§ 3.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Speaker
Before we open the debate, may I make one or two observations?
First, I have not selected any of the three Amendments on the Order Paper, one in the name of the hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Gardner)—in line 1, leave out from 'House' to end and add—'notes the White Paper, "In Place of Strife", Command Paper No. 3888; recognises that the basic causes of industrial unrest are bad management and outdated trades union structure; welcomes the more positive proposals as providing a new basis for improved industrial relations; but considers that legislation to enforce strike ballots, the conciliation pause and the attachment of earnings will not make industrial conflict less likely, and urges Her Majesty's Government not to proceed with this part of the proposed legislation';one in the name of the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme)—in line 1, leave out from 'House' to end and add—'rejects the White Paper, "In Place of Strife" Command Paper No. 3888, on the grounds that it contains proposals for legislation which would destroy certain fundamental rights of a free trade union movement';and one in the name of the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth)—in line 3, at end add—'which should include that recommended in paragraph 1104 of the Report of the Royal Commission of Trade Unions and Employers 'Associations 1965–1968';The points made in those Amendments, and other points for or against the Motion, will no doubt be made during the debate, at the end of which hon. Members will vote for or against the Motion or abstain, for the reasons that emerge during the debate.
The second point is that 47 hon. Members wish to speak in today's debate, among them 31 on the Government side. [Laughter.] Order. That is a geographic reference. If the House is to get a full picture of the varying opinions on this very important topic, it is important that hon. Members should speak briefly.
The third point is very important and unusual. I have to remind the House that we are bound to observe in this afternoon's debate the sub judice rule of the House. The Resolution passed on 37 23rd July 1963, which hon. Members will find on c. 1417 of the Report of that day's debate, lays down that reference in debate to any matter brought before the court—and it includes,as for example by notice of motion for an injunction".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd July, 1963; Vol. 681, c. 1417.]or otherwise—is out of order.
The reason for the rule which the House has adopted is that there may be a real and substantial danger of prejudice to the trial of a case if we endeavour to prejudge the issues in that case in this House this afternoon. Hon. Members will understand, therefore, that although the Chair will endeavour to exercise a reasonable degree of discretion, Mr. Speaker will have to intervene if hon. Members refer to the actions of the Ford Motor Company in its dispute with certain trade unions, as that matter has now been brought within the ambit of the courts of law.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
On a point of order. I think that we had better get this Ruling quite straight at the beginning, Mr. Speaker. Do I understand that you would rule out of order anything dealing with paragraph 62 of the White Paper? Of course, I understand that no one can mention the Ford Motor Co., but the possibility of individual or collective fines surely cannot be out of order in this debate? If it is, I think that the usual channels had better move for another day for the debate.
§ Mr. Speaker
The right hon. Gentleman is obviously right. Reference can be made to all that is concerned in paragraph 62 of the White Paper and, indeed, to the whole question of legal action taken against trade unions. What is covered by the sub judice rule is the specific case of the injunction that the Ford Motor Co. has taken.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
Further to that point of order. In discussing the specific case relating to the injunction, I understand that the issue is quite clear, but is it not in order for hon. Members to refer to the actual agreement that was made prior to the injunction by the firm? Surely this is apposite to the debate?
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member is raising what would be a very difficult exercise, because the injunction deals with that very important point. I think that it would be unwise to refer to that.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)
On a point of order. This is a most serious matter, because the Ford case is central to the whole of the concept and the related aspect of the Government White Paper. In consequence, the Ford agreement, of which many of us have copies, is germane to this debate. We respect your Ruling, Sir, but if we cannot properly discuss the Ford case the debate should be adjourned until we can.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Many issues can be discussed in this debate, apart from the specific issue of the injunction, which has been taken out by the Ford Company—the general issue of the application of the White Paper to other industries and all kinds of other disputes may be referred to. This is no doubt a serious matter. The House took the view which it did take because of the traditional unwillingness of politicians to interfere with the law. This is a classic position. It happens to be exceedingly difficult today and because of that I took the action of making a Ruling at the beginning of the debate. I hope that we can now move on.
§ Mr. Edward Heath (Bexley)
The House is grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for drawing our attention to this Ruling. Would it be fair to say that we may discuss the principle of such agreements as were made in the case of the Ford Motor Company without trying to come to a conclusion about the merits of the case which is at present before the courts?
§ Mr. Speaker
The broad issues may be discussed, and it would seem to me that hon. Members are not inhibited in any way in what is a debate on a new policy which Members wish to debate but without debating the case which is now before the courts.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I have warned the House that many hon. Members wish to speak in the debate. I have ruled on this matter and I hope that I will not be pressed much further.
Mr. John Mendleson
On the same point of order, Mr. Speaker, but an entirely different aspect.
You have just given a Ruling for hon. Members, but you must be aware that newspapers have commented on this case and related it to my right hon. Friend's White Paper. They have argued that the strike at Ford's has strengthened her case. Surely the House would be under an impossible prohibition if hon. Members could not argue the lessons to be drawn from the case in question. I urge the Government, since the newspapers have had an opportunity of discussing this matter, that if we cannot do it today the debate must be postponed.
§ Mr. Speaker
This is not the first time that the House has pursued its own rules, which are different from those which govern the Press. The sub judice rule for this House is a rule which the House has adopted for itself and I must rule its observance.
§ Mr. Edwin Brooks (Bebington)
Further to the point of order. You referred a moment ago, Mr. Speaker, to the traditional dislike of politicians of interfering with the law. With the greatest respect, may I suggest that we are today proposing to do precisely that and to alter the law in certain important respects?
May I put it to you, Mr. Speaker, that the difficulty in which the House finds itself is precisely that the High Court action will test an important and disputed point of law and that the outcome of the decision may well affect the attitude of many hon. Members to the need or desirability of the Government taking such powers as are proposed in the White Paper?
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member is on a half-truth. If we were debating a new law, if we were debating new legislation, the sub judice rule would not obtain.
The answer to the second half of the hon. Member's observations is that once the legal action, whatever it is, is terminated, the House may well discuss the matter, I hope that we may move on.
§ Mr. Norman Atkinson (Tottenham)
Further to the point of order. I understand, Mr. Speaker, that the Government have endorsed the Ford agreement and the papers submitted by the Ford Motor 40 Company. I wonder whether you could help us in this respect about our participation in the debate. How can we this afternoon challenge the Government's endorsement of the Ford Motor Company agreement unless we refer to it?
Secondly, how can we quote the comments of the trade unions leaders who are involved in the case, particularly if those comments concern the deduction from wages of penalties that could be imposed by the Ford Motor Company? Because of these two points, Mr. Speaker, perhaps you could have another look at the decision to have the debate today so that we do not find ourselves inhibited by the case which is pending.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am not without sympathy with the points which are being put. This is a very unusual case, but unusual cases do not prevent the Rules of the House from being observed and the sub judice rule is as I have stated. I hope that we can move on.
§ Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)
Further to the point of order. If the hearing which is taking place in the High Court this afternoon should be settled, would not that mean that the sub judice rule will not apply and that the later part of the debate would be much freer than the earlier part?
§ Mr. Speaker
That is a most ingenious point. I must rule on it if and when it occurs. I hope that we can proceed.
§ Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)
I wish to raise a different point, Mr. Speaker. In view of the quite serious difficulties which have emerged, may I ask whether you would be prepared to accept a Motion to adjourn the House for half an hour so that the Government may study the situation and decide whether to go on with the debate today or adjourn it to another day?
§ Mr. Speaker
I do not think that the House as a whole is in the difficulty which the hon. Member suggests. We must get on.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ The First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity (Mrs. Barbara Castle)
I beg to move,That this House approves the White Paper, "In Place of Strife", Command Paper No. 3888, as a basis for legislation; and invites 41 Her Majesty's Government to continue consultation with a view to preparing legislation.I stand here this afternoon in a complex rôle. Acordingly to some of my hon. Friends, I am not the first woman in history to offer a poisoned package to those whom I would seduce. To listen to their criticisms, one would imagine that the White Paper should be renamed "Tolpuddle Revisited". To the Opposition, on the other hand, I am not a temptress offering a poisoned chalice, but a capitulator waving a white flag. They think that my proposals are totally inadequate and would, no doubt, rename the White Paper "In Place of Law".
Again, there are those like Mr. George Woodcock, who, although he disagrees with certain proposals, wrote in the February issue of the Employment and Productivity Gazette that he finds the White Paper's philosophymore consistent and more acceptable to trade unionism than the Commission's report".—to say nothing of the motor car workers in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), one of my Under-Secretaries, who have welcomed the White Paper as, at last, doing something about the chaotic industrial relations in the motor industry which keep putting them out of work.
This afternoon, therefore, there will be almost as many angles of approach to the White Paper as there are Members of the House. I believe that this fact indicates that we all know that industrial relations are at a turning point. The reason for this is not that we have had the Donovan Commission Report, but that the setting up of the Commission was itself a recognition of our need fundamentally to rethink industrial relations.
I know that some of my hon. Friends regarded the Government's decision to appoint the Commission as a sinister move in itself, as yielding to ill-informed pressure to do something about the unions, as a capitulation from the start. That, however, seems to me to show an extraordinarily defensive attitude towards trade unionism and a lack of confidence in what the Commission's Report would reveal.
In the event, as we all know, the Report has indicated what we on this side have always said: that trade union- 42 ism has made a vital contribution to the development of a democratic society, that on the whole our trade unions leaders, their officials and their shop stewards, show a sense of responsibility, and that if there are faults in our system of industrial relations, as there certainly are, they cannot be laid primarily at the door of the trade union movement.
That is, no doubt, why the Commission's Report was greeted with such gibes by hon. Members opposite. "A blueprint for inaction", the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) called it—a rather revealing comment on a report which proposed a comprehensive far-reaching and constructive Industrial Relations Bill. It rather shows what sort of action hon. Members opposite have all along been looking for.
What the Commission's report has helped us to do is to bring our whole thinking about industrial relations up-to-date, and no one can deny that this reexamination was long overdue. After all, the last Royal Commission on this subject reported in 1906, when trade unions were still struggling against the attempt to brand strikes as civil conspiracies—indeed, they were struggling against the whole concept of trade unions as "licensed conspiracies", whose actions were at best tolerated and at worst curbed by legal restraints. It is absurd to suggest, as some have done, that the argument is as to whether the trade unions should be "outside the law". They have always been inside it, but it has too often been law of a negative or restrictive kind.
The great value of the Donovan Report is that it examines our industrial relations in terms of what actually happens inside industry and why. I am sure that we are all grateful to the report for the detailed analysis it has made of our system of collective bargaining, its illuminating contrast between the formal and informal systems, and its constructive proposals for reform. If it has a fault—and none of us, I believe, would wish to accept the report completely uncritically—it is that it has not distilled out of its researches a coherent philosophy of the relations between management, employees and Government.
This has been left to the White Paper which, building on the report, spells out a philosophy of industrial relations this 43 country has never had before. In its opening sentence it puts its finger on the kernel of the problem that faces us:There are necessarily conflicts of interest in industry.The White Paper is not concerned with pious theories, but practical realities, and the realities are that working men and women have had to organise and struggle to win their proper status in society and their fair share of the growing national wealth. They have bitter memories of the consequences to them of uncontrolled employer power, and of the struggles they have had to build up anything like equality of bargaining strength. Their success in doing so has been an essential ingredient in the development of British democracy.
Parliamentary democracy would be empty and meaningless unless it were underpinned by democratic institutions in the industrial field, and this is what trade unionism is all about. It is the growth of trade unionism that has given the meaning and vitality to our whole system of collective bargaining described in the White Paper asa process by which employees take part in the decisions that affect their working lives … the best means so far devised of advancing industrial democracy.The overwhelming preoccupation of the White Paper is with the need to improve and strengthen collective bargaining. The Donovan Report has given us a valuable critique of the inadequacies of the system over far too much of British industry. Of course, there are forward-looking managements who are daily negotiating constructive and comprehensive agreements with go ahead union representatives. But too often there are still out-of-date attitudes; too many cases where collective agreements barely touch what is happening on the shop floor and, when they do, the provision they make for consultation, negotiation or the settlement of disputes is utterly inadequate.
The old formal concept of industrial relations as negotiations between employers' associations and national unions is out-of-date. The old slogan, "Management must manage" is no longer good enough. What management must do today is to win consent. Top management cannot afford to be indifferent to what happens on the shop floor until there is 44 trouble. Too many managers are not interested in their employees, and their employees know it. A Christmas message and the occasional presentation of a gold watch are no substitute for workers' involvement in the policies and changes which may revolutionise their working lives.
It is this which marks the great distinction between the White Paper and the Opposition's document "Fair Deal at Work". The Opposition are obsessed with the effects of strikes and not their causes. In "Fair Deal at Work", and in Opposition speeches on the Donovan Report, the whole emphasis has been laid on the evils of strikes—not on the industrial evils of which strikes are a symptom. "Fair Deal" is a narrow, unambitious, uncreative document that does not even attempt to assess why strikes take place, or give a lead to industry in finding a remedy.
I understand that the Opposition, under their typical "runaway from responsibility" leadership, are to abstain on the Motion tonight. No doubt they will ague that the White Paper does not go far enough. Far enough in what? It is the Opposition who do not go far enough in the direction that really matters: in analysing what is wrong with collective agreements today, because "Fair Deal at Work" does not deal with that at all. It is obsessed with making collective agreements legally enforceable.
Our main task is to get collective agreements that workers will want to abide by because they deal with the irritations and frustrations that goad them on the shop floor. If we are to deal with them effectively, it is more important to get the right practical and institutional framework than to create a legal straitjacket. It is on these remedies that the White Paper concentrates. We need to revolutionise not only the content of collective agreements, but the whole way in which they are negotiated. I repeat that this means, first and foremost, a change of attitude by management.
How can we get good collective agreements when unions cannot get at those who take the decisions and are denied the information to make negotiation meaningful. How can there be harmony on the shop floor when, in some companies, unions cannot get proper 45 access through their officials, and shop stewards are barely tolerated.
How can strikes be avoided when disputes procedures are vague or intolerably long-drawn out; or, worse still, when management suddenly introduces a change in working practices without proper consultation, and then tells its workers they must "go through procedure" if they want to protest? Good procedure is a way of reaching agreement, not a court of appeal.
How can men be expected to take redundancies peacefully if management has not been sensitive enough to realise the human impact of redundancy, to take its workers into its confidence well in advance and seriously examine other alternatives? Industrial relations are about people, and people today will not tolerate being treated as less important even than the machines they mind.
Today, the Commission for Industrial Relations, which has been set up under Royal Warrant, starts on its historic task of transforming human relations throughout British industry. As the House knows, the Chairman will be Mr. George Woodcock, and the initial full-time members Mr. Leslie Blakeman, Mr. Allan Flanders and Mr. Will Paynter. They have been joined by two part-time members, Mr. Alf Allen and Mr. Joe Edwards.
The Commission starts its work with the support and good will of the T.U.C. and the C.B.I. As the White Paper points out, the Governmentwill look to the C.I.R. to be the disseminator of good practice and a focus for reform by example.Its job will be to promote not only clear and precise collective agreements, but comprehensive ones: to encourage managements to bring their industrial practices up to the standard of the best, in everything, from the facilities they provide for their shop stewards to the removal of out-dated social distinctions between those on staff conditions and the hourly paid.
It will work on references by me both of specific agreements and of general industrial problems on which it will, as necessary, make recommendations and reports. Obviously, we shall all learn a great deal from what its researches and contacts reveal as it goes along, so that 46 it would be unwise to lay down too rigid rules for its work at this stage.
But if we seek to strengthen collective bargaining we must, by definition, as Donovan points out, strengthen the rôle of the trade unions. In wringing their hands over our industrial relations problems today, right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are fond of drawing parallels with other countries' laws. Yet they have fought a rearguard action against the sort of statutory rights for trade unions which have long been accepted in other countries. Throughout our history they have always thrown their weight behind restrictive legislation against the trade unions, and, even now, "Fair Deal at Work" is impregnated with this attitude.
Most of its recommendations are designed to amplify the body of legal rules governing conflicts between employers and trade unions rather than dealing with the industrial causes of those conflicts. Its aim is to strengthen what it calls the "fundamental prerogatives of management" rather than recognising that management must share its responsibilities with the trade unions.
The Opposition are still trying to hedge the unions in. Sympathetic strikes are to be made illegal; so are strikes in favour of the closed shop. The 1965 Trades Disputes Act is to be repealed. The Registrar of Trade Unions is to be given investigatory powers and legal immunity withdrawn from the unofficial striker. Trade unions are not even to be given a statutory right to recognition unless they can show majority support, which is surely a classic way of putting the cart before the horse.
All this is a carry-over from those 19th century days and reflects the view, which they barely attempt to disguise, that trade unions are already too strong and that the time has come to curb their bargaining power.
§ Mrs. Castle
No, I am not giving way.
Our approach is very different. We believe that trade unions and their representatives are important people, and we want them to behave as if they were; that is, with full recognition of their power and, therefore, of their responsibility. But we cannot expect them to do so if they are treated as outlaws or, 47 at best, as a necessary evil. We believe that society should welcome the extension and strengthening of trade unionism and that the law should actively encourage it.
Under our Bill, therefore, the right to join a trade union will become part of every contract of employment, and employees will have a remedy if they are dismissed for trade union membership. The C.I.R. will be able to give reality to this statutory right by dealing with complaints that the employer will not negotiate with the union which is seeking to recruit. With its practical knowledge of industrial life, it will be able to assess whether the union should be recognised without being tied to any rigid criterion—mathematical or otherwise—though it will be empowered to hold a secret ballot if it thinks it desirable.
If an employer refuses to negotiate with a union which the C.I.R. believes should be recognised, I shall be able to make an Order requiring the employer to negotiate and, if he refuses, the union will be given the unilateral right to take the employer to binding arbitration at the industrial court. Moreover, we shall help trade unions to make negotiations meaningful by giving them a statutory right to the disclosure by management of the information which the unions need about management's policies, proposals and decisions.
The best managements already make trade unions into their confidence, but too many still cling to an over-cautious outdated dog-in-the-manger view. In this way, we shall begin to give real meaning to the words "workers' participation", which must start first and foremost on the shop floor, but we shall also encourage new experiments in the concept by removing any legal impediments that may exist to the appointment of workers' representatives to the boards of undertakings.
But no one on this side of the House—or even, I believe, in the trade union movement—is a syndicalist. We are Socialists. Passionately as we believe in industrial democracy, we know it must complement and not supersede parliamentary democracy. Trade unions in this country cannot advance—and do not want to try to advance—without the support and help of the Government. Nor do 48 trade unionists believe for a moment that they can realise all their aims simply through the machinery of collective bargaining. To quote George Woodcock again:We recognise that the Government is deeply involved in industrial and economic affairs. It, too, is as much concerned about the welfare of working people as we are.That is why, throughout its history, the trade union movement has looked to its political representatives to help it achieve its aims. The Truck Acts, the creation of Wages Councils, the Fair Wage Resolutions, the Contracts of Employment Act, the Terms and Conditions of Employment Act, and the Redundancy Payments Act are all examples of the way Parliament has had to supplement and underpin the achievements of collective bargaining. But the interdependence of trade unions and Government goes wider than this. The aim of trade unions is to advance their members' standard of life but they cannot do this single-handed; in isolation from or indifferent to what is happening to the national economy.
It is impossible to think constructively about the future of industrial relations except in the terms of the country's social and economic progress as a whole, for trade unionists are not only producers; they are consumers, too.
I have been accused by some of my hon. Friends of trying to set up a corporate State. But what was the corporate State? In theory, it was a system in which industry had no responsibility to the citizen represented in Parliament but was run by corporations embracing all those engaged in a particular industry: in practice, as we saw under Mussolini, it meant that industry was run by Fascist-controlled syndicates of employers, and the workers were given no choice but to obey. The trade unions were smashed just as effectively as Parliament.
How can any fair-minded person suggest that the White Paper even begins to take us along that road? Indeed, I believe that it is the attitude of some critics of the White Paper which smacks of the corporate State when they suggest that employers and workers should be left alone to wage their private fights and that Parliament has no right even to consider the consequences of what they do.
There are even some who object to the setting up of the C.I.R. to try to improve 49 the machinery of collective bargaining. Even this, they argue, is an interference with "fundamental trade union rights". Surely Parliament has a right to concern itself with just what those fundamental rights are, just as we have a right to concern ourselves with the claim of "management to manage" [...] of industries to merge, or the way employers treat their labour.
The White Paper, I repeat, recognises the vital contribution to democracy of a free trade union movement. It also recognises that a free trade union movement cannot function without the right to strike. Indeed, it goes further. It says:The right of an employee to withdraw his labour is one of the essential freedoms in a democracy and the existence of this right has undoubtedly contributed to industrial progress and to the development of a more just society.The right to strike is an integral part of a union's bargaining power, and nothing in the White Paper weakens that bargaining power: indeed, it strengthens it by strengthening the trade unions. But what it does say is that striking is not an end in itself: that strikes can do grave harm to the nation's productive effort on which the standard of life of all of us depends, and that, therefore, we should look at our strike situation objectively to see whether there are causes which can or should be removed or whether the strikes do actually advance the legitimate aims of collective bargaining. For, to the extent that strikes are avoidable, or just reflect a destructive habit of mind, they bring the whole strike weapon into disrepute.
As everyone knows, the vast majority of strikes "in this country are unofficial and most unofficial strikes are unconstitutional as well—that is, they take place in breach of procedure. In 1967, 95 per cent. of our strikes, responsible for three-quarters of the working days lost, were in this category—and the numbers are growing. The White Paper entirely agrees with the Donovan Report that the right way to tackle these strikes is to remove the causes: by getting proper disputes procedures, protection against arbitrary dismissal, a new and genuine type of consultation by management. That is why the White Paper refuses to join the sweeping condemnation of all unofficial strikes, many of which up to now have been the only 50 effective way of dealing with a situation which has suddenly arisen on the shop floor.
That is why, too, the White Paper rejects a curious provision in the Donovan Report to remove the protection of Section 3 of the 1906 Act from unregistered trade unions—Curious because it conflicts with the general approach of the Donovan Commission, though it [...]ts appropriately into the general approach of the Opposition, and that is why they advocate it, too.
§ Mr. Carr
Since the right hon. Lady has wrongly stated what the Opposition policy is, I think that I must correct her. The distinction that we make throughout "Fair Deal at Work" is between action which is in breach of an agreement compared with action which is within an agreement. We do not make this distinction between official and unofficial.
§ Mrs. Castle
I am delighted that the right hon. Gentleman joins me in condemnation of the proposals for the repeal of Section 3.
The effect of this provision would be to lay unofficial strike leaders open to an action for civil conspiracy, even though the strike might be quite clearly the fault of management. The best way of removing the cause of these strikes is to get quick, precise and fair disputes procedures: to get away from the sort of attitudes reflected in the 1922 York agreement governing disputes in the engineering industry under which the discussion of a dispute can drag on for months and under which a dispute or a trade union complaint is adjudicated upon, not by a joint body, but by an employers' panel.
How such archaic procedures have survived so long is a mystery. Hon. Gentlemen opposite did nothing about them during their 13 years in power, but I am glad to say that already, as a result of the publication of the Donovan Report and the White Paper, the Engineering Employers' Federation is in touch with its members asking them to start working on the revision of this 51 procedure. I urge that they should do it in conjunction with the trade unions involved—and do it urgently.
But just because the trade union movement has for years demanded better procedures it is imperative that we all try to see that when good procedures are made available they are used. Anarchy has never been the ally of the trade union movement, but in some industries we are getting very near anarchy today because, as a result of years of bad management, men have been led to believe that the only way to get management to listen is to down tools.
§ Mrs. Castle
No. We have been told by Mr. Speaker that 47 hon. Members are waiting to speak. I do not think that they should make their speeches in the middle of mine.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lewis (Rutland and Stamford)
On a point of order. Is it not important, in a debate of this kind, that a Minister should recognise that we are not sitting here listening to a lecture? This is a debate. The right hon. Lady has refused to give way to both sides of the House.
§ Mrs. Castle
It is vital to this country's economic survival that we alter this attitude of mind: first, by curbing arbitrary action by management; and, secondly, by asking workers in return to talk before they strike. This is the approach behind the proposal for the conciliation pause, and I believe that, because it shares the responsibility for avoiding unconstitutional strikes fairly between management and unions, it breaks new ground. Certainly, the Donovan Commission never considered it—it merely dealt with the proposition to make collective agreements legally enforceable, which I will come to in a moment.
The key to getting men back to work so that conciliation can be tried lies in the terms on which they are expected to 52 return to work. In many cases the whole issue would be prejudged unless there were a return to the status quo. As the White Paper says:In many strikes the employer is at fault, for example, in cases of victimisation or when the employer has introduced a change in working methods without [...] notice and discussion. An essential part, therefore, of the efforts to [...] strikers to return to work would be to require management to withdraw the [...] action till adequate discussion has taken place.This is something for which the engineers, for one, have been asking for years. I believe that this provision in itself could do a great deal to transform the atmosphere of industrial relations.
We all know, if we are honest, that there are other situations where a minority of workers can—and do—threaten the livelihood of thousands of their fellow workers by just downing tools against their unions' advice and in breach of the procedures their unions may have negotiated. We have such a case happening at this very moment at a factory in the North where 10 men have struck in defiance of their own union, which is not supporting them even at district committee or convenor level, and in defiance of the negotiations the union is currently engaged in with the firm through normal procedures. Because of the key position of these men, several hundreds of their fellow workers may be laid off this evening, swelling to several thousand by the weekend with corresponding effects at other factories in due course. The union is as concerned about the situation as anyone because of the consequences for other members.
Can anyone seriously say that freedom to act in this way constitutes a "fundamental trade union right"? Is it not rather hitting at the authority of trade unionism and the rights of other trade unionists? And to those of my hon. Friends who have signed the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Gardner), objecting to my proposal for a conciliation pause on the grounds that it would not work, I say: do they really believe that the other workers involved in this situation would object if the strikers were asked to go back to work for 28 days and give conciliation a chance in the knowledge that the right to strike is restored at the end of it?
53 The power I am proposing is a reserve power. Of course, the normal conciliation machinery of my Department would be used first before any question of ordering strikers back to work arose. Indeed, I believe that the existence of this power would mean that the need to use it would never arise. I entirely agree, too, that the rôle of legal powers is very limited. They can, as a matter of practical fact, only be used where it is clear to trade unionists themselves that they are justified. That is why the power I propose is selective and designed to reinforce the full authority of the trade union negotiating machinery. The "conciliation pause", therefore, is aimed at the specific problem of unconstitutional strikes.
The Opposition's remedy would be different and ostensibly far more sweeping. Their parrot cry is, "Make all collective agreements legally enforceable", except in so far as the parties deliberately contract out of this legal commitment. Just what they mean by this is far from clear. When the Donovan Report was published last June, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Enfield, West contemptuously dismissed all its constructive proposals with the words:If there is a worse report I have not read it. The Tory proposal is to make all collective agreements, including plant bargains, enforceable to the extent agreed by the parties—and why on earth should they not be?Why not, indeed—but then there is nothing to stop plant bargains, or company bargains, being made legally enforceable under the present law if the parties wish it. Indeed, it is being argued at this moment—as we have all been reminded—that an existing company agreement may be legally enforceable. The only agreements which cannot at present be directly enforced legally, even if the parties wish it, are those between an employers' association and a union, or unions, due entirely to a quirk in the present law.
§ Mrs. Castle
The Donovan Report proposed that Section 4(4) of the 1871 Act should be amended to remove this anomaly, a proposal with which we agree, because it widens the area of voluntary choice of the parties concerned. So what was the right hon. Gentleman complaining about? However, in Sheffield on 20th 54 January this year he slightly altered his tune.The proposal of the Torieshe said,is that where an agreement has been freely entered into between employers and employees, the agreement should if necessary be enforceable at law.This is not only confusing: it is potentially sinister.
What exactly do right hon. Gentlemen opposite mean? Either they are trying to make a firework display out of a damp squib, or they have in mind something far more far-reaching, and are hiding their real intentions from the House. I repeat that it is—or will be—possible to make collective agreements legally enforceable where the parties so desire. Indeed, it is possible that some collective agreements are already legally enforceable, even if the parties had not realised this in drawing them up.
The simple fact is, however, that employers rarely take advantage of their right to proceed against the party who has broken the agreement, partly because it is seldom the union itself which has broken it, but mainly because the employer does not find it pays him to do so. That is why employers never take unofficial strikers to court though they could do so for breach of their contract of employment.
That is why employers are looking for what Mr. Martin Jukes, Director-General of the Engineering Employers' Federation, has called "drastic treatment" of unofficial strikes by making collective agreements legally enforceable, though he makes it clear that he wants the legal enforcement to be done by someone else, presumably by the Government or by the C.I.R. and not by the employers who, he explains, do not want to sour their labour relations by taking their workers to court.
I cannot imagine anything more calculated to undermine the constructive work in improving industrial relations that the Government and the C.I.R. are trying to do than to give either of them these sort of powers. The Government's view is that it is for management and trade unions to decide voluntarily whether they wish to make their agreements legally binding. We believe, too, that it is important to remove any doubt as to the real intentions of the parties. 55 Our Bill will, therefore, propose that agreements could be made legally binding only by an express provision in the agreement.
Unlike the Opposition, I do not think that there is any benefit in applying a "cooling off" period to official disputes which have already been the subject of long negotiations. Our problems are very different from those in America, and Taft-Hartley type legislation, with compulsory ballots on the employers' last offer, would do nothing to solve them. But I find it difficult to accept, as some of my hon. Friends would argue, that strike ballots are in themselves an infringement of fundamental trade union rights. Some of our key unions already have provision for compulsory strike ballots in their union rules, believing that this is a simple expression of their members' democratic rights.
What the White Paper argues is that it is a matter of concern that at present a major official strike seriously affecting the national interest can be called when the support of those involved may be in doubt and that the Secretary of State should be given discretionary power to see they are consulted. Of course, I recognise that a union leader, who, under his union rules, is free to decide whether or not to hold a ballot, may have valid reasons for not wanting to do so.
That is why, as the White Paper makes clear, the Secretary of State would consult the union first. Equally, the T.U.C., in criticising our proposal, accepts that the Government have an interest in such situations, and have a right to urge that a ballot be held, adding that such advice from the Governmentwould not be lightly disregarded".The difference between us, therefore, is not very great, particularly as the freedom of the union to act as it pleased once the ballot had been held would not be interferred with by the Government. Is it a difference of principle, or just a disagreement about the practical effects? I shall be interested to hear my hon. Friends' arguments.
§ Mr. John Mendelson
My right hon. Friend has just referred to an important point made by the T.U.C. Will she go on and quote the next sentence from that memorandum, which said that the T.U.C. strongly objected to this power being 56 compulsorily imposed upon the unions and given into the hands of the Secretary of State?
§ Mrs. Castle
My hon. Friend cannot have been listening. I made it clear that the T.U.C. had criticised our proposal—I was not hiding that fact from the house—but I went on to say that, nonetheless, the T.U.C. had accepted that the Government had an interest in such a situation, had a right to give advice, and had a right to try to procure a ballot if possible.
I therefore repeat my question: is it a difference of principle, or just a disagreement about the practical effects? Different arguments have been used by different of my right hon. Friends, and I shall be interested to hear where the balance of argument lies.
But there is a further proposal in the White Paper which my hon. Friends do not criticise in the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe, and that is the provision for dealing with inter-union disputes. As we all know, struggles for recognition between rival unions can do serious damage to the national economy, and we believe that a way must be found of settling them more in keeping with a modern society than a mediaeval trial of strength between unions. We believe, too, that the primary responsibility for finding a peaceful settlement should rest with the trade union movement itself through the T.U.C.
The White Paper therefore proposes that where a dispute is threatened as a result of inter-union rivalry the Government should ask the T.U.C. to try to resolve the conflict between its constituent unions. Only if the T.U.C. fails will the dispute be referred to the C.I.R. If the C.I.R. itself fails to reach an agreed settlement, it will be asked to make a recommendation as to which union or unions should be recognised.
The Government will look to the parties to accept the recommendation, but, if they do not, we would propose to give power to the Secretary of State, in the Industrial Relations Bill, to give effect to the recommendations by Order. The employer or union which defied it would be liable to a financial penalty.
I have not heard any of my hon. Friends argue that this proposal is a breach of fundamental trade union rights or that it would not work. I believe 57 that the reason is that they realise, first, that we would give every opportunity to the trade union movement to solve the problem itself, and, secondly, that such disputes weaken, rather than strengthen, the trade union movement.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
Will the right hon. Lady clear up the position about the board, which will have great power under paragraph 62? Who will make the reference to the board? Is it to be regarded as part of the C.I.R., or independent of the C.I.R.? Or will the Minister make reference to it?
§ Mrs. Castle
The board is certainly not part of the C.I.R. It is independent both of the C.I.R. and of the Government. The board's job will be to examine whether an Order has been disobeyed. The board will consist of an independent legal chairman, with members drawn from the trade union panel and from the employers' panel of the Industrial Court.
§ Mrs. Castle
If the board finds that an Order has been disobeyed, its job will be to decide whether a financial penalty should be levied, and it will have freedom of action and discretion in doing so.
As I was saying, I think that the reason there has been so little opposition to this provision for dealing with inter-union disputes is that my hon. Friends realise, first, that we are giving the initial opportunity to the trade union movement itself to solve the problem, and, secondly, that inter-union disputes of this kind have nothing to do with the advancement of collective bargaining, and that they weaken rather than strengthen the trade union movement. I respectfully point out to them, however, that exactly the same arguments apply to the other proposals that I have made and to which, none the less, they object so ardently.
Curiously, the item in the White Paper which has caused most heart-burning among my hon. Friends is the proposal for attachment of earnings where this becomes necessary for the collection of financial penalties imposed under the "conciliation pause". I say "curiously", because this proposal has an ironic history. It was born out of our determination to see that no trade unionist should be sent to prison for refusal to 58 pay a fine and, therefore, our determination to avoid any element of the criminal law. The levying of a fine is a normal legal penalty, and our proposal is that it should be collected as a normal civil debt. The attachment of earnings is, as we know, now used both for the enforcement of maintenance orders and the collection of criminal fines, and in Scotland it is already used for the collection of civil debts.
In the past, the T.U.C. has been opposed to attachment of earnings because it feared that a man's job might be at risk if his employer came to know that he was in debt. In evidence to the Payne Committee the T.U.C. conceded that there was now much less ground for these fears. With only one exception, unions commenting to the Committee upon attachment thought it a reasonable way of enforcing judgments for the recovery of debts; not least because it could serve as an alternative to imprisonment, though the General Council of the T.U.C. felt that certain conditions should be satisfied before an attachment order was made.
I know that many of my hon. Friends, especially from South Wales, have bitter memories of the misuse of this procedure in the past. They have reminded me of their struggles against the owner's agreement with the Spencer union, under which the men were compelled to allow the union's contribution to be deducted from their wages. I know, too, that some of my hon. Friends, notably my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) argue that attachment of earnings is not working anyway, and other Members wish to study more carefully the implications of the Payne Committee's Report. I would say to my hon. Friends, by all means let us discuss these difficulties and see whether they can be met or whether there is another alternative. The lessons of other countries may be of value here.
Since its publication, six weeks ago, the White Paper has been exhaustively studied, analysed and commented upon, and the discussion now moves to the Floor of the House. It is a discussion that we are only starting today. It will go on over many months and in many quarters before the philosophy of the White Paper can be finally crystallised into an Industrial Relations Bill. What 59 the Government are asking the House to do today is to approve the White Paper as a basis for legislation, in the knowledge that there will have to be further consultations about the details of the Bill before it can be drafted, let alone brought before the House.
We intend to make these discussions meaningful. We do not say that we have a monopoly of wisdom in this field. What we do say is that the philosophy of the White Paper is wholly consistent with the extension and the defence of full trade union rights. What we say, too, is that there are problems here which have to be faced. So far, no one has produced any alternatives. If the trade union movement, in its anxiety about certain proposals, were to come to us with alternatives whose effectiveness could be guaranteed, we should happily consider them.
What we are doing today is facing one of the central issues in the country's social and economic life, and in the White Paper we have a philosophy that enables us to deal with the situation in a Socialist way. I commend the Motion to the House.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Carr (Mitcham)
Nowadays, Parliament is sometimes criticised for failing to debate matters while they are still topical. I hardly think that that criticism can be made about out debate on this subject today. As we have this debate today, the House would do well to remember the mood and opinion of the country, because there is overwhelming evidence, which has been accumulating for a long time, that a great majority of the public, including a majority of the industrial workers themselves, believe that the present state of affairs in some of our major industries cannot be allowed to continue and that the Government—whatever Government are in power—must take radical and speedy action to bring about a change.
The right hon. Lady has made a speech which, in large part, was notable not so much for advocating the White Paper's policy as for some shallow sermonising, some fictional history and the setting up of a number of mythical Aunt Sallies, first, about hon. Members on this side of the House and then about some of her hon. Friends. I do not intend to 60 exchange party political gibes with the right hon. Lady. I am content—as are all my hon. Friends—for the country, and especially those who know, to judge the right hon. Lady's speeches with ours, and to judge her White Paper in comparison with "A Fair Deal at Work".
My object today is to find common ground—because I believe that that is what the public desires, since the problem is a national crisis and should be treated as such—and, at the same time—because it is helpful in the endeavour to find common ground—to bring out and not to shirk places where there are real differences of policy. My object, therefore, is to make sure that the House and the country know exactly what a Conservative Government would do if they were in power tomorrow.
Before I analyse the subject matter I must make one thing clear. What should be the central theme of the debate? The central question, surely, is: how do we recreate in this country a situation in which collective agreements, once made, are honoured? This means, among other things, that we must have better agreements, more closely related and better explained to those who have to work under them. Responsibility for achieving that rests not only with trade unions, but, equally, with managements and the Government in their carrying out of their duty to create the right environment for responsible voluntary action to flourish. No employers, no trade unions, and no Government can stand in a white sheet and point a finger at the others.
Let us have hard bargaining in industry, by all means, but, once made, an agreement must be kept, and those responsible for breaking agreements and leading others to break agreements must expect to be held accountable.
The Opposition welcome the Government's acceptance, implicit in their White Paper, that a radical reform is now required of our industrial relations system and that a new industrial relations Bill has an essential part to play in that modernisation process. That is what we have been saying now for more than three years, not just in general terms, but spelling it out in increasing detail, culminating in the publication of our policy document "Fair Deal at Work" almost a year ago.
61 But although the White Paper is a step in the right direction, the recommendations in it are in total seriously incomplete and in some respects positively wrong and harmful. We also believe that the Government are still lacking the necessary sense of urgency. In the Government's eyes, next year is time enough, and one even wonders from some of the right hon. Lady's concluding remarks whether, in the Government's eyes, after the next General Election is not time enough.
I cannot help comparing this with the promise given by the right hon. Lady's predecessor, the right hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Gunter), that any necessary legislation would be introduced in this Session of Parliament, and that is what we still call for—legislation this Session. If it were possible in the complicated and controversial matters of prices and incomes policy, it is equally possible, indeed, easier, in this matter.
I now want to get away from the question of timing, vital though it is, and return to the substance of the problem with which the White Paper deals. If we are to deal with the cure, we must quickly recite and be sure that we are at one about the symptoms. There are two particularly serious symptoms of what is wrong with British industrial relations. The first is the symptom of inflationary wage increases. Let us remember that this is not unique to Britain. It is a problem which has been shared by every major industrial country since the war. The second symptom is that 95 per cent. of all our strikes are unofficial and nearly always also in breach of agreement. That is unique compared with other major industrial countries.
Moreover, the frequency of our strikes is high compared with most other countries and the frequency is rising. Excepting coalmining, the number of strikes in our economy has about doubled in the last five years and in 1968 was between three and four times as many as 10 years earlier. It is this rising trend, coupled with the particular nature of the strikes, which is so damaging and dangerous, and it is only too obvious that this trend is continuing in 1969. Something must be done and urgently, and the question is what.
Both inflationary wages increases and unofficial wildcat strikes are symptoms of 62 the same disease, namely, the growing failure and weakness of free collective bargaining, particularly at company and plant levels. I believe that there is and for some time has been unanimity about this diagnosis and that there is also unanimity in the view that the only proper remedy for us as a free country is to strengthen and develop voluntary collective bargaining so that it can in future meet the economic and social needs of the modern industrial age. The question is how can that best be done, and that is where the differences, naturally, begin to appear.
We feel that action is required under three main headings, but only two are dealt with in the White Paper. First, absolutely necessary but absent from the White Paper, is the repeal of the statutory incomes policy. Here, the views of the Government and Opposition are diametrically opposed. How can collective bargaining be voluntary or responsible when agreements once reached are subject to veto from Whitehall? In terms of economic gain in the short run, to attempt to control wages by law is futile. But it undermines the authority of official union leadership and it stimulates militancy and causes injustice. For all these reasons it weakens collective bargaining when the urgent need is to strengthen it.
Therefore, the Government must reverse their present policy, because until they do so, nothing else will have a chance to succeed, and until they do so, they will be pursuing mutually conflicting policies. The incomes policy weakens collective bargaining while they are telling us in another breath that the urgent need is to strengthen it.
The second essential line of action, about which there is a large measure of agreement between the two sides of the House and, I think, in the country, is the need for the provision of voluntary services to assist both sides of industry in this task. The old Ministry of Labour rôle was long established, excellent and widely accepted, and the further development of the Department's services, already put in hand or proposed by the Government, is very much in line with Opposition thinking, as can be seen, for example, from the recommendations contained in pages 29 and 46 of "Fair Deal at Work".
63 In addition to the Department s services, we now have the new initiative proposed by the Donovan Report, namely, the Commission for Industrial Relations. I want to make clear that we welcome this and believe that it can do much to help, provided that it is under positive and imaginative leadership. We note that some of the functions for the new C.I.R. are similar to those which we propose in "Fair Deal at Work" for the body which we said should replace the Prices and Incomes Board.
We believe that, in anything but the very short run, the activities and functions of the Prices and Incomes Board and the C.I.R. are overlapping and that there will be grave danger of their treading on each other's corns. Once the statutory incomes policy is abolished—and we believe that that should be immediately—there will in the near future be room for only one body with all the remaining functions brought within the C.I.R. with terms of reference slightly different from those proposed in the White Paper. But on the whole in this second field of action there is not much fundamental disagreement between the two sides of the House, nor, I suspect, within the country.
We now come to the third respect in which action is essential, namely, the need for a new comprehensive industrial relations Act to replace the present antiquated hotchpotch of trade union law. For more than three years the Opposition have been absolutely convinced that, while in the end, of course, the problems of human relations in industry must be solved by responsible voluntary action within industry itself, that voluntary action will have a proper chance to succeed only when the Government have first provided a new legal framework within which our industrial relations are to be conducted.
§ Mr. Carr
I do not understand how the hon. Gentleman can ask that question, because it is the very concept of the free society that there is freedom under the law. There can be no freedom unless there is the law so that people know the rules within which they are working, because when there is not 64 a proper framework of rules and law the Government are under the greatest pressure and the greatest need to intervene in detail, and that is a denial of freedom. We welcome the fact that the Government have now accepted that basic essential of our analysis.
I also note and welcome that the White Paper, like "Fair Deal at Work", speaks of industrial relations reform and not trade union reform, because the failings of trade unions are only part of the story. Our employers' associations are also in need of reform. Moreover, although I feel that some of the right hon. Lady's cheap gibes can do little good, I wish to tell her that we on this side of the House feel very deeply that over a wide area of industry there is urgent need for top management to be more concerned with industrial relations as a matter of high policy and not simply to leave it to the personnel department.
What is needed is a new approach to the whole subject. The concept of trade union law as we know it today is out of date. What Britain needs instead is comprehensive legislation about industrial relations. The status of the trade unions is an essential part of this, but the law must also clarify the rights and obligations of employers in relation to their employees and the organisations which represent them. It must set out which actions are lawful and which are not in the conduct of industrial disputes, and it must establish beyond question the fundamental rights of the individual in an industrial society which is increasingly dominated from both sides by powerful institutions and pressure groups.
It seems to me that the advantages, not least to the trade unions themselves, of having a clear and positive code of law instead of the present uncertain position, must surely be apparent, in view of certain current events and of other recent events, such as last year's inter-union dispute in the hotel industry in Torquay.
Surely there is everything to be said, in everybody's interest, not least that of the trade unions, for knowing in advance, clearly and positively, what the law says, what the law allows and what it does not allow, instead of leaving it to be found by judge-made decisions after each crisis has arisen.
As far as the trade unions are concerned, we must be absolutely clear about 65 the paramount purpose of the new system of law which we propose. The unions' fear—this is a genuine fear which we recognise—is that its object is to weaken and shackle them. We sincerely believe that that is the reverse of the truth. The spate of unofficial strikes and broken agreements from which we suffer is by definition evidence not of unions which are too strong, but of unions which are too weak. For the benefit of the right hon. Lady, who seemed to announce this today as if it were a truth God-given to herself and some of her hon. Friends, I would point out that that is a view which we have been expressing for a long time.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, in particular, has been saying it for a long time. If anybody doubts that, let him read the speech which my right hon. Friend made to the Conservative Party conference in the autumn of 1967. If anyone wants to go back into history, let him read what the T.U.C. thought a century ago. I believe that the Conservative Party's Industrial Relations Act of the 1970s will in due course be just as warmly welcomed as was the Act of the 1870s by the T.U.C. of that day.
The overriding purpose of our Industrial Relations Act, therefore, must be to create unions which are stronger, not weaker, so that the official leadership is reinforced in authority over the unofficial elements. We must create unions which are not only stronger but also more responsible and more accountable both to the public at large and to their own membership.
It is against these tests that we make our judgment of the White Paper and we find it wanting in many important respects. First, let me take the question of the legal duties of employers to recognise and to negotiate. I am sure that the House agrees that this is an important condition for strong trade unions. It is also an important cause of disputes at the moment. The Conservative Party's proposal in "Fair Deal at Work" is to place a legal duty on employers to recognise and negotiate with a trade union when a majority of the employees concerned wish it. The right hon. Lady sought to pour scorn on that proposal. But proper machinery for discovering that is surely the basis of industrial democracy.
We say that when there is doubt about it, the wish of the majority should be 66 determined by secret ballot conducted by an independent authority. Is not that what the white-collar workers in the steel industry would have liked at some time in the last two years? Does not industrial democracy begin here?
But that is not so in the White Paper, because, as the right hon. Lady made clear, instead of giving the right of decision to the workers themselves, it is to be determined on the advice of the T.U.C. and the C.I.R. and, if necessary, the decision is to be imposed by Ministerial Order from above. It is clear from paragaphs 57 and 58 of the White Paper, as well as from what the right hon. Lady said today, that in certain circumstances a Ministerial Order could be imposed even if recognition were desired only by a minority of those concerned. How can that possibly be reconciled with the statement in paragraph 18 of the White Paper, thatwe must make sure that employees have the opportunity to participate in influencing the direction of change"?In the United States the law provides for the proper settlement of this sort of question. The National Labour Relations Board comes in and holds a ballot under its independent supervision. All the workers affected have the chance to vote in secret for the union of their choice, or, for that matter, for no union recognition at all.
§ Mr. Carr
When there is a dispute it should be compulsory. If we believe in democracy, surely that is right.
It is significant that, in practice, the average ballot in such elections in the United States is, I understand, well above 80 per cent. and not far short of 90 per cent. That seems to be participating democracy in practice. Decisions arrived at in that way, apart from being legally binding on all the parties involved, carry a strong natural authority.
It is something on these lines that we urgently need in Britain—not new power for the decisions to be made by the "Establishment" in London, least of all by the Minister; but new power to provide the means through which the workers involved can take the decision for themselves. That is one of the most important ways in which we can help to 67 establish a union leadership which is strong, because it has to be based on winning and holding the support of the workers in the factories and offices in whose name it claims to act.
§ Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Southall)
How can the right hon. Member hold out as a panacea the practice in the United States, where there is far more industrial disharmony and trouble than we have here?
§ Mr. Carr
The hon. Member should compare like with like. I am dealing with one particular aspect of the United States' position which gives workers the opportunity to decide for themselves which union they want to represent them. I am saying that it is the basis of industrial democracy which we surely ought to copy, not in detail but in appropriate form, in Britain, and that that is the opposite of what is in the White Paper.
I move on to the question of legally binding agreements, which goes to the root of the matter. On its own, of course, it is not enough, but we say, and we believe more and more strongly every day, that it is a vital element without which the policy as a whole can never hope to be viable. The Government have entirely failed to come to grips with the purpose of the proposal. The White Paper proposal that agreements can bemade legally binding only by an express written provision in the agreement—this is in paragraph 46—is, in our view, quite useless and shows a complete misunderstanding of what the argument is all about.
What is required is what we suggest in "Fair Deal at Work"—namely, that agreements shall be legally binding unless and except to the extent that both parties agree otherwise. That does not put industrial relations in a legal straitjacket because the parties are free to contract out of enforceability if and to the extent to which they both wish to do so.
But if both management and unions have to come to the bargaining table, as they would under our proposal, knowing that they must be prepared for making an agreement which binds them, this will put both sides, management just as much as unions, under powerful pressures to do several things—to think much more deeply than is usual about the exact contents of their agreement, about its likely 68 effects on, and its likely reception by, those who will have to work under it.
There will also be pressure on both sides to recognise the need to take much more effective measures than are yet common in this country to communicate the terms of the agreement to those affected, and, moreover, to do their best to see that it is kept.
I think that I can comment, without infringing the rule we have in mind, on certain aspects of the dispute we all know about at the moment. If major unions had known clearly in advance that they were entering into a binding agreement, does anyone think it likely that they would have disowned that agreement, within a day or so of its having been formally accepted by a formally constituted negotiating committee? More important, if binding agreements had been the law, would the unions have allowed a joint negotiating committee to have continued for so long——
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Ought not the right hon. Gentleman to be pulled up at once on what he has just said, or are we to have the opportunity of debating the issue?
§ Mr. Carr
I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall steer right away from it. I put it to the House in this way, without reference to the particular dispute. Let us imagine a situation in any industry or great company in which there are several trade unions. We must either find some means of arranging committees which can negotiate with authority, or we shall be in constant trouble. I am suggesting to the House a change in the law in this respect so that people know what the law is and can know in advance where they stand.
§ Mr. Heffer
Will not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is not the question of trying to fit this into the context of the law? It is a failure on the part of the trade union national officials involved in this hypothetical case vis-à-vis the rank and file membership, who were not consulted in any way. This is the important question of getting the communications right and getting the real——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hypothetical case is so close to the actual that I am bound to rule that one infringes the other.
§ Mr. Heffer
With respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, these hypothetical cases occur every day all over the country and have occurred for years. I am putting it to the right hon. Gentleman that in such a case it is important that there should be the fullest participation of the workers at all levels before such an agreement is reached.
§ Mr. Carr
This demonstrates the difficulty which the House is in today, since we have here one of the most important matters at issue. I sum up by saying that we present our case for the enforceability of agreements on the lines I have put forward not as a means of punishing but as a means of pressure to make collective bargaining more precise, more comprehensive, and more representative.
Now, I pass to the other matters which are part of the regulatory system of law. First, on the question of registration of trade unions, "Fair Deal at Work", the Donovan Report and the White Paper all agree in principle. I need not say very much about it, but the wording of the White Paper is, in our opinion, vague and may even be contradictory. Although we must wait for the Bill to be sure, we say firmly at this stage that, in our view, if registration is to be effective and constructive rather than negative, the Registrar must have effective power to vet the details of rules under certain main headings and also to see that they are kept.
Next, there is the question of corporate legal status. We recommend it. The Donovan Committee recommended it. But the Government reject it. We regard that as an impostant gap.
Next, there is the vexed and controversial question of the definition of what constitutes a legally protected trade dispute. If unions are to be strong, they must have adequate—I underline "ade- 70 quate"—protection in prosecuting a lawful trade dispute, but, if they are also to be responsible in a modern economy in which they are strong, not weak as they used to be when our present laws were introduced, the sort of dispute in which they have this broad protection must be carefully defined and, in our view, must be narrower than it is today.
The immunity was given to trade unions to give them, essentially, equal bargaining power with much stronger employers. It was not given to them, and should not, in our view, be left with them today, in order to fight each other, to enforce a closed shop, to impose secondary boycotts on other people or to break agreements. Therefore, it should be limited. The White Paper widens it, and is wrong.
Next, we must be concerned for the protection of the individual. This needs looking after in a number of ways. First, it needs looking after in the individual contract of employment. Paragraph 55 of the White Paper says that the Industrial Relations Bill, when it comes, will lay down that any stipulation in a contract of employment preventing or obstructing trade union membership will be void in law. We agree, but we say further that, similarly, no stipulation coercing a worker into membership should be allowed, since the freedom to associate is on all fours with the freedom not to associate. Contracts of employment, in our view, should be void in law if they contain coercions or pressures in either direction.
Next—here, I am glad to say, there is agreement between the two sides of the House—we should provide a right of appeal to all employees against unjust dismissal. Further, there should be a right of appeal by a member against his union. This is provided in the White Paper, and we agree with the White Paper in principle; but we disagree with the suggestion that the Industrial Board should be specially composed with a majority of employee members for this sort of hearing.
We consider it wrong in principle to start altering the composition of a court or tribunal—call it what one will—according to the sort of case with which it is dealing. Moreover, if I were a nonconforming trade unionist—and being a non-conformist, in whatever respect, is 71 one of the things which freedom is about—I should not want to be judged before a tribunal on which the "Establishment" had a majority.
Next, there is the protection required by the individual in the closed shop situation. Here there is a deep divide between the two sides of the House. We utterly reject the Government's proposals in the White Paper. We say in "Fair Deal at Work" that, when a union shop agreement is made—we see nothing wrong in it being made voluntarily—no employee who was with the company before it was made should be compelled to join a trade union. It is perfectly reasonable to makes it a condition of employment for any new employee, provided that there is an adequate exemption clause on ground of principle, and we suggest that anyone exercising that exemption clause on ground of principle might be required to pay the equivalent of the union dues to some agreed fund.
But we are adamant in saying that, if the rights of the individual are to be preserved, no man or woman should be open to dismissal solely because he or she is not or has ceased to be a member of a trade union for any reason other than failure to pay the dues, once having agreed to join. In our view, it is absolutely wrong to limit that right as the White Paper does. We say that if such a dismissal occurs, the employee dismissed should have an action for damages against the employer and the union—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—against both. Both are essential, because if the union is left out it is not only grossly unfair to the employer but it means that the union—or, more commonly, a small section of it—is under no restraint to act in a responsible, libertarian manner.
§ Mr. Carr
No, I do not. If the hon. Gentleman were to go abroad he would learn some facts of life.
These are some of the essential structural members of the legal framework which we require. Beyond that, there is marginal advantage in having certain additional powers—for example, ballots and cooling-off periods; I gather that I should now refer to the latter as "conciliation pauses"—but these are only long stops which will need to be used rarely, for if they are not used rarely they will quickly become devalued.
The idea of having ballots before official strikes is a matter which we will no doubt have an opportunity to discuss in detail. We support the Government in asking for this power, although we do not believe that it will be of much value. If one is to have power to order a ballot before a strike takes place, one should also consider taking power, to be used on rare occasions, to order a ballot to end a strike. [Interruption.] There are occasions, though rare, when the feeling has grown that strikes have continued through a lack of any means of getting all the people concerned together to decide whether or not they want to go on.
We support the Government in principle on the question of conciliation pauses. After all, we suggested what we called the cooling-off period in "Fair Deal at Work." We cannot believe, however, that they can have a great part to play in dealing with the majority of unofficial strikes. In other words, they must be reserved for the rare occasions when there is a real threat to the whole national economy; and then they would be available whether a threatened strike was official or unofficial.
We doubt whether the 28 days proposed is a long enough period as a maximum. Twenty-eight days may be long enough in some cases, but it is not sufficient as a maximum. Moreover we strongly object 73 to the Minister having personal power to impose it.
We proposed that a cooling-off period power should be given only to the court. The Minister would have had to go to the court for an injunction and, at that point, the union would have a chance to argue its case. It would, therefore, have been the court which would have decided whether an injunction should be given, and it would not have been a political decision.
§ Mrs. Castle
Does the right hon. Gentleman also agree with the proposal in the White Paper to take power to order a return to the status quo?
§ Mr. Carr
I see the right hon. Lady's argument. I note, however, that the words in the White Paper qualify it. We will need to look at this matter carefully and in a constructive spirit, because I genuinely see the point she has in mind.
But I also see the difficulty which might be faced by employers who—having made a vast capital investment could be involved in losing large sums of money every time that the machinery was kept standing idle. There is, therefore, a difficult area for discussion here and I trust that the matter will receive the careful consideration it needs.
I have presented our main comments on the White Paper. We believe that there is too much Ministerial power and that the machinery proposed is too complicated and must be streamlined. We also regret that the White Paper has not adopted the suggestion we made; that attached to the proposed Industrial Relations Bill should be a code of industrial relations practice which might at least set out the subject matter which should be covered in a good progressive collective agreement. This would have been really helpful and would have assisted the C.I.R. in its detailed case-by-case study. We believe that this would be a non-controversial way of proceeding and we still ask the Government to consider its possibilities.
I hope that the House will think carefully about the rôle of law. There are two essential aspects and the first concerns the narrow rôle of law in applying sanctions, punishing offenders and giving power to Governments to intervene to apply direct remedies to specific problems, 74 such as the cooling-off period and the strike ballot. This is a valid rôle of law, but it is the one of minor importance. The wider, more positive and far more important rôle of law, is to create pressure and incentive to promote change; to give support to responsible action and to provide the ground rules within which people can live with the maximum freedom and the minimum of State interference. The greatest benefit of good law flows from the influence which it exerts on the way in which individuals and institutions conduct their business together.
We are critical of the White Paper not because it is insufficiently fierce in that first narrow rôle of law, but because it is insufficiently comprehensive in applying the pressures and incentives which we believe are required to induce voluntary reform and because the regulatory powers proposed put far too much control in the hands of the Minister. We believe in bringing trade unions within a modern system of civil law and that it is wrong in principle to put them under more Ministerial control.
In the end, the problems of human relations can be solved only by voluntary action. However, we believe that that can be aided by bodies such as the C.I.R. and by education and persuasion. But we are utterly convinced that if these voluntary and persuasive functions are to have a fair chance of succeeding, we need a fresh, clear, comprehensive framework of civil law, operating simultaneously over the whole of industry to create a more favourable environment for change, to buttress responsible action and to provide some deterrent to the small irresponsible minority.
What is our ultimate objective? Inevitably, of course, the importance of industrial relations, and particularly their importance in relation to strikes, must be seen in an economic context. Certainly, in economic terms, a solution is vital, particularly in the short term. In the long term, however, the social implications are also immensely important. The tone of our industrial life colours the whole of our society, and the satisfaction or frustration which men and women find in their work spreads far beyond the factory gates.
If only we can establish a reasonable degree of order, stability and confidence 75 in the process of collective bargaining, particularly at plant level, then we believe that free collective bargaining can be developed constructively, both in method and in content, not only to reduce strife but to promote that sense of belonging and participation which is essential if work is to be a satisfying part of life.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Tony Gardner (Rushcliffe)
I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to speak in this important debate and greatly regret the fact that we are to have only a one-day debate on this topic which is of vital interest to the whole country. I am sure that the vast majority of hon. Members would much rather spend long hours debating this important issue, on which so many Members can speak from experience, than they would having arid debates on the British constitution.
Before coming to the reasons which have led us to table the Amendment, I want to make a few comments on the attitude of the Opposition. Once again, on a great issue they are engaging in their usual activity of courageous abstention. When it comes to the crunch, the opposition is missing. The right hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) outlined some points from the Conservative Party's policy on industrial relations. If the Opposition are so critical of the White Paper, why did they not table an Amendment so that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen could have been given the opportunity to express their views in public.
Despite the right hon. Gentleman's moderate speech—it was moderate until he approached the end of it—most people believe that the Conservative Party's policy is to clobber the unions. I suspect that one reason why the Opposition have not tabled an Amendment is that they do not want the details of their policy to be discussed too much in public because, if they were discussed, the public and particularly the trade union movement would realise that the practical effects of Conservative policy would be rather different from the right hon. Gentleman's moderate approach.
Of course the Conservatives would repeal the prices and incomes legislation. They would not need it, because they would have other weapons at their disposal. If they set about cutting back on 76 public expenditure and the social services, they might not even have a problem. If a problem arose, it could be solved by the traditional method of creating unemployment. In any case, despite what the right hon. Gentleman said, the position on collective bargaining which would emerge from the implementation of Conservative policy and—God help us—Conservative legislation on industrial relations would leave unions in such a weak state that there would be no need for any prices and incomes policy.
When the right hon. Gentleman suggested that we should repeal the Trade Disputes Act, 1965, hon. Members opposite cheered. If the repeal of that Act were to mean that the type of judgment which was given in Rookes v. Barnard could be made again with perhaps greater severity, a trade union official would be liable in a civil court to damages merely for threatening an action in pursuit of an industrial dispute. What reasonable person would dream of accepting trade union office under such conditions? Anybody who did so would be mad.
I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman for having interrupted him when he was speaking about the rights of the individual. I share his concern for the rights of an individual who may not see eye to eye with the union which is operating at his place of employment. This is why the White Paper proposes some means of redress. The right hon. Gentleman said that an individual should be able to sue for damages if he is forced to leave his employment as a result of his failure to join a particular union. If this were so the door, would be wide open for any firm or group of firms to encourage blacklegs and to break a union or a union organisation which it did not like.
§ Sir Edward Brown (Bath)
If an individual who had lost his job in those circumstances sought the assistance of his Member of Parliament, and if that Member happened to be the hon. Gentleman, would the hon. Gentleman represent the individual or the union?
§ Mr. Gardner
If in such circumstances I thought that an individual had been badly treated, I should use such influence as I had to persuade my colleagues in the trade union movement to recognise that to treat an individual in that way was to act against the interests 77 of the union movement as a whole. If industrial relations were to be treated in that manner instead of by having recourse to the law, the rights of individuals would be more likely to be protected and industrial relations would be more likely to be improved.
The right hon. Gentleman said that binding contracts should be enforced. I accept that contracts and agreements, once made, should be abided by. However, agreements made in the course of collective bargaining are different from contracts which the law normally has to deal with. Contracts made after a process of collective bargaining are often made under duress. In an interim situation a trade union which is negotiating with employers will say, "We cannot get any more at the moment. Let us accept what is offered and make another move when the situation improves".
What happens where a trade union, on the basis of information supplied by employers about the firm's cost position or profitability, realises that it cannot get more than a certain wage increase at the moment and settles accordingly but later discovers that the firm's profitability or cost position, on the basis of which the agreement was made, is very different and then says, "Let us pull out of this agreement"? The existence of a law requiring a trade union to abide by an agreement would operate against the interests of trade union members.
I suspect that by promulgating such a law we should create a lawyers' paradise. Hon. Members who have experience of the legal profession will agree that at present the profession is not short of work. The courts are full and the waiting lists grow longer. If we add to them by sending industrial cases, I do not know what will happen to the courts or to the profession.
The right hon. Gentleman rightly stressed the importance of education and training. He argued that the basic solution to industrial relations problems was to engage in an educative process. I have recently had correspondence with my old friends in the West Midlands and North Staffs District of the W.E.A., who are engaged on important work, in collaboration with the T.U.C., in the training of shop stewards. If the right hon. Gentleman is sincerely concerned to improve industrial relations and to provide those 78 who engage in collective bargaining with training, he should advise his friends and colleagues on the Birmingham City Council, on the Warwickshire County Council and on the Staffordshire County Council not to stop grants to the W.E.A., because the stopping of grants may effectively prevent the industrial relations work which the W.E.A. is doing from taking place.
I come to the reasons which moved us to table the Amendment. Much hysterical nonsense has been talked about the White Paper, but we believe that there are industrial relations problems which must be tackled and that it would be wrong for the House to reject the White Paper merely because there are some parts of it which we do not greatly like. We accept that something must be done. What we are concerned about is the proposed methods. The whole tone of my right hon. Friend's speech led us to believe that she is as concerned as we are about the human problem of industrial relations. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will admit that if things ever got to the point where the final sanctions she now seeks had to be used that, in itself, would be an admission of failure. Why, therefore, put them in?
We recognise that there is a good deal of good in the White Paper. I will not go through the whole long list again, but our particular concern is with the proposals for the enforcement of strike ballots, for the conciliation pause and for the attachment of earnings. We are opposed to those proposals not so much because they are anti-trade union—I cannot in my heart believe that my right hon. Friend is engaged in an exercise of clobbering the trade union movement; her whole life and work is against any such attitude—but because we believe that they will not work.
In a discussion on democratic philosophy we would probably all agree that ballots of trade union members were a very good thing. I only wish that every trade union provided for such arrangements in its rules, but perhaps certain trade unions have special reasons for not including them. That is certainly the case with the union of which I was at one time a member, though I am not a member now—the A.E.U., as it was; the A.E.F. as it now is. The very good 79 historical reason for the executive keeping control of the strike weapon was that it did not want its funds to be dissipated in local disputes, and wanted to make sure that when it engaged in disputes it would win them.
What would happen if we tried to enforce this provision? What would have happened last year if, at the end of the process, my right hon. Friend had said to the members of the Confederation of Engineering and Shipbuilding Unions—and particularly to the A.E.F.: "You will have to have a ballot"? I suppose that, in the end, the executive would have bowed to the law and accepted her direction———
§ Mr. James Hamilton (Bothwell)
Is my hon. Friend aware, when he refers to the Confederation of Engineering and Shipbuilding Unions, that before its members arrived at a conclusion they had negotiated for 11 months?
§ Mr. Gardner
Precisely. If, at the end of the long process, my right hon. Friend had imposed a ballot, what would have happened? The union executive would probably have conformed, but throughout the country militant shop stewards might have had the lads out on strike. There would have been working to rule and the banning of overtime. My right hon. Friend would have helped to create a festering sore in the industry just because she had intervened in that way. Whatever the view of trade union officials or trade union executive committees, that is what might have happened and the end product might have been worse in its effects on the industry than a short national strike.
When we turn to the proposed conciliation pause, we have to face the problem of what happens if a union decides to take an industry out of an unconstitutional strike and declare the strike to be official, if it decides that these people are within their rights. What happens if the men do not go back? I am conscious of the case my right hon. Friend made of the 10 workers she instanced who could cause terrible damage to a whole industry. We must find means of getting these people to see reason, but would the method my right hon. Friend proposes have that effect? If those concerned said, "No. 80 Despite all your machinery, we shall not go back," we would still have to discuss the real situation lying behind the dispute. We would have to find its causes, and what could be done to overcome them. I am doubtful whether the kind of machinery my right hon. Friend proposes could deal with the lightning dispute———
§ Mrs. Castle
I am following my hon. Friend's argument with very great care. First, if the action is unconstitutional it does not make any difference whether or not it is made official. The whole point is that there is procedure there for conciliation, for trying to solve the thing peacefully, and it has not been used. My hon. Friend has said that even if the workers go back to work, conciliation procedure must still be found. The whole purpose of the 28-day pause is to enable an attempt to reach a peaceful solution to be made.
§ Mr. Gardner
I accept that my right hon. Friend is trying to do this, but I am still concerned about the situation if the people do not go back: the dispute continues, and she still has to find some means of solving it. She still has to look for the real reasons behind the dispute.
It seems to me that a far better approach to the problem is to look at the basic causes of official or unofficial or unconstitutional strike action rather than to use the big stick, which I honestly think my right hon. Friend would not willingly use. It therefore seems rather pointless to seek to frighten the trade union movement in this way with a weapon which would be ineffective, and which I am sure this Government, at least, would be unwilling to use.
We should look at the real causes of the kind of industrial unrest we have—the unofficial action which is a running sore in some industries. We must examine much more closely the quality of management and the structure of the British trade union movement. It is not merely that insufficient payment is made: in recent disputes the advice given to qualified people negotiating with the trade union side has very often been over-ruled or ignored by higher management, and when higher management adopts that attitude it is little wonder that unofficial disputes occur.
81 In the best of British industry, joint consultation is a reality. In the worst of British industry, joint consultation either does not exist at all or does not go beyond a discussion of the state of the lavatories. Much of the unrest arises from suspicion. People in industry do not know what their contribution is, or what the firm's cost position or profits position is, and, rightly or wrongly, they believe that they are being done. We should be concerned with the exchange of information between employers and workers. If much more information went backwards and forwards, there would be much less trouble.
I will give an example. A large firm in my constituency was faced with changes and the possibility of some redundancies. Certain members of the staff, most of whom were highly skilled scientists and technicians, some holding university degrees, learned of the prospect of redundancy only when the firm stuck up a notice on the factory wall. Such action does not make for good industrial relations. When the Member of Parliament sought to get information, he was told, "Approach our public relations consultants." That is not the way to deal with industrial problems. Another firm, employing many of the workers in my constituency, at one minute sacked 75 men because the job was changed but, only two months later, begged them all to return, without a word of explanation about what had caused the change in the company's policy.
These things lie at the heart of bad industrial relations. Why is it that the bulk of disputes take place in industries that are changing most quickly—in the docks and in the motor industry? I suggest that it is because in both industries very rapid changes are taking place, and people will take a very long time to adjust themselves to such changes. Unofficial disputes, in particular, are not usually about wages or working conditions but very often about the dismissal of, perhaps, someone in the trade union or about a change in working. If a piecework issue is involved, as it is in the British Motor Corporation, every nut and bolt in a Mini Minor which is redesigned is a potential trade dispute.
It is little wonder that this system of piecework leads to constant upheaval in industrial relations. If the attitude of the employers is that their only responsi- 82 Bility is to hire, and bribe, with higher piecework rates when times are good and to sack out of hand when times are not no good, then I am not surprised that industrial relations in the motor industry are in their present sad state. It is not all one-sided. There are some stupid, I am tempted to say, on occasions some very wicked people, on the labour side in industry.
We have seen some of the disputes in central London, in the building industry. One would have to think very carefully before suggesting that everyone in the trade union movement was on the side of the angels. No one would suggest this. There are those who adopt a revolutionary posture, who really believe in a political philosophy which says that they should cause as much industrial unrest as possible, and when the whole machine breaks down they take over. This is a respectable philosophy, but it is not one which would be adopted by any hon. Member in this House. If we do not accept this, we have to say that the conditions under which trade unions now operate vis-à-vis the national income and society as a whole are vastly different from those in which many trade union attitudes grew up.
We have a higher standard of living, relatively full employment, a vast welfare State, and very considerable State ownership; 20 per cent. of all new industrial investment next year will be State investment. There is a much wider public ownership of wealth. In those circumstances, the trade union movement cannot maintain traditional class attitudes. In this situation it is possible that some groups of people can be downright selfish and grab what they can while not worrying too much about the consumer.
What is basically wrong with the setup is that there are too many trade unions—the structure is not related to the industry. The disputes procedure is much too long and, more important, it is too remote from those on the shop floor. Taken together this produces a situation which gives far too much power to people with no official position in the movement. We hand over power to unofficial committees and shop stewards. We should be looking to see how we can solve this problem. Many responsible people know that this is the problem and have been 83 trying to solve it. We should concentrate on helping these responsible trade union officials and members rather than engaging in certain kinds of legislation.
I do not pretend that my right hon. Friend's task is easy. Changes are taking place in industry which are at least as important as was the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century. They are leading to vast changes in the way we work, in some cases to redundancy and all its problems, and they are certainly leading to much greater stress on the individual worker. We should concentrate on that. The Government should back up those who want to make changes and not bind them with experimental legislation.
After our experience of trying to deal with unofficial disputes in the docks by means of the Defence Regulations it was shown that the interference of the law in industrial relations does not solve any problems. Tonight I cannot support the view expressed by my hon. Friends in their Amendment; I would not want to reject the White Paper out of hand. If it comes to the crunch, I will support my right hon. Friend in the Division Lobby, but I want to give her this warning: it does not automatically mean that I or some of my hon. Friends, although I cannot speak for them, will necessarily go into the same Lobby if she includes these proposals in any legislation brought forward.
I appeal to her not to take too much notice of opinion polls. They ask very simple questions. It is very easy to vote against sin, but it is not at all easy to understand the complex problem of industrial relations. I appeal to my right hon. Friend to do what she suggested in her speech, to carry on with consultations she is having with both sides of industry, and when she comes to the end of them, by all means seek to improve industrial relations, but for goodness' sake, drop these particular proposals.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
I thought that the hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Gardner), who was once my opponent, and an honourable opponent, was less than fair to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr), which exposed and discussed this party's proposals for the reform of trade union 84 law with a thoroughness, a candour and a clarity that contrasted with the right hon. Lady's treatment of her own White Paper.
At one stage the hon. Member was in danger of getting himself into the position of saying that the success and strength of the trade union movement depended upon the power to deny the right of free choice to individuals. However, I want to follow him in his attempt to look more deeply into the causes of the malaise which both sides of the House recognise, and with which we are trying to grapple. This debate marks the beginning of what is likely to be a lengthy period of legislative concern with the law of trade unions. It is the first such period for about 60 years. What an extraordinary contrast there is in the environment in which this debate takes place, and in which the future cycle of debates is to take place, and the environment ruling at the time when this was last debated. Some of the problems which are constantly on our lips and in our minds were not only unknown to our predecessors at that time, but would be utterly unintelligible to them.
Two of them are inflation and the balance of payments. I believe that a false connection, commonly drawn between the problems of inflation and the balance of payments on the one hand and the problems of trade union law and reform on the other, is one of the causes of the present industrial unrest and dissatisfaction. One of the surest ways of driving men to frustration and anger is to blame them for producing by their actions results which at heart they know cannot flow from what they are doing.
I know it is widely believed that trade unions by their actions can cause inflation. I do not share this belief. Of course a trade union can, in certain circumstances, by its action force up the wages of its own members; but to say that as a result the wages of all other employees follow suit is manifestly absurd. A general rise in wages, like a general rise in prices, can only be the result of that which can cause an increase in total demand. It is not within the power of any trade union or group of trade unions, however powerful, to cause an increase in total demand. We have here a mythological connection between inflation and trade union action which can do nothing but harm; and it is all to the good that the Government 85 are showing more and more signs of recognising that the phenomena of inflation result from Government action and Government finance, and require to be dealt with by Government action and Government financial policy.
As to balance of payments, here again the popular context in which many industrial disputes are set implies a direct connection between the industrial scene and our balance of payments. The result of this seems sometimes to be a positively hysterical attitude towards the problem of strikes, official or unofficial. I have no wish to minimise the consequences of strike action, economic or otherwise, but anyone who looks at the figures in the Appendix to the White Paper—between 4 million and 5 million working days lost each year in the latest year as a result of strike action—begins to see the thing in better proportion.
If there were only that number of workers in the country it would be a loss of only one day per year, but obviously the fraction of days directly lost is smaller than even that fraction of 1 per cent. When all allowance has been made for the exceptionally dislocative effect of some strike action and for the indirect consequences of the time directly lost in strikes, we still have to recognise that, expressed in percentage terms, the impact of strikes upon our economy and our production is quantitatively extremely small. It is so small that the growth in our production in one year would be sufficient to overwhelm any effect there can be from the growth in strikes experienced over recent years.
Even if this were not so, even if it were the fact that an appreciable effect upon our output was produced by strike action, this would have nothing to do with our problem of balance of payments. There is no correlation between output or movement of output and the experience of a country's balance of payments; for if the parity at which its currency is fixed is higher than the supply-and-demand parity, then its inhabitants can work like mad and be the most efficient productive unit on the face of the earth, and yet suffer from a severe balance of payments deficit. If we look at experience of different countries, from the United States to Japan, we find that there is no correlation between industrial unrest or level of production 86 on the one hand and balance of payments on the other.
If we are, therefore, looking for grounds on which to reform our trade union law and practice, I believe we shall be mistaken if we start our search imbued with the idea that here lie the causes, and, therefore, here lie the solutions, of our problems either in inflation or in the balance of payments. If reform of the law is needed—and I agree it is—it is needed for two reasons, one economic and the other social; for the reason of efficiency in the one sphere and of justice in the other.
When I say "efficiency" I am not referring to the will-o'-the-wisp of productivity as a means of determining remuneration. Immense damage is being inflicted by the Government themselves upon industrial relations at the present time by the attempt to enforce a sham relationship between remuneration in a particular employment and something described or defined as productivity. This is an absolutely inapprehensible relationship, one which cannot be made intelligible in terms of a wage award and which dissolves upon examination. Of course there is a relationship between total wages—total national income—and total productivity. They are two sides of the same coin. But the attempt to establish a specific relationship between remuneration in a particular employment and productivity, however measured, in that particular employment is foredoomed to failure.
When I say "efficiency" then, I mean simply that anything which hinders the ability of those who sell their labour or their brains or who employ their property and their savings constantly to be seeking the best employment or the best market on which to offer and sell them, reduces efficiency and to that extent prevents the people of this country from getting what they want and what they otherwise would have. It is impossible to dissociate this economic effect of some aspects of our present trade union law and practice from the social effect; for it is equally a requirement of justice that the individual should not be inhibited from seeking what seems to him to be the best return, the best market, for his brains, his skill, his talent, or his resources. It is from that freedom, social and economic, that our progress arises; 87 and it is in those terms that the efficiency of our economy is to be judged.
In recent years it has been much more obvious than ever in the past that actual remuneration is determined very closely by the forces of supply and demand, both general and local—supply and demand for labour generally, and also in particular, supply and demand for that labour at that place at that time and for that purpose. We have become familiar with this phenomenon under the term of "wage drift". We have realised that we are living in circumstances in which there is often very little practical relationship between the terms, conditions and rates fixed in overall national negotiations and the actual remuneration which is received by the men and women who are working. In fact, we have an almost complete divorce between real earnings, which are the subject of local negotiation, official or not, and rates, which are the subject of national negotiation.
This phenomenon of a real and an unreal labour market is mirrored by the phenomenon of the shop steward. The shop steward is the moment of truth in this process. The shop steward, like him or not, is seeking for the actual balance of supply and demand for that labour at that time and place. I think it significant that he should have been the recipient of so bad a Press and such unfavourable epithets. Those epithets and that unfavourable view of the shop steward, although I am afraid they have been widely and uncritically accepted, really originate from the very people whose loss of power is reflected in the growth of his. It is those who are conducting sham negotiations on a national scale who apply to the shop steward, who is conducting the real negotiations, the choice terms, "militant", "irresponsible", "wildcat", "aggressive". I thought there was quite a good specimen of that kind of terminology in the White Paper, paragraph 24, where we are invited to compare the national negotiations which prevail in many of the nationalised industries with what happens elsewhere. It says:There is no equivalentin the nationalised industries—of the disordered pay structures, or the chaotic and inflationary …88 I have dealt with that fallacy—shop floor pressure, that are so pronounced a feature of some of our major industries.These phenomena which are so described—" disordered pay structures "and" chaotic … shop floor pressure"—are the response of men and women to realities, to actual supply and demand. The gulf which this opens between the national structure and the realities on the shop floor is entirely unwelcome to the high priests of the former system, and, naturally, they give it as bad a Press as they can. In fact, we have almost succeeded in turning the exponents of genuine bargaining, the exponents of the freest possible market for people's skill and labour, into the bogey men of the scene.
Directly from this gulf which has opened flow the principal features which are arresting public attention and underlie a great part of what I am sure is a general demand on the part of the public that there should be change and reform in trade union law and procedure.
It is from this that there arise those local and unofficial industrial actions which are reflected in the fact that, as the White Paper points out, so high a proportion of strikes, both in total numbers and in days lost, are unofficial. The White Paper is quite right in paragraph 88 in challenging this distinction, which some believe is as absolute as the law of the Medes and Persians, between official and unofficial. In many ways it is an extremely misleading distinction. What is happening here is that collective bargaining is seeking within the present framework of law to respond to current realities, to respond to the rapid alterations of supply and demand, to respond to the great variation of supply and demand between one part of the country and another, and to respond in order that the workers in a particular situation may not be denied the fair—that is to say, the market—return for what they are offering.
§ Mr. Heffer
I find the right hon. Gentleman's remarks fascinating. But does he not agree that there is a slight flaw in his argument—that most of the unofficial strikes are not connected with the amount of money involved for those workers? Most of them are concerned with conditions of employment. It is 89 fallacy in his argument to suggest that all unofficial strikes are to do with wages.
§ Mr. Powell
According to the White Paper, half are directly concerned with remuneration. But the hon. Member is as aware as I am of the fact that many disputes, which in form are directly concerned with other conditions, ultimately go back to remuneration. After all, remuneration is the common terminology in which all conditions and opportunities of employment can be expressed.
The second major anxiety which has arisen from the same source concerns the growing use of coercive measures to enforce closed or union shops. If the remuneration of labour is the result of local supply and demand, if the remuneration of labour is not fixed or enforced by national union action—indeed, that can be verified when we observe that in many employments which are lightly unionised or not unionised at all the rate of increase of remuneration has been at least as fast as in those where the unions are strong—then the moral ground which was previously supposed to exist for the principle of the closed or union shop disappears, and it becomes mere and unjustified interference with personal freedom of choice to seek to use union action under the present law in order to enforce the closed shop.
These are some of the widespread symptoms that our present system of trade union law is obsolete. We cannot force the present back into the legal framework of the past. We have to have a new legal framework which will fit the realities of the present. In setting out to make that new legal framework, I believe that we have to recognise as the central point in trade union law the immunities which the present law confers upon industrial action—upon unions and upon individuals engaged in or contemplating trade disputes. For a trade union is not merely a free association of persons. It is an association privileged under the law, and the central point of trade union law is the definition of the immunities which the law gives to industrial action. That, I believe, is the key point at which change needs to be applied. The selection of that key point is one of the outstanding merits of the policy with which my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham has been associated. I 90 should like to quote an important sentence from "Fair Deal at Work":We see no justification for granting special legal protection to combinations of employers or work people who induce or take part in certain types of dispute which in modern conditions we regard as neither necessary to support legitimate claims nor desirable in the national interest.It is there that our trade union laws have fallen progressively out of touch with reality and out of touch with public opinion, and it is at that point, above all, that they must be brought back into contact with both. Our policy is, in effect, to remove that immunity where it would otherwise be used for purposes which are not approved by opinion and which are not justifiable economically or socially in the light of justice.
In particular, this is the way to deal with the growing evil of the enforced closed or union shop. It may well be, too, that it will prove to be the best way of dealing with the problem of the broken agreement. There are great difficulties—and they emerge both from the White Paper and from the document "Fair Deal at Work—in endowing an agreement arrived at in collective bargaining between the two sides with the nature of an ordinary contract. I see no point in denying that. The notion of enforcing these agreements as contracts are enforced seems to me an extremely difficult one upon any construction. It may, however, be a much simpler approach simply to remove or to qualify the central immunity of industrial action where that industrial action aims at, brings about or supports the breach of an agreement. That approach would certainly get rid of many of the difficulties which attach to the attempt to treat such an agreement as a contract in its own right.
The great merit of this approach, which is central to my right hon. Friend's policy, is that it opens recourse to the courts, whether to the general courts or to special courts set up for the purpose. I believe that the objections which are commonly urged to providing a recourse to the courts are profoundly misconceived. One of those objections is that the majority of problems arise in the context of unofficial action or unofficial strikes, and that, since the employer would either be powerless or would not think it worth his while to have resort to the courts 91 in such circumstances, therefore to provide recourse to the courts is irrelevant to the problem.
§ Mr. William Molloy (Ealing, North)
I have been interested and intrigued in listening to the right hon. Gentleman's speech, but it would seem that every dispute on which he is commenting is initiated on one side of the industrial fence, and I do not think this is true.
§ Mr. Powell
Certainly not. Although in the White Paper—and this is probably a convenience—it is proposed that any future legal definition should distinguish between associations of employers and associations of workers, I am still using the term "trade union" in its present legal meaning as applying equally to combinations of employers and combinations of employed. In my denunciation, at an earlier stage of my speech, of the gulf between the national negotiation and the reality on the shop floor, and of the widespread failure to comprehend the significance of that gulf, my words were directed at least as much to the combinations of employers as to the combinations of workers, if not more.
§ Mr. Bidwell
Does the right hon. Gentleman extend this fascinating theory to occasions when white workers might combine to prevent the employment of coloured workers, when coloured workers might combine to prevent some other activity or when white employers might combine to prevent the employment of coloured workers?
§ Mr. Powell
I cannot think that those are circumstances in which anyone would attempt to justify the immunities provided by the existing law being used to cover industrial action on either side. The hon. Member's intervention may have shown how useful this line of approach to a reform of trade union law could be.
I was dealing with one of the objections which is often urged to opening recourse to the courts, namely, that so many of the problems relate to unofficial strikes. The answer here, I believe, is that behind most unofficial action there lies the potentiality of official action. People often stand amazed that so small a number of men here or there engaged in an unofficial dispute can hold up and cause to be laid 92 off tens of thousands of other workers. This is not because that handful of men could not be replaced by the employer. It is because behind that handful of men engaged in what purports to be an unofficial dispute there lies the union—and not necessarily of the union's volition. It may be that the union would detest the possibility of having to come into action to support that handful of men, but, as the law stands, the handful of men can use the protection of the official union without its ever actually being invoked. Consequently, if the law were so changed that there was recourse to the courts, then the union itself would be strengthened, the union would be in a position to take a line against unofficial action which it is at present unable to do.
There is, however, a much wider objection urged. It is often alleged that, as recourse to the courts would rarely be had, the possibility of recourse to the courts would not be important. I regard this as a profound fallacy. In "Fair Deal at Work" my right hon. Friend and his colleagues took the example of the law of trespass—trespass, frequently committed but rarely taken to the courts—and they rightly ask: would anyone propose, therefore, to dispense with the law of trespass?
Perhaps I might put another example. I imagine that it often happens to hon. Members in this House, as to other, that they are libelled and slandered, and yet action is taken only in an almost negligible percentage of the cases where it perhaps might legally and theoretically be taken. But I do not think it would be argued on that ground either that there should be no law against libel or slander, or that the possibility of recourse to the courts, however rarely—statistically speaking—it is invoked, is not a very real protection to the public at large and to the individual citizen.
Here we come to the heart of the subject before the House. A system of law is essentially a statement of that which the public regard as tolerable or intolerable. The limits of what is regarded as acceptable or unacceptable are defined by the law. Today in trade union law we have a law which does not do that. We have a law which permits, renders lawful and protects that which a great majority of the public, indeed in many 93 cases the great majority of trade unionists, regard as unjustifiable. Of course we shall not, by changing the law, cause those practices to disappear overnight, like mists disappearing in the dawn. They will never entirely disappear, because they are of the nature of the collective relationships of real men and women. But this does not mean that we can, therefore, continue with the law in its present state. This House of Parliament has a duty to do, and its duty is not to acquiesce in a state of the law which is obsolete and which gives unjustifiable protection to that which is widely reprobated.
However great the urgency in some respects, however great the pressure, I believe that this will be a lengthy task, and perhaps, in the end, better for being lengthy. Let us approach it not hagridden by fallacies, by false charges, such as those which associate the trade unions with the problems of inflation and the balance of payments. Let us approach it with a realisation of the realities of the world in which we are living, and with a determination to have a code of law which does not permit what public opinion at large considers should not be permitted, and which strengthens and supports those who at their place of work, whether as employers or as employed, wish to behave in a manner approved of by the body of their fellow citizens.
§ 6.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Ben Ford (Bradford, North)
I am relieved to see more hon. Members in the Chamber on this occasion than when we last debated industrial affairs upon the report of the Donovan Committee. The importance of the debate cannot be over-stated, and I congratulate my right hon. Friend in bringing forward the White Paper and pursuing it with her usual courage and sincerity.
I should state my interest in the debate. I have been apprenticed in the printing industry, where there is active trade unionism, I have spent some time in the catering industry, where trade unionism is fairly loosely organised, and I have spent many years in the engineering industry, of which I think I have as much knowledge as most.
The provisions of the White Paper and the objects it seeks to attain are clearly 94 stated in paragraph 18, where it sets out four objectives:
I would suggest that those are highly laudable objects.
- "(i) the reform of collective bargaining;
- (ii) the extension of the role and rights of trade unions;
- (iii) new aids to those who are involved in collective bargaining; and
- (iv) new safeguards for the community and individuals."
It seems to me that the proposals in the White Paper contain much of what I have campaigned for over many years. However, in this connection I have two complaints. The first is that some of the proposals were leaked to the Press and distorted in advance of the publication of the White Paper in a dishonourable manner. My second complaint is that many of the proposals are being distorted still so as to cause concern and demonstrations among thousands who have not even read the document.
I would suggest to my right hon. Friend that she might prepare a concise and objective précis for distribution to workers throughout the country in the same manner as National Joint Productivity Council documents are distributed through the trade union organisations and employers' organisations.
§ Mr. Heffer
Would my hon. Friend not agree that the Trades Union Congress is fully aware of the White Paper and is not in favour of some of its proposals?
§ Mr. Ford
I would agree with that. I am suggesting that the Trades Union Congress should help us to help the workers understand the proposals.
I should like now to list some of the advantages contained in the White Paper. Among them there are the following. The first is the rejection of the Donovan proposal to modify the 1906 Act, so that protection would be withdrawn from unregistered trade unions. It must not be forgotten that any group of workers combining in an action can become a trade union in law.
A second advantage is that it is proposed to give us the right of access to certain types of information. We all know that balance sheets are accountancy documents drawn up by accountants for accountants.
95 Thirdly, if necessary, it will facilitate the appointment of workers' representatives to boards of undertakings and the study of other methods of participation. I shall return to that point in a moment.
Fourthly, it intends to establish the principle that no employer has the right to prevent or obstruct an employee from belonging to a trade union. In addition, it will empower the Secretary of State consequentially to make an Order requiring an employer to recognise and negotiate with the union, and it will give trade unions the right to take an employer unilaterally to arbitration if he fails to observe an Order.
It refers to the setting up of the Commission for Industrial Relations, which has commenced functioning today. Here again, my right hon. Friend has demonstrated her sincerity by her imaginative appointments. Indeed, I wonder whether she has not to some extent tried to generate creative tension in her selection of names of members of the Commission.
Some of my hon. Friends think that the C.I.R. will become an extension of the prices and incomes policy. In that connection, I am indebted to the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page), who put down a Question on the subject. It was answered on 25th February, when my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity said:The main functions of the C.I.R. will be to encourage the improvement and extension of collective bargaining machinery, to examine trade union recognition problems and to promote the reform of industrial relations. The C.I.R. will not have responsibility for applying prices and incomes criteria; nor will it be directly concerned to secure improvements in productivity. The Commission will deal with the procedures under which pay and other substantive terms of agreement are negotiated but not with actual pay rates or increases."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th February, 1969; Vol. 778, c. 275.]That is clear enough, I think.
Then it is proposed to establish an industrial board to consider certain types of case, the members of which will be drawn from the employers' and employees' panels of the Industrial Court and the independent members of the court.
It will provide for the C.I.R. to make grants and loans for trade union development. This is another matter to which I shall return later.
96 Then it will introduce safeguards against unfair dismissals, and it will enable individuals to carry to the industrial board, upon which there will be at least one trade union nominee, complaints by individuals of unfair or arbitrary action by trade unions.
Those are some of the advantages which I have seen, and I come now to detail a number of what are suggested to be the disadvantages.
The first is embodied in the phrase:To enable the Secretary of State by Order to require those involved to desist for up to 28 days from a strike or lock-out which is unconstitutional or in which for other reasons adequate joint discussions have not taken place and to require the employer meanwhile to observe specified terms or conditions".—in other words, to return to the status quo.
I have spent some years on the shop floor in a negotiating capacity. I believe that this is the most significant and far-reaching proposal in the White Paper. In the great majority of cases, trade union officials find themselves in a position similar to that of present-day Foreign Secretaries. They are reacting to situations arising without their pre-knowledge, and this is particularly applicable on the shop floor. That is why I said when I last spoke on this subject that many unofficial strikes were justified.
In my opinion, the proposal to return to the status quo will bring about enormous changes in industrial relations. Bearing this provision in mind, employers will feel it necessary to consult their work people before making, for instance, changes in working practice which often react to the detriment of the workmen and where the only remedy, because of the inadequacy of the procedural machinery, has been an unofficial stoppage.
I can remember times when an incident has arisen resulting in the instant dismissal of a shop steward, when the only way that he could be stopping going out of the gate with his toolbag in his hand was by calling an instant, unofficial and unconstitutional stoppage. This is what the White Paper is designed to avoid.
It must be recognised that in order to enforce such a provision, penalties are necessary. If we are to fine an employer, say, £1,000 per day while he is in breach 97 of an order, workers can hardly claim that they are being harshly treated when it is suggested that minimal penalties should be applied as a last resort in the case of unnecessary unconstitutional action I do not remember vast demonstrations round the ports or through the streets of London against criminal penalties for the dropping of toffee wrappers in the streets. We cannot create a just society by legislating in an obviously unjust manner.
The third objection relates to the proposal empowering the Secretary of State, where an official strike is threatened, by order to require a ballot. This is a matter on which I have some reservations, and it is one of the matters on which the current discussions should continue, because I hope that some alternative will be found.
I would ask hon. and right hon. Members to note that the White Paper states specifically that it is not intended to take away the right or the power to strike. Is not this directly relevant to industrial situations which we all know? I can quote a workman who said in one case:You only do what your mates are doing, you know It is natural, isn't it? If a secret ballot was held here, 98 per cent. would want to go back to work.In one dispute, the company offered all the facilities for a ballot of the workers on the question of a wages offer. It was refused.
I cannot understand the mental processes of trade union leaders who claim to have the most democratic trade union structure because they spend thousands of £s of their members' money in over-frequent elections of petty officials and then deny to those same members the right to ballot on whether to accept a pay deal or to go on strike.
§ Mr. James Hamilton
Would my hon. Friend agree that a ballot vote was decided upon by the Union of Post Office Workers and the executive council of that union advised the members what to do, but, by a majority of two to one, the members decided to go on strike?
§ Mr. Ford
I agree. I also remember an occasion when a ballot was taken at Ford, which went against the recommendation of the national executive.
I was about to quote my own experience concerning ballots. I have here an 98 agreement which I negotiated as a convener on the shop floor of a very large plant. It was one of those occasions when we profited by taking the initiative and not having to react to a situation. We put certain proposals to the employers. But first we had to sell these proposals to our shop stewards and members. It involved a radical change in the wages structure incorporating an element of productivity which many people at first sight might have found distasteful had it not been explained to them. At all stages of the negotiations the members were kept informed. When the final formula was drawn up it was submitted to a ballot of the members and was carried. Many of our present difficulties lie in the huge gulf which exists between the official leadership of the trade unions and the members on the shop floor.
Another point of resentment against the White Paper appears to be the offer of grants and loans through the medium of the C.I.R. under the heading of paragraph 71,A trade union development scheme.Paragraph 72 states:The Bill will define the purposes for which assistance can be provided; these are expected to include assistance for trade union mergers, the expansion of training for union officials including shop stewards, the development of unions' often inadequate research facilities"—here I heartily agree—(particularly to meet the needs resulting from more detailed negotiations at company level), and the employment of management consultants.I remember a time when I offered to employ a management consultant to make a point on my behalf from the funds of my shop stewards' committee. The employer was not very happy about that. But concerning the money to which there has been somewhat slighting reference—many people have said that the Government are patronising the trades unions—I should like to read a sentence from paragraph 73 of the White Paper:There will be no conditions intended to influence a union's behaviour in day-to-day collective bargaining.This is quite clear. I thank my right hon. Friend for introducing this element into the White Paper.
I must cut quite a bit of my speech, because I am aware that time is passing.
In terms of direct and indirect services, industry receives a subvention of £700 99 million a year from the Government. I do not see why the workers should not have their share as well.
The White Paper opens up a very wide sphere when discussing workers' participation in industry. In this I believe my right hon. Friend to be acting in the spirit of the statement and resolution adopted at last year's annual conference of the Labour Party. The statement, incidentally, said:Here it is worth noting that in our view the problems of trade union organisation today arise not from their strength, but from their weakness"—precisely the words of my right hon. Friend upon many occasions, and today from the Dispatch Box.
I have looked around for contributions on these matters and find the trade union movement somewhat laggard in its theology. I hope that this will not be a sphere where the intellectuals will hold the balance purely through lack of trade union thought.
There are those who gallop around the country shouting slogans about nationalisation and socialism without knowing what they mean. The situation is summed up in a paragraph in the foreword to the Report of the Labour Party Working Party on Industrial Democracy:The claim for a more active and responsible rôle in the running of industry by its workers raises many complex and challenging problems. They will not be solved by ignoring them: they must be faced squarely and examined objectively. A thorough debate on this report might well lead to far-reaching changes being made in the foundations of our industrial society that will endure for a very long time.I should like to quote two lines from paragraph 263 of the Trade Union Congress Interim Report on Public Ownership:This interim report has been able to do little more than roughly map out the route for what will necessarily be a long journey.There will be no quick and easy overnight solutions to these problems. In my opinion, the White Paper represents constructive steps towards a democratic socialist State. It is no good going around muttering slogans about socialism and then saying, "It is O.K. for everybody else but me." Socialism means planning—as opposed to what was said by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, 100 South-West (Mr. Powell)—and that involves us all.
I am aware, of course, of the ideology which puts forward the theory that out of chaos there may be created the people's State. This is what the fuss is about and why the very small militant minority on the floor of industry is organising against the proposals. The White Paper represents a major crippling and direct assault upon these influences, and the comrades are digging their ditches and raising their barricades.
There is much that I should like to say about employers and their attitudes and organisations. As time is passing, I will refer those interested to the debate on 16th July, 1968, c. 1308, where I set out my views fairly fully.
I conclude by stating my support for the Government Motion which invites continuing consultation. My right hon. Friend's proposals, in my opinion, will do no harm to the working class. They embody many of the improvements that I have been campaigning for years to achieve. For these reasons, I shall go into the Government Lobby tonight.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Sir Edward Brown (Bath)
We have had an interesting debate so far. It seemed almost as if we were dealing with a Bill, but we are debating a White Paper, and resistance to it is already being shown in certain sections of the House.
In March, 1964, the Conservative Government made detailed proposals for an examination of industrial relations. The present Prime Minister, then Leader of the Opposition, informed the Trades Union Congress:I see no need for a Royal Commission … which will take minutes and waste years.We went into opposition in 1964, and in 1965 we produced a study group and a study paper to examine this matter. In 1966 we had the announcement of the Donovan Commission. Only one practical trade union person was invited to sit on that Commission—Lord Robens.
We now have the White Paper in detail and we are asked to examine it this afternoon. Most of us have done so. But I wonder how many hon. Members on both sides of the House have seen the sting in the tail which comes after paragraph 25, namely, that the Royal Commission made other more detailed 101 recommendations, mainly of a legal nature, that are not referred to in this White Paper, but which will be considered by the Government and discussed with those concerned with a view to a possible inclusion in the Industrial Relations Bill.
This is the first major reform that Parliament has had before it since Benjamin Disraeli's Bill of 1874–75. This is the first time that we have examined this subject critically and I think that when we discuss the implications of the White Paper for the trade union movement we must remember that while the membership of that movement is about 9½ million, there are 24 million people at work, and that the White Paper does not concern itself in any way with those who are not members of unions affiliated to the T.U.C.
§ Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
The hon. Gentleman is making a mistake. One of the objectives of the White Paper is to make it easier for these other people to be members of a union for the first time.
§ Sir E. Brown
I am not disputing that. What I am saying is that the main concern in this House is centred on those who are members of unions affiliated to the T.U.G. All the way through the discussion so far we have heard nothing but references to the T.U.C. It is the duty of this House to speak for the nation.
In 1958 I chaired for my party an industrial relations policy group. We submitted proposals which were finally considered, and were, I hope, included in "A Fair Deal at Work", which is rejected by hon. Gentlemen opposite as being far too penal for the trade unions.
I have spent most of my life in the trade union movement. I have been a shop steward, a negotiator, an ordinary member, a district officer, and for one period a member of the national standing orders committee. I therefore know something about the inside working of the trade union organisation. It is about time that we realised that we as a nation will go downwards and backwards unless we get peace in industry. At the moment we have proudly to boast to our membership of 9½million that 500,000 of our brethren and comrades are out of work, and that this White Paper will not help them to find jobs.
102 In introducing the White Paper the right hon. Lady has abnegated that side of the House and taken on the colours of this side in introducing what some have called Tory legislation. [An HON. MEMBER: "The hon. Gentleman is wearing the wrong colours."] It does not matter about that. We are discussing a matter of vital importance. Days and months have been wasted on fruitless discussions about other aspects of our national life. This White Paper is vital, because it affects every man woman and child in the country. If we are to get our priorities right, it is time that we brought back the protection afforded by the 1874 Act, a Measure introduced by a Conservative Government. It seems that we shall have to wait for another Conservative Government before we can bring the trade unions back from being above the common law to being below it.
I conclude by making a passionate plea to hon. Members who may be opposed in thought to some advance in this direction to listen to and to examine what is said about the vital necessity of getting our industrial relations right. If my experience and my contacts with the man in the street and the worker in the factory go for anything, people are thoroughly fed up with the way in which the trade unions are treating their workers, with all the intimidation that goes on, and with all the trouble about closed shops. These are not the things for which workers pay their subscriptions. They pay them so that they can have an organisation to protect their interests and to negotiate with their employers on such matters as pay and conditions of work.
The ordinary worker wants a happy home to go to after having done a decent job of work. This document represents a short step forward in that direction, and if we accept it now, as I hope we shall, when the Conservative Party gets back to power we shall give it full impetus and go forward with it.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)
I am sure that the hon. Member for Bath (Sir E. Brown) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his Tory theme, but get back instead to discussing the central issue facing the House and the Amendment signed by members of all sections of opinion, including a Welsh Nationalist who signed it today.
§ The Amendment rejects the White Paper, and I propose to give the House the reasons for, and the philosophy behind, our proposal. We are meeting on a day which is significant for industrial relations. Mr. Speaker has ruled that we cannot refer to disputes taking place outside, but there is no doubt that at the moment a great deal of importance is being attached to industrial affairs.
§ We must examine carefully the reasons for the Government's proposals and the necessity or otherwise of the White Paper. Let us be under no delusion about this. The White Paper is the basis for legislation, and I give my right hon. Friend credit for the fact that at private meetings which she and I have attended she has fought for the basis of this White Paper and the main proposals in it.
§ I think that we would be kidding ourselves if we did not understand that the Bill will be based at least partly on the concept of this White Paper. There may be changes, but let us not kid ourselves into thinking that this is not the basis of what my right hon. Friend has in mind. We must not be like the Tories, who huff and puff. Judging by what the right hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) said, hon. Gentlemen opposite should have the courage to go into the Governmen Lobby tonight. The right hon. Gentleman endorsed nine-tenths of the White Paper, and the Opposition ought to follow their convictions. If they believe in the White Paper, they ought to vote for it. They often say that honesty is needed in politics. It is about time that we had a little honesty from the Opposition.
§ My hon. Friends know that the White Paper has produced divisions of opinion among us on some of the fundamental issues with which it deals. We would not be realists if we did not recognise that there are deep divisions on some of the fundamental principles involved in these proposals. The Donovan Commission was set up nearly three years ago. As my right hon. Friend said, there was pressure for Donovan. There was pressure for the trade union movement to be examined independently. The Donovan Commission had many distinguished people on it, and in the end the majority of its Report exonerated the trade union movement. I agree that some of its recommendations were contrary to much of what resulted 104 from its industrial analysis, but the fact remains that it exonerated the trade union movement.
§ The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) said that the shop steward had become the focal point in industrial issues. There are about 175,000 shop stewards, compared with about 3,000 full-time trade union officials. Donovan exonerated the shop steward. He said that he oiled the wheels, that he tried to find solutions to disputes, that he was a pacifier in industry, and that without him industry might find itself in a difficult situation. My hon. Friend for Bradford, North (Mr. Ford) will no doubt agree with me when I say that as a shop steward and convenor I spent most of my time negotiating, not for disputes, but for peace—for bringing about sanity in industrial relations. If we could get a situation in which our members' conditions were improved through agreement with management the overwhelming majority of shop stewards would be satisfied.
§ When we talk of the trade union movement we are talking of between 10 million and 11 million trade unionists. The majority of trade unions are affiliated to the T.U.C. Taking into account school leavers, people in the professions, and many others, it is clear that the trade unions speak for between 17 million and 18 million insured people. It is not true to say that they speak only for 9 million or 10 million; they speak for two-thirds of the working population, because their negotiations set the pace in relation to the rates of pay and conditions of vast numbers of people in British industry.
§ The White Paper presents the basic issue which we must face. My right hon. Friend has said that it contains the basic philosophy of the Government in this matter. It is a philosophy that I reject, because it is a philosophy of Government intervention. We are not concerned with the question of the place of the law in industrial relations. Everybody recognises that the law affects certain aspects of those relations. The Government are responsible for such things as redundancy payments. The difference here is that the law is not setting up certain rules with regard to industrial injury benefits or redundancy payments; the law is going to have a direct bearing on the question of collective agreements and collective 105 bargaining, which I contend is something entirely new.
§ The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West said that this is the first major examination of the issue that we have had for 60 years. He welcomed it. Many of his arguments, however were contradictory. On the one hand he said that trade unions were ineffective and, on the other, that we must have laws to control them.
§ Mr. Powell
I did not say that trade unions were ineffective in all respects. I said that they were ineffective as a cause of inflation, for which they are often blamed.
§ Mr. Orme
The right hon. Gentleman made some very contradictory remarks. He said that national agreements were of no value. He should ask the engineering workers whether the recent package agreement is valueless. They will tell him that it is of great value because it affects the structure within the plants.
As for intervention—we have already got the P.I.B., and we are now setting up the C.I.R., whose decisions will have statutory force. We are going to have an Industrial Relations Bill, and we have manpower and productivity services rising out of the D.E.P. All these factors are coming together to form a framework which will be backed by legal sanctions as a short-stop or a long-stop. We cannot avoid that. A paraphernalia of structure is being created which will encompass trade unions. Trade unions are either free to operate within the State without the law intervening or they are not.
§ Mrs. Castle
Can my hon. Friend give me an example of the law intervening in collective bargaining? What does he mean when he says that?
§ Mr. Orme
If my right hon. Friend will wait I shall deal with that point when I speak of the C.I.R. We are asked to accept the White Paper as a package. We are given no alternative. If there are some things in it which we do not like we must balance them with the things that we do like. That argument is becoming a very popular one with the Government. Everything now comes in the form of a package which has to be accepted as a whole or rejected.
§ Mr. Orme
This is a package. We have to ask ourselves whether we should accept it as a whole or reject it. One of my hon. Friends has said that he is going to wait and see; that he will support the Government tonight, and afterwards oppose any penal clauses. I tell him that we cannot do that. People must now stand up and be counted on this issue, because the die is being cast. If the Motion is accepted it means the acceptance of the philosophy behind the White Paper. The issue cannot be sidestepped. My right hon. Friend has not side-stepped it, and we should be very silly to ignore the basis of her argument.
Some things in the White Paper are unexceptionable. The implementation of the I.L.O. Convention is one of the things that we would expect a Labour Government to introduce as fulfilling a fundamental right. But it does not need a package deal to bring such measures in. The abolition of the penal clauses of the Foremen's Mutual—the recognition of the right to join a trade union—does not need a complicated Industrial Relations Bill. My answer to the question whether we should accept the package is "no". To vote against the White Paper does not mean that we are voting against everything in it, but we cannot have it both ways.
I now turn to the central issues that arise. We have to clear up the question of collective agreements and negotiation. Reference has been made to the York Memorandum imposed on the engineering unions in 1922 because of the engineering employers' lock-out. This means a long haul to York, which takes between nine and 12 months. This is an archaic agreement, which the employers have used to resist change time and time again. I criticise the trade unions. They should have fought industrially to have this changed many years ago. It is an outdated concept, and it should have 107 been removed. It can be removed, and a fresh agreement can be negotiated.
As to the status quo, paragraph 94 of the White Paper is self-contradictory in some of its terms. The C.I.R. was set up as a voluntary body. Mr. Woodcock would not have accepted its chairmanship if that had not been so. There is no doubt that the Government will take powers to implement some of the decisions of the C.I.R.
My right hon. Friend said that there was no disagreement on the question of a trade union dispute over recognition. We have a classic case going on at the moment in the steel industry. It has been shuffled about between the Minister and the T.U.C., but in the end the industry itself will have to resolve it. No form of law can deal with such problems. No one defends demarcation, but within our complicated industrial society contradictions do exist. They exist, not just at the workshop floor level but throughout our society. The result of paragraph 60 could be that my right hon. Friend could take action against unions for striking, officially as well as unofficially, on the question of recognition.
The 1871 Act is very important and in this respect, my right hon. Friend goes some way to meeting the Opposition's "Fair Deal at Work". The Opposition would have contracting out, whereas my right hon. Friend's proposals would involve contracting in, in the sense of unions and employers agreeing that contracts could be made legally binding. The present position may be accidental, but it is not often that the workers have got something for nothing and I do not see why we should remove this provision and so make industrial relations worse.
To introduce the concept of making collective agreement legally binding, or to remove the present provision, would mean going more than halfway to meeting the right hon. Member for Mitcham. The Opposition would then, if they achieved office, find it easy to make such agreements fully legally binding, as outlined in "Fair Deal at Work". In this respect, it is a pity that one cannot refer to current issues——
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, South)
Is my hon. Friend aware that the court 108 case is now finished; and that the unions I have won the case?
§ Mr. Orme
I understand that the case has been adjourned, so I will not refer to it.
I will not deal in detail with the registration of trade unions, but the present proposal would mean that the unions would have to give information about the election of shop stewards, and so on. Many other questions would here arise.
I thought that my right hon. Friend's reference to the amalgamation of unions was just a little insulting. A free trade union movement does not have to ask for such things from the employers or the Government as one may have to oppose them later on another issue. The trade union movement must solve its own problems, and it is solving them. The number of unions is being reduced more rapidly than ever before. Amalgamations are taking place. The trade union movement recognises that it must bring itself to a modern standard, and it is seeking to do this within possible limits. The reference to loans and grants in paragraphs 71–75 are gratuitous and unacceptable.
The White Paper refers to the definition of a trade dispute in Section 4 of the 1906 Act. Great care will have to be taken before any amendment of that Section is undertaken, because a slip here could put the trade unions right back to the Taff Vale agreement.
Some hon. Members, and some people, outside the House, ask "Why do you object to a compulsory ballot? It seems a logical thing for the unions to do. The mineworkers have always had a ballot." It is here that we encounter certain historical differences. The miners' union can easily and swiftly take a pithead ballot of its members within a fortnight. My union has 1,200,000 members and 3,000 branches. Its members work in firms, large and small, in every part of the United Kingdom, and it is a physical impossibility——
§ Mr. Dan Jones (Burnley)
I assure my hon. Friend that within our own movement, as I hope to show the House later, there is provision for this kind of ballot.
§ Mr. Orme
I accept that. On the other hand, a postal ballot would cost my union 109 a fortune to initiate. If, in the recent engineering agreement negotiations, the employers could have forced a ballot, that would have further delayed negotiations that had already gone on for 11 months. A ballot would put negotiators at a tremendous disadvantage. We have to recognise that negotiation is often a matter of bluff. The same applies to many court cases. It is a matter of convincing the other side that one not only has a good case but is ready to back it up, if necessary, with industrial action. To impose a ballot in such circumstances would put a union in an impossible position.
In any case, what right have the Government to suggest that a union should, at the Government's behest, take a ballot? That is a decision for trade unions to take, and it is one of the basic issues——
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
Would it not be a good idea to have a secret ballot on the White Paper in this House? It might produce a funny result.
§ Mr. Orme
When we turn to the cooling-off period we are again involved in the question of constitutional and unconstitutional action. Again, it is an insult to the trade union movement to suggest that the Government can intervene, and pick disputes. They have not been very good at picking the prices and incomes issues. They have created a lot of problems there, because the issue has been decided by individuals.
Industrial relations cannot be described as a science. When we talk of industrial relations we talk of people, and of relations between management and men in industry. The Government, too, consist of people, and they make mistakes. We have no guide line to show us that a proper decision would be taken in regard to strikes.
A great deal is said about anarchy in industry. I refute the suggestion that we have industrial anarchy. That suggestion is just nonsense. In a mixed economy, and with a capitalist system—particularly in the private sector—there is conflict between management and labour. That conflict exists, and it will continue. Even if we were to abolish capital, there would still be conflict. I do not believe that there is a trade union anywhere, whether it be in the United 110 States, Australia, the Soviet Union or anywhere else, that can compare, because of its conception, heritage and creation, with the British trade union movement.
Therefore, I should like briefly to give some figures concerning disputes. In my union in 1968, with its 1¼ million members, we had 199 officially recorded disputes. Some 26,088 members applied for dispute benefit, which meant that they had been in dispute for more than three days, either officially or unofficially. That is excluding the national one-day engineering strike, which, I think we would all recognise, was an official dispute. A total of 26,000 members does not sound like chaos to me, and my members are the key members in the manufacturing and attendant industries. I therefore would refute it.
When we look at the number of days that are lost, for instance, in the United States or in Australia, we see that Britain loses far fewer days than those two countries. There is a cooling-off period both in Australia and in the United States. I accept that in the United States the Taft-Hartley Act is a different conception of the current cooling-off period. I am not trying to be unjust by using that example, but the United States has a different form of cooling off, a 90-day period. Australia has compulsory industrial courts. Despite all that, the trade movement in Australia has been shackled. Do not let us forget that it was a Labour Government in Australia which laid the basis of the legislation that has been developed by successive Liberal Governments in Australia.
We then come to the attachment of wages. My right hon. Friend said that the Government have thought of everything to try to offset the criticism. They thought that the attachment of wages was a good idea. Nothing is more insulting to trade unionists. The Government are saying that because in a democratic society workers withdraw their labour, they can be branded criminals. I am not prepared to accept that. I worked and fought in the trade union movement all my life for a conception of a society where that right is basic and free. As far as I am concerned, in all the circumstances, it must remain so.
We have had in the past the question of the Betteshanger dispute. We had 111 only last year the Eire electrical dispute, in which it has been mentioned in the House that the fines were paid by the Government of Eire to get the electrical workers back to work. In fact, they took them home in taxis at the end of the issue.
I believe that industrial relations are human relations. Industrial relations are about a man or a woman who works at a factory, a pit or in a dock, who goes there not for one week or one month, but for all his or her life. Even if it is not in the same firm, it is the same type of work. He or she goes to the same machine or bench. They look at the same walls every morning. They are under the pressure of the speed-up and of the monotony that exists within industry. I should like some of those people who are so highly critical, and who think that they are such good judges of how things could be done, to go to work in a factory, not for a month or a year, but for 10 years, and see what sort of people they would come out then.
These are the basic issues and the conflicts which exist in industry. I know that industry is changing, just as it used to be "them" and "us". It started with the man on the workshop floor and his immediate foreman, and with amalgamations and take-overs the managing director is in many instances as vulnerable as the worker. Many changes are taking place within industry. I do not, however, believe that the problems which exist can be resolved by trying to legislate them away. We cannot legislate away the issues and the conflicts which exist basically in industry.
Of course, people want better industrial relations. Many of us have worked and fought for them all our lives, but they will not be achieved within the terms of the White Paper. What is more, I would say to the Government in all sincerity and seriousness that the opposition to the White Paper is greater than any opposition to the prices and incomes policy has been over a three-year period.
The opposition to the White Paper is not building up simply among small selected groups. People are reading the White Paper. They realise that it represents a fundamental difference and challenge to the trade union movement. The campaign against it will grow. The 112 major trade unions have already come out against these proposals. I believe that the Government are asking for trouble if they think that they can go through the spring and summer and the T.U.C. and Labour Party conferences and come back here in November and start implementing legislation based on the White Paper. I do not believe that it is possible. I believe that many changes are needed, that many alterations have to be made within the economy and that many difficulties have to be overcome, but they will not be overcome by the White Paper.
We say in our Amendment that the White Papercontains proposals for legislation which would destroy certain fundamental rights of a free trade union movement".We stand by that. To carry that through with conviction, we will divide the House tonight and record our votes. I hope that hon. Members who have specific but fundamental objections will come into the Lobby with those of us who have signed the Amendment to show to the Government the strength of feeling that exists but, more important still, to show to the trade union movement outside that they are not unrepresented in this House tonight and that we support them not only by voice, but by vote. Only in this way will we defeat the proposals contained in the White Paper.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Dr. M. P. Winstanley (Cheadle)
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) on a subject in which he has such long and intimate involvement and on which he speaks with such personal authority. The hon. Member has, rightly and understandably, concentrated on those aspects of the White Paper which are of particular and immediate moment to the trade union movement and on matters in which he has a special interest. He will, I am sure, understand that in my position as, I assume, the only Member who will be called in the debate for the Liberal Party, I have the responsibility of trying to cover the whole field.
I will try to do that as shortly as possible, but I cannot indulge in the luxury of concentrating on any particular matter, much as I might like to. I shall have to try to give my party's attitude to the whole subject as far as I can. I hope 113 that the fact that I do not give details on some aspects will not mean that I am tempted by hon. Members to give way, because it is all in black and white and I could quote bookful after bookful. I must, however, try to generalise in the interests of the brevity for which Mr. Speaker has rightly asked.
This is an unusual occasion in that we are being given a rare opportunity to discuss a matter of this kind before the decision has been taken. The Government's Motion suggests a willingness to listen, and, therefore, I should have thought, presupposes an opportunity to influence what is to happen. We find that, for once, discussion in this House is taking place at the right stage of the decision-taking process rather than after the event, as seems lamentably to be so often the case. Therefore, we are being given an opportunity to offer criticism in a constructive spirit and even in the hope that it may ultimately have some effect. I hope that the criticisms which I advance will be accepted in that sense.
I should make it clear that we on this bench agree with a great deal that is in the White Paper, as, indeed, do all hon. Members, but because we disagree with crucial parts of the White Paper and because we regret crucial omissions from it, we shall vote against the Motion. Inevitably, we must vote against a Motion which says that we agree with the White Paper when in its important aspects we disagree.
There is, as I say, much with which we agree. For example, here are three short quotations from the White Paper. First, there is a reference to the:radical changes … needed in our system of industrial relations to meet the needs of a period of rapid technical and industrial change.Second, it is said that:too often employees have felt that major decisions directly concerning them were being taken at such a high level that the decision makers were out of reach and unable to understand the human consequences of their actions.Finally:We must make sure that employees have the opportunity to participate in influencing the direction of change and we must overhaul arrangements for dealing with the consequences of change as they affect all who work in industry.114 Those sentences could have come from any resolution on industrial affairs presented at any Liberal Party conference in the past 20 years. I can say at the outset, therefore, that we are in accord with those sentiments. However, to summarise our position, we agree with most of the diagnoses but we disagree with almost all the remedies, and it is for this latter reason that we shall go into the Lobby against the Government.
Our disagreement is concentrated very much more on the means by which certain objects are to be attained than on the end. From what we have heard in the debate so far, it seems that most of us are agreed on the end. Firstly, we should welcome peace in industry. Secondly, I imagine that we should all like to see the end of strikes. However, to try to contain disputes, as the phrase goes in the White Paper, by legislation seems to be more like removing a safety valve and standing back waiting to see what happens than holding out much real hope of getting rid of strikes. For that purpose more attention should be directed to the causes.
Thirdly, we should all like to think that any strike was supported by a majority. Nonetheless, one is bound to say that the arrangements and procedures for a ballot suggest that the Government accept that trade union leaders are not, on the whole, representative of their members. Presumably, this is why a ballot should be taken, in their view. Would it not be a more sensible remedy to direct attention to trade union arrangements generally, the method of electing trade union leaders, and so on, rather than provide for a ballot which, in effect, is designed to show that the leadership does not necessarily have the support of the membership?
§ Mr. Trevor Park (Derbyshire, South-East)
Has the hon. Gentleman noticed that the Government propose to exercise their power to order a ballot only when they think it will produce a result favourable to them? Also, if there is to be a ballot before a strike, does it not follow that it would be logical for the trade union members to ask that there should be a ballot before it finishes as well?
§ Dr. Winstanley
That point was made by the hon. Member for Salford, West. It had not escaped me. Perhaps it has 115 not escaped the hon. Gentleman that Victor Feather, in an interview reported in, I think, New Outlook, spoke of a ballot in terms rather different from the terms in which it has been discussed today. As I say, we should all like to think that any strike had the support of the majority.
Fourthly, all of us in the House would like to see a pause for thought before precipitate action in almost any sector of affairs, not only industry. If nations were to count 10 before retaliating, as children are taught to do, there might be a different situation in the Middle East, for example. Therefore, in industrial affairs, as in international affairs, we should all like to see a pause.
Fifthly, we should all like to see an end to the damaging division of industry into hostile camps, but the White Paper merely formalises the division into two sides, with the possibility of occasional Government intervention to balance the scales by adding a little weight to one side or the other. In other words, the White Paper, apparently, does not propose to do away with this damaging division into two sides but, as it were, fossilises or freezes, it, giving it a sort of formal structure.
Sixthly, we should all like workers in general and trade unions in particular to play a more dynamic rôle in the organisation and direction of industry. The White Paper endorses that concept when it refers to the feeling of many employees that they have no real stake in the enterprise for which they work.
But we cannot regard the present proposals for worker-directors as a solution. The Liberal Party has been associated for a long time with ideas for participation, with theories on the giving of more control in the decision-taking process to workers, but the Government's suggestion for representation, with the worker-director, seems more likely to prove to be a means of silencing criticism than one to give voice to it. I am somewhat supported in that view by an article in the Financial Times by Giles Radice in which he discussed the idea of worker-directors and said:… a gulf had already grown up between the trade union officials and employee-directors.116 This was confirmed by Anthony Ashe in a letter to the Financial Times referring to research carried out in Norway a few years ago by the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, the results of which showed that the establishment of worker-directors along those linesmade workers feel that their representatives on the Board were just 'bosses men'".There is no merit in representation unless it carries with it power. There is no merit in merely giving someone a seat on the board. One sees this so often in our "Establishment" kind of representative bodies, the consumers' councils, and so on. Do they really represent consumer opinion or do they silence it? This is where some of the fears arise regarding what might or might not happen with worker-directors. Our Liberal Party proposals would go much further.
Seventhly, we all agree in wanting to see an end to the damaging differentiation between different classes of worker. Paragraph 29 of the White Paper envisages this, but it merely urges the abolition of unnecessary and outdated distinctions. Admittedly, the Appendix foreshadows legislation, but we should like to see something more formal. There is no clear statement of what will be done to end this sort of differentiation between different classes of worker.
I spent 18 years as a part-time industrial medical officer, visiting four times a week a heavy engineering factory which happens to be under State control. It has done a great deal to do away with these damaging differences. For example, the sick pay arrangements are virtually the same for different grades of worker, the holiday arrangements are very similar, and so on. In my view, this goes a long way to iron out many of the difficulties which we find in industrial relations today, and I should like to see proposals for advance along those lines spelled out with more clarity.
Our difference, as I say, is not so much over aims as over the proposed means. However, before I explain the Liberal proposals, I should say a word about what seems to be the popular view of what the Government are about and what the Conservative Party is about. I cannot believe that the two Front Benches are so ignorant of the facts of industrial life that they think that all the various 117 changes which we look forward to can be achieved by legal compulsion. Legislation will fail unless the right hon. Lady can carry the trade union movement with her, and, if she can carry the trade union movement with her, certain parts of the legislation itself will cease to be necessary. It is my view and, I think, that of many people with experience of industry of one sort or another that the only way to bring people to do what one wants is to persuade them to want it themselves or in some way to make it worth their while to want it, to induce them to want it. One should reason with them, but in the modern world and in present industrial conditions one can no longer compel people.
It is doubtful how much compulsion the Government themselves want. As the right hon. Lady's speech was concerned not so much with the White Paper as with the Conservative document "Fair Deal at Work," it was a bit difficult to interpret their true intentions. I do not suggest that the Government would intend to use compulsion much, if at all, but it is our view that compulsion in these matters would inevitably fail.
The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) rejected the argument that since these powers would not be used and since recourse to the courts would not arise, there was no argument for introducing legislation. He adduced the case that very rarely did people take advantage of the law governing trespass, but doubted whether any hon. Member would wish to abolish the law in this regard? I remind the right hon. Gentleman that when Parliament was considering the Race Relations Act it was said by its opponents that its provisions could not often be applied in the courts and that, therefore, the Bill was not needed. There seems to be a contradiction in the right hon. Gentleman's method of arguing.
How are we to attain the ends about which we agree? The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West suggested that many of these ends could be achieved purely by the operation of the market. I do not entirely disagree with him. In the 1920s and 1930s, when a totally different situation prevailed, the market did not produce a fair or honourable result because it was not a fair fight.
118 Although we now have a level of unemployment which I regard as too high, in the sort of industries which we are discussing we have what could technically be regarded as virtually full employment. Under such a system the worker's interest is often protected because the boss knows that if he does not give him a fair crack of the whip he will leave and go elsewhere. It is necessary, however, for the Government to see that this fight, if it is left to the market, is a fair one; and Liberal hon. Members believe that if we had a high level of unemployment, which we are against, the fight would not be fair and Government intervention would then be necessary.
Can we achieve our ends by buying co-operation? As many people know, restrictive practices must be bought out. They cannot be got rid of except by making it worth while for those who indulge in them to stop doing so. The next possibility is persuasion. Then there is the perhaps more important possibility of providing the right incentives to make people feel that it is worth while for them to do the things we want them to do.
Probably the last way is the use of the law. I do not say that there is no place for the law in these matters. Indeed, it will probably have to be used in certain aspects of the problem. Paragraph 29 of the White Paper refers to getting rid of differentials as between different types and categories or worker. This is the sort of thing which could be done simply by the law, without many of the objections which have been voiced by hon. Members.
Somehow or other we must solve this problem. I regard such measures as the ballot, the attachment of earnings and the pause—Victor Feather commented that the pause had more often proved not to be a cooling-off period but a hotting-up one—as very hazardous steps which could well worsen rather than improve things. Liberals have alternative proposals, in addition to those in the White Paper which we support, and I trust that in putting six points before the House they will receive the attention they deserve.
We should like to see positive steps taken to eliminate nationally negotiated agreements. This matter has been long discussed and varying views adduced. Many people have said that this is easier 119 said than done. I will not delay the House by going into the case in full now, except to say that nationally negotiated wage agreements are a contradiction in terms of productivity agreements. How can there be an element of productivity in an agreement which is given across the board and automatically awarded to, for example, every capstan lathe operator or turner, irrespective of individual productivity or the productivity of his firm?
Next, we believe that nationally negotiated agreements hamper the development of partnership in the true sense of the word. They preserve the present damaging division between the two sides. The White Paper formalises this division, with the possibility of occasional Government intervention. We must get rid of nationally negotiated agreements, not least to relate the individual's prosperity to his individual contribution and to enable workers in efficient firms to share in the fruits of that efficiency.
The Donovan Report argues the case for plant or company bargaining in detail, and the Tory booklet "A Fair Deal at Work" accepts the principle of productivity-orientated local bargaining. Thus, the Liberal Party is not alone in this, although whether we are in such good company I do not know.
We would get away from nationally negotiated agreements by bringing all such agreements within the scope of the restrictive trade practices legislation. This would mean repealing Section 7(4) of the Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1956, which excludes restrictive wage agreements involving two or more companies, thus treating national wage bargains like any other restrictive agreements and not singling out trade unions for particular or specific repressive action. All such agreements would be registrable, and they could be upset if found to be opposed to the public interest.
Next, we recommend vigorous action to establish works councils, representing all employees. This is not a new idea, and our proposal is along the lines of the German system. In Britain it can be seen in operation at Glacier Metal and in other companies. In the average company in Britain there are many unions and the very number of them makes it virtually impossible for a contract to be between an employer and those trade unions, without 120 the American type of legislation to reduce the number of unions. We believe that industrial unions are too far away for us to wait, but works councils could soon create a formal place in which the shop steward could operate under the district organiser, with agreements underwritten by his trade union. We would give these works councils the right to negotiate pay agreements. There is much support for this arrangement. An article by Blake Baker in the Daily Telegraph stated that the right hon. Lady:… has missed a big opportunity. Mr. Woodcock and his Industrial Relations Commission will work diligently at improving procedures, backed by fines for non-co-operators, but a more radical reform would have been the creation of German-style works councils.As a quid pro quo—I realise that there would be objections from some unions; it is vital that we carry the unions with us in this—and to protect badly organised industries, we recommend the establishment of a national minimum level of earnings. By "earnings" we mean all earnings, including bonuses but excluding overtime. We recommend £15 as the minimum for all adult working men. I say that unhappily because at present we are not in a position to apply equal pay. This would be the minimum for a 40-hour week. Allowing for some regional variation and minor adjustments, this would cost less than 2 per cent. on the national wages bill. There are, however, other areas near the top of the national wages bill in which corresponding comparable adjustments might have to be made.
Next, we should like to see contracts of employment. I know that the White Paper envisages these. My hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Richard Wainwright) has introduced his Contracts of Employment Bill, which would provide for the abolition of differentials, for equality of sick pay, for equality of various rights for different categories of workers. It may well be that the Government will do this. We have at least come out with detailed proposals.
Fifthly, we would recommend changes in the Companies Act to do what the White Paper itself says, to give workers a stake in the enterprise in which they work. We would introduce also an obligation on companies to run their affairs in the interests of employees as 121 well as of shareholders. Hon. Members will recall the disastrous affairs surrounding the closing down of the News Chronicle, when arrangements which were being made to provide for pensions and for payments to displaced employees were challenged by shareholders. That action by the shareholders was upheld, on the ground that the Companies Act provided that the company must be run in the interests of the shareholders.
We should like to see companies run also, up to a point, in the interests of the workers. We should, therefore, alter the companies law to create a new category, the member of a company and give him certain rights. We would allow him to participate, together with shareholders, in the election of directors and boards. This is very different from a worker-director; it is giving the worker direct participation in election.
We in Britain go to great lengths to protect the rights of shareholders, of those who lend money to industry. We are right to do this. It is right that the money they have lent should be protected against risks occasioned by policies which may be adopted. We therefore give shareholders a voice in any decisions which are likely to effect the safety of what they have lent—their money.
If it is right to do that, would it not be even more right for us to protect the interests of those who lend to a business something more valuable than money—their time, their working life? If someone lends his working life to an industry, is he not entitled to a voice in decisions which may affect the safety of his investment, of the life he has lent to industry?
Finally and sixthly, our ideas for profit-sharing come into this, just as all the arrangements with regard to pay come into it. The right hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) was right to say that much of this was to do with pay. He was right to condemn arrangements whereby properly negotiated agreements between free parties can be upset. I doubt whether the Government can, in fact, do that. The House had a lengthy debate on the right hon. Lady's penny, which she sought to deny to the building industry, although we knew full well that neither side would take a bit of notice of her 122 decision. If construction employers wanted to get work finished, they would say to their employees, "If you can get this job finished by Christmas, there is £50 extra bonus for each of you". And why not? Employers who can afford to behave like that will do so. Those who cannot will not.
In putting my party's point of view I have tried to cover the whole ground. If I have referred to it in too general a sense, I refer hon. Members to the many books and publications which set it out in detail. In general terms, our hope is that this Government or some other Government—they will have our support whenever they try to do it—will introduce legislation to reform the trade unions by providing the right incentives and to enable the unions, instead of doing what unhappily they so often do—namely, concentrate their energies and resources on short-term gains—to begin to look forward to the long-term prosperity of their members by securing the long-term prosperity of the industries in which they work.
§ Mr. Speaker
I remind the House that we have had six speeches in just under two and a half hours. I again appeal for brief speeches.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Dan Jones (Burnley)
My hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme), who is a member of my union, asked that we stand up and be counted——
§ Mr. Alex Eadie (Midlothian)
On a point of order. Are you aware, Mr. Speaker, that during this debate three members of the A.E.F. have been called? There are other Members on this side of the House who have a point of view on industrial relations as well as members of the A.E.F.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am aware of the fact that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned. So far only four back benchers have been called, from the Government side.
§ Mr. Jones
I stand foursquare behind the terms of the recommendations in the White Paper. I have experience as a shop steward, as a regional official, and as a national official. It is from that experience that I say that I support the 123 White Paper. A number of prominent Tories have now made valuable contributions on the subject of industrial relations, but during the 13 years that they were in power the Tories did nothing about this problem. We must conclude either that there was a total bankruptcy of ideas at that time or that the Tories, suddenly finding themselves in Opposition, have acquired a wisdom they did not hitherto have. I indict the Tories on this issue. It is ironic that on this issue, as on others, the Labour Government have been forced to make major reforms.
The right hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) said that the White Paper was a contradiction of the incomes policy. I supported the Government on that policy and I believe that to abandon it would be to revert to the jungle, to the free-for-all, to the situation of which I had so much experience, in which only the strongest survived and the weakest went to the wall.
The right hon. Gentleman said, too, that there should be protection for the non-unionist. Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to agree that any increases negotiated by unions will not apply to non-unionists?
I do not regard the White Paper as a panacea for industrial peace. I do not believe that any such panacea exists. The White Paper is an imaginative and fraternal step in the right direction. I wish it had been published 20 years ago. It is not a charter for the militant or for the activist. Of the 24 million people working in industry less than 10 million are in the trade union movement. There is no doubt that the millions in industry who are outside the trade union movement are substantially unprotected.
Upwards of 40 per cent. of a workman's interest is outside the industry, in State benefits of one kind or another, and it is in this respect that such a worker is completely unprotected and is sometimes the victim of an unsympathetic bureaucracy. That is my experience as a politician. I should like the trade union movement to grasp the opportunity presented by the White Paper to bring such people into the movement. The trade union movement was brought into existence not simply to provide a background for the activists and the militants, but to protect 124 people generally within industry. Anyone who disputes that disputes the terms of origin of the movement itself. Consequently, for those people who want a fair day's pay for a fair day's work the White Paper undoubtedly represents a new deal, and that is why I shall support it not only in the House, but in the country.
I want briefly to deal with that one-tenth of the White Paper that some of my hon. Friends find objectionable. I think that that is the right fraction—nine-tenths acceptable and one-tenth objectionable. It has been said that the one-tenth includes an obnoxious precedent. The tenth includes the conciliation clause, the provision for a ballot before a strike, and the penalty clause.
I believe that the conciliation clause could be as valuable as anything else in the White Paper. In my experience as a works convenor, I have often found that a manager, or supervisor, or rate fixer-terms which are well understood by those who have worked in industry—will sometimes regard himself as a little emperor in his own right and will impose conditions that the management feels compelled to support just because of his position. Such a situation has often brought about a dispute when the management has had to defend not only the issue at stake, but the individual who created the circumstances. I defy any hon. Member with industrial experience not to agree with me that a conciliation clause could be of great value in preventing that kind of stoppage which causes so much dismay and economic duress.
It has been said that by her provision for a ballot before a strike my right hon. Friend is creating an obnoxious precedent. I remind hon. Members of what happens in my own union for which I have worked as an official. The rule book says:In the case of a shop dispute the members shall not leave their employment without the approval of the District Committee. In such disputes where any sections of the Union can with advantage be exempt from being drawn out, their special cases shall be investigated with a view to the best interests of the Union being conserved.That has been the rule laid down through the years, and I have operated it to tell shop stewards that they may not strike because the district committee of which 125 I was a representative had not given permission. That is the reply to the claim that my right hon. Friend has initiated an obnoxious precedent. This has been the practice within my industry for many years, and my union has legislated accordingly.
Unions have also applied penalty clauses when arrears have not been paid, and sometimes some people have had to leave their employment because of these rules. I boldly suggest that my union's rule book is more punitive than the suggested provision in the White Paper, and I challenge any hon. Member to deny it.
I am not being critical of the trade union movement; I am stating the facts. Hon. Members may put whatever interpretation they like on the facts, but these are the facts. Within the A.E.U., which is now the A.E.F., we have more than a million members with all kinds of political convictions, to which they are entitled, with all kinds of religious convictions, to which they are entitled, and with all kinds of characteristics. How could we have an ordered society within the trade union movement unless there were rules and power to enforce the rules? If this is essential for the trade union movement, how much more is it essential for the Government who have responsibility not only for those who work, but for those who depend on those who work? Consequently, I have no qualms of conscience when I ask the House to give sympathetic support to the measures outlined in the White Paper.
For those who want to preserve a platform simply for the activists in the movement, for those who want power in the trade union movement to be taken from democratically elected officials and transferred to the shop floor, for those who want change in the rest of society, but who are not prepared to accept change for themselves, there is little room in the White Paper. But for those who want a form of industrial justice for the whole working-class population, for those who are prepared to say that change is inevitable and that they are prepared to change with society, there is little in the White Paper with which to quarrel.
I shall support the White Paper in the House and in the country, because I regard it as an imaginative and fraternal step in the direction in which the country 126 should have moved 20 years ago if the Tories had had the guts to bring in the kind of legislation which was badly needed. For those reasons my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West who demanded, "Say where you stand", is that I stand solidly with the Minister, solidly with further discussions on the White Paper, in the hope that in the tomorrow there will be the industrial peace which the country so sorely needs.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Sir Spencer Summers (Aylesbury)
I must begin by asking that the right hon. Lady the First Secretary of State who opened the debate should acquit me of any discourtesy for having been unable to hear her speech, as I must also ask my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr), who followed her. I have been involved with a Select Committee upstairs. I do not see any need on my part to attempt to take sides in the civil war which appears to be breaking out on the benches opposite. In any case, the right hon. Lady is quite capable of looking after herself in the face of attacks from Salford, West, or anywhere else. Suffice it to say that as between those hon. Members opposite who base their case on the proposition "hands off the trade unions" and the Minister who believes that a degree of intervention is called for, there is no doubt that the public would choose to come down on her side.
This is one of the most important subjects that this House could possibly debate. In many ways it is far more far-reaching in its consequences than our economic and fiscal policies, because not only is time lost or gained according to our solutions, but it also affects the confidence which the world places in our ability to put our house in order. Anyone who thinks that we can leave things as they are has only to open the daily papers to see that it will not do to let things drift unchanged. I am more than ready to pay my tribute to the right hon. Lady for her courage in starting to tackle this problem even though she may not have gone as far as we should like in some directions.
We are dealing here with something which is part of a larger malaise. I refer to the growing lack of respect for authority of any kind. Lest there is any misunderstanding at what I mean, I must 127 say that I am not expressing views on respect for authority between men and management. I am thinking of the respect, among other things, that men have for their own elected representatives. We see it in church affairs, in politics and in families. [Interruption.] There is a growing lack of respect for authority. The only way to deal with a malaise of this kind is to find ways and means whereby authority can be respected. If hon. Gentlemen opposite would talk to each other a little less loudly it would be very helpful to the speaker. To deal with a lack of respect for authority the best advice that I can tender is to see that authority attracts respect.
To have respect and authority we must have good communications. This is essential. Recently it has been clear that channels of communications have been singularly lacking. There is also the need for speed in handling these matters. [Interruption.] As is very often the case in the Army—I repeat my request that hon. Gentlemen should talk a little more quietly, if they prefer to talk rather than listen. It would be so much more helpful to anyone attempting to address the House if their conversation was a little less loud.
One of the most vital points in dealing with management and men is the position of the shop steward or convenor. It is no exaggeration to say that the status of the shop steward is obscure, his power is excessive and his training inadequate. It is highly desirable that those who wish to see peace in industry, who believe, as I do, that the direction in which we should go is towards the strengthening, not the weakening of trade unions, should pay attention to the importance of the training of shop stewards and the achieving of a correct status for them.
There are three points with which I want to deal, the cooling-off period, the secret ballot, and the question of enforceability. It is difficult to deny that in many cases a cooling-off period is something which we should be unwise not to use. It has been pointed out that it may not be a cooling-off period, but a hotting-up period if delay is enforced. If people are at boiling point, there is no further room for hotting-up, it can only be a cooling down in such circumstances. In such a case this is a wise move.
128 I find myself frequently arguing with people outside the House, unacquainted with industry, who say that in their view the solution to all these problems is a secret ballot before a strike is called. I have always been very sceptical of the value of the secret ballot in those circumstances. It has seemed to me that such a thing would deny the power of the trade union negotiator, because if it is taken for granted that when he says "I cannot accept that, and if you cannot do better I will call a strike" he cannot enforce the decision forthwith, but must go back to see whether his threat can be carried out, then this will inevitably detract from the negotiator's authority, which it is proper he should have. The bulk of our troubles are not with the trade union leaders' misuse of their powers, but because they are not in a position to exercise that authority over their members which collective bargaining expects them to be able to exercise.
Therefore, I approach the question of the secret ballot biassed against its use, save in very exceptional circumstances. If there was to be any suggestion of compulsion in every case I would certainly urge that we should not have this. Nevertheless, I concede that there will be circumstances in which, self-evidently in the public interest, a ballot should be taken to make quite sure that the immense damage which will follow a strike is brought to the knowledge of those personally affected. It is not unwise that the Minister should have the power, which I hope she and any subsequent Minister will use very sparingly indeed, to be able to enforce a ballot where it is evidently desirable in the public interest. If it is used in the hope that the vote will prevent a strike and that hope is false, then the power will become useless and the advantage of the whole system will become more and more unsatisfactory.
I turn to enforceability, and here I was interested in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) who suggested that the idea of immunity from protection might in certain circumstances be a more satisfactory approach to upholding the spirit of a contract than the right to claim enforceability in a court of law. I think more time would be needed and it would be necessary to hear a little more about how that alternative approach is thought to be capable of being worked 129 out in practice before a judgment could be formed.
There is a great deal of misunderstanding on the question of enforceability, as I understand the Conservative approach to this question. It is argued that very rarely will an employer wish to take his men to court, however frustrated and annoyed he may be, because of the damage to good relations with his employees which would be expected to follow such a course. It is, therefore, suggested that this is a meaningless irritant to which exception is taken in many quarters, and that it is unwise to consider it. I do not think the merits of the idea lie in the number of occasions on which it is expected that it would be used, nor even in the consequences of its use. What is intended is that if the essence of the contract is one which can be challenged if necessary, far more care will be taken to ensure that the contract is one which will stand up to cross-examination and one which those who agree to it are actually in a position to implement.
I imagine there might be a case in which a number of unions by a majority come to the conclusion that a certain agreement is appropriate for them to sign notwithstanding the fact that a minority of the negotiators objecting to the agreement speak for a majority of the workers. If an agreement of that kind were liable to be subjected to the processes of law, surely a great deal more care would be taken to ensure that it would be accepted down the line before it was entered into. If there were any doubts that it would be entered into, more time would be taken to ensure that all the signatories could speak for the vast majority of the men for whom they are responsible.
§ Mr. Albert Booth (Barrow-in-Furness)
One of the consequences of the course the hon. Member is outlining might be that the negotiators of the agreement might be prepared to make it only subject to applicability for a good time to come since they would not want to commit their successors nor their membership to be held to a given level of wages for a given period. When that period ran out the members would be left without an agreement and would run into all the difficulties flowing from that situation.
§ Sir S. Summers
If I understood the hon. Member aright and I had the choice 130 of an agreement which I was confident would be implemented in the spirit in which it was adopted but would last only for a short time, I would prefer that to an agreement for a longer time in which I had no faith that it was worth more than the paper on which it was written.
We make a great mistake if we imagine that the introduction of the contribution—I put it no higher—that the law can make can do more than make just a contribution to peace in industry. Those who get so worked up about the prospects of introducing the law into this context fail to acknowledge the relatively small part which those who believe the law has a part to play might wish to see it play. It would be a thousand pities if all the weight was placed on the introduction of law into this field. People are quite right to allude to personal relationships and problems in industry, but we cannot afford to dispense with the part which a revision of the law can play in helping to bring peace into industry.
At present there is far too much pressure on the wage front. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham has said on former occasions, this policy enshrined in the Conservative document is only part of its whole approach to this question. It does not wish to see undue weight placed upon a change in the law in respect of enforceability or any other aspect of industrial relations. I hope that this White Paper, which is a start, will be treated as such and will not be thrown out in the Division Lobby tonight. We cannot afford to dispense with a change in the law if we are to bring that peace into industry which I am sure hon. Members on both sides of this House wish to see.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael McGuire (Ince)
I hope the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Summers) will not mind if I do not follow him, although I have no doubt that in some parts of my speech—which will have to be very much condensed—I shall touch on some of the things he has mentioned.
I should like to deal with one of the comments made by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). I thought that at the end of his speech he contradicted himself about wages and their effect on the economy by 131 saying that the totality of them does effect the economy, and of course, the totality is made up of various individual agreements. He laid great stress on the law of supply and demand and suggested that the power of the worker at any particular unit, be it strong or not so strong, should be applied where his strength can secure a better agreement than probably would be secured nationally. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that the workers should go ahead on that.
§ Mr. McGuire
I shall give way in a moment. That was the logic of what the right hon. Gentleman said. Our experience—one can only draw on experience in this matter—is that in the mining industry in areas where there was a big demand for labour workers could have got substantially better terms than in an agreement across the board nationally but for those in the less prosperous areas our union fought for years against the principle of laissez-faire—the weakest going to the wall, and the "Get what your strength entitles you to attitude"—and went for a comprehensive national agreement.
§ Mr. Powell
The hon. Member would have been wise to have allowed me to interrupt him earlier because now I have to say: "So much the worse for the miners' union, which by holding wages down where they should have gone up did harm to the miners at both ends." The point which I rose to make was one of correction. What I said in my speech was that supply and demand, independent of any union action, often fixes remuneration at higher levels than those fixed by national negotiation.
§ Mr. McGuire
If action is taken in national terms it should be adequate. The miners would not support the right hon. Member, nor his friends, in suggesting that the best thing to do in any particular unit is to get what one's strength entitles one to get and to forget one's comrades in the less well-off districts.
We on this side of the House are generally held to be professionals on the question of industrial relations. We have more professionals on this side than 132 there are on the other side of the House because most of those I see sitting on these benches—they have been here since the debate started—have become experts because the only thing we had to sell was our labour. We all know, if I may beg the pardon of the House in advance for saying so, what it is to be buggered about with bad industrial relations. We all know why those bad relations have suddenly come to the forefront.
Some of my hon. Friends on this side do not, perhaps, identify me in their political mainstream but recognise me as a colleague who is slightly awry in his political thinking. I speak as one who has been violent, has taken part in official strikes, has helped in a way to organise them, has been disciplined and has lost his week's bonus, which still applies in the mining industry, for taking part in unofficial action. I regard many of the proposals in the White Paper as being very sensible.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sal-ford, West (Mr. Orme) said that what he disliked most was Government intervention in the affairs of worker and management. I belong to a party which has many great achievements in this field to its credit: that is to say, intervention on behalf of the worker. My hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West ended his peroration by saying that the trade unionists must see that they still have friends in the House of Commons—in other words, that those who tonight vote against the Government are the friends of the trade union movement, implying, I suppose, that some of us are not so friendly towards that movement. A difference of opinion is permissible, but that was a rather unkind thing to say.
The Labour Government and their private Members, by way of Private Members' Bills, have introduced Measures which have helped to redress the imbalance between the worker and his employer and to make his struggles much easier. In the present Session of Parliament, my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown) has introduced a Bill, which, I am sure, the trade union movement will welcome, concerning defective equipment. My hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. David Watkins)—and after this debate I can say that he is an A.E.F. member, and some of my best friends are A.E.F. 133 members; they have had a good crack of the whip. My hon. Friend is introducing a Private Member's Bill which, if it succeeds—and we all wish it well—will benefit workpeople who are awarded damages against an employer who later goes bankrupt and is not able to pay. My hon. Friend's Bill ensures that the employer must insure against his liability.
I do not know of any legislation which has come from Parliament and which has had its effect to help the workman in his struggle, whether in insurance compensation or working conditions, which has not sprung from the deep knowledge of Labour Members of Parliament going back a very long time.
I remember some years ago, when I was a younger man—I am not an old one now but I was much younger then—meeting a man in St. Helens who commiserated with me following a serious accident in which one of my little boys lost both his legs in an accident. That man said to me, "I am very sorry, Michael". I knew him as an old miner. That man had two artificial legs. His legs were taken off right to the top in 1923. He went on to the old Workmen's Compensation Act of 1897—it was altered again in 1925—and he got half pay, which was roughly the assessment of the compensation. He was a man of great integrity and a strong Salvationist, who used to wear the uniform and pedal about on one of the little cycles.
He told me that when the pit at which he had worked, and at which he had received his grievous injury as a young married man with a family, finished in 1931—private enterprise, the weakest to the wall—the company representatives came and said to him, "Well, Mr. Jones, we are very sorry this has happened. The company has gone. Your compensation was all right as long as the company was in existence, but now it has gone. But we think that you are one of the really sad cases. You obviously cannot work. We do not need to give you anything, but we are giving you £100 because we realise your position". That man lived 35 years or more after he received that compensation. Apart from Public Assistance and the like, that was all he got.
It was a Labour Member, Joe Tinker, the old Member for Leigh, who could see that that was a rotten system, and 134 he introduced in the House of Commons, and was able to get through, a successful Private Member's Bill, the object of which was to provide that colliery companies must insure themselves against that kind of situation. In other words, they had to insure with an insurance company which would carry on the liability when they had gone. It is in that same kind of spirit that we on the Labour benches can proudly say that we best represent the interests of our colleagues in the trade union movement. My hon. Friend the Member for Consett is seeking to carry that on into private industry.
My hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) introduced a successful Private Member's Bill which further aided our colleagues in the mining industry, the foundry industry and the cotton industry. I tried to introduce a small Amendment to it, but I was not successful. My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths) also has a Bill which would remedy many of the injustices which we call the residual liabilities of the old workmen's compensation latent cases.
I say this only to show to my hon. Friends who differ with some of us that in the White Paper we see positive steps to consolidate the position in industrial relations on a sound footing. The fact that tonight we shall not be tramping through the Lobby in opposition to the Government does not mean that deep in our hearts we do not have a real fondness for our trade union colleagues and knowledge of the problems that confront them. They will realise that the fact that we are not in the Lobby against the Government does not mean that we have abandoned them.
The White Paper, as did the Donovan Report, places great emphasis on the need to remove the root cause of unofficial strikes. We have been told that 95 per cent. of all strikes are unofficial, and very many are in breach of procedure. Unless we get down to the basic cause, we shall merely be tinkering with the problem. The basic cause is that management, with some exceptions, treats industrial relations on a footing that in the 20th century is not merely laughable but injurious to the nation and to the workers.
Far too often the personnel officer is an inferior person in the management 135 structure: he does not figure sufficiently strongly in management. He is relegated to the position of dealing with joint consultation, which usually means discussing absenteeism and canteen tea. The firms which tackle this problem satisfactorily regard him as a board member for industrial relations, a man who is an arm of management. No sensible trade unionist sees him as an enemy. The trade unionist wants a man who has a knowledge of trade union structure, who knows what is the trade union thinking and who has the supreme quality of empathy—not sympathy, but empathy, which means putting oneself in the other man's place—a man who can assert positively what should be the attitude of the company in all negotiations. Unless management tackles this problem, then our problems will not be solved.
The White Paper deals with the secret ballot. I belong to the National Union of Mineworkers, and I recognise that what I say about the mining industry does not necessarily apply across the board, and the solution to our problems may not be the solution to everybody's problem. I urge hon. Members not to regard the secret ballot as something horrific which will weaken the trade union movement. At the time that the Miners' Federation of Great Britain became the National Union of Mineworkers, a rule was made laying down that an official strike could not take place unless there was a secret ballot with a two-thirds majority in favour.
Hon. Members may say that this cannot apply where industry is scattered and not so compactly arranged as in the mining industry. But it should not be regarded in this way. The existence of a secret ballot did not prevent our industry from suffering many unofficial strikes, and it is unofficial strikes that the White Paper seeks to cure. Until about three years ago we topped the league, and we topped it fairly consistently year after year. This was in terms of coal lost through unofficial disputes and was nothing to do with strikes. We have now come down the league in the best sense, and in the last year the National Coal Board Report shows that the amount of coal lost through unofficial strike action is the lowest ever recorded; it is down to 400,000 tons of coal. I do not want some 136 wiseacre to say that the industry is declining; I know that.
If the ballot did not cure this, and I have said it did not, what has cured it? Again, I do not want any hon. Member to say that the mining industry is unique; I recognise that. The Donovan Report said that across-the-board or industry-wide agreements are out and one should concentrate on factory bargaining. What has caused the position in the mining industry to improve so tremendously is that we have a national power loading piece-work agreement and, as 95 per cent. of unofficial stoppages in the pits were caused through disputes about wages, all of them about piece workers, the battle is nearly won. I am not saying that a similar magic wand can be waved over every other industry, but before the problem was tackled in this way men felt that they had earned something which the agreement left open for discussion, especially in abnormal conditions, and the management looked upon it as an uneconomic proposition. The men felt that they had worked themselves to death, and their grievances resulted in unofficial stoppages.
The position has improved beyond recognition, and I believe that it will get even better. The indications are that losses next year will be much less than 400,000 tons. Though it is contrary to the Donovan Report, it points the way to trying to bring sense into what can be a system of anarchy, especially when such matters as the rates of pay of pieceworkers are involved.
§ Mr. Eadie
My hon. Friend is seeking to argue that the abolition of the piece rate system can help substantially in avoiding strikes. Will he concede two points in his argument? The first is that we have a good system of industrial relations in the coal industry. The second is that he is arguing that there is no need to have a national strike ballot incorporated in the proposals in the White Paper.
§ Mr. McGuire
I am not sure about that last point. I gave way to my hon. Friend because, although we have slight differences of opinion, we are generally agreed 137 on most matters. I am glad that he has managed to get his points on the record. It is due in some way to his earlier point of order, perhaps, that I am speaking now.
My hon. Friend has anticipated the matter that I was coming to next, which relates to the conciliation procedure. I have never argued that the possibility of a secret ballot can be dismissed quite in the way that he put it. I tried to suggest that we should not look upon it as a procedure which will weaken the trade union movement and as one to be regarded with horror.
At one time, my hon. Friend was a full-time paid official with a higher status than my own. I was a humble branch secretary, the equivalent of the shop steward, about whom we hear so much. My hon. Friend was a whole-time district official of the Scottish Mineworkers' Union. At one time I hoped to have a similar job one day. However, my hon. Friend knows how it is possible to lay down the most elaborate set of rules governing conciliation, only to find that they get one nowhere. If one follows the disputes procedure right through, nothing will happen to help fight the bush-fire. It is imposible to contain it.
What we have done in the mining industry is to short-circuit the elaborate procedure. In its evidence to the Donovan Commission, the National Coal Board admitted that certain matters had been nowhere near the National Reference Tribunal. The members of the Commission wanted to know why. If I had appeared before them, I could have told them, because I short-circuited the procedure on many occasions. When a man complains about a situation which he feels is injuring him and there is no system whereby a tacit understanding can be arrived at quickly, serious trouble is soon caused. I do not care how elaborate the procedure may be, it is impossible to devise one which provides on-the-spot remedies. Matters have to be worked out between the branch secretary and the management. What happens is that one follows the first and second stages of the procedure, but then one short-circuits it and comes quickly to the sixth stage. If one waits to go through stages three, four and five, one is quickly "snookered", and it is impossible to contain the bush-fire——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)
Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will use the normal language of the House when addressing the Chair.
§ Mr. McGuire
I am sorry. That is the position on the conciliation procedure in the mining industry. It works very effectively, but its great strength lies in the fact that people operate it not to the fullness of the rules but up to a position where they know it will give the best, the quickest and the most effective remedy. That does not mean that some disputes do not have to go on through the machinery. With the best intentions, not everything can be short-circuited. Some matters have to be sent up along the line.
Many hon. Members have waited patiently to take part in the debate, and I realise my good fortune. I have before been in the position of being called late at night, having regard for my colleagues, and necessarily condensing what I wanted to say.
I end on this note. I do not think that my right hon. Friend, coming from the same background as the majority of hon. Members on this side of the House, would do anything to prejudice anything in the best interests of the trade union movement. I have given instances of the philosophy which binds and drives us on, either as private Members or in Government, to help remedy the unequal struggle between the worker and his employer. The Redundancy Payments Act has been mentioned, and I have instanced Private Members' Bills which have been introduced in the past.
I also remind my hon. Friends that that philosophy repealed the wicked doctrine of common employment which had effectively bound in chains injured workpeople who wanted remedies against their employers in a court of law. They had to choose, prior to 1948, between claiming compensation and forgoing their claim at common law. The Labour Government repealed that system. The trade unions had cried out for its repeal for years. Knowing that that is the philosophy which drives my right hon. Friend and her right hon. Friends and my hon. Friends, I welcome the Motion and will support it tonight in the Lobby.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Mr. David Mitchell (Basingstoke)
Time is running short, so I will be brief.
139 First, I congratulate the Minister on introducing this White Paper. The House will recognise that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. We recognise some parts of the White Paper which have come out of our own policy statement "Fair Deal at Work".
The House will also know that the number of unofficial and unconstitutional strikes which have taken place has been growing. Last year the number was double what it was in 1964, and the figure has been exceeded only three times since 1945. Therefore, this is a serious problem which ought to have urgent attention. I wonder whether the Minister lacks the zeal of the genuine convert for the signs of delay which we hear coming from her.
The House is spending a lot of time discussing the reform of the House of Lords. The Minister will find that a large majority of Members on both sides of the House consider this matter of greater importance to the country at the present time than House of Lords reform. I wonder why we must have this somewhat over-long gestation period.
We see from the newspapers day by day that we are getting very close to a state of complete industrial anarchy. The country is demanding that something be done about it. Therefore, in welcoming the Minister's proposals, I ask that the Bill be introduced as soon as possible.
I have two constructive suggestions to make. The first relates to the resolving of the difficulties which arise in recognition disputes and in demarcation disputes. In the middle of last year I went to the United States—indeed, I found myself following the Under-Secretary of State—and learned quite a lot of the system they use. I recognise that one cannot lift a system from another country and bring it here, but sometimes lessons can be learned which we can apply if they are successful and practical.
Have the Government considered the possibility of using the bargaining unit system which is used in the United States? Under this system, if a union can collect 30 per cent. of the workers in a plant or part of a plant which it seeks to represent, and if it produces designation cards for those workers to the National Labour Relations Board, the Board comes in and asks, "Is this a 140 practicable and sensible bargaining unit? Are the people who work here people who have a community of interest? Should they bargain exclusively on their own?" If the Board is satisfied that it would be a proper bargaining unit, it declares it so, and an election is held. The Board brings the polling booth to the factory, and the men and women on the factory floor cast their votes.
§ Mr. Mitchell
I cannot give way. There is not enough time left.
So virile is the American system that in 1967 more than 500,000 workers in the United States cast their votes under it, and about 89 per cent. of those who were eligible to vote did so. It is a system in which there is widespread confidence, and widespread participation by the people concerned in deciding who their representatives should be.
When I look at the situation outlined in the White Paper for dealing with the sort of problems that we have in the steel industry today, I can only say that I am acutely unhappy about the comparison between the two alternatives. The proposal in the White Paper is that first the T.U.C. should have a go at it, then the C.I.R. should have a go, and then the Minister should have a go and make an Order about who the negotiations should be conducted by. Why should not the men on the floor who are going to be represented say which union should represent them? Why should it be the C.I.R.? Why should it be the Minister? Why not leave it to the men to vote and decide who they want to represent them? This seems to be a fair and proper way of doing it.
Many of the demarcation disputes which have occurred would not have taken place if the men who were working on a mixed operation had belonged to the same bargaining unit and were represented by the same union. Today there are conflicts between members of different unions over who should do what. The Vickers dispute is one of many examples where, if all the people concerned were in the same bargaining unit, and were represented by the same union, friction between unions would be eliminated.
The White Paper proposes that contracts should be legally binding only if 141 a clause is added specifically making them so. It seems to me that this is in a form most likely to ensure that binding contracts are not used. The House is liable to overlook the advantages which accrue to both sides of industry from binding agreements. Speaker after speaker, on both sides of the House but particularly from the benches opposite, has rightly drawn attention to the weaknesses of the systems now available for settling grievances in our factories.
If the people who are involved in the bargaining unit agree about the system by which they will settle their disputes not by the lengthy procedures of going up to York, with an employers' association sitting in judgment on the decision but by appointing an arbitrator or by some other system in which they can have confidence and which provides that the decision is taken on the factory floor or wherever the place of work may be—perhaps in the mine, as one hon. Member said—there can be a quick judgment in respect of the problems at issue, and a quick decision. A constantly recurring theme in this debate has been the question of delay and slowness in arriving at conclusions.
I have spoken to people in my constituency, including trade unionists, and have asked their views about the White Paper and about industrial relations. I have had repeated representations about niggling complaints being left unanswered by the bosses, managements' failure to observe safety rules and managements' delay in operating grievance procedures. There have been recurring complaints that managements have failed to do this, that or the other, when they have undertaken to do so, or have been expected to do so.
How much advantage will come from a binding agreement under which the union can make the management stick to a timetable for settling grievances? This is something which practical experience in every other industrial country has shown to bring enormous advantages to unions as well as to employers. It is wrong to look upon such agreements as binding in one way and not in the other.
The obstacles to binding agreements are set out in the White Paper. I have never known so "phoney" an argument. The White Paper says: 142Employers can already sue strikers who are in breach of their individual contracts of employment. In fact they hardly ever do so, because they think it will exacerbate their industrial relations. For the same reasons, the Government does not believe that employers would seek to enforce against unions legally binding agreements which had been imposed upon them without their consent.Really! First, the agreement can hardly be imposed without consent. It will be something agreed between the two parties. Therefore the basis of that argument is nonsense.
Further, it is understandable that an employer will not sue the workers who work in his factory. He has to work with that labour afterwards. He does not want the problem of soured relations. But that is totally different from the situation which obtains in a factory where the union is an outside body. The employer will have no compunction in suing for damages if the union fails to stick to its word.
An important point that has been overlooked concerns the way in which many union officials sit on the fence when there is an unofficial dispute. In many cases the unofficial strike is almost a recognised method of negotiation. Although union officials may publicly say that they do not agree with the unofficial action, in private they heartily approve of it. We therefore have a situation in which a binding agreement would make a major difference. The union will have to come off the fence and say "Yes, we approve", or "No, we do not approve." If the union used its best endeavours and influence to see that the bargain was kept moral support for many unofficial strikes would be withdrawn, and this would make an immense difference to the number of disputes which bedevil industry at present.
Added powers for the Government are proposed in the White Paper. The Minister is given powers arbitrarily to decide whether a union or unions shall have bargaining rights. The Minister is given power to decide on the 28-day cooling period: is that to be on the same sort of basis as an application in respect of prices and incomes policy—where so much depends on the strength of the union involved—or on what principle or basis is it to be founded? It would be better and fairer for criteria to be set out, and for the court to decide 143 whether or not an action falls within them.
Again, the Minister is to have power to order a union to withdraw its demand for negotiating rights. A famous Parliamentarian in the last century saw in this country two nations with a great gulf between them—on the one side, the employer and, on the other, the worker. Today, one sees two nations—on the one, the Government, the governing, the bureaucracy, and, on the other side, the governed, the people—the people who have government applied to them. Today, there is a growing gulf between the two, and in the Minister's proposal arbitrarily to have power to make these decisions I see an extension of this growing gulf between the governing and the governed. I very much regret that part of the White Paper, and I hope that when legislation is introduced we shall find that that proposal has been removed and a more just and equitable provision put in its stead.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
The Motion, for which I shall vote… invites Her Majesty's Government to continue consultation with view to preparing legislation.My support is based on that pledge. Consultation does not just mean listening—it means taking some action. It means that if the Minister is to get her legislation in due course she will have to give way on some points and will make not a political judgment but a judgment based on facts.
Because of the hour, I shall refer only to the question of attachment orders. I cannot think that the Minister has given as much attention to this point as she has to the rest of the White Paper. I know that the Lord Chancellor is very keen on a codification of the law relating to the collection of civil debts, and we have been continually told to wait until the Payne Committee reported. That Committee has reported. Its report adds nothing to what has been known since a similar committee reported in 1933.
When the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers) introduced her Bill for the attachment of wages to pay maintenance arrears I supported her—at a time when 144 I was secretary of the trade union group here—because I believed that in the keeping together of family life women should not be degraded simply because the trade unions did not like the attachment of wages. We now have evidence that the Minister cannot have looked at this, but in page 422 of the Payne Report she will find that, taken as a percentage of civil process prisoners, in a sample of a thousand maintenance defaulters over the country, 34 per cent. went to prison. My right hon. Friend said that no trade unionist would go to prison. How does she reconcile that statement with the experience which I have quoted, which shows that at the end of the day 34 per cent. of defaulters go to prison? In effect, my right hon. Friend said, "You must not bring the law into contempt. We must overcome the problem some way, and therefore we shall attach their wages". But they will not pay—and if they do not pay, what happens? Surely she will not use the specious argument that they are going to prison not because of trade union activities but because of the failure to collect a debt.
This proposal is shot through with fallacy, and I wish I had time to take up all the points made in this report. My right hon. Friend must get somebody in her Department to make an examination of this proposal who is completely divorced from the Lord Chancellor's Department. It is not sufficient for her merely to say, "Attach the wages". My right hon. Friend knows that it was proposed to the Board of Inland Revenue that this should be done through P.A.Y.E. This Report contains all the evidence why that cannot be done.
But at the end of the day it was sent back to the Board of Inland Revenue and suggested that form P.45 should be used. Form P.45 is the form used for transfer from one job to another. What my right hon. Friend fails to appreciate is that the attachment order is made not on a person but on a job, so that where the job is changed, the process has to start all over again. Under the Payne proposals, it is pointed out, no fewer than four orders could run at the same time on the same person. The proposal is shot through with patent absurdities.
My right hon. Friend knows me well enough to understand that I have the 145 greatest degree of good will towards her personally and towards the Government, but at the end of the day it would be ridiculous if she had embarked on a piece of machinery which would not work. It is not for me to say what should be done, because I did not initiate the legislation. It is for my right hon. Friend to bring forward a piece of machinery which will stand up to examination by the House.
Complaints have been made that some of the speeches today have been too long. This speech has been too short, because I cannot cover a complicated subject in the time available to me. With all the assurances which I can give her of a desire to support the Government—and I speak not only for myself but for a great body of people who will support the Government tonight—I nevertheless tell my right hon. Friend that we find the attachment orders a sticking point, because we know that this sort of legislation will not work and that it will bring much ridicule upon a Government which tries to introduce it.
I make no threat. I merely hope that common sense will prevail and that my right hon. Friend will rest on the 25 out of the 28 proposals which command support and which deserve to command the loyal admiration of the trade unions in taking the legislation through. It may be that the ballot vote for strike action is enshrined in many union rules, as it is in the rules of my union. It may be that the York memorandum, which brought in the industrial negotiation procedure for the engineers which is well known to the Under-Secretary, has been running since 1919 and that delays are longer than 28 days. If I were the Minister I believe that I could suggest ways to overcome these difficulties to the content of the trade union movement. Having spent a good deal of time on this matter, and having examined the Payne Report, upon which my right hon. Friend pinned her faith, I can only say that there is no future in this part of her scheme. If she wishes to carry, as I hope she will, a united party through the Lobby when the legislation comes, she will have to drop it.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)
We all know why the right hon. Lady made 146 such a disagreeable speech today. She did it in an effort to induce some cheering from her hon. Friends when she said unpleasant things about my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr). But I can give the right hon. Lady some reassurance. I have heard all the speeches made today by her hon. Friends behind her, and she has nothing to fear from those who oppose the White Paper. It was an exhibition of the brain of the dinosaur caught in the primeval forests. The first backwoodsman who appeared on the scene called out, "Woad, it has always been woad, and woad it must remain".
I thought that I should try to make a speech related to the White Paper—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—the first one for the last hour, at least. I thought that I should judge the effect of the White Paper and the legislation which is supposed to follow it against recent or potential industrial disputes—the overseas telephonists' dispute, the bank employees' dispute, the dispute which must not be mentioned though we might generally consider the breaking of contracts, the projected dispute in the steel industry, and a projected dispute in the docks.
§ Mr. Page
Yes, all in three minutes. I am glad to have the encouragement of the hon. Gentleman, who is always so kind in listening to my speeches and helping me along. I can deal quickly with the first two disputes, the telephonists and the bank employees. They were not industrial disputes between employer and employee. They were disputes by employees, virtually with the assent of their employers—certainly in the case of the banks—striking against the Government's prices and incomes policy. Does anyone imagine that, without the Government's prices and incomes policy, the Postmaster-General would not immediately have negotiated, without a strike, an agreement with the overseas telephonists?
In order to help his legislation through when it comes, the Under-Secretary of State must give us one assurance tonight. Will the Prices and Incomes Act be put on the bonfire when the Bill is produced? It makes no sense to have both. The contradiction appears almost all through the White Paper. If the hon. Gentleman 147 wants to carry the country with him, employers, trade unions and others, he cannot have both the prices and incomes policy and the projected new policy.
What about disputes due to the breaking of contracts of employment? The hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Gardner), one of the famous backwoodsmen whose name heads the first Amendment, and his hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) regard the right of trade unionists to break contracts which they make as the Ark of the Covenant, something which must be defended at all costs, the final bastion round which they must stand and fight. Apparently, that is the reason why those hon. Gentlemen and certain of their hon. Friends will go into the Lobby against the White Paper. [Interruption.] I assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that the Government have taken a shuffling footstep in the right direction. I am willing to compliment anybody who does that.
If hon. Gentlemen opposite ask why the Conservatives did not do something along these lines during their years of office, I remind them that I went to three Ministers of Labour on bended knees—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—on the green carpet of St. James's Square and that I even wrote a pamphlet advocating something along these lines. We are now glad to note that much of what my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham recommended in "Fair Deal at Work" has been heeded by the Government and that his brilliant efforts have been rewarded.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite like the hon. Member for Salford, West the hon. Member for Rushcliffe and, I suppose the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) need not be too worried about all this because there is an ex-high priest who will let them off. I refer, of course, to the right hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Gunter), who probably knows more——
§ Mr. Page
Southwark. The hon. Gentleman does not recognise a good Cockney accent.
That right hon. Gentleman always said that what mattered in a contract was what it contained for the trade unionists he represented. He made it clear that 148 if the employer would give a big enough carrot, he would negotiate and consider making a recommendation to his men. That makes sense. The whole object of the White Paper is to have greater negotiations—[interruption.]—and strong trade unions to produce a good result.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
On a point of order. May we hear what the Official Opposition have to say on the subject? Why do not you give them a chance, Mr. Deputy Speaker?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)
The right hon. Gentleman has been here long enough to know that that is not a point of order.
§ Mr. Page
The right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) is hearing the Opposition.
The Minister, in considering the threatened dispute in the steel industry, went through the stages which would have to be gone through if legislation based on the White Paper had been in operation. Is she aware that most of those stages have already been followed? Would she like to make an order to decide which trade unions in the steel industry would have to negotiate with the employers? How would the order be made?
When we consider the potential dispute in the docks, it is clear that it has arisen because the unofficial union leaders are demanding for all dock employees in the London enclosed docks the same wages as those now being earned in some of the modern docks at Tilbury and elsewhere, but without removing any of the restrictive practices. There is nothing in the White Paper to change that situation. What is needed is a change of emphasis from the point of view of the Port of London Authority. The employers will have to buy off the restricted practices and negotiate with the smaller labour force the necessary new scales and terms.
The time has come—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear hear."]—it is a good thing that hon. Gentlemen opposite have heard me—for the Official Opposition wind-up speech. I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for having allowed me to speak to a House which was not expecting to hear me.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Sir Keith Joseph (Leeds, North-East)
The Secretary of State—we make no complaint—took 40 minutes in her opening speech. My right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) took an equal time. So I thought it would be only courteous to the House to cut my remarks fairly short, as my party's position has been so fully and cogently explained by my right hon. Friend and by all my hon. Friends. Provided that I am not unduly interrupted, I shall try to sit down by half-past nine so as to give the Under-Secretary ample time to wind up for the Government.
The right hon. Lady, as my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page) so rightly said, for tactical reasons obviously tried to present my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham as a ferocious dragon. She left the defence of her White Paper, which I know she has defended valiantly in other places, largely to her own back benchers. We have listened to two admirably robust speeches by the hon. Members for Bradford, North (Mr. Ford) and Burnley (Mr. Dan Jones) in defence of the White Paper. We are glad to welcome the movement by the right hon. Lady and the Government towards the Tory Party's attitude. We quite understand that she is trying hard in this debate to camouflage the common ground that now exists—there is some common ground, though not nearly enough—between the two Front Benches and between a large section of hon. Members opposite and my right hon. Friends.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Summers) that there is much in the right hon. Lady's approach that we must admire. The trouble is that there is not: yet enough. That is why I cannot advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote for the White Paper tonight. Our fear is that after all the toil that the Government may endure, through this year and perhaps the bulk of next, carrying through legislation of this sort, they will find at the end of the road that all they have done is to split their own party and achieve only the most marginal of results in industrial relations. How anyone can oppose the White Paper as going too far in the present state of industrial relations utterly defeats my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself.
150 The right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) may well have been right in his argument that on the issue of attachment both sides of the House will have to look again. Apart from that, I should have thought that millions of people would much prefer the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Sir E. Brown), with all his trade union experience, to the views, however passionately and sincerely expressed today, of the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme). There is accumulating evidence of a need for change. The Tory Party's supporters in the country never tire of telling us that we should have initiated change during our 13 years in office. Yet there was nothing like the number or scale of strikes that there is now and has been ever since the Labour Government came to power.
Hon. Members opposite now know enough not to measure the impact of strikes by the number of days lost. The real impact of strikes is far more than that. The real damage caused by strikes and the threat of strikes is that in factory after factory good, willing and keen management is prevented, entirely by the threat of strike, from carrying through improvements which would benefit the pay and conditions of the workers and the standard of living of the people. That is why we think that the Government are right to take some action.
Of course the Opposition accept that no law will eliminate all strikes, but we believe that the law has something to contribute. Before coming to the points of agreement, I must emphasise once again the differences between us and the views of the party opposite as expressed in the White Paper. We all agree that good management, which is of the essence of good industrial relations, should be able to depend upon a quick, precise and fair dispute procedure—I am using the right hon. Lady's words. The Donovan Report very nearly went so far as to say that if only there were quick, precise and fair dispute procedures throughout British industry, the majority of the Donovan Commission might have recommended the enforceability of contracts. The enforceability of contracts is the implicit aim at a second stage of the Donovan Committee.
How do the Government aim to improve dispute procedures? We know that 151 they are to register the dispute procedures of some of the giant firms, but the White Paper does not make proposals to put any pressure on managements or unions to improve dispute procedures, no pressure upon managements and unions to bargain for peace and progress. The Opposition do. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham explained, we propose to make agreements enforceable unless both parties decided that they should be outside the law.
In our view, this will give each side a lever to improve its bargaining position. On the one hand, unions will be able to say to managements, "We will not agree to make the contract enforceable if you do not improve the dispute procedure and improve pay and conditions". On the other hand, managements will be able to say to the unions, "We will improve pay and conditions and the dispute procedure only if you for your part will agree to abide by the dispute procedure for a set period of time." Here are weapons in the hands of both sides to the good of each and for the benefit of the country.
We see much virtue in the comments of Mr. Andrew Shonfield in his minority Report when he says that the union that is able to deliver the promises it makes will earn for its members higher pay than unions which do not deliver the promises they make. We believe that enforceability, in the way we propose it, will stimulate managements and unions alike to carry their own members with them in the bargaining process. This would have eliminated much of the trouble in the country at the moment, although, of course, I am not suggesting that all will be eliminated by our proposals. We believe, moreover, that the mass of law-abiding employees will be glad, once enforcement is the law of the land, to resist pressures for unnecessary militancy. Our first strong objection to the White Paper is that it makes no provision for the enforceability of agreements.
The White Paper has very little if anything to contribute to the freedom of the worker. We regard it as intolerable that the closed shop should be enforced by strikes or the threat of strikes. We propose simply to remove the immunity under the 1906 Act for strikes called for 152 such purposes. We regard it as intolerable that dilutees—that is, trained adults, under the approval of their own union leadership—should be denied work by strike or the threat of strike in areas of the country where their skills are needed. We shall remove immunity from strikes called for that purpose.
Many current disputes, as the House knows, are disputes not between unions and management but between union and union. Three such examples are the dispute at Vickers Yard in Barrow, the dispute in the docks and the dispute hanging over the country in the steel industry. This is the sort of dispute which does the greatest damage to the industry and to all industries interrelated as well as to the country. We cannot believe that immunity under the law for trades disputes was given to trade unions to protect battles between unions. Here again, we shall remove immunity from strikes called for that purpose.
One of the greatest fears that management have in seeking to press improvements of process or technique that would benefit the workers and the consumers by higher pay, higher output and often lower prices, is the fear of sympathy strikes. Here again, we cannot believe that the sympathy strike is necessary. It is a weapon of a bygone age. Today unions can call attention to their grievances without disrupting a wide range of unrelated industries and without upsetting, and wrecking the lives sometimes of hundreds of thousands of citizens. Once again we propose to remove this immunity.
These are serious weaknesses in Government policy, and that is why we cannot vote for the White Paper tonight. I must repeat that we welcome what common ground there is between the Government and ourselves. We are glad that the Government are now willing to introduce references to the law in certain circumstances, as a last resort. We are glad that, as a last resort, the Government agree that there should, with suitable safeguards, be penalties. We welcome the changing attitude of the Government and of the right hon. Lady. We welcome personally the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary who is to reply for the Government. Some of us on this side of the House are surprised, indeed amazed, that the Government have not invited a Cabinet Minister to reply to this debate.
153 We urge the Government to reconsider, even at this late hour, the timing of their proposed legislation. My hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. David Mitchell) was absolutely right when he said that the country would welcome early legislation, if not on the whole of the Government's package, then on the most urgent parts of it. Earlier today the House heard, in a distinguished speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), a proposition with which I must once again associate my party, that no law will eliminate all strikes. We do not have any such chimera in our minds. We do not believe that the law can cure all. Our aim will be full employment, high earnings and, because of competition, low costs, the end to any attempt to control prices and earnings——
§ Sir K. Joseph
—pressure to improve disputes procedure where necessary, and an appeal against dismissal, together with persuasion, incentives and a common interest—to which the hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley) referred. Good management will not have the chance to improve the conditions and pay of all, workers and the country alike, if union-management relations are not brought, as we intend to bring them, within the law. We welcome the Government's move towards this position; we wish that they had gone further, and we urge them, even at this late hour, to reconsider their timing and to introduce legislation as soon as they possibly can.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity (Mr. Harold Walker)
At the outset I wish to refer to a back-bench speech, that made by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). I say right away that it was a brilliant, scintillating, witty, intellectual speech, but it showed a lack of understanding of the subject we are debating. That is as good an answer as I can give to the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) who asked why I should be winding up for the Government tonight. [Interruption.] I cannot in advance promise that I shall make a brilliant, witty, 154 scintillating speech, but I assure the right hon. Gentleman and those on the benches opposite who jeer, that at least I know something about it.
We have had a stimulating and, as the right hon. Gentleman said, at times a robust and at times a passionate debate. The debate has been taking place in dramatic circumstances, for a dramatic background has been provided by external events. If I do not reply to all the many points which have been raised, I think the House will understand that that is because of pressure of time and the inevitable need to select.
I take up right away some of the points made by the right hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr). In what I admit was a very constructive, conciliatory speech, he established that there was much common ground between the two Front Benches on many of the points before the House. He drew attention also to some of the differences, one of which is on the legal recognition of trade unions. The Conservative Party's document "Fair Deal at Work" says that recognition should come when the majority have determined by a ballot.
§ Mr. Walker
We do not rule that out. The right hon. Gentleman insisted that where there is a recognition dispute it should be resolved by having a ballot of the workers concerned, so that it could be determined whether a majority wanted to join a particular union and if so no obstacle should be raised. That ignores the complexity of the industrial situation. As the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) said, "Why not have a ballot?" This is not ruled out by the Government White Paper. The Government clearly say that there may well be circumstances in which a ballot might play a useful rôle, but certainly not in every situation because each situation has individual characteriststies and varies from time to time. We believe it is useful in that kind of situation when it is best to have an individual judgment of an external body such as the C.I.R.
There are ways of finding the area of recognition of recruitment. The White Paper says in paragraph 5 that a ballot is one way of overcoming this difficulty. 155 The right hon. Gentleman went on to agree that there should be, as we say in the White Paper, a right to belong to a trade union.
§ Mr. R. Carr
Is the hon. Member therefore telling the House that in the Government's view it is not the prerogative of the workers themselves to have the final say as to which union they wish to represent them?
§ Mr. Walker
Perhaps I should quote the actual terms of the White Paper. Then the right hon. Gentleman will understand our point of view. Paragraph 57 is quite clear. It says:A ballot is one way of showing this, but the question cannot be settled by ballot in every case, for the union can often find little immediate support where there has hitherto been little hope of recognition and perhaps little opportunity for recruitment.In other words, what is the point of seeking a ballot among people who perhaps have not been recruited to a union and to do not know the advantages a union can confer upon them and the type of union most appropriate to their needs?
The right hon. Gentleman readily acknowledged that there should be a right to belong to a trade union. I was glad to hear him say that. I wonder, therefore, why it is absent from "Fair Deal at Work". Should it not be, as we say, a statutory right? Would it not be included in any future Industrial Relations Bill for which the right hon. Gentleman may hypothetically be responsible?
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not deal with the point concerning ballots until a little later.
§ Mr. Walker
I am not seeking at this stage deliberately to make it disorderly, Mr. Speaker, but if hon. Members opposite want to mix it, we will see how we go. I obviously have a lot of ground to cover and if I constantly give way to the 156 right hon. Gentleman, I shall not answer the points which have been raised during the debate.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about the right of appeal against dismissal and admitted that this was an important right. The difference, to which he did not draw attention, between the Government's proposal and his own "Fair Deal at Work" is that "Fair Deal at Work" places the onus of proving wrongful dismissal on the employee whereas we believe that the onus of proving justification for the dismissal should apply to the employer. This is a tremendously important difference of substance between the two.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that the question of legally binding agreements——
§ Mr. Walker
—to which the Opposition have turned time and time again, is right at the heart of the matter. We have had reference to it in every speech from the Opposition today. We had reference to it in every Opposition speech during the debate on 16th July. It seems incumbent upon me, therefore, to deal with some of the points that were raised in connection with legal enforcement of collective agreements.
Perhaps I might start by quoting, so that there is no misunderstanding about what the Opposition mean, from "Fair Deal at Work", page 32. The Opposition say:Section 4 of the Trade Union Act 1871 should be repealed. This would put collective agreements on a par with any other type of contract—no more and no less.In the explanatory note they say:This recommendation means—as is our intention—that a collective agreement should be enforceable except in so far as the parties specifically agreed that the whole, or parts of it, should not be legally binding.They go on to say:It is of course true that, if negotiating parties are left with an option as to whether their ultimate agreement is enforceable or not, most trade unions would—initially—press for the inclusion of a 'contracting-out' clause.I quote from the document to make it perfectly clear that the Opposition's proposal is that collective agreements would automatically be rendered legally enforceable by the repeal of Section 4 of the Trade Union Act, 1871. This presumably applies, if that is the case, not only to 157 future agreements, but also to present agreements. That is to say, any existing agreements would automatically be rendered legally enforceable with the repeal of Section 4 of the 1871 Act.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East had the point wrong when he quoted from the Royal Commission and suggested that the Commission said that if there were effective, speedy and equitable disputes procedures, legal enforceability was a serious question and should be implemented.
The point made by the Royal Commission was that the majority of collective agreements at present in existence are not in legally enforceable form. They are not legally enforceable form for basically two reasons. First, it was not the intention of the parties when the contracts were entered into that they should be binding in anything more than honour and, secondly, the format does not lend itself to legal interpretation. None the less, the problem would still remain if the interpretation placed upon them by the Opposition Front Bench is the correct interpretation.
§ The question also arises against whom these agreements shall be enforced. I concede that on occasion after occasion Opposition Front Bench speakers have been quite clear and firm that they would be enforced against the unions, not the individual strikers. The unions would be made responsible because they are the parties to the agreement, and presumably this would in turn compel the unions to exercise control over their membership where there are unconstitutional or unofficial strikes.
§ What about the non-union striker? Who enforces it against him, or is he not a party to the agreement, so escaping enforceability? Is he to say that he is entitled to contract out becuse he is not a party to the agreement? There are non-union strikers, believe it or not. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman says "not very often", but he does not know very much about industry if he says that. Typical engineering factories all too often, I regret to say, are a compound of union and non-union elements, and in a dispute which invoked the question of the legal enforceability of a collective agreement, would the non-union strikers of that factory be exempt? Would it apply only to union strikers?158
§ Mr. R. Carr
Since the hon. Gentleman is asking questions about what the Opposition's attitude is, I think I am entitled to intervene. The position is that the terms agreed in the collective agreement of the union are written into the individual contracts of employment of each worker. On the point of enforcing existing agreements, I made it absolutely clear in the debate on 16th July that we had no intention of enforcing existing agreements.
§ Mr. Walker
The right hon. Gentleman says that the implication of the Opposition's proposal is that it would be an individual contract of employment that would be legally enforceable. This opens up a new issue which deserves our serious consideration. If all the details covered by the contract of employment are legally enforceable, this means that the agreements referred to within it will be made legally enforceable, and this is a matter deserving entirely new consideration.
If he said in the debate on 16th July that it was not the intention that the repeal of Section 4 would expose existing collective agreements to the rigours of the law, I accept his word, but that is not what the Opposition's policy document says, and it is not the implication of the interpretation of Section 4 which is contained within their policy document.
This, of course, does not answer the point of what happens to the non-union striker, nor what happens when a trade union tries to discipline its members into conformity with a collective agreement. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Walker
If hon. Gentlemen opposite are complaining because I am dealing with "Fair Deal at Work" it is because, during their absence, the Opposition spokesman referred to it.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East said to the Conservative Party Conference in 1965 that enforceability would be against the union but not against the individual striker. This was not what was said by the Conservative lawyers in submitting their evidence to the Royal Commission. A former Attorney-General, submitting evidence on behalf of the Conservative lawyers, when 159 asked if the union leadership was likely to sue the members responsible in turn, said:Yes, with a small minority of union members who are acting wholly irresponsibly and contrary to the leadership.When asked how a union could avoid having its coffers drained, he said:I would have thought the union, as of necessity, would have to expel.I mention these points to show the confusions and ambiguities one is led into by pursuing this panacea of legal enforceability.
If I may turn to some of the other points raised in the debate by my hon. Friends—[Interruption.] If right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite read the White Paper, they would see that there is a whole passage in it dealing with the legal enforceability of collective agreements. If they had read that, perhaps they would not be so ready to interrupt.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Ford) referred to the trade union development scheme, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme), the former praising and the latter criticising the proposal. My hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West said that the trade unions had no need of what he termed this "tainted" money.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, North reminded me of something. Hon. Members on both sides of the House complain, with justification sometimes, I feel, that the voices of the back benches are not adequately listened to in this House—[Interruption.] Right hon. and hon. Members opposite know that this is a long-standing complaint. We even heard the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page) making this pathetic lament about his own Government. This is not applicable to one Government. The hon. Gentleman referred to going down on his bended knees. Certainly none of my hon. Friends has had to do that.
Both my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, North and my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West, in the debate on 16th July on the Report of the Royal Commission, made eloquent pleas that the Government should use public funds to assist the trade unions in the public interest. They said that, in the same way 160 as Government funds have been used to help private industry to reorganise, to restructure, to carry out research and for a variety of other purposes, so they should be made available to the trade union movement. I happened to think that that was a good idea, and we responded to the plea of my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, North, speaking from the depths of his long and profound industrial experience, and of my hon. Friend the Member for Southall (Mr. Bidwell), who also spoke from the basis of considerable trade union experience. We believe that it is right in the interests of the development of the trade unions and, in the longer term, the public interest to make public money available primarily for education, research purposes and so on. If the trade union movement rejects the money, there is no obligation on it to take it. If it fears that it is tainted, we will have it back, with pleasure.
My hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West complained bitterly that the Government's proposals represent a massive intervention by the Government in industrial relations. He went on to urge that the White Paper would lead to Government intervention in collective bargaining and collective agreements. I can find nothing in the White Paper to lead one to such a conclusion. There is nothing in it which would result in the Government intervening or interfering in collective bargaining and collective agreements——
§ Mr. Walker
On the wider point of Government intervention in industrial relations, I draw attention to the fact that the history of legislation on industrial relations over the last 100 years has been one of continuing and progressive Government intervention, almost invariably to the assistance of the development of the trade union movement. There are the Act of 1871, the Act of 1906, the Act of 1913 that allowed my hon. Friend to come here, the Fair Wages Resolution of the House of Commons, the Truck Act the legislation setting up wages councils. Does my hon. Friend wish me to go on to prove that the Government have in the past intervened in a massive way in the interests of the workers and the trade union movement?
§ Mr. Walker
I must get on. Time is limited and there are important points with which I must deal. There are the three points in the first Amendment with which I wish to deal particularly. It would be wrong if I did not try to give a full and adequate answer to the points to which my hon. Friends have made specific reference in their Amendment: strike ballots, the conciliation pause and the attachment of earnings.
On strike ballots, I must make it clear that there is nothing in the Government's proposals that will inhibit or prohibit the right of a trade union to embark on official strike action. Furthermore, the White Paper makes it clear that the ballot will be carried out in accordance with the union's rules and only after the fullest consultation with the unions involved.
The right hon. Member for Mitcham said that, assuming "Fair Deal at Work" accepts the need in this kind of situation for ballots, should there not be a ballot to call off the strike if it is deemed necessary for a ballot to invoke the right to strike?
The White Paper does not make the right to strike dependent on the outcome of a ballot. It does not call for any percentage return or particular majority. It merely says that in certain situations where the national interest is threatened, where a national official strike is being called, surely it is a logical extension of the democracy upon which the trade union movement rightly prides itself that it should consult its members. I see nothing wrong with that, and I am sure that the people of this country see nothing wrong with it.
I turn to the more important issue of the conciliation pause. What is intended here? The White Paper says that this will be a reserve power to be invoked when an unconstitutional strike is called. The right hon. Member for Mitcham recognises the distinction between an unofficial and unconstitutional strike, but throughout his speech he persistently referred to unofficial strikes. We should have to look hard in the White Paper to find a reference to unofficial strikes. We are concerned with unconstitutional strikes in the context of the conciliation pause.
162 The registration of procedural agreements, and hence the reform of procedural agreements, is a major step towards the reform of collective bargaining. But this will not take place overnight. What can take place overnight is a small localised strike with most serious consequences on a particular industry.
One example springs to mind. In the Midlands recently there was a strike of 5,600 men in a factory producing diesel engines. The strike persisted for several weeks. The consequences were that a major manufacturer of commercial vehicles had to slow down production lines because of the drying up of the supply of diesel engines. A major tractor manufacturer also suffered from a shortage of diesel engines as a result of the strike. In this situation we say that our proposal to ask the parties to resume work for 28 days to permit discussions to take place would have most beneficial effects. But if my hon. Friends say, as some of them do, that in this situation experience should teach me that the men will not return to work until they have secured their ends, I ask them to look at what the strike was about and what we would propose in that situation. The strike was about a shop steward who had been dismissed for refusing to participate in a work study exercise involving the use of a stopwatch. We would ask the strikers to return to work on the basis of telling the employer that he must reinstate the shop steward, and without any idea of a time and motion study using a stopwatch until 28 days had elapsed, or it had been agreed through procedure. In other words, the men would return on the basis of a victory. The factory would resume work and vehicle production would go ahead. What is wrong with that?
This is the answer to the immediate difficulty presented by the York memorandum procedure which has been the subject of so much scathing comment this afternoon, and which has been used as the basis of an indictment against the White Paper. It is only when, in that kind of situation, where it may be that an employer rejects the Order imposing this kind of action upon him, or it may be a striker, that the machinery of the industrial board is invoked. This board is chosen because it will be different from and more flexible than the 163 ordinary courts. It will be concerned not so much with the letter of the law as with the spirit of our intentions.
Bearing in mind the need to restore good industrial relations, the board will consider whether there has been any possible breach of the Order imposing the conciliation pause. It will consider not the merits of the dispute but whether there has been a breach of the Order. If it finds that there has been a breach of the Order and it may be that circumstances justify such a breach, the board would be absolved from the need to impose any financial penalty, but it is in these circumstances that the possibility may ultimately arise for the need to attach earnings as an alternative to imprisonment.
I understand the reservations and the doubts expressed by my hon. Friends this afternoon. They spring from depths of emotion and experience, very often on the basis of emotional recollections. My right hon. Friend has asked me to repeat with all the emphasis at my command what she said this afternoon. By all means let us discuss these difficulties to see whether they can be met, or whether there is an alternative. My right hon. Friend said that other countries might have something for us to learn. Let us discuss these difficulties and see whether they can be met, or whether there is an alternative.
The great issue with which we have been dealing today goes straight to the heart and core of the nation's well-being. Dramatised as our discussions are by the purely fortuitous timing of the debate
§ rôle of the Opposition demands some comment.
§ Whether right or wrong, the impression which the Opposition have succeeded in creating is one of converting a great national issue, a matter concerning the most fundamental human relationships, a matter involving the interest and well-being of every member of our community, into a political football; and, having done so, they retreated from the field of play on to the terraces. Their behaviour today I indict as cynical, political opportunism, compounded by cowardice. When many of the things said here today have been forgotten, long will linger the memory of their retreat from responsibility.
§ I beg my hon. Friends to see that our proposals are, above all, a declaration of support for the aims, principles, and interests of the trade union movement, that the White Paper is based on a clear recognition that the road to better industrial relations lies through a strengthening of the trade union movement, and an extension of human rights in industry, conditioned only by a recognition of the demands of the national interest and the well-being of every individual member of the community at large.
§ The words of the Motion, insisting that the Government continue consultations, are clear in purpose and sincere in intent. I ask my hon. Friends, therefore, to give it the support that it deserves in the Lobby.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 224, Noes 62.165
|Division No. 106.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Albu, Austen||Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)|
|Alldritt, Walter||Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)|
|Anderson, Donald||Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek)|
|Archer, Peter||Buchan, Norman||Davies, Ifor (Gower)|
|Ashley, Jack||Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Dell, Edmund|
|Bagier Gordon A. T.||Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Dewar, Donald|
|Barnes, Michael||Carmichael, Neil||Diamond, Rt. Hn. John|
|Barnett, Joel||Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Dunnett, Jack|
|Baxter, William||Chapman, Donald||Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth (Exeter)|
|Bence, Cyril||Coe, Denis||Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Coleman, Donald||Edwards, William (Merioneth)|
|Binns, John||Concannon, J. D.||English, Michael|
|Bishop, E. S.||Conlan, Bernard||Ennals, David|
|Blackburn, F.||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Ensor, David|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Crawshaw, Richard||Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)|
|Boston, Terence||Cronin, John||Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Faulds, Andrew|
|Boyden, James||Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Fernyhough, E.|
|Bradley, Tom||Dalyell, Tam||Finch, Harold|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)|
|Brooks, Edwin||Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Fletcher. Rt. Hn. Sir Eric (Islington, E.)|
|Foley, Maurice||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Rees, Merlyn|
|Foot, Rt. Hn, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Reynolds, Rt. Hn. G. W.|
|Ford, Benn||Lipton, Marcus||Rhodes, Geoffrey|
|Forrester, John||Lomas, Kenneth||Richard, Ivor|
|Fowler, Gerry||Loughtin Charles||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Fraser, John (Norwood)||Luard, Evan||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy|
|Freeson, Reginald||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as)|
|Gardner, Tony||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Garrett, W. E.||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Roebuck, Roy|
|Ginsburg, David||McBride, Neil||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||McCann, John||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||MacColl, James||Sheldon, Robert|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||MacDermot, Niall||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Macdonald, A. H.||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||McGuire, Michael||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Hamling, William||Mackie, John||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Hannan, William||Mackintosh, John P.||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Harper, Joseph||Maclennan, Robert||Small, William|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||MacPherson, Malcolm||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Mallalieu, J. P. W.(Huddersfield, E.)||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Haseldine, Norman||Marks, Kenneth||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John|
|Hattersley, Roy||Marquand, David||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Hazell, Bert||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Taverne, Dick|
|Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Maxwell, Robert||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George|
|Hobden, Dennis||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Thomson, Rt. Hn. George|
|Hooley, Frank||Millan, Bruce||Thornton, Ernest|
|Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Tuck, Raphael|
|Howarth Robert (Bolton, E)||Morgan, E'ystan (Cardiganshire)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Varley, Eric G.|
|Howie, W.||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Hoy, James||Morris, John (Aberavon)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Moyle, Roland||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Hynd, John||Neal Harold||Weitzman, David|
|Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Ogden, Eric||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Janner, Sir Barnett||O'Malley, Brian||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Oram, Albert E.||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Palmer, Arthur||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Parkin, Ben (Paddington, N.)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)||Willis, Rt. Hn. George|
|Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Judd, Frank||Pentland, Norman||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Kenyon, Clifford||Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.||Woof, Robert|
|Lawson, George||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Ledger, Ron||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederic, (Newton)||Randa'l, Harry||Mr. Charles Grey and|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)||Rankin, John||Mr. Ernest G. Perry.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Gregory, Arnold||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)|
|Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Mendelson, J. J.|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Molloy, William|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Newens, Stan|
|Bessell, Peter||Heffer, Eric S.||Norwood, Christopher|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Henig, Stanley||Orbach, Maurice|
|Booth, Albert||Hooson, Emlyn||Orme, Stanley|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Horner, John||Pardoe, John|
|Dickens, James||Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)||Park, Trevor|
|Dobson, Ray||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)|
|Doig, Peter||Hunter, Adam||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Driberg, Tom||Jeger, George (Goole)||Ryan, John|
|Dunn, James A.||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n&St. P'cras, S.)||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)|
|Eadie, Alex||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Edelman, Maurice||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|Ellis, John||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Lubbock, Eric|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||McKay, Mrs. Margaret||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Mr. Peter Jackson and|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||McNamara, J. Kevin||Mr. John Lee.|
That this House approves the White Paper, "In Place of Strife", Command Paper No.
3888, as a basis for legislation; and invites Her Majesty's Government to continue consultation with a view to preparing legislation.