§ 3.43 p.m.
|That the following provisions shall apply to the remaining Proceedings on the Bill after the day on which this Order is made:—|
|Allotted days for Committee and for Report and Third Reading|
|1.—(1) The remaining Proceedings in Committee on the Bill after the day on which this Order is made shall be completed in ten allotted days.|
|(2) The Proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading of the Bill shall be completed in four allotted days and shall be brought to a conclusion at midnight on the last of those days; and for the purposes of Standing Order No. 43 (Business Committee) this Order shall be taken to allot to the Proceedings on Consideration such part of those days as the resolution of the Business Committee may determine.|
|(3) Standing Order No. 43 (Business Committee) shall apply to the Bill as if the words 'sub-paragrahp (b) of' were omitted from that Order.|
|Reports of Business Committee|
|2.—(1) The Business Committee shall report to the House their resolution—|
|(a) as to the remaining Proceedings in Committee on the Bill not later than the 26th day of January 1971;|
|(b) as to the Proceedings on Consideration of the Bill and as to the allocation of time between those Proceedings and Third Reading not later than the eighth day on which the House sits after the day on which the Proceedings in Committee are concluded.|
|(2) The resolutions in any report made under Standing Order No. 43 (Business Committee) may be varied by a further report so made, whether or not within the time specified in the foregoing provisions of this paragraph, and whether or not the resolutions have been agreed to by the House.|
|Proceedings on going into Committee|
|3. When the Order of the Day is read for the House to resolve itself into Committee on the Bill, Mr. Speaker shall leave the chair without putting any question, notwithstanding that notice of an Instruction has been given.|
|Order of Proceedings in Committee|
|4. No Motion shall be made to postpone any Clause, Schedule, new Clause or new Schedule, but the resolutions of the Business Committee may include alterations in the order in which Clauses, Schedules, new Clauses and new Schedules are to be taken in Committee.|
|Conclusion of Proceedings in Committee|
|5. On the conclusion of the Proceedings in any Committee on the Bill the Chairman shall report the Bill to the House without putting any Question.|
|6. No dilatory motion with respect to, or in the course of, Proceedings on the Bill shall be made on an allotted day except by a Member of the Government, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.|
|Extra time on allotted days|
|7.—(1) On an allotted day paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 2 (Exempted business) shall apply to the Proceedings on the Bill for two hours after Ten o'clock.|
|(2) Any postponement under this paragraph shall be in addition to any postponement under Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration).|
|Standing Order No. 13|
|8. Standing Order No. 13 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of public business) shall not apply on an allotted day.|
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Before the Leader of the House discusses his Motion, I wish to announce my selection of Amendments standing in the name of the right hon. Lady the Member or Blackburn (Mrs. Castle). I have decided to select the Amendment to line 5,leave out 'ten' and insert 'thirty'",and the Amendment to line 7,leave out 'four' and insert 'six'".We can either have a general debate on the Motion and the two Amendments taken together, followed by Divisions first on the two Amendments and then on the main Question or, if that proposition is not acceptable to the House, I am prepared to give some hours for discussion on the main proposal and then at a later hour call the right hon. Lady or the right hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) to move successively the two Amendments. Then when the Amendments have been disposed of we should return to the main Question, with or without amendment, which would fall to be decided by the House.
§ Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)
We are grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for giving us this choice. We would wish to adopt the second course, namely, to start with the general discussion on the principle of the guillotine Motion and 42 then, when that has come to a conclusion, to go on to the Amendments and return to the voting afterwards.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
Over the years all Governments have found it necessary to move timetable Motions, and HANSARD is full of quotations justifying their use by my predecessors in all parties. It can surely, therefore, be accepted that there are occasions when timetable Motions have to be used and that they are a necessary part of our procedure.
The case I have to answer this afternoon, then, surely is why a timetable Motion is justified in the case of the Industrial Relations Bill, and subsidiary to that, why it is justified at this stage in the discussions on the Bill.
It is to the credit of our Parliament that much controversial legislation is conducted through it with give and take on timing and arrangements between Government and Opposition, but there are some Bills on which quite understandably the views of the Government and Opposition are so much opposed that reasonable arrangements cannot work. I contend that this Bill is such a case. We on this side of the House believe that its passage is urgent in the national interest. 43 We can claim with justice that we have a clear mandate for it from the people in a recent General Election.
On the other hand, the Opposition was stated by the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) with the utmost clarity in the debate on the Consultative Document on 26th November when, leading for the Opposition, she said:Because we believe that it will be a political Bill, we shall fight any legislation based on these proposals tooth and nail, line by line, and, however long it takes, we shall destroy the Bill.There is not much sign of a voluntary agreement there.
In the same debate the right hon. Lady was reinforced by her hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), who said:My right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn made it clear that we would oppose this Measure root and branch."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th November 1970; Vol. 807, cc. 666 and 733.]I simply cannot see how such words can offer any prospect of voluntary co-operation from the Opposition. Indeed, I should have thought that they were used quite deliberately to indicate to the House and the country that the Bill would be relentlessly opposed in the House, and the main weapon with which Oppositions fight Bills is by the use of time. It is for that reason that in my judgment the Bill is one of those where a timetable Motion at some stage is inevitable. That, then, is the answer to the first question—a timetable Motion on the Bill at some stage was an inevitable fact of parliamentary life.
The precedents for the introduction of a timetable Motion on wide-ranging constitutional Measures are innumerable. Only three years ago right hon. Gentlemen opposite guillotined discussion on a Finance Bill of major importance, and with practically no notice they guillotined the ill-fated House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Bill, which affected the very constitution of the House.
So we turn to the second question, whether the introduction of the Motion at this stage of the discussion of the Bill is justified. I cannot do better than to quote the views of the late Herbert Morrison as Leader of the House in 1948. Introducing a timetable on the Iron 44 and Steel Bill even before the Committee stage had started, he said:… we have to face that position. We seek to get this Bill through. That is what it was introduced for. The Government are, however, prepared, and, indeed, determined, to allow reasonably full time for the discussion of every aspect of the Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th November, 1948; Vol. 458, c. 1429.]I must admit that when I considered together those words from a distinguished member of the party opposite and the clear declarations of the right hon. Lady and her hon. Friends, I seriously considered following his example and introducing a timetable Motion as he did before the start of the Committee stage. But we decided against that course. We wanted to see what would happen in Committee without a timetable Motion. The result has been two non-controversial Clauses in 20 hours' sitting, including one all-night sitting. It has been made quite clear on numerous occasions by the Opposition that they do not regard the Committee stage as a means of improving the Bill. They wish to see it frustrated and delayed. If the Committee stage is not to be used to improve the Bill, it has only one other purpose, as has been made perfectly clear by the Opposition —to delay and frustrate it.
Then I may be asked, "Why not wait a little longer and progress might be better?" The danger of such a course is that far too much time is taken on relatively uncontroversial Clauses at the start and then debate on the really controversial and important parts of the Bill is cut short when eventually the timetable Motion is introduced, as it is so often, too late.
Once it was clear to me that a timetable Motion was inevitable, I had no doubt that the sooner it was introduced the better. Only then is it possible for the House to have an orderly debate at reasonable hours; only then is it possible to ensure that the really controversial parts of the Bill are properly discussed. So I claim that, once a timetable Motion is clearly inevitable, as in the case of this Bill, it is in the interests of a reasonable discussion in the House that the Motion should be moved as soon as possible.
Now I turn to the question of the time allocated by the Motion. Finance Bills apart, it offers by far the longest 45 Committee stage on the Floor of the House for any Bill since the war.
§ Mr. Ivor Richard (Barons Court)
The right hon. Gentleman has enunciated a principle—namely, that when it became clear to him that the Opposition were determined to hold up the passage of the Bill in Committee, a timetable Motion became right. Can he tell us when it became clear to him that the Opposition were going to hold it up? If it became clear to him before last week, why did he not see fit to inform the Opposition Front Bench?
§ Mr. Whitelaw
First, I heard and saw the words of the right hon. Lady and her hon. Friends. As I have said, I believe that, on that basis, I would have been perfectly justified in moving this Motion before the Committee stage started at all. I did not do so. I decided, with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment, to wait and see what would happen. What we saw was 20 hours of debate on two non-controversial Clauses. That led me to the conclusion that this was the right moment at which to move a timetable Motion.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
The right hon. Gentleman has mentioned timetables on previous legislation, including such Measures as the Iron and Steel Act and, probably, the Transport Act. But he has not dealt with the precedent for industrial relations legislation such as this. Has he looked, for example, at the timetable allocation on the Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Act, 1927, which was the nearest Measure we have to this Bill, in order to understand how meagre is the allowance he is making for this Bill?
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I have looked at that precedent. I do not think that what happened in 1927 is necessarily in tune with 1971. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Because—it sounds surprising to hon. Members now—the Labour Party proclaimed in 1945, when it was returned, that a great new world had started in our parliamentary history. I find it difficult to accept, after that, that hon. Members opposite wish to go back to the period before the war. I am thinking of what we are offering in terms of modern parliamentary history. In such terms, our Motion offers—Finance Bills apart—by 46 far the longest Committee stage on the Floor of the House for any Bill since the Second World War. The concluding time of midnight is the latest proposed for any Bill under an allocation of time Motion.
If the Motion is accepted as it stands, then, on the assumption that each day starts at 4 p.m.—a reasonable average—there will be 10 further days in Committee, adding up to 80 hours of debate in addition to the 20 hours we have already had. That means a Committee stage of 100 hours' debate. Then it is proposed that there should be four days on Report and Third Reading—a total on the same basis of 32 hours. We have already had two days' debate on Second Reading, totalling some 12 hours. I have not included the one day's debate on the Consultative Document but that could be added. The total of what I have included is 144 hours of debate allowed to the Bill, to which must be added any time allocated for discussion of Amendments received from the other place. That could not conceivably be less than six hours and most likely more than that.
It is clear, then, that the proposed timetable allows opportunity for 150 hours' debate on the Bill at the very least, and all of it on the Floor of the House. We on this side had a clear mandate for the Bill at a recent General Election. We immediately carried out our promise to the electorate and introduced it. To quote the late Lord Morrison again,We seek to get this Bill through. That is what we introduced it for."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th November, 1948; Vol. 458, c. 1429.]The Opposition have dedicated themselves, as the right hon. Lady so clearly stated, to fight the Bill every inch of the way. A timetable Motion is, therefore, inevitable. This Motion allows full time for reasonable discussion of the Bill on the Floor of the House. It provides for the sort of orderly debate at reasonable hours which I believe the people of this country expect from their Parliament. For these reasons, I commend the Motion to the House.
§ 3.56 p.m.
§ Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)
We have just listened to the scantiest, flimsiest and most dishonest argument for an arbitrary action that I think anyone has ever listened to in a guillotine debate. 47 We on this side are as aware as anyone that debates on timetable Motions are very often a ritual dance but if the right hon. Gentleman believes that our sense of outrage at his action is purely ritual, he is merely compounding a succession of misjudgments on how the Bill should be handled in the House.
I know that very often spokesmen against a guillotine Motion speak with their tongues in their cheeks. We are not doing that on this occasion. We have better uses for our tongues. We want to use them to examine what the Secretary of State for Employment himself called in the Consultative Document,… the first comprehensive Industrial Relations Act that this country has ever had.We want to examine it because we believe that this is a bad Bill born of pedantry out of prejudice, and we want to spend all our available time in examining it.
Of course, all Governments guillotine, although Labour Governments, as postwar history has shown, do so far less than Conservative. So the Opposition are usually inhibited in these debates— "There but for the grace of God …" et cetera. This time it is different. No one on this side is going to say, "There but for the grace of God …" about this action by this Government, because we have had a new element imported into politics—not only the element of class arrogance but the mechanistic coldness which has lifted high-handed injustice into a principle. Every human issue which the Government have touched since taking office has gone sour on them. What we are witnessing today is an overflowing of the Government's treatment of ordinary Citizens into the conduct of the business of the House of Commons, and we are astonished that the Leader of the House, whom we used to hold in such respect, has made himself a party to it.
What we are discussing this afternoon is not whether a Government are entitled to get their business. Of course they are since that is the essence of parliamentary democracy. We are discussing whether they should be entitled to get it only after proper debate and explanation of what they propose. We on this side believe in the politics of persuasion and not of force. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, this is the most provocative Bill affecting the rights of millions of our fellow citizens 48 for over half a century. He knows perfectly well—and certainly the Secretary of State knows—the violent feelings which have been aroused about the Bill outside the House.
§ Mrs. Castle
And they know, and will admit if they are honest, how we and the trade union movement have sought to persuade all those concerned to channel their protests through Parliament. But we can only hope to do so if Parliament remains the proud custodian of the rights of argument. That is what we are seeking to retain this afternoon.
What have we had from this Government during the course of this provocative Measure?
§ Mrs. Castle
First and foremost, a refusal to consult the T.U.C. And now a refusal to consult the Opposition, even about the possibility of a voluntary time-table. That is the reason the Government have refused to use the new procedure which we introduced for dealing with Motions of this kind. They have refused to do so because the new procedure depends on the breakdown of a general agreement. There has been no attempt to seek a general agreement in this case.
Secondly, they have refused to use the new procedure because under it the rights of the Opposition are better preserved; because under the new procedure the House is not faced with a detailed spelling out of the number of days allocated to Committee. It is faced merely with the terminal date by which the Committee stage should be reported to the House and it is left to the Business Committee, defending the rights of Opposition in our Parliament, to decide the number of days, and therefore the number of hours, which ought to be devoted to the Committee stage. However, instead of the new procedure, the Government are now returning to the old procedure which enables them to impose on Opposition spokesmen what they have imposed on the trade union movement: an arbitrary straitjacket.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House said that the Government had a clear mandate for this Bill. There is, only one thing this Government had 49 a clear mandate for and that was to bring down prices. All the rest about its policy was obscurity— and nothing was more obscure than what they really propose to do about industrial relations.
§ Mrs. Castle
Hon. Gentlemen say "Nonsense", but at the moment it is they who are depriving us of the opportunity, through full debate, to prove it. We do not accept that the Government have a clear mandate for the massive provisions of this Bill, because we do not believe the country knows what the Bill means, nor does this House, nor does the Secretary of State himself know what the Bill means. That is why on Second Reading he could not answer even the simplest question put to him. The Solicitor-General certainly knows what it means, but he is not telling if he can get away with it.
The House up to now has been kept inexcusably in the dark. Here is a massive, complex, obscure Bill—I am sure the Secretary of State will admit that—and we had a right to expect a White Paper on it, and so had the country, telling us what would be the effect of its complicated legal provisions on individual rights and on the industrial relations system. But we have had no White Paper. We had instead a Consultative Document about which even lawyers cannot agree.
The Leader of the House said that we had had two days' debate on Second Reading. He is right, but they were two days in which we saw merely a repetition of the generalised statements of political propaganda points both by the Secretary of State and the Solicitor-General.
§ Mrs. Castle
We have always known that our best hope of fighting this Bill, as we are fully and democratically entitled to do, has lain in the Committee stage. The right hon. Gentleman quoted as though it were a "bull" point some words of mine that we were going to fight this Bill root and branch—which were the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). I had said that we were going to fight the Bill Clause by Clause and line by line, but the right hon. Gentleman 50 must understand that what we mean by it, and have always made clear we mean by it, is that we shall examine and fight the basic principles of the Bill. That is why we have not swamped the Order Paper with Amendments. We have made clear in all the debates so far what our handling of the Bill was to be. The right hon. Gentleman's quotation of words of mine prove our case against this Motion.
We made it clear, on the contrary, that we would concentrate our Amendments on issues of principle. That is why on the Order Paper there is not, and never has been, an Amendment to Clause 7. We thought that it involved a principle which we did not want to amend. We will concentrate our discussions solely on the Clause. Any hon. Member who has ever served on a Committee stage knows that it is possible to raise hundreds of points of detail legitimately upon any Bill. We have refused to be distracted in that way from an examination of the general principle.
We are not interested in wreathing the handcuffs with daisy chains. We are concentrating on snapping off the handcuffs. I say advisedly to the Leader of the House that this approach of scrupulously concentrating on the major principles provided a perfectly workable basis for a voluntary agreement, if only the right hon. Gentleman had ever made the slightest attempt to obtain one.
The Leader of the House said that we have spent some 20 hours in Committee discussing two Clauses. That is not our fault. It is no fault of ours that the Government chose to preface this Bill, most unusually, with an omnibus statement of general principle and then said that these were to be the guiding principles to be taken into account in a quasi-judicial sense right through the rest of the provisions of the Bill. How could any self-respecting Opposition fail to examine them? Then the Leader of the House went on to say that they were non-controversial Clauses. That proves that he at any rate has not read the Bill. He for one does not begin to grasp what it is all about. Non-controversial—when the very first of these principles asks us to commit ourselves to the Government's version of an incomes policy; because that is what our first Amendment, which took a fair amount of time, was all about. 51 The purpose of that Amendment was to make the Government tell the House what they meant when they said that collective bargaining must be conducted "responsibly".
The Secretary of State was very petulant about this and said that everybody knew what was meant by the word "responsibly" and he accused us of nit-picking filibustering, slightly inelegantly. All I say to the Secretary of State is that if it is self-evident what is meant by that word, what is the Wilberforce Inquiry all about? We all know that it is about the fact that the Government refuse to discuss these issues in the House and to spell out their own policy, that they leave it to a court of inquiry to do the job of defining the national interest, and then they send Treasury officials to give their evidence for them. The result is chaos, and we have Sir Douglas Allen, Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, refusing to answer some of the court's questions on the grounds that they are political. So the issues are brought back to the House, where the Government again want to guillotine to evade answering.
Was the Chrysler Corporation acting responsibly when it gave an 18 per cent. increase to the Linwood workers? If not, why did not the Secretary of State raise an objection when the award was reported to him by the Chrysler directors last December? If the Secretary of State includes such far-reaching issues in his Bill, he must expect them to be debated, as long as there is anything resembling parliamentary democracy. The first two Clauses were important, they were controversial and they were far-reaching.
Even so, I repeat it was not our fault that 20 hours were spent discussing them, as any objective person who was in the House during those two days would have to testify. I say to the Leader of the House very seriously that it would have been perfectly possible for the Government to have obtained Clause 4 in those two days, because we wanted to start fresh on Clause 5 on the third day, on what we assumed would be the resumed Committee stage, because in Committee we wanted to get away from the generalisations and down to discussions of how they would apply in day-to-day industry.
52 I give the Leader of the House this in proof. We let Clause 1 go through without debate on "Clause stand part", "on the nod". Can it be said that an Opposition doing that are filibustering, wasting time, seeking to make the passage of Government business impossible? The real whipping during those two days was done by the Opposition Whips, not by the Government Whips trying to restrain speakers on the Government side. One had only to see the lethargy of Government spokesmen, their reluctance to get up and bring the debate to a conclusion to realise that they had no sense of urgency.
We had a most remarkable situation during those two days when I was signalling the right hon. Gentleman to get up and answer the debate—[Laughter.]—yes, we were. I want to say to the House advisedly that we believe that the Bill covers a deeply serious issue. We know the amount of material to cover in the Bill's 150 Clauses and eight Schedules. We knew that the Government were looking for an alibi to guillotine, and it was we who were trying to make greater progress on that night. At 4 o'clock in the morning my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), the Opposition Chief Whip, was asking his opposite number on the Government benches to get Ministers to stand up earlier.
The Leader of the House cannot ride away on that one. As the B.B.C. said on its 8 o'clock news bulletin, there had been "no time-wasting speeches, just a sober, business-like scrutiny of the wording of the Bill." The Leader of the House has no ground whatever for his presumption that an overture for a voluntary timetable would have been turned down. Indeed, this specious pleading is all a part with the rest of the right hon. Gentleman's argument. First, he claims that the time he is allowing us will give us, and I quote "by far the longest time of any Committee stage of any Bill since the war on the Floor of the House, Finance Bills apart": I think that I have fairly reported him.
The Leader of the House is slipping rapidly from his pedestal. How dishonest can one get? It was the Leader of the House who said that the Government agreed that the Bill should be taken on the Floor of the House because of its 53 "fundamental importance", and now he argues that, because it is on the Floor of the House, it is to be limited to some arbitrary maximum totally unrelated to the size or importance of the Bill. Let me give the House the comparisons with measures taken on the Floor of the House since the war, and they are fairly recent. The Commonwealth Immigrants Bill of 1961–62 had 21 Clauses and three Schedules. It was given six days in Committee, approximately two hours per Clause. Another illustration is the Restrictive Trade Practices Bill of 1955–56 which was not guillotined. It had only 38 Clauses and one Schedule and yet it had eight days in Committee, more than an hour and 20 minutes per Clause. Yet what the right hon. Gentleman is now offering us on the most fundamental Bill affecting trade union rights since 1906, a Bill of 150 Clauses and eight Schedules is 10 days in Committee, 100 hours in all, 45 minutes per Clause.
§ Mr. Nicholas Scott (Paddington, South)
The Commonwealth Immigrants Bill had one other thing in common with this and that was that the Opposition committed themselves to repeal it. Can the right hon. Lady tell us whether we are expected to take this pledge more seriously or less seriously than that?
§ Mrs. Castle
I am not surprised that Tory Members are seeking distractions from my main argument— [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] They have conducted the whole of the business on the basis of trying to avoid the main argument— [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] I am perfectly prepared to answer that in the appropriate debate, as I have answered it earlier.
What we are discusing this afternoon is what kind of Bill will emerge at the end of the Committee stage. We are discussing whether it is possible to examine, or even understand, the Bill on the basis of 45 minutes per Clause. What the Leader of the House is doing is grossly distorting the proportionate time per Clause, which is the only valid comparison. I do not want to engage in what the late Iain Macleod once called the battle of quotations that took place on guillotine Motion debates, though if I did the evidence would all be on my side —[Laughter.] All right; if hon. Members would like a few examples, I shall be delighted to give them a few. I take 54 the Trades Disputes Act, 1927, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) has referred. In that Bill, there were eight Clauses and two Schedules, to which 12 days were given in Committee on the Floor of the House. It is no good the Leader of the House saying that that was a long time ago. Does freedom date so rapidly? It is no good right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite saying that a Bill of eight Clauses and two Schedules is a small one. Does injustice become any less iniquitous because it is widely spread?
Let us take the Transport Bill, for which I was responsible and which was referred to by some hon. Gentlemen in exchanges in the House the other day. That Bill contained 152 Clauses and 18 Schedules and was guillotined only after 104 hours in Committee and many personal attempts by me to get a voluntary timetable. That had 190 hours in Committee in all, yet we are to have 100 hours on this 150-Clause Bill, if we are lucky.
Then let us take the Ports Bill, which was another highly controversial Measure about which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite felt very strongly. It had 61 Clauses and was guillotined only after 84 hours of debate. It had nearly 100 hours in Committee for 61 Clauses, which is as much as we are offered on this massive Bill.
Most compelling of all, let us consider the Iron and Steel Bill, which contained 44 Clauses and five Schedules. That was not guillotined, because the Labour Government knew that, to right hon. and hon. Members opposite, the nationalisation of iron and steel was like taking the Ark of the Covenant. It was not guillotined, even though it meant a protracted Committee stage giving 2¾ hours' debate per Clause.
I ask the House to discuss seriously and on its merits how much time we need for proper discussion of this Bill and how much time we have a right to ask for, even taking into account the requirements of Government business.
Clearly most right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have not read the Bill. If they had, they would realise that it has one outstanding characteristic. There is very little padding in it. There are very 55 few Clauses which one could safely allow to go through without debate, which will be the fate of so many Clauses if we accept this Motion.
Those of us who really care about the Bill and have studied it have divided it into some 16 main policy groupings. There are only 10 days of Committee left. Each group contains a number of Clauses, nearly every one of which embodies a fundamental new principle. At the same time, many of them are linked to lengthy Schedules the examination of which will have to be crammed into the few minutes that we are given for them.
Let me take the first group, Clauses 5 to 10, dealing with what the Bill calls the rights of workers. Has the House any comprehension of what is comprised in that single group? It deals with the right to belong or not to belong to a trade union, the right to pay contributions in lieu of membership, the exercise of those rights in an agency shop situation, the conscientious right to contribute to charity instead of joining a union, making the closed shop void—[Interruption] Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen cheer. We have as much right to boo, and the Government are taking away from us the right to exercise that equivalent expression of view.
Let me continue. The group defines the period of grace for the payment of contributions in lieu, which is a very urgent practical point for many unions. Then there are the special arrangements outlined for the construction industry, the creation of a number of new unfair industrial practices, as well as the concept of irregular industrial action. There is also the right of appeal to a tribunal against contributions in lieu.
Those are just some of the issues crowded into those five Clauses. Can anyone seriously say that we can discuss all of them on the basis of devoting 40 minutes or so to each Clause, of which time the Secretary of State and Government supporters will take a large part since any Government always have their own Amendments?
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Secretary of State took 45 minutes to answer the debate on the first Amendment in Committee?
§ Mrs. Castle
Yes, my hon. Friend is right. On another occasion, the right hon. Gentleman took 50 minutes or so. I do not suggest that we shall not all have to curtail our speeches, but I ask the right hon. Gentleman, who up to now has had the reputation of being a fair man, to accept that it is impossible and intolerable to expect us to debate each of these vitally serious issues in 45 minutes at the maximum, when in that time Government Amendments have to be taken, and when Opposition cheers about the right not to belong to a trade union will claim more of the time.
§ Mrs. Castle
Yes, I apologise. I am so used to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite forming the Opposition. That is their historical rôle and we shall make them resume it soon. I meant to refer to Government cheers taking time out of the 40 minutes when the right not to belong to a trade union is considered. The period must also give time for any Divisions which we feel compelled to call and, judging from the contents of these Clauses, there will be many.
Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite think that every kind of uncomfortable argument can be dismissed with a laugh. Do not they realise that many employers are deeply disturbed by these Clauses that I have enumerated which they feel will make a mess of their industrial relations, rather than improve them? Do not they know that many employers condemn the Government's outright rejection of the closed shop, and that I have a list of Amendments from the Tory G.L.C. which have just reached me and which call on the Secretary of State to amend Clauses 11, 31, 30, 22, 41 to 45, and 124 to 141? The Tory G.L.C. has to be accommodated at the same time. Do not right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite realise that certain unions could be totally destroyed unless some of the provisions are altered—or do not they care about the consequences?
Let us take the group of Clauses dealing with the registration of trade unions and the powers of the registrar. Twenty-two Clauses fall within this group, each one packed with details affecting the very right to operate as a trade union at all. 57 Do right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite suggest that we could begin to deal with the Clauses in half a day? If they do, they are making a mockery of Parliament and democracy.
Even the miscellaneous provisions at the end of the Bill, Clauses 132 to 150, are not the kind which we dare allow through on the nod, for they raise such important issues as what happens to an unregistered trade union. The Interpretation Clause, which normally can safely be allowed without debate, contains an historically important new definition of a trade dispute. Anybody who understands the first word about industrial relations will know that we ought to spend 40 minutes discussing that alone.
But, more important still, this is a constitutional Bill in a far more fundamental sense even than the Restrictive Trade Practices Act which was taken on the Floor of the House, not guillotined, and allocated far more time per Clause than this Bill will get.
This Bill not only creates a new court; it creates a whole range of issues which were formerly considered policy issues for government, wraps them up in legal language and makes them justiciable. So it alters the place of the judiciary in the workings of the constitution as a whole. For example, Clause 35, under this new approach to the rôle of the judiciary, provides that the court has to take a prima facie view about a policy situation which could lead to the imposition of a legally enforceable procedure agreement.
Under Clause 102(3), dealing with one of the important aspects of the complicated compensation provisions, the whole size of the damages which an employer can get against a union can depend on the court's decision whether the employer was partly responsible for causing the strike. Since when, in this country, have we made it the duty of a court to decide who might or might not have caused a strike? Whether or not hon. Gentlemen opposite are in favour of this profound constitutional change, they cannot in all justice deny that the House ought to have time to examine it and its implications. Does anyone seriously suggest that we can discuss issues like this in less than 40 minutes per Clause? Therefore, we denounce this guillotine Motion as a grave abuse of our democracy.
58 The right hon. Gentleman quoted Mr. Herbert Morrison. Let me give him Lord Butler in 1961 talking on the principles of a guillotine Motion, and talking about them realistically. He said:Before introducing a timetable Motion, a Government have to be satisfied about three things: first, that it is not possible to get the business done by agreement, secondly, that under the proposed timetable there will be adequate time for discussion and that the most efficient use is made of Parliament time—we attach great importance to this—and thirdly, that the use of the Guillotine is essential."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th March, 1961; Vol. 636, c. 45.]I suggest that the Leader of the House has not proved any of those three propositions this afternoon. In the Amendment which we shall be discussing later I think that we have given absolute proof that a voluntary timetable would have been possible. In asking for 30 more days for this Committee stage, we are not asking for anything wildly unreasonable or anything which would make it impossible for the Government to get their business. Unlike the right hon. Gentleman who led for the Opposition when I put through the Transport Bill who, when faced with a guillotine Motion which would have taken that Bill out of Committee by 15th May, said that that was intolerable and that we ought to have until the end of June, we have made our estimates and calculations very carefully, and what we are proposing for the extra 30 days would enable the Government, without sacrificing the Easter Recess, to get the Bill out of Committee by 14th May, sitting the kind of hours about which the right hon. Gentleman has been talking—and that on only two days per week. Can the Government honestly and honourably say that there is any impediment to allowing that kind of reasoned and detailed argument? This Motion is totally unjustified. The right hon. Gentleman should withdraw it and get back to consultation for a change.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Nicholas Scott (Paddington, South)
It is more than 50 years since Mr. Asquith said that he had slowly and reluctantly come to the conclusion that we could not carry out legislation here on large and complicated subjects without treating a timetable as part of our established procedure.
I do not think that I have heard a better case for a guillotine Motion than the speech of the right hon. Lady for 59 Blackburn (Mrs. Castle). Any innovation in this House which would preserve us from these ritual dances of debating guillotine Motions, when we can swap the speeches as we can swap the Government because exactly the same arguments are being put forward and instead can spend the time talking about the reality of the legislation under discussion, would be a major step forward.
We have heard the right hon. Lady a lot recently, and no word has passed her lips more frequently than "hypocrisy". We can understand why that word springs so readily to the right hon. Lady's lips. We have heard her denouncing with increasing hysteria measures similar to those which she was advancing only a short time ago.
Today the right hon. Lady has talked about not swamping the Order Paper with Amendments. Really, the right hon. Lady knows as well as anybody else in this House that that is part of the tactical manœuvrine of the Committee stage of any Bill. Of course the right hon. Lady would not swamp the Order Paper with Amendments, because she knows that she has to make this speech sooner or later. But they are all in the pipeline; they will all come through.
The right hon. Lady said that there is no need to pick on the details of the Bill. Of course not, if we spend 20 hours discussing Clauses 1 and 2. If we are prepared to go on and argue that every Clause in the Bill is crucial, that none is padded, that they all contain essential pieces which require debate, and accept the kind of progress which we have had on the first two Clauses, there will be no chance of getting the Bill through Committee in this Session of Parliament.
The right hon. Lady also said that she wants all available time to discuss the Bill. Very well. Let us have it. Let us finish this discussion on the guillotine now and we can have until midnight discussing some of these essential points —[Interruption.] Why not, if the right hon. Lady does not want to be condemned as hypocritical? The right hon. Lady has said that she wants all available time to discuss the Bill. We have got it from now until midnight. Let us take that time discussing the Bill rather than the Motion.
§ Mr. James A. Dunn (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
If the hon. Gentleman's view were accepted, could he assure us that efforts would be made to extend the other time which would be available?
§ Mr. Scott
I am sure that when these matters—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] —come to be discussed through the normal channels, my right hon. Friends would be prepared, within the overall time which has been allocated, to ensure special provision for those parts of the Bill which are considered most crucial by the Opposition. I am sure, even as a back bencher, that that kind of approach would be followed by my right hon. Friends.
Another point which I want to make on the Motion——
§ Mr. Scott
The hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that, first, I cannot answer that question and, second, if it was in my hands I should not advise it. The time available is adequate for the rest of the Bill.
There is another matter that I want to put to the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) and the hon. Member for Feltham (Mr. Russell Kerr) who shares his approach to the Bill. We are discussing the Bill in Committee. There are many things that we all hold precious. Some of the things that I hold precious are not so held by the other side, but parliamentary democracy and liberal democracy are, and some of the shouts from the other side of the House the other day about taking this battle on to the streets gives rise to something which I think hon. Gentlemen opposite should consider very seriously, especially when we see what is happening in another part of the United Kingdom. It behoves every hon. Member in this House to beware of even appearing to threaten the fundamental principles of parliamentary democracy.
§ Mr. Orme
I think that the hon. Gentleman has a nerve to lecture this side of the House about parliamentary democracy, in view of what the Government are doing about the Bill. Is the hon. 61 Gentleman aware that the trade union case will not be able to be put in this House, which is the forum of democracy? Is he aware that the trade unions are to have a law forced on them and that they are to be given no chance to answer the case that is being made for that law? What does the hon. Gentleman have to say about that?
§ Mr. James Tinn (Cleveland)
The hon. Gentleman believes that the time being allocated to the Bill is adequate. Can he say why, when controversial Bills were introduced by the previous Government, the then Opposition complained, when they were given more time per Clause?
§ Mr. Scott
I remember one other guillotine Motion being introduced which I was able to discuss, and that was the one on the proposal to impose selective employment tax on the people of this country. The Bill was guillotined even before the Committee stage began.
I do not believe that it is valid to criticise the Government for introducing this Motion. Erskine May says that a guillotine Motion is not usually moved until the rate of progress in Committee has provided argument for its necessity. Having sat through virtually every minute of the Committee stage discussions on the Bill, and only once having intervened on a point of order which got me into slight trouble with the Chair, I believe that I have a right to make my judgment and it is that the progress in Committee proves the necessity for introducing a guillotine Motion.
Indeed, once the Opposition had pressed for and received the Government's agreement that the Bill would be taken on the Floor of the House they knew that it would have to be timetabled. Whatever may have been the wishes of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who represent the official Opposition, we all know that there was no chance of their being able to speak for their hon. Friends below the Gangway. Any chance of agreement entered into by the Opposition Front Bench being followed by those who sit below the Gangway was remote, indeed, 62 and thus we have this ritualistic dance of a timetable Motion, instead of getting on with the real business of the House.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that guillotine Motions should be put before the House and passed without debate?
§ Mr. Scott
The ideal situation would be for every piece of major legislation to be referred to a timetable Committee of the House and to be produced with a timetable. All I am saying at the moment is that if the right hon. Lady is sincere in wishing to spend as much time as possible debating the Bill we should get on with that now.
We are, after all, faced with a choice. The Government have a choice of giving the Opposition as much time as they want to debate the Bill, which would mean that the Bill would never get to the end of its Committee stage, or of imposing a timetable and seeing that they got their business through, and it seems to me that they have made the right choice.
As it seems inevitable that nobody can end a speech on a timetable Motion without a quotation from the other side, may I quote a former Leader of the House, Mr. Bowden as he then was, quoting Mr. Chuter Ede? He said:My experience of the House has been that under no Government of modern times has legislation been too swift. The danger to Parliamentary democracy in this country is not from the speed but the slowness of the forms that were used when this country was less populous than it is…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd March, 1947; Vol. 434, c. 125.]I think that anybody who sat through the two days of Committee stage will agree that consideration of the Bill has been much too slow. It needs to be speeded up, and I shall vote for the Motion.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
The hon. Member for Paddington, South (Mr. Scott) is a respected figure in the House, but he has betrayed the fact that he knows nothing about guillotine Motions or about the procedure of the House. If there had been a proper meeting between the Patronage Secretary, the Leader of the House and the usual channels on this side there would have been an opportunity to report to Mr. Speaker. There 'would have been a 63 Committee recommendation, and the Government would have got a guillotine Motion in a far more respectable way than this, but they would have had to give longer notice.
It was only last Thursday that we had this notice. The Cabinet had met in the morning. The Patronage Secretary had looked for the Chief Whip on our side, but he was at a three-hour meeting with the National Union of Seamen, which will practically be abolished by the Bill. In effect, the usual channels had no opportunity to work, and we did not get a decent approach on the matter. In the weekend papers the Patronage Secretary put it out that he did have a conversation with the Opposition Chief Whip in the early stages of the Bill. But that was before Christmas, and to have said to the Opposition Chief Whip at that stage, "I suppose there is no chance of our getting a timetable for the Bill" was to invite only one answer. We heard at five minutes to midnight on this business.
There would have been no difficulty in obtaining this guillotine Motion on Wednesday next, when at least we could have gone through the normal courtesies. I know of few occasions in which bitterness has gone so deep and the Opposition have been overridden in this way. Minorities have their rights, and majorities must govern. I understand that principle full well. The Government have to get their business at the end of the day, but there are ways of doing it and the way in which it has been done here has outraged all the procedures that we have known.
§ Mr. Peter Tapsell (Horncastle)rose——
§ Mr. Pannell
I am dealing with the hon. Member for Paddington, South at the moment. For the hon. Member to say that the word "hypocrisy" is the word used most often by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Barbara Castle) is an assumption of superiority as impertinent as it is unworthy, bearing in mind the ignorance displayed in his speech.
§ Mr. Tapsell
If the sense of bitterness is as sincerely felt and as deep-seated as the right hon. Gentleman has suggested, why is it that there are fewer than 25 64 Members of the Labour Party in their seats at the moment?
§ Mr. Pannell
The hon. Gentleman had better hold back his remarks until the early hours of tomorrow morning.
Consequently, his whole speech was founded on an ignorance of procedures. He seems to think that we were being done a favour by the Bill being taken on the Floor of the House. If one says that the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill of 1962 was a fundamental Bill then this Bill, which deeply affects the natives of this island, surely could not have been taken anywhere else but the Floor of the House. It would have been an outrage.
Of course we knew—every parliamentary realist knows—that, directly a Bill is taken on the Floor of the House, the guillotine, when it comes, is likely to be tighter. But I suggest that this Bill is very different from those which I have quoted. I took the hon. Gentleman up on the 1927 Act. In this respect, I have some first-hand experience. That Act is the nearest thing I know to the present Bill.
It is no use the right hon. Gentleman saying, in effect, that we were old-fashioned in believing that a brave new world started when we were returned in 1945. The first thing that we did in 1946 was to repeal the 1927 Act, and there were few apologists on the opposite benches to excuse that Act of bitter revenge for the General Strike in which I took part. On the 1927 Act, there were three and a half days on Second Reading, then two days in Committee and then an allocation of time motion with 12 days for the remainder of the Committee stage, three days for Report and one day for Third Reading. Every Clause was given two days. That was an Act which was bitterly resented on this side—so bitterly that Ernest Bevin, who was our Foreign Secretary in 1945, asked to take a leading part on the Front Bench: it bit so deeply into his consciousness.
Now, of course, we are dealing with a Bill of 150 Clauses and eight Schedules. The repeal of the 1927 Act was the first thing which was done in 1946—a pledge was kept, after all those years. But in some ways this Bill goes deeper than the 1927 Act. It tries to overturn practices which are far wider and older 65 than those covered by that Act. The Times today says, speaking of a trade union which refuses to register:First, it will lose its legal title to call itself a trade union. According to this Bill, a trade union is 'an organization of workers which is for the time being registered under this Act'. Otherwise its status declines to an 'organization of workers', without any of the immunities built up over the past centuryThis is more than a nominal degradationof one of the great estates of the realm which was born of the voteless peasantry and proletariat fighting against transportation and for recognition. It was more than that: it was for their very existence. This Bill wants a man on his knees, not a man standing on his feet.
§ The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Robert Carr)
Would the right hon. Gentleman, however, not agree that registration as a condition for trade union membership was recommended by a Royal Commission——
§ Mr. Pannell
I do not accept that either. I did not accept Donovan in its entirety. At any rate, to finish the quotation, The Times—this is not me—goes on:This is more than a nominal degradation. The present definition of a trade union in the Act of 1913 is 'any combination, whether temporary or permanent, the principal objects of which are under its constitution statutory objects … the regulations of the relations between workmen and masters, or between workmen and workmen, or between masters and masters, or the imposing of restriction commissions on the conduct of any trade or business and also the provision of benefits to members'.It then adds—and this is why this Bill is different from any other Bill and deserves special treatment—This passage and the whole of the 1871 and 1906 Acts defining union amenities are repealed.Never has there been such a great Act for the repeal of one of the great voluntary 66 agents of the State. This gets down to bedrock and all the patient negotiations built up in good firms as well as bad go down and are overturned for a lawyers' paradise.
Of course, the shop stewards, of whom I was one, have always held out for the occasional strike which receives so much publicity, but nothing is said about, particularly, the war years and the demarcation lines which I myself took some part in altering in the national interest, day after day. This applies not to me particularly but to thousands of others.
Consequently, it should not be thought that this does not bite very deeply. This is a different Bill. It is not like the Parliament (No. 2) Bill on which we spent days and days, considering an elite. It is even more fundamental than the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill, because it refers to the status which people have built up by collective bargaining, and negotiations which are now turned over to the courts. All the way through, there has been an undue hurry.
The T.U.C. complained at the start that the Secretary of State had given them very little time to consult. As a member of one of the organisations, I think that that time was far too short. There could have been far more convincing, or attempts to convince, but we were told, "No, we have our mandate", and were told that 47 per cent. of the electorate—
§ Mr. Pannell
I am not making any alibi for scabs, political or otherwise; I have no cause for complaint. But 47 per cent. of all the people gave their mandate there.
But the election was not fought only on this issue. There was also the matter of reducing prices "at a stroke", and the matter of the trade returns. I am a trade union candidate—in fact I think that I am the doyen of the trade union candidates—but I was never asked about this. It was never an issue. My constituency is in the cradle of the Industrial Revolution, where they tinge justice with memory and where one can still evoke a response from people whose fathers and grandfathers took part in industrial struggles even going back to the times when the trade unions had to beseech the larger parties, before the Labour 67 Party was born. This is part of the weft and woof of traditions of our people.
I want to mention the background that I have known since the Bill came along. On 12th January, I was invited to address a meeting at Rochester. I suppose it was that I used to be deputy leader of my party on the Kent County Council. I was astonished. Over 1,000 people were crammed into that hall and were literally jammed up to the walls. In a lime when the big meeting has gone out, this Bill has brought it back. They were in a rampant mood. When one speaks about Gallop polls and whether people like legislation dealing with abortion or euthanasia, these are largely the silent majority. The thousands of people who attend these big meetings are extremely important in this context. Each one is worth 100 of the average person who records his opinion in a Gallup poll.
The meeting about which I have spoken was a difficult one to contain, though I am used to dealing with large meetings. The questions began, and what questions they were! One chap asked, "What about a general strike?" I replied, "If you have a general strike it will be settled only by having a General Election afterwards because I believe in the paramount importance of Parliament." It does not lie in the mouths of hon. Gentlemen opposite to lecture us about an industrial response.
As for the Communist Party, that always turns its attention first on the forces of the Left with the idea of fragmenting them before turning on the rest. The most important elements involved in fighting the Communist threat in this country in terms of dictatorship rests with people like me. Certainly one does not have to fight the splinter groups in the Conservative Party or the Primrose League or the Monday Club. They are the very antithesis of that. One may find Fascists in those groups, but certainly not Communists; and the Fascists are not against the Bill.
The people about whom I have been speaking have in many cases taken direct action against things which could not possibly be defended in other ways. One of the greatest causes of unofficial strikes has been procrastination in procedures. These procrastinations will be multiplied 68 if this Bill is passed because the already lengthy processes of the law will be still further lengthened. The mere fact that certain chaps on the factory floor will stand for some things only so far and will then stand them no longer is one of the greatest deterrents to injustice we have.
When one speaks about injustice one does not refer to the big corporations. I.C.I. and the rest have got these matters sorted out. They have ironed out their procedures and many of them have 100 per cent. closed shops to ensure that there will be industrial peace. It is in many of the smaller shops throughout the country where the workers are not organised sufficiently well. I have seen a lot of little tyrants in my time. The little ones often do much more harm than the odd big one here and there.
We must cast our minds back to the General Strike for a comparable period in history of resentment. Only then was there a similar sense of outrage. My complaint is that to bring in a cheap guillotine Motion to save a few parliamentary days for the sake of this useless piffling Bill, the Government are going a long way towards destroying belief in democracy. When the Bill of 1906 was introduced the then Government were prepared to spend the whole summer going through it line by line. Gradually we built up a bastion of liberty, and we do not intend to have it knocked down now.
One must look into the history of trade union affairs as well as parliamentary affairs to get this into perspective. The men in Government in 1945 were not the men of 1922—the hard-faced men who did well out of the First World War. In 1945 we had a brand new lot with new ideas. The Tory Party hid its head in 1945. The Tories did not know what had hit them. In 1951 Churchill appointed Sir Walter Monckton to the Ministry of Labour and told him to introduce a bipartisan policy for the unions. "Take trade union affairs out of politics, for goodness' sake", Churchill said.
Sir Walter did not know what to do first. Finally he refused to address meetings in the country because he thought he had succeeded in taking trade union affairs out of the party battle. It was well known that Churchill was extremely 69 good at inviting the T.U.C. over to Downing Street, where he discredited quite a few people when he got them there. We have a memory of that, as we have a memory of the General Strike and other times. So keen was Sir Walter Monckton on his rôle that when he became Minister of Defence he thought he could take defence out of politics as well.
Churchill was dead scared of creating the sort of situation which the present Government are fast in danger of creating. He wanted to have trade union affairs above the battle. He played it soft all along the line—and there was no Donovan Commission then or any chance for there to be a leisurely appraisal of matters to get them settled. I suppose it was inevitable that when one day we got an insensitive Prime Minister—and we have certainly got one now—he would try, from his position in the saddle, to change all that.
Had I been a member of the Conservative Party with the knowledge that I possess of the history of these matters I would have counselled a great deal of delay and caution on this point. I would have made sure that there were no loopholes which would enable the trade union movement to say that it has been trodden underfoot. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, or at least some of them, know sufficient about the history of this to have taken that course. I regret that they have not done so.
One need only consider a few examples to see the folly of the Government. Look at Equity, which certainly cannot be called a great left-wing organisation. Considering the trouble that Equity has had over the years, with the individual contract and so on, in a profession which is so desperately hard to organise, one must feel sympathetic, because it is said that this Bill will be its death knell.
With Lord Eccles in charge of the Arts, one would have thought that Parliament would be allowed to spend at least one full day discussing the position of Equity and the way in which the Bill will affect the actors and actresses who give us so much pleasure. These people do not have the loud voice that is possessed by those in other professions and industries. They showed great bravery in organising their profession. Shall we give them half a day or a couple of hours of our time?
70 Another important lot are the seamen. In time of war we admire them and we hear great rolling phrases about Drake's Drum and the men who go down to the sea in ships. No praise is too high and anybody with any knowledge of the history of merchant navy affairs, from the days of Havelock Wilson, knows how this Bill could affect the seaman. I spoke of small tyrants. If a man can be a tyrant in a small factory, how much greater a tyrant can he be aboard ship? We are told by the general secretary of the union which represents these men that the Bill will mean the destruction of their organisation.
How many days—or will it be just an hour or two—will be devoted to the seaman? Will they be contemptuously rattled over in a matter of minutes? Are we to be selective about them? Are they not worth a day of our time? Considering all the sentimentality that is poured out in time of war about the seaman, I trust that hon. Gentlemen opposite will make representations on their behalf. I see seated in his place on the benches opposite an hon. Gentleman who writes screeds in the evening newspapers. He should devote at least a full page to this problem.
Whoever drafted this Bill—be it the Solicitor-General or any of the other legal luminaries—did not know what he was doing. Whatever has been said about the consequences of the consequences in other matters, the consequences of this Measure will be enormously far reaching. At the end of the day there will be contempt for the law, which is what I do not want to happen. An Act is useless unless it can be enforced. Already the police are silent on many Acts which they cannot enforce. One need only think of the taxation of road vehicles. The ordinary man will not respect what seems to him to be absurd.
So it is with the trade unionists. If any hon. Member has ever seen a great workshop meeting reacting in full fight against what those present believe to be an injustice, he will realise that one does not ask, "What does Clause 53, subsection (3), say?" They will be up and away. What this present lot on the Treasury Front Bench needed—and they are as obstinate a lot as one could ever find—was a slow policy of education. 71 Instead, we get a quick policy of disenchantment with the democratic process. They could have afforded to have taken the House all through this business but, instead, they seek to save a little parliamentary time. They cannot lower the cost of living at a stroke, but they think that they can penalise the trade unionists at a stroke.
The curious thing is that it is usually decent, honourable men who seek to do this sort of thing. The Leader of the House is an admired figure. He always seems as reasonable as he is competent on a Thursday afternoon, and that says a lot. I believe that he interprets his job as Leader of the whole House in a reasonable way. At the same time, let us be quite frank and recall that, strictly speaking, the Leader of the House is merely the leader of Government Business; that his very title goes back to the days when the Prime Minister was in the House of Lords. Nevertheless, as I say, the right hon. Gentleman seems a reasonable man.
The Secretary of State for Employment, too, is a reasonable man—a nice man—an admired figure in this place. I can honestly tell him that the House felt deep distress when he had that misfortune in his home. He must well understand the great sympathy there was for him and his wife and family.
But sympathy is not enough. The right hon. Gentleman has a great responsibility. He remembers the days of Churchill, because the right hon. Gentleman came here in 1950. He was Under-Secretary of his Department when that Department bent over backwards to secure an accommodation with the trade unions. He remembers all these things. He has a flat duty to tell his Leader that the brash sort of manner in dealing with, say, the Resale Prices Bill, or entry into the Community, is not the approach we want here.
We are here dealing with our own people, not with an enemy. Trade unionists have all the best qualities of the British infantryman; able to fight a losing battle, able to stand by his comrade, if necessary to keep his mouth shut; to show great and deep loyalty. But the right hon. Gentleman thinks nothing of those qualities at all. He thinks that he can produce something 72 from a Conservative working party but the Conservatives, after all, are the traditional enemies of the trade union movement.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Dudley Smith)
§ Mr. Pannell
And it is no good the Under-Secretary of State shaking his head. We all know that he used to write things in the Chiswick Observer that he cannot say here.
We are told about the three million Tory trade unionists, but their activities are not very evident in their trade unions. Who are they on that side of the House? We have the hon. Member for Bath (Sir E. Brown) who occasionally speaks here, but I cannot remember anything that he has said. And the hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) is looked on as some sort of apostate. Those two hon. Members are all that the Conservative Party can produce here. It has never produced any respected trade union figure. The views of the Conservative Party are reason enough for not many Conservative trade unionists being elected. The Conservatives, as I say, are the traditional enemies of the working class and of the trade union movement. We cannot take this sort of thing from them, and the trade union movement will not take it.
In the end, the sort of rage I feel now will be transmitted right down the line When I next speak at a great mass meeting, whether at Rochester or elsewhere. and speak about parliamentary democracy, I shall be really up against it, because the rules have been changed. It is no use the Government saying that the guillotine has been brought in before—the only guillotine Motion these people are concerned about is this one.
These people are not masters of small margins. They are not the synthetic type which wants to consider every dot and comma. In the main, they are people with a rough history and, year by year, they have built up practices that are well-known and respected. They will stand by the sort of things they love and know.
The year 1927 may seem a long way off, but the speeches made from the other side then mocked those who spoke of an act of punitive revenge. We can count 73 the years, and there is no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman is wasting his time. Eventually, the people whom I and others represent will rise and sweep this Measure from the Statute Book.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Emery (Honiton)
I listened with considerable attention to the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell), who is a respected figure here. No one on either side would want in any way to suggest other than he said, that this Bill is fundamental. It affects a very large number of people, and not only those who are trade unionists, it considerably affects a lot who are not trade unionists. No one would wish to contradict that or to contradict the strength of feeling which the right hon. Gentleman has shown. But, quite honestly, when he appears to suggest that there will be a disregard of parliamentary democracy because of a timetable Motion such as we have seen time and time before, I just do not accept it.
What worries me, and what has been worrying me about all this opposition, is that those who oppose the Bill seem to want to see that "the demonstration" shall be a greater influence than the vote: that the demonstration shall play a greater part than the democratic answer in an election. If that is what the right hon. Gentleman means, let him say it.
The action of the right hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) and of a number of other people in the last few months leads one very much to an unpleasant belief. Whilst they are attempting to appear reasonable in Parliament, one gets the feeling that outside the right hon. Lady and others on the Opposition Front Bench particularly concerned with the Bill have been stirring up trouble, not attempting to calm it down.
§ Mr. Pannell
If the hon. Gentleman had listened to what I had said, he would know that my difficulty had been to calm down that meeting at Rochester, because I believe in parliamentary democracy. At that meeting, I said that the matter could not be solved by industrial response, but that we must give a political answer.
§ Mr. Emery
If the right hon. Gentleman was listening to me, he would know 74 that I was not talking of that particular action. In this instance, I did not refer to him at all. I referred to the right hon. Lady and to other members of the Opposition Front Bench and other persons. I specifically excepted him, and I hope that he will realise it.
§ Mr. Emery
I will give way to the hon. Gentleman in a moment. Let us underline the fact that whether the Opposition like it or not, this is what is happening. Indeed, when we hear hon. Members opposite suggesting that there might be a general strike, I say—and I hope that everybody, including the Opposition Front Bench, will want it to go out from this House—that that is not what is required by any parliamentary democracy.
§ Mr. Rose
Will the hon. Gentleman accept from me that during the past weeks I have spoken at meetings where I have faced barrages from the audience demanding a general strike, and that I have had to parry those demands and disagree with the people who made them? We have had to calm people down. This guillotine Motion is put forward deliberately to provoke industrial action in order to discredit the trade union movement.
§ Mr. Emery
The hon. Gentleman asked me whether I would accept that. I do not. I dismiss it.
I sought to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, in order that I might be allowed to refer to one specific matter which affects me and has affected a number of hon. Members of both Opposition and Government parties, who were carrying out duties, for which they were nominated by this House, at another parliamentary assembly, namely, the Council of Europe. This morning, on my calculation, there were about 15 Members of Parliament all carrying out this specific business at the request of this House at Strasbourg. Now we have a guillotine Motion, and we have had a very wide debate. I know that the Opposition do not like this matter being brought up, but because we have had a very wide debate and because we have been talking about consultation, I want it understood 75 that certain people who have been given duties by this House to perform at the Council of Europe have, without consultation, by unilateral action of the Opposition, had to return here. This petty political manœuvre has done this House no good; neither has it done any good to Britain's interests or influence within Europe.
When the President of that Council, a highly respected Swiss, sends telegrams to the Opposition and to the Government asking that the British Members of Parliament should stay in Strasbourg because their presence is essential to the working of that Council—[An HON. MEMBER: "Tripe."] It is not tripe; this is what has happened. In fact, that appeal from M. Reverdin has been completely ignored by the Opposition.
§ Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Whilst I appreciate that the bringing back of people from Strasbourg may be incidental to the proceedings of this House, may I submit that we are debating a guillotine Motion and that, therefore, references to Strasbourg, unless they are in passing, are entirely out of order?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)
The Chair is aware of what is in the hon. Member's mind, but the hon. Member who had the Floor was relating it to the Motion before the House. I hope that he will do so a shade more closely.
§ Mr. Emery
I am delighted to continue to relate it to this Motion, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This has been brought about because of the Motion and because of the unilateral action of the Opposition. The moment the Opposition get hit and the moment they realise that their action is unreasonable, they are on their feet with points of order.
I shall draw my remarks on this issue to a conclusion. It is evident that when the Opposition are willing to take action in an entirely unilateral manner and bring back two former Foreign Secretaries who are taking part in the proceedings of the Council of Europe, they deserve to be condemned. I am delighted to see that there is the possibility that Members will be able to return to those activities tomorrow. I only hope that common 76 sense will prevail with the Opposition benches.
§ Mr. Fraser
Now that the hon. Gentleman has come back from Europe, would he enlighten the House on some other experience? One listened to his clatter on the Prices and Incomes Bill in 1968 for 79 hours in Committee upstairs, on a Bill that extended to only about 20 Clauses. My ears suffered afterwards from his clatter. The hon. Gentleman spent many hours talking on a Bill affecting trade union rights, and which was therefore fundamentally important. How does he justify speaking 79 or 80 hours on a short Bill like that, and allowing only 40 minutes to each Clause in a Bill which is far more fundamental and which introduces a new concept into the law?
§ Mr. Emery
Although the hon. Gentleman was a Parliamentary Private Secretary at that time, I thought that he did not understand the Bill that we were discussing, and his intervention now makes it quite clear that he did not understand it. The whole of the debate then was on the alteration of the criteria—that which the Labour Party were trying to keep out of the Bill. It was only through my action that we managed to get the discussion on to the Bill.
Let us get on with this guillotine Motion. It is quite obvious that there is an immense amount of artificial rage. There always is on a guillotine Motion. I have indulged in it myself.
§ Mr. Emery
So has the right hon. Member for Leeds, West at different times. He knows this. He has been in the House long enough to know that this is what happens. This was obvious from the right hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle). Nobody has denied that this is the longest amount 77 of Committee time on the Floor of the House on any Bill, other than the Finance Bill. That is the fact which has surprised the Opposition, including the Opposition Whips. It is one of the facts which have cut the ground from under them and it is one of the reasons they are finding it difficult to sustain the debate in any reasonable manner.
Another argument used by the right hon. Lady was equally incorrect. The Opposition have suggested that nobody knew about this Bill. Hon. Members have said that no questions were asked at their election meetings about trade union reform. I can only say that in the West Country for over three and a half years there was hardly one speech that I made—and I certainly made five a month—in which there was not a reference to trade union reform. What is more——
§ Mr. Emery
I have been a trade unionist on both sides of the Atlantic, which is more than the hon. Gentleman can claim, so perhaps he will realise that his experience is not everything.
Any suggestion coming from the Opposition that the Bill is being thrust upon the people, that it has not been considered, or that there is no great support for it, is absolutely untrue. There has seldom been a policy introduced by any political party in modern times which was so well propounded before an election and so nearly to the letter carried out after an election. The right hon. Lady suggests that there is something wrong because there was no White Paper. Never before has there been a more open Consultative Document about a proposed piece of legislation than we have had from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. In this debate today, the Opposition are exhibiting a lot of artificial frenzy, and it should be treated as such.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Mr. A. E. P. Duffy (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
I do not deny the contention of the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery) that the Government have a mandate for their Bill. They have left the country in no doubt that they intend to do something about the trade unions. But 78 precisely what? I know the villages in and around Honiton, a delightful part of the country, and the people are delightful, too. I know how pleasant campaigning is in East Devonshire. I have done it in Tiverton. But is the hon. Gentleman sure that the people at his meetings—I say this with all respect to the fine and honourable people of his constituency—were left in no doubt about all the implications of "Fair Deal at Work"?
§ Mr. Duffy
That is a better response than I bargained for. I have no doubt that there is a widespread mood of irritation about all our institutions. There is a growing mood of irritation about so many aspects of policy in society today, and especially about the management of our economy. So it is not enough to say that the public want something done about this and, therefore, the Government are justified in doing what they now propose.
I suppose that, at bottom, most people are sensitive about strikes, not because they are against strikes, for at some time in their lives most people in this country are party to strike action, but because they do not want the inconvenience. I suppose that people like the airline pilots, who only a few months ago were wanting a rise of £3,000 or £4,000 a year, were privately outraged when the garbage workers asked for £3 or £4 a week. I can understand that.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
I am surprised at my hon. Friend. Why mention the airline pilots? Why not come nearer home? What about top civil servants, judges, and the chairmen of the nationalised boards, who had a 62½ per cent. increase from the present Government? They did not have to strike. They got it voluntarily, with no trouble at all.
§ Mr. Duffy
I agree with my hon. Friend. That point should be taken. I imagine that many people are not aware of it, just as they have only an inchoate impression of the incidence of strikes in this country and their impact. If one were to press the constituents of the hon. Member for Honiton—he reminded me of this when he claimed to have been a 79 trade unionist on both sides of the Atlantic—they would probably say that what the Government are trying to do has been inspired by what happens in the United States. But I do not suppose that they realise for a moment that the police were on srike in New York last week, that the taxi-drivers were on strike in New York the week before, and that the garbage workers are out again in New York this week. So much, therefore, for the model for the Government's Bill to end strikes.
§ Mr. James Hamilton (Bothwell)
My hon. Friend has referred to the strikes in America. We have been hammering that point in the House, warning the Government about the avenue along which they are going. Does my hon. Friend recall that the schoolteachers were on strike in Pittsburg and that over 70,000 children were without education?
§ Mr. R. Carr
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not wish to mislead the House or to take up time unnecessarily. Is he aware that in the United States it is illegal for public servants to strike— [HON. MEMBERS: "But they do."]— but there is no such provision in our Bill? We are not copying the United States.
§ Mr. Duffy
That is an indication of how, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) prophesied, policies and industrial legislation of this kind will bring the law into contempt. The right hon. Gentleman is right when he says that there is nothing about that specifically laid down in the Bill, but none of us on this side is in any doubt but that it will eventually come to that. It lies at the end of this legislative road. There are some people in this country—they may not know it now, and 80 they are, so to speak, anonymous—who will go down in history, like the Tolpuddle Martyrs, immortalised simply because they were the early victims of this Bill and went to prison because of it. I have not the slightest doubt that that will happen.
§ Mr. R. Carr
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman wishes to be fair. Is he not aware that the Bill specifically and deliberately reduces the risk of any trade union official ending in prison compared with the position under the present law? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] We are reducing the risk, not increasing it.
§ Mr. Duffy
I want to be fair, because the right hon. Gentleman has a reputation for fairness. I content myself with saying that this, also, is one of the highly contentious points which I had hoped we could clarify during a prolonged discussion on the Bill. Because there are many such points arising on the Bill, it deserves nothing less than a prolonged discussion. Without it, the Government, and especially the right hon. Gentleman, are vulnerable to the charge of deliberately exploiting the lamentably low level of public awareness of both the implications of the Bill and the complexities of industrial relations.
Trade unionists as well as the public need help and clarification on the Bill. I return here to what my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West said, and I am sorry that it was taken up so light. heartedly by some hon. Members opposite notably the hon. Member for Honiton. Those of us on this side—I know this to be true of many of my hon. Friends—who have had contact in recent weeks with trade union gatherings, with their branches, with weekend schools and with trade union conferences, know something of the deep anxiety as well as the temper which is felt and displayed by so many people about the Bill. I should be interested to know how many hon. Members on the Government side have had such contact in recent weeks with privately organised trade union meetings, not forums, not television appearances, but branch meetings, weekend schools and the like, and have tried honestly and conscientiously not merely to keep down the temperature of such gatherings but also to explain to them the provisions of the Bill.
§ Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)
The proposition that the hon. Gentleman is now putting forward is extremely important. I am glad to say that after an open meeting on Friday night in Newark, at which there were a large number of trade unionists, the chairman of a local trades council has invited me to address a meeting of local trade unionists with him in the chair. I believe that this is an example of responsibility which may be followed. I said in reply that I hoped that there would also be a trade union official on the platform so that we could take questions together and nail any misunderstandings that could possibly exist about the Bill.
§ Mr. David Mitchell (Basingstoke)rose——
§ Mr. Mitchell
On a point of order. Is it in order for an hon. Member to call for his Members on this side to answer a question and then not allow them to do so?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)
Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman did not hear the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) say that he would give way to him in a moment.
§ Mr. Mitchell
In that case, I apologise for having raised the point of order. There was so much murmuring from the other side of the House that I did not hear. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way now. I have met my trades council and discussed the Bill at considerable length with it in private, without the newspapers present to have as careful and objective a discussion as possible. I know that other hon. Members have done the same.
§ Mr. Duffy
I am glad to hear that, but, with respect to the hon. Gentleman, it was a small gathering. It was not the kind of gathering about which my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West talked. Tempers are more likely 82 to escalate at a larger gathering. If the hon. Gentleman had attended such large gatherings in recent weeks he would know something about the temper of trade unionists nowadays, which is all that my right hon. Friend was trying to communicate to the House. It is not good enough that on the slight pretext of a reference of that kind the hon. Member for Honiton should accuse hon. Members on this side of stirring it up.
§ Mr. Emery rose——
§ Mr. Duffy
I shall not give way at the moment.
This House has a teaching function as well as a legislative function. Therefore, it is of prime importance that we have a long discussion on the Bill. How better to discharge that teaching function than through a full discussion? If we do not have it, more and more trade unionists will do what some have told me privately during the past week they plan to do, which is to apply to the Human Rights Committee at Strasbourg for redress after the Bill becomes law. That is how deeply some trade unionists feel about the Bill.
My third point is that the application of the Bill depends on the widest basis of consent. Consent is a function of understanding, and how better to acquire that understanding than through what I have repeatedly counselled my own trade union meetings in recent weeks—a reasoned, positive and constructive approach, which the Motion will make impossible? Yet the workability of the Bill will depend largely on the co-operation of those trade unionists who have been active and concerned enough to attend meetings with their Members of Parliament in recent weeks. They are just the people on whom the value of the Bill will depend and who feel the greater sense of outrage.
I should like to draw the attention of the House to a meeting in the city of Sheffield this weekend, at which the point was made repeatedly that the T.U.C. will now find well-nigh impossible to continue imposing caution and restraint on the rank and file. Tomorrow night, according to today's Sheffield Morning Telegraph, the industrial section of the Sheffield Trades and Labour Council, representing 200,000 workers, will consider calling for a one-day national strike. Will the hon. Member for Honiton persist 83 in accusing hon. Members on this side of stirring it up when such spontaneous meetings are taking place in industrial cities like Sheffield? Let me read to him an expression of opinion voiced this weekend by Alderman Will Owen, President of the Sheffield Confederation of Trade Unions, who said:If the Government is prepared to use force in order to gag Members of Parliament and interfere with Parliamentary democracy, it must not complain if the Trades Union Congress is overwhelmed with demands from its affiliated unions to take industrial action as the only means of smashing the Bill.As far as I know, although several Members knew that those meetings were going on, none of them attended. It was not necessary. This was entirely a domestic matter, and the quotation I have just read fairly reflects the outraged feelings of the rank and file. Does the hon. Gentleman still persist in accusing hon. Members on this side of stirring it up?
§ Mr. Emery
I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way at last. I have been trying to catch his eye. What I have to say to him is quite clear. The action of trade unionists when they are discussing the Bill with their Members of Parliament in private and their attitude at public meetings, when pushed by the extreme left and Communist elements, are entirely different matters.
§ Mr. Duffy
The hon. Gentleman portrays a situation that is entirely outside my experience and so far as I know that of all my hon. Friends. I know personally that many of my hon. Friends have in recent weeks counselled patience and caution on the part of trade unionists. We shall go on doing that, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West said, but if the Motion is passed it will make our position almost impossible.
The Leader of the House described the time that would be available to discuss the Bill. Is it enough? He spoke about the time that was made available for what he regarded as similar Bills in the post-war period. But we have not had a Bill like this before. It is not merely that it is big, though it is three Bills in one, having three models—the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, the Wagner Act of 1935, and the Landrum-Griffin Act of 1959. But it is also very complex. I do not wish to sound impertinent, but in my 84 view, and that of many people with whom I have discussed it, it has many obscure passages. Some parts can be understood only in the context of other parts, so frequent cross-reference is necessary.
I was interested to read in yesterday's Sunday Times an analysis of the time that would be available to Members for debate. It concluded that the residual, net time, for debate is not even the 40 minutes per Clause that my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) suggested, but 10 minutes. This seemingly, is irrespective of the varying degrees of priority that we may accord the Bill as we work our way through it.
§ Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Southall)
Does my hon. Friend recall that the same article talked about the sloppy wording that needed to be tidied up?
§ Mr. David Mitchell
The hon. Gentleman referred to this Bill being three Bills rolled into one. Has he forgotten that the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) introduced a Transport Bill which was three Bills rolled into one and guillotined that?
§ Mr. Duffy
My right hon. Friend's Transport Bill was not as long as this Bill. Nor was it as far reaching in its implications. Nor could it be regarded as a constitutional Bill.
My fourth point to the Leader of the House is whether he is quite sure that, in restricting discussion on the Bill, he will not make it more and more difficult for the Secretary of State to get the consent that he will need for the successful implementation of the Bill. Fifthly, I recognise that the Government have the right and the duty to govern, but this is, in my view, the most important Bill since the war and I want to give four reasons for my belief.
First, the Bill represents a fundamental break with tradition in relation to the courts and the unions. The unions have often been accused of having a privileged position. No one who knew anything about the historical development of the relationship between the unions and the courts over the last 100 years could really believe that. Those relationships have been largely shaped by a tacit recognition on both sides that each should have as little to do with the other as possible. 85 Secondly, the Bill represents a departure from voluntaryism, the basis on which our industrial relations have hitherto been conducted, to such an extent as to mark a revolution of quite remarkable proportions. Thirdly, it sets up new courts with fundamental changes in human rights. Finally, the Bill is an attempt to tip the scales of industrial bargaining sharply against the trade unions. It affects the basic structure of our society and the balance of forces within it, and it is therefore a constitutional Measure.
I want to say a word, therefore, about the conventions that govern constitutional Bills. In the absence of a written constitution in this country, the most important task of Parliament is to ensure that the agreed objectives of policy are not changed before there has been full and frank discussion, before there has been an attempt at the widest possible agreement and at least an understanding. I wonder how far this is any longer attainable in view of this Motion. We are all familiar with the taunt sometimes levelled at us as Members—that this place does nothing but talk. But John Stuart Mill, a century ago, wrote:There has seldom been more misplaced derision. I know not how a representative Assembly can more usefully employ itself than in talk, when the subject of talk is the great public interests of the country, and every sentence of it represents the opinion either of some important body of persons in the nation, or of an individual in whom some such body have reposed their confidence.To Mill, the proper function of a representative assembly was to be a congress of opinions, a great inquest of the nation, a place for talking, not a place for doing. Laws should not be made without its consent and the price which the Government must pay for consent was to listen to the advice of Parliament.
At a time when the shadow of violence lies across British politics, when there is accumulating evidence of growing estrangement between the intelligentsia and power, between ideas and responsibility, and, above all, between youth and the State, what Mill advocated a century ago is even more applicable and desirable than it was in his own time.
I shall not follow the taunt made by the hon. Member for Paddington, South (Mr. Scott), when he referred to my right hon. Friend's attachment to rights. I 86 shall address myself to the Leader of the House and say that, in recent months, I have been much impressed by his repeated proclamations of the rights of Parliamentarians. I still have faith in him and I ask him, if he wants us on this side to go on believing in his attachment to the rights of hon. Members, to hesitate before he lends himself to an arrangement that smacks of unnecessary, unreasonable and premature restriction of the rights of Members.
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Hornby (Tonbridge)
I hope that the House will forgive me if I say that I find that the way in which the debate has been going was, rather sadly, predictable. Once this Motion is out of the way, we have before us a Bill which on both sides of the House presents some thorny problems and on which many hon. Members have worked very hard in many different ways. It is a Bill that we want to get down to discussing, yet here we are spending a whole day in not discussing it. Many people must feel that we would be serving the interests of our constituents and the country best by getting down to discussing the details of the Bill, and that the sooner we get down to it the better for everyone concerned.
Timetable Motions have been brought in under successive Governments. With the exception of the 1964–66 Labour Government—and I give them credit—all Governments since the war have brought in timetable Motions. Of course such a Motion must be debated, but I share the view that was put by witnesses in discussion on procedure as far back as 1931—that there may be a case for agreeing to shorter debates on the procedural matter of a guillotine Motion—say, two or three hours—and then getting on with the details of the Bill.
§ Mr. John Fraser
Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that, under the new procedure, if the Government had tried to get an agreed timetable but had failed, there would have been a two-hour procedural debate? We are having a long debate because the Government, by their own admission, have put down a Motion before there has been any attempt to agree a timetable.
§ Mr. Hornby
I understood that a great deal of preliminary contact had taken place. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I may 87 be mistaken, but it seemed perfectly clear to me from the evidence given by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House that no agreement was possible.
Hon. Members opposite made the point that the Bill is of a particularly special kind. The right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) said that its consequences are far-reaching and that it involves, unless adequate consent can be obtained, a real danger of contempt for the law. Those are both important points, but it is not good enough for the right hon. Member to leave the situation like that, as clearly he would like to have left it. As to his point that the consequences would be far-reaching, I would make the counter point that the consequences of doing nothing in this matter will be equally far-reaching since in industrial relations we face a very unsatisfactory situation.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State does not feel that this Bill by itself will solve anything, and I am sure that nobody would be rash enough to contest that. He is saying that he hopes that its provisions, after mature and careful discussion, can usefully be put into a framework of law—a law that in many respects is out of date—and thereby create a better climate in industrial relations.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
The hon. Gentleman says that this has taken place after considerable consultation and discussion. Consultation and discussion with whom?
§ Mr. Hornby
I will come on to that point a little later.
The other point made by the right hon. Member for Leeds, West was that there was danger of contempt for the law. The serious answer is that there is always a danger of contempt for the law unless people stand up for the law. There is real danger in our institutions if we take the line of disliking one particular aspect of the law. I had hoped to hear from somebody like the right hon. Gentleman a rather more substantial defence for our institutions.
I come on to the matter of consultation, about which I was questioned by the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis). This has not been a rushed Bill, it has not been prepared 88 without a good deal of thought and consultation. Hon. Members opposite know this well. The Royal Commission has taken a great deal of evidence and much of the Bill is drawn from its work. We have seen the publication of the Consultative Document, which has been debated in this House. It was open to the trade union movement to discuss that document. We have had carefully prepared submissions and documents from both the main parties. We have had "In Place of Strife" and "Fair Deal at Work". This is not something that has been hurriedly rushed into. It has been carefully thought out. Furthermore, this was clearly a priority item in our election manifesto—hon. Members opposite do not like to be reminded of this—which was endorsed by the electorate.
I suspect that we all in our hearts know that this guillotine Motion was inevitable, and those opposite know it. Indeed, they intended to force the Motion on the Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] This has been evident in practically every intervention and in every question by hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton) rose——
§ Mr. Hornby
I will give way in a moment. We had from the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) some intimation about when a collision was coming, with the sort of attitude "Such-and-such will happen if you dare to put this legislation forward", and so on. She was trying to push the matter that way. We have seen the sort of progress that has been made so far on the Bill——
§ Mr. Heffer
What the hon. Gentleman says is absolutely untrue. We on this side went out of our way to ensure serious and responsible discussion on each Clause of the Bill. The Front Bench speakers on this side of the House restricted themselves. As a matter of fact, the total time taken in the three speeches which I personally made on Clauses was less than the time taken in one of the speeches made by the Secretary of State in summing up one Amendment.
We went out of our way to avoid a guillotine, and it is totally untrue to say that we were working for one. Surely the reverse is the situation. The right hon. Gentleman himself put the four 89 principal Clauses at the commencement of the Bill knowing that each one would be of great interest to Members on the matter of principle, so that he could then argue that those Clauses were taking too long and could bring in a guillotine Motion.
§ Mr. Hornby
The hon. Gentleman can take that point of view, but my impression of the first four Clauses of the Bill is that they do not comprise the meat of the Bill. They relate to general principles similar to matters raised on Second Reading. It seems to me that the progress we were making caused the introduction of a guillotine Motion in the fairly near future to be almost inevitable.
However, right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have now got their guillotine Motion. There is undoubtedly much to be discussed in this Bill. They complain that the allocation of time Clause by Clause is not enough. They might bear in mind the many Clauses in the Bill which one hopes will be universally welcomed as an asset to good industrial relations and in protecting individual rights within and without the trades union movement.
I hope that at the end of the day, after discussion of these matters, hon. Members opposite, having argued their case in whatever way they wish, will come to recognise that, whether or not they like the shape of the Bill, this legislation was foreshadowed by the election and has the backing of public opinion. Therefore, they should decide whether they will help to make it work.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)
I should like at the outset to try to clear up the fact that we are having a protracted debate today. I am sure that no hon. Member would seek to deny to the House a right to debate a guillotine Motion, but time and again hon. Members opposite have sought to imply that this debate has taken place because of the Opposition's desire for it to take place. We are debating this guillotine Motion because we believe it should be debated for a number of reasons, not least the right of hon. Members to determine the business of the House. But if it is wrong that this debate should be protracted, one cannot charge 90 the Opposition with being responsible for it.
As I understand the situation—I am subject to correction by the Leader of the House, who is now present—if the normal procedures for consultations had taken place, it would have been possible for the Government to have had a debate on the guillotine Motion under the new procedures, which would have taken two hours. I am glad to see that the Leader of the House appears to be in agreement with what I say.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point. There are two courses open to the Government, and I make no complaint. I chose the one which allowed a full day's debate if that was what the Opposition wanted. I did this in the full knowledge that, if the Opposition decided to do that, it was their affair.
§ Mr. Loughlin
I hope that the statement by the Leader of the House will now disabuse the minds of all hon. Members opposite who have been charging us with seeking a spurious debate rather than getting on to the main debate on the Bill.
I am glad that the Leader of the House has returned to the Chamber—I do not say this in any spirit of criticism because I appreciate his many responsibilities—since I wish to say this to him. I have had a very great regard for the right hon. Gentleman for many years, but I say sincerely that I have never in the whole of the years I have been in this House been subjected to such a disgraceful speech in justification for a Government sanction than that made by the Leader of the House today. I cannot understand how the Leader of the House can justify the introduction of the guillotine on a Bill of this kind and address the House with a speech which was the flimsiest I have heard in my life, inside or outside the House.
There is an overwhelming reason why the Bill should be completely adequately discussed. It is not a trivial Measure. As has so often been said, it has 150 Clauses and eight Schedules. Even this afternoon, the Secretary of State and some of my hon. Friends were disputing whether the Bill's effect would be that people would go to gaol. The Secretary of State has evidently been involved in 91 all sorts of detailed official discussions with his civil servants and colleagues in the Ministry, as must anyone piloting a Bill of this kind. It is amazing that he should not have grasped that in practice people in industry may be sent to prison as a result of the Bill. On Second Reading, there were repeated complaints that the implications of Clause after Clause were imprecise and that the wording of provisions was so vague that no one knew precisely what the full implications would be.
On Second Reading, lawyer after lawyer, some barristers and some Queen's Counsel, argued the precise meaning of given provisions. The Government will readily accept that there is an indecisiveness about the wording. If that is not so, perhaps a Government spokesman will tell me the precise meaning of "induced to commit", and that is only one of many examples. How can anyone in the context of the Bill know what offence he is committing by "inducing"?
All legislation affects all of us. Sometimes we are affected directly, but, fortunately, that is only occasionally. When we are, we have to go to the lawyers for advice. We go to see our solicitors and, for example, say, "I have a letter which suggests that I am in breach of some law and I seek your advice". We do what our solicitors tell us and, if needs be, we get advice from barristers.
Normally, it is reasonable to assume that the average person—and it is for the average person that we are now legislating—will be affected by the law infrequently, and that, when he is, it will be appropriate for him to get advice from his solicitor. There might be some justification for curtailing discussion of some legislation on the ground that it would affect the average person only occasionally and he could then have recourse to legal advice.
But this is not that kind of legislation. This is not legislation which will affect the average person once in 10 years. It will affect thousands and thousands of men and women in industry every day of their working lives. If my reading of the Bill so far is any guide, it will be extremely difficult for the average man or woman in industry to be sure of not being in breach of the law. It will be not once every 10 years, but every working 92 day. In circumstances of that kind, this is an occasion when, instead of limiting the time for the Bill, we should take into account the implications of each Clause for the general populace. Irrespective of what we normally do, we should ensure that these proposals have the maximum discussion.
That is the overwhelming reason. If 100,000 shop stewards, for instance, may be in breach of the law six days of the week and 52 weeks of the year as a result in the Bill, it is imperative that the House gives absolutely adequate time to discussing it.
There has been an argument about how much time in fact is being given to the Bill. The Leader of the House takes the view that it is about 40 minutes per Clause. That is the average, because some will not take as long, but in that total time there will be variations for procedural incidentals such as Divisions, and that will subsequently reduce the average time of 40 minutes. We are not giving what would be considered normal in average circumstances and it could be legitimately argued that this is a Bill which requires substantially in excess of the average time.
The Bill is conceived in the belief that it will contribute to industrial relations. The Government have now accepted it as the cornerstone of the whole of their economic policy. What other economic policy have they? Several hon. Gentlemen are shaking their heads. But the sum total of the Government's economic policy is to put a Bill on the Statute Book that will shackle the trade union movement and thus reduce the increases in wages—de-escalate as they term it—which will consequently solve the problem of inflation. That is economic nonsense, but nevertheless it is the case which the Government are presenting.
If that is the key to the Government's economic policy and if the Bill is to make any contribution to industrial relations, I should have thought that it was imperative from the right hon. Gentleman's point of view that there would be more than adequate discussion of the case. I do not wish to be arrogant. We are all a little arrogant. I will concede to the right hon. Gentleman that some of us are more arrogant than others. I try not to be so. We all have to live with 93 ourselves. I do not suggest for one moment that I have any specialised knowledge or can make any outstanding contribution to a debate about industrial relations. All that I have is my experience in industry. But there are many hon. Members on this side of the House who can make a substantial contribution to moulding the kind of legislation that would be a contributory factor in improving industrial relations. God knows, they need a great deal of improvement.
One of the most amazing things is the acceptance by too many people that all the faults of industrial relations are on the part of the trade union movement. So often are arguments advanced against the shop stewards of the union when in practice a substantial part of the difficulty arises from the failure of management. Too many people put that to one side. If management has its failings or wishes to make a contribution to the improvement of industrial relations in the discussion of the Bill, obviously there are right hon. and hon. Members on the Government benches who have had a measure of industrial experience. But with due deference, a far greater contribution on industrial relations can be made from this side of the House, largely because hon. and right hon. Members on these Benches have had a far greater and more intimate knowledge of industrial problems by virtue of being closer to them. Some right hon. and hon. Members on the other side of the House have been involved in industrial consultancies. Some of them have had industrial experience, but very few.
It is imperative that the Leader of the House, if he wants to end with a Bill, moulded possibly to some extent by this side of the House, which serves his primary purpose of improving industrial relations, should forget his heinous crime of introducing the guillotine. This would take him back to the man he was before he introduced it, and we could appeal then to his usual generosity. He is usually generous, but not on this occasion.
Where we have very important legislation that is bound by its very nature to involve many, many men and women, good, ordinary decent folk in their day-to-day lives, when even their freedom is put in jeopardy, as it can be by the 94 Bill, I ask the right hon. Gentleman even at this stage to reconsider the guillotine Motion. It is not the slightest bit of good the Secretary of State saying that people will not go to goal because of the Bill. They will. It will not matter so much if the Bill is delayed for a month or two. It is better that it be delayed two or three months, so that at the end of the day we have a Bill which is more equitable to ordinary men and women, than that we rush the Bill through and risk freedom.
I do not want to use exaggerated language, but if the approach of the Government is carried further than it is today, it will be the beginning of a Fascist state in Britain. I should not like to feel that, wittingly or otherwise, the right hon. Gentleman, for whom I have a great admiration, contributed to bringing about that situation.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Mr. R. H. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
I can assure the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) that I do not regard the debate or his speech as spurious. My complaint is that it is exact repetition of the speeches on guillotine Motions which I have heard year after year, sometimes by Conservatives and sometimes by Socialists.
Lengthy debates on guillotine Motions do not add to the reputation of the House. Sooner or later we have to come to the decision which was reached by the Select Committee on Procedure in the last Session, that when we have a major Bill on the Floor of the House we have to have a timetable. That is inescapable. It is nonsense to talk, as the hon. Gentleman has talked, as if this were some undemocratic move. I pray in aid for the view that we must have the timetable Motion and that it has to be to some extent an imposed Motion, that in the end it must be the majority who have to say how many days we should devote to the Bill.
The Select Committee on Procedure discussed this, I remember, when the Leader of the House was the right hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Cross-man), and he spoke to us about his views on the timetable. I remember that the present Mr. Speaker put to him that if one had a timetable one could not test the Minister, and that, as stated in the 95 Sixth Report from the Select Committee on Procedure, 1966–67:One of the disciplines for a Minister is that if he wants to get his Bill through he must not lose his temper and become unreasonable.There can be no danger of that with the present Miinster who is in charge of the Bill. The answer of the right hon. Member for Coventry, East was:… I think it is true to say that the quality of the debate could be greatly improved under the time-table, and I would not have thought that the point about temper was quite as important as was suggested to me at the beginning, because the Minister will have plenty of tests of it if the Opposition know their way, even with a time-table giving him 10 days for his Bill. I am not sure that I would say that it justifies the disadvantage of the unlimited time, that it tests Ministers' tempers.That is the issue here. The Opposition must have the democratic right of protest, but they should not be too long. They should remember that, certainly by the protests this afternoon, every minute and hour which they take in making those protests they are denying themselves the time allotted by the Government for further examination of the Bill.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)
Will the right hon. Gentleman address himself to this point? Even if, ultimately, no agreement is possible, and the Government must reserve the right to impose a guillotine Motion, at least a serious and earnest attempt to reach agreement should be made.
§ Mr. Turton
The Government have to see whether it is possible to reach some agreement, obviously. Here we have the position where the Government offer 120 further hours. They offer the equivalent of 23 normal days of parliamentary working for the examination of the Bill. Instead of asking for an extra day, the Opposition seek another 30 days in their Amendment, which shows the disparity between the two sides. Those 30 days are the equivalent of 60 normal working days. In a parliamentary Session, there are 180 working days, and the Opposition say that the equivalent of 60 normal working days should be devoted to the Bill. That is how far apart the two sides are.
Addressing myself to the point raised by the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins), again it is clear. I sat through the recent all-night sitting, and anyone getting to my age finds all-night 96 sittings highly inconvenient. At the same time, they are always enlightening. I wanted to test the attitude of the Opposition and to see whether they were trying to curtail the debates. Among others, I listened to the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson). Incidentally, I warned the hon. Gentleman that I proposed to quote from his speech. He said:One assumes that the decision to bring the Bill on to the Floor of the House means that the Government are looking to completion of it in, say, twelve months from this March. Perhaps March, 1972, would be a rough guess, on the basis of 15 hours per Clause. I do not know whether the Leader of the House would like to consider whether he is anxious to get the Bill this year, or whether it is the Government's intention to use the guillotine method and various other undemocratic practices in order to speed up the whole proceedines."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th January, 1971; Vol. 809, c. 969–70.]That is my answer to the hon. Member for Putney. Anyone who listened to the speeches in that all-night sitting knew that the only answer was a timetable Motion if the Bill were to be considered on the Floor of the House. All the evidence pointed to the fact that there was no likelihood of an agreed timetable between the Government and the Opposition.
I beg right hon. and hon. Members opposite to be their age and to get down to this inescapable Parliamentary fact. We have important matters to discuss. The best way of doing so is to find a timetable that is reasonable. In all the years that I have been in the House, I have never known a longer time allowed in a guillotine Motion for any major Bill. Let us find a way. Surely we can get a greater measure of agreement between the two sides. If the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) would only say that she would be happy with 11 days—and, after all, she would have had 11 days if it had not been necessary for this debate—then we could get down to it.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
The Father of the House, for whom I have sincere respect, referred to the all-night sitting that he attended. I also sat through it and, like him, I am getting old. However, every spokesman from the Treasury bench is on record as admitting that there was no filibustering or unnecessary delay. Indeed, the first two Clauses were obtained on the one and only day after 97 my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) asked those of my hon. Friends who had had Amendments selected by the Chair not to move their Amendments. Obviously there was no filibustering.
§ Mr. Turton
I thought that the Opposition conducted the proceedings in that all-night sitting extremely cleverly. I have known all-night sittings when hon. Members on both sides have made filibustering speeches. The art of Parliamentary debate is to prolong it without making it appear that one is filibustering. I must congratulate the right hon. Lady. The way in which she did that was extremely adroit. However, the hon. Member for Tottenham admitted that, at the rate that we were going, devoting 15 hours to a Clause, it would be March, 1972, before our consideration of the Bill was complete. He clearly anticipated a guillotine Motion and accepted that that was the only possible consequence of that debate.
§ Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)
Has not the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) shown how anxious he is that the Bill should be got through in reasonable time by tabling over 300 Amendments?
§ Mr. Turton
I think that that point has been sufficiently discussed already, and I do not want to take up an undue amount of time.
Like the right hon. Member for Coventry, East, I am convinced that every major Bill must have some form of timetable, as he said in evidence to the Select Committee on Procedure.
This is not a spurious debate. It is right for the Opposition to make a short protest. However, they should remember that, the more that they prolong this debate, the less time there is for discussing the details of the Bill.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Acton)
As a relatively new Member of this House, I find this debate extremely interesting. I am glad to follow the Father of the House, as I do not question the prerogative of the Government to introduce a timetable Motion at some stage, and I doubt whether anyone is surprised that they have decided to do so. However, I am concerned with the timing of it and 98 the lack of consultation which took place before its introduction.
I believe that the conventions of a constitution are just as important as what is written down. Dicey had a good deal to say on this matter, and he pointed out in Chapter XIV that the conventions of a constitution are rules for governing the exercise of a prerogative. I suggest that it is this convention which is important. It is the prerogative of the Government to introduce a guillotine Motion. It was expected, and I do not deny them that right. But it is the exercise of that prerogative and the way in which it is done which should concern us. Unless that prerogative is used with respect for the conventions, it is likely that Parliament may be put at some disadvantage. While Dicey was writing about the Crown and the prerogative of the Crown, it is also true that the prerogative of the Executive should be used with due regard to the conventions. Unless it is, people's confidence in Parliament will be undermined.
Many people outside this House are intensely interested in our debates and study the procedures adopted by the Government, especially when they touch on controversial Motions of this kind. For their A-level examinations, thousands of students use a textbook entitled "The British Constitution", by Harvey and Bather, published by Macmillan. Referring to the guillotine, it says on page 124:… it is a drastic procedure obviously disliked by the Opposition. Even the Government prefer not to use it, for a day is often lost in debating the motion. Hence, an attempt is first made to agree on a timetable through the usual channels. If this fails and the guillotine has to be used in Committee of the whole House, or on Report, Standing Order 43 provides….and so on. I do not say that this book, which is a relatively short volume—although it is based on longer writings by Sir Ivor Jennings and others—should necessarily circumscribe what we do here, but these points will cause anxiety to people who have a concern for parliamentary democracy. These conventions are important not only in this place; they are important throughout the institutions of democracy and, in particular, in industrial relations.
If we are to maintain in this country what my hon. Friend the Member for 99 Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) has called the politics of persuasion, as distinct from other sorts of politics in other parts of the world, the place of these conventions must be recognised, and they must always be observed.
Conventions in industrial relations are equally important. I heard in a works not long ago of a convention operated by shop stewards joining together with the management in a joint consultative council, and minuting their agreements. The manager agreed with a certain proposal, but some time later a new manager arrived who said—as was his prerogative —that he was not bound by the agreement made between the unions and the previous manager. He said, "I do not accept this arrangement. "Unfortunately, that arrangement had certain implications. The manager threw it out and there was a prolonged strike in the works mainly because the manager did not understand the implications of his decision. That strike had implications for many members of the general public.
These conventions in industrial relations—just as in the case of conventions in the House—make all the difference between smooth procedure, or a smooth discussion of public business, and one that is rough. I tell hon. Members opposite that they do not seem to understand the importance of conventions inside industrial relations—conventions which are not legally binding. The sort of decisions that we have had in the last two or three days indicate that the Government do not understand their significance.
Conventions can sometimes be very unusual. A fortnight ago the Sunday Times referred to the case of the Cowley car workers, where, although the manager wanted to get a decision, he could not do so because he could not clear it with the London head office, in Berkeley Square, I believe. He said to his senior shop steward, with whom he was on good terms, "You go on strike. Then we can make them listen." Sometimes conventions work even in that way.
At another works, not far from my constituency, the conventions worked fairly well—unlike the situation at the Cowley works. It was known that there would be short-time working about a fortnight 100 or three weeks beforehand. We all know how the message gets through; it runs through in this place in the same way. The management was expected to take a decision. It called in the shop stewards and, by amicable agreement, the short-time allocations were divided between the various departments, perhaps with some distrust of the shop stewards by some of their supporters. There were no industrial difficulties, because the operation was carried through using the conventions.
It is unfortunate that the Government have not used the important convention to which I have referred. Every speech from hon. Members opposite—even the speech of the Leader of the House—has admitted that this convention was not followed. I realise that hon. Members opposite can say, "We knew that you would not agree to a timetable". If there is a bone of contention between a man and his wife and the man knows what the wife's view will be but takes a decision without consulting her, she is liable to become annoyed. He may say, "I knew what your answer would be", but there is not likely to be a very good relationship between them after that.
The Government do not seem to have realised that conventions are essential, whether they be between a man and his wife, management and labour or Government and Opposition. I am sorry that the Secretary of State for Employment is not here, because I suggest that this question has little to do with the law but everything to do with human relations. The analogy is fairly plain. In this House we are not concerned with short-time working or with wages; the scramble between us is for parliamentary time. Everybody in the House knew that within a measure of time there would have to be a guillotine Motion. People were talking about it. We knew that we would have to have it. There was a discussion about what sort of time would be made available, which were the important Clauses, and which Clauses the Government would wish to amend. Outside the Government, some of their friends at the Greater London Council have put down several Amendments which will have to be discussed at some stage.
We then had what amounted to a board meeting, at which suddenly, for 101 reasons that we can only surmise, there was a sudden decision. We know that it was made suddenly, because of what we read in The Times and The Guardian. Those reports have not been denied. The equivalent to the personnel manager scurries out to get the shop steward on the telephone. Then the works manager makes an announcement in the afternoon. Is there any wonder that there is distrust?
I am concerned at the fact that there is an almost direct parallel with the sort of industrial situation that the Government want to clear up. They have not applied it to their own works. The Secretary of State for Employment has said many times at the Dispatch Box, "We want to encourage voluntary agreements". I do not believe that the Government know how to proceed, because if they did they would not have treated the House as they have.
Dicey says that when the convention is broken it almost always leads to a breaking of the law. The Standing Orders of this House are equivalent to the law of the land, but it is easy to get round them. The House can be disrupted within the law just as the Bill before us—if it becomes an Act—can be circumvented within the law. It would be possible to achieve legal disruption on a scale that we have never seen before, just as it would be possible—I hope that it will not happen—for hon. Members on I am concerned at the fact that there is an almost direct parallel with the this side of the House to disrupt the workings of this Chamber within the law and within Standing Orders.
It shakes me to realise that hon. Members opposite seem to be quite unaware that this is a basic mechanism not only for the House but in most industrial circumstances. There have been arguments about the European situation, and suggestions that the withdrawal of hon. Members could bring the House into disrepute. There is a great wrangle and a waste of time. Commentators talk about Parliament's being disrupted. Reasonable men will eventually agree to reopen the usual channels; then there will be an agreement to disagree, and the conventions are brought back into play. But in the meantime much time is lost. The right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton talks about his concern for parliamentary time, but how much time will be lost because of the way in which
102 the Government have proceeded in this matter? It is they who are bringing Parliament into disrepute. Many hon. Members on this side of the House have been approached by their constituents and others, who have said, "Parliament is a waste of time. Do not worry about it. The Tory Party is just doing the bidding of somebody outside. You are wasting your time in Parliament. They will drive it through; they do not worry about discussion".
That has been said to us time and again by many people—not only people who would be dismissed by many hon. Gentlemen opposite as the irresponsible fringe. It is very difficult for us to persuade even reasonable people to say that industrial action for political ends is wrong.
The Secretary of State for Employment, apart from talking about voluntary agreements, which I have already mentioned, has time and again talked about responsibility and responsible action. I agree that responsibility can mean a chain of responsibility to an individual; but I suggest that it also means that one is aware of the implications of one's actions. I do not believe that the Government are being responsible in that sense by bringing forward this Bill which they say will mend the situation so far as industrial relations are concerned. We on this side know that any framework of law must encourage good conventions. The Government, by bringing law into the situation, will destroy and discourage such arrangements which are the heart of democratic bargaining.
The Government do not even know—and are not aware of—the implications of the decision not to consult. We have been chided about bringing Members back from the Council of Europe. This was not done as a direct result of the guillotine Motion; it was the way it was launched. It would have been a matter of moments to discover that this side of the House was not willing to agree to a timetable; but, as I have said in other contexts, it is a question of how it is done and who is consulted.
I believe that in many ways it is against the Government's interests to do it in this way, as they will soon discover. It was a disservice to the unique British constitution, which many of us hold so dear, because our conventions play a vital and 103 important rôle, for the Government to go about their decision in this way.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite tell us time and again that all over the world democracy is under attack. But they are doing their best to call into disrepute the very organ of democracy of which many of us are so proud and which we are defending as best we can.
When people ask, "On whose orders are they doing this; is it Heath; is it the City; is it Tory Central Office?", we cannot answer. I believe that the Lord President of the Council, from his demeanour and the decisions which he has previously announced—and, indeed, the Chief Whip—are honourable men. But I wonder how far this was their decision. On reflection. I wonder how far they would have advocated this course. Were they doing it under orders from somebody else? These are the questions which come into people's minds, and we can make no reply.
I believe that the introduction of this Motion is a bad day for the Tory Party, for democracy, and for Britain.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Mr. David Mitchell (Basingstoke)
I listened to the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing) with considerable fascination. The hon. Gentleman posed a number of questions, the last being: on whose orders was this procedure undertaken? I should have thought that it was clear that it was undertaken not on orders from anybody in this House, but from a sense of duty—the duty of a Government to govern. The country is beginning to recognise and respect that this Government are governing.
The hon. Gentleman also observed that the relationship of the Government to the Opposition was rather like that of a man towards his wife. I can only say that when a situation has reached the guillotine stage, it has long passed the divorce court.
The hon. Gentleman gave an illustration of management breaking an agreement which it had made. I join the hon. Gentleman in deploring that, but one of the advantages which the Bill, when it comes into operation, will give to trade unions is redress other than being forced to strike.
104 The Opposition have concentrated upon two points in their attack on this legislation today. The first question is: should we have a timetable and, if so, when should we have it?
Either we have an early guillotine Motion or we have a late one. An early guillotine Motion at least has the advantage that all parts of the Bill will be discussed; whereas, a late guillotine Motion, a late timetable, means that a long time is spent meandering through the early Clauses and then we have to canter through the last part at a tremendous pace.
The right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) gave us an extraordinary display of hypocrisy, in view of her history on the Transport Bill, when she piloted through a Bill large slabs of which were never discussed in Committee because the timetable Motion was too late to ensure an even spreading of the time.
§ Several Hon. Members rose——
§ Mr. Mitchell
I should like to make my speech without being interrupted by several hon. Members who will have ample opportunity of making their own speeches. I have the HANSARD of the guillotine Motion debate on that occasion. The right hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), whom I am delighted to see——
§ Mr. Dan Jones
On a point of order. The hon. Member is taking a very cowardly action. I will not refer in detail to that, except to say that hon. Members on this side gave way very often to the hon. Gentleman. However, that is not my point of order. My point of order is that the hon. Gentleman has indicted my right hon. Friend. The indictment is completely false, and I feel that it should be answered.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman's first point, I think he realised, was not a point of order. Nor was his second point. It was a point of argument. Mr. Mitchell.
§ Mr. Mitchell
I said earlier that I was about to call in aid the right hon. Member for Coventry, East. Hon. Gentlemen 105 opposite will recall the occasion, because it was a comparison by the then Leader of the House of his method with that of previous Conservative Leaders of the House on the timing and introducing of guillotine Motions. The right hon. Gentleman said:To show what I mean, I should like to compare what we are doing with this Bill with what the Conservatives did in 1962. When they were in office the Bill was allowed to crawl along day by day at little more than the speed of one Clause every two weeks. That was the pace which was achieved in the period before the guillotine. And then, suddenly, when the guillotine was introduced, the process was accelerated by approaching 1,000 per cent. The right hon. Member for Enfield, West decided to accelerate the process from a slow crawl to a breakneck Gadarene drive. We have timed ourselves better."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th March, 1968; Vol. 760, c. 1667.]I think that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that on this occasion the Leader of the House has taken the advice which he gave on that occasion and has timed things better. I realise that the main question is whether there should be a timetable Motion; but as to when it should be introduced, I think that we have the very good precedent in the advice then given, which has been followed by my right hon. Friend on this occasion, to introduce a timetable Motion early rather than late.
§ Mr. Richard Crossman (Coventry, East)
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman liked our method. However, we took the greatest care to consult the Opposition throughout according to all the normal practices.
§ Mr. Mitchell
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, but my point was about the timing. In due course, I shall deal with other points, some of which have already been adequately dealt with by my hon. Friends.
I congratulate the Leader of the House on having introduced this timetable Motion early enough so that we do not dawdle through a quarter of the Bill and then have to skimp the rest. We can now spread our time evenly over the whole of the Bill. I am sure that that is an advantage to the operation of Parliament and of democracy.
We come to the main question, which is whether we should have a guillotine on this Bill at all. The Opposition said 106 that they intended to fight the Bill line by line. I have no doubt that unless they had been stopped they would have taken until the next General Election to do that, with great happiness throughout the time, and there would have been no prospect—and everyone knows it—of getting the Bill through without a guillotine Motion. If Bills such as the one to gerrymander constituencies. the Transport Bill, and a host of far less controversial Measures than this required a guillotine Motion to get them through the House, it was quite clear that this Bill would require one, too.
I have just come back from visiting the North-East. In Newcastle and Middlesbrough I spoke to ordinary members of the public and to trade unionists about the Bill, and two things struck me staringly and glaringly. First, there is enormous and widespread distortion and misrepresentation about the Bill. Second, trade unionists, employers and ordinary members of the public, while wishing to see some details amended, are broadly in favour of the Bill. In Middlesbrough I even heard of a counter-petition being got up in favour of the Bill which has collected a substantial number of signatures in a very short time.
Perhaps I might give the House an example of the wild distortion that is being put about. I was told that thousands of trade unionists would be fined if the Bill went through. I was told that hundreds of them would be sent to prison if Parliament passed this Measure. How completely misleading—in many cases I fear intentionally—has been this deception and distortion. I was told that the Government were going to make rules for the trade unions and the trade unions would have to fit exactly into what the Government ordered.
The distortions are becoming wilder and wilder, and in the House this afternoon we heard the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy)—I am sorry that he is not here, but I realise that there is a good reason for his absence —talking about the Tolpuddle Martyrs, about the future martyrs of the trade union movement who find themselves in gaol as a result of the Bill. What utter nonsense! Of course one can get into gaol if one tries hard enough. If I leave the Palace of Westminster and hit a 107 policeman on the head, I shall go to gaol. Anybody can get into gaol if he wants to, but, my goodness, someone will have to try jolly hard if he wants to be sent to prison under the provisions of the Bill.
In view of the widespread support in the country for the Bill, I ask myself why it is that in the trade union movement, in the T.U.C., amongst the leaders of the trade unions and amongst the Opposition there is such vociferous opposition to and distortion of the Bill, why so much public clamour is being whipped up against the Bill? I think that if one looks at the situation one has to accept that there is a simple, straightforward historical reason for it.
The reason is that during the time the last Labour Government were in office the trade union leadership, the T.U.C., co-operated with the Government over the control of wages, and this split the trade union movement. It split hon. Gentlemen opposite, and we know that 30 or 40 hon. Members below the Gangway consistently refused to vote for the then Government's policies in this respect. The co-operation of the T.U.C. and union leaders with the Government split the union movement down the middle so that the activists, the people who did the work on the shop floor, found themselves increasingly separated from trade union leaders and the T.U.C., and what is going on now is nothing more than a last fence-mending operation, nothing more than an endeavour to reestablish the T.U.C. and trade union leaders as the acknowledged voice of the activists and the whole trade union movement. They are endeavouring to outspeak, to outclamour, to be more extreme than the extremists, to regain their historical position as leaders of the trade union movement.
When one recognises that fact, one has the only logical explanation for the deep difference between the attitude of ordinary members of the electorate and ordinary trade unionists and that of those who seek to represent them in this House and on the T.U.C.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)
The Father of the House and several other hon. Members have referred to the predictable and repetitive 108 nature of these guillotine debates. We have all come armed with our favourite quotations from previous debates of this kind. My favourite is from the speech of the then Minister of Housing and Local Government, Mr. Harold Macmillan, who, when introducing a guillotine in 1954, said:What happens is this. The right hon. and hon. Members who find themselves for the moment in opposition are filled with an extraordinary devotion to the principles of constitutional Government, to the free rights of Members, to the long historic struggle of Parliament against the Executive, to the cause for which Hampden died in field and Sidney on the scaffold. But when, with the all-healing flow of time, these same Members find themselves upon the Government benches, they become comparatively immune to these high-flown sentiments. They are influenced by the urgent necessity which every Government feel to carry through their Parliamentary business with some relation to the calendar and to the march of events."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1954; Vol. 524, c. 42.]I think that that rather nicely put what many Members feel about the similar nature of these debates as and when they occur.
The objection which we are entitled to take on this occasion, and certainly one which the Liberal Party will take, is both to the manner of the introduction of the guillotine, and to the amount of time that is given to the Bill once the guillotine comes into operation, bearing in mind the length and complexity of this Measure.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House has come in for a good deal of fairly bitter criticism. I do not think that he will mind if I refer to things said about his predecessor in March 1968, when the now right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker), talking about the guillotine Motion on the Transport Bill, said:Naturally the right hon. Gentleman had to endeavour to persuade the House that the necessity for guillotining this Bill was similar to the necessity for guillotining past Bills. In the manner in which he has done it and the complete lack of fundamental argument behind his case, in my view the right hon. Gentleman has completely and utterly degraded the position of Leader of the House of Commons." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th March, 1968; Vol. 760, c. 1675.]Strong words are therefore nothing particularly new when it comes to referring to Leaders of the House.
I believe that the right hon. Gentleman is open to criticism. He has told the 109 House this afternoon, and he has been reported in the Press as saying, that he believed that no voluntary timetable could have been obtained. I shall not say that I dispute that, because it may be right, but the right hon. Gentleman is open to criticism because he did not put his belief to the test—and this is the point of principle involved—and no attempt was made to obtain a voluntary timetable.
The right hon. Gentleman referred this afternoon to the Government's view that at some stage a guillotine would have been inevitable on the Bill, and to justify his decision to bring in the guillotine after only two days of debate he maid that he had done this to get a balanced debate on the Bill and not to let it run. I understand that, but that argument leads one to conclude that the timetable ought to have been introduced before the Committee Stage started and properly discussed through the usual channels. That seems to be the logical process.
Moreover, it is unfortunate that the usual form of notice was not given in dealing with the week's business. As I think the House knows, by long-standing convention the Government, as a matter of courtesy, always let the Opposition parties have a note on Wednesday of the provisional order of business for the following week.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I should make it clear that the notice which we endeavoured to give on this occasion was as long as I ever received when I was Opposition Chief Whip and, indeed, longer than several.
§ Mr. Steel
I certainly would not dispute that, if the right hon. Gentleman says that that is so, but I am saying that, in the climate of opinion created on this matter, it would seem rather unusual not to put it down in the provisional order of business circulated to the other parties on the Wednesday evening. The result of doing it an hour or so before the announcement on Thursday was to provoke considerable feeling on the matter, and led to the withdrawal of the delegation, of which I was one, at Strasbourg.
On that point, I do not believe that the whole of Europe will collapse because we have not stayed in Strasbourg, but we have been made to look very foolish among our European colleagues, and it 110 will become a serious matter if the Government's negotiations to enter the Common Market succeed, and if, next year, we are sending a delegation not to the Council of Europe but to the European Parliament. Then, there could come a situation in which a general change in the predicted order of business in this House, involving the recall of our delegation, could seriously affect the interests of this country in a decision taken by that European Parliament.
This is all the more reason why the wise words of the Father of the House tonight should be heeded and attention paid to the recommendations of the Select Committee on Procedure in the past. Indeed, I remember, when evidence was about timetabling, Mr. Herbert Bowden, being given to the Select Committee as he then was, went so far as to suggest —as his personal view—that time-tabling of the Committee stages of Bills should be automatic, and one of the procedures of the House. The Committee did not agree, but he wanted to move in that direction. The fact is that we have not adopted any sensible mechanism of the sort for timetabling the Committee procedures.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe), taking part in the debate on this Bill at about four o'clock last Wednesday morning, answered a criticism about the absence of the other Liberal Members when a Liberal Amendment was being discussed. He said:I, and most other people in the country, would regard their absence at this hour in the morning as being eminently sensible. I shall be the only Member of the Liberal Party who will be thought to be completely crackers, being here at this time of the morning. The whole of the country regards this kind of exercise as mad and if the two Front Benchers would get together in a reasonably civilised and democratic manner they could stop this nonsense and have this Bill debated without staying up all night."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Wednesday, 20th January, 1971; Vol. 809 c. 971–2.]That is precisely the conclusion of the Select Committee on Procedure some time ago, and I hope that, out of this unhappy incident, we might agree to implement the recommendations and to agree to a proper timetable for these contentious Bills on the Floor of the House before we begin the Committee stage. 111 Otherwise, we shall get a repetition of this situation, in which about 40 or 45 minutes will be given to each Clause, which I do not think is at all adequate. If that is all the time that can be given on the Floor of the House for such a complex Measure, it would have been far more satisfactory if it had been sent to Standing Committee in the first place. Few hon. Member will be able to move their Amendments or to discuss each Clause in these circumstances. We might, therefore, have let a few people do it in a more thorough manner, instead of in this skimpy way.
It is because of the manner in which this has been done and because of the inadequate time which has been allowed that we on this bench will vote against the Government tonight. Our legal system has always incorporated the ideas of the reasonable man and his judgment. I do not think that any reasonable man will think this a reasonable proposal.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Redmond (Bolton, West)
I am a very new Member, having come here in June, so this is my first experience of a guillotine Motion—and I wonder why we are hearing the rumour that the House is to sit all night on it. With one or two notable exceptions, the debate seems to have been another Second Reading debate. Surely the House has already made that decision. The hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) stuck to the point, and, on behalf of the new Members, I would thank him for that.
We have had a repetition tonight of the sort of things which were said on Second Reading and are now being said all over the country. The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) said that the Bill was to shackle trade unions. Many people in the country are saying that the Government should be doing that. As a candidate for some years and as a Member since June, I have been resisting that sort of argument. I bow to the knowledge of many hon. Members opposite of trade union organisation, but I bow to no man in my knowledge of people, particularly of the trade unionists whom I have been meeting, both industrially and politically, for many years.
112 I know that management can be to blame as much as trade unions, and indeed more so, for many of the industrial disputes. When I was in the engineering industry, I hope that I was known as an employer who supported the trade unions. I have always worked to let trade unions do their jobs within my industry. From that, I think that I can speak with some knowledge of industry, particularly in the smaller companies which make up the bulk of British industry.
My hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery) referred to meetings being held in Devonshire for a long time when this Bill, or the consultative document, "Fair Deal at Work", was discussed. I can confirm that exactly the same thing has been going on in Lancashire for a long time. For two years at least before the General Election, "Fair Deal at Work" was the most popular subject at every political meeting and discussion that I attended.
It became particularly of interest once "In Place of Strife" was discussed, but now, the main question put to me is about the incidence of criminal law. I have great difficulty sometimes in drawing attention to the fact that this Bill contains the implication of the civil law, and in trying to explain the difference. That is where we are in trouble, because the criminal law was invoked in "In Place of Strife".
The hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) talked about crowded meetings. Is he aware of the correspondence in the newspapers in our part of the world, and particularly in the Bolton Evening News. after the strike of 12th January, when various people were saying that they had to sign their letters with pseudonyms because they could not put their names forward for fear of victimisation? They drew attention to the fact that they were forced to go on strike against their wishes and that 85 per cent. of the people in factories in Bolton had no desire to strike at all.
My hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. David Mitchell) is quite right, that this matter of representation of the incidence of the civil law is being invoked wrongly. The fears of trade unionists follow the leaflets which are being put out, sometimes by trade union organisations and sometimes by so-called trade union organisations, some of which 113 are spurious, which are an absolute travesty of the facts of the Bill.
Therefore, the sooner that the Bill becomes law and the sooner that the people see the law operating and stop being misled by travesties of the facts, the better it will be for industrial democracy. Therefore, it is right to have a guillotine Motion.
§ 7.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Neil McBride (Swansea, East)
The right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) said that we opposed this only as a timetable Motion, but that is only partly true, because we believe that it militates against the survival of the trade unions. The hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery) said that the Bill was propounded and known at the General Election. That is not true. Its terms were known only on 3rd December, so there could have been no mandate for a Bill which was published then, no matter what nebulous assertions may have been made before publication. Under the Motion the Leader of the House promises 150 hours of debate, but this is inadequate to ensure proper consideration of a constitutional Bill which imports a huge segment of American legislation into our law.
It is becoming known as the "Tory Strike Bill". While hon. Gentlemen opposite are constantly complaining about the number of working days lost through strikes, they should realise that one strike at General Motors last year involved 400,000 people, lasted for eight weeks and resulted in more days being lost in that one American firm than all the days lost through strikes in this country in the previous two years.
The speech of the Leader of the House was arrogant and will result in the anger which is at present felt by trade unionists being increased. Much bitterness is now felt and the Tories are dividing the nation. Discussion of this constitutional measure has been arbitrarily reduced and I construe this as the action of a weak and irresolute Government. The inadequacy of the time proposed shows the ignorance and incompetence of hon. Gentlemen opposite to govern the country because this Measure involves the rights of the citizen, especially as new offences are being created.
114 My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) referred to large meetings being held. As a trade unionist of many years standing, I confirm what he said. The size of these meetings represents the size of the resentment that is felt among workers. Last Saturday in the pouring rain I had the privilege to attend a rally in Cardiff. The crowd was estimated by the police to be many thousands in excess of the newspaper estimate of about 5,000. We walked through the streets of the Welsh capital and despite the normal competitive attractions of a Saturday afternoon, there was a tremendous turn-out. There can be no doubt of the bitter resentment that is felt about the Bill and the way in which it will be opposed with great sincerity.
I have always believed in adopting a peaceful approach and allowing the processes of law to operate. I have urged people to oppose the Bill to the utmost limits of the law, but they are demanding that there be extra-parliamentary opposition by every means possible.
The Motion shows something else; that in political terms the present Ministers of the Crown have dropped their mask of amiability. We now see the doctrinaire hard-line Tories that they are. I see no sense in adopting an attitude of sweet reasonableness over this.
Much is said these days about Europe and the E.E.C. It is interesting to note that Article 118 of the Treaty of Rome —this is the English translation—says:Without prejudice to the other Members of this Treaty, and in conformity with its general objectives, the Commission shall have as its task the promotion of close collaboration between Member States in the social field, particularly in matters relating to …and seven points are given, of which I will give three. They are, first, employment; secondly, labour, law and working conditions; and, thirdly—though this is No. 7 in the list—the law of trade unions and collective bargaining between employers and workers.
Bearing that Article in mind, one is bound to wonder whether there is any clandestine arrangement in what is being proposed by the Government now. In other words, is this Bill part of the price of our entering the E.E.C.? If this question is not answered and if we are 115 met with total silence, we shall draw our own conclusion, and the inference to be drawn will be as wide as a barn door.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite have outraged British trade unionists and there is no doubt that the Tories wish to destroy the British trade union movement. Certainly they do not wish to strengthen it. The result of the Bill will be fragmentation. For example, under Clause 42 the whole question of recognition is raised in connection with bargaining, but inadequate time will be available to discuss it.
This Government of mediocrity has a hatred for trade unions. This Motion is the measure of the statesmanship of hon. Gentlemen opposite. About ten million trade unionists and their families will be affected by the Bill. If hon. Gentlemen opposite will not bend to public opinion, which is increasing in its tempo of resentment, they will be heaping coals on their own heads. It is obvious that the Government are bereft of economic policies and are using this Measure as a means of distracting attention from the problems which the Government have no policies to tackle. From Singapore no policies have arrived and the Prime Minister has no proposals to cure our ills, not even at a stroke. The Government have shown a complete contempt for democracy.
Trade unionists are slow to anger. We prefer to take the peaceful way out. The aggressors have always been the political forebears of hon. Gentlemen opposite. The Motion will ensure that there will be inadequate time to debate a Bill which is designed legally to strangle the trade union movement. It is inescapably true to say that no hon. or right hon. Member opposite has ever shown any love for the trade union movement.
It is bad statesmanship on the part of the Government to introduce this Motion, and it will redound against them. They should have allowed longer time for debate. Hon. Members opposite have for some time seen the Bill as a vote catcher, and they have never been more sure of that than they are today, but I believe that the Measure will prove a political boomerang, because its inevitable effect will be to make people realise that they 116 are faced with a Government who are better knocked into the limbo of things forgotten.
§ 7.30 p.m.
Earl of Dalkeith (Edinburgh, North)
Flowing directly from what has been said by the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. McBride) about our intentions towards the trade unions, I can honestly say that I would not be supporting either the Bill or the Motion unless I was convinced that the Bill's whole purpose was to strengthen the trade unions in such a way as to enable their leaders to get to grips with some of their lunatic friends who force wildcat strikes upon them. It is for that reason, and for that reason alone, that I support the Motion.
One of the highlights of the debate came from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing), who openly admitted that the other side recognised that it was only a matter of time before such a Motion as this was tabled.
§ Mr. Spearing
I thought that I made it clear that I was myself expecting it. My speculation was that there might be a guillotine Motion. I expected it, but I am not sure that my hon. Friends did so. It was a matter of speculation.
Earl of Dalkeith
Speculation or not, I enjoyed every word of the hon. Gentleman's speech.
I have some sympathy for the hon. Gentleman the Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) because, as a result of his allegiance to the Liberal Party, whichever party is in power he is fated always to find himself at the wrong end of the guillotine. In the circumstances, therefore, his quotation was very apt.
It may seem rather strange, Mr. Speaker, that I should seek to catch your eye at all——
Earl of Dalkeith
—bearing in mind that the guillotine is not exactly my favourite weapon, but I have a vested interest in so doing. I have tabled an Amendment, but it comes at the very end of the Bill. It is my hope to see that Amendment reached some time in 1971 rather than in 1981, which would seem to have been the probability had we continued at our previous rate. 117 I also have some sympathy with the right hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) because, according to what she herself has said, she has been having a very trying time. In the first place, she evidently found the Tory Party's General Election manifesto somewhat obscure. I am only thankful that their views were not shared by the majority of the electorate.
The hon. Member for Swansea, East also found it rather obscure, as the Industrial Relations Bill had not then been printed. That is correct, but let us remember that a long time before the General Election we had the publication of "Fair Deal at Work", which was the blueprint of this piece of legislation. That publication was broadly advertised, and the electorate knew very well what they could expect the Tory Party to do about industrial relations.
I feel even sorrier for the right hon. Lady, because she now says that she finds herself in the dark over the Bill. I hope that it will not sound ungallant of me to say that I am happy not to be in the dark with her, either on the Floor of the House or anywhere else, particularly when she said that she intended to engage in eliminating principles.
There is one reason above all other reasons for my supporting the Motion. We are living in a time when anarchy appears to be becoming more fashionable in certain quarters. I believe that in the interests of parliamentary democracy it is time to stop making asses of ourselves, making a laughing-stock of ourselves by blethering on from midnight to 7 o'clock in the morning. [Interruption.] Hon. Members opposite, and perhaps the right hon. Lady, may be at their best between midnight and 7 a.m., but I am certainly at my best before half-past six in the evening, and as it is now well past that hour I beg to move that I be no longer heard.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Mr. James A. Dunn (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) referred to some of the Reports of the Select Committee on Procedure and, in particular, to the suggestion that with any major controversial Bills there 118 should be an agreement on timetabling. He did not add that that suggestion implied full consultation with the other parties. I am not now complaining about the timetable Motion, but about the amount of time that it is proposed to allocate to the various stages of the Bill.
During the debate on the Bill on Tuesday morning, the Secretary of State for Employment expressed the hope that cooperation would be given at the end of our parliamentary procedure and once the Bill had been enacted, but I ask him now to consider what the situation is. If the amount of time for debate is curtailed and there are no opportunities for expressions of view from all parts of the House, the right hon. Gentleman may well find that some of the draftsmanship leaves very much to be desired. If the right hon. Gentleman really means that he seeks co-operation and understanding, and that he wants acceptance of some of the principles in the Bill, I must tell him that he is doing many things that will not help him achieve that objective.
It is true to say that outside the House there are a considerable number of people who have grave reservations about the Bill's draftsmanship—and in saying that I do not imply criticism of the draftsmen. In any circumstances, such a Bill is a very complex matter to deal with. The Secretary of State himself has recognised this because he himself has put down some major Amendments, and as, according to the Press, professional organisations are asking for his considered opinion of their amending suggestions, many more Amendments will probably be introduced before we get to Report.
If that is so, it would not be unreasonable to estimate that the time that would be required to consider Government Amendments of such a character would be in excess of 25 to 30 hours. If we subtract that amount of time from the time allocated, there is even less time for Members to discuss the points that they wish to bring to the attention of the House.
I am all for 10-minute speeches. In fact, I am on record as supporting that principle in the Select Committee on Procedure. What I am not in favour of is the selection and rigidity as to the number of 10-minute speeches that one can hear. I believe that if a person cannot make his point in 10 minutes, it would perhaps be 119 better if he did not attempt to do it at all. That is a personal opinion, and it is no reflection upon anybody who speaks for longer than that. Probably such people have more to say on a specific issue than I have to say this evening.
However, I say to the Secretary of State that on the major Clauses of this Bill, to limit discussion to a maximum of 45 minutes, and probably a minimum of 30 minutes, would allow only three speeches of 10 minutes, one from each Front Bench and one from the back benches. This would imply that wisdom belongs to the Front Benches, and I do not accept that.
I say, with respect to the Secretary of State, that when in the early hours of Tuesday morning he made that remark to which I have already referred, I accepted the sincerity with which he uttered it. I did not agree with him, but I accepted his sincerity. I say now that I doubt that sincerity. If the intention was to destroy consultation, this is the easiest way to do it.
There are many points in this Bill which are of grave complexity. My hon. Friends have illustrated many. Although I come from Liverpool where there are many more examples of industrial unrest that one could quote, I shall resist the temptation to do so. I appreciate that at times it is not always easy for these difficulties to be understood by those who are asked to understand them, but the Industrial Relations Bill seeks to deal with a pattern of behaviour—I am using the right hon. Gentleman's own words—and the only way that it is possible to deal with a pattern of human behaviour is to persuade people that what is suggested is in the interests of the individual himself. Anything less than that is doomed to failure.
The right hon. Gentleman, in his customary courteous way, has always engendered a quiet response in answering questions put to him. But now that this matter has been taken out of the forum to which it rightly belongs, there will be great difficulty in advocating causes to others outside the House. There are many on this side of the House who, while not agreeing with the Bill, and believing that the Bill will do other than that which is projected by the sponsors of the Bill, nevertheless are cautious by nature. 120 Some of them are modest in the things that they say and in the way that they say them, but I tell the right hon. Gentleman that he is destroying the credibility and the ability of the moderates to exert influence in these times. At the end of the day, if the things that should be said in this House are not said, they will be said elsewhere but with a vigour that can cause great difficulty.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman and the Leader of the House to reconsider the allocation of time. They have some basis for doing this. In the Report stage on complex matters it has been the practice to allocate approximately two hours before the Clousure Motion is moved or accepted. If that is the basis of the reconsideration, I am sure that could be no further objection from this side of the House to the allocation of time. That would show a willingness to meet us. Unless that willingness is shown, there will be difficulties in this House and outside, and the ultimate success of the Bill will be in grave jeopardy.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)
No one will deny that this Bill is extremely important. But from the way in which hon. Members opposite talk, one would think that it was only important to the trade unionists. That is far from being the case. It is most important to the whole nation and just as important to the non-unionists as to the trade unionists.
I would be only too delighted if we could give more time to the discussion of this matter. But, of course, there never is enough time in which to discuss these Bills. The right hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) referred to the first two Clauses and said how important they were. I sat through most of the debates and I heard a discussion for over four hours on what was meant by the word "responsibility". Of course, at the end of it there was no agreement. This is not surprising. The Opposition had no intention of agreeing with the Government's interpretation of the word. At that rate, we would have gone on for ever. Inevitably a time limit must be set, or we should never get anywhere.
My main point tonight is this: I said that this is a most important Bill, and 121 I believe that it is at least one of the most important that we have had since the war. Why then, I ask, is there—and it is my opinion that there is—an air of farce over much of our proceedings? Several times I have heard the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) complaining about the laughter and saying, quite rightly, what a serious Bill this is. Of course, the laughter does not come only from this side of the House. When we on these benches hear hon. Members opposite, particularly the right hon. Lady, their voices trembling with indigation, condemning the Government for proposing to do what the Labour Government proposed to do a year or so earlier, it is too much for the House. That is why I say that in so much of our discussion there has been an element of farce.
We even heard an hon. Member opposite today telling us seriously that some trade unions were considering taking the matter to the committee for human liberties, or some such body, at Strasbourg. When we hear that sort of remark, hon. Members must agree that there is some element of farce in these proceedings. The more this sort of argument proceeds, the more the threats, the more the parades and all the rest, the more it is impressed on the country how necessary this Bill is. Many hon. Members opposite know this only too well. It would help them as well as the Government in the long run if we could get on with the Bill and make progress. For that reason, I support the Motion unreservedly, and I hope that hon. Members opposite will do so, too.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Dan Jones (Burnley)
The hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Captain Elliot) has, like many of his hon. Friends, made snide remarks about my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle). References have been made to her work on the Transport Bill. In fact, my right hon. Friend has more guts in her little finger than can be found in the character of almost the whole of the Government side. [Interruption.] Yes, as a result of her work on the Transport Bill, many people are alive today who would have been in their graves, yet what she did was opposed by the Tories and the brewers. Let us have that matter in perspective at the outset.
I regard the Motion as not only dangerous, but dangerously so, for by it the 122 Government are compounding what may well be an infamous instrument. To illustrate what I mean, I shall give the House an example from my own recent experience. Last week, on two occasions. my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn and our Chief Whip asked me not to speak so that progress on the Bill could be maintained, and I acceded to their request although the two Amendments in question raised matters on which I particularly wished to address the Committee. If evidence be needed, that, surely, is evidence to convince the Government that there was absolutely the minimum of anything which could be called filibustering from this side. I recall that, on other important Measures in the past, the Tories, when they were in Opposition, took more time on spurious points of order than we have taken in proper debate.
To turn now to the Bill the subject of the Motion, I have a record of attempting to maintain industrial peace comparable with that of any hon. Member, and certainly far better than any Tory could pretend to have. For 14 years, I was works convenor in an engineering shop, and during that period not one day was lost through a stoppage. Last year, when my right hon. Friend brought out her White Paper, "In Place of Strife", I supported it initially, and I do not mind admitting that I had some stick both from my colleagues and from constituents for so doing. It should be remembered that the only reason why I, in common with the rest of my trade union colleagues, begged my right hon. Friend and the Prime Minister at that time to withdraw their proposals was that they would have taken industrial matters into the law courts. We were convinced that that could not work and that it would compound the evils already existing in industry.
§ Mr. John Page
At what stage did the hon. Gentleman cease to support "In Place of Strife"? When came his change of mind, and was it entirely in connection with the criminal law which the right hon. Lady brought into the Bill?
§ Mr. Jones
We brought our pressure to bear at the point at which the Attorney-General advised us that those were matters which could eventually be settled in the courts. We were not prepared to allow industrial matters to go 123 to the courts because we knew that there would inevitably be protracted delay, and we knew also of the sort of industrial disturbance which would inevitably follow a decision which went against the best interests of the trade union movement. We were not prepared to accept that.
Nevertheless, it is appropriate to mention at the same time that, when the T.U.C. agreed to accept its responsibility in that connection, that was an additional reason, and one of the best of reasons, why the matter should be dealt with in that way rather than the way proposed by my right hon. Friend, the trade unions and the employers accepting responsibility according to the methods which have been traditional in this country, methods which, it should be added, have worked far better than the systems adopted in many other countries, although not as well as many of us would like.
I refer now to Clause 5 of the Bill, and I am sure that the Secretary of State will pay attention to what I have to say. Clause 5 gives to every worker the right to belong to an independent trade union, to take part in its activities, and to seek office in that union, but it also gives a worker the right not to belong to an independent trade union or other organisation of workers. Does the Minister disagree with Mr. Jack Jones, the leader of the biggest trade union in this country, that that will encourage spies and "narks" in industry? Does he deny that that is a dangerous opportunity?
Again, I speak from my experience as a works convenor in industry. I have many times, and rightly so, approached people and asked them to join the trade union. Workers rarely fail to take the benefits. They ought, accordingly, to pay their dues. What will be the situation now if someone of peaceful inclination such as myself makes a proper approach to a new entrant into industry or, for that matter, to someone who has been in industry for some time? From practical experience, I know that there are many people in industry who will get away with a free ride if they can. It would be naive to believe otherwise. If such a person is upset at being approached and asked to join a union, he could report the shop steward to the management. There is no doubt that this will encourage 124 the sort of practice which Jack Jones has properly described in the way I have mentioned, and it will make for a good deal of industrial dispute.
The Secretary of State is not responding to my invitation, so I shall press on.
§ Mr. Jones
No, I do not think that one could say that. However, not being psychic, I do not know. All I can say is that one of the great fears—this is one of the factors in my mind—is that it will make for industrial disclocation. Yet the right hon. Gentleman, I am sure, would say that the purpose of his Bill is to try to bring about industrial peace.
§ Mr. R. Carr
I was just conferring with my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General, who dealt with these very points in Committee. If the hon. Gentleman has any doubt, let me assure him that there is nothing in the Bill which would in any way prevent the persuasion of any employee to join a union, and it is nonsense to suggest otherwise. There is no unfair industrial practice about that. What we believe is unfair, illiberal and contrary to human rights and liberties is to compel people to join a union when they have deep convictions, whether mistaken or not, against doing so.
§ Mr. R. Carr
Perhaps this will also help to reassure the hon. Gentleman. When the Bill is on the Statute Book, as I am confident it one day will be, we shall take every possible measure to publicise, in down-to-earth terms, what it means for the ordinary worker on the 125 shop floor. That will be very important, and we shall do our utmost to do it.
§ Mr. Jones
It would not have been a bad idea if that had been done before the publication of the Bill. I speak with every respect to the Minister, but he cannot deny that as many as four lawyers have argued the point here and we have had four different opinions. [An HON. MEMBER: "More than four."] I do not like exaggeration.
Let me go on to talk about the non-unionists. I do not believe that the Minister realises the injustice he will cause to a good number of people in industry. It has been my experience as a Member for some years, holding my advice bureaux and meeting sick and disabled people, that as much as 25 per cent. of a working person's life could unfortunately be occupied outside industry. Therefore, they will need attention and expert advice, sometimes costly medical advice. They will be in the wilderness. It is no good the Minister saying that they can pay towards a charity, because no charity will advise them of their rights and what action can be taken. No charity will send them to a specialist when they have a medical opinion against them which can affect their way of life after an accident. The truth is that the Government do not know what they are doing. They are not experienced in these matters.
§ Mr. James Hamilton
If 95 per cent. of the personnel in a factory are in a trade union, who will carry out the negotiations for the 5 per cent. who are not? If those 5 per cent. carry out negotiations that could be detrimental to the 95 per cent., what will be the situation?
§ Mr. R. Carr
I am in difficulty, because this is developing into a debate on the Bill. But I must point out that the Bill specifically makes provision in its machinery for the C.I.R. to recommend sole bargaining rights for a union or panel of unions which must cover the 126 terms and conditions of the, say, 1–5 per cent. who are not union members. The hon. Gentleman's point is specifically guarded against in the Bill.
§ Mr. Jones
I beg to differ. The Bill makes it perfectly clear that if men or women want to cock a snook at the trade unions they have a legal right to do so. Our point, based on experience, is, who will represent those people in negotiations on wages and conditions in the factory? Who will represent them if they become disabled as a result of toil in that factory, and where will they obtain the benefit to which they would normally be entitled if they were properly represented?
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
Will my hon. Friend go one step further? What will happen in factories is as he has explained, but the very people who have drawn up the Bill can and do insist that every member of their profession must be a member of their trade union, and they are not allowed to contract out. The Minister consults the man who drew up the Bill, who takes away from industrial workers the rights which he insists upon for himself.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lewis (Rutland and Stamford)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Do the Opposition now accept the guillotine Motion? Are we now debating the Bill? If so, it is a very happy situation, but the hon. Gentleman is debating the Bill while we are keeping to the Motion. If we want to get on to debate the Bill, we should conclude the discussion on the guillotine Motion.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lewis
Further to that point of order. May I have your Ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether we are now discussing the Bill and have left the guillotine Motion?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)
I think that the first thing I need to do is to beg the pardon of the House and to ask the hon. Gentleman to repeat his point.
§ Mr. Dunn
On a point of order. A point of order was raised by the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis), who has not been in for the major part of the debate. He has raised a very important issue, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I feel that it should be dealt with in the way that is open to you.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I do not think that there is anything out of order at present. I think that the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Dan Jones) is quite in order and should be allowed to continue his speech.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lewis
Further to that point of order. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. Dunn) is mistaken. It is true that I have been out, but I was here for many of the speeches, including both opening speeches and a great number of the back-bench speeches.
§ Mr. Jones
I will come now to my conclusion. I firmly and sincerely believe what I have to say now. The Government argue quite wrongly that they have a mandate for the Bill from the people. They have a mandate for bringing about industrial peace, but it will bring about industrial chaos. The Minister will regret the day he took industrial relations from its proper place between the trade unions and management into the law courts.
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
I want to make only a brief intervention, and I think that it will be on the Motion.
Do we want parliamentary Government to continue? Do we want the procedures for governing this country in a civilised way, even when controversial legislation is under discussion, to continue?
When the procedure for introducing a guillotine was written into the rules of the House, I believe that it was for such an occasion as this. If ever it was intended as a means of keeping the parliamentary system working, it was with 128 this sort of debate, on this sort of topic, with this sort of hard difference of view, in mind. If it is that one could remove the prejudice and excitement that have been engendered in this topic over the last two years, I believe that we would recognise the importance of having a guillotine.
What is the position? Quite apart from any dialectical sorts of points which we may want to secure, from the moment the Government made it clear that they intended to honour their promise in their manifesto to bring in such a Bill, the Opposition and their ardent supporters in the country made it clear that they intended to wage an unrelenting struggle within the procedures of power to try to prevent the Bill getting to the Statute Book. There is nothing wrong with that. Never was there a time when an Opposition made it clearer that they intended to use the procedures of Parliament to try to defeat the intention of the Government, which was made clear at the General Election and for which they have a full mandate.
The Government think that this legislation is vital for the safety and the prosperity of the country in the future. It is not a last minute think-up. It is a point of view that they have held for years. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the last three or four years has given almost the whole of his time in politics to working out the details and scope of what is now embodied in the Bill. Notice was given to the nation and to the Labour Party when it formed the Government that this was what the Con servative Party intended to do. That intention was underlined in our manifesto. It was perhaps the outstanding claim we made to the nation for the voters giving us the power of government.
Before "In Place of Strife" was withdrawn, the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. Harold Wilson) and the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) intended to bring in legislation which was not dissimilar from this Bill.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
I did not make the point, which could be made, that it was very similar but watered the phrase down to "not dissimilar" in order to avoid offending the feelings of the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Dan Jones). It 129 was recognised that some legislation such as this was necessary. It was recognised on both sides of the House as being to the good of the country. It was only the very excited and the very extreme, both in this House and outside, who resisted what the Labour Government were trying to do. From the time that "In Place of Strife" and the Labour Government's legislation were withdrawn, those people made it perfectly clear that, if the Labour Government or any other Government tried to bring in legislation of this sort, they would resist it to the ultimate. No one was left in any doubt about it, and I do not complain about it.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
I have sympathy with some of the points made by the hon. Gentleman. As he knows, I have supported the Bill generally. But is it not a weakness of the timetable Motion that it treats all parts of the Bill as of the same value? Some Clauses of it are of greater value than others, yet the Motion treats them all alike and reduces them to one hour each. Would it not have been better, in this situation, to have had a discussion in an attempt to agree a timetable?
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
I am coming to that point. I was coming to the terms of the Motion. Not only those who were in the House before the election but the whole country knew that, if the Conservatives were returned, they would bring in a Bill such as this. The whole country also knew that, if that happened, the Opposition would oppose it to the ultimate. They made it clear that they would go to the extreme—and they were justified in saying so: I would have said it myself if I had felt the same way—in order to defeat the legislation.
§ Mr. Neil Kinnock (Bedwellty) rose——
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
I will give way later.
The Opposition have disclosed their tactics on so many occasions. They have not hidden their intention. They have said, "If we can keep the discussion going on and on so that there is not enough parliamentary time for the Bill to become law, we shall do it." They said, "Anything within the constitutional"——
§ Mr. Kinnock rose——130
§ Mr. Heffer rose——
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
No doubt I am paraphrasing what the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) said, but I should like to make my point and later I shall be delighted to give way. The point I am making—and hon. Members opposite know this to be true, for they have put it on record—is that the Opposition disclosed their tactics and made it perfectly clear what they would do.
§ Mr. Kinnock rose——
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
They have said, "Within the constitutional rights of Parliament we shall oppose this Bill to the ultimate, and if it is that we can drag it out so that there is not enough Parliamentary time to get it to the Statute Book, we shall do so." They disclosed their hand, as honourable men ought to.
So the position we had arrived at before the Motion was put down was that the country knew, and everyone in this House knew, that the Government intended to introduce the Bill and that the Opposition intended to do what they are now doing. The position now is that, if the Opposition cannot defeat us in the Lobby—and the country's vote made certain that they cannot do that—they will use the parliamentary procedures in order to see that the Bill does not get time to become law.
§ Mr. Heffer
After making these great statements and supposedly paraphrasing, would the hon. Gentleman now make clear, from any column of HANSARD or from any speech or from any article written by any right hon. or hon. Member on this side responsible for this Bill in the House, where such statements have been made in order that it can be put clearly on record that we have taken this line? The truth is that the hon. Gentleman cannot possibly find such statements.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman should try that one on me. I have put that sort of question to people speaking for the Government on such an occasion as this in almost similar terms. I have not come equipped to quote book and verse, although I understand that one of my hon. Friends has evidence. I am not standing on that point. I am standing on the fact that 131 hon. Members opposite know that they made it clear that they intended to use all means at their disposal to defeat this Bill, and unless they are prepared to take credit for having said it and for being prepared to do it, they are prepared to let down many of their own voters. They made it clear that they intended to do it. I am not blaming them for saying it and for intending to carry out what they said they would do.
There are two rights in arriving at legislation in this House—one possessed by one side and one by the other. It is the Government's duty, on a matter which they think in the interests of the country, and when they have a mandate to do it, to get their business through. It is the Opposition's duty, when they believe that the legislation is not in the interests of the country, and when they believe it dangerous and wrong, to use all constitutional rights and powers that there are to prevent it happening.
§ Mr. Kinnock rose——
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
I shall not give way. I do not want to prevent others from speaking. The Opposition——
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You and I are aware of the fact that it would be quite wrong for any hon. Member to call another hon. Member a liar or to say that he is telling lies or that he is untruthful. Therefore it would be wrong for me to say that. Even in view of the fact that the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) gave a promise to give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) and has not done so, would it not be wrong for my hon. Friend to call him a liar and say that he is dishonest? If that would be out of order, how can my hon. Friend bring the hon. Gentleman to remember the promise he gave?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)
There is no point of order for me to decide. Hon. Members give way to each other as they think fit or not, and so long as two people are not on their feet at the same time the Chair carries on in the ordinary way.
§ Mr. Kinnock
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. Would it not have been advisable for the Conservative Party to have made it crystal clear to the people of the nation, not that they were going to bring in the most blatant piece of class-directed legislation, but that they were going to get rid of strikes.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
It is because the hon. Gentleman believes that that he has taken the line he has. I am not on that matter. I am dealing with the parliamentary system, which I want to defend. I will not do what the hon. Gentleman sought to do, namely to try to discuss the Bill. I believe that it is vital that the parliamentary system should be allowed to work.
I am saying that we have got to a position where the Government have a duty to proceed with the Bill and the Opposition have a duty, constitutionally, within Parliament to try to defeat the Bill. There is a duty on both sides and both are well within their rights to push their duty to the extreme.
I maintain that the Government are right to judge that they have reached the point at which it is clear that, if they are to do their duty to get this legislation on the Statute Book, they will have to use the procedures of Parliament in order to enact this legislation which they consider to be vital.
One of the procedures of Parliament which is allowable and desirable is properly to use the guillotine procedure. The guillotine procedure was designed and intended to be used on such an occasion as this. I would have felt that there was room for criticism of the Government using the powers of Parliament wrongly if it could be argued that sufficient time had not been allowed within the guillotine to do justice to this Bill. That point will go on being argued; it is the only issue that ought to be argued. All this talk about what is in the Bill and what is out of it is out of order. The only matter that ought to be argued is the terms of the guillotine and whether they are fair.
The fact that it is right to have used it is not in any doubt. We have got to a "crunch" and it is clear that, without this guillotine Motion, we shall never get this vital legislation. The argument is as to the time which has been allowed, and on this one can only have opinions. 133 I have been in this House now for 21 years and I have seen many guillotines——
§ Mr. Thomas Swain (Derbyshire, North-East) rose——
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
No, I must continue. Bearing in mind the Bill concerned, the time allowed under the guillotine and remembering the "crunch" situation which has arisen, I believe that the time allowed is generous. I believe that if there is an occasion on which the Government can be generous, it is this occasion. I believe that the Opposition are not doing their case any good by suggesting that the situation has not got to a point at which we should impose the guillotine.
By the Government putting down this guillotine Motion a compliment is being paid to the Opposition. The terms of the guillotine are a recognition that the Opposition have been doing their job to the ultimate. They have made it clear that they intend to use the constitutional powers of Parliament to delay this Measure. The fact that this has been recognised, and has had to be recognised, is to be seen as a great compliment to the tenacity and tactics of the Opposition. I do not expect them to admit it, but they know that that is the position. If this guillotine timetable is put alongside the timetable allowed for other Bills in terms of length and the number of Clauses involved, it will be seen that the Government have been generous due to the tenacity of the Opposition.
I end as I began. What is happening today in this House is to be seen as preserving the parliamentary procedures. It is clear that the situation has been reached at which the Opposition intend to go on delaying this Measure, as they are entitled to do within their rights. It is clear that we intend to get our legislation. This is what the guillotine procedure was intended to do. The Government are right to use it. I am glad that they have been generous, and I congratulate the Opposition on having forced this situation on the Government.
§ 8.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
I shall not detain the House long, but I rise to take part in this debate because I am one of the hon. Members who have returned 134 in the last few hours from the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. I understand that earlier in the debate there was reference to the fact that we had been recalled. I hope that what I say about this matter will be relevant to the hon. Gentleman's remarks about proper parliamentary procedure.
I believe that it was necessary that my hon. Friends and I should return because of the extraordinary and wholly unjustified precipitancy with which this guillotine Motion was introduced. I would go some way with the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) about guillotine Motions in general although the record will show that the Conservative Party has been a good deal more prodigal with the use of the guillotine than has the Labour Party. The point the hon. Gentleman did not cover was the extreme precipitancy with which this Motion was introduced and the fact that it was done without consultation.
I know that in a discussion of a guillotine Motion neither the Government nor the Opposition can be regarded as entirely unprejudiced witnesses. But let us look at the evidence from outside. The B.B.C. which is not normally all that well disposed to the Labour Party—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]— when commenting on the first two days' debate on the Bill in its morning news bulletin said that although the debates had been long and difficult nobody could say that there had been any filibustering in those first two days. Then again, in every organ of the Press—and again no one will suggest that the Press as a whole is especially well disposed to the Labour side of the House—it was assumed that sooner or later a guillotine would be introduced but not a single commentator imagined for a moment that it would be introduced with this precipitancy.
It was this that created the problem for my hon. Friends and indeed for members of the Conservative Party who were in Strasbourg. When it is agreed by Government and Opposition that hon. Members from the House should go as representatives, not only of their own parties, but, collectively, of Britain to an international organisation, it is normally understood that we will pair, and this was agreed, and it was known to both sides that during the time we were away there would be some days debating the Industrial 135 Relations Bill, and that we on our side were prepared to accept.
But what the Government gave us no inkling of, although they must almost certainly have been thinking of it at the time, and what no reasonable person could have expected was that a guillotine Motion would have been introduced during that period. For the Government to agree to allow hon. Members to go away and then to produce from up their sleeve something that no reasonable person could expect and when we could not have agreed to pair had we known it was coming has an unpleasant flavour of tricksterism about it.
§ Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford)
Would not the right hon. Gentleman have shown a much better sense of priorities if, in view of the very high office which he has held with such distinction in foreign affairs, he had remained at Strasbourg and honoured his pair with myself, so that we both could have been there instead of being here?
§ Mr. Stewart
I will make three comments on that. First, the point I have already made—these pairs were agreed when the Government almost certainly knew that they were going to trot out this guillotine in the middle, something which no reasonable person could have expected. Their behaviour in that matter invalidated all pairs. Secondly, as to my own position; at least I managed to arrive in Strasbourg substantially in advance of the nominal leader of the Conservative side of the British delegation.
Once it was apparent that our duty to the House required our presence here, we had to consider what we could do to show respect to an international organisation. In particular, we all felt it right that my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West (Mr. Judd) should remain because of an important part which he was to play in the debate at the Council of Europe tomorrow. We therefore sought to show as much respect as we could to the Council of Europe consistent with our plain duty to the House in the unfortunate position in which the House had been placed by the sharp practice of introducing the guillotine Motion with such precipitancy.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
The right hon. Gentleman has told the House that he decided to return because he decided that his prior duty on this occasion was to the House. Did he know that, while he was away, it was blazoned across the Press that he had been ordered to return, that it was not a personal decision of his at all? Would he be prepared to agree with me, if that is the position as reported in the Press, that it is a sad thing, because pairs are personal and ought not to be under the diktat of either side's officials? [Laughter.]
§ Mr. Stewart
Even the hon. Member's hon. Friends are laughing at his last remarks. I did not return because I was ordered, but I have been in the House long enough to know the seriousness of disagreeing with the considered judgment of the party to which one belongs. It is not something a man ought to do other than very rarely, although occasionally it may be right to do so. However, I have no doubt personally that it was right to come back to protest against what I have rightly called the sharp practice of introducing a guillotine Motion with this precipitancy.
We considered what we could do to safeguard the position in the Council of Europe and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West had a special job to do there, we all agreed that it was right that he should stay.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas rose——
§ Mr. Stewart
I think that I have given way sufficiently and I do not want to take up too much of the time of the House.
It was known that M. Reverdin, the President of the Council of Europe, had written to the Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Liberal Party. I therefore felt it right before leaving Strasbourg to leave a message for M. Reverdin expressing my great regret that my Labour colleagues and I had had to leave Strasbourg prematurely and saying that we had come only because it was the careful and considered judgment of the British Labour Opposition that the Government's behaviour on this occasion showed so little regard for the customary functions and procedures of Parliament that it was necessary for us to protest against it by every possible vote. 137 I put it to those hon. Members who think that there is too wide a gap between discussions here about the Industrial Relations Bill and the proceedings of the Council of Europe that it is far from clear whether some of the Bill's provisions are in line with undertakings into which all parties have entered through the European Social Charter. That is a matter to which we may need to return.
The hon. Member for Peterborough was very eloquent about parliamentary Government. I will go with him thus far. A Government have a right and a duty to use their majority to try to get through the House the legislation which they believe to be in the national interest. They have also a duty, and one which falls particularly on the Chief Whip and the leader of the House, to see that there is full opportunity for the minority views to be expressed. I should have thought that this is a doctrine which we have all known and understood for some time.
§ Mr. Stewart
Part of our case rests on the precipitancy of the decision to introduce a guillotine Motion, when no one could show any evidence of filibustering on the Bill earlier, when no reasonable person could have expected it, and when a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House were at an international engagement abroad and none of them were expecting—although the Government may well have known—that this would be sprung on them in their absence. It is a deplorable misuse of the powers of the majority in Parliament. I believe that the Leader of the House and the Government Chief Whip know this very well indeed.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ Mr. J. R. Kinsey (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
As a newcomer to the House, may I give my impression of why I support the imposition of a guillotine at this stage? It is an impression gained from the first two days of the debate, and I recommend it to right hon. and hon. Members opposite.
It is an impression of a past member of the Post Office Engineering Union, and that of an ordinary, but active past member of that union. I ask hon. and right hon. Members opposite to remember that there are people who disagree 138 with the points of view which they are putting forward as those of the trade union movement at present.
I thought that in this debate we were talking about the specific. But it has turned out to be a very wide-ranging debate.
§ Mr. Swain
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Kinsey) is criticising the Opposition and using the word "filibustering", which to me would mean a vote of no confidence in the Chair. He has used the word "filibustering". I challenge him to say how many times the Chair ruled any hon. Member from this side of the House out of order during the whole debate in the first two days of the Committee stage.
§ Mr. Kinsey
If I had used the word "filibustering", Mr. Deputy Speaker, I would answer the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Swain), but I did not use that word. I spoke about a wide-ranging debate, and that was allowed by the Chair. I thought that it was a debate during which hon. Members opposite were approaching a degree of irresponsibility in their anger against the Bill.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
I sat through the whole of that debate. The Minister is present now, and so is the Leader of the House. The Minister, the Government Chief Whip and everyone connected with the Bill said that there was no filibustering and that there was no waste of time. Indeed, it is on record that there was no debate up the Question, That Clause 2 stand part of the Bill, and on Clause 1 the Government spoke for 62 minutes and the Opposition spoke for 53 minutes. How can that be called "filibustering"?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)
Order. I think that we had better leave what happened in Committee and return to the terms of the Motion.
§ Mr. Kinsey
With due respect to the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis), I neither used the word "filibustering" nor referred to delaying tactics. I said that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite came near to showing a degree of irresponsibility when they should have been taking a much more balanced view in such a debate, especially 139 as the Opposition had an important contribution to make from their point of view, just as we on this side have from ours.
It is damaging to trade union relations to approach this debate in the way in which many right hon. and hon. Gentlemen have approached it, especially when one bears in mind the voluntary courses of action which we all want to obtain. Arbitration itself was undermined, to the extent that I become worried at one stage whether we could ever return to arbitration in trade union relations at any time. That is but one reason underlining the need for a Motion of this kind.
The Bill was designed to encourage good relations in industry and to speed up procedures with a view to eliminating injustices. We have not heard any of these admirable aims expressed by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. Instead, they have relied on negative and wrecking speeches. I cannot imagine any greater disservice to trade union members.
It is necessary to introduce a timetable so that we may be able to concentrate our discussions on points which are of great importance to the House as a whole. An hon. Member opposite spoke of the way in which relations in this House have broken down and said that there was a need to return to the rules of law that have governed them hitherto. That rather underlines what we are trying to do by this Bill, and in a way it is a compliment to the Bill. The statements of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are proof positive of the need to speed up the procedures of the House. The right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) said that the Opposition had not overloaded the House with Amendments, and I was inclined to agree with her. However, she rapidly declared her hand by saying that she and her right hon. and hon. Friends intended to vote against nearly every Clause. I agree that that is democracy, but such a statement demolishes the right hon. Lady's argument.
In the course of a number of heated exchanges, the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) shouted, "We will show you". It reminded me of a discussion in which I took part in the Birmingham Trades Council, when a young trade unionist said, "If everyone disagrees with us, we will nail them". That 140 is hardly the sort of atmosphere that we want in our industrial relations. Such statements show the need to get away from those tactics and adopt a more realistic approach to industrial relations.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) made an excellent speech which revealed to us the trade union mentality. I can say from experience that what the right hon. Gentleman said gave a true picture of the way that trade unionists feel. He underlined their fears and their desire to do the best for themselves. The right hon. Gentleman's knowledge is shared by many right hon. and hon. Members on this side of the House. We have tried to facilitate the spread of this knowledge. There was no question of the opportunity to know being denied; it was offered. We wanted a discussion of the matter. I believe that they did not want to know. They took the action they did because they deliberately wanted to go against it. The Minister offered his services in explaining the Bill.
Ten West Midlands Conservative Members have said that they were ready to consult trades councils, trade unions and individual trade unionists in order to explain any points that were raised.
§ Mr. Loughlin
I remember, many years ago, debating with the hon. Member in King's Stanley, when he was referred to as the Tory shop steward. Can he tell me why, instead of being the Tory shop steward, he is now a Tory small shopkeeper?
§ Mr. Kinsey
The point is that all the trade unionists opposite are Members of Parliament. I even wrote to the secretary of the Birmingham Trades Council drawing attention to the offer.
When hon. and right hon. Members opposite talk about the clamour at meettings they refer mainly to the activists within their party, but a shop steward who saw me explained that he had spoken against the strike but had assented because of his loyalty to a trade union that had taken a democratic decision. He had come out on strike although he had no need to do so. He told me that many other trade unionists did the same because of fear.
I do not welcome the imposition of a guillotine at any stage, but I accept the 141 need for it now. Having heard the first two days' debate on the Bill, I say, as many trade unionists would say, "Cut the cackle and get on with the job".
§ 8.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Bar (Mr. Kinsey) has openly revealed the genuine hostility to the trade union movement that exists inside Government ranks. The Government Front Bench have succeeded in concealing that hostility. They have told us that the Bill is intended to help the trade union movement, but outside the House many Conservatives are by no means suggesting that they wish to help that movement in any way.
Behind all their verbiage it is fairly clear that the Government intend to get their Bill, and in doing so to override all the democratic procedures of the House. It is as well to know the real situation. There has been a lot of double talk from hon. Members opposite, but they are occasionally unwise enough to admit that in the limitation of the powers of the trade unions they see the means of having an incomes policy without having to say so. Therefore they say, "We want to hurry the Bill through to get legislation which will have the effect of clipping the trade unionists' wings, hold them under restraint, and, by this means, we shall be able to curb the wage inflation tendency". This is the proposition which hon. Gentlemen opposite have put to us. But, in putting forward that proposition, I believe that many hon. Gentlemen opposite do not realise the real complexity of the Bill.
Until now I have exercised restraint in intervening in the debates. I did not succeed in catching Mr. Speaker's eye on Second Reading, and in Committee I have so far made no attempt to intervene because, in my judgment, the real debate begins at Clause 5.
§ Mr. Jenkins
The Government have followed a course deliberately designed to make it impossible for them to avoid bringing in a guillotine Motion. They have stated in the first two or three Clauses, quite unusually, a succession of broad general principles which my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench, at any 142 rate, have been compelled to attack. We could not possibly allow this broad statement of general principles in Clauses 1, 2, 3 and 4, against which we are deeply opposed, to go by without challenge. Therefore, a substantial debate is required on Clauses 1 to 4. I believe that this was a deliberate action by the Government so that they would be able to say, "We have had a considerable debate on these Clauses. Therefore, quite a lot of time has been taken up", and, before we get to any serious discussion on the operative Clauses, which commence at Clause 5, the Government will have already got the guillotine on.
§ Mr. Keith Stainton (Sudbury and Woodbridge)
The hon. Gentleman is making a very ingenious point. However, if he reflects on the fact that the Bill introduced by the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) commenced with definitions in Clause 1, he will have to agree that there is less substance in the point which he is making than formerly appeared.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I shall have to disagree. My view is that there is a great difference between the statement of definitions contained in the previous Bill and the broad statement of general principles in this Bill. However, the hon. Gentleman may disagree if he wishes. I believe that the strategy adopted here was for the purpose of creating the present situation. That seems fairly obvious. If not, if the Government wish to have a detailed examination of the operative Clauses, which begin at Clause 5 and go to Clause 16–and many of the Clauses beyond that contain important provisions—would they not have withheld the operation of the guillotine until after those essential Clauses had been discussed?
I wonder whether hon. Gentlemen opposite realise the importance of Clause 5. I think that some hon. Gentlemen probably realise its importance, but do they realise the importance placed upon it in some sections of the trade union movement? The Bill dismisses and makes impossible the philosophy of obligatory trade union membership. Some hon. Gentlemen may genuinely believe that this is not arguable; in other words, that this is so obviously wrong that there is no need to argue about it, so out it goes. 143 This is not a universally held view. I think that a large number of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and certainly many Conservative supporters in the country, believe—possibly because they have been misled by the Press—that the notion of an obligatory form of trade union membership is obviously bad and needs to be got rid of without much attention and, therefore, we need not spend too much time on it. Yet, when we think about it, society is founded upon the basis of acceptance of obligations. Everybody in this House accepts that the Government are entitled to require people to conform to the rules which they lay down.
Some hon. Gentlemen opposite may say that that is the beginning and end of it, that the Government's requirement is all that is necessary, but if they examine society they will see that these obligations are required of us by all sorts of organisations. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, who accept the statement that an examinational qualification is the right thing in professional organisations and that as far as scholastic and academic organisations are concerned an examinational qualification is one which they will support and accept, at a different level say that a craft organisation is not entitled to impose its obligatory qualification, which is membership of the trade union.
One of the things that makes this Motion is a way understandable from the point of view of hon. Gentlemen opposite, but completely objectionable to us, is the enormous variety and complexity of the trade union movement, so that something which may be accepted without too much trouble in one trade union is totally disastrous for another. Hon. Gentlemen opposite do not realise that in trying to lay down generalised rules applicable to all trade unions they are bound to do grave injustice to some trade unions. This is one of the things which hon. Gentlemen opposite have not realised.
I have been a full-time trade union official, a professional, where some of my colleagues are only amateurs. I have worked full time at that, as well as being an executive committee member of another trade union. I have worked full time as a research officer with the National Union of Bank Employees, and 144 as assistant general secretary of the British Actors Equity Association. If those two organisations, both operating in a non-manual sphere are considered, we see that in one case——
§ Mr. Bidwell
I think my hon. Friend will agree that the two unions to which he has referred cannot be called Socialist-inclined trade unions. In fact, at one time the general secretary of one of those unions was a member of the Conservative Party, and the other union looks like being predominantly Conservative.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I do not wish to argue that. I am rather surprised that my hon. Friend should seek to attack me on this subject. It seems that trade unions have certain characteristics which they acquire from the industries in which they grow up. This may be shown by the National Union of Bank Employees, for which I once worked. This organisation——
§ Mr. Jenkins
No. I hope that my hon. Friend will allow me to complete my argument. The point I wish to make is that the operation of Clause 5 and the removal of the ability of the union to run obligatory trade union membership may be of little importance to the National Union of Bank Employees, but for the British Actors Equity Association the removal of the power to operate obligatory trade union membership may destroy the organisation.
I believe that at a later stage it will be possible to deploy that argument at greater length. For the moment I shall refrain from doing that. The point I want to make is that if hon. Gentlemen opposite had recognised the real complexity of the trade union movement throughout the whole field, would they have tried to bring forward a Measure which seeks to ram all the trade unions into a single pattern?
Later, we shall have Motions before us, and hon. Gentlemen opposite may seek to bring forward Amendments, which will ameliorate in some respects the consequences of the Bill. What hon. Gentlemen opposite should do, and what we on this side of the House should do, is to remove the Bill in toto. Amelioration for one particular organisation is not a 145 satisfactory development. What we must have is a variation of the principle in the Bill, so that this Measure can operate fairly in respect of all organisations which find themselves in difficulty.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)
The debate so far has been about whether we have a timetable Motion at all at this time. This question can be put to the test when we vote on the suspension of the rule at 10 o'clock. We shall vote against suspension because we do not want the Motion and we shall vote against the Motion because we do not want the Bill. Our two Amendments will come on later, if the suspension is carried. I shall therefore address myself for the moment to the main question of whether we should have a timetable Motion on this Bill at this stage.
I should first of all like to take up a point made by the hon. Member for Tonbridge (Mr. Hornby) and the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), both of whom criticised the amount of time which is taken up by the House in debating timetable Motions. They suggested that we might make it shorter and spend more time on the Bill and less on the timetable on the Bill.
My hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. John Fraser) pointed out during the speech of the hon. Member for Tonbridge that my right hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), when Leader of the House, introduced a shortened procedure, which is now in Standing Order No. 43A. There are two alternative procedures—Standing Order 43 and the shortened procedure, 43A, which is conditional upon consultation having taken place between the Government and the Opposition, and failure to reach agreement.
The consultation is essential if that procedure is to be used, so I imagine that the Government were unable to use it because they had not undertaken the necessary consultations. If the shortened procedure is followed, on reporting disagreement to Mr. Speaker on an effort to get a voluntary timetable, the debate on the timetable Motion can be restricted to two hours. That was an attempt by my right hon. Friend to get a shortened procedure where efforts had been made to reach agreement by consultation.
146 It is important to note that the Government have had to use this full-dress debate, for a full day, if not longer, because they did not go through the necessary condition of consultation.
Mutual charges of hypocrisy are flung across the Chamber on these occasions. It is very bad for Parliament, to say the least, if hon. Members on one side charge others with hypocrisy on an issue like this. We are bound to hear, in any debate on a timetable Motion, the pot calling the kettle black. Of course the pot will call the kettle black. Both are black, but each has its separate function and responsibility.
I do not think that any opposition should be chided for what it did when in Government on this matter, because each has its separate duties and responsibilities. It is the duty of the Opposition to act as a deterrent against too free a use of the procedure of the timetable Motion. No Opposition should make it easy for any Government to get a timetable Motion, unless it is by agreement. And, if it is not by agreement, it should be debated and resisted.
If hon. Gentlemen opposite will reflect on this as a feature of parliamentary government, they will see that it is not a sham or hypocrisy but the discharge of a duty by the Opposition corresponding to a duty being discharged by the Government; that of getting their business through.
In a situation of this kind, it is important, however, that the Government should recognise how highly selective the timetable Motion procedure is. Short of having a timetable for all Bills, it is bound to be selective, and the Bill selected for a timetable Motion must be looked at on its merits, significance and importance to the country as well as to the House.
Why are the Government doing this? Why have they done it in such an objectionable way? On the necessity for this Motion, the Leader of the House said nothing about lack of parliamentary time. There was not a word about the great radical reforms which are waiting in the queue. There was nothing about the relief of poverty, the evils in our society, price control and about fulfilling all the other pledges which were made in the Conservative manifesto.
The right hon. Gentleman tried to justify the Motion on grounds of urgency. 147 Industrial relations will never be improved by ill-considered haste. Those who have given their blessing to the concepts of the Bill admit that its effect must be long-term. It will take a long time for the Bill—if it has any benefit to bring to industrial relations —to have its advantages seen.
The Leader of the House made three points. The first was that recourse to the timetable Motion had been found necessary by successive Governments of all parties. That is true and it is not disputed. Nor is it disputed that the procedure should be used with restraint and a deep sense of the feelings of the House and the country. As I said, it is highly selective. It should be governed more by what the Bill is than by how big it is.
If, for example, we are to have some special exemption given to Finance Bills because of length of time in Committee and in the House, without a guillotine Motion being proposed, then presumably we are being asked to concede that money comes before men—that financial business is more important than the liberty of the subjects and the rights and traditions of trade unionists.
The second point which the Leader of the House made was that a timetable Motion on this Bill was inevitable. That is highly questionable. I do not think it was as clear as the right hon. Gentleman suggested. Despite the militant war cries of my hon. Friends about this Measure, the fight against the Bill was resolved upon was not a threat of filibuster but a critical and detailed scrutiny of what the Bill contains.
We thought, and still think, that the Bill can be condemned out of its own text. We wanted to fight the Bill, and still want to fight it, by exposure of its iniquities, its follies and its weaknesses, and not by tedious repetition. Indeed, having been present at so many consultations on this Bill with my hon. and right hon. Friends I can assert that time and again we said to them, "We do not want to give the Government any excuse to introduce a timetable Motion. We want to debate the Bill in a responsible manner, and we do not want to delay getting on with it, because there is enough and more than enough in the Bill for Parliament to tackle in the weeks and months ahead."
148 Another thing that I can say to the Leader of the House is: never take the Opposition for granted. The right to consultation does not depend on a presumption of the answer one will get, and this point was made very strongly indeed by my hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing) in a very penetrating speech. Consultation is something to which we are entitled for its own sake. It is for us to say whether a voluntary agreement can be reached. It should never be presumed that we give that answer without consultation.
The third thing that the Leader of the Opposition said was that if there is to be a timetable, if it is inevitable, the sooner it is introduced the better. The hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. David Mitchell) made the same point. But what may seem inevitable to the Government may not seem inevitable to the Opposition. What may seem inevitable to the Government the Opposition may be doing their level best to prevent—as we were, indeed, in the earlier Committee stage. The important thing about a timetable Motion is timing. While it is unlikely ever to be fully acceptable it should never be deeply offensive, and this is what this Motion is.
The House can function only if there is a measure of acceptance of its conventions, which includes consideration for the feelings of the position of the Opposition, especially when no great gap divides the numerical strength of the Opposition from the Government themselves. The Government need the tolerance of the Opposition to make this place work. If the Opposition are deeply wounded and react with a savage indignation, the functioning of Parliament itself is put in peril. My hon. Friend the Member for Acton also stressed this point. I do not think that the Leader of the House has been fully seized of this consideration. I hope that he will forgive me if I say that in this matter he has shown some of the characteristics of a bull in a china shop. He has not exercised the finesse and understanding we have come to attach to his position as Leader of the House.
I am sure that after listening to the debate those on the Government benches know how much we deplore the way in which this has been done. We are undoubtedly very angry indeed. It is 149 nothing but an affront to the Opposition to present to them a Motion for a timetable in the circumstances in which this was done, and I think that it will be agreed that despite the very strong and militant feelings of thousands and millions of our colleagues and friends outside, we in this House have conducted ourselves with moderation and with tolerance. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]
Of course we have. No criticism whatever of our conduct in the Committee stage or in the earlier stage of the Bill has been uttered anywhere. The benches opposite have failed to understand the pressures that we are under from our friends in the trade union to show more militant action against the Bill. But the Bill proposes to amend the law and that can only be done here, and we have stressed again and again that no matter how strong our opposition to the Bill we must go through the processes of parliamentary government in a responsible and constitutional way. That is what the Parliamentary Labour Party is resolved to do. That up to now is what we have done. The alternative is anarchy, and we do not stand for that.
In the short beginning of the Committee stage we have had no filibuster, no obstruction. The longest speech, I think, in the whole proceedings was from the Minister himself. There were 12 Divisions on the Monday and the Tuesday, and not a single one on the Closure. The leisurely way in which the debate was conducted from the Government benches was somewhat surprising. There was one stage when we wished that we had got a button to get the Solicitor-General on his feet. He was sitting there looking round to see whether anybody else wished to rise. We were getting impatient. Our Chief Whip came to us and said, "We want to get Clause 4". We had a special, historical and magical attachment to Clause 4. We wanted to get Clause 4. But, no. The Opposition Chief Whip was doing the speeding up and some of my hon. Friends wanted to know whose Chief Whip he was. I am sure that there is no criticism which can be attached to us for the progress that we hoped to make in those earlier stages.
Another thing referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) just now is of considerable 150 importance. The statement of general principles in the first few Clauses of the Bill was bound to prolong the Committee stage. They opened up a review of the whole scope of the Bill, and the Government must surely have realised that and must have known what they were doing when framing the Bill in that quite unusual way. On the score of not having impeded the progress of the Bill, we are entitled to regard this not only as an affront but as a provocation.
I am not going over all the details of the events of last Thursday, but both the Leader of the House and, no doubt, the Secretary of State know that when the Opposition Parliamentary Committee were given a sight of the provisional business for this week at 5 o'clock on Wednesday afternoon, there was nothing on it about a timetable Motion. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday were down for further progress on the Committee stage of the Bill. We on the Opposition side had our usual weekly deliberations in the light of that, and made our dispositions accordingly.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
The right hon. Gentleman will surely accept that that is exactly the same position with which we were faced when we were in opposition, when I was Opposition Chief Whip, in relation to all the Bills which were guillotined, with the exception of the Redistribution of Seats Bill. That was guillotined the same day and, therefore, I was naturally told on the same day on which it was guillotined. It is also fair to make it clear that in all those cases I was asked beforehand, because the Opposition were operating under the new procedure, whether I was prepared to agree to a voluntary timetable. I said that I was not. Having said that I was not, after that I was never given any indication, quite rightly and reasonably, as to when the guillotine was likely to be used because that is something that the Cabinet always decides, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, on the Thursday morning before it decides on the business for the following week. The procedure that was followed was exactly the same as happened on previous occasions.
§ Mr. Houghton
Does the Leader of the House not realise that what may always be done may be quite unsuitable and wrong when dealing with a Bill of 151 this nature? It was undoubtedly his duty, in view of the explosive nature of many of the proposals in this Bill, that he should treat the Opposition with full respect. We did not get any intimation that a timetable Motion was to be used until Thursday afternoon.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Michael Stewart) has come back from the Council of Europe and has expressed some weighty criticism of the precipitate way in which the Government have introduced this Motion. It is inexcusable for the Cabinet to reach a decision on the timetable on Thursday morning, hope to have contact through the usual channels during lunchtime, and announce it in reply to the business question on Thursday afternoon. It was quite excusable on this Bill, and that is what has given rise to so much feeling on our side.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
It was exactly what was done on the Transport Bill, and we felt just the same about that.
§ Mr. Houghton
But this is not the Transport Bill. The Transport Bill had had many sittings in Standing Committee before any question of a timetable Motion was raised. On this Bill, it was done after the first two days, a very different situation. It is shocking that we were given no opportunity to consider the position before the Leader of the House was making his statement on Thursday afternoon. It is surprising that we are at work today at all. I wonder that the Government had not got a strike on their hands. Indeed, this sort of behaviour in industry gives rise to unofficial strikes. Yet it comes from right hon. and hon. Members opposite who are trying to tell the unions and the workers about industrial relations. They cannot even get their Parliamentary relations right. In 1927, incidentally, there was a strike; all the Labour Members got up and walked out after the guillotine Motion had been moved. [HON. MEMBERS: "Go on, then."] Hon. Members opposite know that the House would be a duller place the moment we left. They want us to stay. If we did not stay, what would they stay for?
The Leader of the House said earlier than 1927 was a long time ago. I remind him that the last punitive Measure against 152 trade unions was that Bill in 1927. There has not been a Tory Bill on trade unions since then until now. That is why it is not irrelevant to go back to 1927 and find out what was done then. After 43 years, the Tories are behaving on this Bill very much as they behaved on the Bill in 1927. The story of that Bill shows how little they change. On that occasion Mr. Baldwin, then Prime Minister, did not give the Opposition any notice; he just stuck the Motion down on the Order Paper and said that it was in accordance with precedent. No wonder the Labour Members walked out in those circumstances. But at least, on the Motion itself, much more liberal time was provided for a Bill of eight Clauses and three Schedules than is being provided for the present Bill.
I want to say a word now about the Leader of the House and the reasons for the Motion. Is he telling us that the Bill is so long, so complicated, affects so many millions of workers and so many hundreds of trade unions, and is so controversial, that Parliament cannot spare the time to deal with it? Is that what it comes to? Is he saying that it is too big a Bill for Parliament to deal with? Is he saying that the first Tory trade union Bill for more than 40 years must be hustled through the House more speedily than the last one in 1927?
Last Thursday, the Leader of the House said that, Finance Bills apart, this will be the longest Committee stage on the Floor of the House since the war. Does he realise that the Bill is unique? It can be distinguished from any other Bill in its content and in its impact on the trade union movement and on industrial relations. Surely, the first Tory trade union Bill for more than 40 years should be given full treatment in the House. The point about the Bill and the timetable Motion lies in the nature of the Bill itself. That is the importance of it.
The Government should not introduce a Bill of this contentious and controversial nature without being quite sure that Parliament has adequate time to deal with it. It must not only have time to deal with it properly but must be seen to have time to deal with it properly. Two powerful speeches were made from these benches on this point. One was by my right hon. Friend the Member for 153 Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell), who said that the credibility of Parliament is at stake with millions of people whose respect for it is becoming more tenuous year by year. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) also stressed the need for strengthening the position of Parliament in the eyes of those who are losing their faith in it.
A greater load is being thrust upon Parliament with the Bill because of the unhappy breach of relations between the Secretary of State and the T.U.C. He laid down such conditions for consultation and advice from it that it was unable to accept his invitation to join in consultations. Therefore, he is without all the help that the T.U.C. and the unions could give on the Bill. Much of it is being channelled through to my right hon. and hon. Friends. It is an additional burden upon us which is bound to prolong the Committee stage. We had a Consultative Document by which far too little consultation took place. As a result, more work is made for all of us, particularly on this side.
The Motion should never have been put down without consultation. I recall what was said in similar circumstances on the Transport Bill when, on 14th March, 1968, my right hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East, then Leader of the House, said—column 1667 of the OFFICIAL REPORT for that day—that more time would have been given to that Bill under the timetable Motion than in the history of Parliament. He said that my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), the Minister responsible, had tried to obtain a voluntary agreement, promising that if we could agree on the timetable she would aim at meeting the then Opposition's wishes as to the distribution of the time. But all was in vain and a timetable Motion was introduced.
After full consultation, after every effort to reach agreement, after every accommodation within the overall limit of time, the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker), now Secretary of State for the Environment, said of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House:In the manner in which he has done it and the complete lack of fundamental argument behind his case, in my view the right hon. Gentleman has completely and utterly 154 degraded the position of Leader of the House of Commons."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th March, 1968; Vo1. 760, c. 1675.]That was the verdict of the right hon. Gentleman, who is now a member of the Government, after my right hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East had gone to all those lengths to get agreement on a timetable Motion on the Transport Bill after many scores of sittings in Committee upstairs.
The Leader of the House has failed on this occasion to treat the Opposition with the consideration with which we, when in Government, treated right hon. and hon. Members opposite. My criticisms, though strong, are in more temperate language than his right hon. Friend used about my right hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East.
I urge the Government to drop the Motion and let us get on with the Committee Stage. Better still, I urge them to drop the Bill and let us get on with more fruitful and sensible work. Most of the Bill is quackery——
§ Mr. Ray Mawby (Totnes) rose——
§ Mr. Houghton
It is quackery introduced by Tory witch doctors who think they have remedies for ills they cannot understand and cannot diagnose. A lot of this Bill is objectionable, a lot of it is foolish and some of it is malicious. There is no doubt about that. So I say that this Motion will deepen the revulsion of millions of people against the Bill and will weaken the sovereign power of Parliament.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Robert Carr)
Early in his speech the right hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) posed the question, "Why the urgency?". He might have asked that question of himself and his right hon. Friends. Has he forgotten that, more than two years ago, the Labour Government, under the leadership of the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. Harold Wilson) and the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), told the country that legislation, including in that case penal sanctions, was absolutely essential that summer—that is to say, within six months—in the national interest because the unofficial strike position was so bad and getting worse? It is much worse today than it was over two years ago 155 when the Labour Government said that to the country.
The right hon. Gentleman also said that this was a long-term Measure, so why the hurry? Just because it is a long-term Measure is the very reason why it is important to get it working as soon as possible. He also said that it was quackery. But, to the vast majority of the electorate, the main lines of our proposals look remarkably similar to the proposals which the Labour Government told the country were essential to the national interest two years ago. The right hon. Member for Huyton said then that the measures he proposed then were central to the continuance of the Labour Government in office. In that, he was right.
Hon. Members have spoken about proper discussion and time for proper discussion. The right hon. Member for Sowerby says that it is a mockery of Parliament. Yet we are offering a longer time on the Floor of the House than has been given by any Government to any Bill since the war.
§ Mrs. Castle
This statement has been made several times. When the right hon. Gentleman says that it is the longest time given to any Bill since the war, is he talking irrespective of the Bills concerned?
§ Mrs. Castle
If the right hon. Gentleman cares to get his facts checked, as I have done, he will find that the amount of time he is allowing us for what is a constitutional Bill is considerably less per Clause than on the Transport Bill.
§ Mr. Carr
If it is any consolation to the right hon. Lady, I have checked my facts. I would remind the House that what she alluded to was in Committee upstairs, not on the Floor of the House of Commons. It worked out at about 41 minutes a Clause. [Interruption.] I have checked my facts, and that is what I make it. We will check our arithmetic afterwards, if the right hon. Lady likes.
The right hon. Lady and her colleagues produced an Industrial Relations Bill on 156 30th April last year. I think I am right in saying that that contained 97 Clauses and 8 Schedules. How much time was she envisaging for that legislation to take on the Floor of the House, even assuming that there had not been a General Election? Or was she just producing that Bill as a public relations exercise?
§ Mrs. Castle
The right hon. Gentleman well knows that the duration of a Session is completely elastic. Sessions can go on until November. I would invite the right hon. Gentleman to answer the point about democratic consultation and to say whether his Government would not be prepared to extend this Session to enable us to have a proper discussion of his much more far-reaching Bill.
§ Mr. Carr
The House can judge what that answer is. As for the length of time the right hon. Lady was planning to have in this wonderful vision of a Session—had it not, thank goodness! been broken up by a General Election—which had been extended so that her Bill could be discussed day after day, I will leave to people to work out for themselves.
§ Mr. Loughlin rose——
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Member can interrupt from a standing position only if the right hon. Gentleman gives way.
§ Mr. Loughlin
But I am in a standing position now, Mr. Speaker. Let the right hon. Gentleman give way.
§ Mr. Speaker
If the right hon. Gentleman does not give way, the hon. Member must not pursue the matter in this manner.
§ Mr. Loughlin rose——157
§ Mr. Loughlin rose——
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman knows that it is for a right hon. or hon. Member to decide whether he or she gives way. He must not continue to rise in this manner.
§ Mr. Carr rose——
§ Mr. Loughlin
I rose on a point of order, but, apparently, immediately I put my point of order, the right hon. Gentleman showed that he wished to give way. If he wishes to give way, I will withdraw my point of order.
§ Mr. Loughlin
I can wait. I have been here long enough—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—and I shall wait. Will the right hon. Gentleman now deal with this debate, in which many of us have taken part in a reasonable and sensible manner? Will he reply to the debate?
§ Mr. Carr
The hon. Gentleman's idea of replying to a debate seems rather different from that of other people. Had he started by asking whether I would give way instead of merely shouting at me from a sedentary position, we might have reached this situation much sooner.
The first thing which the House needs to consider in deciding the time and method of conducting the debate on the Bill is the fact that if ever a Government had a mandate for anything in a General Election, this Government obtained a mandate for this Bill. Moreover, we obtained a mandate to introduce it as a matter of urgency in this Session of Parliament.
§ Mr. Carr
I prefer to do so in a moment, but I will give way then if the hon. Gentleman still wishes to interrupt; 158 I cannot give way the whole time, as I am sure the House realises. As my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery) reminded the House, not only do we have a mandate for it in the normal sense of the word, but no party ever before has been so firmly and so publicly committed for so long in so much detail——
§ Mr. Eadie rose——
§ Mr. Carr
I will give way to the hon. Member if only he will let me finish. No party ever before has been so firmly and publicly committed for so long in so much detail as this Government to this Measure.
We first committed ourselves to it in principle in an official party policy document in October, 1965, just over five years ago. We repeated that commitment in our election manifesto in the General Election in March, 1966. We expanded the detail of that commitment in our party conference in October, 1967. In April, 1968, we published "Fair Deal at Work". In October, 1969——
§ Mr. Loughlin
On a point of order. I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that this debate is about the guillotine Motion, not the Tory Party manifesto. Why does not the Secretary of State reply to the debate and why is he not told to do so? My point of order is that it is entirely out of order for the Secretary of State to give us a resumé of the Tory Party manifesto. His job is to reply to the debate, which is on a guillotine Motion.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. That may be a point, but it is not a point of order. The Chair has no responsibility for what hon. Members say—fortunately.
§ Mr. Eadie
The right hon. Gentleman has sought to argue that his party has a mandate to implement this Bill. I suggest that by the mere publication of his Bill, the right hon. Gentleman does not have a mandate for it. He is applying a concept of democracy to trade unions in that Bill that he is not applying to Parliament. Not one single Tory hon. Member representing a Scottish constituency and only 17 Tory hon. Members in the rest of Britain had a majority of the electorate in their constituencies voting for them when they were elected. Therefore the right hon. Gentleman does 159 not have a mandate for this Bill—[Interruption]——
§ 9.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order—[Interruption.] Order. If hon. Members defy the Chair —[Interruption.] Order. Throughout the debate, I have allowed opportunities for a reasonable expression of opinion on the Motion. The conduct of hon. Members is very disorderly—[Interruption.] Order. This is getting almost as boring as a standing ovation—[Interruption.] I really must ask hon. Members—[Interruption.] I understand their strength of feeling, but I must ask hon. Members to leave the front of the Table and return to their seats—[Interruption.] If hon. Members persist in challenging the authority of the Chair in this way, I shall suspend the Sitting for 15 minutes.
§ Sitting suspended, pursuant to the Standing Order (Power of Mr. Speaker to adjourn House or suspend Sitting.)
§ Sitting resumed at 10.5 p.m.
§ It being after Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned