HC Deb 22 February 1971 vol 812 cc53-116

4.15 p.m.

Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)

I beg to move, That this House do now adjourn.

A debate of the kind which we are having this afternoon, an emergency debate on an industrial dispute, is probably unprecedented; but this situation in which we find ourselves is unprecedented, too.

Here is a strike, the first all-embracing strike in the whole history of the Post Office, now entering its second month. It is certainly causing hardship to the workers concerned; it is causing growing inconvenience to the public, especially to commerce, to many mail order industries, many newspapers, and other sections of the business community; it is causing damage, perhaps permanent damage, to a great public service, not only in the commercial sense but in the human sense as well. And yet all that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Employment could do last Wednesday was complacently to announce to the House that a state of deadlock had been reached, with no indication that he was willing to take any steps to break it.

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman was hoping that, following the Post Office's rejection of the union's plea for a mediator to be appointed, and following the Government's clear indication that they were standing firm behind the Post Office, the strike would crumble away. If so, the right hon. Gentleman must have been very severely disappointed, because it is now clear that the strikers' ranks are unbroken, that the union's determination to carry on has, if anything, hardened, and the whole trade union movement is rallying to its support, and that the public is increasingly bewildered and certainly irritated by the right hon. Gentleman's continued refusal to make any effort whatsoever to mediate. The public now believes, as we believe, that the Government have deliberately chosen this union and this strike to make an example of, because they thought the union was weak, and they have done so with a completely irresponsible disregard for the consequences for this industry.

Here we have a new Corporation, set up by the Labour Government, despite some misgivings amongst the staff, so that it could bring this vital public service to the highest possible pitch of efficiency. This will require changes, which can be carried through only if the new Corporation can win the confidence and the cooperation of its staff.

In the White Paper which we produced at the time of the reorganisation of the Post Office, Cmnd. 3233 we gave this indication of what we felt it was essential for the Corporation to achieve in its staff relationships: 52. Without detriment to the responsibilities of managers to manage, the Government will expect the Corporation to promote the most constructive relationships between the management and the staff. The new Corporation will not be taking over an industry marked by bad industrial relations: on the contrary, a fine tradition of co-operation and consultation between the management and staff has been built up in the Post Office. The Government will expect the Corporation to ensure that this develops further in the new conditions and to set the highest standards in relationships with the staff. Yet, the Corporation, within months of coming into existence, is plunged into the first all-embracing strike the Post Office has even known, a protracted strike, an increasingly bitter strike, which, if it is not settled by means which seem fair to the workers involved, will poison relationships in the new undertaking for years to come.

That is what this debate is about. It is not about the details of the postal workers' claim, but about the way it has been handled by the Post Office and by the Government, and it is about the legacy of bitterness that it will leave. It is a plea to the Government, before it is too late, to take positive steps to achieve a settlement, not only to see that justice is done, but to make it patent to everyone that justice has been done.

I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman will retort, as he has done. that it is just because the Labour Government set up an independent Corporation that we should leave it alone to make its own decisions on purely commercial principles. We would not necessarily object to that, if that was what was happening. If the Corporation had been left alone by the Government it would probably have reached a settlement of this dispute a long time ago, just as the privately-owned Western Union did. There was no Government interference with that settlement, which gave a 13 per cent. increase on all points of the scale, plus the shortening of an already more favourable incremental scale. When I raised this in the House—

Mr. Derek Coombs (Birmingham, Yardley)

On a point of order. I seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker. The right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) continues to advocate in opposition an inflationary wage settlement which she knows would reject if she were now in Government. Is it therefore in order for her to speak on this matter?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point of order. The content of a speech is not a matter for the Chair.

Mrs. Castle

I am sorry the hon. Gentleman has despaired of his chance of catching your eye, Mr. Speaker, because if he did he would be free to make any point he liked, as I am free to make my point, as I intend to do.

When I raised in the House the fact that the privately-owned Western Union had been left free to make this 13 per cent, settlement, the right hon. Gentleman asked me if I knew this was a two-year agreement. He failed to point out to the House that the Western Union agreement had a built-in cost of living escalator, an automatic increase of a further 4 per cent. every time the cost of living rose by 4 per cent. With the cost of living going up as it has done during the past three months, at an annual rate of 11 per cent.—a far faster increase than under the Labour Government—does anybody think that the Post Office Corporation would have been left free to make an offer like that to its workers? Is anyone in the House naïve enough to believe that the Government have had just one aim since it came into office—to leave the Corporation alone to operate on commercial principles? Leave it alone—when the first thing the Government did was to sack the Chairman in whom the workers had confidence? Leave it alone—when they put in a caretaker Chairman while they searched for someone who would accept their ideological discrimination against publicly-owned industries? Leave it alone—when the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made speech after speech saying that the sole cause of inflation is wage demands, and only last Friday going on record, according to the Guardian, as saying that it was the union that was being totally unreasonable? Leave it alone—when within hours of the announcement of the strike the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications was on his feet in the House labelling it as "the 9d. letter strike", without a scrap of independent evidence to substantiate his claim. There can seldom have been a strike in which the Government have more clearly shown their hands. If this is neutrality, then the Americans are neutral in Vietnam—

Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)


Mrs. Castle

I am sorry—I will not be challenged on that statement of fact. This is not a long debate, and I do not want to protract my speech by giving way too often. The Government's neutrality is a myth. How can it be otherwise? How can the Government be neutral when their spokesmen, when they were in Opposition and since, have made it perfectly clear that they believe in an incomes policy, but an incomes policy which has just one method of enforcement, namely, the Government's determination to lean on the wage settlements of its own employees. The Prime Minister when he was Leader of the Opposition made this totally clear: Above all, the Government have the responsibility to ensure that the vast public sector which is now under their control does not grant wages which are more than productivity will justify. It is for the Government to stand up on this matter and take the action which is necessary in their own sector."—[0FFICIAL REPORT, 19th March, 1968; Vol. 761, c. 308.] The right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) in November 1969 made it even clearer in an article in the Sunday Express when he was writing about the wages explosion and the right way to deal with it: What then should the Government do? It can take a firm line with its own employees and instruct nationalised industries to do the same. This is the background against which this dispute and this argument are set. That is why the conciliation services of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State have not been used as I would have used them to reach a settlement of the dispute. If he does not want to undertake this responsibility, why does he not set up a court of inquiry as he set up Wilberforce? The right hon. Gentleman has told us before, and he will no doubt tell us again, that he cannot do that because the union has refused to go to arbitration. As he put it the other day, "How can I condone such a breach of agreement when the Wilberforce Report denounced such breaches?" Surely this is the biggest non sequitur of all.

The breach of agreement which Wilberforce attacked was in regard to the electricity supply industry. That did not prevent the Secretary of State for Employment setting up a court of inquiry, it did not prevent that court making constructive recommendations to meet what is described as "just grievances", nor did it prevent the right hon. Gentleman coming to this House and saying that those recommendations would be implemented. But the Wilberforce Committee has never pronounced on the Union of Post Office Workers' refusal to go to arbitration. Indeed, any objective person would admit that this is one of the very matters which a court of inquiry ought to investigate.

The union's arguments on this matter are very powerful. First and foremost, is the fact that the right hon. Gentleman some time ago reported to the House that the union had had genuine misunderstandings about the agreement which it had signed. He told the House that he accepted that those misunderstandings were genuine. If that is so, why does he go on plugging away saying that he cannot take any action because the union ought to operate an agreement which he admits it interpreted in a different way from the Government?

There are other arguments, too, and they are supported by the other Post Office unions, like the Association of Post Office Executives which, contrary to the impression that the right hon. Gentleman has tried to give the House, has pointed out that no claims have yet been taken under the new Post Office arbitration agreement. Because the arbitration tribunal had not yet been constituted, any claims which have been taken to arbitration in recent months have all been ad hoc under the 1919 Industrial Courts Act. It is not the union's fault that the arbitration tribunal had not yet been constituted. Above all, it is not the union's fault that there is no basis in this industry on which arbitration can fairly operate, because there has been no agreement on the pay principles which ought to operate under the new Corporation.

As the Association of Post Office Executives points out, pay principles themselves are not arbitral within the arbitration agreement. Yet it is these very pay principles which are now in doubt following the Post Office Corporation's public declaration, only too readily endorsed by the Government, that it cannot increase its offer because this would mean putting up its charges. This is in direct breach of the understanding which the unions had with the Labour Government when they agreed to the reorganisation of the Post Office.

The transfer of these workers from ordinary Civil Service pay conditions and principles into the care of an independent Corporation meant that new pay principles had to be worked out. This is all spelt out in Cmnd. 3233. This is the promise that was made to the unions: The Corporation is expected to begin negotiations as soon as it has been established on the conditions of service which will apply after vesting day. To the extent that these are not completed by that day for any group of staff, pay and conditions of service as they stood immediately prior to vesting day will continue to apply to the group until they have been varied by negotiation or, where applicable, arbitration. But the Post Office is repudiating the Civil Service pay principles.

The Minister of Posts and Telecommunications (Mr. Christopher Chataway)

Is the right hon. Lady not aware that in the January, 1970 settlement for U.P.W. grades it was agreed by both sides that the direct linkage of pay and conditions of service which had hitherto existed between staff of the Post Office and those of the Civil Service should be broken? Therefore, what she has quoted ceased to have effect from that point. Is she further aware that the agreement on arbitration which was signed did not in any event lay down conditions about a new agreement on pay principles?

Mrs. Castle

The Minister of Posts and Telecommunications should study with care the letter which was circulated only two days ago by the Association of Post Office Executives, which is one of the unions that the Secretary of State for Employment has quoted approvingly because they have been good boys as compared with what he calls the bad boys of the U.P.W. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, that is so. The Association makes clear in the letter of 19th February which it issued to newspapers—and I am certain it sent copies to the Government—that it entirely sympathised with the U.P.W. refusal to go to arbitration because the old Civil Service understandings had been breached, without any alternative having been put in their place. We are now told that the criterion—a criterion which the Government have used and quoted time and again in this House—is exclusively what the Post Office can afford without putting up postal charges or altering them in any way.

Of course we accept that agreements should be kept—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—provided, first and foremost, that they were agreements which the union was making consciously. [Laughter.] The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Employment is on record as exonerating the U.P.W. on this matter and telling the House that he accepted that there had been a genuine misunderstanding. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman turns up the references in HANSARD to that effect. Has the Post Office kept its side of the bargain? The union's answer is emphatically "No".

We all want to see confidence restored in arbitration, but do the Government feel they have played their part when they have shattered confidence of all unions in arbitration by the sacking of Professor Clegg? The Tight hon. Gentleman is wasting the time of the House and of the country in coming here time and again and saying that arbitration is the way out. He knows—for some reasons that he accepts and for some that he rejects—that arbitration is now not a possibility. That is why a court of inquiry is the only hope of reaching a settlement. That is what we are pressing on the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon.

No doubt in his reply the Secretary of State will take up the theme of some of his back benchers by quoting to me the Labour Government's White Paper "Productivity, Prices and Incomes Policy" and the statement that if prices are not to increase pay settlements should not exceed 4½ per cent. That, of course, is a statement of fact, but the question at issue that faces both sides of the House is how best we can move towards greater price stability. It cannot be done by singling out one group of public employees after another for the treatment that the Government have laid down, while allowing other workers like the Chrysler workers to pocket another £5 a week with impunity.

The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Robert Carr)

Would the right hon. Lady indicate to the House with what sort of lack of impunity she would stop the Chrysler workers getting over £5?

Mrs. Castle

I am delighted to have the right hon. Gentleman admit his impotence. I am delighted to have him admit by implication that he did not even attempt to bring any pressure to bear on the Chrysler workers.

What we have said—this is something in the White Paper which the right hon. Gentleman never quotes to the House, though I will— The Government's continuing policy is that workers in the public services should be treated on the same basis as workers in other sectors of the economy. In saying that, we were far nearer to the Wilberforce Report than the right hon. Gentleman will ever go. Paragraph 1023 of the Wilberforce Report pointed out that workers in a vital public service … should be properly paid and should have confidence that their case for improved earnings should not be overlooked but periodically and fairly reviewed. We have always said that if any incomes are to be curbed all incomes must be curbed, and, above all, prices must be curbed as well. It is no good the right hon. Gentleman quoting in aid the White Paper when he repudiates its basic principles.

Does he believe in a prices and incomes policy? Does he accept, as the White Paper points out, that we cannot have a fair policy unless we set it in a fair framework, unless we have first clear criteria which apply to everyone, and unless we have notification of price increases as well as pay settlements, and above all unless we have …reference where necessary of individual cases to an independent authority"? The right hon. Gentleman has talked about the virtues of arbitration, yet it is his Government who have deliberately jettisoned all arbitration about prices, jettisoned the Prices and Incomes Board, the arbitration board for prices, and jettisoned the Consumer Council, the arbiter of the consumer's interests. Thus we have a unilateral policy in which the Minister for Posts and Telecommunications can quote to the House as a fact the Corporation's assertion that if it were to concede the union's claim a 9d. post would be inevitable. If the Government try to tell us that they are not taking sides, may 1 draw the attention of the House to what the Minister said on 18th January, when he was announcing the imminence of this strike: …the Post Office has made it absolutely clear that if it were to accept the claim of the U.P.W. it would amount to 19½ per cent. and that for anything like that it would be necessary to introduce a first-class letter rate of at least 9d. before the end of next year."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th January, 1971; Vol. 809, c. 526.] The Minister said "absolutely clear". But "absolutely clear" to whom? Not to the union, which has argued that whereas the difference for the postal workers between the Corporation's offer and the union's claim is some £19 million, the yield of an increase to a 9d. postal rate would be about £90 million. So it is not absolutely clear to the Union of Post Office Workers, and I suggest that it is not absolutely clear to the House either. How can we then accept the Corporation's argument without an independent scrutiny? Why should we be asked to do so? Why should these workers be pilloried because they will not accept a unilateral Post Office argument?

Mr. Tom Boardman (Leicester, South-West)

Would the right hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Castle

No, I am sorry. It is for that independent scrutiny that we ask this afternoon, and we believe that the public is asking for it, because this is the only way that we can now cut through the tangle of argument and counter-argument, and the mounting bitterness and suspicion, and end the alienation between the two sides. This is the only way to bring this unhappy strike to an end. Will the right hon. Gentleman not at least explore the possibility with the union to see whether they could agree on a chairman and to see whether the union would be willing to co-operate? The right hon. Gentleman has had very fair treatment personally—some would say over-generous treatment—at the hands of the General Secretary of the U.P.W. The right hon. Gentleman has made great play on that in the House, saying, "Look what tributes the General Secretary of this Union has paid to me". As Mr. Jackson said at that magnificent T.U.C. rally yesterday, the time has come for the Government to move to secure a settlement. If the Government do not move now but still refuse to lift a hand to end this deadlock, if they continue to commit this country, this union and this industry to a policy of drift, then Mr. Jackson will be forced to believe that the Government do not want to end the strike but to break it.

I say advisedly to the right hon. Gentleman that if that is the Government's aim, the consequences for this industry. and for industrial relations throughout the country, will be disastrous. That is why we urge the Government to act before it is too late.

4.48 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Robert Carr)

Hitherto it has been the practice of Oppositions in the House, both Labour and Conservative, to mute the political battle about industrial disputes at least while they are in progress and until they have been resolved.

Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)

The right hon. Gentleman has changed that.

Mr. Carr

The right hon. Lady admitted that that has been the practice, although her right hon. Friend the Prime Minister of the past appears to think otherwise. The right hon. Lady and her predecessor, the right hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Gunter), never had to operate in the sort of atmosphere in which the Opposition are forcing me to operate today.

Mr. Harold Wilson (Huyton)

The right hon. Gentleman referred to me. Would he now look up the records of what the Prime Minister, then Leader of the Opposition, did to make more difficult the settlement of the seamen's strike?

Mr. Carr

I will, and I am sure, when I do, that what I have just said will be confirmed. As the right hon. Lady said, denying her ex-Prime Minister, this is an unprecedented occasion. That is how she started her speech. That is on the record, if the Leader of the Opposition cares to look it up tomorrow.

The basis of this bipartisan convention of political restraint has been partly a common desire to make settlement of particular disputes as easy as possible and partly a firm, underlying traditional belief in this country, held hitherto by all parties, that political action and direct industrial action should be kept in separate compartments.

I repeat that no previous holder of my office, whether Labour or Conservative, has had to try to resolve a major industrial dispute involving a basic service to the community in which both the positions and the emotions of the parties to the dispute have been hardened and intensified to such an extent—

Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrew, West)

By the right hon. Gentleman's Government.

Mr. Carr

—by party political questioning and debate in the House of Commons. So the right hon. Lady has set, as she claims to have set, a precedent today. I leave the country to judge whether that precedent, those mischievously bipartisan remarks, those misrepresentations of her own past policy, that denial of the principles for which she stood when she was in office, will do anything to quicken the end of this dispute or any in the future.

Let us be clear what this is about—

Mr. Ron Lewis (Carlisle)

Put on another record.

Mr. Carr

In its capacity as the Parliamentary Opposition, the Labour Party has chosen to turn this difficult and serious industrial dispute into a political battle against the Government. Perhaps unwittingly, the T.U.C. has chosen to play that game with them. A number of the big unions have decided to use this dispute not only as part of their political campaign against the Government but as a means of promoting their own industrial aims by using the postmen as the front line troops to fight their battles for them. That is a measure of the difficulty and the intensification of strife which occurs when the Opposition of the day throws convention and responsibility to the wind.

Today, the right hon. Lady has apparently come out 100 per cent. against the Post Office and in full support of the union's claim as it stands—

Mrs. Castle

indicated dissent

Mr. Carr

I do not want to misrepresent the right hon. Lady. If she has not come out in full support of the union's claim as it stands, perhaps she would like to make that clear.

Mrs. Castle

It is a great pity that the right hon. Gentleman wrote his speech before hearing what I had to say. I was careful to go out of my way to say that we were not discussing the details of the claim today. It will be in HANSARD for all to see, and even the right hon. Gentleman has not sufficient power to alter that. What I said was that we were discussing the way in which the matter was being handled. My whole case, to which the right hon. Gentleman should address himself, is the need now, if we are to cut through this tangled mess, to set up an independent court of inquiry without any more ado.

Mr. Carr

When anyone comes to read the right hon. Lady's speech, I think that there will be no doubt—certainly all those who heard it can be in no doubt—that her message had three main strands. The first is quite justifiable from her point of view because it is what debates in this House can be about: it is that the Government are wrong. The second and equally strong strand is that the employer, in this case the Post Office, is also wrong. The third strand, by implication, is that the union is right. That has been the effect, as I feared it was almost bound to be the effect, of seeking a debate on an industrial dispute when it is in the stage that it is now.

The line that the right hon. Lady has taken—the emotional atmosphere that she has created—is a denial of all that she and her right hon. Friends stood for when they were in government.

Mr. Harold Wilson

The right hon. Gentleman has heard my right hon. Friend twice say that she is not concerned with the details of the settlement but that she is concerned with the procedures. How does he justify the words used by his right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on Friday about the postmen's claims, which were concerned with the details of the settlement?

Mr. Carr

Certainly I agree with what my right hon. Friends said. But there are two elements in this dispute which go to the heart of what the right hon. Lady and her Government said that they stood for in these matters when they were in power. The first was that claims from 1969 onwards must fall within a bracket of between 2½ and 4½ per cent. They brought that White Paper to this House and, admittedly with difficulty, insisted on it and the other matters of their policy being approved by their supporters. In view of that, is it now responsible to be saying to the Government that they are leaning on public employees when 9 per cent.—

Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)


Mr. Carr

The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) should read what his right hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the Opposition had to say at the Labour Party conference last year about credibility. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman feels that he is promoting his own chances.

Mr. Buchan

Is not the right hon. Gentleman himself leaning on the workers when he says that he agrees with his right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, who are undoubtedly leaning on the workers?

Mr. Carr

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer—

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

Who is that now?

Mr. Carr

—whose speech I have read, rests hard on arbitration, and I believe that he is right to do so—[Interruption.] Does the Prime Minister—[Laughter.]—of the Left wish to intervene? For the first time for some time the right hon. Gentleman seems to have positive views to put forward. We should like to hear what they are. Does he agree that a union which signed an agreement last August to go to arbitration is right in rejecting it? Does he agree that a 13 per cent. claim without any strings about productivity of any kind is in the national interest, and is possible to sustain in either the private or the public sector without further increases in prices? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that controlling the increase in prices is one of the most important factors? If so, let us hear it.

Mr. Harold Wilson

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—when he says that there was a genuine misunderstanding between the two sides about arbitration.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer the question."]—I am answering the question by quoting what the right hon. Gentleman said last week; not what he is saying this week. I agree with the letter in The Times making it clear that the union was prepared to nominate the chairman of the arbitration tribunal and the Post Office was not until after the dispute began.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer the question."]—I am answering the question. The right hon. Gentleman wants to know what I agree with and I am telling him. I agree with my right hon. Friend when she says that it is not a matter for this House to say whether the claim is reasonable, but that it should go to an independent court of inquiry. 1 do not agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whom the right hon. Gentleman quoted, when he said that the union was wholly unreasonable.

Mr. Carr

The right hon. Gentleman must surely agree that since the two parties, as recently as last August, made an agreement that if they could not agree between themselves they should go to arbitration, that is the right way to deal with it. The right hon. Gentleman referred to what I said in the House. I have what I said in the House before me. I said, and the acting Chairman of the Post Office also said, that we accepted—I do not go back on this—the sincerity of the misunderstanding on the union's side about the legal or compulsory nature of the undertaking to go to arbitration.

I sought the permission of the parties for the agreement to be placed in the Library so that hon. Members could read it. I think that anybody who reads the agreement—I also made this clear in the House—is likely to think that it was an obligation. But I am not pressing that point. Nevertheless, if it were not an absolute obligation, it was certainly a clear statement of intention of how the union and the Post Office would expect to settle disputes if they could not settle them by normal negotiation. Other unions in the Post Office have been prepared to do this.

I have specifically, in the course of my talks, put to both sides whether the problem is the nomination of people who could be trusted by the union as much as by anybody else. I have been told clearly: no; the objection is to arbitration in principle.

Mr. Ivor Richard (Barons Court)


Mr. Carr

So it is not true to say that arbitration is impossible because of the slowness to put forward names—I admit slowness—on the Post Office side. I do not know the reasons and I do not wish to judge the reasons for that relative slowness. [Interruption.] If I thought that that prevented arbitration, of course I should be interested. But other unions in the Post Office have not thought that it prevented arbitration. I admit the relative slowness of the Post Office to put forward names for the panel—it is a pity that the Post Office was so slow—but that has not prevented other unions from going to arbitration; nor need it prevent this union from going to arbitration. It has been made clear to me that the objection is on principle, not on names.

Mr. Richard

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way and for putting a copy of the agreement in the Library so that we can read it. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree, first, that the agreement provides for a tribunal consisting of an independent permanent chairman and of two other representatives, one drawn from a panel approved by the union and the other drawn from a panel approved by the Post Office, but that the person who picks the other two members of the tribunal is the chairman himself? Does the right hon. Gentleman also agree that this agreement states: Where on any reference the member of the Tribunal are unable to agree as to their award, the matter shall be decided by the chairman. Is the right hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting that any union could agree to his nomination of an independent chairman for a tribunal after a dispute has taken place?

Mr. Carr

I have put to the parties whether there was any difficulty about people, and I have been told by both that this is not the objection; it is an objection in principle to arbitration. That is the state of affairs.

I think that the House must look at the facts about this dispute and, above all, about what might best now be done to bring it to an end. Opinions will differ for a long time whether this debate or the right hon Lady's speech will have contributed to its solution.

First, let me summarise the facts about the union's claim and the Post Office offer. The union's original claim was quantified in 1970 for implementation on 1st January this year for a minimum wage increase for almost all grades of 15 per cent. The total claim was equivalent to an overall increase of 19½ per cent. on the Post Office wages bill.

The Post Office, in reply to this claim, made an offer on 8th January of 7 per cent. and, when this was rejected, increased the offer to 8 per cent. on 14th January. The Post Office felt that 8 per cent. was the maximum addition to the wages bill which it could accept in view of the financial state of its business and the essential need to limit charges to its customers. The Post Office considered that to concede the claim would severely damage its financial position and that this would be against the long-term interests of the staff just as much as of the public because it believed that a further increase in charges, coming immediately on top of the largest increase ever which was due to come into force last week, would force a downward spiral in the volume of Post Office business. When the offer of 8 per cent. was rejected by the union, the Post Office asked the union, in accordance with the arbitration agreement, to join the Corporation in referring the dispute to arbitration.

I have reminded the House—I think it was right that the House and the country and the union as well as the employer should be reminded—that this agreement was made last August and that it is a serious matter indeed to pay no attention to it. However, the U.P.W. was not prepared to go to arbitration, and it argued that the agreement did not compel it to do so at the request of the Post Office.

I have already said—and 1 stick to it—and the acting chairman has said that as a matter of good faith we accept that misunderstanding about the obligatory nature of the agreement to go to arbitration. But it still does not take away from the fact that this was a declared intention, even if it were not an absolute obligation, written into the agreement and signed as recently as last August.

On 15th January the executive council of the union decided to call an all-out strike from midnight on the 19th. Before the strike began I had discussions with both the union and the Corporation and I found their positions unchanged since the negotiations had broken down. The union considered that the only basis for a settlement was a substantial increase in the offer. The Post Office said that its offer was limited by its financial position and it could not contemplate a further increase in the total size of its wages bill, for the reasons which I and the Post Office have given not only to the union, but to the public on a number of occasions. At the time of that meeting on 15th January, neither side had changed its attitude about arbitration.

Since 15th January I have kept in close touch with the union and the Post Office and on several occasions, as the House knows, I have had long discussions with them.

During the weekend before last, the Post Office put to the union a new proposal: namely, that it would increase its offer to 9 per cent. in return for the union's agreement to certain productivity measures. The union rejected that offer, and stated that it must be increased from 9 per cent. to 13 per cent. without any conditions relating to efficiency and productivity. The union made it clear that it was not opposed to improving productivity and efficiency, and would pursue that question with the Post Office. I made that clear, and I make it clear again. But it is also clear that the union insisted on putting it in writing that it would not have any conditions whatsoever attached to this settlement; the commitment to productivity was to be general, and could in no way be attached to the settlement.

Negotiations having broken down again, the union proposed that the two sides should meet under a mediator. I again saw both parties without delay. In its discussions with me the union explained that the mediator's rôle would be limited to conciliation, in the strictest sense, and that it—the union—could not accept that the mediator should ever have any authority of his own to cut the knot if he failed to bring the parties to agreement.

At the union's request I conveyed this explanation to the Post Office and it, having gone away to think about it, announced that it felt unable to accept the union's suggestion about a mediator on those lines because, in the Post Office's view, what was needed was an independent judgment on the fundamental differences existing between the two sides, and it said that the only way to achieve this was by arbitration—to which it had agreed.

I had a very full discussion with Mr. Jackson on 17th February—last week— when we agreed that at this juncture further conciliation meetings might do more harm than good, in view of the wide gap between the parties. It had already been exhaustively explored both between the parties on their own and under my chairmanship.

The next step was that Mr. Victor Feather and Sir Sidney Greene saw me on 19th February—last Friday—to discuss what further possibilities there might be in terms of action to resolve the dispute. As they made clear publicly, they had not come to see me with any specific suggestion, and in our long discussion, unfortunately, we made no progress towards finding means of breaking the present deadlock.

The essential features of the current position are that the Post Office has increased its offer from 7 per cent. to 8 per cent., and then from 8 per cent. to 9 per cent—with the extra money to be found from productivity savings—while the Union of Post Office Workers has reduced its claim from 19½ per cent. to 13 per cent., without productivity conditions. The Post Office wishes the matter to be referred to arbitration, but the union is not prepared to go to arbitration.

That is the situation. Where can we go from there? How can we find a means of bringing about a resolution of this dispute—because I believe that that is the desire of the whole country and, equally, of the parties. First, there was the alternative of arbitration—which I shall not labour any more, except to repeat that it is still there and ought to be remembered as being here, because agreements, especially recent agreements, must be of importance in industrial relations.

The second alternative is that of conciliation. The union is determined not to accept the arbitration to which it agreed, and conciliation is the next most obvious alternative. In all the circumstances, that is certainly the method that I should prefer, especially since both parties have repeatedly stressed to me their wish, above all, to reach a negotiated settlement. I would like to try this course. If the Opposition allege—I think that they have done—that the meetings that I have had with the parties were merely going through the motions of creating the semblance of activity, let them heed not my testimony but that of the union's own leader.

The right hon. Lady knows from her own experience that whether conciliation can help to bring about a settlement depends on the attitude of the parties. The process of probing positions in depth may reveal common ground, not explicitly recognised by them before, which can sometimes lead to a settlement. Alternatively, one or both sides might, in the light of events, modify their positions, and if one is quick in conciliation and picks that modification up, that can lead to a settlement, But however energetically conciliation is pursued, in the final analysis the outcome depends on the attitude of the parties. It may help to realise the potentialities of a settlement, but conciliation cannot create them.

As for the future chances of conciliation, I can only assure the House and also the parties that my services remain available and that I shall be keeping in close touch with them in order not to lose any opportunity that may arise in the coming days. I repeat that I very much hope that it will be endorsed by the House and that both parties are listening to what I am saying.

The third alternative would be a court of inquiry. This is the popular remedy that is being pressed on me at the moment—in particular by the right hon. Lady. I understand it, and I do not complain about it. But I must ask the House to face with realism the difficulties of appointing a court of inquiry in present circumstances. I should like to examine that position.

First, it is wrong to assume that the appointment of a court of inquiry should be virtually automatic in a serious dispute that has gone on as long as this one has. The right hon. Lady will recollect the strike that paralysed a major motor assembly plant on Merseyside, in which —no doubt for good reasons—she waited for nine weeks before appointing a court of inquiry. She will remember the strike of Vickers of Barrow, which held up vital defence equipment, and in which, for equally good reasons, she waited until the strike had gone on for a further seven months before appointing a court of inquiry.

I believe that altogether the right hon. Lady appointed 13 or 14 courts of inquiry, and that in about half the cases the strike went on longer than this one has gone on before she appointed a court of inquiry. I am not saying that that is an argument of itself, or that we should not appoint one at any particular moment, but it is evidence to show that my immediate predecessor found in disputes circumstances that led her to delay the setting up of courts of inquiry, no doubt for good reasons—some of which are not always easy to explain, because there is always the question of confidentiality.

There are also questions of judgment—because the right hon. Lady will know that it is largely a matter of judgment to decide to appoint a court of inquiry and, if so, when. Judgment can be fallible. Judgment can be made only by those who are intimately concerned with the dispute. At no time has either the union or the Post Office asked me to appoint a court of inquiry. That is not conclusive, on its own, but it is an important differentiation from the recent electricity supply dispute, for example.

Are the Opposition claiming that it is always the untrammelled right of a union to decide at will, on the one hand, not to honour an agreement that it has recently made about arbitration, and, on the other, to accept a court of inquiry imposed upon it without any commitment whatsoever to call off the strike while it is sitting, or any commitment to accept what it recommends? Are they saying that the union has the right, thereafter, to continue or resume the strike, or even to require the employer then to observe an arbitration agreement?

Third, the House must realise that if the court of inquiry method is to maintain its unique value in British industrial relations it must be used sparingly. It cannot be applied too easily, readily or frequently, particularly in cases, let me repeat, where the parties have recent agreements about the method for resolving disputes and differences which arise between them—

Mr. Dan Jones (Burnley)

It would be infinitely preferable to a strike.

Mr. Carr

What would have been infinitely preferable to a strike would be to honour an agreement on arbitration.

Fourth—[HON. MEMBERS: "YOU are frightened of a court."]—and related to these arguments, is the fact that we have just had the Wilberforce court of inquiry, which reported less than two weeks ago. That court of inquiry, although dealing specifically with the pay dispute in electricity supply, was required by its terms of reference to take into account the interests of the public and of the national economy—

Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)

It said that it was not competent.

Mr. Carr

It did not say that it was not competent.

It made strong recommendations on a number of issues which are not only of universal application, but which are central to this dispute—namely, the need to carry out the obligations of procedure agreements, including particularly the obligation to go to arbitration, which was one of the strong points in the Wilberforce Report, and the need to relate pay increases to specific improvements in productivity and labour efficiency, another point which is a central issue to this dispute.

The Wilberforce Report underlined the fact that, in the country's present "dangerous state of spiralling inflation", …a large increase in pay beyond the growth of productivity … would be bound to give another twist to the spiral". The Report also underlined the need for moderation in settlements other than in the electricity supply industry, because it said that if the increase which it had recommended in electricity supply and which it regarded as exceptional and justified by the record of labour productivity in that industry was to stand, other settlements could not be on a comparable basis.

These are matters of principle which the Government regard as of first importance. The appointment of a further inquiry, which would inevitably have to traverse this ground again within two weeks of the Wilberforce Report having traversed it and reported on it, would be both superfluous in the national interest and gratuitously damaging to the authority of the Wilberforce findings—[Interruption.]

Mrs. Castle


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)

Order. Many hon. Members want to speak in this very short debate and it will be the wish of the whole House, I think, that both the opening speech and Mr. Secretary Carr's speech should be heard. I think that it would. be in the interests of the House to allow that with less interruption.

Mrs. Castle

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way. He is getting to the heart of this. What he is universalising from the Wilberforce Report are those bits of the report which meet his claim. Will he not also read to the House what Wilberforce said about it being in the public interest that workers in a vital public service should be properly paid and should have confidence that their case for improved earnings should be not overlooked but periodically and fairly reviewed? Therefore, it came out against discrimination against the public employees, which has been part of the Government's policy.

Mr. Carr

It is true that Wilberforce said that, but then we get back to subjective judgments about what is the right amount, and one thing which the Report said quite clearly—I do not want to get back on to the "numbers game" in relation to Wilberforce if we can help it—was that increases unrelated to productivity—perhaps the right hon. Lady and I can agree about this—recommended in that industry should not be more than 10.9 per cent. in the September to September wage year or 11.3 per cent. on an annual basis. It also said that even that was justified only by the exceptional record in manpower reducing and productivity in this industry, and that if other settlements were allowed to come up to that sort of level this would not stand for the electricity power workers.

Finally, I want to give one other reason which the House must take into account in considering the court of inquiry possibility. In the Post Office, the job of unlocking the extra efficiency and productivity on which higher individual earnings can alone be soundly based is, in my view, a longer, more technically complicated job than can be done by a court of inquiry. In the electricity industry, the basic agreements were already there, the methods had already been applied and tested and proved to be right and to work for about 20 per cent. of the labour force. It was therefore easy for a court of inquiry to take over and say, "Let us encourage this, because it clearly works and if we give that an incentive it will benefit all the workers of the industry".

Unfortunately, that has not yet been reached here, and I believe that this unlocking of the productivity and efficiency which can provide higher earnings for the people in the Post Office requires determined negotiation between the two sides themselves over a considerable period, and that it cannot be done just by a court of inquiry sitting at the most for two or three weeks. Of course, this dispute—

Mr. Orme

What are you going to do then?

Mr. Carr

I have said that I believe that conciliation is the right course in this dispute.

Of course this dispute could be settled quickly, if pressure were put on the Post Office to increase its total labour costs by more than the 8 per cent. which its present offer entails, but if the dispute is to be settled in this way, one of two results must inevitably follow—either the Post Office must again put up its charges, or the increase in prices would have to be avoided by means of a subsidy from the taxpayer.

In advising the rejection of both those courses, I can do no better than quote from what the Union of Post Office Workers itself said in its journal a year ago, immediately after receiving a settlement of 12 per cent. As I sit down, I should like the House to consider those words—

Mr. Orme

What are you going to do now?

Mr. Carr

This is a quotation from the union's own journal of February last year: As result of this wages offer, the Postal business will be about £29,000,000 in the red. This is a serious business for all of us who earn a living in the Postal service. For if our wages and conditions are to improve in the future it is essential that we should be employed by a profitable industry. The price of posting a letter will have to be increased, but even 1d. on both 4d. and 5d. mail will only bring in about £26,000,000. which is slightly more than the cost of the present offer to our Postal members. So, even if prices rise substantially, there is no guarantee of profitability. There is also a danger in continually raising charges. This may lead to a reduction in mail posted, for telephone and telex are becoming increasingly competitive with the postal services. In addition, when prices were increased in 1968. the level of posted traffic dropped and this drop has not been completely recovered. The danger we face is not dissimilar to that which existed until recently in British Rail, where every increase in charges led to a decrease in traffic and finally to a reduction in services. It went on: In these circumstances there are some who would argue for Government subsidy. Those who do so forget recent history. Subsidy will bring in its train political interference. The Beeching Plan on the railways and the pit closures in the mining industry are examples of what can happen to a subsidised nationalised industry when the politicians start calling the tune. These are the basic stark facts facing us so far as postal services are concerned. All of us must realise that our future well-being is wrapped up in these facts. We cannot draw water from an empty well, nor good wages from a bankrupt industry. I repeat that it is through hard, concrete productivity schemes that the door to higher earnings is to be unlocked. I am ready, and I repeat that I am ready, to conciliate in an attempt to bring that about, but I am sure that those words which were uttered by the union last year are as true today as they were then. I beg the union's executive to remember their own words when they meet on Wednesday.

5.31 p.m.

Mr. Charles R. Morris (Manchester, Openshaw)

The attitude of the Secretary of State to the formidable case advanced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) was to some extent predictable, but the nation and Post Office workers are asking the same question: how long is the drift to go on?

We have now lost six million working days in terms of the Post Office staff. In revenue terms, the Post Office has to date lost in excess of £17 million. The Secretary of State should not complain if people assert that he has merely been going through the motions in relation to his powers of conciliation, and the voices which are asserting that are not confined to these benches.

After the right hon. Gentleman's last intervention—or should I call it his first?—when he invited the Union of Post Office Workers and the Post Office management to discuss the issue with him, the acting Chairman of the Post Office Board put out a telex message to his head postmasters indicating that the meeting had been called as a political expedient to meet political pressures and to serve public relations. Can the right hon. Gentleman refute that? Can he deny that the acting Chairman put out that message to head postmasters?

Mr. Chataway


Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)

Order. I have pointed out that this is a short debate. Many hon. Members want to speak in it.

Mr. Chataway

Because it is a short debate, I hesitated to intervene. I rise merely to remind the hon. Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. Charles R. Morris) that his reference is out of context and relates to one paragraph from a long private message.

Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)

Was it true?

Mr. Chataway

The hon. Gentleman knows that there was no charge whatever in it about my right hon. Friend having called the meeting for political expediency or whatever other reason the hon. Gentleman mentioned.

Mr. Morris

If that is the right hon. Gentleman's reaction, then let the Minister make the whole of the telex message available to hon. Members.

It is a privilege to be participating in this debate because I have been concerned with the interests of this group of loyally dedicated public servants for about a quarter of a century. It has been a privilege to be associated with these public-spirited employees for this length of time and it is a tragedy that they should now be in this position.

In the context of the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer last week, it is reasonable to ask what manner of men and women we are considering. Post Office workers are relied upon for the communications of the nation. They have among their numbers people who go out in all sorts of weather and in all kinds of terrain—from the Highlands and Islands to the rural and urban areas—to deliver the mail. They man our telephone exchanges, which serve isolated communities, and Post Office counters throughout the nation. They are basically decent people who seek nothing more than to serve the community. [Interruption.]

Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)

On a point of order. Are you aware, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that there has been heckling from hon. Gentlemen opposite for some time while my hon. Friend has been speaking and that you have taken no notice of this—[HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."]—but that you are on your feet as soon as one of my hon. Friends says something?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I have done my best to control the debate.

Mr. Loughlin

You should control hon. Gentlemen opposite.

Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not wish to criticise the Chair.

Mr. Loughlin

I have criticised it.

Mr. Morris

I certainly do not take exception to the heckling of hon. Gentlemen opposite. It is an occupational hazard, anyway.

I emphasise that Post Office workers generally are responsible people and that their union leaders are not politically-motivated industrial anarchists. I urge hon. Gentlemen opposite to observe the lengths to which they have gone to ameliorate the effects of the strike among certain sections of the community. Indeed, has there ever been a union which has spent so much of its own money to serve the community while being involved in industrial action?

Only last week the Glasgow branch of the Union of Post Office Workers spent £1,100 of its own money to ensure that union staff provided emergency services, the union having undertaken to provide them, to the local community. These are the people who have been described in a number of speeches by hon. Gentlemen opposite as "wholly unreasonable". These are the people who are represented by the Union of Post Office Workers. They are not industrial Luddites. When I hear the Secretary of State say that productivity schemes will unlock the door to higher earnings, I am bound to wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware that these are the people who have been conducting productivity negotiations with the Post Office for half a century or more.

Consider the various ways in which the staff side has co-operated. When subscriber trunk dialling came to this country, there was wholehearted support and co-operation from the staff side interests. Postal mechanisation was introduced with the wholehearted support and co-operation of the staff side. Indeed, the downgrading of hundreds of head postmasters came about with the cooperation of the union and the staff side. Yet we have a Secretary of State who prattles on about the time taken to unlock the door to efficiency and productivity. I invite the right hon. Gentleman to look at the Post Office workers' record on productivity.

Now, a few words on the nature of the claim itself. We hear it asserted that the Union of Post Office workers is a wholly unreasonable union, a wholly unreasonable element in the community, politically motivated. That is a travesty of the truth. As the Secretary of State himself said, the original claim was for 15 to 19½ per cent. Against the background of the discussions which they had, these so-called wholly unreasonable people said that they were prepared to consider a 13 per cent. increase. But this was dismissed. They were described as wholly unreasonable, although they indicated that they were prepared to reconsider their position on the claim.

Mr. Orme

Perhaps my hon. Friend would put to the House what these figures mean in monetary terms for the wage packets of the average worker.

Mr. Morris

That is another facet of the claim. The union is asking for a minimum increase of £3. That may seem a formidable increase until it is seen against the sort of wage about which one is talking. I shall deal later with the point made by the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications when he said in answer to a Question that a postman's average pay was about £25 a week. In fact. for the postman in the Provinces who has not access to the overtime which some people in London and other big centres are obliged to work, his take-home pay is about £16 a week. The Post Office cleaner has a take-home pay of about £12 to £13 a week.

What is the phrase we hear?— "spiralling inflation"—yet that is the sort of money we are talking about now; £12 to £13 is less than some hon. Members spend on a night out.

Next, I come to the question of incremental scales. I hope that I shall be forgiven if I am tempted to be a little emotional on this subject, for I was obliged to wait until I was 33 years of age before I reached the maximum of the scale in the grade in which I served in the Post Office. The question of incremental scales is a serious issue for the post and telegraph officer and telephonist grades. They are an anachronism, and any Post Office court of inquiry—call it what one will—ought to give attention to them.

As a result of the incremental scales, postal and telegraph officers are obliged to wait until they are 30 years of age to get the rate for the job. It may be said that this is a condition of employment and people knew what the scales were before they joined. But what is the effect? As a young counter clerk serving on a Post Office counter, I have been the youngest chap there in terms of years though in terms of experience I may have served longer than anyone else in the office. But, because of my age, I am denied the rate for the job. Moreover, in certain circumstances, one is obliged to train other staff who are receiving a higher rate of pay.

This is morally wrong, and the incremental scales ought to be abolished. A telephonist may be working alongside another telephonist on the same switchboard; she may be more efficient, she may be carrying a greater load of calls, yet she cannot have a higher rate for the job because the pay scales take account of age and not of the efficiency or merit of the individual concerned. This is one matter which, I very much hope, will be settled very soon.

As one postal worker said, the incremental scale is enough to make one look back in anger to the date of one's birth. That is the effect of it. For the P. and T.O. and telephonist grades, date of birth is the all-determining factor for rates of pay.

We have been talking about the principles for determining Post Office pay. This is not the first time that Post Office workers have come up against Conservative Governments on this issue. They had the same problem when they were civil servants and came within the ambit of the National Staff Side of the Civil Service. They had the problem repeatedly because Conservative Governments have tried to influence pay levels generally by seeking to depress the wage and salary scales of public servants. This is why in 1955 the Priestley Commission came to the conclusion it did, that civil servants, which included Post Office workers, had a right to the scale of pay which was paid by a reasonable employer in outside industry.

What was unreasonable about that? It was said, "We shall find this rate of pay as paid by a reasonable employer in outside industry by establishing an impartial independent Civil Service Pay Research Unit which can go to outside industry and determine the analogues, establishing the principle of comparability."

But in the transition from Civil Service to public corporation we have lost. The Post Office worker no longer enjoys access to the Civil Service Pay Research Unit. This is one of the anxieties now current in the Post Office. It is one of the anxieties influencing Post Office workers in their approach to arbitration. The Government should look again at the question of establishing a court of inquiry.

I warn the Secretary of State and the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications that there will be a great legacy of despair in Post Office industrial relations if this dispute is not resolved in the very near future. They must recognise, as all hon. Members recognise, the harm now done not only to industrial relations but to personal relationships in the Post Office, even when the dispute is settled. Let there be no mistake about it. One may judge Post Office workers in a variety of ways, but, certainly against the background of their attitude and approach during the past five or six weeks, no one can dispute their determination not to be ground into the dust either by the Post Office or by the Government.

I said that I should come back to the statement by the Minister, in response to a Question about two weeks ago, to the effect that the average pay of postmen was in excess of £25 a week. What he ought to have explained was that that average of £25 a week took account of a 51-hour week. Nor did he explain that it was based on a 1 per cent. one-week sample and that it was asked for by the union and when it was made available to the union, the management said that it should be treated with scepticism because it was based only on a 1 per cent. one-week sample. And that is in spite of the argument trotted out by the Minister. Those facts should have been made clear when he made his statement.

Mr. Chataway

I am sorry to take time with an interruption, but the hon. Gentleman has mentioned me directly. He will know that the survey was carried out according to the principles of the Department of Employment and Productivity, as it was then, and that nobody has suggested any reason why it should have been an over-estimate on that account.

Mr. Morris

One clear fact about this dispute which is emerging is that there is a growing public feeling that Post Office workers and their families are about to be starved into submission. I hope that the Minister will refute that suggestion and that the Secretary of State will do all he can to bring the two sides together and that we shall have a court of inquiry so that the Post Office workers get the fair and just wage which their contribution to the community entitles them to have.

Mr. Raphael Tuck (Watford)

On a point of order. As time is short, I wonder Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether you would ask hon. Members to limit their speeches to five or ten minutes?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)

I doubt whether the Chair would have great success in that, but hon. Members have heard what has been suggested.

5.51 p.m.

Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)

The hon. Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. Charles R. Morris), who has himself an honourable record of service in the postal service as well as in the service of the House, devoted a substantial part of his speech to testifying to the work and value of the union and workers in the industry. From that I certainly do not in general dissent, although I shall criticise their attitude to arbitration in this case. I believe that this union has a good and responsible record, and I started my own Standing Order No. 9 debate on the postal charges in the last Parliament by testifying to my sense of the value of the postal workers and the debt which the community owes to them.

I want now, though, to come to the central and startling paradox of this matter—that in spite of a clear agreement to refer postal disputes to arbitration, it has not been possible to settle this dispute by arbitration. Indeed, the paradox goes deeper: it has not been possible even to attempt a settlement by arbitration. Therefore, the House must ask itself, "Why not?" What possible justification, what plausible explanation, can there be for this paradox in either the terms of the agreement, or the generality of the circumstances?

We start with the Post Office Act, 1969, the Act of the late Labour Government. It places a clear mandatory duty on the Post Office to institute machinery for the negotiation of terms and conditions of employment and for arbitration. That can be seen in Schedule 1(11)(1)(a). It is pursuant to that statutory duty that the agreement was entered into on 27th August, 1970. That agreement is between the Post Office and the various unions and at the end of it we see the signatures to it, and signing on behalf of the Union of Post Office Workers in a bold and confident hand, "Tom Jackson, General Secretary".

Clause 2 of that agreement says that in default of a settlement by negotiation of any case falling within the scope of the agreement—and to see what falls within the scope of the agreement, we turn to Clause 5 in which the first item is rates of pay— the Post Office and such one or more Unions shall if either or any of the parties so require jointly request the Secretary of State to refer the matter to the Post Office Arbitration Tribunal. Those are the words and they are crystal clear.

It is true that Clause 7 of the agreement opts out of legal enforceability, as it is entitled to do, of course. But the union has not taken that point. In view of its attitude and the attitude of Labour Members to the legal enforceability of the provisions of the Industrial Relations Bill, the union could hardly argue that arbitration could be effective only if there were legal enforceability. So it did not take that point.

However, the point it took was rather extraordinary. It took the view that the agreement did not require one party to accept arbitration if the other required it. How that meaning can be read into the plain language of Clause 2 of the arbitration agreement of 27th August I find difficult to understand. We are told that the misunderstanding is in good faith and for my part I entirely accept that, but it is a clear misconstruction of the plain language of the agreement.

Therefore, on the first matter we must come to the conclusion that the union is in clear breach of an agreement recently concluded and requiring reference to arbitration.

Mr. Dan Jones


Sir D. Walker-Smith

In the ordinary way, as the House knows, I not only give way to interruptions, but welcome them; but in a Standing Order No. 9 debate one cannot do so, much as I should like to. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will acquit me of any discourtesy in that regard. The fact that the union is in breach of the agreement does not end the matter. An equally important question is why it wants to be in breach, why it should want to resist arbitration. We have not had any very clear statements on that from the union itself, but two matters have been urged in justification on its behalf, and I propose shortly to deal with them. Those two matters are, first, that the union has lost faith in arbitration because of Government action or interference and, secondly, that it is impossible to find an appropriately independent chairman.

Mr. Edwin Wainwright (Dearne Valley)


Sir D. Walker-Smith

I am sorry, but I cannot give way; I explained why not.

Mr. Wainwright


Sir D. Walker-Smith

I have not given way.

Mr. Wainwright

Give way.

Sir D. Walker-Smith


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Dearne Valley (Mr. Edwin Wainwright) knows that if the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not give way, he must resume his seat.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

I thought that I had clearly explained why I could not give way. I must point out to the hon. Member that in a short debate it is rather selfish to seek to interrupt and so to take up time at the expense of other hon. Members.

I find the proposal about the difficulties of finding a chairman particularly hard to understand. The composition of the tribunal is set out in Clause 2 of the agreement. It says that there shall be an independent chairman appointed by the Secretary of State, but only after consultation with both parties, and two other members each representing one of the parties. What could be fairer than that? It follows very closely the well-established practice of the Industrial Courts Act, 1919. Surely there can be no great difficulty in finding a suitably independent Chairman to preside over the tribunal? Surely there must in the great resources of this country be at least one just man? Otherwise we should be an even worse case than the Cities of the Plain.—[HON. MEMBERS: "What about Clegg?"]—There has been an effort to bring in a certain ex post facto justification of the union's scepticism as to the chairmanship by reference to the Government's decision not to continue the appointment of Professor Clegg. That is not a matter which is before us now.

Mr. Edwin Wainwright

Why was he sacked?

Sir D. Walker-Smith

We may have further discussion about that. The Government were clearly within their legal entitlement not to continue his appointment. Whether he was right to accept nomination as a trade union representative in view of his position as an indepenment Chairman, whether the Government were wise to dispense with his services and in the manner in which they did it. are matters which can be discussed on another occasion. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about Lord George-Brown."]—I am bound to say that if I had taken this decision I should have felt some momentary apprehension at the emphatic and instant endorsement of my action by that impulsive and idiosyncratic nobleman.

But these are matters which can no doubt be debated on another occasion. They are not immediately relevant to this situation. It is unthinkable that we cannot in the resources of this country find a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, a judge, a retired public servant, or an eminent academic with the necessary objectivity, humanity and cerebral capacity to preside over his Tribunal.

I come, therefore, to the second suggested justification, that Government interference has devalued industrial arbitration by introducing general policy matters arising in the context of inflation. Of course, the reference to the national economy came in the terms of reference to the Wilberforce Court of Inquiry, but the Wilberforce Report deals quite clearly with this. It makes it clear at paragraph 4 that the court would have taken the wider questions of the national economy into account even in the absence of a Government directive. Of course it would. Inflation and its economic consequences will have to be taken into account by any industrial tribunal, just as judges in the courts of law take judicial cognisance of the general state of affairs in the world. But paragraph 4.2. adds: we are not required … to pronounce generally upon the national economy: this is a function of government … The court made it clear that it was directing itself to the matters referred to it, and that the Treasury Memorandum was not imposed on it. The court asked for the Memorandum, but evaluated its content for itself.

Here we come to another strange paradox overlooked by hon. Members opposite. The introduction of the reference to the national economy, of which complaint is made, came in the terms of reference of the Wilberforce Court of Inquiry because it was a court of inquiry and not an arbitration. When there is a court of inquiry such as the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) has demanded, it is the Secretary of State who formulates the terms of reference. But if the union and the Post Office has the arbitration according to their agreement it is not the Secretary of State who formulates the terms of reference. As can be seen from Clause 6 of the agreement, they will be formulated by the parties. Therefore, it is paradoxical for right hon. and hon. Members opposite to be demanding the very course that enables the Secretary of State, if he so desires, to write in the reference to the national economy.

Mr. Dan Jones

The Government will not accept a court of inquiry—that is what is paradoxical.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

What matters should the arbitration take into account? The tests for the arbitral tribunal are set out quite clearly in the Wilberforce Report: We shall consider the pay history of the industry, the recent pay settlements in it, arguments based upon productivity, upon comparison with pay in other industries, and upon the cost of living. All those matters would be relevant in the arbitration assessed against the general knowledge of the background of the national economy, which no intelligent person can expect to ignore. The union could in such an arbitration produce evidence to show, if it be the case, that rates of pay lower than it claims will render the service unattractive, with a consequent undermanning of the industry or a lowering of its standards. The Post Office can seek to show that rates higher than it has offered will jeopardise the carrying on of the service. It is true that it has a monopoly, and therefore cannot show the effect in a competitive market as in a normal industrial arbitration; but it could still call evidence to show the effect of higher rates on consumers and on prices, itself surely a very relevant aspect of the public interest.

I conclude that there is nothing in the dispute which disqualifies it from benefiting from the well-tried processes of industrial arbitration. There is no benefit in substituting a court of inquiry. From the point of view of the union, there may be detriment. There is no benefit, either, in trying to seek the services of a so-called mediator. The mediator who is wanted is apparently a mediator not only with no power of decision but even with no power of recommendation—a sort of arbitral eunuch, a rôle which is neither dignified nor productive.

The House must face the position. If there be no arbitration, the only alternative is for the parties to find their own solution together. But is there to be no arbitration? Whatever other solution is proposed or adopted—a court of inquiry, so-called mediation, the forced capitulation of one side or the other, the prolongation of this injurious strike—none of these courses can bring any advantage which arbitration would not bring, and inevitably would bring much detriment that arbitration would avoid.

I believe that there is no valid objection to arbitration either under the agreement or in the normal practice of collective bargaining. There is no valid objection either in logic or in equity.

There is this further danger. If the repudiation of arbitration be accepted, it will inevitably be regarded, not by the union—I have testified to my high regard for its responsibility—but by some outside as a victory for intransigence. It will be said that it is possible and acceptable to enter into agreements and to abide by them only if it suits, to accept the decision of an umpire but only conditionally. That would, I believe, be an attitude and approach at variance with the basic practice and philosophy of the British people. It would do grave damage to the concept of collective bargaining, as the Wilberforce Report said, and also, I fear, to much else besides. It would constitute a weakening of the force of the pledged word, an erosion of the rule of law and an undermining of one of the central citadels of our way of life.

6.10 p.m.

Mr. Raphael Tuck (Watford)

I cannot understand why the trade unions are always the whipping boy for every rise in price and every inflation we experience. Apparently they are always wrong. "Union" equals "strike" according to hon. Members opposite and much of the national Press. "Union" goes with "strike" like bread and butter go together, like Chamberlain went with his umbrella and Churchill with his cigar.

But trade unions are not unreasonable, nor always striking. Hon. Members opposite should read the booklet, "Reason", published by the T.U.C. I will give just one example from the first table of figures, which shows the working days lost by strikes per 1,000 persons. In Canada, the figure is 1,200, in Eire over 1,200, in Italy over 1,000, in the United States over 1,100, and in the United Kingdom 200. Does this figure for the United Kingdom reflect unreasonable people who are always striking?

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman when he talks of the national interest. I think that the national interest is a very good thing. Patriotism is a wonderful thing. But the national interest, to me, means the interest of the community as a whole which is bound up with the interests of its members. Patriotism is a very good thing here but vicarious patriotism is utterly contemptible. We talk about the interests of the community as a whole. Why expect the trade unions and the workers to do the job and to be patriots while other people can play the dirtiest tricks in the world and lower the country's standards without any rebuke from hon. Members opposite? Why was nothing said by hon. Members opposite when the financial speculators tried and almost succeeded in bringing the United Kingdom to its knees financially during the Wilson Administration? Nothing was said about that then.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)

My hon. Friend is wrong. There was the well-known banker who said, "It may be anti-British, but it makes sense to me."

Mr. Tuck

Quite so. Nor has anything been said by hon. Members opposite about retailers and others who raise their prices far beyond what is necessary to counteract increases in labour costs. It is always the unions who are to blame. I urge the right hon. Gentleman to cry out against vicarious patriotism and to dragoon his people into falling into patriotic line with the interests of the community.

If the system I have advocated had been in operation, this strike would never have happened. If Tom Jackson and his colleagues had been on the board of the Post Office in equal numbers with the managerial staff, the strike would not have occurred because they would have considered the community's interests and the interests of their workers and would never have made too great a demand. They would have been planners, not bargainers. Their followers, the workers, would have fallen into line and would have agreed gladly to anything they suggested because they would have known that they had their interests at heart.

The trade unions are not unreasonable and never have been. They showed reason when we asked them to tighten their belts in 1966. They did tighten their belts, but when prices went up they could not be expected to tighten them indefinitely. What would have happened if my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) had still been in office? She would have spent day and night with the two sides around the table arguing and discussing until they were so exhausted that they would have had to agree. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to follow her example and not to sit on the fence with a benign smile on his face—as Churchill would have said, "Like a mugwump, with his mug on one side and his wump on the other."

If I were evil minded, I would say that this situation is pleasing and nectar to the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, that they like doing nothing, that they welcome a continuation of the strike because they can then bring the trade unions before the people and say, "Look at what the wicked trade unions are doing to the national interest." But I am not so evil minded. Some people are so evil minded, however. I urge the right hon. Gentleman to show them they are wrong by getting the two sides around the table for discussion and not just sitting as he is doing—doing nothing.

6.16 p.m.

Mr. Antony Buck (Colchester)

I hope that the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Raphael Tuck) will forgive me if I do not follow him into the realms of mugwumpery. I am grateful for the opportunity of making what the House will be glad to hear will be a very short contribution in this small but important debate.

Some three weeks ago, I had an experience which I shall long remember. I had the privilege—and such it was—of addressing postal strikers in my constituency. It was a packed and lively meeting. Their courtesy was absolute, the puzzlement of many of them was considerable and the unhappiness of almost all of them deep. The invitation to address the meeting came because I had made a speech in which I had criticised the union leadership. I did not do so in any exaggerated terms, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not think that I did. I repeated my criticisms to the strikers' meeting.

My first criticism was that I thought it wrong that the union should have taken its members out on strike without there having been a ballot. This matter has not so far been mentioned in the debate. Secondly, I took the view that it was wrong of the union not to go to arbitration. When I repeated those criticisms, I felt that I had a deal of support from the meeting. Perhaps I can reiterate the points now, although not at great length.

The first question is whether there should have been a secret ballot. In my view, before a major mass strike is called in this period of our history, there should be a secret ballot. There were three particular reasons for a ballot in this dispute. First, the offer made by the Post Office of 8 per cent. was not unreasonable. It certainly was not so unreasonable as to justify calling everyone out on strike. It was certainly not the sort of offer which called for total rejection and precipitate strike action. It was a fair offer on which to base the process of going to arbitration. It would have been appropriate for there to have been a secret ballot.

The second reason was that the union in this case had no funds for strike pay. It seems to me that before a union asks its members to undergo this especial hardship, it should ensure that it has the support of the overwhelming majority. That was the view of a number of people in my audience who I talked to later. Thirdly, it seemed to me that the financial state of the Post Office made the whole thing unreal and a ballot especially necessary.

If I am wrong in these criticisms, the union can prove me wrong by having such a secret ballot. The union claims that it has overwhelming support and, of course, a union can get together a large mass meeting and get lots of cheers. The only way of judging the full degree of support for the union is by having a secret ballot. I do not feel that, if such a secret ballot were to be held, on continuing strike action or going to arbitration, there would be a majority in favour of continuing strike action. Maybe I am wrong, but it is easy for the union to put this to the test, and it ought to have done so long ago. Now it should do it, even at this late stage.

The second criticism which I made was on the matter which has already been gone through somewhat in this debate—the question of going to arbitration. It seems to me quite preposterous that the union should not have attempted to implement the agreement entered into as recently as 27th August last year. I appreciate the difficulties about the fact that the machinery under the 27th August agreement had not been set up. I appreciate that, and I think it appropriate to cast strictures on the Post Office Board for not having taken speedy action under the agreement of 27th August. I think it was quite wrong that it should not have taken action to see that the chairman was agreed on and to see that the panel, as it were, of both sides, the Post Office side and the union side, was set up. I think it was wrong, and is certainly placed the union, I fully appreciate, in a position of some difficulty, but, as has been pointed out by my right hon. Friend, this objection which the union raises, about the fact that the machinery has not been set up, does not seem to be the real objection which it is putting forward to arbitration.

If Mr. Jackson and my right hon. Friend were to get together I have little doubt that in a very short while they would be able to agree on a chairman of impartiality who would have the confidence of both sides. Why does not the union at least try, even now, and go to my right hon. Friend and take up his suggestion and consider the appointment of a chairman for the arbitration board? If it came back saying that someone totally unacceptable to the union had been suggested, it would lose nothing. Therefore, I urge again that there should be a procedure to arbitration here.

It is especially important, it seems to to me, in view of what was said in the Report by Lord Wilberforce in speaking of what happened in the case he considered. In paragraph 11.5 of this Report —even these reports seem to have gone metric—it says: Whether or not such an agreement is legally binding, we attach the utmost importance to the proper observance in good faith of procedural obligations once entered into. The House should feel exactly the same type of concern for the observance in good faith of procedural obligations once entered into. These were clearly entered into, and it is a great tragedy that they have not been honoured and pursued.

I took the view that it was a big mistake to have this debate at all, but it seemed to me possible that one good thing might come out of it, and it would be that there should be from both sides of the House a reaffirmation that we agree with the Wilberforce Report about the importance of the proper observance in good faith of procedural obligations once entered into. I should have liked to have seen from hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite a strong exhortation to the unions to agree to the procedures which the union subscribed to and signed as lately as 27th August last year. if the debate were to show that the House is united in wanting the union to go to arbitration that would help. Perhaps the hon. Member who winds up on behalf of the Opposition will reaffirm his belief in the keeping of agreements entered into. If he does that, perhaps the debate may do some good.

6.26 p.m.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

I want to take only a few minutes of the time of the House to make a comment on the speech of the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Buck). He suggested that the union should have had a secret ballot and that it ought to have had a strike benefit organisation. Let me make it absolutely clear to the hon. Gentleman that this is something we have been trying to explain to him and his hon. and right hon. Friends for some time—that each trade union, in our democratic society, has its own system of rules determined by the membership of that organisation. The miners have a ballot, and they have to have a two-thirds majority. If there had had to be a simple majority we should have had a national coal strike not long ago. The Union of Post Office Workers allows its national executive to decide whether there should be a strike or not. My own organisation also determines the question in the same way. Different unions have different sets of rules and I should like to say to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Colchester that this is a matter for the unions to decide; it is for them to decide what rules they are going to have; and it is not for this House, and certainly not for members of the Conservative Party, whether a union should have a strike fund, but this is also a matter for the trade unions and not a matter for the hon. Gentleman.

In any case, I should like to say to him that there is no question that the postmen will be let down by the trade union movement, because they are going to get the full support of the trade union movement. They are getting the full support of the trade union movement, irrespective of the fact that hon. Gentlemen opposite really want to see the postmen driven into submission. If they did not want to see the postmen driven into submission they would have accepted the very sensible proposal by the General Secretary of the union when he urged the establishment of a mediator. What was wrong with that proposal? It was not accepted. Now we have a further proposal—the establishment of a court of inquiry.

It is very interesting. I note that on every occasion the Government get into difficulty they always have to call upon the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) to help them out of their difficulty, because he is the one man on their side in the House who can put up some sort of presentable case on behalf of the Conservative Party. There is nobody on that Front Bench who can put up a sensible case. Right hon. Members there are the most bankrupt group of people I have ever seen in my life. If we listen to them this country will go from bad to worse—as it is going from bad to worse in industrial relations at the present moment. On each occasion they have to call upon the right hon. and learned Gentleman, who very nicely and very interestingly pointed out that Wilberforce was obviously not laying down the whole future of wage levels, but, of course, the right hon. and learned Gentleman tried to make a case that Wilberforce had determined the whole future of the wages situation. Wilberforce was set up to look into one specific case, not the whole of the wages situation for every industry, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows it. He has got to find some way out of that difficulty.

Let me make this quite clear—and I have promised to be only five minutes because there are hon. Friends of mine who wish to speak in this debate. It has been said during the debate that we are not discussing the actual wages claim and conditions claim of the Post Office workers. Well, perhaps some hon. and right hon. Members do not want to discuss that question, but I want to say this, and I want it to be put on record, that, so far as I am concerned, the postmen and the postal workers have a 100 per cent. case, and I want that clearly put on the record that they have a just case. They have a just case, quite frankly, on the basis, as one of my hon. Friends has pointed out, speaking with great knowledge of the post office industry, that the Post Office workers have agreed to the mechanisation of their industry and have done all sorts of things in relation to the modernisation of their industry, and they deserve to have the full fruits of what they have done. I believe that the workers have a just case and that we in the House of Commons should not be discussing whether there should be a court of inquiry or whether there should be arbitration. We should be telling the employers, "It is time you settled with these workers to meet their justified claims." Of course the Government have no intention of saying that.

I said in the House of Commons recently that hon. Gentlemen opposite were totally hypocritical in their attitude to the strike. The Secretary of State comes to the House, puts his hand on his heart and says, "We are fair. We are neutral. We are not on the side of the employers. We are standing above the battle". That is the image he tries to create inside the House, but outside his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on every conceivable occasion goes out of his way to attack the trade unions and the postal workers. What is happening in the Cabinet? Who is on which side? Perhaps the Secretary of State is fair, perhaps he wants to reach a settlement, perhaps he wants to get back to the traditional methods of his Department. If he wants to make a stand he can do what other Ministers have done when they have come up against difficulties within the Cabinet; he can resign and tell the country what is happening.

If he does not resign, then he should not come to the House and try to tell us that he is neutral, because he is not being honest with the House. He is standing behind his hon. Friends and trying to put the postmen into the dust. It will not happen. We will not let it happen. The trade union movement will support those workers until they get their just demands.

6.32 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg (Hampstead)

May I declare three interests? I am an employee of a mail order company, I am chairman of the C.B.I. Postal Committee and I am the only Member of Parliament who is a member of the Post Office Users' National Council appointed by the last Labour Postmaster-General, the right hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse). Presumably he thought that I was a reasonable person to represent the consumer interest.

No responsible statesman who has held office, only someone trying to gain political advantage, would have aligned herself so blatantly with one side in this dispute as did the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), who is desperately trying to work her passage with the trade unions after the hammering they gave her over "In Place of Strife".

Under the previous Government we had two devaluations, the devaluation of the pound and the devaluation of the Ministry of Labour. The right hon. Lady was responsible for devaluing the proper procedures of that Ministry with the last minute huffings and puffings and pipe-smoking which took place in Downing Street instead of in St. James's Square. We on this side of the House are getting tired of the constant vicious attacks, such as the one we have just heard, made by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) against my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. Some hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to think that "honest Bob" is a term of derision, but to the country outside it is a term of praise.

Mr. Buchan


Mr. Finsberg

Like the right hon. Member for Blackburn, I have no time to give way. No series of speeches opposite can obscure the plain fact that we have all been finding out in the past few days from our constituency postbag—[Laughter.]—that the Government are right in saying that they should remain neutral. It is right that the Government are still taking the line which my right hon. Friend put before the House this afternoon. The Labour Party appears to be more interested in supporting strikers, irrespective of the merits of their cases, than in looking after the national interest. One has only to look at the party's attitude to the power workers' strike and, today, at the effrontery of the right hon. Lady's speech in which she started by saying that she would not discuss the details and then, as HANSARD Will show, proceeded to discuss the merits and demerits of the case and attack one side and defend the other side.

Strikes used to be directed against the wicked capitalist bosses, but not any more. They are directed against the innocent public and the public interest. Champions of the public interest are to be found on the Government benches and not on the benches opposite. I have been careful, as has my right hon. Friend, unlike the party opposite, not to attack the Union of Post Office Workers or its leader. I was careful not to be drawn in a radio broadcast on Friday, and I will not be drawn now.

I do not believe that Mr. Jackson realises the full effect of his strike on innocent people. I am not, as the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Raphael Tuck) said, using the unions as a whipping boy. That is not my purpose. I want to put these facts to Mr. Jackson—he was sitting here earlier—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order."]—I put them to you, Mr. Speaker, very plainly. I am sure they will be conveyed to the right quarter through HANSARD.

Pensioners going to their usual Post Office to draw their pensions are being met outside by strikers who hand out leaflets and say, "Sorry, you cannot have your pension because the Post Office has persuaded volunteers to open the Post Offices and we are withdrawing our labour." There is a notice in the Post Office in Parliament Street making this clear.

Mr. Orme


Mr. Speaker

Order. If the hon. Gentleman does not give way the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) must resume his seat.

Mr. Orme


Mr. Finsberg

I am sorry, I have not time. It is cold comfort for elderly people, who are often bemused, to find that the place where they were told to go for their pension is no longer available. I am certain that the executive of the union does not want this to happen and I do not believe they know about it.

Charities like Shelter and the Simon Trust are in a desperate plight because they cannot get their regular flow of money. Untold harm is being done to the long-term interests of these charities by the continuation of the strike.

Factories and mail order companies have had to lay off many thousands of workers and, because some of this business is seasonal, not all those workers can look forward to re-engagement. Small and large firms are suffering from a cash shortage, and their liquidity is desperately threatened. If these firms go bust more people will be put on the labour market, and it will be of little use for the Labour Party to say that the figures of unemployment have gone up. I do not think that the union realises the chain effect of the strike. It is time for the union to think again of its interests and of the public interest. I have not criticised the union and hon. Members cannot say that I have.

There is no doubt that many firms, banks and insurance companies will not go back to using the postal services when the strike is over. There are many jobs which the Post Office would not be able to fill because the business will not be there when the strike is over.

The hon. Member for Walton made play of the fact that different unions have different rules. As somebody who has been in industrial relations for eleven years, I know that. I know that the Union of Post Office Workers has provision in its rules in certain circumstances for the executive to recommend to its members a ballot on a pay claim. I notice that is not denied. I believe that the union has nothing to lose by going to a ballot and recommending the 9 per cent. If a majority endorses it it will show that the union has put up a good fight but that the members are prepared to accept it. If they reject it the union executive will be in exactly the same position: it will know that it has been fighting the correct fight. If a majority rejects the recommendation of 9 per cent. with productivity strings the union could, with justification, go to arbitration or to a court of inquiry knowing that it had the support of its members, and also knowing full well that it was mandated by its members to get even better terms.

There is one matter of which I am certain, and that is that if the U.P.W. wishes to regain and retain public sympathy and public support, it has nothing to lose by the two suggestions I have made. But it will lose if it listens to the siren voice—"siren" is hardly the word the vicious calls by hon. Members opposite that will allow the union to be used in this battle as the "fall guy" for Jones and Scanlon.

6.42 p.m.

Mr. Ivor Richard (Barons Court)

This of necessity has been a short debate, and I start by apologising to my hon. Friends who clearly will be unable to take part; but it is important that I should try to answer some of the points that have been raised.

The Secretary of State for Employment in his opening speech castigated hon. Members on this side of the House for asking for a debate at all. He asked the question rhetorically: why have a debate on an industrial dispute? The reason why we sought to have a debate on this subject was that the right hon. Gentleman seemed to be doing nothing to bring the dispute to an end. It was therefore thought right, as I am sure the House will agree, having heard this debate, that this matter should be given a proper airing in the place where it should be aired, namely the Chamber of the House of Commons.

The Secretary of State today gave us a message of despair. He gave us an analysis of his own inaction. He spent half an hour telling us how difficult it would be to do anything about this dispute. With respect to the right hon. Gentleman, we know that it would be difficult for him to do anything about the dispute—but that is the reason why he is Secretary of State.

Time and again in this debate we have heard reference to the so-called arbitration agreement into which the union is supposed to have entered. I should like to take two or three minutes to look at that agreement in view of the extreme importance that is being attached to it by hon. Members opposite. It is important that we should look at that agreement coldly and objectively.

The arbitration agreement was entered into last year and provides for the setting up of a Post Office arbitration tribunal. That tribunal is to consist firstly of An independent Chairman nominated by the Secretary of State and I would ask the House to note the following words: after consultation with the Post Office and the unions". It is then to consist of a second member, namely one drawn from a Panel of persons constituted by the Secretary of State as representing the Post Office after consultation with the Post Office. And thirdly: One member drawn from a Panel of persons constituted by the Secretary of State as representing the unions after consultation with them. So there are to be three members of the tribunal: an independent chairman, who is to be permanent, with the other two members, one from each side, to be drawn from a panel of persons approved and accepted by the Secretary of State.

It is important to note that For the purpose of dealing with any matter which may be referred to it, the members of the Tribunal shall be such members of the Panels as the Chairman may direct. Therefore, the chairman's position in the whole arbitration procedure is quite crucial. Without a chairman having been appointed, it is clear that no tribunal can be validly constituted under the agreement. Again, I would point out that in paragraph 4 of the agreement the powers given to the chairman are positively draconian. The paragraph says: Where on any reference the members of the Tribunal are unable to agree as to their award, the matter shall be decided by the Chairman. In circumstances in which no chairman has been agreed and in which no consultation has even taken place in reference to the appointment of that chairman, it is wrong for the Government to castigate that union for failing to go to arbitration.

It is perhaps instructive to look at how far the unions have tried to implement their part of this agreement. Last October the Council of Post Office Unions submitted a nomination for the chairmanship of this Post Office arbitration court. The nomination then submitted apparently was not acceptable to the Post Office Board. I am informed that since then the Council of Post Office Unions has made repeated attempts to discuss the appointment of a chairman with the Post Office Board, but there have been no such discussions because the Board has not been prepared to enter into them. Again I am told that last November the Council of Post Office Unions submitted its lists of nominees for the trade union panel to the Post Office, but it was not until 15th February, in the fourth week of the present strike, that the Post Office Board submitted its nominations. They have still been in discussion on the appointment of a chairman.

In this situation, when a withdrawal of labour was under way, the Post Office Board and the Government then suggested a type of ad hoc arrangement. In the light of what has happened to Sir Jack Scamp, and more recently to Professor Clegg, it is clear that the union has no confidence that the ad hoc arrangement suggested by the Post Office will result in its receiving a fair and impartial hearing and in the case being judged on its merits. I have taken time to go into the arbitration point, since the way in which the Government are using this matter is utterly fallacious and it is time the Government dropped it.

Three main points have emerged from the debate, and I shall examine them as briefly as I can in the time that remains to me. First, the rôle that Ministers themselves have played in this unhappy affair. Secondly, the misjudgments which have bedevilled Government policy. Thirdly, the question in everybody's mind, what should now be done? The House will understand the situation if in regard to Ministerial responsibility I tend to concentrate on the part played by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications. After all, it is his Department that is most directly involved, and in the first instance it is with him that direct responsibility primarily lies.

The main charge I make against the right hon. Gentleman is in essence a simple one. It is that he has failed to prevent a dispute over pay being inflated into a major confrontation between the Government and the unions. He could and he should have seen that it was dealt with inside the Post Office itself. Instead. the Minister sat idly by and watched his right hon. Friends use this dispute as one of the wage claims on which the Government feel it necessary to demonstrated to the country how tough they are.

Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)


Mr. Richard

The Minister has allowed this to happen regardless of the bitterness which is bound to survive the dispute, however it ends for even if the Government force this strike to continue, and even if at the end of the day they gain a notional victory, they will in the process be putting back the Post Office by decades. The Minister himself has done nothing to prevent it, or if he has tried to prevent it—

Mr. Rees-Davies


Mr. Richard

—he has been unable to persuade his colleagues. Like other hon. Members, I am trying to be reasonably brief. If I give way to anybody it will be, if I may say so to the hon. Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), to somebody who has been present in the Chamber for the debate. To continue with the point which I was making, if the Minister has done nothing himself to prevent it, and if he has tried to prevent it, it is clear that he has been unable to persuade his colleagues to pursue a different course. Either way, the Minister has failed.

From time to time there has been rumours of disagreements between the Minister and some of his colleagues. Relations between the right hon. Gentleman and the Secretary of State for Employment seem correct if a trifle frigid this afternoon. But not even the Minister himself would surely be happy with the extraordinary performance—I use the word advisedly—of the Chancellor of the Exchequer last Friday. After his disaster in the House of Commons on Thursday afternoon in the recent debate, I am surprised that the Government let him out again quite so soon.

On Friday, at a meeting in his constituency, the Chancellor displayed again all that delicacy of tact which we have come to expect from him. He is reported as having said that it was the union and not the Post Office which was being wholly unreasonable in the circumstances. If that is meant to be neutrality and impartiality, it is straining language. That surely cannot be the considered view of the Minister. I cannot believe that he found that utterance either helpful or timely.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer is fast becoming the demon Spiro Agnew of Whitehall. He is saying from No. 11 what No. 10 would like to say but dare not. I hope that the House will treat the Chancellor's views as many people in the United States have come to treat Mr. Agnew's, initially with incredulity and later with amusement.

I am told. moreover, that at no time since this dispute began has the Minister called in the union openly and frankly to discuss its claim. I ask the House to note that. At no time, I am told, did the Minister request the union to come and discuss its claim, even when strike action was being openly contemplated. It is almost unbelievable that a Minister in charge of a Department in which major industrial action was about to take place should fail to try to settle it direct with the union. It is almost unbelievable but it seems to have happened here.

The second failure of the Minister—and, I gather, of the Government as a whole—was in totally misjudging the mood of the Post Office workers and in misjudging the support that they would get in the country, which, frankly, is remarkable. I am sure that the Government banked on a slow trickle back to work which would gradually undermine the union, but they were wrong.

In last Wednesday's Guardian, Mr. Keith Harper wrote: Try as it will, the Post Office has completely failed to break the backbone of the strike. Young telephone girls have walked side by side with middle-aged postmen in the many demonstrations which have been arranged throughout the country by the Union of Post Office Workers. [Laughter.] I am surprised that hon. Members opposite should laugh at this quotation. None have been more successful than the Thursday mass meetings in Hyde Park, which have … brought attendances of upwards of 25,000 postal workers. Some union officials feared that the weekend negotiations, and the hopes they first inspired, might result in a considerable drift back to work. Not a bit of it. The strike is as solid as ever, though there is bound to be bitterness, perhaps even internal strife among the membership over the terms of the eventual settlement.

Mr. David James (Dorset, North)


Mr. Richard

Mr. Harper went on: Many postal workers have been preparing for an all-out strike for several months. They have become disillusioned that the traditions of the Post Office are being abandoned, that they are being subjected to over-supervision, and that they have to tolerate a six-day working week in 1971 to try to make a living wage. There is sufficient evidence coming into the union to suggest that the strike has made many people decide to leave the service. The rest have hung on, hoping that the dispute may bring long nursed grievances to a head. Why does Tom Jackson, the ebullient postal workers' leader, persist in making this stand when he knows that the Union's claim will not be met? The answer is that he has ben pushed by his 205,000 members into action. That is Mr. Harper's opinion—[HON. MEMBERS: "Who is he?"] For those hon. Members opposite who say "Who is he?" all I can tell them is that they display by their question their abysmal ignorance of industrial relations.

That is the position that the Government now face: a determined body of workers who feel a real and genuine sense of personal grievance and who, despite no pay, are now in their fifth week on strike. It is this determination and solidarity which surely should make the Government think again. They must recognise now that this is not simply a dispute over pay. It is now far more deeply felt than that. It involves the whole status and future of an industry in which men and women have given their lives. It is, therefore, a dispute which is now different in kind and not merely in degree from many disputes which the Government may have to face, and it is time that they recognised it as such.

What we must try to do is to avoid a situation in which this dispute comes to be a major confrontation between the Government, on the one hand, and the body of the trade union movement, on the other hand. In the short term, Governments probably win such confrontations —they have the whole power and apparatus of the State behind them—but in the long run they will assuredly lose such a confrontation. Good industrial relations can be built only on mutual trust and co-operation. If this thing is pushed to a conclusion the Post Office as we have known it will be destroyed.

What, then, can now be done? In this dispute, as in other disputes, some independent body will eventually have to decide whether this is a justified claim. I must say to the Secretary of State that the fact that this claim is different from the claim which the Wilberforce Tribunal looked at is no ground for failing to set up a court of inquiry in this dispute if the facts justify it. That is the essence both of independent arbitration and of a court of inquiry.

As far as one can see, the position between the parties is now this. The Post Office accepts arbitration and would, I gather, accept a court of inquiry. The union denies its liability to arbitrate but, I hope, would be induced to accept a court of inquiry. The Government, however, seem more interested in establishing that the union should accept arbitration under the agreement to which I have referred than in setting up a court of inquiry.

There is only one course now left to the Government—that is that they should forthwith appoint a court of inquiry to examine this whole dispute. It is time that the strike was settled, and that, in our view, is the only way.

6.58 p.m.

The Minister of Posts and Telecommunications (Mr. Christopher Chataway)

This debate, although it has been a short one, has been sufficient to show the very real concern that exists in all parts of the House about the postal strike and the very real concern there is to try to find a settlement which is both fair to the individuals involved and consistent with the prosperity of the Post Office as a business.

Two main lines of argument have been advanced from the Opposition benches. The first is the argument for a court of inquiry, which was made by the right hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), by the hon. Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) and by a number of other hon. Members who spoke from the benches behind them. I would like presently to return to some of those arguments, although my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State—with whom I assure the hon. Member for Barons Court, in case he is worried, my relations are of the most cordial variety—has dealt at some length with them.

The other main line of argument which has been adduced is quite simply that the Post Office Board should have increased its offer and ought now ro be made to do so. That has been the burden of the argument to which we have listened.

The right hon. Lady suggested that she did not want to get involved in the detail of the case, but it would have been difficult to listen to her speech without thinking that what she was urging on the Post Office Board was a much higher offer and that what she was criticising the Government for was not having forced the Post Office into that higher offer before. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is a distortion."] The hon. Member says that it is distortion, but a number of his hon. Friends, including the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), were very careful neat to indulge in any hypocrisy. He made absolutely clear that he was solidly behind the Union of Post Office Workers in their 13 per cent., and that is the view of a large number of people The right hon. Lady was quoted over the weekend as saying exactly the same thing in a talk which she gave to postal workers.

I have been criticised for not having engaged myself in negotiations and directly intervened in the strike. The hon. Gentleman said that he thought it was entirely wrong that I had not called the union to see me and that I had not negotiated with them direct. I am sure the majority of the House will appreciate that since the Post Office has become a Corporation that is not my function. I do not for a moment say that I do not have responsibility; I am coming to that. I am not trying to shrug off responsibilities. I believe that it will be generally accepted that the purpose of the Post Office Act, 1969, was that the Post Office should be set up as a Corporation capable of running its own business, and that the Minister's responsibilities are fairly carefully defined and curtailed. But on behalf of the Government I have very clear responsibilities for both the level of investment in the Post Office and, by custom, as with all nationalised industries, I have a responsibility over tariff increases.

Like other nationalised industries, the Post Office will come to the Government to secure their acquiescence in major tariff increases. It would therefore have been possible for me—I accept this—to exert pressure, on behalf of the Government, on the Post Office to come up with a higher offer. It would have been possible for me to make it clear to the Post Office that the Government were either prepared to advance a subsidy to the Post Office to enable it to produce a higher offer whilst not raising the tariffs, or to sanction a higher, earlier tariff increase than had hitherto been envisaged. I accept that, and I have not done either of those two things. It would have been wrong for me to do either of those two things.

Mr. Dan Jones


Mr. Chataway

I should like to make progress. I have taken the view that it would not have been right for me to try to make any suggestion along those lines to the Post Office Board. I have taken that view because I do not accept the one advanced from the other side that the Post Office Corporation has behaved unreasonably in this matter. If in what I have to say today I deal with the Post Office case, I hope that I shall not be criticised on that score. As I have explained, that is the constitutional rôle which I have to fulfil. I believe in the Post Office case—like a parrot, the hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson) has been saying, "Are you impartial throughout?" I am explaining—

Mr. William Molloy (Ealing, North)


Mr. Speaker

Order. If the right hon. Gentleman does not give way the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) must resume his seat.

Mr. Reginald Freeson (Willesden, East)

Would it be within the recollection of the Minister that his right hon. Friend has said, on a previous occasion in the House, that the Government were being impartial in this matter, and that he stressed it time and time again? Would it also be within the knowledge of the Minister that there was another possibility open to him—at least to try to get the Post Office Corporation talking with the trade union round the table? This has been done by other Ministers with nationalised industries.

Mr. Chataway

I regret having given way to a rather long intervention in the few minutes that I have left. The only way in which a breakdown could have been avoided, when the breakdown occurred, was by a higher offer. The majority of hon. Members opposite will accept that. Equally, I accept that my responsibilities for the Post Office make it essential for me to satisfy myself that the Post Office Corporation is behaving in the reasonable manner which I have described, and that the kind of initiative which I have suggested would not be justified.

Before coming to the essential question as to whether the Post Office should have made a higher offer, I should like to deal with one or two matters raised in the debate. I deal first with the basis of pay settlements. It has been suggested that the Post Office lost through giving up arrangements prevailing in the Civil Service and that this constitutes a special feature of their claim. As will be known to the House, pay in the Civil Service is adjusted under the procedures agreed on the National Whitley Council with the assistance of the Civil Service Pay Research Unit. That unit ensures, broadly speaking, that the pay of the Civil Service moves in line with selected fields outside. When the Post Office became a Corporation it inevitably, I think, lost that particular means of settling its pay disputes.

I may have been wrong, but I thought that the right hon. Lady seemed to be suggesting at one point that it ought not to have done and that it ought to have been returned to pay research unit machinery. This would not have been a possibility, and few people would suggest that. If a duty is being laid upon the Post Office Corporation to conduct its business on commercial lines and it is being set certain targets, obviously it cannot have the pay of its members determined entirely by relation to pay prevailing in other areas.

Mr. John Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme)


Mr. Chataway

It was intended then, and it is intended, as explained during the debate, to negotiate on pay principles to help in the determination of these awards. All that has been achieved so far was an agreement in January, 1970. It was a condition of the January, 1970, settlement that the direct linkage of pay and conditions of service hitherto existing between staff of the Post Office and those of the Civil Service should be broken. There is therefore no question, by means of a White Paper or anything else, that the arrangements prevailing then should now prevail. [Interruption.] It has been further objected to arbitration that because—

Mr. Richard


Mr. Chataway

It has been further objected by a number of speakers today that because the chairman has not been appointed to the arbitration tribunal this constitutes a sufficient reason for not going to arbitration. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) dealt very fully and adequately with that point. I do not intend, therefore, to labour it. But it should be understood in all parts of the House that it has never been suggested by the union, so far as I know, that it was the impossibility of finding a chairman for arbitration which was the reason for their resisting a tribunal. Indeed, the general secretary, in public, talked about a certain name as a possible chairman of the tribunal. He later withdrew it and said that it was a joke. If there is a chance of finding a chairman who will be accepted by the Union of Post Office Workers, I know that my right hon. Friend will, as he has on a number of past occasions, be only too willing to explore that avenue.

There is nothing in the workings of arbitration of recent months to justify any resistance on the part of the union to arbitration. Perhaps I might cite one or two recent agreements. Recently there have been claims by Post Office unions put to arbitration which in some cases have come out a great deal nearer to the union demand than to the Post Office offer. One example was the claim of the Association of Post Office Engineers on behalf of its assistant executive engineers and inspectors. The claim was for about 15 per cent. from 1st July, 1970. The union was offered 12–4 per cent. by the Post Office. An arbitration award of 14–6 per cent.— overall clearly was in the union's favour. That was a case in which there were special arguments and circumstances.

Mr. Orme

But the Government sacked the man—[interruption.]

Mr. Chataway

It is depressing that right hon. and hon. Members opposite have so little faith in their case that they have to resort to chanting on these occasions. [HON. MEMBERS: "You sacked him."]

That arbitration took place in the—[Interruption.] The noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, said only yesterday that if he were in the same position he would take exactly the same decision—[Interruplion.] But, as right hon. and hon. Members opposite know that that was never the reason advanced by the Union of post Office Workers for not acceppting arbitration—[Interruption.] They refused arbitration—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Minister is entitled to a hearing. The hon. Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) was heard in silence.

Mr. Chataway

I cited that award because it happened to be a high one. There were special circumstances in that case where differentials—[Interruption.] That has nothing to do with it. I point to that award because it gives the lie to so many of the charges made by right hon. and hon. Members opposite that by virtue of this action the Government are somehow bearing down exclusively and unfairly upon the public sector—

Mr. Callaghan

Yes, exactly.

Mr. Chataway

The right hon. Lady and the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), who has shouted throughout most of the debate, have both pointed to the Chrysler settlement as an example of the way in which we discriminate against the public sector as opposed to what is allowed to go on in the private sector. However, the right hon. Lady may care to note that the award which I mentioned just now covered some 10,000 people, whereas the one to which she drew attention covered about 6,500.

What this debate has been about is the level of settlement. Right hon. and hon. Members opposite have been arguing—

Mr. Golding


Hon. Members

Sit down!

Mr. Chataway

They have argued that the Post Office offer of 9 per cent. is inadequate. They have not argued that there are special reasons here to justify an offer of much more than 9 per cent. I am sure that anyone who reads the debate will agree that the argument which has been advanced from the benches opposite is for settlements well over 9 per cent right across the board. It has not been suggested that it is only the Union of Post Office Workers which should be treated in this way. Very few of those who remember the speeches made by the right hon. Lady and her colleagues in favour of a norm of between 2½ per cent. and 4½ per cent. will treat today's Motion other than with contempt. The vast majority of people have had enough of settlements of 10 and 12 per cent., and I believe that they will support the Government in the line that they have taken—

Mr. Joseph Harper (Pontefract)

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put—

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That this House do now adjourn:—

The House divided: Ayes 259, Noes 304.

Division No. 184.] AYES [7.14 p.m.
Abse, Leo Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.) Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)
Albu, Austen Cant, R. B. Deakins, Eric
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Carmichael, Neil de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey
Allen, Scholefield Carter, Ray (Birmingtt'm, Northfield) Delargy, H. J.
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund
Ashley, Jack Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Dempsey, James
Ashton, Joe Clark, David (Colne Valley) Doig, Peter
Atkinson, Norman Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) Dormand, J. D.
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Cohen, Stanley Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)
Barnes, Michael Coleman, Donald Douglas-Mann, Bruce
Barnett, Joel Concannon, J. D. Driberg, Tom
Beaney, Alan Conlan, Bernard Duffy, A. E. P.
Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Corbet, Mrs. Freda Dunn, James A.
Bidwell, Sydney Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.) Dunnett, Jack
Bishop, E. S. Crawshaw, Richard Eadie, Alex
Blenkinsop, Arthur Cronin, John Edelman, Maurice
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Edwards, Robert (Bilston)
Booth, Albert Crossman, Rt, Hn. Richard Edwards, William (Merioneth)
Bradley, Tom Cunningham, G. (Islington, S.W.) Ellis, Tom
Broughton, Sir Alfred Dalyell, Tam English, Michael
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.) Darling, Rt. Hn. George Evans, Fred
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Davidson, Arthur Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E.
Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury) Davies, Denzil (Llanelly) Fitch, Alan (Wigan)
Buchan, Norman Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Davies, Ifor (Gower) Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Davies, S. O. (Merthyr Tydvil) Foley, Maurice
Foot, Michael Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Probert, Arthur
Ford, Ben Lipton, Marcus Rankin, John
Forrester, John Lomas, Kenneth Reed, D. (Sedgefield)
Fraser, John (Norwood) Loughlin, Charles Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)
Freeson, Reginald Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Rhodes, Geoffrey
Galpern, Sir Myer Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Richard, Ivor
Garrett, W. E. Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Gilbert, Dr. John McBride, Neil Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Ginsburg, David McCartney, Hugh Robertson, John (Paisley)
Golding, John McElhone, Frank Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Br'c'n&R'dnor)
Gourlay, Harry McGuire, Michael Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)
Grant, George (Morpeth) Mackenzie, Gregor Roper, John
Grant, John D. (Islington, E.) Mackie, John Rose, Paul B.
Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Mackintosh, John P. Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)
Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Maclennan, Robert Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J. McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) MacPherson, Malcolm Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton,N.E.)
Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Hamling, William Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Sillars, James
Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Silverman, Julius
Hardy, Peter Marks, Kenneth Skinner, Dennis
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Marquand, David Small, William
Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)
Hattersley, Roy Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Spearing, Nigel
Heffer, Eric S. Mayhew, Christopher Spriggs, Leslie
Hilton, W. S. Meacher, Michael Stallard, A. W.
Hooson, Emlyn Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Steel, David
Horam, John Mendelson, John Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)
Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Millan, Bruce Stonehouse, Rt. Hn, John
Huckfield, Leslie Miller, Dr. M. S. Strang, Gavin
Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Milne, Edward (Biyth) Strauss, Rt, Hn. G. R.
Hughes, Mark (Durham) Molloy, William Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Swain, Thomas
Hunter, Adam Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Taverne, Dick
Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur(Edge Hill) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff,W.)
Janner, Greville Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon) Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Moyle, Roland Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.)
Jeger, Mrs. Lena(H'b'n&St.P'cras,S.) Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick Tinn, James
Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Murray, Ronald King Tomney, Frank
John, Brynmor Ogden, Eric Tuck, Raphael
Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) O'Halloran, Michael Urwin, T. W.
Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) O'Malley, Brian Varley, Eric G.
Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.) Oram, Bert Wainwright, Edwin
Jones, Barry (Flint, E.) Orbach, Maurice Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Orme, Stanley Wallace, George
Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.) Oswald, Thomas Watkins, David
Jones, Gwynore (Carmarthen) Owen, Dr. David (Plymount, Sutton) Weitzman, David
Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.) Paget, R. T. Wellbeloved, James
Judd, Frank Palmer, Arthur Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Kaufman, Gerald Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Kelley, Richard Pardoe, John Whitehead, Phillip
Kerr, Russell Parker, John (Dagenham) Whitlock, William
Kinnock, Neil Pavitt, Laurie Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Lambie, David Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Lamond, James Pendry, Tom Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Latham, Arthur Pentland, Norman Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Lawson, George Perry, Ernest G. Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Leadbitter, Ted Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg. Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick Prescott, John
Leonard, Dick Prescott, John TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Lestor, Miss Joan Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) Mr. Joseph Harper and
Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.) Price, William (Rugby) Mr. Ernest Armstrong.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Boardman, Tom (Leicester, s.W.) Carlisle, Mark
Allason, James (Hemal Hempstead) Body, Richard Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Boscawen, Robert Cary, Sir Robert
Astor, John Bossom, Sir Clive Channon, Paul
Atkins, Humphrey Bowden, Andrew Chapman, Sydney
Awdry, Daniel Boyd-carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Braine, Bernard Chichester-Clark, R.
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Bray, Ronald Churchill, W. S.
Balniel, Lord Brewis, John Clark, William (Surrey, E.)
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Brinton, Sir Tatton Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Batsford, Brian Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Clegg, Walter
Bell, Ronald Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Cockeram, Eric
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Bruce-Gardyne, J. Cooke, Robert
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Bryan, Paul Coombs, Derek
Benyon, W. Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus,N&M) Cooper, A. E.
Berry, Hn. Anthony Buck, Antony Cordle, John
Biffen, John Bullus, Sir Eric Corfield, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Biggs-Davison, John Burden, F. A. cormack, Patrick
Blaker, Peter Campbell, Rt. Hn. G.(Moray&Nairn) Costain, A. P.
Critchley, Julian Jessel, Toby Quennell, Miss J. M.
Crouch, David Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Raison,, Timothy
Crowder, F. P. Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Curran, Charles Jopling, Michael Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Dalkeith, Earl of Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Redmond, Robert
Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford) Kaberry, Sir Donald Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Kellett, Mrs. Elaine Rees, Peter (Dover)
d'Avigdor Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. Jack Kershaw, Anthony Rees-Davies, W. R.
Dean, Paul Kilfedder, James Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Digby, Simon Wingfield Kimball, Marcus Rhys, Williams, Sir Brandon
Dixon, Piers King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Dodds-Parker, Douglas King, Tom (Bridgwater) Ridsdale, Julian
Drayson, G. B. Kinsey, J. R. Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Kirk, Peter Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)
Dykes, Hugh Kitson, Timothy Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Eden, Sir John Knight, Mrs. Jill Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Knox, David Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Lambton, Antony Rost, Peter
Emery, Peter Lane, David Royle, Anthony
Farr, John Langford-Holt, Sir John Russell, Sir Ronald
Fell, Anthony Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry St. John-Stevas, Norman
Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Le Marchant, Spencer Scott, Nicholas
Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Scott-Hopkins, James
Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton) Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey(Sut'nC'dfield) Sharples, Richard
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone) Shaw, Michael (SC'b'gh & Whitby)
Fookes, Miss Janet Longden, Gilbert Shelton, William (Clapham)
Fortescue, Tim Loveridge, John Simeons, Charles
Foster, Sir John McAdden, Sir Stephen Skeet, T. H. H.
Fox, Marcus MacArthur, Ian Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh(St'fford & Stone) McGrindle, R. A. Soref, Harold
Fry, Peter McLaren, Martin Speed, Keith
Galbraith, Hn. T. G. Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Spence, John
Gardner, Edward McMaster, Stanley Sproat, Iain
Gibson-Watt, David Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham) Stainton, Keith
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) McNair-Wilson, Michael Stanbrook, Ivor
Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest) Stewart-Smith, D. G. (Belper)
Glyn, Dr. Alan Maddan, Martin Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)
Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Madel, David Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
Goodhart, Philip Maginnis, John E. Stokes, John
Goodhew, Victor Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest Stuttaford, Dr. Tom
Gorst, John Marten, Neil Sutcliffe, John
Gower, Raymond Mather, Carol Tapsell, Peter
Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) Maude, Angus Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Gray, Hamish Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)
Green, Alan Mawby, Ray Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Grieve, Percy Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.)
Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Meyer, Sir Anthony Tebbit, Norman
Grylls, Michael Mills, Peter (Torrington) Temple, John M.
Gummer, Selwyn Miscampbell, Norman Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley) Mitchell, Lt.-Col.C.(Aberdeenshire,W) Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
Hall, John (Wycombe) Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)
Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Moate, Roger Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Money, Ernie Tilney, John
Hannam, John (Exeter) Monks, Mrs. Connie Trafford, Dr. Anthony
Harrison, Brian (Malden) Montgomery, Fergus Trew, Peter
Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh) Tugendhat, Christopher
Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere Margan-Giles, Rear-Adm. Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Haselhurst, Alan Morrison, Charles (Devizes) van Straubenzee, W. R.
Havers, Michael Mudd, David Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
Hawkins, Paul Murton, Oscar Vickers, Dame Joan
Hay, John Nabarro, Sir Gerald Waddington, David
Hayhoe, Barney Neave, Airey Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward Nicholls, Sir Harmar Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)
Heseltine, Michael Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Hicks, Robert Normanton, Tom Wall, Patrick
Higgins, Terence L. Nott, John Walters, Dennis
Hiley, Jeseph 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, Phillip Osborn, John Wells, John (Maidstone)
Holt, Miss Mary Page, Graham (Crosby) White, Roger (Gravesend)
Hordern, Peter Page, John (Harrow, W.) Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Hornby, Richard Parkinson, Cecil (Enfield, W.) Wiggin, Jerry
Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia Percival, Ian Wilkinson, John
Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate) Peyton, Rt. Hn. John Wolrige-Cordon, Patrick
Howell, David (Guildford) Pike, Miss Mervyn Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher
Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Pink, R. Bonner Woodnutt, Mark
Hunt, John Pounder, Rafton Worsley, Marcus
Hutchison, Michael Clark Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Iremonger, T. L. Price, David (Eastleigh) Younger, Hn. George
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.
James, David Proudfoot, Wilfred TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis Mr. Reginald Eyre and
Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Mr. Jasper More