The first concerns his reference to the T.U.C. declaration. He said that he was not happy about that. I am not surprised; I do not think that anybody should be happy about it. It is a very serious matter when the relations between the Government and the T.U.C. are so bad, and when their handling of industrial relations is of such a character, that the Trades Union Congress—which has always been, and still is, an exceedingly responsible body—finds itself obliged to make that kind of statement. The right hon. Gentleman should ask himself whose fault it is that the T.U.C. has made that statement.
I cannot help comparing the record of the Ministry of Labour under his guidance with its record under the guidance of his predecessor, Lord Monckton. The right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) did a very wise thing when he invited Lord Monckton to become Minister of Labour. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford was a great deal more careful about his relations with the Trades Union Congress than is the Prime Minister today. In those days there was no occasion for a statement of the kind that the T.U.C. felt obliged to make yesterday.
The second point to which I wish to refer is the defence by the Minister of his non-intervention after the strike had started. We all accept, in principle, that there is a problem of timing when it comes to intervention. I would not deny that for a moment. But, in the present dispute, I submit that the behaviour of the Minister cannot be detached from the whole of the background. It would have been one thing if, before the strike broke out, he had made a serious effort to stop it; if he had tried, as we begged 1527 him to on Friday, to bring the parties together.
In view of that, and of the fact, as the hon. Member for Torrington quite rightly pointed out, that there is really so very little between the London Transport Executive and the Transport and General Workers' Union, I urge him now to intervene as soon as possible.
Of course, I recognise at once that, even were the right hon. Gentleman to intervene, that will not solve the problem. The real question here is: what instructions are the Government to give to the London Transport Executive? The real trouble behind all this—and this is why I said that I had some sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman—is not so much his fault as the attitude of the Government to the Transport Commission, and the way in which it has applied its wages policy to this public enterprise.
I ask the Prime Minister the question which the right hon. Gentleman declined to answer: is it the case, or is it not, that Sir Brian Robertson and Sir John Elliot are free to make whatever settlement they think fit with the unions in both the bus and the rail dispute, or do they have first to refer any question of that kind to the Minister of Transport or to other Ministers?
I do not think that there is very much doubt about what is the real answer to this. In my mind there is not the slightest doubt that all the time the Government have been, as it were, behind the scenes in relation to the Transport Commission. Indeed, the statements of the Minister of Transport and the statements of other Ministers make this abundantly clear. If this be the case, I beg the Government—it would be far more honest and far better—to come out into the open and admit it fully, instead of trying to shelter behind the Chairman of the Commission and members of nationalised boards.
That brings me to the few remarks I wish to make on the Government's wages policy generally. It is not always very clearly expressed; indeed, there are many different versions of the Government's wages policy. The most sensible version is the one which is, on the whole, favoured by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, who put it in these terms in his Budget speech: 1528The Government's view on wage settlements has been made perfectly clear. If wage increases in general go beyond the increase of productivity this is bound to damage the national interest."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th April, 1958; Vol. 586, c. 54.]That is his general statement, with which I have a great deal of sympathy. Some right hon. Members and hon. Members have from time to time been good enough to quote a speech which I made in 1951 to the T.U.C. expressing exactly that point of view. Indeed, I have never heard anybody on this side of the House or in the T.U.C. deny this. It is part of the common ground. Of course, we realise that there must be a relationship between wage increases and productivity increases. But there are two ways of applying this doctrine. We can keep wages down or push productivity up, and our major criticism of the Government policy here is that what they have been doing for some time now is to rely on the first and not on the second.
But it is worse than that, because the very weapon with which the Government have been seeking to keep wages down has actually depressed productivity. If there is any doubt in the minds of any hon. Members about this, I ask them to study the table on page 18 of the Economic Survey. It sets out the movement of labour costs in recent years. In 1953, there was an increase in output per man-year of 6 per cent. in the manufacturing industries and an increase of 6 per cent. in annual earnings per employee.
There was no increase, therefore, in that year in the cost per unit of output, because productivity increases balanced the rise in earnings. Exactly the same thing happened in 1954. In 1955, the increase in output per man-year was 4 per cent. and the increase in annual earnings per employee was 8 per cent., and a rise in costs per unit therefore took place of 4 per cent.
We come to 1956. That was the year in which the present Prime Minister was Chancellor of the Exchequer. The output per man-year fell in that year by 2 per cent. and the earnings per employee rose by 8 per cent. The costs per unit of output rose by 10 per cent. Of course they did. Why? Because the right hon. Gentleman's deflationary policy reduced productivity, and wages went up. Nevertheless, labour costs rose by that very 1529 large amount. If I were in the position of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer I should follow the course pursued by the Lord Privy Seal when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer rather than the course pursued by the Prime Minister.
The application, however, of this doctrine is what we are specially concerned with. In applying it to the transport industry the Government bear a heavy responsibility for checking the increase in productivity in transport. In 1951, 1952 and 1953, the Transport Commission had a working surplus of £50 million and a small surplus of just under £10 million after paying all interest and capital charges. Up to that point its financial position was quite strong. Then came mutilation, because of the denationalisation programme. Then the Minister of Transport intervened. In support of the present Prime Minister's plateau policy the Transport Commission was not allowed to raise rail freight charges by more than 5 per cent. when everybody else's charges were going up. Finally, when they had their modernisation programme, it was hit by the right hon. Member for Monmouth and his cuts in investment.
Over and beyond that, the policy which the Government have applied to the transport industry is not one of saying, "You can have higher wages if you get higher productivity". What they say was put plainly by the right hon. Member for Monmouth. It is, "You cannot have any more money except on the basis of profitability", not productivity.
In effect, what the Government ask of road and rail transport is that they must not only accept a freeze on real wages but an actual cut in real wages, after the Government themselves have reduced those real wages by driving up the cost of living. "We" say the Government, "may raise rents to our hearts' content, but you may not recoup yourselves". Worse than this, they have not even applied those doctrines generally. The Minister of Labour has recently approved a number of wage increase awards by Wages Councils. I make no complaint about that, but where is his consistency in this matter? No fewer than six wage council awards, several of them in the clothing industry and most of them involving an increase of 5 per cent. in wages, have been approved.
1530 The Government, therefore, first of all keep down productivity, then drive up prices deliberately, then try to freeze the wages of special groups of workers and then complain that those workers want to recoup themselves. What a fine harvest for Tory freedom this is! We in this country cannot afford a 3 per cent. increase in wages for the railwaymen in order to maintain their real standard of living. We cannot afford another 8s. 6d. a week for 13,000 bus employees who are not particularly well paid. We cannot do this even though the terms of trade have been moving rapidly in our favour and raw material prices are falling.
It does not make sense, because the Government, through the Transport Commission, are now saying, "You can have some increase—we will not say how much—a little later." What do they think they will achieve by this policy? Do they suppose that if they win this battle, if no increase is conceded at all, if there are strikes, then, in the long run, they will solve the problem of stability of prices and expansion of industry at the same time? Do they think that by the kind of relationship they will establish between themselves and the trade unions they will get any co-operation in the future if they go on like this?
We all want to see price stability, but we want something else as well. We want expansion, we want full employment and we want industrial peace. Indeed, if we do not have industrial peace we shall not get the higher productivity and we shall not get the expansion, either. The tragic feature of the present situation is that the Government have sacrificed full employment, industrial peace and industrial expansion all for what they hope will be price stability. I regard that as utterly defeatist and quite unnecessary. At any rate, such a policy is wholly unacceptable to us on this side of the House.
We believe that the right policy for the Government to pursue is one of expansion, with a real effort to get the co-operation of the trade unions in order to work together for price stability. I believe that this can be done if the Government will seriously try to create the right atmosphere. I warmly support my right hon. Friend in urging the Minister of Labour, at this late stage, to intervene not only in the railway dispute, where I hope his efforts will be successful, but 1531 also in the bus dispute; but I must add that he is not likely to be successful unless the Government adopt a far more flexible policy towards the nationalised industries.
I also warmly support my right hon. Friend in his proposal, which lost nothing by reason of his deep sincerity on these questions of industrial relations, that the Government should try to repair their relations with the T.U.C. I know that they will not be able to do this—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—unless they are prepared to modify some of their policies. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not"] The trade union leaders have made it perfectly plain. The Government will not be able to do it unless they are prepared to play their part, and that must mean modifying some of the policies cherished especially by the exuberant back benchers on the Government side of the House. If the Government will not do this, then at least let them save the country from the dangers which now threaten us by getting out and making way for another Government.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)
This Motion is a vote of censure both upon an individual Minister and upon the Government of the day. We therefore thought it right that, in accordance with tradition, it should be disposed of as rapidly as possible. Naturally, in a debate of this kind there are moments of controversy and even of heat, but in spite of this, both in the House and in the country, I have sensed a genuine desire that we should try to grapple with this question as objectively as possible—[Interruption.] It has been reflected in many of the speeches here today.
We have as a nation quite a lot of difficulties abroad, and I am sure that in our hearts we are all anxious not to weaken ourselves unnecessarily by adding to our problems at home. At any rate, it is in this mood that I will try to speak tonight.
There have been two notable contributions to this debate to which I must refer. The hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Bonham Carter) contributed a very polished and balanced maiden speech. Indeed, it was so nicely balanced that had I not read in the newspapers a previous indication of the way that his 1532 party intended to vote on this occasion I might have had some anxieties. But he spoke with a felicity of diction which I might almost call inherited, which makes us hope that he will contribute often to our debates. The other speech to which I hope I may refer was that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) who, in the course of a very valuable and forthright speech, gave his full support to the Minister of Labour and to the Government.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens), and also the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, tried to show that the bus strike, together with other industrial disputes, was the result of deliberate Government policy. They accused my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour of not giving enough help to produce a settlement. Of course, it is one thing to criticise the economic policy of a Government as mistaken or unsound. We are well accustomed to these debates. They are, indeed, common form whichever party is in office. But it is quite another thing to accuse the Government of the day of deliberately provoking industrial disputes. This charge is without foundation, as I shall try to show.
As regards the accusations made personally against my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, I think that he has completely answered them in a most powerful speech. Indeed, these accusations ought never to have been made, for anyone who knows my right hon. Friend—and we get to know each other fairly well in this House—knows how wholeheartedly he has devoted himself to the cause of improving industrial relations and pursuing a progressive policy in industrial affairs. No one really believes, not even the framers of this Motion, that my right hon. Friend would not intervene in any dispute at the time when he thought his services could be of the best use.
It really is a fantastic idea that a Minister of Labour should not be free to choose the right moment according to the circumstances of each case. All the precedents under all Governments show that this has been the procedure, and, incidentally, as has already been said by my right hon. Friend, it was the precise procedure followed in an important dispute by his predecessor, Lord Monckton, 1533 to whom the right hon. Gentleman paid such generous tribute. He waited, I think, twelve full days after the outbreak of the railway strike before intervening. There are now negotiations proceeding in the railway industry, and here my right hon. Friend has judged it right to take action to call the two sides together. All this proves, I think, that he has acted both with propriety and with wisdom.
I now pass to what I think the whole House and even the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken regards as perhaps the more important part of the Motion—the wider aspects on which, as he rightly said, the Opposition had every intention of placing a Motion on the Paper in any event. Therefore, we must consider this bus dispute, and indeed any other wage negotiations now proceeding, as to how they fit into the general economic picture, and I will try to speak as objectively and as frankly as I can.
For the past twelve years, under every party, we have been living, and on the whole living not altogether uncomfortably as regards the great majority of the people in this country, in a more or less inflationary situation. Only now and then has it gone so far as to become dramatically dangerous; but it has been going on all the time. Sometimes it has been at a higher and sometimes at a lower rate, but over the period it has been at the rate of about 5 per cent. per annum. If I wanted to make a purely party point about this, I could show, and thereby completely contradict the whole theme of the right hon. Gentleman who opened the debate, that the rise in prices was much quicker before 1951 than it has been since then.
It was also argued by the Leader of the Opposition, and I think the right hon. Member for Blyth made the same point, that the Government's economic policy has led to a pressure on wages, and he adduced in favour of this argument, perfectly fairly from his point of view, the various steps which we have felt it right to take over the last few years in order to produce a healthier and sounder basis for the economy; that is to say, the removal of subsidies and other such measures.
But the strange thing is that when the exactly opposite policy was being pursued at its maximum, when, for instance, 1534 the food subsidies rose to such phenomenal heights that even Sir Stafford Cripps had to call a halt, when all these forms of interference with the normal economic pressures were being exercised to the full, the rise in prices was even greater. I am not saying that there is not an honest difference of opinion as to what particular method ought to be applied to this problem. I am only saying that the pressure upon wages, whichever of these two methods up to now has been applied, has been as strong all the time. In other words, as the right hon. Gentleman said at the end of his speech, which was much better than the beginning, we have not solved this fundamental problem.
§ The Prime Minister
The hon. Gentleman who made that intervention is a great optimist. Many theologians have held very different views about it. I would say that during all this period, while from time to time we have been made acutely conscious of the dangers of these inflationary processes, we have also been able to enjoy some of the benefits. We know that broadly speaking our people as a whole are better off than they have ever been before—last time I made that observation I was helped by the timely entry of the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes)—with, of course—and this, alas, is true—certain exceptions of the pensioned classes and those who live upon fixed incomes. They are better housed, better clothed, better fed and better educated, and I am happy to say that they are saving more than ever before. That is what I meant when I used the much quoted phrase two years ago:They have never had it so good.Surely what we have to do is to see that it remains good, and we can only keep it good if we can get a greater general awareness of the dangers of inflation.
I think we would also admit that these inflationary dangers are much increased today in a world that is not so inflationary, where competition is much stronger and where salesmanship as to price, quality and delivery dates is more important than ever before. People, I think, are becoming conscious of all this, and 1535 they are more willing to try to get to grips with the inflation, painful though it may be. I think they have, broadly throughout the country, a wider understanding of what is at stake.
This change in public mood has come at a time when there is a better chance of our mastering this problem than we have had at any time since the war. As the right hon. Gentleman said—and it is perfectly true—the terms of trade are in our favour. Wholesale prices are tending to fall. Retail prices have remained steady for six months. There are, of course, occasional and seasonal changes. I know that potatoes always seem to play a very great rôle in this. But, broadly speaking, we have had a fairly steady price level now for about six months. In spite of occasional changes due to some seasonal force, I do no see any great external forces which are likely to give the spiral a serious upward twist in the next period immediately before us.
We have it in our power, therefore, to achieve something like real stability, but we must remember that the favourable factors that I have mentioned, such as the fall in import prices, bring their own problems in their train. The countries getting less for their raw materials will have less to spend on their own imports of manufactured goods. Competition in world markets will, no doubt, grow keener, and countries which do not keep their costs down will be squeezed out in this competitive market. All the same, we have today a very good opportunity, and the prizes, if we seize this chance, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) said earlier in the debate, are high, but the cost if we should fail would be heavy. For a nation, as for an individual, opportunity does not always knock twice.
What is needed, therefore, is a general acceptance of the fact that to pay ourselves more, either in wages or in profits, for the same amount of output gets nobody anywhere. That calls for restraint, and in a democracy that means self-restraint. No Government in a free country can fix people's incomes. But it does not mean that they should rely only on exhortation. In the public sector where they have, of course, the ultimate control, the Government must reinforce precept with practice.
1536 Now I should like to say something about arbitration, for it has been referred to by many speakers, including the right hon. Member for Blyth, who opened the debate, and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. As the House well knows, there are many types of arbitration. There is the type of arbitration which follows a voluntary reference to an industrial court. In this case there is a moral obligation or, rather, a tradition—[An HON. MEMBER: "Which?"] It is one which has never yet, as far as I can find, been repudiated, except on this last occasion. There is a moral obligaton to accept an award and, so far as I know as I say, it has, until recent times, never been repudiated. Then there is the form of arbitration written into the nationalised industries' conciliation machinery——
§ The Prime Minister
I will come to that—except the railways, which is a special case. It is there in all the others. It implies some obligation on the parties: it is not absolutely obligatory, but there is a general implication that awards will be accepted. The exception, of course, is the railway industry, which developed many years ago a conciliation system of its own, which culminates in an arbitral award. It has always been understood that in this case neither side was under any absolute obligation to accept the arbitration, although it was generally accepted. This system, which has been built up over many years under the old railway system, was preserved when the railways were nationalised, differently from coal, gas, electricity and the others.
There is then, of course, the type of procedure one might call arbitration, for instance, the Industrial Disputes Tribunal, which imposes a legal obligation on both sides to accept an award or arbitration. Also, since I want by no means to evade the point, there is the system in the Health Service which is not arbitration but concilation machinery, where the Minister has a statutory duty to decide whether or not he accepts the position.
The allegation has been made that we have tried unfairly to influence the arbitrators, that, in fact, we have tried to tell them what sort of awards we expect them to make. That is as I understand it.
1537 Of course, this is completely and absolutely untrue, as, indeed, is clear from the fact that the arbitrators have continued to award increases where they think them justified. The arbitrators must judge, and are left to judge, in their own discretion. In fact, we know no more than anybody else what the arbitration will be until we read the award. It is, of course, true—I do not evade this question at all—that arbitrators, being human beings, presumably read the broad arguments on economic affairs which go on all the time both in the Press and Parliament. It is equally true that this Government, like other Governments, have made pronouncements about economic questions, including that of awarding increases.
Reference has been made to various statements made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth last autumn. In my view, they were excellent statements. They have been quoted at large today. I am bound to say, however—I think my right hon. Friend would be the first to admit it—that, great as is my respect for him, there was nothing really very novel or unusual, or for which there was not good precedent, in what my right hon. Friend said. Let us see what Sir Stafford Cripps, another Chancellor of the Exchequer, said in the White Paper on Personal Incomes in 1948, just ten years ago. This was a Socialist pronouncement. Let us see what he said about arbitration:It is essential therefore, that there should be no further general increase in the level of personal incomes without at least a corresponding increase in the volume of production … The Government must press upon all those engaged in negotiations or in decisions"—that means arbitrations—which might result in an increase in wages or other personal incomes to keep these principles firmly before them and not to depart from them.He went on to say:The Government will themselves observe these principles in any negotiations in which they are directly concerned.I do not think anyone could say that the Tory Chancellor went any further than the Socialist Chancellor. These statements are very similar. One might almost think that they were written by the same hand—perhaps, indeed, they were. The statement that I want particularly to underline is Sir Stafford Cripps' statement that 1538The Government will themselves observe these principles in any negotiations in which they are directly concerned.The fact is that the Government have not issued directions to the arbitrators; they have asked for understanding and restraint—and not only from the wage earners. Like Sir Stafford Cripps, I said in the debate on the Address—I venture to quote these words; they are quite good—While wage increases unrelated to the general growth of real wealth within the country are a great danger, absence of restraint in profit margins or dividend distributions can do equal damage to the economy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th November, 1957; Vol. 577, c. 43.]The Chancellor of the Exchequer made the same point a few days ago.
Therefore, the underlying problem, in a sense, is the same in 1958 as it was in 1948. Ten years ago the lesson was not pressed home. Eighteen months later the Socialist Government had to devalue the pound. This time, I think, we must not fail to learn and apply the lessons.
At the end of his speech, the right hon. Member for Blyth turned to a much more constructive theme. I did not think it was altogether suitable for a Motion of censure, but that did not make it any the less helpful and valuable. He pointed out that there were two things which we had to try to do if we were to solve this problem—I think he described it as "the 64,000 dollar problem." May I try to put it in this way? The problem is how to expand without inflating. The fundamental issue, which we are all trying to solve, is how to do that, particularly in a country whose reserves are limited, which must live upon a large volume of imports and which in a world becoming more and more competitive must keep its prices within the competitive level. That is the problem. I have tried to expand it a little, but I do not think the right hon. Gentleman would disagree that that is a fair description of our problem.
The right hon. Gentleman made two suggestions. He suggested that the Government should be in closer contact with the T.U.C. in studying this question. I am very glad that he said that. Looking back on it, when I was Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Prime Minister held meetings. I attended many of them. We had the Productivity Council. We had all kinds of meetings for this purpose, some 1539 of them private, some of them more informal. My right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) followed the same procedure, and the present Chancellor has frequent contacts of the same kind. The suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman is, I think, of value. I certainly welcome it, and I am sure that the more we can try to discuss this fundamental problem together to find some answer to it the better it will be. All the same, the mere studying of problems together, alas, does not solve them, for we have been studying them together for years. That does not necessarily bring about a solution. It may help to do so, but it does not necessarily do so. To reach a solution we have to take definite action and follow it through.
The second suggestion that the right hon. Gentleman threw out was that we must find some new method for settling wage discussions in the nationalised industries, and the Leader of the Opposition reverted to the same point. I will not shrink from the question. I was asked whether the chairmen of the various nationalised boards are absolutely free to act on their own in these wage negotiations.
The answer is, of course, that they are completely free to act within their own resources, but quite apart from the responsibility that lies in all the Acts upon the Minister, whether of Transport or Power, when the Government have not only, as it were, to be the equity holder but also the banker, I say quite frankly that they have not a free right to draw on unlimited overdrafts. That seems to me a sensible situation.
§ Mr. D. Jones
The Prime Minister has now said that the Transport Commission, which is concerned in these disputes, is free to do what it likes within its own resources, but the Minister of Transport denies the Commission the right to raise the price of its product when the cost of producing it goes up.
§ The Prime Minister
Not at all. I had some valuable—I hope they may prove fruitful—discussions on this matter with the Chairman of the Transport Commission and three of the railway unions. I think there was general agreement that simply to put up the fares and the freights would be going too far and that the returns would be diminished. I am not 1540 sure that this may not be true also of the buses. There was general agreement that some other solution must be found than just piling on the charges. Everybody feels that that method must come to an end.
The right hon. Member for Blyth put the problem fairly. He said that we must find some new method of dealing with these discussions because, he pointed out, it is rather difficult to maintain the full concept of an absolutely independent employer such as there is in an ordinary free enterprise, where there is all the pressure upon the employer of making profit or going bankrupt if he does not, and all the rest. It is a difficult and new situation, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out—because now all the shares of the employer belong to the Government of the day; and also the Government of the day are, alas, often the banker as well as the equity holder.
It is certainly a problem that requires study, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not think me unduly partisan if I say that it seems to me to be a problem inherent in the policy of nationalised industries. This is one of the main reasons why I hope that nationalised industries will not be extended. I think I could truthfully say, as the right hon. Gentleman must agree from his own diagnosis, that his party's general policy appears more likely to enlarge the problem than to solve it. Nevertheless, it is one with which every Government must be concerned, on whatever side, and in some ways it might concern even more an administration that relied largely on official trade union support.
I want still to make it clear that although this inherent problem exists, to which the right hon. Gentleman has quite rightly called attention, the Government do not, except from such general pronouncements as I have stated, made either by Tory or by Socialist Chancellors, make any attempt to interfere with the arbitration system.
There are one or two final observations I will venture to make, and I hope I may be allowed to make them without causing any harm.
§ The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman referred not only to the dispute which was the immediate cause of 1541 this Motion but to another important series of negotiations which are going on. I hope, as he hopes, that it will be possible to find a solution which will be within the policies that the Government put forward and yet meet with the general approval and sense of fairness of the country as a whole. I certainly tried to make a contribution to finding some new approach to it when I asked the Chairman of the Transport Commission land the railway unions to meet me nearly a fortnight ago, and I yam very gratified to feel that the study of the proposals which I made has been going on since. I can only hope it will lead to a fruitful result, so that we may reach an accommodation within the general tenor of our policies but for the general benefit of all concerned. That I will try to do.
It has been stated in a part of this debate, and in some statements made outside—and I am sorry it has been repeated—that the Government wish to challenge the trade union movement. Of course this is not true, but the corollary of this is, and must be, that the trade union movement does not wish to challenge the Government. What we surely have to do in our democratic system is to take the chance of electoral victory or defeat and accept the
§ position that follows. [HON. MEMBERS: "Resign."] That is what we need in Parliamentary government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Resign now."] The right hon. Gentleman ran away from the problem when it became difficult for him. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] When the rise of prices and the state of sterling got too much for him, the right hon. Gentleman led the—[Interruption.] We intend to try to master this thing.
I say that it is not true that we are trying to raise a challenge to the trade union movement, and I am certain that the trade union movement is far too sensible to make any challenge to any Government of whatever complexion. At any rate, this seems to be the moment when we should try not to accentuate our differences but rather try to reach the maximum agreement that we can. The problems we have to solve are complex and even baffling. We are quite entitled to have different views as to how they should be solved, but it does not help them to throw across the Floor accusations of bad faith to which a Motion of this kind subscribes.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 253, Noes 320.1545
|Division No. 118.||AYES||[9.58 p.m.|
|Ainsley, J. w.||Coldrick, W.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon, H. T. N.|
|Albu, A. H.||Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Gibson, C. W.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Collins, V. J.(Shoreditch & Finsbury)||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Greenwood, Anthony|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Cove, W. G.||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Grey, C. F.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Cronin, J. D.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)|
|Baird, J.||Crossman, R. H. S.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)|
|Balfour, A.||Cullen, Mrs. A.||Griffiths, William (Exchange)|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Hale, Leslie|
|Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)|
|Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol,S.E.)||Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Hamilton, W. W.|
|Benson, Sir George||Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Hannan, W.|
|Beswick, Frank||Deer, G.||Harrison J. (Nottingham, N.)|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Hastings, S.|
|Blackburn, F.||Delargy, H. J.||Hayman, F. H.|
|Boardman, H.||Diamond, John||Healey, Denis|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Dodds, N. N.||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)|
|Bowles, F. G.||Donnelly, D. L.||Herbison, Miss M.|
|Boyd, T. C.||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Dye, S.||Hewitson, Capt. M.|
|Brock way, A. F.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Hobson, C. R. (Keighley)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Edelman, M||Holman, P.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||.||Houghton, Douglas|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)|
|Burke, W. A.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Howell, Denis (All Saints)|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Hoy, J. H.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Carmichael, J.||Fernyhough, E.||Hunter, A. E.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Finch, H. J.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)|
|Champion, A. J.||Fletcher, Eric||Hynd. J. B. (Attercliffe)|
|Chapman, W. D.||Foot, D. M.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Forman, J. C.||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)|
|Clunie, J.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.|
|Janner, B.||Mort, D. L.||Slater, J. (Sedgefield)|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Moss, R.||Snow, J. W.|
|Jeger, George (Goole)||Moyle, A.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Jeger, Mrs. Lena(Holbn & St.Pnos,S.)||Mulley, F. W.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Sparks, J. A.|
|Johnson, James (Rugby)||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Steele, T.|
|Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech (Wakefield)||O'Brien, Sir Thomas||Stonehouse, John|
|Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Oliver, G. H.||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Oram, A. E.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Orbach, M.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Oswald, T.||Stross,Dr.Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent,C.)|
|Kenyon, C.||Owen, W. J.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Padley, W. E.||Swingler, S. T.|
|King, Dr. H. M.||Paget, R. T.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Lawson, C. M.||Paling, Rt. Hon. W.(Dearne Valley)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Ledger, R. J.||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Palmer, A. M. F.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Lewis, Arthur||Pargiter, G. A.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Parker, J.||Thornton, E.|
|Lipton, Marcus||Parkin, B. T.||Timmons, J.|
|Logan, D. G.||Paton, John||Tomney, F.|
|Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Peart, T. F.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|McAlister, Mrs. Mary||Pentland, N.||Usborne, H. C.|
|McCann, J.||Popplewell, E.||Viant, S. P.|
|MacColl, J. E.||Prentice, R. E.||Watkins, T. E.|
|MacDermot, Niall||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Weitzman, D.|
|McGhee, H. G.||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|McGovern, J.||Probert, A. R.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|McInnes, J.||Proctor, W. T.||West, D. G.|
|McKay, John (Wallsend)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|McLeavy, Frank||Randall, H. E.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Rankin, John||Wigg, George|
|Macpherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Redhead, E. C.||Willey, Frederick|
|Mahon, Simon||Reeves, J.|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Reid, William||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Mallalieu, J. p. W. (Huddersfd, E.)||Rhodes, H.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|Mann, Mrs. Jean||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)|
|Mason, Roy||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Mayhew, C. P.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Mellish, R. J.||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Messer, Sir F.||Ross, William||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Mikardo, Ian||Royle, C.||Woof, R. E.|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Short, E. W.||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Monslow, W.||Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Moody, A. S.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Zilliacus, K.|
|Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Morrison,Rt.Hn.Herbert(Lewis'm,S.)||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES|
|Mr. Bowden and Mr. Pearson.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Bonham Carter, Mark||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)|
|Aitken, W. T.||Boothby, Sir Robert||Crowder, Petre(Ruislip—Northwood)|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Bossom, Sir Alfred||Cunningham, Knox|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)||Currie, G. B. H.|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Dance, J. C. G.|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat(Tiverton)||Boyle, Sir Edward||Davidson, Viscountess|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William||Braine, B. R.||Davies,Rt.Hn.Clement(Montgomery)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Deedes, W. F.|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Brooman-White, R. C.||Digby, Simon Wingfield|
|Atkins, H. E.||Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Dodds-Parker, A. D.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Bryan, P.||Doughty, C. J. A.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Drayson, G. B.|
|Balniel, Lord||Burden, F. F. A.||du Cam, E. D. L.|
|Barber, Anthony||Butcher, Sir Herbert||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T.(Richmond)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Duncan, Sir James|
|Barter, John||Campbell, Sir David||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Carr, Robert||Elliott, R. W.(Ne'castleuponTyne,N.)|
|Beamish, Col. Tufton||Cary, Sir Robert||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Channon, Sir Henry||Errington, Sir Eric|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Chichester-Clark, R.||Erroll, F. J.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Sir Winston||Farey-Jones, F. W.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Fell, A.|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Cooke, Robert||Finlay, Graeme|
|Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Cooper, A. E.||Fisher, Nigel|
|Bingham, R. M.||Cooper-Key, E. M.||Fletcher-Cooke, C.|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Fort, R.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Foster, John|
|Black, C. W.||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)|
|Body, R. F.||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Freeth, Denzil|
|Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Gammans, Lady||Kershaw, J. A.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Kimball, M.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|George, J. C. (Pollok)||Kirk, P. M.||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Gibson-Watt, D.||Lagden, G. W.||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Glover, D.||Lambton, Viscount||Redmayne, M.|
|Glyn, Col. Richard H.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Godber, J. B.||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Goodhart, Philip||Leather, E. H. C.||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Cough, C. F. H.||Leavey, J. A.||Rippon, A. G. F.|
|Gower, H. R.||Leburn, W. G.||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Robertson, Sir David|
|Grant, W. (Woodside)||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Green, A.||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Grimond, J.||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Llewellyn, D. T.||Russell, R. S.|
|Crimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (SuttonColdfield)||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Gurden, Harold||Longden, Gilbert||Sharples, R. C.|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby||Shepherd, William|
|Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||McAdden, S. J.||Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher|
|Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Speir, R. M.|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Lancaster)||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Hay, John||McLean, Nell (Inverness)||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||MacLeod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcoim|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)||Storey, S.|
|Henderson-Stewart, Sir James||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Hesketh, R. F.||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.||Maddan, Martin||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Marples, Rt. Hon. A. E.||Teeling, W.|
|Hobson, John (Warwick&Leam'gt'n).||Marshall, Douglas||Temple, John M.|
|Holland-Martin, C. J||Mathew, R.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Holt, A. F.||Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Hope, Lord John||Mawby, R. L.||Thompson, R. (Croydon, S.)|
|Hornby, R. P..||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.|
|Medlicott, Sir Frank||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Horobin, Sir Ian||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Moore, Sir Thomas||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Howard, John (Test)||Nabarro C. D. N.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)..||Nairn, D. L. S.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J||Neave, Airey||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Hughes-Young, M. H. C||Nicholls, Harmar||Wade, D. W.|
|Hulbert, Sir Norman||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Hurd, A. R.||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark (E'b'gh, S.)||Noble, Comdr. Rt. Hon. Allan||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek|
|Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.)||Nugent, G. R. H.||Wall, Patrick|
|Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim(Co. Antrim, N.)||Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)|
|Hyde, Montgomery||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. D.||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|H[...]monger, T. L.||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian(Hendon, N.)||Webbe, Sir H.|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Osborne, C.||Whitelaw, W. S. I.|
|Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Page, R. G.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Partridge, E.||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Peel, w. J.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Peyton, J. W. W.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Woollam, John Victor|
|Joseph, Sir Keith.||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.|
|Kaberry, D.||Pitman, I. J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Keegan, D.||Pitt, Miss E. M.||Mr. Heath and Mr. Oakshott.|
|Kerby, Capt. H. B||Powell J. Enoch|