§ Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ Mr. James A. Dunn (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
I wish to express my opposition to the provisions contained in the Clause. In doing so, I hope that it will be appreciated that Clauses 85, 86 and 87 are inter-related. I shall make every endeavour not to stray into any discussion of the merits of the other two, but I hope that the Committee will bear with me if I find it necessary to refer to them indirectly.
Clause 86 contains provisions which, if accepted by the Committee, can only result in the deep resentment of all trade unionists. The philosophy has long been accepted amongst trade unionists that they have the right to indicate their support to fellow trade unionists who are engaged in a dispute and that, from time to time, they have also the right to translate their support into action. There have been many instances of it recently.
As the Clause is drafted at present, it raises a number of points which I hope that the Solicitor-General will clarify. For example, when the word "contemplation" is used in relation to the furtherance of a dispute, I believe that it refers directly to a sympathetic strike or action of any kind which is taken by one group of work people in support of another. As the Clause is drafted, it would deny to trade unionists the ability to give immediate and spontaneous 1853 support to colleagues who were engaged in any dispute against an employer.
Sympathetic action of this kind takes many forms. I have no doubt that from time to time those excellent trade unionists who sit on the benches opposite will have indicated their own support for their fellow trade unionists engaged in industrial disputes, though I will not quote the instances about which I know.
It is not only important to reserve the right to indicate that support. It is also important to a trade unionist that he should continue to enjoy the right to withdraw his labour on grounds of conscience or loyalty or because he feels that at some later time he may be involved in a similar dispute or even the same dispute.
When trade unionists take sympathetic action of this kind, they are indicating to those involved in the dispute, especially the employers, that they will not co-operate and perform tasks which normally would be carried out by those already involved in the dispute. In an earlier debate, my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Mr. Ted Fletcher) referred to an example which perhaps I might pursue. He told the Committee of a case involving toilets, and the placing of a time book on a table outside the toilets in which women employees had to register. Suppose that the male workers in that factory decided to support their female colleagues and told the management that the conditions which had been imposed upon the female employees were intolerable. Suppose, further, that they gave notice that they intended to join the dispute at some time in the future. Would that be regarded as the furtherance of the dispute? Would it be a threatening attitude, would it be aiding, would it he abetting? What classification would be attached to such circumstances? I suggest that in all cases any one of those provisions could be applied.
Anyone who refused to act in any way detrimental to his colleagues—silence can often be detrimental to a man's colleagues—could be brought within the ambit of furtherance of a dispute, of aiding, or of abetting. No doubt careful perusal of the language of Clause 86 would bring to light many more legitimate charges which could be brought against a man.
1854 We have knowledge that there are practices which black certain operations, products, supplies and services because of an industrial dispute. If this is done as hitherto when the Bill is passed—God knows, I pray that it will not be passed—then blacking will be an offence.
I shall illustrate a hypothetical case. If the long-distance lorry drivers of the Transport and General Workers Union were asked to take messages and mail from point A to point B and any one driver were to say, "No, this would normally go by post; it has not been the custom and practice hitherto to do this and therefore I will not, because I shall be interfering with an industrial dispute", and the employer insists that the change of practice must be accepted, what would happen? If that driver refused, could he individually be accused of an offence? If any of his colleagues in the same area working for the same employer—perhaps even accompanying drivers on their lorries—took action, what would happen? As the Clause is drafted, no doubt there would be a grave potential danger for such persons in terms of being accused of an offence.
The general unions and the craft unions have different sections. The general unions cover many industrial occupations. If there were any cross-supplies or services which seemed to go over an area in which one section of workers was involved, what would happen if another section of workers belonging to the same union were to take the stance that, under no circumstances, would they make any contribution which was detrimental to their fellow trade unionists? If craftsmen, who take pride in their craft, decide that certain things should not be done, either because of hazard or safety, or other things of which they are justly proud, and demand that certain practices be deplored and discontinued, again no doubt in that setting charges could be made. Many consequential things could overflow into areas of associated and ancillary workers who may respond in this situation by resentment and resistance.
The wordsto take or threaten to takeare ambiguous. They can mean almost anything. They can be made to fit any situation not specifically dealt with in the Bill. This provision gives a wide range of application to employers when dealing 1855 with situations which might emerge, but which, by definition, might be blurred in relation to furtherance of a dispute, aiding or abetting.
Attitudes of non-co-operation can be made to appear as threatening. Even a discussion to consider informing an employer that the employees will not co-operate could be interpreted as a threat. If a number of people get together and draft a statement which they have duplicated and circulated to their colleagues, a similar situation would arise.
What does "aiding" mean? What does "abetting" mean? What does "financing" mean? It would appear that by a personal or corporate contribution, by finance or by support, aiding, abetting or financing could be brought into play. Even a meeting called to discuss an industrial dispute and a decission to make a collection to send to some special fund to alleviate hardship could come under aiding, abetting or financing. I have no doubt that with the versatility of those engaged in the legal profession, including the hon. and learned Gentleman, even procuring might eventually appear in the charge—[Interruption.] I make this point quite sincerely. I hope that this will be taken on board and looked at very carefully.
Any direct or indirect support or any observations intended perhaps to be advisory could be caught by Clause 86. Even Members of Parliament who might be asked to attend a strike meeting in relation to the Post Office workers, if they advise that under the circumstances, because of statements made from both sides—[Interruption.] I will develop this further, because I think that I am right.
Clause 86 refers to "aiding" and Clause 85 refers to an industrial dispute, but Clause 86 is not clarified. I think that it has been deliberately framed in that way. In Clause 87 reference is made to "section 86(2)", which can catch within the net, if so desired, those who attend an industrial dispute who are not members of the union or are not involved in the industry or trade. In certain circumstances, it could be said that they contributed both financially and in terms of advice. Members of Parliament could be placed in that situation. If the Bill 1856 were applicable now, no doubt I could be held to have been in contempt of it last Monday when I attended a meeting of the Post Office workers.
Many points emerge under these headings. If I were to write for any trade union journal—at the moment I am the Chairman of the Parliamentary Group of the Transport and General Workers Union—or to make public comment which was printed and circulated in the union journal—after listening to some of the exchanges today, I might be tempted to make a categoric statement and give advice to the postmen to take a certain course of action—I should be in contravention of Clause 86.
The Bill is stifling freedom. It is depriving trade unionists of the one asset which they prize above all others—namely, that in certain circumstances and according to the needs of the situation they can go to the aid of their colleagues. Refusal to act under such circumstances might bring a wealth of attribution at some later date, particularly if they are members of the same trade union.
I have no doubt that the Solicitor-General in his legal capacity from time to time would feel obliged, though not necessarily in absolute agreement, to render support, oral or in any other form, to some of his colleagues in the legal profession. It is not so long ago that I read criticism of one of my right hon. and learned Friends in relation to a case before a court. I noticed that a right hon. and learned Gentleman on the other side of the Chamber immediately sprang to the defence of his professional colleagues and said that everything that was done was perfectly and rightly done. But under the Clause, if any trade unionists were to so print and proclaim, there is no doubt that there could be charges. There would not always be these charges, but it would leave the opportunity for them to be made. That would be to the detriment of industrial relations and, at the end of the day, we would not contribute one whit to understanding but would build up a resentment from which there would be no escape at any time.
The phrase "short of a strike" can mean anything. Either one comes under the category of subsection 2(a), or the rest of it comes under subsection 2(b). This is an all-embracing Bill, trying to create for the first time an offence for 1857 anybody acting in any way, or purporting to act in any way, in support of any colleague in any situation of industrial dispute. It would go further than a denial of freedom. It would make virtual prisoners of trade unionists in certain industrial circumstances. Again, it will not always happen, but the opportunity will be there. The Clause tries to take away the right of free assembly, freedom of action and freedom of objective support by whatever means are used, by language, literature, radio, television or other media.
Concerted action under Clause 86(2)(b) can be a problem. If I believed that goods, services or supplies from an industry in which there is an industrial dispute should not be purchased or supported by myself, my friends, my relatives, or my colleagues in the House, and I were to join with them and plan a campaign in which we would indicate our resistance to the purchase of such goods or services, we should be in contravention of the Clause.
I am not worried that an answer could be given today that what I have suggested could happen would be far from the realities. I am still concerned that the Bill will be the basis for case law, which has a peculiar way of turning in opposite directions. I call in aid the Gaming Act, 1963, to support that proposition. No one on either side of the Committee would support some of the case law which flows from that.
The hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. James Hill) referred yesterday to the Liverpool dock situation last year and the year before. I wish to correct some misimpressions and misunderstandings which might have flowed from what he said. The port employers and the National Port Employers Association met the trade unions concerned. After intensive discussions, the port employers suggested that their offer was a reasonable basis on which recommendations could be made. The leadership of the negotiating team accepted that it was an appropriate time to convey that offer to those working in the dock system. They did not come to an agreement. They said, "All right, we will take the offer back". They did so.
Once the operatives in the dock system heard the recommendations, they rejected them. When I say "they", they are the 1858 trade union. It is not a leader or a single person. Each member is the trade union and corporately he forms it. They said to their servant, the leader who represented them, "This offer is not good enough. Please go back and tell the Employers Association that we reject it." Strange to relate, when that was done a better offer was immediately made and was accepted within 24 hours. But a long time had elapsed with consultations, taking the offer back to the men and with public meetings so that the recommendation could be explained in detail. The decision was from the members. I hope that we can discount that situation as enumerated by the hon. Member for Southampton, Test.
Clauses 86, 85 and 87 are intended for one purpose only. There are many aspects of that purpose. I have briefly indicated a few. They are meant to destroy the solidarity and unity of the trade unions. They are meant to divide and to rule. Anyone who says different has not read Clause 86.
§ Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Sutton)
When I entered the House of Commons I did not expect to contribute to a debate on industrial relations. But for two years I was responsible for probably one of the largest industries run by this or any Government—the Royal Dockyards. Week by week I would chair meetings of the Whitley Council, and discuss industrial problems in one of the better environments for discussing them which exist in this country. Much criticised at times, the Whitley system still has a genuine method of consultation.
We are discussing a fundamental principle, for lines 4 and 5 of the Clause go right to the root of much that we on this side of the Committee find abhorrent in this legislation. If one went outside the House of Commons, one would find on a superficial questioning that quite a number of people would say that we should ban sympathy strikes. I do not claim that sympathy strikes are very popular. But those people do not face up to the logic of the principle which is under attack, which is the principle of collectivism, the principle of people being able to join together freely to exert pressure for their rights.
We have seen that principle attacked through the closed shop. We have seen it now attacked in some firms, as I hope 1859 I shall be able to illustrate. The Government are attacking the only way in which some trade unionists can protest effectively.
The biggest Royal Dockyard is in my constituency, and there are three other major dockyards. It is not clear to me whether, if, which I hope will not arise, strike action was taken in Devonport Dockyard, under the Clause anybody in the three other dockyards would be prohibited from taking any other action.
§ Dr. Owen
That does not make any difference. The hon. Gentleman should know that it makes no difference. If we were dealing with sympathy action, unofficial strikes, at least a case could be made. Whether I agree with that or not I do not intend to go into. But certainly the most serious thing is that this is a threat of an official strike. If the dockyards went on strike, it would probably be an official strike. With this industry I had two pressures on me. One was when I was the employer negotiating with the unions, on productivity deals and union pay rates; and the other was an input from my constituents who were most affected.
In those circumstances, if the right to take sympathetic action in Rosyth, Portsmouth and Chatham is removed, the workload could be rearranged and strikes could be broken simply by sending ships which needed repair to a different area. I therefore hope that the Solicitor-General will give us a clear answer as to whether workers are affected if a strike is taking place in the same industry but in a different part of the country. The logic would seem to be that there cannot be sympathy strikes within the same industry and under the same employer.
The next case to which I want to draw attention is the strike which has been taking place at the Fine Tubes factory in my constituency. This must be one of the longest strikes on record in Britain. I hope that I can illustrate why in this instance the refusal to allow sympathy action could be devastating to the power of the unions negotiating in this circumstance. I shall not go too deeply into 1860 the merits of the strike, but the Committee should know the sequence of events.
One of the problems in the strike is that we have not been able to get the two sides to discuss at all. The management of Fine Tubes has resolutely refused to discuss the situation with the strikers. Few people will deny that this is probably never defensible. There are always two sides to any dispute and it is important that management should listen to the other side.
§ Dr. Owen
I will come to the role of the D.E.P. in this matter, because there are certain major illogicalities about the Department's position.
The situation goes back to 9th December, 1969, when negotiations started in the Fine Tubes factory for a substantial pay rise. These were concluded—I think I had better say "terminated"—on 3rd June in a total failure. I give credit to the management, but that it fulfilled the York agreement, but this was common at that time throughout the country. Many manufacturers, to retain any degree of parity, were going well above that Agreement; and I do not think that it was ever disputed that the unions had a formidable case at that time for a greater rise than was offered.
Anyhow, on 15th June, 1970, in the midst of the election, 172 men and women withdrew their labour at 2.30 p.m. Soon after this the strike was made official by both the A.E.F. and the Transport and General Workers' Union.
Next in the sequence of events an ultimatum was sent to the 172 strikers on 30th June, 1970 to return to work the next day or be sacked. They did not return to work; and in consequence they were sacked. The Department of Employment and Productivity has taken the view that these people were legally sacked—that the employers acted properly thereafter in that they paid sickness and holiday pay; so these people were considered to be sacked.
Then we came to the question whether in this case the Department of Employment and Productivity was to offer the facilities of the Department to fill the gap left by the 172 people who had been sacked. This is a very serious issue. The 1861 Department has used its facilities to fill these vacancies.
§ The Chairman
Order. Will the hon. Gentleman be so good as to show me exactly how he is relating this to the Clause and keep on relating it to the Clause as he develops his argument?
§ Dr. Owen
My case is that at present throughout the country people are involved in sympathy action with the Fine Tube strikers and this is probably the most classic case of factory workers being involved in sympathy action with their fellow trade unionists up and down the country. In fairness to the Committee I thought that I should give the background before dealing with what sympathy action has been taken, how all this affects the Department of Employment and Productivity, and how this affects crucially the unions' bargaining position if the power to take sympathy strikes is withdrawn.
With respect to you, Sir Robert, I think that this is relevant to the whole question. There is a terrible tendency to talk in generalities. We are dealing with a detailed situation in a small factory where an employer has sacked people, where people are on strike, and where sympathy action is being taken by their fellow workers throughout the country. If the Bill becomes law in the summer, that strike will be seriously affected.
§ The Chairman
I appreciated all that. At the same time the hon. Gentleman must relate what he says to the terms of the Clause, otherwise we shall be having a broad debate and lose sight of the Clause altogether.
§ Dr. Owen
I respect your Ruling, Sir Robert, and I will do my best to comply with it.
There having been this sequence of events, the Fine Tube strikers were faced with the problem that they could exert influence only away from Plymouth. As the Department of Employment and Productivity had used its facilities and as Plymouth is an area where there is relatively high unemployment, it was not difficult to fill the vacancies; so the factory went on to production. Yet the men went on strike. As this was an official strike, they used their facilities—
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Dudley Smith)
I cannot call this case to mind, because obviously there are many strikes. Will the hon. Gentleman tell the Committee what the strike was about?
§ Dr. Owen
I have tried to tell the Committee about that, and it raises the point that the Chair has raised. It is important to give the facts. The strike is about wages. I have been in fairly continual consultation with the Minister of State, Department of Employment. I am one of the few people who can speak to both unions and management, and I have tried not to exacerbate the position. I have tried to get them round the consultation table. The hon. Gentleman will find that his colleague at the Department knows the facts of the situation. I do not think that there is any dispute—I will gladly withdraw what I have said if it is found that I am wrong—about the fact that the Department has used its facilities. It sent inspectors in to find whether there had been any contravention of the law. It used its facilities. In consequence, the factory is producing.
The trade unionists felt that the only way in which they could genuinely push their claim in the circumstances was to black work coming from the Fine Tubes Factory. It is a tribute to the trade union movement that it has been successful in various parts of the country in ensuring that this very delicate tubing did not go out of the factory and was not accepted in other areas. There is argument as to the effectiveness of the blacking action, but it took place and is continuing to take place. Further, those who are still on strike maintain that it is vital in their interests.
§ The Solicitor-General (Sir Geoffrey Howe)
Will the hon. Gentleman make clear how this can arise on the Clause? He has just told my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary that the strike was about wages and was, therefore, a perfectly ordinary, normal, fair subject of strike action. There is nothing in the Bill which in any way seeks to restrain the calling of a strike for that purpose. So the original strike is not itself unfair. I am trying to find out how any strikes called in support of it are said to be caught by the Clause.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
The hon. Gentleman does not read on far enough. Later the Clause says that the original person must have been doing something which was "an unfair industrial practice". The original breach from which this arose must have been an unfair industrial practice.
§ Dr. Owen
Let us listen to the argument first. If I understand the argument, the hon. Gentleman argues that sympathetic action is banned only if the original strike was unfair. So sympathetic action can be taken if a strike is judged not to be unfair. I hope that the Solicitor-General will be straightforward about this. In June, when the Bill becomes law, if the workers at Fine Tubes are still taking strike action, and sympathetic strike action is continuing, with the blacking of work coming out of Fine Tubes, that will not be affected by what I have understood the Bill to mean as regards sympathetic action. Is that right?
§ The Solicitor-General
It is most important that this point should be clearly understood. Clause 86 is about industrial action in support of an unfair industrial practice. If the primary strike, to put it in that way, in other words, the Fine Tubes strike, is a fair matter and not one which is in any way restrained or curtailed by the Bill, secondary or sympathetic strike action in support of that fair primary dispute is not in any way restricted.
§ Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)
Could the hon. and learned Gentleman help a laywoman on this? It is an immensely complicated Bill. Under Clause 86, is it an unfair industrial practice to aid and abet sympathetic action which is itself an unfair industrial practice?
§ The Solicitor-General
I am intervening to try to help the Committee on the scope of this Clause. If dockyards help one another by switching work from one yard to another, they are all either involved in the same primary dispute under Clause 87 or they are taking supporting action under Clause 87 so that strikes against such work-switched dockyards would also not be unfair under Clause 87. But in the context of Clause 86, if the primary strike is fair, to use borrowed strength in support of sympathetic action remains equally fair.
§ Dr. Owen
This elucidation helps me so long as the Solicitor-General will not take a different position on Clause 87. However, I remain anxious, because of our difficulty in having to select a specific Clause for debate. I felt that the general principle of banning sympathetic action outright was in issue on Clause 86. I shall listen to the debate with interest, but from the words of the SolicitorGeneral—this is an important principle for the strikers to whom I have referred, and I am glad to have brought it out under Clause 86—I seem to understand that, if their strike is not considered to be an unfair strike, that is, it is considered to be a fair practice, and it is an official strike, if they can persuade their fellow trade unionists to take sympathetic action that will not be banned under either Clause 86 or Clause 87.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)
Could I intervene on exactly this point? Under Clause 87(1)(a) and (b) it will be possible for people who have been urged to break a contract to be sued—for the strikers to be sued—for any action which has been taken, and the words "unfair industrial practice" are dropped from Clause 87 whereas they appear in Clause 86.
§ Dr. Owen
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. That had been my understanding of Clauses 86 and 87, but it now seems that the Solicitor-General is giving a different interpretation. I am sure that he wishes to help the Committee, and I think that most of us on this side would welcome his new interpretation. If it is not enough, it is certainly a chink in the armour. Perhaps he would kindly give an assurance that Clauses 86 and 87 run together.
§ The Solicitor-General
I hope that I shall be thought to be doing my best to help the Committee in interpreting the Clauses, and I want there to be no misunderstanding about this. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) has raised a question about Clause 87. Clause 87 imposes a specific narrow restriction on secondary strike action. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] It can be debated separately from Clause 86. Clause 87 is directed at the inducing of strike action intended to procure breach of specific commercial contracts, other than contracts of employment, if these contracts are being broken by people who are innocent of and extraneous to the original dispute.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ The Solicitor-General
Secondary action, but only if it is taken against someone who is not a party to the original dispute, who is innocent of it, and who has taken no action to support the primary employer. The dockyard point, therefore, is covered, for two reasons, because every dockyard, if it takes switched work, is involved in supporting action, quite apart from the fact that it may well be a party under the same management.
In Clause 86, however, which is what the Committee is now debating, the intention is limited to supporting secondary sympathetic strikes which are in support of action which is itself unfair. It is no wider than that.
§ Dr. Owen
I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman is helping me somewhat on the dockyard question, but I am still uncertain about Fine Tubes. I see a different issue of principle here. One recognises that the Atomic Energy Authority, one of the factories concerned with blacked work, and parts of the aircraft industry at Bristol similarly affected, are not themselves deeply involved, but the workers there are involved because they are members of the A.E.F. and the Transport and General Workers' Union.
If those workers freely and democratically—the Solicitor-General may feel it necessary to impose a procedure to satisfy himself that the decision is taken freely and democratically—take sympathetic action on the basis of collectivism, on the 1866 basis of union solidarity, what will the position be?
When the situation was considered by the Donovan Commission, it referred to the judgment of Lord Herschell in 1898 to the effect that the right of anyone to pursue his trade or employment without "molestation" or "obstruction" is a branch of the wider right of anyone to do any lawful act he chooses without molestation or obstruction, and he could not, therefore, entertain the proposition that an act not otherwise wrongful becomes so if it interferes with another's trade or employment.
As I understand lines 4 and 5 of Clause 86, it is in direct contravention of Lord Herschell's judgment in 1898. The Solicitor-General implied that the limitations which he puts on sympathetic action in Clause 87 are narrow and specific. We shall listen with interest. I realise, Sir Robert, that you would not wish us to go into Clause 87 now, although I feel that this puts us in some difficulty because of its relationship with Clause 86.
§ Mr. Norman Atkinson (Tottenham)
With reference to the Fine Tubes question and not other matters, it seems to me that the Solicitor-General is saying that there is a narrow contradiction between the two Clauses. By his comment, he acknowledges that there is a contradiction there on this narrow point. I do not agree—I imagine that my hon. Friends will take the same view and I consider that there is a much wider contradiction, but at the moment we have the admission from the hon. and learned Gentleman that there is a narrow contradiction between the two Clauses.
§ Dr. Owen
What concerns me is the way these things work out on the ground, how they work in Fine Tubes, for example. There is a tendency for us here to legislate on principle and not to follow the logic down to how people are affected on the ground. I take again the case of Fine Tubes. A man has been on strike. A man has been encouraged to help by sympathetic action. Ever since the strike took place, there has been a test case about whether these workers, because they were sacked, were eligible for unemployment benefit. This has been consistently refused. It has been refused even to a man in my constituency who has given up strike pay voluntarily and 1867 taken the opportunity to undergo an electrical course. He has been refused unemployment benefit, and, with all the commitments which he has, he now has to bring up a family on £9.05 a week. Again, the Department of Employment and Productivity has intervened decisively on the side of the employer, as the Government now threaten to do in banning sympathetic action.
I return to the general principle. It is small factories that are most affected by any ban on sympathetic action. The labour force can be made up that much more easily, as has been done in Fine Tubes. If a factory has done that and is getting its work out, the only influence the unions can bring to bear on the management is sympathetic action at the outlet.
§ Mr. Dudley Smith
In fairness to the Department of Employment, I should point out that it must interpret the law as it is now.
§ Dr. Owen
If the Department is interpreting the law in the narrow sense of saying that men are on strike and therefore cannot have unemployment benefit, it cannot have it both ways, and it should not give the facilities of the Department to the management to obtain labour. What I am upset about is the illogicality of the application of the existing law. The Department is putting people involved in a serious strike that has gone on since June in the position of being threatened by not having the ability to take sympathetic action. Yet as I understand it the Solicitor-General now says that it is all right for them to take sympathetic action in the circumstances.
§ Mr. McNamara
I listened with great interest to what the Solicitor-General said. But the important thing in the Clause is the phraseanything which by virtue of this Act is an unfair industrial practice".It then goes on to subsection (2). In Clause 87 we have the point that my hon. Friends the Members for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) and Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) raised, which drags the Clause into Clause 86. The narrow point that the Solicitor-General made is not covered because Clause 87 covers Clause 86 precisely.
§ Dr. Owen
That is exactly the point I have been trying to make. I realise that this poses a difficulty for the Chair, but we cannot debate the principle embraced in Clause 86 without being cognisant of the small print which comes afterwards, and which so often in the Bill is the most important part.
§ The Chairman
I think that I can dispose of the matter to everyone's satisfaction right away. Passing references to Clause 87 are not only in order but seem to me to be essential if we are to understand what we are talking about. But let us not go into detail on Clause 87.
§ Dr. Owen
This helps the Committee, Sir Robert. It is clear from what the Solicitor-General said that he should now clarify his position in relation to my point, embracing Clause 87 as well as Clause 86. I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman wants to help the Committee.
We are concerned with a situation that deeply affects many men. For 90 people to have maintained a strike since June on very limited pay in a time of increasing prices shows that they feel that they have right on their side. I know that there are two interpretations of the strike, and they are very worried about the effect the Clause might have if they maintain their position and their solidarity after this Measure is passed. I hope that the Solicitor-General will intervene on the interpretation he has now given. I think that most hon. Members feel that it is this in the circumstances I have outlined. The Department still considers it to be a strike, and will not pay unemployment benefit, and does not accept that the workers were sacked at the end of June or early in July. The interpretation is that under the Bill there is nothing to stop sympathetic action continuing to help this isolated case, which was basically a fair strike. 1869 I have raised other points, but not to go into them in detail, The Department must consider its position with great seriousness. I have written to it and have had conversations with people in it. They seem to be taking sides in the dispute somewhat unfairly.
We return to the principle. If the Solicitor-General interprets Clause 87 as narrowly as he seemed to do, then, though I still do not like it, the position is clearly much improved. I do not think that anyone would deny that. But we are very suspicious that that will not he the case. After all, one of the problems about the Bill is that it will be interpreted by lawyers. What people in the country do not realise is that we are making law, not just stating vague principles. It is the actual wording of Clauses 86 and 87 that will affect people's attitudes throughout the country.
Much has been said by hon. Members opposite about their aim to strengthen trade unions. They say that the Bill is not an attack on trade unions, that it is to be an attack on bad management as much as on other aspects. But the root of the Bill is the continued attack on the principle of collectivism. I urge the Secretary of State in particular to look at-this. He has managed a large indust[...]y and knows the problems. Some of us on this side have had the privilege of managing large industries. We know that over the years immense benefits have come from strong trade unions, from individuals grouping together to take collective action.
I do not want to discuss the closed shop principle again, but the time when I was most involved with this was when I was negotiating probably the largest productivity deal ever negotiated by a Government Department, with industrial workers in the dockyards. The whole question came up, and I am glad to say that the managers of all the dockyards saw the benefit of a closed shop and exerted as much pressure as they felt they could for it. I was prepared to concede that no newcomer to the dockyard should be allowed who was not prepared to join a union. The question of sympathetic action is just as much a fundamental principle. There are cases where to deprive a union of the ability to take sympathetic action, particularly 1870 cases such as I have described of small factories in areas of high unemployment, which can easily fill up with blackleg labour, means a major emasculation of trade union powers, it is an emasculation which hits again at the principle of people combining.
The Solicitor-General has given a very interesting interpretation. He said that it is a narrow interpretation and implied that in the circumstances I have outlined neither Clause 87 nor Clause 86 would stop sympathetic action taking place. If that is not the case, he should clarify the situation. We are hopeful that that is a concession that we shall obtain from the Government. But the Government are in danger of once again encroaching on a very important principle on which trade unionism is based just as much as management is. Management acts collectively, and there has been value in that. We would not despise it. But this principle needs a great deal of clarification, and we hope that the Committee will be given it in Clause 87.
§ [Mr. J. C. JENNINGS in the Chair]
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
I speak in support of the Amendment. I do not believe—I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen) will forgive me—that there has been any concession whatever in the intervention of the Solicitor-General. I take the view that we are debating Clause 86 and that we should stick to it and then criticise the Government on Clause 87 when we get to that. Clause 86 is bad enough, in my judgment, and I want to concentrate on that.
It is true, in my submission, that the Post Office strike would have nothing to do with Clause 86. It does not have to be brought into this discussion. What Clause 86 is governed by—and I think this should be common ground in the Committee—is the words,… anything which by virtue of this Act is an unfair industrial practice on the part of that other person.That is the governing phrase. It means that action which anyone, either a union or a group of work people, is aiding or abetting or showing sympathy towards in the first place must have been an unfair industrial practice under the Bill. 1871 That much, I believe, ought to be common ground. Therefore, it rules out anything under Clause 86. I am not looking forward to other Clauses or discussing any principles. I am addressing myself entirely to the way in which Clause 86 is drafted. We therefore have to exclude from our minds at this moment of argument anything that is not in its origin an unfair industrial practice.
The Bill is so full of what are called "unfair industrial practices" that this is not the narrow point which the hon. and learned Gentleman tried to claim it to be, aided and abetted by some hon. Members opposite who are equally mistaken. It is a very wide and dangerous point which should be firmly opposed by this side of the Committee. Again, we must not start chasing hares as to what might happen if people who are not working in industry make speeches anyway.
What this provision is meant to hit is the most civilising influence that the trade union movement has had in British history—solidarity and sympathy for fellow workers. That is what the provision is meant to hit, and to hit fundamentally and most unfairly. There is not an organisation in the country, or anywhere else, that has done more to civilise the behaviour of people to people than the British trade union movement. It created the principle of solidarity which has allowed people when they have felt lonely and perhaps isolated, or with defeat staring them in the face, to feel that there were fellow workers who would show solidarity with them.
No false distinction between unofficial and official disputes is involved here at all. The way the Bill is drawn means that both official and unofficial action can constitute an unfair industrial practice. The distinction is between unfair industrial practices and other industrial practices. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) agrees with me, he must know what he is agreeing with. It is a very wide principle. A whole trade union may be held as acting against the law if it is acting in aid and sympathy with what was originally regarded as an unfair industrial practice. That is the real distinction.
1872 Let us examine the position in real life. Let us take an example, which I knew about personally. Supposing a manager has been brought into a department and for several months has been conducting himself in a way in which he should not conduct himself. I take this example from the steel industry, with which I am very familiar, and no doubt in other industries there are similar examples. After feeling has built up, something cracks. As a result, the manager turns to two workpeople and says, "You two go home. I will not have you on this shift." This is said at 2.30 a.m. What are the men in that shift to do? Very often, the only possible reaction is to say, "In our opinion, you have no right to do this, and if these two men go, we go as well." This is very often the only kind of industrial self-defence that a group of work people are in a position to undertake in order to be effective at the time that it is most important that it should be effective, yet under the Bill it will be called an unfair industrial practice.
Very often the dispute is put right because the much-maligned shop stewards get together in the morning, have a discussion with the senior manager, and the thing is cleared up and the two men come back to work. But if, for some reason, the thing is not cleared up quickly, it may be a question of another department coming out which was not involved in the original dispute, which the Government want the courts to interpret as an unfair industrial practice in origin. Perhaps there is a factory next door where the work people say, "We will not have this. If we allow this sort of action by a manager, such high-handed attitudes may spread. We are not going to make distinctions. The Government have declared, unjustly and unjustifiably, that this is an unfair industrial practice, but we shall go to the aid of the people next door. We will collect money and aid and support them on our shop floor."
All this would fall under the trap of Clause 86. That is why it has very wide implications. The Government are taking away fundamental rights of the people by this Clause, as they are doing throughout the Bill. They must not be allowed to ride off by saying, "This is only very narrow Clause. If the conflict in its 1873 origin was not an unfair industrial practice, sympathetic action does not fall under this Clause", as though that makes it unimportant. One can see the clever way in which the lawyers advising the Government are trying to winkle in vast changes in the rights of British working people under the pretence that these are only very narrow changes. We should stick strictly to this question of the invasion of the rights of the working people.
Another point makes the Clause wider still in its application. At present we have no distinctions between registered and unregistered unions. The Government are trying to introduce a very great difficulty for a union which is not registered once the Bill becomes law. That has implications that would still further widen the application of Clause 86, which is designed to frighten people into registration. I use the term advisedly and very rarely, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, but I say now that this is the beginning of an approach to the corporate State. This is deliberate intimidation of unions which are not prepared to register, as they now have the perfect right not to do. This is something that the Government are trying to slip in without admitting to it.
Under the provisions of the Bill, an unregistered trade union would be engaging in an unfair industrial practice that would be regarded as a perfectly fair industrial practice if it were engaged upon by a registered trade union. That makes the Clause wider still. It does not mean that all the actions of an unregistered trade union would fall under this provision—of course not. That is the additional danger. The main danger remains the original one that I have pointed out—that it is not possible or desirable that a group of workpeople should be prevented from using immediately their only way of industrial self-defence.
The Solicitor-General showed his ignorant approach to industrial relations and industrial life when he spoke yesterday. These things do not happen at the drop of a hat, as he suggested; they do not happen because someone suddenly gets in a rage. They happen because something has been building up. In the factory I quoted as an example, the situation had been building up over a period of six months. There comes a situation 1874 when what has been a bad attitude by the management flashes into action against certain workpeople. That is the point where solidarity has to assert itself, as anyone with experience in industry knows. It is at that point that sympathetic action—taken when it is most needed—comes under this Clause. I hope that we shall oppose Clause 86 and support the Amendment.
§ Mr. Adam Butler
The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen) said that this was the first occasion on which he had spoken during this Committee stage. It is unfortunate that he has not previously contributed out of his considerable experience, but I hope that we shall hear more from him. When the Bill becomes law, it will be clear whether the two cases which he cited were fair or unfair industrial practices, and it will therefore be clear whether Clause 86 would apply to sympathetic action in connection with them.
I am surprised to find myself in some agreement with the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson); we rarely agree. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. Dunn) spoke of action which he might have taken which was seen to be aiding and abetting the Post Office strike. Leaving aside whether arbitration should have been used, let us assume that under the Bill it would be an entirely fair industrial practice and an official strike; any aiding and abetting which the hon. Gentleman mentioned would then not be subject to any penalty under Clause 86.
§ Mr. McNamara
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. Dunn) and I are members of the same trade union. As a result of the Post Office strike, a person had a contract to deliver mail, goods or parcels. The members of my union employed by the firm say that it is a breach of an industrial dispute. Clause 86 in line 36 uses the wordsby virtue of this Act".Clause 87 states what are the other unfair industrial practices covered by the Bill, one being to induce a person to break a contract, not being a contract of employment—otherwise, a commercial contract. My union will not allow this man to deliver mail because that would be breaking a strike which we support and for which we have sympathy, and we there- 1875 fore say that we are taking sympathetic action, but it is an unfair industrial act by virtue of what is said in Clause 86. Now—
The Temporary Chairman
An intervention must be an intervention, not a speech. I recognised the need for a technical description, which is why I forbore to interrupt earlier, but the hon. Gentleman must not take it too far.
§ Mr. McNamara
I am grateful to you, Mr. Jennings. This would be an unfair industrial practice under Clause 86. This is something which my union has frequently discussed.
§ Mr. Butler
The hon. Gentleman has forestalled one of my questions to my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General. I should like clarification as to whether sympathetic action in support of unfair sympathetic action would itself be unfair. For the moment, I am reading Clause 86 as though the action which is to be considered unfair would follow the original unfair action; but I should welcome an explanation from my hon. and learned Friend.
The hon. Member for Penistone said with a great weight of emphasis that the governing words in the Clause were "unfair industrial practice". He went on to say that he was not happy about the list of unfair industrial practices in the Bill. He is entitled to say that; but Clause 86 simply says that if the Government and, when the Bill becomes law, the country do not accept unfair industrial practices as such we cannot accept the proliferation of strike action in support of unfair industrial practices which we cannot support.
It is a simple argument and one which with Clause 86 as it stands, apart from my query about sympathetic action, is unarguable in the context of the whole Bill and the acceptance of the list of unfair industrial practices.
§ Mr. John Mendelson
It is not only arguable but very greatly arguable. Even if the Government intend to have a series of novel definitions, bitterly opposed by the trade union movement, of what will in future constitute unfair industrial practices, it is one thing to discourage people from doing what the Government would regard as an unfair industrial practice, but quite another to attack the solidarity of 1876 working people when, as a matter of the judgment of their own conscience, working people take sympathetic action in support of those already engaged in a struggle.
§ Mr. Butler
The Bill is meant to prevent or reduce unofficial action which in some circumstances might call for sympathetic action. There is no undermining of trade union solidarity where there is a fair industrial practice; that is to say, a fair, constitutional strike. I can see no objection to Clause 86 as it stands, and I therefore support it.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Atkinson (Tottenham)
The hon. Member for Bosworth (Mr. Adam Butler) was adequately answered by my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) when he said that the Bill deprived people of judgment, and this is what this part of the Bill is about. I entirely agreed with my hon. Friend, except for his opening remarks. I remind him that an academic university lecturer works in a sheltered occupation, so sheltered and privileged that it is not for him to remind others that they have not worked in industry and to say that they are, therefore, not qualified to comment on Bills of this kind.
§ Mr. Atkinson
My hon. Friend referred to what my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen) said about Fine Tubes. I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton was absolutely right, and the fact that he is a doctor does not invalidate his argument; if anything, it strengthens it.
§ Mr. John Mendelson
I do not know where my hon. Friend has been in the last ten minutes, but I did not mention the Fine Tubes case and I did not refer to any of the things which he has been mentioning. He must have been dreaming.
§ Mr. Atkinson
I look forward to reading my hon. Friend's opening remarks in HANSARD. Apart from that, I entirely agree with what he said. His interpretation was absolutely right. 1877 I remind the hon. Member for Bosworth of the purpose of the Bill and especially these two Clauses, which, as he rightly said, is to ban sympathetic action. That is the way in which the Bill is designed and that is the purpose of the Government.
§ Mr. Butler
I apologise for breaking into the hon. Gentleman's remarks so early and before he has had a chance to develop his argument, but I did not refer to sympathetic action taken in respect of fair industrial practices. I hope that we shall soon move on to the next Clause, because that deals with the more important matter. I confined myself to Clause 86.
§ Mr. Atkinson
That is the point I was about to come to. This marks the difference in our approaches to the Bill and its purposes. My hon. Friend the Member for Penistone forcefully pointed out that sympathetic action is to be outlawed by the Bill very largely depending on one's interpretation on what is fair and unfair.
So far as I am concerned with my class bias—or my objectivity perhaps—my interpretation of most industrial disputes is that they are always fair. In that sense, it would not be straining my own dialectics to say that the working class is always right and can never be wrong. Having asserted that, I start out on my analysis of this legislation.
The question of what is fair and what is unfair gives us an understanding of what the Bill is about. I totally reject—and I am one of many who take this view on this side of the Committee—the Government's understanding of fair and unfair industrial practices. We certainly challenge the interpretation of hon. Members opposite. We would say that almost all disputes, unofficial or official, are honourable occasions, and we are proud of the part played by shop stewards in organising workers and fighting for better standards for people in industry.
We cannot spell it out any clearer than that what divides us in this matter of deciding what is fair and unfair. The longer discussion goes on in this Committee the more some of us will tend to start apologising for what hon. Members opposite regard as an unfair practice. To us it is nothing of the kind. We must get out of this habit before it catches on. We should recognise that in our language 1878 and in terms of our purpose every dispute is a fair one.
§ Mr. Atkinson
Of course it does. We should not take a semi-apologetic attitude on these matters.
The Government's view appears to be that employers have a right to combine but trade unions have not. Employers have a right to combine together to overcome disruption which may arise as a result of an industrial quarrel, but the Bill spells out that trade unions have no such a right to combine to further that quarrel in safeguarding their own interests. Again, there is a class difference in approaching the problems of industry. We are arguing that the trade unions have every right to take this sort of combined action to represent their own interests.
If I may come to the Fine Tubes argument, my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton mentioned that a district levy was being applied in his own district to help members who had suffered loss of wages. This was a voluntary effort by members of the trade unions concerned, and the levy went to a central fund. It would appear that under Clauses 86 and 87 such a levy would not be possible. This is one of our major objections to these Clauses since it will create difficulties for trade unionists in raising funds by levy to help fellow trade unionists. This is a very real problem. I should be interested to hear the Solicitor-General's views about the imposition of levies or the taking of collective action in such circumstances.
Are the Government saying that in terms of a "fair"—to use the Government's language—dispute an injunction is not permissible? I do not know whether the Solicitor-General is familiar with the recent Johnson Matthey case, which will undoubtedly go down in trade union history, or indeed anti-trade union history. Is it feasible that such a case will arise in future? It involved an employer who sought an injunction and claimed compensation from a trade union which took sympathetic action. No doubt such a situation would depend on the interpretation of a fair or unfair industrial dispute and its origins. We shall oppose these two Clauses if only because of the difficulties they will create for trade 1879 unions in raising funds to help those who are in dispute.
The second point involves the problems which arise when a transfer of work takes place within the walls of a particular factory. When there is a dispute in one department of a factory, managements seek to overcome the subsequent loss of production by shifting the work to another department in the same factory. This happens regularly in many large factories. Trade unionists in the department in which the dispute has occurred go to workers in the other department and try to persuade them not to carry out any work on that transferred job within the same factory. This is not a narrow point on fair and unfair practices but a major problem which confronts a trade union organisation in a factory and within the same works committee. I should have thought that that sort of case was parallel to the Fine Tubes situation, although within the walls of the same factory.
My reading of Clause 87 leads me to believe that it is the Government's intention—and presumably this will be the court's interpretation at a future date—that all sympathetic action, or "blacking of work", as we know it today, will be outlawed in general, except in narrow circumstances where the question of fairness is clearly defined. If there is any ambiguity about the origin of a dispute, the court no doubt will take the view that sympathetic action is to be outlawed. This again is one of our fundamental objections to this Clause.
I believe that once the Bill becomes law these two Clauses will be the first to be used, and that it is in respect of these provisions that the first trade union casualties will come.
The Temporary Chairman
Order. We are not talking about two Clauses. We are talking about one Clause, with passing reference being allowed to Clause 87.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Atkinson
The emphasis of my remarks stems from Clause 86 and not from Clause 87. Therefore, any reference to Clause 87 is a passing reference. My remarks are centred on Clause 86.
We are discussing a part of the Bill which will cause the first casualties in the trade union movement if it becomes 1880 law. The first casualties will be those charged with offences under the Clause, and we must be very careful about what we do. We must ensure that the Government thoroughly understand what they are doing and what is likely to result from the law as it will become. Presumably the Government are anxious to get the Bill on the Statute Book before 18th March, when the T.U.C. is being recalled. I take it that they have discussed the timetable in the light of that fact.
§ Mr. Atkinson
It will not be impossible. When the imposition of the guillotine was first discussed, presumably the Government's intention was to get the Bill through by the time the T.U.C. was recalled. There are precedents. We dealt with the Bill on Rolls-Royce in a day. There is no doubt that we can get through this Bill by 18th March. Assuming that the Leader of the House and the Secretary of State are right in their assessment of the time that it will take to put before the House a code of conduct and other matters in the next three or four months, there will be a period in October and November when we shall run into trouble with these two Clauses.
There are areas in industry in which there will be need to renew contracts and existing arrangements about October and November. I therefore predict that the two Clauses will bring in their wake a trail of casualties—the first people to suffer as a result of this iniquitous legislation.
§ Mr. Dunn
On a point of order. I seek your help and guidance, Mr. Jennings. In initiating the discussion on the Question, That the Clause stand part of the Bill, I did not make much reference to Clause 85 or Clause 87, but it is within my knowledge that my colleagues will wish to do so. I draw your attention, Mr. Jennings, to line 4 of Clause 87, which refers to Clause 86(2) and sets out paragraphs (a) and (b) dealing with the interpretation and implementation of Clause 87. Therefore, the Clauses cannot be separated.
The Temporary Chairman
The hon. Gentleman was present when the Chairman of Ways and Means gave a Ruling 1881 on this matter. The hon. Gentleman must abide by that Ruling, as I intend to do. The Chairman ruled that, while Clause 86 was the Clause under discussion, passing references could be made to Clause 87 because it was in part bound up with Clause 86. I have allowed passing references to Clause 87. But the hon. Gentleman must remember that we are due to debate not only an Amendment on Clause 87 but the Question, That the Clause stand part of the Bill. If we abide by the Chairman's generous interpretation we shall get along all right.
The Temporary Chairman
The point is well made, and I hope that hon. Members take note of the arguments.
§ Mr. David Waddington (Nelson and Colne)
I speak with some diffidence because it is always a little odd for a Member to complain of the lack of progress of a Clause and then make a speech which takes up the time of the Committee. Therefore, I promise to be very brief.
The Committee is making rather heavy weather of the Clause. It is conceded by hon. Gentlemen opposite that it does not put a blanket ban on sympathetic strikes in the sense that it does not ban a strike in support of a strike which is legitimate and is not an unfair industrial act under some other Clause of the Bill. The Clause says in the simplest possible language that if a person or union is guilty of an unfair industrial act it is only common sense to say that a person who aids and abets such action by strike action is also guilty of an unfair act.
If we did not have the Clause in the Bill, the result would be completely absurd. Clause 7 seeks to ban the pre-entry closed shop. If Clause 87 were not added to the Bill we would be in the absurd situation that, whereas workers in a shop could not take strike action to enforce a pre-entry closed shop, people in the shop next door could take strike action to enforce a pre-entry closed shop. 1882 That would be veritable midsummer madness. If we provide in the Bill that certain industrial action is unfair and is not permitted, we cannot later in the Bill allow people working next door to the people directly affected to take that form of action. That is what the Clause is about, and I do not see any mystery about it.
The hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) said that perhaps the Bill would become law by March. I am sure that people outside would be absolutely delighted if that were possible, but I am afraid that it is crying for the moon. I make this criticism, with the greatest respect for the hon. Member, who I know has studied the Bill and made a number of very useful contributions in Committee. He said that, as a result of the Bill, employees will have no right to combine.
Hon. Members should be very careful about how they put their arguments. The sort of phrase used by the hon. Gentleman will be latched on to by people in the country. When the hon. Gentleman stops to reflect for a moment, I am sure that he will agree with me that the Bill does nothing of the sort. Nowhere in the Bill are there provisions which take away from the working man the right to combine. So let us all learn to be a little more careful about our language so that people in the country do not get a misleading impression of what the Bill is about.
I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have been deeply disturbed at some of the advertising in the Press undertaken by the T.U.C. which bears not the slightest relationship to the Bill's contents. I had to comment at a meeting the other day—
§ Mr. Waddington
I realise that I was skating on thin ice, Mr. Jennings, but I was merely trying to reply to a point made by the hon. Member for Tottenham. He said in terms that as a result of this Bill employees would have no right to combine. I wanted to make it clear—and I take it no further than that—that the Bill does nothing of the sort. I am sure that the hon. Member will concede, on reflection, that not only does the Bill not do that but certainly this 1883 Clause does not. The Committee would probably, in these circumstances, be wise to move on to more interesting Clauses.
§ Mr. Atkinson
What I was arguing was that I challenged this definition of the term "unfair" or "unfair practice". I then went on to relate my remarks to that and said that the Bill denies workers the right to combine, in effect, to commit an "unfair practice" in the terms used by the Government. Would not the hon. Member agree that what the Bill is doing is making it impossible for workers to combine to commit an "unfair practice"?
§ Mr. Waddington
What the Bill says is that certain practices should be considered—and normal people would so consider them—unfair to the extent—
§ Several Hon. Members rose——
The Temporary Chairman
Order. It is not a proper parliamentary practice for an hon. Member on a Front Bench to say, "Who the hell are ordinary people?" The hon. Member must withdraw that unparliamentary expression—once again.
I have no intention of withdrawing anything at all. I merely asked the hon. Member who the hell are ordinary people. What does he mean?
The Temporary Chairman
There is a limit to the type of language which one can use in the Chamber, and I think that that language is derogatory language. I am not asking the hon. Member to withdraw the sense or the content, but just the form, of the expression.
§ Mr. Heffer
Mr. Jennings, I have called a spade a spade. If you say that that is unparliamentary I will withdraw the term which I used. But I will now ask the hon. Member who are the normal people he is talking about? I am assuming that all the trade unionists and their wives and families who number thousands—indeed, millions—of people are normal. Is the 1884 hon. Member saying they are not normal? Is that what the hon. Member is saying?
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Several Hon. Members rose——
The Temporary Chairman
I have called the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Waddington) to answer an intervention by the hon. Member. I will take a point further to the point of order in a moment. Mr. Waddington.
§ Several Hon. Members rose——
The Temporary Chairman
I am not taking any further point of order because we are dealing with a point of order. I now call Mr. Waddington to deal with the question. I will come back to a point of order.
§ Mr. Waddington
I was in fact answering an intervention by the hon. Member for Tottenham and then perhaps I could come to the question which was posed.
§ Mr. Driberg
On a point of order. We are not on a point of order, Mr. Jennings. The hon. Member says he is replying to some other point than that raised from our Front Bench.
The Temporary Chairman
Order. A point of order was raised. An intervention was made. I am asking Mr. Waddington to reply to the point which was raised. Then I will take the further point of order.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Waddington
Could I make one thing plain? I did not hear any remarks from the Opposition Front Bench. I was unaware of it. I was answering the point made by the hon. Member for Tottenham. If I could finish what I was saying in reply to the hon. Member for Tottenham——
§ Several Hon. Members rose——
§ Mr. McNamara
You ruled before, Mr. Jennings, that you could not take a point of order from my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) because there was a reply being made to an intervention. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Waddington) has been making a reply—not to a point of order but to an intervention from my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heifer). Surely according to the rules, when a point of order is made, it is for the Chair to stop the proceedings on the business while points of order are discussed. Therefore, my point of order is that I am asking you why on that point of order you have not asked my hon. Friend the Member for Barking to make his point of order.
The Temporary Chairman
Order. I asked the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Waddington) to reply to an intervention which was in fact a point of substance. We may have been confused in thinking that a point of order may have occurred. I am quite prepared now, in view of the representations made, to consider a point of order. The Chair can always come back to a point if one has made a mistake—and I admit it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I know the Committee recognises that. Therefore I now come to the point of order. I think we are all making mistakes at the moment.
§ Mr. Driberg
On a point of order. Thank you very much, Mr. Jennings. I am most grateful to you for your very handsome correction of your slip. We all know that mistakes can be made, even 1886 by someone as exalted as yourself. The point I was raising on a point of order, and raise now, was precisely your intervention on my hon. Friend's remark from the Front Bench, because I have been here a good many years—indeed, you have, too—and I have heard the word "hell" used occasionally, without rebuke; and I was wondering whether, for the guidance of the Committee, you could quote some precedents from Rulings by either Chair that such a phrase "what the hell" should not be used. I am afraid that I used a very naughty word— "damn"—yesterday and I was not called to order. Is "hell" really out of order?
The Temporary Chairman
Let the Chair finish a sentence, for goodness' sake. There is a list of proscribed words in Erskine May—I think round about page 712. The word "hell", to my memory, is not included, but when the word "hell" is used in the context in which the hon. Member used it I think it exceeds parliamentary politeness and decorum. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If there is no precedent about the use of the word "hell", then I have created one. I have objected to the expression.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
On a point of order. As you know, Mr. Jennings, in the many years you and I have been here I have always had a high regard for the Chair. I am a little concerned about the Ruling which you have just given, because in the heat of the moment, a week ago, when I was talking about this Bill, I said that the Government were in a hell of a mess and the country was in a hell of a mess. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Those words appear in HANSARD. What is more important is, I was not rebuked by the occupant of the Chair in this Committee at that time.
The Temporary Chairman
I am not bound by what other Chairmen think or say. I am bound by my own standards in the Chair, as well as by precedents, Standing Orders, tradition. I think, as I said before, that that was an objectionable and unparliamentary expression. If 1887 I think it so, I have as much right to say so as the hon. Member thinks he has to use it. I am entitled to say so. If in fact I have created a precedent—well, all well and good. I think it is time that hon. Members just looked at some of the language which is being used in the present Parliament. I am no Puritan. Hon. Members who know me know that, but I object to such an expression being used, certainly when I am in the Chair, and I shall keep on saying so.
§ Mr. Heffer
Further to that point of order. We have had this little fracas and I hope that the Committee will now get on with the business. I will not express an opinion on whether I disagree or agree with the Chairman's Ruling, but I have withdrawn my statement on the basis of the Chairman having asked me to do so. It can perhaps be pursued at a different time and place. I ask the Committee now to get on with the business.
§ Mr. Waddington
I was saying that I fully understand that the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) disapproves of and dislikes the whole concept of unfair and fair industrial action. It is one thing to say that one objects to the creation of this new concept of fair and unfair industrial actions, but it is another thing to go so far as to say that as a result of the passing of the Bill employees will have no right to combine.
I was invited to reply to the point raised by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller). He asked me to say what I meant by normal and ordinary people. When I was speaking in Yorkshire on Friday night I was asked a question, "Don't you realise that there are 10 million trade unionists in the country most of whom have wives and families? I have tried to work it out and they represent 68 per cent. of the population, so you have no mandate for the Bill." I said, "What sort of fantasy world are we living in? I do not represent Bournemouth or a seaside resort, I come from Nelson, which used to be called 'little Moscow'. If I go into Nelson on Saturday morning I do not get lynched, I am far more likely to be approached by a wife who says, 'I wish you would tell my Jack to get back to 1888 work and use a bit of common sense.'" That is the sort of approach that is made to Members of Parliament in their constituencies. That is what I mean when I refer to ordinary people. The ordinary people are behind the Bill and we know it from their reactions in the constituencies.
§ Mr. Ronald King Murray (Edinburgh, Leith)
Time and time again in considering the Bill we have had from the Government bench in reply to criticisms from the Opposition the answer that a registered trade union is protected. In considering Clause 86 that stock answer cannot be made. Registered trade unions are not protected under Clause 86.
My hon. Friends the Members for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) and Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) both touched upon the way in which Clause 86 undermines the solidarity of trade union organisation. Since registered trade unions are not protected by Clause 86, considerable point is put on what the hon. Member for Penistone said about the workers feeling isolated. If they do something which is an unfair industrial practice they cannot be backed up by a registered trade union because the trade union would then be in breach of Clause 86.
In the centre of Clause 86 are the words "aiding and abetting". These are words of criminal application, not of civil application. Although it has been said on many occasions on the Government benches that the concepts embodied in the Bill are civil concepts, here a criminal concept enters in. I stress the width of those words "aiding and abetting". They are as wide and their meaning is at least as sinister as the word "induce" in Clause 85. In the criminal courts juries are told that aiding and abetting is sufficiently established if there is a look-out man while a safe blowing is going on in an office or factory. The look-out man is just as guilty of the safe blowing as those who are actually doing it. That is the width of the concept that is being applied here.
While many things done by unregistered organisations, by ad hoc bodies of workers, are unfair industrial practices although they would be perfectly fair if they were done by trade unions, many things which it is now legitimate for trade unions to do would not be fair 1889 practices under the Bill. Certainly Clause 86 would strike at many things which are done in the workshop and which are now considered fair and perfectly legitimate industrial procedures.
I apologise for referring, in passing only, to Clause 85, but it is important to notice how far the attack on the freedom of conversation and the liberty of speech between workers on the shop floor goes in these two Clauses. The curtailment of liberty is so extreme that I would be inclined to say that these two Clauses impose a kind of statutory "Coventry" on workers. I make a passing reference to Clause 85 because the unfair practices in Clause 85 will be struck at by Clause 86. If in a workshop there is a source of disagreement and the workers are annoyed about something—an illustration was given in our last debate of a time and motion study of girls going to the lavatory—it will be obvious to anyone who has ever seen a workshop that the workers will converse amongst themselves about it.
Yesterday criticism was made about the difficulty of getting evidence, but one would only have to put in a tape recorder to hear conversations all round the workshop. The workers would be discussing their grievances and saying what might be done about them. My criticism of these two Clauses is that that conversation on any view would be subject to the construction that it is inducing. When one worker says to another, "We must take action about this", the first worker could be taken to be inducing the second worker to take action. It is no good saying that it would be all right for a spontaneous walk-out or a spontaneous laying-down of tools to take place, because, if before that there had been conversation between the workers, this would be construed as inducing and, whether they were or were not members of a trade union, this would be unfair practice.
When it comes to the trade union seeking to back up the workers who can be charged with inducing each other to break their contracts, the trade union cannot give that official support because by doing so it would be aiding and abetting in terms of Clause 86.
If, after a conversation which could be construed as inducing, a worker decides to stop work or to lay down his 1890 tools, that is unfair practice and automatically under Clause 85 once he has done that any further conversation could be regarded as abetting, and, if action follows, as abetting a strike.
§ Mr. Gower
While I accept some of the criticisms made by the hon. Gentleman, does he not agree that what he fears will arise only if there is an original unfair industrial practice, and any reference which is likely to arise would be based on the original unfair industrial practice and not on any secondary matters of the kind he describes?
§ Mr. Murray
It is certainly true that the section has to be preceded by an unfair industrial practice. Apart from the three Clauses which we are dealing with in Part V, there are no fewer than 22 heads of unfair industrial practice. Of these, a great many heads of unfair industrial practice are practices that would be fair for a trade union but unfair for an organisation of workers that is not registered. That means that many things which the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) and I would regard as perfectly legitimate industrial practices today will be struck at by Clause 86.
I ask the Government Front Bench to think again about these Clauses. I have spoken carefully and avoided speaking about Clause 87, for which I ought to be congratulated. All of the Clauses in this part of the Bill are open to the same criticism and I call upon the Government to drop Part V or else to think again about it and, if they are not prepared to drop it, at least exclude from these provisions conversations between fellow workers about conditions.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)
If we take the Clause discussed last night and the other related Clauses, 86 and 87, which we cannot discuss, then in my opinion this is the introduction of Big Brother into industrial relations. This is 1984.
§ Mr. Loughlin
This part of the Bill tells the worker, "You must not talk, you must not suggest that anyone should do something, and if you do so we will take action against you". My biggest regret is that the Solicitor-General or the 1891 Secretary of State did not introduce this Clause. I am sorry to sound parrot-like, but here again we have imprecision. It will need a battery of lawyers to tell people precisely what is meant by the words in Clause 86.
There have been arguments as to whether it applies to registered trade unions. The difficulty about the Bill is that it has been framed from theory but will not be applicable in practice without the results we have suggested. The Solicitor-General explained clearly in an intervention why this would not catch the full-time trade union official belonging to a registered trade union, or the funds of that union. This is quite true from the language of the Bill. However, what happens in practice is the important thing. I will try to illustrate this simply because I think the Solicitor-General ought to examine the applicability of this Clause rather than its theory.
Suppose that there is a large holding branch in a trade union, where the general branch combines with people in various industries because the membership in the given unit is not large enough to justify a separate branch. This is not fanciful. Many of the big unions adopt this procedure. I will draw from my own experience again and relate this to U.S.D.A.W. We organised a laundry. The laundry workers are among the lowest paid workers in the country. We put them in the general branch. The laundry workers, rightly or wrongly, and if I was an official I might say wrongly, came out on unofficial strike. It was a long strike and they were low-paid people with no strike fund. At the branch meeting, at which the full-time union official was present, the rest of the branch members decide to make a collection for the strikers. The act in itself was illegal under this Clause because it would be financing the strike. But what would be the position of the trade union official?
If a trade union official stands up and opposes the collection, as he has a legal responsibility to do, his life would not be worth living. If he does not oppose it he is passively supporting the unofficial strike action. In such circumstances it could be that an employer could charge a union because its official had been present. Even though it may appear that the registered unions will not be 1892 affected, there are so many circumstances in industry under which trade unions operate that they might, whether or not they or the Solicitor-General like it, act outside the Bill.
I have a strong criticism to make of the Bill in that it has been drawn up by people with no idea of what goes on in industry. It may be good English and it may seek to deal with a given situation, but because it is not applicable to industrial conditions it is either a waste of time or else it imposes on industrial workers, registered and unregistered trade unions alike, a yoke against which they will not be able to strain.
§ Mr. Roland Moyle (Lewisham, North)
The Solicitor-General and I have already discussed this aspect earlier in our proceedings. If he recalls it I was describing to him the situation which arose during the local authority strike in September and October, which he will recall was as popular an industrial action with the general public as one would expect. This sort of Clause is not necessary to protect members of the public from that kind of strike. He will recall that the strike was selective and certain people were brought out in various parts of the country.
In one area roadmen had been left working and the road contractors' drivers were bringing tar to the roadmen. After a while, once the strike had started, the contractors' lorrymen were unloading tar, taking the lorries into the centre of the town and picking up refuse from the dustbins (the dustmen were on strike) and taking it away to rubbish dumps.
The result was that the National Union of Public Employees blacked the contractors' lorries as a way of maintaining the integrity of the strike. On that evening the Solicitor-General in those mellifluous tones we have got to know so well in this Committee, and with that lucid exposition of the law which we have also got to know, said that this might well not be illegal in terms of the Bill.
What he has omitted to do is to bend his mind to the sort of situation that actually occurs in industry, a situation when we have a shop steward or a branch secretary, occupying such a position perhaps because no one else will do the job or because he has been a member of the 1893 road-working gang for longer than anyone else. He has to decide whether he will black those lorries. Will he induce some action, organise it, or will he bring pressure? At the moment all that he has to do is to decide on the basis of the industrial relations elements of the situation. What hon. Gentlemen opposite are seeking to do in addition is to impose the whole network of law on top of these unfortunate people.
Unfortunate people they will be in the circumstances under which the Bill will operate. For example, if this shop steward or branch secretary blacked the lorry, through his union, because the lorry contractors were an extraneous party interceding in the dispute he might well be within the law but, without the benefit of what I am sure will be an inspiring legal volume to me— "Howe on the Law of Industrial Disputes" which we shall get for the price of several pounds in years to come—he would have to decide to stick to that sort of action, whereas what he might have done in the circumstances is to go to one of the lorry drivers and say, "Will you get your lorry drivers to stop this road-making contract?". In that event, he might well be within the terms of Clause 86, especially if the lorry driver told the roadmen's shop steward, "I do not want to go back to my employers and say that we have blacked this contract. But, if you can black it, I will tell them that the contract has been blacked, and matters can proceed smoothly".
That is all very well, but people who become the secretaries of trade union branches are not normally the sort of people who say to themselves, "If I go about this operation in one way, I shall be within the law; whereas, if I go about it in another, I shall be outside the law". The liability of a trade union, of its shop stewards, its members and the union funds may depend not on the action taken at the point of the dispute but on the way in which the action is taken. If this Clause proves to be a contribution to the construction of good industrial relations, I shall be very surprised.
I understand that it might be a defence under Clause 86 for a local branch secretary to explain that he was acting within the authority that his union had given him. However, on this sort of selective strike, it is difficult for branch 1894 secretaries and shop stewards to be confident that the way in which they are acting is within the law. For example, if a selective strike is called, the industrial action taken by the members of a union is a matter which must be taken by the national executive committee of the union, for obvious reasons. On the other hand, action in a dispute such as the one that I have described must be taken quickly and on the spot by someone who knows the situation, namely, the shop steward. In other words, a formal situation may arise where the authority to take this sort of action is reserved to the executive committee, whereas the actual action is taken by the shop steward on the spot.
The shop steward on the spot having taken action, the matter then goes up the trade union line of command to the area officer, the divisional officer, the national officer and the executive committee, who may back the shop steward. If they do not and the shop steward becomes the source of an action under the Clause, he may be forced to explain that what he considered right at the time has proved subsequently to be wrong, that he did not have the authority of his union and, therefore, that he has committed an unfair industrial practice.
These are some of the practical problems which the Government seek to impose on trade unionists supposedly in the interests of creating good industrial relations. In fact, right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are creating chaos, disorder and confusion on the ground.
I have been interested in industrial relations for about 15 years. Looking back over the years, one of the most socially productive industrial actions that I can recall was one which may be banned by the Clause. I do not know whether I shall have all my right hon. and hon. Friends with me, but I believe that the growth of compensation for redundancy has been one of the most constructive achievements in industrial relations in my 15 years' experience. I give the Solicitor-General the point that a large part came about as a result of the introduction of the law into the subject, although the law was introduced following meticulous negotiations between the B.E.C., as it then was, and the T.U.C. The Measure was not introduced until agreement had been reached. However, I say that in passing. 1895 It is difficult to comprehend at the beginning of the 1970s what was the attitude to compensation for redundancy even 15 years ago. I remember how managers in my industry would start a discussion on the subject of compensation for redundancy with the statement that a labourer in the industry was on an hourly rate and therefore was entitled only to an hour's pay or an hour's notice when the time came to dismiss him, no matter what the circumstances were. It may be that they never intended that to be the ultimate solution, but it was the point from which they started their argument on the subject of redundancy.
Against that background, in the summer of about 1956, a number of car workers drew their weekly pay on a Friday afternoon and discovered in their pay packets a week's pay, together with another week's pay and a little note thanking them for their past services and saying that they would not be required in a week's time. Without resorting to the negotiating machinery, large numbers of those car workers went on strike against what they regarded as this inhuman handling of a redundancy problem.
A process of negotiation by means of Press statements began in which the general attitude of the management could be summed up as, "We do not care if you go on strike because we do not want your services, anyway. We were being decent in keeping you for another week, so you might as well strike now".
Clearly, those strikers were in a very weak position. I cannot remember whether the strike was made official by the Transport and General Workers Union. The situation was solved by Mr. Frank Cousins, who had recently become General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, telling his dockers to black exports of cars at the docks. The result was that the Coventry car employers caved in rapidly. Compensation for redundancy was negotiated for the car workers who had been threatened with dismissal, and, from then on, a social movement was begun which resulted in the Redundancy Compensation Act and the provision of redundancy compensation to almost every employee who is dis- 1896 charged as a result of technological change.
I would like the Committee to contemplate what may have been the feelings of members of the public affected by the secondary action to which I have referred. They may have been bitter. Dock employers were losing money, and they may have been bitter. Other members of the public inconvenienced as a result of the non-flow of cars through the docks may have been bitter. But if that action had not been taken, all members of the public would now be worse off since it would not have started the social and industrial movement which has ended up by giving the country a method of redeploying its labour as painlessly as possible and introducing many technological changes over the past 15 years with a relative lack of resistance. All that has been possible because of this conception of redundancy payments, and the net result is that every member of the public today enjoys a higher standard of living than would have been possible if this movement had not been started by that strike. We might have achieved the compensation later and possibly in a less satisfactory form. But it was that strike more than any other that I can recall in my 15 years' experience of industrial relations which made such an important contribution to the way in which we look at these matters.
This is the sort of sympathetic action which, unless it is handled carefully by trade union officials on the ground, will render trade union officials liable to action under this legislation. From time to time, right hon. and hon. Gentleman opposite put their hands on their hearts and say that they are in favour of the right to withdraw labour. I am sure that they are sincere. However, a little gloss should be put on their attitude. What they are saying is that, provided that a strike is ineffective, it is moral and may be legal. But if a strike is effective, it is immoral and should be declared illegal by every possible means at the disposal of this Government.
§ [Sir ROBERT GRANT-FERRIS in the Chair]
§ Mr. Charles Curran (Uxbridge)
I should like to put one question to my hon. and learned Friend. May I ask 1897 why he wants the words "threaten to take"? I can understand that my hon. and learned Friend wants power to take steps. But is he not giving himself a great deal of unnecessary trouble by the vague words "threaten to take"? Will they not cause something complex of definition?
Surely the purpose of the Clause would be served perfectly well if those words were omitted. I hope that my hon. and learned Friend will tell us his thinking about them. I should like to know the reasons which have promoted my hon. and learned Friend to put those three words into the Clause.
§ Mr. Neil Kinnock (Bedwellty)
The point made by the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran) is germane to the discussion. What I hope will also be germane is to state categorically that our objections to Clause 86 are based on the knowledge that it is intended to strike at the very sinews of collective bargaining and trade unionism.
No doubt the Solicitor-General will employ his tortuous semantic meanderings later to try to prove that the Clause does not apply to this, that or the other strike, or that there are so many exemptions that it will be a last resort sanction imposed upon trade unionists which will apply only in rare circumstances, rare strikes, or, to use another term, something sort of a strike. I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will explain what "short of a strike" means.
We have come to the conclusion that the phraseology of the Clause and the way that it has been presented by hon. Gentlemen opposite—notably the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Waddington)—confirms our worst fears and suspicions about the nature of the Bill and this Clause in particular.
Throughout the debates on the various Clauses we have had constant repetition by the Secretary of State, by the Solicitor-General, and, almost without exception, by all hon. Members opposite who have spoken that they believe in strong trade unionism, that they wish to see the development and expansion of trade unionism, that they wish to see the liberalising of industrial relations, and that they want to remove all kinds of social injustices from industry.
1898 Hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot say that they want to expand, support and strengthen trade unionism and simultaneously remove from trade unionism the basic fundamental means of securing industrial rights. It is no good dodging the issue. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite must understand that it is absolutely fundamental that, if they seek to remove, usurp or infringe the right of workers to undertake industrial action in support of other industrial action, whether an unfair or fair industrial practice, or neither one thing nor the other, it will be interpreted correctly as a deliberate attempt to undermine the strength of trade unionism.
The point is well made by comparison with American experience. I should like to quote from someone who can be accorded the status of an authority on American trade unionism, George Meany, President of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. In a document written at the end of last year about the proposed British system of industrial relations and comparing it with the system in America throughout the years, he said:Since we have had no experience of freedom from these bans"—what he calls "secondary boycotts" and what we call "sympathetic strikes"—we cannot state with assurance what different effects would have resulted. I am myself reasonably certain that union organisation would have occurred, in the absence of these restrictions, in various fields … where unscrupulous employers have largely blocked organisation.We cannot speak of America in terms of strong trade unionism when only 23 to 25 per cent. of the total labour force is unionised. No one can talk about strengthening trade unionism when, because of statute and common law throughout the history of industrial America, trade unionists have been forbidden in practice from undertaking sympathetic action. No one can argue that it is a system which has introduced a more peaceful, serene, pacific system of industrial relations in America.
Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have acknowledged time and again that America's strike record and recruitment in certain sectors of the work force, notably among women and white collar workers, is significantly worse in ours, and that the disruption caused by strikes of public employees, which are in law 1899 illegal, is greater than here. All these things have happened in America where sympathetic strikes of any description have been illegal throughout its history of trade unionism, with the possible exception of the years between 1941 and 1947, when a favourable Federal Court judgment gave them a certain legality.
If the Government argue and mean that they want to strengthen trade unionism, they will remove from our minds the most marginal suspicion of any attempt to strike at sympathetic action by removing the Clause. We know that this will not happen, so the suspicion will remain. It will be compounded and turned into industrial strife by bitterness because of the disingenuous hypocrisy of those who say, "We want industrial peace and strong trade unionism, but we will, by law, deny trade unionism the means of strengthening itself".
§ The Solicitor-General
It is important for the Committee and the country to understand the objectives behind the Clause and not to interpret it too widely. I certainly cannot accept the proposition put forward by the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) that unless we abandon the Clause, along with almost every other Clause, our whole exercise is unacceptable. I do not believe that people who have closely studied the present situation with genuine concern can come to the conclusion that anything which introduces the marginal suspicion of any curtailment of the absolute right of anyone to induce industrial action for any purpose must be rejected. I do not believe that that represents the feeling of the Committee or of the country.
§ The Solicitor-General
We are trying to make reasonable proposals which maintain the balance between the interests of society and of individual workers and the legitimate interest of the Labour Movement for maintaining its strength.
Hon. Members have said in the debate, although less frequently as we have got closer to understanding what the Clause is about, that we are seeking to outlaw all sympathetic strikes. We are not. It may be thought outside this Committee that we are seeking to outlaw all sympa- 1900 thetic strikes without really bothering to define what we may mean by "sympathetic strikes", which is a phase more easily uttered than defined. We are not seeking to do any such thing. We recognise the importance of the trade union movement and to workers in their own organisations to be able to rely upon and to invoke the assistance of borrowed strength. We merely suggest that there are some areas and some situations where that is either not necessary or not desirable to proceed in that way. [Interruption.] Parliament decides. That is what we have been concerned with during these discussions. We are striving to strike a balance in pursuit of the central proposition that the calling of strike action in certain situations is too often regarded as a weapon of first, rather than last, resort.
It is for that reason that the inclusion of the words "threaten to take" assumes some importance. Anyone who has been concerned with this problem will know that it is much easier to stop people coming out on strike than it is to persuade them to go back once they have come out. In the range of situations which we have identified as unfair it is right that someone who is threatened with the calling of a strike in pursuit of an unfair objective should be able to get that threat averted. It is at that point that the day may be saved. It is too late if a strike in pursuit of an unfair objective is called. Then the only way of dealing with the situation may be the awarding of compensation.
Once we accept that there are certain strikes the calling of which are unfair because they are in pursuit of an unfair objective—and I appreciate that there is not common ground between both sides of the Committee on that point—it is right, logical and necessary that a strike in support of one designed to secure an unfair objective shosuld itself be identified as unfair. I agree that it is right and logical that if the original strike is unfair—which can arise in the case of some strikes that are called by registered unions, as well as unregistered organisation—no matter what the nature of the organisation that calls or procures the supporting of the strike, it is equally unfair. Subject to the important qualification mentioned by the hon. Member for Lewisham, North 1901 (Mr. Moyle), even then an official of the union, acting within the scope of his authority, remains protected under the law.
§ Mr. McNamara
I want to take the Solicitor-General back to the first part of his argument, when he spoke about a sympathetic strike in support of a fair strike—that is to say, a strike legitimately called by a registered trade union. I am in rather a difficulty on that point. I should like the hon. and learned Gentleman to help me by citing a possible example. If we take two separate bargaining units, as defined in the Bill, it would be possible to have a legitimate strike in one bargaining unit and a sympathetic strike in the second bargaining unit, with the consequence of the second sympathetic strike in the other bargaining unit not in actual dispute not being affected by Clause 87(1)(a) and (b). That is the difficulty.
§ The Solicitor-General
I am reluctant to be drawn into answering that question precisely. [Laughter.] Hon. Members need not laugh. I shall be happy to answer the point as far as the rules of order permit. I shall deal with it properly as far as answering other questions permit.
§ Mr. McNamara
Sir Robert, you will have heard what the Solicitor-General has said. Am I not right in saying that because of the contents of lines 36 and 37, and because of the reference back of Clause 87 to Clause 86(2), the Solicitor-General would in all probability be in order in answering the question that I have asked him?
§ The Chairman
I have every confidence in the hon. and learned Member's ability to keep in order. He will recollect what I said earlier. I think that we can proceed safely along those lines.
§ The Solicitor-General
I am trying to deal with the matter in the context of the debate as it has gone so far. I shall come to the hon. Member's point.
The first proposition is that Clause 86 is designed logically and inevitably to curtail the right to call supporting strikes, but only where the primary strike is itself unfair. That is the objective that I commend to the Committee.
1902 The point concerning the relationship between Clauses 86 and 87 is a different one. Clause 87 is directed in a quite different way at a particular kind of secondary strike, whether the original strike is fair or unfair. I acknowledge that. It is differently designed. Clause 86 deals only with the strike in support of a primary strike that is unfair. Clause 87 can attach itself to situations where the primary strike is fair but the nature of the damage sought to be inflicted by the strike at which Clause 87 is directed is one which Parliament, if it accepts the Clause, regards as unfair.
I do not want to go too far into that point. At the moment, through what is described in the Donovan Report as the maze of case law, it is possible in certain circumstances for an employer at whom a secondary strike is directed to secure an order restraining that secondary strike. It depends upon a very complex series of hoops through which he and the trade union have to go, and in recent case decisions a series of judgments have been arrived at, some of which, it may be said, agree with what my hon. Friends and I regard as fair and some of which may not agree with what we regard as fair. The important point is that the present law is securing its results as a result of a random legal pattern not related to the merits of the industrial situation. That point has been made by a number of commentators. Professor Grunfeld in at least two cases has made the point, and Professor A. D. Hughes has made the same point—both saying that there are certain situations where strike action in the secondary form can be properly regarded as unfair but that the present law does not achieve that objective in a rational way.
We are seeking in Clause 87 to say that if a strike is called the person calling it is committing an unfair industrial practice if he is doing so in order to procure the breach of a specific commercial contract by a third party who is in no sense involved in the initial strike or dispute with which the strike order is concerned. If he can show that the person whom he is attempting to get to break the commercial contract is a party to the primary dispute and has taken action in support of the primary employer he is entitled to secure the breaches of that contract as he may. 1903 The only situation in which Clause 87 is designed to bite is that in which somebody sets out to procure breaches of a commercial contract on the part of someone in no sense connected with the original dispute.
§ Mr. McNamara
I am keen to follow the Solicitor-General's thinking on this point. A dispute may arise in which the person referred to by the Solicitor-General is not a primary party to the dispute—that is, but for a contractual relationship, that person would not be in the dispute. If the result of the making of a contractual relationship is such that the person is being employed to break the strike—that is, by taking goods or services into that factory which will enable the person against whom the original dispute is being fought to continue his operations—is that then, for his purposes, aiding and abetting the original party to the dispute, in this case the employer, because he is then able to perform his normal function? Is strikebreaking of that sort legal?
My second point is, how far does the hon. and learned Gentleman draw his line——
§ The Solicitor-General
On a point of order, Sir Robert. I have been generous in giving way, and we are on the fringes of order in the debate on the Clause. I must be allowed to answer questions one at a time.
§ The Chairman
That is fair on the part of the hon. and learned Gentleman. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) is being rather too long.
§ The Solicitor-General
I am anxious not to go further than I should in the discussion of Clause 87. Clause 87 is designed to deal with the secondary strike whether or not the primary strike is fair. It is designed to deal with the secondary strike directed at the entirely innocent party, as we would put it. In answer to the point made by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), the external party who takes action in support of the primary em- 1904 ployer against whom the original strike is called, in a way which the hon. Gentleman suggested, would not fall into that category, and the strike against him would be fair and in no sense restricted by Clause 87. Perhaps we can return to discussing the many examples on that when we discuss Clause 87.
The central point about the Clause 86 strike is that it becomes unfair under the Clause only if the person against whom the complaint is brought is deliberately setting out to procure a secondary strike in support of the original unfair wrong purpose. This is at the root of some of the examples given by hon. Members opposite. For example, the present Post Office strike situation is about a fair objective, namely, the terms and conditions of the employees of the Post Office Corporation. There is no question of any secondary or sympathetic strike taken or induced in support of that fair primary strike being regarded as unfair.
Similarly, on the point put by the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen) about the Fine Tubes strike, the original strike was in respect of the terms and conditions of pay—a wages dispute—and secondary strikes called in support of or in sympathy with that remain fair.
The same goes for the example put by the hon. Member for Lewisham, North when he spoke about the strike over redundancy pay. Certainly, if a strike were called, back in the time before the redundancy pay provisions were on the Statute Book in 1965, in protest at the lack of intention of the employer to make redundancy payments, that would be a strike about a term and condition of employment which would be a fair one, and any supporting or sympathetic action in respect of that would be fair.
If the original strike was itself unofficial, called not by the union but by unofficial wild-cat people in breach of original contracts of employment, then that would be unfair and the right to have sympathy strikes in support of that would not follow. But, surely, if the original strike in support of which sympathetic action is going to be justified is one that is related and can be related to terms and conditions of employment which can be perfectly fair, then it is not unreasonable at least to expect a strike to be called on due notice or by a union exercising authority.
§ Mr. Moyle
As far as I know, the hon. and learned Gentleman has expounded the legal position quite correctly, but would he bend his mind to the industrial relations situation where there is an explosion of wrath which may ante-date by a considerable time any official recognition of the dispute. In the intervening time, what happens to the sympathetic action?
§ The Solicitor-General
That is the point which I was making, and an entirely fair one. That is where one returns to the provisions of Clause 102(3), that if the original strike, be it fair or unfair, called by a registered or an unregistered organisation is caused or provoked by clumsy conduct on the part of management of the kind which has been identified and described in that situation, then the Industrial Court—
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ The Solicitor-General
That is an aspect of some importance to appreciate here. In the present state of our law, developing perhaps unpredictably by case law, if a court now decides that a strike was unlawful through the present series of hoops, the ordinary courts have no inbuilt power to say that that strike, although it may be unlawful in the present law, was so manifestly provoked by management's incompetence that it would be wrong to grant any remedy in respect of it. In this framework the court is required to take into account the extent to which the original strike was provoked by management's conduct.
§ Mr. John Mendelson
Before the Solicitor-General goes on to the wider problems of what happens if the union happens to be unregistered, will he deal with this? Does he not see that in arguing on the Bill—we do not accept, and the trade union movement does not accept, that there are unfair industrial practices—that the original strike was an unfair industrial practice he is now depriving workpeople in the workshops of their right to judge whether they wish to express solidarity because in their opinion they do not accept the definition "unfair industrial practice" as having given rise to the first conflict? That 1906 is a terrific widening of the deprivation of rights of working people to use their judgment on whether they are to exercise sympathy or solidarity or not.
§ The Solicitor-General
I do not accept that it can be put in that way. The restraint is only in respect of the particular identified unfair practices. If someone is to claim the authority—as sometimes is done without the full backing of trade union—to call sympathetic strikes in pursuit of an objective already being pursued by other strikers, it is surely not unreasonable to say that the person claiming the right to call such a secondary supporting strike should satisfy himself as to the legitimacy of the primary objective.
In any given situation, judgment has to be made in the light of facts. The kind of sympathy strikes which I have in mind are those on recognition issues, one of the matters which have caused a great deal of unnecessary hardship to people employed in industry, and more widely than that. Most of the cases which current case-law is working out to give remedies concern recognition strikes, like Stratford v. Lindley and some other recent cases. The Torquay Grand Hotel case is another one. It is being done in the present situation creakingly and by chance.
What we are saying in the framework of the Bill is that there are new remedies per Clauses 42 to 48 where there is a recognition of a dispute, and that it is therefore fair to say that if a trade union is given the right to claim those remedies from an independent agency, it is unnecessary for it to resort to strike action when alternative machinery is made available for it.
It follows from that that if the union is striking for recognition against employer A and can have a remedy in respect of that claim, and if the strike action against employer A is unfair, it would be illogical if a strike by that union or by others supporting it against employer B should not be regarded as unfair as well, because they are part of the same use and exercise of borrowed strength. Borrowed strength can by all means be used in the support of ordinary, fair strikes; but I suggest to the Committee that unfair strikes where remedies are provided in the alternative in this way do not need to have this support. 1907 The hon. Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. Dunn) discussed a situation where it would be wrong to think that the Clause would prevent a union from striking. If because of a primary strike, fair or unfair, at a given place, the work-people at another factory were confronted with a change of work because the second factory manager was going to support the management at the first factory, that again would not be unfair, because people striking at the second workplace would have a fresh and separate primary cause of dispute.
§ Mr. Atkinson
What about the unregistered union point, to which the Solicitor-General was to return?
§ The Solicitor-General
I have made it plain on these Clauses that the registered or unregistered union calling a secondary strike in support of an unfair objective is acting equally unfairly; but the official of the registered union is not, if acting within the scope of his authority.
Returning to the point made by the hon. Member for Sutton we are not here challenging the principle of people banding together to assert rights. That is at the heart of collective organisation in industrial relations. However, we assert that the principle is not one that can prevail over all else so as to threaten or destroy the rights of other people in all circumstances. What we are saying is that it is certainly right for that principle to prevail for most purposes—for the overwhelming majority of purposes where the original cause of dispute is fair, and it is entirely right for borrowed strength to be used to that end; but not for all, not when the damage being done to that outside party—the innocent party; this trespasses on Clause 87 as well—is disproportionate to the scale and connectedness of the grievance which is provoking the primary strike. This is the balance we have tried to strike in Clause 87.
In the examples the hon. Gentleman put to me, if work was being switched from one dockyard to another—say, from Devonport to Rosyth—then, without knowing the detailed structure of Her Majesty's Dockyards management as the hon. Gentleman does, if they were in the single management of one organisation the primary-struck employer would be 1908 one and the same throughout; it would all be part of the same primary strike.
However, if the work was switched from one company to another company which was quite separate and distinct as a means of combating the strike at the primary place of strike, the second company could no longer be regarded as extraneous. It would by taking action—by taking work which would formerly have been done at the first dockyard—be acting in support of the first employer or his management. So, again, the unions would be free to strike in each of those situations.
Therefore, we return to the reasonable situation, that in the area of strikes the calling of which we suggest to the Committee is unfair because alternative remedies are provided it should, and must logically be, equally unfair for there to be a supporting strike called in support of that unfair primary objective.
§ Mr. Harold Walker (Doncaster)
Until the Solicitor-General made his speech I thought that I clearly understood what this debate was about and what this part of the Bill was about. When the Solicitor-General sat down I felt like the little Napoleon-like figure in the television advert who needs an Alka-Seltzer to unfizz. I wish someone would unfizz me after the Solicitor-General's speech.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Waddington) is not in his place. I understood, after listening to his speech, why there were only 20 people at his meeting in Doncaster last Friday evening. I could not help recalling while listening to him some words that Christ addressed to the lawyers. I am not given to quoting the scriptures, but it seems so very apposite on this occasion. [Interruption.] I will not talk of hell-fire and brimstone, though that might be applicable.
I commend to the Solicitor-General and his lawyer friends the words of Christ—St. Luke, 11,46:Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.Christ also said—verse 52:Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and then that were entering in ye hindered.1909 I can think of no more applicable or relevant words.
§ Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford)
Has not the hon. Gentleman heard the relevant saying that the Devil can quote scripture for his own purposes?
§ Mr. Walker
I suppose that fits the hon. Gentleman equally who, no matter how authoritative he may be when theological matters are under discussion, I had not thought of as being an authoritative voice on industrial relations.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
Will the hon. Gentleman be good enough to go on and identify how he fits the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) into that context? The hon. Gentleman shares with his hon. Friend the Member for Blackley the task of putting the Opposition's point of view on this Clause.
§ Mr. Walker
I have always thought of the Bill as a theological matter. The responses I had evoked to my quotations from the scriptures shows how right I was.
The Bill as a whole clearly turns into an unfair industrial action almost every weapon in the trade unionists limited industrial armoury. The phrase "unfair industrial action" is a euphemism which, although it deceives nobody, is clearly to be a breach of the law—a breach of the law which, in spite of what the Solicitor-General has repeatedly said, could in some cases at least expose individuals and trade unions to orders for contempt in the county court, with all the consequences that could flow from that.
The Clause extends this very same vulnerability to any individual or trade union who directly or indirectly, deliberately or unwittingly, aid and abet the commission of any of these unfair industrial practices. I say—and here I echo what so many of my hon. Friends have said—that this is an enormous extension of the punitive provisions of the Bill, not least in the way it multiplies so many times the obnoxious effects of Clause 85.
1910 7.0 p.m.
It is right that reference was made in the debate to Clause 87, because of the way in which that Clause is linked with and buttresses every reference to "unfair industrial practice" in the Bill, including that in Clause 87 itself. We challenge the validity of the whole concept of unfair industrial practice and its application in particular situations.
The Solicitor-General said that Clause 86 is only to prevent strike action which is designed to support unfair industrial action. But it is not just about strike action. It goes much wider than that, bad enough as that would be. It refers tocalling, organising, procuring or financing a strikeandorganising, procuring or financing any irregular industrial action short of a strike".In spite of the number of times on which the question has been raised, we have never yet been given an adequate explanation of what is meant by "irregular action short of a strike". There have been references to the so-called definition in Clause 148, but no more than that.
When the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne was speaking, I could not help reflecting that in his references to Clause 5(1) he might have helped the Committee better if he had addressed himself to the absurdity which arises when we take Clause 86 in conjunction with Clause 5(1), that part of Clause 5 which gives every worker the right not to belong to a trade union and makes it an unfair industrial practice for anyone to seek to prevent his exercise of that right. Why did not the hon. Gentleman and his hon. and learned Friend try to explain to us what will happen in the sort of situation which will almost certainly arise when people refuse to co-operate with the non-unionist, when, inevitably, they will say, "We will not work with such an antisocial individual. We will not engage in the normal industrial relationship which is so essential to the smooth functioning of industry"? In that situation, will those workers be culpable under Clause 86?
The Solicitor-General says that he is aiming only at what everybody would consider to be the need to maintain a fair balance and to prevent people from 1911 participating in unfair action in industrial relations. My hon. Friends have given many examples culled from their deep personal experience of industry, citing disputes and various actions arising from those disputes which it would be difficult to describe as unjustified or unfair. I can think of no example given from this side of the Committee in relation to which I, as a former shop steward, should not have been prone to embark on exactly the sort of action which was described in such situations, and I do not think that the Committee would regard me as an unfair or unreasonable individual.
Last night, I deliberately curtailed my remarks in winding up the debate, but I had in mind then a recent example which had come to my notice when I was a junior Minister in the Department of Employment and Productivity. I thought it significant then, and I think it relevant for the Committee's attention now. A building worker at a building site in Kent had been required by his employer to work on a platform which did not comply with the building regulations. He refused to work on that platform and encouraged his workmates to do likewise. The employer said that if he did not go back to his work and allow the matter to be resolved either through a visit from the building inspector or through the intervention of his union, he would be dismissed.
Under that coercive pressure from his employer, that man returned to the platform and dissuaded his workmates from taking industrial action. Two hours later, he was dead, having fallen from the platform.
In that situation, would it have been unfair industrial action if those workmen had gone on strike to compel their employer to do what he ought to have done and, in the event, save that man's life? It seems to me that under Clause 86 the employer would have been entitled to say, "Unless you return to work, I shall haul you before the court".
§ The Solicitor-General
I repeat again the point which has been made many times. If ever there were a clear case in which the provisions of Clause 102 (3) would apply, the hon. Gentleman has just given it. It is inconceivable that a court 1912 faced with the employer in that situation—
§ The Solicitor-General
—seeking to restrain that strike would not take the view that the cause of the strike was the employer's attitude. The one change which the Bill would make is that the man threatened with dismissal could with confidence know that he could appeal against that unfair dismissal, and he would not have felt obliged to go back to work. In that way, the change in the law would enable him to stand on his rights and reach a different conclusion.
§ Mr. Walker
The Solicitor-General now tells us that the workman in that situation could console himself with the thought that, instead of having a straight choice between doing as he was told or being sacked, he would have a third option, the possibility that, if he refused to carry out the employer's instructions, he could eventually go to the court with some hope of succeeding. That would not console either him or me in such a situation. What I should have done would have been unhesitatingly, as a shop steward or not as a shop steward, to instruct—let alone advise—the work people on that site not to go upon that platform.
§ Mr. Walker
I am glad to hear that, but what about the other advice which the Solicitor-General has just given us? He says that that man could now take into account the possibility of taking action in the Industrial Court. The hon. learned Gentleman makes the same error that all lawyers seem to make in assuming that work people will go to the courts with the readiness which they themselves go to pick up their fees. He seems to be unaware that the apparatus of the courts, whether the judicial apparatus set up under the Bill or the existing county courts and the rest, is an awesome apparatus from which ordinary people, very understandably, recoil.
§ Mr. David Mitchell (Basingstoke)
The hon. Gentleman is labouring under a misapprehension. In the sort of situation which he has outlined, what employer 1913 would seek to sue that man for compensation?
§ Mr. Walker
Hon. Members opposite in this debate, as in so many others, show an alarming lack of familiarity with the realities of not only the functioning of industry but the psychological climate within which people work, the pressures to which they are subjected, and the way in which they normally respond to those pressures.
Having given that example, I return once more to the question repeatedly pursued by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley. We are still waiting for a reply. On Second Reading, my hon. Friend put it to the Secretary of State:Will the right hon. Gentleman clarify Clause 86, with regard to aiding and abetting, which hitherto has been a strictly criminal concept? Does it mean that the trade union which supports action under Clause 85 and turns a strike into an official strike is guilty of aiding and abetting and loses the immunity of the 1906 Act?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 14th December, 1970; Vol. 808, c. 979.]The essential point on which my hon. Friend seeks an answer is this. Suppose an unofficial strike begins and is caught as being an unfair practice under Clause 85, but is subsequently made into an official strike by the union. Does it cease to be an unfair industrial practice? If the Solicitor-General wants to intervene to give us a clear, unambiguous answer I shall readily give way. I want him to understand very clearly the importance of the point. In the engineering industry what I have described is not an exceptional rarity, but is part of the normality, the generality of the situation. With the frequent references to the number of unofficial strikes, the Government seem not to have understood that in engineering almost every strike, because of the negotiating procedure and trade union rules, must start off as unofficial. If the hon. and learned Gentleman, having understood that, will now give us the reply we have been waiting for since Christmas, I will allow him to intervene.
§ The Solicitor-General
The hon. Gentleman referred to the occasion when his hon. Friend raised the matter the other day—
§ The Solicitor-General
If the hon. Gentleman will be patient, I was about to say that his hon. Friend raised it on Second Reading two months ago. As a result of his doing so, we have looked again at the form of words in the Clause, because the function of hon. Members raising points in debate is for us to he able to examine them.
If an unofficial strike under Clause 85 has already been induced, and thereafter the union makes it official, the union is not doing anything to aid and abet the inducing of the original unfair strike. The original unfair unofficial strike has already taken place, and nothing the union thereafter does aids and abets that.
The point put by the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley in the debate on Second Reading was that the use of the words "aid and abet" had criminal overtones. The hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Murray) made a similar point this afternoon. We were asked to look at the matter again. Our conclusion was that the use of those words makes it plain that the union doing that is not aiding and abetting. If we had replaced the phrase with civil words, such as "supporting or assisting", or something like them, the difficulty might arise. But if a person has induced the original unfair strike, any subsequent action making it an official strike is not an aiding and abetting of the inducing of the original strike.
§ The Solicitor-General
It is not the strike that remains an unfair practice. The point is that the original inducing by the unofficial leader of the first strike, if that be the case, is unfair. [Laughter.] There is no point in hon. Members saying "Ha, ha". It is a matter then for very great doubt as to whether employers would in many or any cases necessarily bring proceedings in respect of the originally induced strike. In any event, thereafter the action of the union in making it official does not amount to an aiding and abetting of the original inducing.
§ Mr. Walker
Now we really find ourselves confronted with questions. I do not want to weary the Committee with repeated references to actual situations 1915 that arise within industry. But many of my hon. Friends will have been confronted with a change of practice arbitrarily and suddenly introduced without fair warning by an employer. They as shop stewards or workpeople will have come to the conclusion that an unsafe practice or a health hazard is being introduced, and they must make an immediate response, afterwards seeking ratification from their district committee. It seems that when they have said to the workpeople, "We advise you not to carry out the employer's instruction until we have contacted our district committee", they have thus initiated an unofficial strike and rendered themselves guilty of an unfair industrial practice. No matter what the district committee or even the employers' federation may subsequently say, no matter what the generality of opinion may be, it still seems that they have irreversibly committed something that is illegitimate, not to say illegal, under the Bill.
The union having subsequently endorsed the action and given it an official stamp, the question arises whether it is not only the resources of the individual who induced that unfair industrial action that are exposed to the action for damages in the courts but whether the union's resources are also exposed. This is a new question. The Solicitor-General would have been well advised to apply himself to it. We keep turning over these stones in the Bill and exposing some very ugly things underneath.
The change of emphasis on the Government's part should not go unnoticed. It used to be accepted that whether a strike was official or unofficial was a question entirely within the union's discretion and its rules, which could vary from union to union. Three or four unions could be involved in a strike that was unofficial under the rules of one union, and official under the rules of the next. So, in an identical situation, some members of the work group are guilty under Clause 85 and some, for exactly the same offence, are not. There used to be talked, much more logically, about constitutional and unconstitutional strikes. Now the Government have got back on the old band wagon of unofficial strikes and official strikes, and this is 1916 leading them into curious byways. They are getting lost on the way.
§ Mr. Orme
My hon. Friend is fully aware of the point I want to make, but I make it to emphasise again to the Solicitor-General that within the engineering industry practically every strike, apart from a national strike called by the executive council, starts off as as an unofficial dispute but is possibly made official at a later stage, first by the district committee and then by the executive council. Will not it be the case now that a union such as the A.U.E.W., to protect itself, may have to make its rules such that a strike becomes official from the time the members take that action, because otherwise it is vulnerable right along the line?
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Walker
My hon. Friend accurately puts his finger on one of the inconsistencies of the Government's approach. Their theme has been one of strengthening the central official authorities of the unions against those whom they describe as the trouble-makers at the bottom, the shop stewards. They fail to recognise that an inevitable consequence of their approach will be to compel unions to alter their rules to give the shop stewards the authority that they have so far lacked. An inevitable by-product will be a strengthening of the hands of the shop stewards. Only in that way will unions be able to give the shop steward the necessary protection.
§ Mr. McNamara
Will my hon. Friend also pursue the point of what happens over a strike that was constitutional when it started but is then declared un-stitutional by the trade union executive. Is it totally legal one minute and the next minute illegal, and are people responsible for what happened before or what happened after?
§ Mr. Walker
I would not attempt to reply to that very complex point off the cuff. My hon. Friend has put a matter for reflection on the great complexity of the industrial situation. Hon. Members opposite seem to assume that what is very complex is really very simple. It is nothing of the kind. The labyrinthine process that my hon. Friend has just described is part of the procedure that 1917 shop stewards must reconcile themselves to and work within every day of the working week.
I suspect that the Committee is getting anxious to draw the debate to a conclusion, but I do not want to finish without referring to the Solicitor-General's reference to Clause 87. I do not want to transgress on what will no doubt be an interesting debate on Clause 87, but I remind the Committee that he stated that it was important not to interpret the provisions of the Clause, and, indeed, the Bill, too widely. But it is not a question of how we interpret it; it is a question of how the courts interpret it. They will not heed the Solicitor-General's honeyed words but the black and white of the Bill.
The Solicitor-General says that he is not seeking to outlaw all sympathetic strikes. We await with eagerness and interest to see how he reconciles that statement with the sweeping and far-reaching provisions of Clause 87. That Clause clearly outlaws all strikes which lead to a breach of contract other than a breach of employment. Sympathy strikes, under Clause 86, even those that do not fall foul of the requirements of Clause 86—strikes that are in breach of contracts of employment—could often, and in many ways almost invariably, lead to a breach of commercial contract and will thus be caught under Clause 87. In effect, the hon. and learned Gentleman is saying, "I am lying in wait with a double-barrelled gun. If I miss with the first shot I can use the second barrel."
My hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) went to the heart of the matter. I echo what he said. By the provisions of Clause 86,
§ the Government have at a stroke rendered unlawful a vast range of actions which have traditionally been part of the fabric of industrial relations for over a century. That may well be their intention, in spite of the silken words of the Solicitor-General, which implied that they were only suppressing practices which they regarded as anti-social and a deterrent to industrial efficiency. Whatever the Government may say, trade unionists and, I am sure, the whole Committee, will now be under no such illusions but will recognise that the Government's real purpose is to weaken drastically and dramatically the bargaining power of working people in industry.
§ My hon. Friends in earlier debates, and my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone again today, raised the spectre of the corporate State. Let there be no mistake. The road on which the Government are embarked, as exemplified in these Clauses, is the path that has been trodden by every Fascist dictator this century. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] Other Governments have shown that one can produce a quietness and passivity in industrial relations by removing the power and the strength of the workers to react against conditions which bear hardly on their lives. The Government are removing weapons which have traditionally been available to trade unions and trade unionists to fight for their cause—and this is the practice which has been carried out by every Fascist dictator in this century. I therefore ask the Committee to reject the Clause.
§ Question put:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 278, Noes 250.1921
|Division No. 165.]||AYES||[7.24 p.m.|
|Adley, Robert||Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Carlisle, Mark|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Body, Richard||Cary, Sir Robert|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Boscawen, Robert||Channon, Paul|
|Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)||Bossom, Sir Clive||Chapman, Sydney|
|Astor, John||Bowden, Andrew||Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Chichester-Clark, R.|
|Awdry, Daniel||Braine, Bernard||Clark, William (Surrey, E.)|
|Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylehone)||Bray, Ronald||Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Brewis, John||Clegg, Walter|
|Bainiel, Lord||Brinton, Sir Tatton||Cockeram, Eric|
|Batsford, Brian||Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||Coombs, Derek|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Cooper, A. E.|
|Bell, Ronald||Bryan, Paul||Cordle, John|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus,N&M)||Cormack, Patrick|
|Benyon, W.||Buck, Antony||Costain, A. P.|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Bullus, Sir Eric||Critchley, Julian|
|Biffen, John||Burden, F. A.||Crouch, David|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Crowder, F. P.|
|Blaker, Peter||Campbell, Rt.Hn.G.(Moray&Nairn)||Curran, Charles|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Kellett, Mrs. Elaine||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Kershaw, Anthony||Raison, Timothy|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. Jack||Kilfedder, James||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Dixon, Piers||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Redmond, Robert|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Kinsey, J. R.||Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)|
|Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||Kirk, Peter||Rees, Peter (Dover)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Dykes, Hugh||Knox, David||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Eden, Sir John||Lambton, Antony||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Lane, David||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Rost, Peter|
|Emery, Peter||Le Marchant, Spencer||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Eyre, Reginald||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Farr, John||Lloyd, Rt.Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)||Scott, Nicholas|
|Fell, Anthony||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Longden, Gilbert||Sharples, Richard|
|Fidler, Michael||Loveridge, John||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Shelton, William (Clapham)|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||MacArthur, Ian||Simeons, Charles|
|Foster, Sir John||McCrindle, R. A.||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Fowler, Norman||McLaren, Martin||Skeet, T, H. H.|
|Fox, Marcus||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)|
|Fry, Peter||McMaster, Stanley||Soref, Harold|
|Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Speed, Keith|
|Gardner, Edward||McNair-Wilson, Michael||Spence, John|
|Gibson-Watt, David||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)||Sproat, Iain|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Madden, Martin||Stainton, Keith|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Madel, David||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Glyn, Dr. Alan||Maginnis, John E.||Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)|
|Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Marten, Neil||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Goorthart, Philip||Mather, Carol||Stokes, John|
|Goodhew, Victor||Maude, Angus||Stuttaford, Dr. Tom|
|Gorst, John||Mawby, Ray||Sutcliffe, John|
|Gower, Raymond||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Tapsell, Peter|
|Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Green, Alan||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Grieve, Percy||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Miscampbell, Norman||Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.)|
|Grylls, Michael||Mitchell, Lt.-Col. C. (Aberdeenshire, W)||Tebbit, Norman|
|Gumtner, Selwyn||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Temple, John M.|
|Gurden, Harold||Moate, Roger||Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)|
|Hall, Miss Joan (Kelghley)||Molyneaux, James||Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Money, Ernle||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Monks, Mrs. Connie||Trafford, Dr. Anthony|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Montgomery, Fergus||Trew, Peter|
|Hannam, John (Exeter)||More, Jasper||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Vaughan, Dr. Gerard|
|Hastings, Stephen||Mudd, David||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Havers, Michael||Murton, Oscar||Waddington, David|
|Hawkins, Paul||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Walden, David (Clitheroe)|
|Hay, John||Neave, Airey||Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)|
|Hayhoe, Barney||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Wall, Patrick|
|Hicks, Robert||Nott, John||Walters, Dennis|
|Hiley, Joseph||Onslow, Cranley||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.)||Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally||Warren, Kenneth|
|Hill, James (Southampton, Test)||Orr. Capt. L. P. S.||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Holland, Philip||Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)||White, Roger (Gravesend)|
|Holt, Miss Mary||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Hordern, Peter||Page, John (Harrow, E.)||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Hornsby-Smith, Rt.Hn. Dame Patricia||Parkinson, Cecil (Enfield, W.)||Wilkinson, John|
|Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)||Peel, John||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)||Percival, Ian||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher|
|Hunt, John||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Pink, R. Bonner||Worsley, Marcus|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.|
|James, David||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Younger, Hn. George|
|Jessel, Toby||Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.|
|Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)||Proudfoot, Wilfred||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis||Mr. Tim Fortescue and|
|Jopling, Michael||Mr. Hugh Rossi.|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Abse, Leo||Ashton, Joe||Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Atkinson, Norman||Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Allen, Scholefield||Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Bidwell, Sydney|
|Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis)||Barnes, Michael||Bishop, E. S.|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Barnett, Joel||Blenkinsop, Arthur|
|Ashley, Jack||Beaney, Alan||Boardman, H. (Leigh)|
|Booth, Albert||Hattersley, Roy||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Palmer, Arthur|
|Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland)||Heffer, Eric S.||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Bradley, Tom||Hilton, W. S.||Pardoe, John|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Horam, John||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Buchan, Norman||Huckfield, Leslie||Pearl, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Pendry, Tom|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn James||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Pentland, Norman|
|Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.)||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.)||Perry, Ernest G.|
|Cant, R. B.||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.|
|Carmichael, Neil||Hunter, Adam||Prescott, John|
|Carter, Ray (Birmingham, Northfield)||Irvine, Rt.Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles)||Janner, Greville||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Probert, Arthur|
|Clark, David (Colne Valley)||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n&St.P'cras, S.)||Rankin, John|
|Cocks, Michael(Bristol, S.)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Reed, D. (Sedgefield)|
|Cohen, Stanley||John, Brynmor||Rhodes, Geoffrey|
|Coleman, Donald||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Richard, Ivor|
|Concannon, J. D.||Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)||Roberts, Rt.Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Jones, Barry (Flint, E.||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Roderick, Caerwyn E. (Br'c'n(R'dnor)|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Jones, Rt.Hn. Sir Elwyn (W.Ham, S.)||Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Cronin, John||Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)||Roper, John|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)||Rose, Paul B.|
|Cunningham, G.(Islington, S.W.)||Judd, Frank||Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Kaufman, Gerald||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Kelley, Richard||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Davidson, Arthur||Kinnock, Neil||Short, Rt.Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelly)||Lambie, David||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N.E.)|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Lamond, James||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Latham, Arthur||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)||Leadbitter, Ted||Sillars, James|
|Deakins, Eric||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Silverman, Julius|
|Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund||Leonard, Dick||Skinner, Dennis|
|Dempsey, James||Lewis, Arthur (W.Ham, N.)||Small, William|
|Doig, Peter||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)|
|Dormand, J. D.||Lipton, Marcus||Spearing, Nigel|
|Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)||Lomas, Kenneth||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Loughlin, Charles||Stallard, A. W.|
|Driberg, Tom||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Stoddart, David (Swindon)|
|Dunn, James A.||McBride, Neil||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John|
|Dunnett, Jack||McCartney, Hugh||Strang, Gavin|
|Eadie, Alex||McElhone, Frank||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Edelman, Maurice||McGuire, Michael||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Mackenzie, Gregor||Taverne, Dick|
|Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Mackie, John||Thomas, Rt.Hn. George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Ellis, Tom||Mackintosh, John P.||Thomas, Rt.Hn.G. (Dundee, E.)|
|English, Michael||Maclennan, Robert||Tinn, James|
|Evans, Fred||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Tomney, Frank|
|Fernyhough, E./||McNamara, J. Kevin||Torney, Tom|
|Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood)||MacPherson, Malcolm||Tuck, Raphael|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Varley, Eric G.|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Marquand, David||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Foot, Michael||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard||Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)|
|Ford, Ben||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Forrester, John||Meacher, Michael||Wallace, George|
|Fraser, John (Norwood)||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert|
|Freeson, Reginald||Mendelson, John Watkins, David||Weitzman, David|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Mikardo, Ian||Wellbeloved, James|
|Gilbert, Dr. John||Milian, Bruce||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Ginsburg, David||Miller, Dr. M. S.||White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)|
|Golding, John||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Whitlock, William|
|Gourlay, Harry||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Grant, George (Morpeth)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Grant, John D. (Islington, E,)||Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Griffiths, Eddie (Brightslde)||Moyle, Roland||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Murray, Ronald King||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Ogden, Eric|
|Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)||O'Halloran, Michael||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hardy, Peter||O'Malley, Brian||Mr. Kenneth Marks and|
|Harper, Joseph||Oram, Bert||Mr. James Hamilton.|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Orme, Stanley|
|Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Oswald, Thomas|
§ Clause 86 ordered to stand part of the Bill.1923
§ [Miss HARVIE ANDERSON in the Chair]