§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Pym.]
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Reg Prentice (East Ham, North)
It has almost become a weekly event for this House to debate industrial relations. Each time we debate this subject the situation seems to become more grave. The effects of the Industrial Relations Act become still more damaging to our country and the need is all the more urgent for us to press the Government to repeal or drastically amend this legislation. Certainly the need is all the greater for Conservative Members to improve on their unconvincing arguments for keeping the Act.
I wish to begin my remarks on perhaps a less controversial note than the way in which I propose to continue my speech a little later. I am sure the whole House is united in hoping that developments this week will lead to a speedy end to the national dock strike. I am bound to repeat the view expressed by my right hon. Friend the leader of the Opposition from these benches on Thursday, and which I expressed on Friday, that the report of the Committee under Jack Jones and Lord Aldington is a very good report and might well have provided the basis for a return to work last week.
It is a pity that the main emphasis in public discussion has been on the redundancy arrangements in the report. I believe that the central, most important and revolutionary proposal in the report is the complete abolition of the temporary unattached register by 4th September.
There are also proposals that every docker during the weeks between now and 4th September should be allocated to an employer and that, subsequently, if any of those employers goes out of business, those dockers should be re-allocated to another employer in the port so that they have an assurance of employment. It provides a degree of protection in an industry suffering from technological unemployment—a degree of protection which in many ways is unique because of the background in the dock industry—and I believe it is a very important ad- 362 vance which the dockers can claim as a victory.
On the other hand, nobody should underestimate the reasons lying behind the decision by a majority of dockers at the delegate conference that the report is not acceptable in this form. I expressed the view in the House on Friday that I would have supported the 28 who voted for a return to work on that basis, but the reasons for other delegates taking the view they do are twofold. The Secretary of State tried to suggest that there was some difference of view between hon. Members on this side of the House on that subject, but I suggest we are saying that there are two basic reasons. One is the underlying bitterness and tension arising from the events of the preceding days following the gaoling of the five dockers, to which I will return in a moment.
Side by side with that event was the deep feeling among the delegates that they needed assurances of a more definite and concrete form than those which were contained in the report. To understand the reasons for this feeling we must have regard to the whole history of employment and industrial relations in the dock areas over a very long period of time. We also must have regard to the bitterness in industrial relations which has been part of the scene in dockland for a long time. Furthermore, we must take full account of the rapid decline in jobs, a decline of over one-third in seven years, and must also bear in mind all the promises which have been given but which have remained unfulfilled.
It must be recognised that what have been advocated as solutions to the situation in the past have not provided the degree of security which has been sought for so long. We must put the Devlin Report in that category. That report appeared to be a good report at the time it was published and its implementation was rightly promoted by the Labour Government after a long period of persuasion by union leaders.
The fact is that what has happened since has not provided the continuity of employment which was indicated in the Devlin Report. The temporary unattached register—which was intended to he a temporary means of providing full back pay in quite exceptional 363 circumstances for the docker returning to work after sickness, or the docker returning to work after a disciplinary offence, or for odd cases of that kind—has been playing a larger and larger part in the picture. We see from the figures given in the Jones-Aldington Report that there are now 1,650 dockers on that register, with every prospect that the number will grow in the latter part of this year if no fundamental changes are made.
Against this background it was not unnatural that many people among the dockers should say, "We want to see parts of the report translated into more definite assurances"—particularly those parts of it which fall to be implemented, not by the dock authorities, but by employers whose origins are to some extent outside dockland, namely, those involved in group container depots of one kind or another—and there are many such depots.
Therefore, the message should go out from both sides of this House that we hope that during this week the firms involved in this kind of employment will be prepared to come forward and to give assurances that they will implement those parts of the report which refer to this situation. There is a crisis of confidence which needs to be overcome. I believe that it can be overcome and that, if this happens, a recalled dock delegate conference within a matter of days could come to a different decision. It is much in the interests of dockers and the industry, and indeed of the country, that this should come about.
All our attention has been focused on phase one of the Jones-Aldington Report, and it must be remembered that these proposals have been made as an interim report in the last week or so. If there is a return to work nobody is entitled to lose sight of this problem or to neglect the steps that need to be taken to bring about the important work which needs to be undertaken under phase two of the report in the next five or six months. This will include a study of a pension scheme, of retirement age, of retraining and of the future manpower requirements of the industry. It will include a study of possible measures to iron out as far as possible the difference between the peaks and troughs of employment in dockland. Above all it will study the 364 relationship between the scheme ports and the non-scheme ports—the registered and unregistered ports—which is one of the most difficult parts of the problem.
The Committee has taken the view so far that an approach should be made to this by way of negotiation. It does not take the view at this stage that an approach should be made to the Government for legislation on the matter. However I make the point in passing that legislation may be required. If it is, we ought to react to that need quickly.
Certainly in the Humberside area and in the London area a great deal of the trouble has come from what is regarded as unfair competition—the blacklegging by employers of the whole dock labour scheme.
We in this House are far too much in the habit of debating the problems of an industry or group of men when they are at crisis point, and then forgetting them afterwards. This is a problem that we shall need to study and on which we shall want to question Ministers and possibly to have debates over a long period.
Part of the difficulty that dockers feel is that everyone neglects them except on those occasions when they kick up a row. Over the years they feel that they have suffered from bad employers. Sometimes they feel unjustifiably I think, that their unions are too remote and that politicians of all parties are concerned with their problems only in a national crisis of this kind. We have to take these lesson to heart and to be prepared to give longer and more careful consideration to these problems in the period ahead.
I sum up what I have said so far by expressing the hope that in the next week or so moderate counsels will prevail on both sides of the industry. Certainly they should do this week on the employers' side if they are to do so a day or two later at a delegate conference.
That leads me to wider questions. How can this Government expect moderate counsels to prevail in any industry when they have insisted upon the passage and retention on the Statute Book of legislation which makes it virtually impossible for moderate voices to be heard? The charge that we level against the Industrial Relations Act as it is working in practice is that it puts a premium on the bad 365 employer and on the extreme militant on the union side and that it is liable to destroy the efforts of those who are working for moderation. If anyone doubted that a couple of weeks ago, I urge him to consider it in the context of the last 10 days.
We had been on the verge of a national dock strike for some months. It had twice been called and twice postponed by the national delegate conference. The Jones-Aldington Committee got to work with considerable skill and speed. Three days before its report was available, five men were sent to gaol and the docks were brought to a standstill—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] I am asking right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite why. In this debate the onus of proof is on them to tell this House and the country why they persisted in supporting a situation which could only lead to this result.
§ Mr. David Mitchell (Basingstoke)
Can the right hon. Gentleman explain in what way the Industrial Relations Act caused dockers to try to steal other trade unionists' work?
§ Mr. Prentice
I have put it to the House on previous occasions that in a situation where there is very high unemployment and where men are in desperate competition with each other for jobs, there will be struggles of this nature. But when such a struggle breaks out at one cold store involving a few dozen jobs, it is ridiculous for such an argument to escalate into a national crisis in the way that it has.
Let me put this to the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. David Mitchell). What he and others have to answer is whether they really believe that the gaoling of the five dockers had no effect on the decision of the national dock delegate conference. If they believe that, they will believe anything.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
How does what happened to the five dockers affect the merits or demerits of the Jones-Aldington Report? Why could not that report be judged on its own merits, if prejudice was not introduced from the outside?
§ Mr. Prentice
Whatever else one may think of the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls), he is an experienced politician and I am sure 366 that he will remember many occasions in his life when strain, tension and emotion have affected decisions. He says that it had nothing to do with the merits of the Jones-Aldington Report. However, it produced an atmosphere in which the report was not considered entirely on its merits and in which there was bound to be an emotional reaction. These are the facts of industrial life, and this is precisely the kind of situation about which we warned the Government when the Industrial Relations Bill was being debated in this House. We said that it would happen, and it has. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have to face the fact that it has happened. They have also to face the appalling new situation that it has created.
Another argument used is that we have to pay a price in terms of industrial relations because it is essential to uphold the rule of law. We are told that the five men could have gone to gaol under other legislation. That is theoretically possible. But it never happened in this way. They could have gone to gaol under other legislation. They were guilty of contempt and the law had to be upheld. This argument has been used many times in newspaper editorials, ministerial speeches and so on in past weeks.
However, I ask the House to consider the sequence of events of the last 10 days. Five men were sent to gaol following contempt of the court. Four days later, without purging their contempt and without apologising, they came out of gaol. I say in parentheses that the reason given by Sir John Donaldson was the House of Lords decision in the Heaton case. But the reason given by the dockers themselves as they spoke to the crowd outside Pentonville was the reason which will be believed by most people in this country. They told the crowd, "We were put in gaol by a political court and we have got out by the united efforts of the trade union movement." That is what was said and that is what many people will believe.
I ask right hon. and hon. Members opposite to consider what happened after that. The following day, all five of them went back on to the picket lines. They continued to defy the order of the court. Yesterday Midland Cold Storage went to the court and said that it dropped the case. I ask, again in parentheses, why 367 it did that. The answer is that it was recognised that if the five dockers had gone back to gaol there would have been no hope of the dockers returning to work.
I ask those who argue that this is an exercise designed to uphold the rule of law to reflect on whether this comic opera sequence of events really upholds respect for the law, or does it have the opposite effect? Many of us feel deeply about the rule of law in this country. We do not mind so much if the Government of our country are made to look ridiculous. But we mind very much when the system of law and the courts of law are made to look ridiculous. This is what Lord Devlin said the other night on "Panorama", and it is a matter that we should take very carefully into account.
This situation has made the rule of law look ridiculous. Men defy the law. They go to gaol for contempt of court. They come out without apologising and without purging their contempt. They continue the activities which put them into gaol. Finally the whole case is dropped. This is the kind of ridiculous result that one gets from this ridiculous Act.
§ Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)
The right hon. Gentleman has not completed the story. The bit he left out is that the Transport and General Workers Union has to pay a fine of £55,000.
§ Mr. Prentice
The hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Captain W. Elliot) is anticipating me. I was coming on to that point. That is the alibi which has been used. We are told that the situation is now very different since the House of Lords judgment has upheld the original decision of the National Industrial Relations Court. We are told that we can regard the events of the last10 days as some sort of aberration due to the temporary mistake of the Court of Appeal, and that now it will all be different. The Prime Minister was gloating over this on ITN last week, and last night he repeated his views on "Panorama". He said that all that needed to happen was for the union to put its house in order.
One feature about the House of Lords judgment which should be noted by 368 Ministers, and by the Solicitor-General in particular, is that there is grave disquiet about the way the appeal was handled. Reports have appeared in the Press, and I have seen a copy of a letter today which the General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union has sent to the General Secretary of the TUC, about the way the case was conducted. The feeling on the part of the union, the lawyers involved in the case on the union's side, and, I am told, among many other lawyers, is that the case was so rushed that the validity of the judgment is being challenged by many people who would not normally do so.
I should not normally criticise a judicial decision of the House of Lords, but in this sensitive area it is as well that every aspect should be considered. I do not know how many hon. Members have read the judgment of their Lordships, but I found it the loosest form of argument which I have ever read in a judicial decision. It is open to some of the criticism which has been made.
§ Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)
Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether there was any criticism of the judgment of the Court of Appeal, which was given far more speedily? The judgment of the Court of Appeal, which went the other way, was heard in four or five days instead of eight or ten days.
§ Mr. Prentice
There were a great many criticisms of that decision, many of them made by hon. Members opposite. However, all of us have to regard this series of decisions in relation to the reality of the situation, and it is that to which I now want to turn.
Whether the decision was right in law, in the sense that it gave a correct interpretation of the Act, we now have to live with the consequences. I return to the Prime Minister's statement that the union needs to put its house in order. What does that mean? I hope that we will hear the answer from hon. Members opposite in the debate.
Apparently the doctrine is that the constitution of a small or large trade union—and the Transport and General Workers Union is a very large one, with several different trade groups extending over many different industries—should become so totalitarian that orders issued 369 from its head office are obeyed in all its thousands of branches, by all its officials, shop stewards and representatives acting in any capacity in any firm or industry throughout the country. If that is what hon. Members opposite want, I put to them one practical point, which I am sure has been overlooked. It is made in an article in this morning's edition of The Times by Mr. Eric Wigham, when he says:But they have no effective sanction against members or shop stewards because the Act has made the closed shop illegal. If they withdraw the credentials of the stewards, or even expel them, the stewards can continue in their employment and carry on as before.If hon. Members opposite seriously want that kind of internal discipline in unions, and if they think that it is practical, which I do not, they had better introduce Amendments to the Act to provide for universal closed shops throughout the whole of British industry, instead of moving in the opposite direction as they did when introducing the Act.
There are other considerations. Any trade union leader who set out on that course would fail, and deserve to fail—it would be a nonsense. The effective choice in a crisis is for the union leadership to set out to weaken the union by taking away the credentials of the shop stewards or expelling them from the organisation, or to sit back and see the union weakened by the gradual sequestration of its assets. One way or the other, there is a serious weakening of trade union leadership in the terms of an Act which was alleged to be designed to strengthen trade union leadership.
I am trying to put a series of challenges to hon. Members opposite, not just Ministers but back benchers, if they are to continue to support this legislation. First, what would have happened to the dock situation over the last month or two if the Transport and General Workers Union had been weakened in either of those two different ways? The situation would still remain. All the problems would remain—the rise of unemployment, the container issue, the temporary unattached register and other matters. The same employers would have to deal with the same shop stewards, but the missing feature would be the union as a national organisation. We would have 370 no Jones-Aldington Report, because the authority of Mr. Jones, as the joint chairman of that committee, derives from the fact that he is the leader of the biggest trade union involved. If that union is destroyed or weakened to the point where it has no influence, then it is no longer available to solve any problems, and the solution of the problems is made more difficult than it would have been.
Grave though the crisis has been in the last week or two, if the Act remains on the Statute Book in its present form, when we next have a crisis of these proportions the damage done by the Industrial Relations Act may well be much greater than anything we have had so far. The Prime Minister used an extraordinary throw-away phrase at Question time this afternoon, when he said that those who criticise the Act should put forward a constructive alternative. That is a silly piece of impertinence in view of the work which the Labour Party and the TUC have undertaken over many months on that question, and on which we produced an interim report last week.
The interim report includes the commitment which we have held for a long time, to repeal the Industrial Relations Act as one of the first measures of a Labour Government when we are returned to office. It includes a provisional description—our work is not finished—of the legal framework which we would put in its place, including the restoration to the trade unions of something like the legal status which they had from 1906 to 1971, and the degree of liberty which they rightly had from proceedings in tort. Our report refers to the right to belong to a union, the obligation on employers to recognise unions, appeals against unfair dismissals and other matters. It includes proposals for conciliation and advisory services to provide a genuine independent source of conciliation and arbitration which is so badly needed in industry today.
When we spell out these matters we always find that some journalist—Mr. David Wood in yesterday's edition of The Times is the latest of a series—reacts with surprise, as though we had just thought of the promise to repeal the Industrial Relations Act. He then describes it as some sort of surrender to the unions, and asks, "What did the Labour Party get in return?" That is 371 becoming a bit corny. We have been committed to the repeal of the Act from its inception as a Bill, not because the trade unions want repeal but because it is in the national interest to get rid of an Act which is damaging to the whole community. It is not a matter of the trade unions against other people; but of the increasing damage week by week which the Industrial Relations Act is doing to our economy and the whole fabric of our society.
I put it to the Government that if they cannot go all the way with our proposals, at least they could go some of the way. If they say the cannot repeal the Act, I point out that there has been no shortage in the last week or two of alternative suggestions: suspending the Act, putting it on ice, or introducing radical amendments to it. For example, there was the suggestion that approaches to the court should be made only by the Secretary of State or, the alternative version, that there should be some kind of board or commission through which references to the court should be made. There have been a number of suggestions. The need to do something along these lines is becoming more urgent day by day.
I repeat, in view of the mounting failure of the situation, in view of the damage now recognised by nearly everyone in this community except the Government and Conservative back benchers, the onus of proof is on them to say why they intend to persist with measures which are doing so much damage.
The people of this country are sick and tired of destructive confrontation; they are entitled to something better than that. That is why the wrecking should cease, and the main wreckers are on the Treasury Bench. The increasing incidence of time lost through industrial disputes, under this Government, particularly since the Act has been in force, is evidence of this. I put it to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, once again, that this mixture of farce and tragedy from which we have suffered in the last few weeks will occur again and again, and may occur in a much worse form in future than it has so far unless they are prepared to repeal or to suspend this Act which has done so much damage.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Maurice Macmillan)
I hope the House will forgive my apparent discourtesy in leaving earlier and being absent from a greater part of the debate than I should normally wish. I shall be able to do so for one reason only, to be present at the tripartite discussions between the TUC, the CBI and the Government which are now taking place and are very much a part of the industrial scene we are debating.
The right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) suggested that the onus of proof was on the Government to show that the Act was working. The right hon. Gentleman quoted the time lost in industrial disputes. One could equally quote—I suggest with more validity since it was a standard and criterion accepted by the Labour Party when in Government—that there has been a decreasing number of strikes over the last few years. We should recall that such problems and tensions existed before the Act and were, indeed, if anything, increased by the Labour Government's failure to deal with them.
Certainly the right hon. Gentleman's object was to help, not hinder, in the docks dispute. He did not cast doubt on—rather, he welcomed—the Aldington-Jones proposals, the rejection of which is the immediate cause of the national docks strike. Despite the censorious tone of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, it is only right that I should acknowledge the helpfulness in this respect of not only the right hon. Member for East Ham, North but right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite representing dockland constituencies. They have stated firmly and unequivocally, as, indeed, has the Leader of the Opposition, that the three parts of these proposals—work-sharing financed by the industry itself, negotiation on part-load container work, and improved severance financed by the Government—are a valuable first stage towards a longer-term solution—I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for stressing the elements other than severance pay, because an earlier stress given to that aspect of the proposals was rather misleading to some of the dock workers who felt that not enough attention was being paid to the prospects of getting off 373 the temporary unattached register—and give time for the second part of the Aldington-Jones Committee's Report and work. Again, I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman reminded the House that there is more to come.
I think that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have generally welcomed the Aldington-Jones proposals. Whatever the history, I certainly accept what the right hon. Member for East Ham, North said about the fears of those who have been put on the unattached register, in many cases suddenly and rather more speedily than any of us believed. I hope the whole House will support the joint chairmen in their efforts to give confidence to dockland, not only in the immediate situation but in future.
§ Mr. Julian Ridsdale (Harwich)
Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that, whilst we welcome the present proposals, further conciliation will not be at the expense of damage to ports such as Harwich and Felixstowe?
§ Mr. Macmillan
Lord Aldington and Mr. Jones, as joint chairmen of the Committee, have made it plain that they stand completely and entirely by the words in the report that they have issued. They are concentrating their work on giving the extra assurance that is possible on Part B of the report, which all those who are familiar with this problem will realise is the immediate difficulty with which they are concerned at this stage.
The main purpose of the debate is, clearly, to pretend that the sort of industrial problems that we are discussing began with the Industrial Relations Act and that its repeal would in some way help to solve the problems that right hon. and hon. Gentleman opposite refused to face when in Government.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made it clear that the Government are prepared to consider constructive proposals from the unions or the employers in due course.
§ Mr. Harold Wilson (Huyton)
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will produce chapter and verse to show who on this side has said that these problems began with the Industrial Relations Act. Certainly they have been intensified. These problems were old, as the right hon. Gentleman knows. Having paid tribute, 374 quite fairly to what we have said about the Aldington-Jones Report, will he tell the House what the attitude of the then Leader of the House and his colleagues was at the time of the seamen's strike in 1966, since they did everything in their power to make it more difficult to settle?
§ Mr. Macmillan
I do not accept what the right hon. Gentleman says about that. It is clear that many right hon. and hon. Gentlemen have tried to indicate that the prime cause of the docks strike is the Industrial Relations Act. This is absolute nonsense.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made it clear that the Government are prepared to consider constructive proposals from the unions or the employers in due course. I have no doubt that the Government will in due course have some proposals to put forward, too.
My right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council made it equally clear in the debates on the Bill that it would take time for the Act to be accepted. So far the only firm proposition that has been put forward to the Government by either the Opposition or the trade unions has been to repeal or to suspend the Act. In supporting this attitude the Opposition may be seeking to damage the Tory Party, but they are also helping the extremist element which they themselves deplored and which they tried to deal with when in Government but failed.
Let me remind right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite of some of the problems which led them to set up the Donovan Commission. It was in reply to a Question in December, 1964, that the then Minister of Labour made it plain that the Government's decision to set up the Donovan Commission followed their decision to introduce legislation to deal with the unsatisfactory situation created by the judgment in the Rookes v. Barnard case, and I have no quarrel with that. The Prime Minister of the day then announced the appointment of the Donovan Commission during a debate in February, 1965.
Since then there have been many disputes and situations similar to those that we are facing now. For example, in 1968 there was the Girlings, Bromborough, dispute, when 22 machine 375 setters on unofficial strike caused the layoff of thousands of workers in the motor car industry, which led to a court of inquiry. The inquiry criticised shop stewards for intemperance of manner and stubbornness, but it also criticised management, as indeed the NIRC might well do if unions were to use it properly. In 1969 there were unofficial strikes at Port Talbot and in the coal mining industry. In April and May of 1970 there was the Pilkington official strike, and there was dissatisfaction in the clothing and other industries, when unofficial stoppages again affected thousands of people. In this case, at no time, were there more than 170,000 people on strike, including the dock workers, out of a total labour force of about 20 million.
When the Donovan Report came out, right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, as the Government, came to much the same sort of conclusion as we on this side of the House did in opposition, that the voluntarist approach was not by itself enough and that a background of law was needed, and this was made clear by statements in "In Place of Strife". The difference between the two sides is that in Government we have sustained the principle of having a background of law, while right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite abandoned it, and now that they are in opposition they have indicated once again that they would abandon this principle and that if they were to be re-elected—the statement on industrial relations published last Wednesday makes this plain—there would be no imposition of any kind of duty on the trade unions. But, as Mr. David Wood said in the article in The Times to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, trade unions not only have rights but have duties. It may be corny to say that, but it does not stop being true.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)
Order. I think that the House would wish to hear what the Minister has to say. If the right hon. Gentleman does not give way, the hon. Member must resume his seat.
§ Mr. Macmillan
No. The Opposition are saying that the trade unions have rights but not duties, that there is no need for any element of public accountability or consumer interest beyond that supplied by the unions themselves representing their members as consumers as well as producers.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Member knows very well that if the Minister does not give way he must resume his seat.
§ Mr. Macmillan
I shall give way when I have reached the end of this part of my argument.
The Opposition are saying that the law must be acceptable to those who are mainly affected by it if it is to be widely acceptable throughout the community. It is really as if they were arguing that speed limits should be settled by motorists alone, on the ground that they are sometimes pedestrians. Some union leaders themselves take a similar view. They claim—and they do so properly—the right to be consulted in forming industrial relations policy, but they deny that they have either the obligation or the ability to ensure that it is carried out.
§ Mr. Molloy
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the trade unions were not consulted and that it does not help the present dangerous situation for him to make the kind of remarks that he 377 is making in the cosy atmosphere of this House? Does he not understand that it is difficult for anybody in any walk of life to have to accept a law that has been shown to be so ridiculous that the Government have had to be saved time and again by the Official Solicitor? This is because of the hopelessness of the legislation which they have rammed through the House in the teeth of sensible and helpful opposition.
§ Mr. Macmillan
I do not think I shall accept that what I am saying is exacerbating the situation. I am not attacking the trade unions. I have been very careful to say that it is the Opposition who are taking this view, not the trade union movement, and, in view of what has been said by right hon. and hon. Members on this side of the House, a little self-defence cannot be construed as a major attack, as I am sure the right hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), with his previous experience, knows very well.
As for previous consultation, the present Lord President of the Council made it quite clear in a letter of 29th September to the trade union movement that he was willing to consult except on matters of major principle and except on the matter of having a basis of law, and it was on that basis that the trade unions felt it not worth their while going on with consultation.
Events have proved that this constant reiteration of the suggestion that management and unions alone should try to reform industrial relations does not work. Time and again it has been said "Let us sort it out together"; but what happens? The answer is really nothing, and that is why a framework of law is necessary, as many hon. Gentlemen opposite will admit in their hearts, to strengthen—not, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested, to weaken—responsible union leadership, and to protect every citizen against the irresponsible or malicious.
I accept that the law cannot of itself produce good industrial relations but, equally, I believe that it is not possible in the world today to succeed in creating a stable system of good industrial relations without a framework of law to act as a basis for setting out the rights and duties of unions and employers to each other and to the whole community. That 378 is the central purpose of the Industrial Relations Act and the Code of Practice that goes with it.
We have seen the same principles apply the other way round in the Robens Report on Safety and Health at Work. There have been many years of legislation on these matters of safety and health at work, and the report by Lord Robens introduces an element of voluntary co-operation on the ground that "the law alone is not enough". I agree, and I hope that hon. Members generally will agree. I further agree with Lord Robens that voluntary co-operation needs a firm statutory base sustainable in the courts, and that is exactly the status of the Industrial Relations Act and the Industrial Relations Court.
The court is not a political court. Despite the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman, I understand that the case against the dock workers was dropped by the Midland Cold Storage Company because, although there was picketing, there was no evidence of blacking. The judgment of the National Industrial Relations Court, supported by that of the Law Lords, made it perfectly plain that it was not the peaceful picketing that was an unfair industrial practice but the national blacking. In any case, the decision of the Law Lords meant that if any proceedings were to be taken they should more properly be taken against the union. What recent events have proved is that, while no person or organisation can be above the law, no one is beyond its care, not even those who seek to reject it. The most important judgment of the NIRC has been sustained by the unanimous opinion of five Law Lords. It is difficult for even the most prejudiced to accuse the highest court of the land of making a biased or politically prejudiced judgment.
§ Mr. Clinton Davis (Hackney, Central)
Before the Minister departs from the Midland Cold Storage issue to which he has just referred rather briefly, in the light of what has happened would he commend to the House the view expressed by the Prime Minister, that this was a case of unprovoked bullying, having regard to the revelations made in the Sunday Times concerning the Vestey family's interest and provocative actions?
§ Mr. Macmillan
It is perfectly plain, first, that Midland Cold Storage did not 379 rush into industrial action. It took a long time to get as far as that. Secondly, no one can deny that the law is open to all, large and small. Any variation on that principle cannot be defended.
It is not the Industrial Relations Act that is creating the present difficulties. I do not believe that most trade union members want to be above the law. [Interruption.] I am not quarrelling with right hon. and hon. Members of the Opposition. But, as I say, I do not believe that. I accept that many trade union leaders find it hard to deal with and accept this new concept of their responsibilities. The intransigent attitude of right hon. and hon. Members of the Opposition is not exactly helping, especially to get a definitive and positive response from the unions to indicate where they believe the Act can be improved. So far, they have concentrated on seeking its repeal or its suspension.
Another argument that has been advanced is that it is wrong, in the way that the existence of the Industrial Relations Act and the National Industrial Relations Court implies, to try to concentrate the handling of industrial relations at the centre just at the time when managements, wisely, are trying to decentralise responsibilities and delegate powers to the factory and the shop floor. I do not think that the Act does this. It recognises the authority and powers of responsible shop stewards. I gladly pay tribute to the good work they have done and are doing in many cases up and down the country in British industry to make good industrial relations and good working relationships with management. The Act sustains responsible shop stewards acting in accordance with union policy. But both management and union officials, at every level, at branch and shop floor level, must ultimately be responsible, the managements to the boards of directors, and the shop stewards to the unions.
But it is not a question of trying to impose a dictatorial organisation on a union. I cannot accept—I do not believe the country can accept—an argument that has been put forward by some union leaders which implies that having 30,000 shop stewards makes it impossible for them to follow union policy, although they are theoretically bound to do so, 380 and which at the same time denies that the law can protect people who are affected by what the unions admit is a practice they are trying to stop.
Nor is it true that the conciliation or the increased confrontation in industrial disputes has been worsened by the Act. Ever since the war we have had serious problems in industrial relations and in the management of our economy. All too often—and this is relevant in the context of what is happening now—we have allowed these very serious difficulties to become magnified, and as a country we have talked ourselves into a more serious crisis than is necessary. I hope that this will not happen over dockland today. The present stoppage is a very serious and damaging problem, but it is not yet a disaster, and let us not believe that this is so. It is a problem that can be resolved by the work now being carried forward. I hope that I shall have the opportunity to hear a progress report from the joint chairmen before their committee meets again.
The main cause of most of our troubles, including those on the industrial scene, is inflation. The principles of the Industrial Relations Act have not in any way made it worse, nor, if they were rejected, would that have any effect on either inflation or the underlying causes of industrial strife, because it is inflation which provides the serious tensions which are making life so difficult.
I believe that working together to defeat inflation will help the industrial relations situation; working together not negatively in restrictive policies or simply trying to restrain money incomes, but working positively to achieve an increase in real incomes and to keep down prices, matching the rise in money incomes to a steady and regular increase in output and investment. That is just what the Government are now doing with the TUC and the CBI. We are trying to achieve this and to deal with some of the special problems such as the low paid.
We have made it very clear that we are willing to reconsider parts of the Industrial Relations Act that either unions or employers believe to be unsatisfactory or damaging to their legitimate interests; to look at parts of the Act which are operating in ways perhaps not originally intended. I have little doubt that in due 381 course the Government themselves will have some proposals for improving the workings of the Act. But it must be within the framework of the law, based on the principle that no individual and no organisation, however important or however powerful, whether of employers or of workpeople, can be above the law or can seek to take from this House the power to decide what laws shall be made or to take from the courts the power to enforce the law. It is this principle that the Opposition are seeking to deny. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] It is this principle that this House will uphold.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)
When the Press returned to work at the end of last week The Times devoted a full section of its leader to a typical, thundering piece under the heading, "Yes, we are in danger". One would not have thought from the tone of the speech of the Secretary of State for Employment and from the soporific way he read his history essay that we were in any danger whatsoever.
If we accept that we are in danger, we must accept that it has stemmed from, and has been aggravated by, the policy of confrontation which the Government appear to have been hell bent on ever since they came to office. We can go back to the time of the last election and recall the speeches made by members of the present Government throughout the country, in which they led people to believe that we had only to wait for the return to power of the Conservative Party and all would be peace and that they would apply some magic formula which would be called an industrial relations Bill, and that when this happened all industrial unrest would suddenly cease.
Instead of that, the industrial situation is not just as bad as ever; it is actually much worse. Strife and trouble have now been extended into the law courts.
If the Government are to succeed in the tripartite talks and achieve their stated objectives, they must start by trying to create a new climate based on a sense of fairness—fairness between different groups of people and fairness based on reconciliation rather than confrontation.
I believe that the present policies and the present situation give joy to only two 382 groups of people—lawyers and agitators. It is not any part of our purpose in the House to further the interests of either as an end in itself.
In our recent debates on the industrial and the economic situation some of my colleagues have argued the case for what is now being called a new social contract. I suggest that this should have four distinct ingredients. The first ingredient in any new social contract—here I agree with the very able case made earlier by the right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice)—must be an examination of the Industrial Relations Act and a willingness at least to consider Amendments to it. The Minister twice used the phrase "in due course" If there is a clear case for Amendments, they should be dealt with now. Must there be doctrinaire objections? Must some magic period of time pass before it is accepted that changes must be made in the Act?
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
Does not the hon. Gentleman recognise that until and unless unions such as the Transport and General Workers' Union have rules drawn up that they can work to and which comply with the Royal Commission's recommendations, whether it be in the form of a code of practice or otherwise, until the duties and responsibilities of shop stewards are clearly defined, and as long as so many of the major unions refuse to register under the Act and to have any modern rules, we do not begin to have a basis upon which we can consider the type of Amendments to the Act to which the hon. Gentleman is referring?
§ Mr. Steel
I do not accept that. I do not say that everything on the trade union side is lovely or that there is not much to be done in trade union organisations. I am arguing the simple proposition that the Industrial Relations Act, as we have seen it operate, is clearly in need of revision. I shall instance some Amendments that might be made.
This is particularly important because the Secretary of State illustrated clearly that, because of the creation of this piece of legislation, the law itself has been brought into disrepute. Mr. David Watt, Political Editor of the Financial Times. put this very well on Friday in these words: "Lawyers"—that includes the 383 hon. Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies)—will say that there is nothing particularly odd in their world in a High Court judge having his judgment unanimously over-turned by three Appeal Court judges who are themselves unanimously slapped down by five Law Lords. It may be so, but the trouble is that when the subject under discussion is one of burning political controversy requiring special sessions, unprecedented interventions, and the ministrations of the tipstaff, the man in the street is quite incapable of accepting that the process has not been a political one.The basic defect of the Act is that the courts have been required to make political judgments. These judgments should be made by politicians in the House and they should not be thrust upon the courts.
I support the view that one major Amendment which should be made without further delay arises from consideration of the parallel situation set up by the Race Relations Act, under which anybody, large or small, individual or corporate body, is entitled to make a complaint to the Race Relations Board, but it is the board that decides whether matters will be improved or aggravated by taking the case to the courts. This is a very good parallel and some such machinery could well be established by amending the Industrial Relations Act without even accepting the case for outright repeal which is the policy of the official Opposition. There are distinct improvements which could be made immediately without even accepting the point made by the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet, and that is where a start should be made.
The second aspect of any new social contract should be a much more detailed and serious dialogue, initiated by the Department of Employment, with the trade union movement, not just on the docks situation but on the effects of technology on industry as a whole.
Again, the Secretary of State was honest and right to say that politicians as a whole have been guilty of ignoring the problems of dockland until a crisis occurs and that, when successive crises have occurred, only then have successive Governments turned their attention to the problems of the docks.
Just as the Jones-Aldington recommendations have come very late in the day, what we see with the advent of containerisation in the docks is merely a 384 very clear and lucid illustration of what is happening in industry as a whole. With high unemployment and with increased mechanisation, even in fairly traditional craft industries such as I have in my constituency, the labour force is dropping.
Therefore, if we are to avoid a persistently high level of unemployment, two things will have to be recognised—first, that there will probably have to be more employment in service industries, a requirement which underlines the ludicrous nature of the theories behind the selective employment tax and, second, that there will be more leisure and, therefore, a shorter working week as a general course.
One of the aspects of our society which I think should be changed is the dependence of many people on regular overtime earnings to raise a reasonable weekly standard of living. The Government and the trade unions collectively should be giving more serious thought to the long-term changes in our patterns of work, and discussions on the future organisation of the docks should be merely one of these.
Third, in any kind of social contract we have to consider the fairness to the Government's economic policy and the question whether there should be a voluntary or statutory incomes policy.
The greatest mistake that has been made both by the Labour Government and more particularly by the Conservative Government is that they have applied the term "incomes policy" purely on the basis of fixed percentages of actual current earnings so that somebody who is on a low wage is told, "The Government of the day think that this year 7 per cent. is about right, and we will resist anything above that". Then these people see that the chairmen of the nationalised industries or members of the judicial bench are being told exactly the same, "Sorry, we are having an incomes policy at present and 7 per cent. is the current norm. You cannot have more than 7 per cent."
It is an obvious truism that 7 per cent. of a salary of £20,000 is a very different matter from 7 per cent. of a salary of £1,000. One cannot get away from this fact. It is no use denying that neither under the previous Administration nor under the present one have we made 385 great strides towards a more egalitarian society in which people feel that the amount of work that they put in during the course of a week is being fairly rewarded and that they are being fairly protected against increased prices.
A point made very effectively in a recent debate by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) was that this is a society which is encouraging the development of speculation both in property and on the stock market, The fact is that anybody who has wealth or any property behind him can afford to say, "I will go along with the Government's policy"; because his real wealth, whether it be in property or in shares, is not being affected and he can have an increased feeling of security and can grow richer all the time while accepting all the apparent norms of wage or salary increases.
Any fair economic policy must take into account some control over property speculation, over dividends paid on shares, and over capital appreciation of shares.
Fourth, and last, I believe that any form of social contract must take account of the need to bring into industry a greater feeling of partnership. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Liberal Party drew attention in our last debate to the company code in Western Germany. We should go further than that. We should not simply look at what is happening elsewhere and say that we will do the same.
There are particular measures we could introduce based on the experience of Western Germany which would help. I say this particularly to the Labour Party. One of the great lost opportunities of public ownership in Britain is that we have failed to use Government control over a large sector of industry for experiments in industrial relations. There is a clear case for saying that because these industries are under Government control we should consider adopting part of the German practice with some directors elected from employees. We could consider statutory works councils in all the nationalised industries for a start. The nearest we are to that is in the British Steel Corporation where there are a few workers' directors appointed in the units of the Corporation by the Chairman, but they are not elected by or 386 representative of the employees. That would apparently be far too dangerous and radical. Yet it is being done elsewhere and it should be tried in this country.
If we had a Government who were prepared to attempt to introduce greater democracy and a greater feeling of participation and direct consultation within each large unit of industry and within each work place, we would see a new phase of policy and the country would be prepared to draw back from the extremes into which it is being polarised. There would be an opportunity for a sound and fair economic policy. It is fairness which is at present lacking from both the industrial and economic policies of the Government.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Barney Hayhoe (Heston and Isleworth)
I do not wish to take up all the arguments that the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) has put forward because to some extent he has over-emphasised the polarisation which has taken place in recent weeks. Inevitably, commentators in the Press and elsewhere have tended to paint the picture of the last week in much more violent colours than the facts of the situation warrant. There is not the savage polarisation which commentators in the Press wrote about this weekend.
I add my support to the Jones/Aldington proposals which are the best way of settling the docks dispute. One of the very hopeful signs is the widespread support for the proposals in the House, and it is agreeable to find such a bilateral approach to the issue. I cannot remember it on any other major industrial dispute. I hope therefore that the delegates will be called back into conference later this week or very early next week, that some shuffling of the proposals will take place which will not alter them in substance but in presentation, making people aware that the job security which is so important is written into them. I hope there will be very few abstentions and a majority in favour of accepting the proposals and a return to work.
I believe that when that happens we shall see unofficial action in some ports because this has happened throughout 387 the history of the dock industry. Too often decisions made by the delegate conference have not been accepted by certain elements among the workforce. Therefore, although I hope it will not happen, unofficial action will probably take place. It will be a long time before the industry is rid of the seeds of distrust which have led in the pas to a refusal by people to accept the decisions of their own representatives meeting in conference.
This debate largely centres upon the Industrial Relations Act. The TUC, with the Labour Party firmly on its coat-tails on this issue, has been demanding the total repeal of the Act in an emotional and somewhat immoderate fashion since it came on to the Statute Book.
§ Mr. Hayhoe
One cannot ask for the repeal of an Act before it becomes an Act. Perhaps the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis), who is so competent at interjecting from a sitting position, could do it because his mind works in a curious way. But most of us—
§ Mr. Hayhoe
Let me finish my sentence. The only way in which a demand for the repeal of an Act can make sense is to demand the repeal when the Act is on the Statute Book.
§ Mr. Hayhoe
Let us not get involved with semantic points. No doubt the hon. Member, who detains the House longer than most—
§ Mr. Hayhoe
I shall not give way to the hon. Member but I will give way to someone who takes up less of the time of the House than he does. The demand by the TUC and the Labour Party for the repeal of the Act is based upon the fallacy that if they demand long enough it will be repealed. I remember only too well in the debate on the Second Reading of the Bill when my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, South (Mr. 388 Scott) asked the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) how the pledge that she was giving that a future Labour Government would repeal the Industrial Relations Act differed in content and strength from the pledge which had been given by Labour spokesmen that the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1962, would be repealed. No answer was forthcoming and in exchanges last week a similar question was being put to the Leader of the Opposition, and again he failed to answer it.
My judgment is that the Act will never be repealed even if there is a change of Government. I believe that it will be amended. The Opposition's case, as I understand it, is that the Industrial Relations Act is either responsible for creating or at least for intensifying most of our present industrial troubles. One of the arguments used by the right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) this afternoon, which has been used many times before as a measure of the problem, is the enormous number of working days which have been lost because of industrial disputes this year. The latest figures up to the end of May show that about 14 million days have been lost, and it is claimed by the Opposition that the Act is responsible.
I reject that view entirely because there is no justification for it. Over 10 million of those working days lost were lost within the mining industry as a result of the coalmining strike. It is absolutely certain that the Act had no effect one way or the other on that strike. Most of its major provisions did not come into effect until the strike was over. The report of the court of inquiry which recommended the final award to the miners gives the cause of the strike. The miners were striking because, to quote from the report—During the period 1965 to 1970 … the pay of the miner fell from near the top rank to a level in the middle of the structure.The miners were striking to get back their high position in the pay scale among the manual workers, a position which had been eroded not during the years 1970–71, not while the present Government were in power, hut, according to the Wilberforce Report, a position which had been taken from them during 1965–70, the time when the Labour Government were in office. Whoever or whatever is to blame, 389 it cannot be the Industrial Relations Act. It might well be the way in which the then leaders of the Coal Board, backed by a Labour Government, conned the miners into accepting a gradual degradation of their position.
§ Mr. Molloy
What the hon. Gentleman is saying is partly true, that the Government were doing very well in creating industrial unrest without the Industrial Relations Act. We had the miners' strike, the Post Office workers' strike, and the electrical workers' strike, and in all these disputes the Government intervened behind the scenes and caused obstruction. They were doing very well. We have had more industrial strife and unemployment since they took office. What the Act has done is to help them on that disastrous road.
§ Mr. Hayhoe
The hon. Gentleman says that the Industrial Relations Act is not the cause of the trouble, though that was the case deployed by his right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North from his Front Bench. The hon. Gentleman says that the record of industrial strife has been worse under the present Government than it was before, but judged by the number of industrial disputes, as Donovan and "In Place of Strife" judged it, industrial unrest is down by 50 per cent. this year compared with the figures two years ago. In the first five months of 1970 there were over 1,900 strikes and in the first five months of this year there were about 900. There has been a considerable improvement on that score, and it is wrong to argue that the Act is responsible for the large number of working days that have been lost.
§ Mr. Prentice
My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) was right. It was never part of my argument to suggest that the Act had caused the extra time lost. The Government's confrontation policy has caused that. The Act is the latest chapter in that, and will make the situation even worse. That was my case.
§ Mr. Hayhoe
That argument at least could be pursued and could be linked with the figures. The argument that the Act is wholly to blame is totally absurd, but the right hon. Gentleman said earlier today that it was the Act that caused the 390 dock strike. I noted his words at the time. I do not believe that statement to be true. He is now taking a more reasonable position, and saying that many other factors were involved. I hope that he accepts his own responsibility as a member of the Government during the time when the miners' position was eroded so badly that they reached the stage of feeling tremendous frustration at being pushed down the wages scale, frustration which burst out into the strike earlier this year. Responsibility for that rests heavily on the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues.
In the rail strike the Act was operative and was successful in protecting the community. My constituents are grateful for the fact that there was not an extended strike causing them great inconvenience. We had the cooling-off period and the ballot and then a result without a long strike.
People ask, "Why have a ballot?". "In Place of Strife" stated that the object of a ballot would be not to place a prohibition on the strike but to help to ensure that before important strikes took place the union members themselves were convinced that they were right to go on strike. What the Government did in using the provisions of the Act to call for a compulsory ballot was precisely what the Labour Government said was the object when they introduced proposals for strike ballots in "In Place of Strife".
I believe that amendments will be made to the Act. Here I return to the speech made by the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles. I have much sympathy for the proposal made in The Guardian that there should be some sort of filter to prevent vexatious actions from going to the Industrial Relations Court. There is substance in that, and I hope the Government will examine it. Equally, there is a great deal to be said for examining the possibility of removing from the Court the power to send individuals to gaol for contempt of its orders. I believe that the five dockers wanted to go to gaol, and the last thing in the world I should have done was to give them what they wanted. I should have found some other sanction. [Interruption.] There is nothing in the Act about that. The remedies for contempt have nothing to do with the Act.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
While I greatly respect my hon. Friend's observations on these matters, I hope he appreciates that what he is suggesting is somewhat inconsistent with the whole basis of our law, that if one deliberately disregards the findings of any court in this country, one is asking to be committed for contempt. It is unreasonable to suggest that that contempt is in any way connected with the Act, which was carefully worded to avoid committal to prison.
§ Mr. Hayhoe
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend about there being nothing in the Act about contempt. Where we might disagree is on whether it is always necessary for the court to have power to commit people who disobey its orders. For example, we have moved from a position where people who disobeyed orders on civil debts were sent to prison.
The Government should carefully examine these matters. I believe that they are the sort of things my right hon. Friend is prepared to look at, after giving a fair trial to the legislation, when we come to the possibility of amendments being made.
§ 5.29 p.m.
§ Mrs. W. E. Garrett (Wallsend)
It is not very often that I catch the eye of the Chair on a subject such as we are debating.
I normally listen with great interest to the hon. Member for Heston and Isle-worth (Mr. Hayhoe), because I believe he is one of the few Conservative Members who have made any attempt to study the trade union movement, but I did not agree with many of his points this afternoon.
I am one of the fast dwindling band of hon. Members who have been shop stewards. I was a shop steward for 20 years, and represented my union at local, district and national level. I have also been an officer of the 116 trade union sponsored Members on this side. During this period of office of eight years, I have watched somewhat askance the manoeuvres of both the present and the previous Governments. I well remember as an officer meeting the former Prime Minister, the present Leader of the Opposition, and his Principal Secretary. They too completely ignored the advice that we gave them to the effect that industrial legislation should not be introduced. 392 This advice was based on years of experience. I regret that the present Government moved so fast in 1970 to get this infamous Act on to the Statute Book. In this Chamber we have all contributed in our own little way more to do harm to industrial relations than to do good.
The Secretary of State in his usual uneventful manner made two comments with which I would agree. The first was that there are millions of trade unionists working productively, efficiently, happily and in complete accord with management on day-to-day matters. He made the plea that we should bear this in mind. I wish that we had borne it in mind over the years.
The other remark he made was that there should be a general desire to calm down. In this highly volatile area of human behaviour it is important that we all try to keep a sensible and level head. I am not an expert on the docks. I know nothing at all about the industry, but my subconscious instincts tell me that the dockers have a case. I know that their case as presented by the popular Press is not a popular one. I know that it suits the Press to give the impression to other working people that they are a highly-paid, irresponsible and truculent crowd. Again my instinct tells me that there is something wrong, that something must be rectified.
The regrettable thing is that the workers of this country sometimes make rotten remarks about the dockers without understanding that it suits the Press and certainly suits the Tory Party and some hon. Members opposite that one set of workers should be played off against the other so that the rest of society can get on with the business of making money.
The issue here is law and order and the Industrial Relations Act. I am rather sickened and wearied by the statements by the Prime Minister and his lieutenants that they were given a mandate for this. In the wide sense it could be said that they were, but taken in the present structure of our voting system that is not exactly correct. I should like to give some figures to show that it is not true that the Government were given such a mandate. In the 1970 General Election they received 13,144,692 votes. The Labour Party collected 12,179,196 votes and other parties, the Liberals, the Welsh 393 Nationalists, Scottish Nationalists, Communists and, for want of a term, the "fringes", received a further 3 million votes between them. Putting them together, this is a case of a minority for the Government. Add them up and we find that Labour and Liberals and others got between them over 2 million votes more than the Conservatives. It is not correct to say that the Government had a mandate from the people.
§ Mr. David Waddington (Nelson and Colne)
Is the hon. Member aware that the Labour Government between 1945 and 1950 had, on that argument, no mandate for nationalising a single industry in the country, because they had a minority of the total votes cast?
§ Mr. Garrett
The hon. and learned Gentleman has been following my line of thinking because I was about to say that this is generally accepted as so, that the voting system does throw up the anomaly of a minority party. In the 1945–50 period it was phenomenal insofar as there was a vast rejection of the then Conservative or Coalition Government.
We have to return to some degree of normality. We have to consult some of the other large-scale employers who say that they have no need of the Industrial Relations Act, who have operated over many years a system of joint consultation which has worked to the limit. Admittedly in this democracy of ours things sometimes break down and sometimes there are harmful strikes, but at the end of the day without any interference from anyone in this House, people normally sit around the table and resolve the matter. We have to get, slowly but surely, back to this system.
It is difficult for many hon. Members to realise the thinking of the ordinary trade unionist. First of all, it is a myth to think that they are all political activists. Most are not members of the Labour Party; very few are members of the Communist Party. Their whole philosophy of life centres around where they work, how much they can earn in the shortest possible time in that place and what their long-term and fringe benefits are likely to be.
We have to remember that shop stewards now are the typical good product of our educational system. We have made them more articulate, we have 394 made them so that they have an understanding of the world, which generally makes them cynical towards politics and politicians. By and large, they are able to talk the same language as the local manager, able to understand the economics of the company or organisation in which they are working, whether private or nationalised. Their whole objective is to get the maximum amount, through collective bargaining, for themselves and their fellow-workers.
If we would only leave these people to get on with the job I am sure that we would be doing the nation a favour. We have also to convince these people that we are not two nations. It is the job of the Government not so much of the Opposition to convince them that there are not too many greedy developers or speculators, that it is not a villainous act to ask for £20 a week for farm workers, that it is legitimate for construction workers to ask for £25 a week, hearing in mind the profits made by large companies.
I appeal for this degree of reasoning. If this debate can convince the nation that we are not in this business merely to inflame a situation, then it will have been a useful one. I hope that this will be the last debate on this subject and that we will let the people who know the business get on with it so that this House can bother itself about other important matters. I understand that the Solicitor-General is to reply to the debate. That is rather regrettable, although if he had been in his place during my speech he would not have comprehended what I have been trying to say. The Under-Secretary will have done so because he has tried to get a grasp of the situation since he became a Minister and, indeed, when he was "shadowing". There it is; we cannot have everything in life. If I have convinced the Under-Secretary I am content.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Lloyd (Portsmouth, Langstone)
It is easy for some of us to imagine that there is an invisible sounding board down the middle of the Chamber and for those of us on either side of the House to obtain echoes from that sounding board. The hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. Garrett), in a characteristically modest and sane speech, has 395 drawn echoes from both sides of the Chamber.If we could do that a little more often then the low respect into which this House has unfortunately fallen might be improved.
§ Mr. Lloyd
Whether or not one is here or in Strasbourg representing this House, after the debate on Monday, the observations made to me by many people, not least some of those listening to our proceedings in the Gallery, hardly reflected favourably on the House, and the hon. Gentleman must bear his 630th share of responsibility for our reputation.
I must declare two interests. First, I have a connection with a major shipping group which has dock interests. The second interest is perhaps more fundamental. I imagine that in my constituency there are not more than 200 or 300 dockers, because the commercial docks in Portsmouth are not significant or large. They employ, at most, several hundred men. Possibly 200 or 300 of them live in my constituency. I speak for them. But I also speak for the other 114,000 electors in my constituency.
We must bear in mind that the public interest is wider than the interests which have been represented as coming from the docker community, important though they may be, and plainly they should not be neglected by any humane or sensible society. But that part of the public interest is not, in my view, represented by Mr. Victor Feather when he says that the public interest is confined exclusively to members of trade unions.
I wish to declare a certain elemental responsibility for the situation in which the country finds itself. Perhaps more than many other people I was responsible for the introduction of the container revolution. The House may be interested in this circumstance. In 1959, I was one of the first people—I happen to know because they told me so—who saw on the West Coast of the United States one of the world's first major maritime container operations. Shortly afterwards I visited the East Coast and saw the sea-land operation carried out between Port Newark and Puerto Rico.
It is relevant to the problems of today and the situation in which we find our- 396 selves to ask, and to attempt to answer, why that revolution started. It started because two individuals, for two totally different reasons, looking at their shipping operations off the East and West Coasts of the United States, decided that things could not go on as they were. One was an investment analyst looking at the requirements of capital investment on the West Coast who said that the point at which capital must be invested was in cargo handling. The other was what is known in the United States as a "trucker"—a self-made man of great enterprise and energy who, watching his trucks being delayed day after day at Port Newark docks, said, "I must find a way of lifting the truck body off the back of my trucks and putting it straight on the ship". Against the hostility and scepticism of the whole maritime industry of the United States, he bought and converted five C-3's. He designed them so that the body could be lifted straight into the ship.
That started the container revolution, roughly in 1958 or 1959. I was very impressed, and I reported my findings widely in the United Kingdom. In 1960 I returned to the United States and by then the scale of the operations had doubled—virtually in a year. I reported those findings. By 1962, when I again returned, they had virtually doubled again, and I reported those findings. In 1961, a conference took place on board the "Wellington", just up river from this House, at which those findings were widely reported to the maritime interests and to anyone who wished to attend. In 1962, the International Cargo Handling Association held an international conference in London at which the impact of the container revolution was made clear.
I must take issue in one respect with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment, who said on Friday:Containerisation has been a problem which was anticipated by our predecessors in government and ourselves. What was not anticipated by anyone, including the unions all the experts, was the pace at which these changes would take place."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th July, 1972; Vol. 841, c. 2234.]That just is not so. It was anticipated by a considerable number of experts but no notice was taken of their predictions and findings.
397 That was not the first, and probably it will not be the last, time that that has happened. I gave evidence to the Rochdale Committee in 1963 and I warned of the pace, character and extent of this revolution in maritime shipping. But that Committee paid very little attention to it in its final report. In 1962 I reported my findings to my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), who was then the Minister of Transport. Once again, the warning was explicit and clear. I asked Mr. Tim O'Leary to have lunch with me, which he did. I told him of my findings because I thought it right that the members of the trade union most concerned should be informed at the highest level. Let us not pretend therefore that at least some people were not told what was happening. All those who attended the conference on the "Wellington"—there were about 120 of them—must have known what would happen in this country when this major technological change hit our ports.
Why did this cargo handling revolution take place? First, quite simply and fundamentally, it was because the existing methods were archaic. They were used in principle by the Phoenicians; they had been used for 2,000 years. Secondly, the port industry throughout the Western developed world had been afflicted by continual and endless strikes, and those concerned with the primary responsibility of moving trade through our ports felt that something urgent must be done. Thirdly, restrictive practices of all kinds, not only in this country but throughout the maritime world, clearly and powerfully inhibited evolutionary change in the industry. Finally, inflation, which was by then endemic throughout the Western world, hit transport costs, particularly in the docks.
All those reasons applied to the United Kingdom, but there were other factors. By this time the container revolution was sweeping the world. Had not we followed suit, as we began to do on a considerable scale in 1963 and 1964, the United States maritime interests would have swept the oceans and driven us off the high seas. It was therefore imperative that we should act quickly. Also, it was perfectly clear to anyone who visited the major ports of the Continent that the Continent was moving ahead on a very large scale.
§ Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)
The hon. Gentleman has left one factor out of the reasons he has given for the introduction of containerisation. Even if all the other factors had not been present, we would still have had containerisation because it was the one way of making greater profits.
§ Mr. Lloyd
The hon. Gentleman is perfectly correct in his statement although I probably would not draw the same conclusions from it. The maritime interests had been earning very depressed profits. The Rochdale Committee pointed this out in its report. Not one of our major ports had earned a return on capital for years. The shipping companies had made correspondingly low returns on capital for a long time. There was therefore no reason why they should not attempt to increase their profits. The hon. Member is right in saying that this was a factor, but it was by no means the only factor.
We have a unique situation in our docks. We have an organisation known as the National Dock Labour Board, which was established by statute. It is hardly surprising that there should be such an organisation in existence when we think that there have been nine separate major reports on the industry since 1951. Under the auspices of this statutory organisation, one group in the community enjoys what is undoubtedly an exceptional guarantee both of income and of employment. That the National Dock Labour Board is now a complete anachronism is beyond doubt. The unit load-bulk carriage—container revolution has taken place.
This, above all, required good management-employee relations. Yet, under the Board, the possibility of creating sensible relationships between employer and employee has been destroyed. The National Dock Labour Board engages and maintains the register and disciplines the men, the employer pays, and that is the extent of the nexus of the relationship between them.
§ Mr. Frank Marsden (Liverpool, Scotland)
In my constituency there are seven miles of dockland now at a complete standstill; nothing is going forward, backward or sideways. Is the hon. Gentleman inferring that containerisation is responsible for that?
§ Mr. Lloyd
No, I am not saying that containerisation is responsible for that. What I am saying is that containerisation has certainly contributed to the sense of unease in the national port industry as a whole. It would be surprising had it not done so.
Far more important and more fundamental to the situation in which we find ourselves is the influence of the National Dock Labour Board throughout the years. I believe this influence not to have been a constructive influence. That is why I shall come in a moment to the Aldington-Jones Committee, and on this my point of view may not coincide with that of the Opposition. I will say why and I will put my argument clearly before the House.
The board's composition as it now exists gives employees a virtual veto on any development which does not have immediate short-run advantages which the labour members of that board can represent to those who support them as being in their interests. Long-run schemes of any kind just do not get off the ground. So we have created and developed what is undoubtedly in economic terms and possibly in social terms a privileged caste virtually immune from economic change, virtually immune in certain important respects from financial hardship and virtually immune from management control. How this can be regarded as a sensible structure within which to go forward in this difficult situation I find hard to imagine. The board has failed to achieve its statutory objectives, and that is a serious failure for a statutory organisation.
The board was set up to ensure that an adequate number of dockers were available for dock work. Instead, virtually a 12 per cent. surplus is being carried by existing employers in the industry, plus those on the temporary unattached register. The board was set up to achieve full and proper utilisation of dock labour and a rapid and economic turn around of ships. No hon. Member in the House can seriously claim that this has been achieved. The board was set up to achieve the speedy transit of goods, yet our entrepôt trade is being lost on a significant and disquieting scale to continental ports precisely because the rapid transit of goods is not taking place.
400 Certainly, the board has proceeded along the road of decasualisation in a significant way. No one would doubt that that is a significant achievement, but at the moment the ratio of disguised unemployment, both within the employing groups and on the temporary unattached register, to effectively employed workers has increased steadily, and I do not regard this as an achievement of the National Dock Board.
In addition, the financial burden on the surviving employers has been heavy and damaging and under the proposals now before the House will become more so. I need hardly say that the burden on the community is indicated by the fact that within the last 10 months about £15 million has been paid out in compensation. That has been paid out by the community. It is a burden which is spread over society as a whole, and there is no point in burking that issue.
No wonder the Road Haulage Association has described the Act as "rigid and anomalous"—a description with which I entirely agree. The recommendations of the RHA are important. The association says:That there should be no extension to any location or activity not specifically involved in making the transfer of cargo between ship or barge and shore.I entirely agree. The RHA says that registered employers should recover their right to engage, suspend or terminate employment of their own workers. In describing the conditions which should be achieved the RHA says that the dock workers, like others, should be brought within the ambit of the redundancy payments scheme, outside which they lie at the moment and within the ambit of the unfair dismissals procedure of the Industrial Relations Act. With that recommendation I entirely agree.
Now we come to Aldington-Jones, the last of the nine Committees which has considered this industry. The report does nothing to tackle weaknesses of the National Dock Labour Board. It greatly enhances the privileges of the docker community. Hon. Gentlemen opposite may take the political view that this should be done, but that it is a fact is indisputable. It creates a permanent unattached register instead of a temporary unattached register. Hon. Gentlemen 401 opposite may say that that is a special condition which must be created in this special industry, but that it is being created and that it will create a precedent of an unfortunate kind I believe to be indisputable. It will, therefore, increase surplus labour by from 10 to 15 per cent. and it will impose an immense financial burden, even if the Government pay a considerable part of it, first on dock employees and secondly on the community as a whole.
I mentioned the question of precedents. What claim would the TSR2 workers have had in a similar situation had they found that some years later dockers were to be paid £4,000 for the loss of their jobs? In certain circumstances what claim would the Concorde workers have if—as I hope will not be the case—the Concorde production line had to be closed down within a year or two?
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
Why go all the way to the Concorde? Let us stick here in Westminster. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Government are paying £8.50 per day tax free to every Lord, his heirs and successors in perpetuity for as long as they may live, for putting his nose inside another place? Let him pay that to the dockers. The dockers would be quite happy. It is one law for the rich and another for the poor.
§ Mr. Lloyd
Whatever it may be, the Lords who do nothing or the judges who do a great deal, it is irrelevant to the total size and magnitude of the economic life of the dock community.
The next question is: will Aldington-Jones work? That is the fundamental question we should ask ourselves. First, will the dockers accept a capital sum, even of this size, if it is less than the discounted cash flow of the guaranteed income which they are likely to achieve and are capable under Aldington-Jones of achieving? My impression is that they will not accept it. Whether or not that is right, it seems to me that Aldington-Jones is beyond the bounds of practicality. Secondly, will the option be exercised by old or young dockers? The way 402 I would react if I were in a docker's shoes would be not to exercise the option.
I therefore wholly endorse the final conclusion of the memorandum of the Road Haulage Association—and I have no connection whatever with that Association:We firmly believe that there is no satisfactory alternative to the revision of the deck labour scheme.I would add a word to that. I would say the total revision of the dock labour scheme, and the time for that is now. The RHA goes on to say:Any supposed solution by extension of the scheme—by restrictions on the operation of others or by the imposition of unnecessary surcharges—would [...]eriously inhibit the development of the transport industry as a whole, would be injurious to the country's competitive trading position and adversely affect[...] the interests of other transport employees.It seems to me that Aldington-Jones is attempting to do the impossible. The Committee states in its introduction that it is resolved to remove the prime cause of insecurity. But no organisation, no committee, no Government, can remove the prime cause of uncertainty. They could perhaps under two conditions; by creating a completely static and isolated community, which for a trading community such as the United Kingdom is virtually impossible; or, secondly, by spreading the consequences of risk and technological change by an insurance process. All that any committee or any other organisation can do is to insure the community against the consequences of technological change. For the Aldington-Jones Committee to say that it can remove the prime cause of insecurity is to suggest to the House and to the country that the members of the committee are magicians of an altogether new economic kind, and I do not believe that they are. The danger is that if the burdens of change are too great we shall bring change to a grinding halt. That is what I fear is most likely to happen if the precedents created by this type of proposal are allowed to spread.
The Aldington-Jones Report has not faced the question of how new opportunities for dock workers can be created. This perhaps is the most fundamental point of all. The House may well ask, "If not the National Dock Labour Board or Aldington-Jones, then what?" My answer is simple. I believe that we have 403 no long-term alternative but to bring dockers within the general industrial law of the country. If that law is inadequate, it must be made good. That is the only real option we face.
Secondly, burdens of change should not be recovered by taxing employment, as the Aldington-Jones Report suggests. It is of great interest to realise that the United States, which last year had a 135-day dock strike on this very issue, finally resolved the matter in a comprehensive and interesting agreement which placed the burden of change on the container itself by putting a royalty on containers moving across the United States. I do not regard this as an ideal solution, but what is not an ideal solution is to place the burden of tax on those employing the men in the docks, knowing full well that the employment of men in the docks is undergoing a fundamental challenge in terms of the technological revolution. We shall be taxing a shrinking base, and the more it is taxed the more easily it will collapse. On that score I would argue that the proposals will not work.
We are fast approaching the position where we are neglecting the non-registered men in our society. Irrational pressure produces an equally irrational response—the registration or creation of special privileges. This becomes part of the conventional scene, and wisdom and vested interest is built up. The non-registered, whether or not they are trade unionists, become un-persons. Their interests always come second; they become second-class citizens with residual economic privileges. The economic equivalent of the Copernican revolution has taken place, but our economic life is still dominated by flat-earthers.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)
The Government have learned half the lesson—but only half. Precisely as we warned, the arrest of the first dockers under the Industrial Relations Act lead to a national strike. If they had not been freed, 10 million trade unionists would have gone on strike yesterday. The Government will never again arrest trade unionists under that Act.
But the trade unions have not yet won. For the £55,000 fine on the Transport and General Workers' Union is being 404 insisted upon. The second half of the lesson which the Government have yet to learn is that to make trade unions or their leaders responsible for the actions of shop stewards or individual members and to inflict penalties for them is equally intolerable to the workers of this country. It could destroy the unions.
The dockers are now on strike to defend their security of employment; but if they had not been on strike on this account, I believe they would have been on strike on account of this unfair attack on their union and their union leaders. The Government should be warned: if they persist in fining unions, the occasion will arise when a strike will take place. And, once again, the whole trade union movement will support it, whatever the Industrial Relations Act says.
I do not accept the view that all laws have to be carried out in all circumstances. We all remember the outstanding former leader of the Labour Party, who in his day was one of the great men of the House of Commons, the late George Lansbury. In 1924 he and other Poplar councillors went to Brixton Gaol because they refused to obey the law. They were released after six weeks because of the mass pressure of the people of London. They were rightly regarded by millions of working people as heroes. As a result of their actions the burden of maintaining the unemployed in the poor parts of London, which had previously been borne by the poor parts of London, was shared by the whole community and has remained so ever since. The wealthy had to contribute to the upkeep of the unemployed. That was the issue, and Lansbury was right. By going to gaol he did more than anything else to change the situation. I doubt whether even hon. Gentlemen opposite would say that Lansbury was wrong, morally or otherwise, in disobeying the law, which he certainly did.
There is a close parallel between the Industrial Relations Act and the Housing Finance Act. In the first case, union leaders are being threatened by law for failure to impose new and intolerable conditions and penalties on the shop stewards and members. In the second case councillors are being threatened by law for refusing to impose rent increases on their tenants, increases which are not 405 necessitated by the state of their housing revenue account. In both cases the action is repugnant to the consciences of the trade unionists on the one hand, and the councillors on the other hand.
In many cases they will refuse to implement the legislation. There are staid aldermen—normally extremely law-abiding citizens, councillors of great cities such as Glasgow and Birmingham—who are telling the Minister that they do not intend to operate the Act. They are threatening to break the law. And let us make no mistake about it, many councils will break the law. I do not know how many will do so, but this is what will certainly happen. In the last few days in the North-West alone, in Salford, Bolton, Stockport and Barrow, the same decision has been reached. Furthermore, the TUC Economic Committee—this news has been reported in only two newspapers—has unanimously resolved to support local authorities which refuse to implement the legislation.
When I mentioned this fact during the last stage of the Housing Finance Bill in this House, the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister in an unusual way cried. "Shame". The shame was on him. He was failing to realise that one cannot enforce political laws which are unacceptable to millions of people, imposing heavy penalties on men for refusing to become instruments of those laws, and then expect compliance.
Again, to continue this parallel, last month I was speaking in Nelson and Colne in North-East Lancashire on the Housing Finance Bill. The meeting carried a resolution, with only one dissentient, that their council should be urged not to implement the Bill. The one dissentient argued that laws, however bad, have to be carried out. He was asked, "But supposing the Bill insisted on councillors imposing, not £1 a week increase in rents this October, but £10 a week—would you still agree to that?" After a pause, the dissentient replied, "Well, that is only a hypothetical case." It was pointed out to him that the warrants for the arrest of the three dockers in the first dock case last month were anything but hypothetical. The summonses had been issued and 40,000 dockers had immediately gone on strike. Moreover, almost every trade unionist in the country worthy of the name backed them. Pro- 406 vided that they are non-violent, people are sometimes morally justified in refusing to obey the law.
§ Mr. Waddington
The hon. Gentleman has just referred to a meeting that he attended in Nelson and Colne, and I am grateful to him for having done so because it explains a lot to me. It is no doubt the explanation for a story which appeared in the local paper the other day that council tenants in Nelson and Colne opposed the Housing Finance Act. However, the hon. Gentleman may like to know that only one council tenant in the whole of Nelson and the whole of Colne has objected to me about that Act.
§ Mr. Allaun
That casts something of a reflection on the hon. and learned Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Waddington). If he thinks that only one council tenant in Nelson and Colne disagrees with the Act, he has another think coming.
§ Mr. Allaun
This is a most important philosophical issue, but, because of shortness of time, I do not intend to make a meal of it. However, I want to put this question to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. What would happen if this Government instructed sincere Protestants, Catholics or Jews to go against their tenets? If those people were sincere, they would refuse, and I believe that they would do so in very large numbers. Many trade unionists hold their faith as strongly as many religious people hold their views, and they should be similarly respected. A law which tries to put them in this position is an intolerable law, and I do not blame people for going on strike against it.
In our democracy the Government have failed, and will continue to fail, to prevent strikes by law, law courts, imprisonment, fines, or seizure of union funds. Of course, it is possible to stop strikes, but only at the price of stopping democracy. It is possible to stop strikes in Fascist countries. In Hitler Germany and Fascist Italy strikes were stopped. In Fascist Spain and in Fascist Greece nearly all strikes have been stopped. It is possible to stop strikes in a workers' 407 dictatorship. But we are not talking about a workers' dictatorship. This is not a workers' dictatorship. It is democracy, it cannot be done.
Strikes are a nuisance. They are inconvenient. They cause trouble. They cause loss of profits to people like the hon. Member for Portsmouth, Langstone (Mr. Ian Lloyd) and his friends. Often they are annoying to the public and to fellow trade unionists who are affected indirectly. But they are the price that we must pay for democracy. If we interfere with the unions we interfere with democracy itself.
§ Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Southall)
My hon. Friend has touched on a very important point. However, he might be thoroughly misunderstood. Strikes have often had the effect of shaking up lousy management. Often strikes lead to inquiries and to penetrating in analyses which result ultimately in greater productivity and the more efficient use of capital and labour. Many strikes have been a stimulus to progress over the years.
§ Mr. Allaun
My hon. Friend is quite right. Speaking from personal experience I can think of two strikes in which I was a humble participant and which had the effect to which my hon. Friend has referred.
If the Government want to reduce the number of strikes they have to convince workers that they are genuinely trying to improve living conditions. This Government have moved in the opposite direction. They have given up consensus politics in favour of confrontation. They have bashed trade unions, tenants, unemployed and immigrants. However, I believe that they will be forced into returning to consensus politics. In fact it is happening. But in one sense it is too late. They have sown the wind and they will reap the whirlwind. Trade unionists have been so antagonised that they are no longer prepared to deal with the Government as reasonably as they would have if right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite had not engaged in this rôle.
As I said at Question Time, Members of Parliament found this morning that no copies of HANSARD were available. There were no Order Papers and no other publications coming from the hands of the printers at Her Majesty's Stationery 408 Office. This is another example of the inconvenience caused by strikes. However, the printers were not on strike to improve their own conditions. They were on strike because they were so angered by the Industrial Relations Act.
Workers do not go on strike for fun, whatever the Daily Mirror may have to say. In fact that newspaper is one of the worst union bashers of the lot, having been engaged in it ever since the day the war ended in 1945. I think that it is because it cannot handle its own trade union members. Workers do not go on strike for fun or because agitators tell them to—
§ Mr. Allaun
Possibly the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page) has not the experience of trade unionism that he professes to have. I doubt whether he has ever worked in industry in his life—
§ Mr. Allaun
Very well. Workers do not strike for frivolous reasons. They do it because they know what solidarity means. They know that if one section of workers can be hurt without resistance, one day they too will be made to suffer.
Let me give an example which is imbedded in my mind. The hon. Member for Harrow, West, has told us on numerous occasions that he has a major interest in a shipping company. I have a major interest at the receiving end. I represent the third biggest area of dockland in the country. It handles more tonnage than any other port in the country outside London and Liverpool. One incident is imprinted on my mind. About 20 years ago I was the Northern Industrial Correspondent for the Daily Herald. I covered a dock strike at Salford. It was an unofficial strike. 409 Every day for five weeks I went along to a croft outside the docks at Trafford Road where I saw 3,000 hands go up in favour of staying on strike. Incidentally, the number today is 1,100, not 3,000, thanks to mechanisation, containerisation and the rest.
What was the issue involved? They were not striking out of any interest of their own. Their wages, conditions and rights were not at stake. Those 3,000 dockers at Salford were on strike because. 40 miles away at Liverpool, three men had not been sacked but merely suspended. But those dockers had the instinct of solidarity which kept them out for five weeks. Their union, under Arthur Deakin, was against them. The Daily Herald was against them. Labour Party leaders were against them. I do not need to tell hon. Members that the Press was against them. In fact, the Press put their wives against them. For five weeks that strike was solid. This is solidarity which the Prime Minister and his colleagues cannot understand. They will never understand, however hard they try. The dockers may not be highly-educated men in the sense that they did not go to the sixth form or university, but they are highly educated in solidarity, which is one of the highest virtues. The Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Employment and the Solicitor-General will never understand, but they will have to accept it.
Few hon. Members opposite have been trade unionists and fewer still have personal experience of taking strike action. As for the Secretary of State for Employment, he knows less about industrial relations than any member of the general management committee of my Labour Party. I say that in all seriousness. The right hon. Gentleman is not fitted for the job.
Certain newspapers have tried to frighten us by saying that if this kind of thing goes on the Government will go to the country on the issue. I wish they would. Unfortunately they will not do so because they might lose. At the moment they are safe—they have a majority of over 30. By holding an election they would be on a hiding to nothing, and it would be a hiding. The Government are 13 points behind in the public opinion polls and unemployment 410 and prices are at an unacceptably high level. The Government know that they would lose, so there will be no election. However, they will find that though they have forced through the Industrial Relations Act and the Housing Finance Act, they will be unable to implement them. If they wish to avoid further humiliation they should repeal them now.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
This debate takes place in the context of happenings which must worry a lot of people across a wide range of political opinion. I recognise that there are dangers in over-emphasising our forebodings but there may be greater dangers if we do not voice our anxieties. The events which have led to the present strikes and other troubles have arisen from a concatenation of events in our history, not least the technological change to which my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, Langstone (Mr. Ian Lloyd) referred. Our social and economic history has had its influence, but for many years it has appeared to our friends overseas that we have been committing economic suicide by self-inflicted wounds. Across the whole spectrum of our national life we have seen signs of selfishness and lack of self-discipline which we can ill afford.
Against that background I hope that the gap between the two parties is not as wide as some people would have us believe. There are many factors which should unite us rather than divide us. Surely the majority of the Labour Party support the rule of law, which means supporting the rule of law at all times and at all places. There can be no room for picking and choosing the parts of our law which we are prepared to obey. That should be the accepted doctrine of us all.
We who make the laws should be the first to consider that they should be obeyed. Of course, we will campaign vigorously in all parts of the House against laws with which we disagree; that is the nature of a politician. It would be unnatural if we did not do so, a negation of the philosophy of every hon. Member. However, there can be no proper relationship between attempts to change the law and attempts to set it aside. Likewise, nearly all of us want a fair deal for those employed in all 411 parts of industry at every level. I could not continue to support any party whose objectives were directed against one section of the community. The hon. Memfor Wallsend (Mr. Garrett) said that we must be more like one nation. I profoundly agree with that view and acknowledge its wisdom. We are one nation in the sense that in the long term what injures the nation and the economy must injure us all.
It would be inappropriate to dwell on the merits or demerits of the Industrial Relations Act. Like all our legislation it obviously has its imperfections and faults. Like most Acts it is acceptable to some and unpalatable to others. However, whatever its qualities and whatever its faults, it is now an integral part of our law and subject to the possibility of repeal or revision. Accordingly it is difficult to credit the weekend statement of Mr. Victor Feather when he said:But we do not accept that this Act is the law of the land.That statement is reported in the newspapers. [Interruption.] Those were the words he used in an interview.
§ Mr. David Mitchell
Mr. Feather explained on television last night that the full phrase which he used was:I do not regard this law as a law of the land in the same way as I regard other laws.Whether that changes the situation is a matter which my hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) might like to consider.
§ Mr. Gower
In his initial statement Mr. Feather did not say that. He has now amended his statement. I believe that both statements are completely contrary to the rule of law. Whether Mr. Feather accepts it or not, the Act is a part of the law. A serious situation would arise if any of us were at liberty to select portions of the law which we chose to obey. If we did that, the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) and his colleague the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) would be driving on the right-hand side of the road and I and my Tory colleagues on the left-hand side.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
Does the hon. Member recollect that it was not so long ago that we were hanging 412 Germans because they were not selective about which laws of the land they chose to obey?
§ Mr. Gower
I am dealing with our internal law—[Interruption.] I shall give another example. It would be serious if a wholesaler chose to say that he did not like the removal of resale price maintenance and introduced sanctions of the kind which have now been made illegal against a retailer. It would be the same kind of thing because he would be saying "I do not choose to follow this part of the law."
It must be obvious that there are those in this country who are not only opposed to the Industrial Relations Act but are prepared to go to all kinds of extremes to make it unenforceable. What should be the response of the Government in such circumstances? The Government's attitude in the traditional areas of industrial negotiation and bargaining should be reasonable and conciliatory. I see positive advantages for Ministers going out of their way to appreciate the reasonable anxieties of those who feel threatened by industrial and economic change. I hope that Ministers and all hon. Members will try to appreciate at all stages the reasonable anxieties of many people who are so threatened. At the same time the Government must make every effort to meet the legitimate criticism of those who point to defects and deficiencies of the Act, as the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) implied.
I hope that explanations of the Act will continue to be given and that such information will continue to be factual and unbiased. There must likewise be some obligation on the opponents of the Act to be unbiassed and not to distort. I agree with the leading article in the Sunday Times this week which reminded us that the Act was framed in such a manner as to avoid at all costs sending workers to prison.
§ Mr. Gower
No Minister in his right senses—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ah."]—would want to send a worker to prison, but it must be emphasised that if any person seeks to go to prison for contempt of court and is determined to do so it is 413 extraordinarily difficult to stop him. That was the position under the old law —indeed, it is the position under practically every Act of Parliament. The hon. and learned Member for Northamption (Mr. Paget) knows perfectly well that under practically any law it is difficult to prevent a person who wishes to do so from going to prison.
I hope that Ministers will make every effort to remind the country that the trouble at the docks arose not from any Government initiative but from a dispute between groups of workers who are members of the same union. Several Press accounts and television and radio broadcasts which I have seen have ignored these factors or have played them down. One would imagine that the trouble had arisen from the initiative of Ministers. Indeed, from some of the speeches we have heard in the debate one would get the impression that the situation arises from a prosecution started at the behest of a Minister. The facts merit the utmost publicity and I hope that Ministers will ensure that they get it. They must do so if we are to hope for any fair appraisal of the facts by the public at large.
The case in which the five dockers were imprisoned for contempt could have arisen under the law as it existed before the passing of the Industrial Relations Act. There are several lawyers present who will indicate their agreement. The House might consider that in the container dispute, if complete success had attended the striking dockers, there would have been some loss of employment to other members of their own union. I ask Ministers to thunder out these matters more than they have been doing. There has been lack of communication here. No Government can submit to pressures which include the breaking or nonobservance of the law. That would be a fatal course. It would provoke the sort of chaos from which no future Government, including a Labour Government, could conceivably benefit. It would be utterly against the public interest.
On the other hand, it would be wrong for the Government to insist at all times that the Act is perfect and needs no amendment. Some amendment will surely be necessary, but this must follow mature consideration. The right hon. Member for Fast Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) said that the Act should be amended now. I 414 do not believe that it can be done on that basis. The Act has to have mature consideration and there must be substantial experience of its working. There must at all costs be no yielding on the question of the rule of law. That is the very cornerstone of our kind of democracy and we could make a concession on it only at our extreme peril.
§ Mr. Bidwell
Was not the law in disarray at the time of the imprisonment of the dockers? Does not the hon. Gentleman recall that the plea of the Official Solicitor before the NIRC—the hon. Gentleman must have had this in mind in formulating his speech—was that the dockers had been in prison too long? That plea was rejected by Sir John Donaldson on the ground that the judgment by the Law Lords had changed the situation. That was the reason given for the release of the men.
§ Mr. Gower
The hon. Gentleman is simply referring back to a point I dealt with earlier. I am now dealing with the question of the rule of law. I believe that these men were determined to go to prison. They wanted to appear to be martyrs. That was the sole purpose of the exercise. As I have said, I believe that under any Act of Parliament a person can go to prison for non-compliance with a court order—even, for example, in a case of the most trivial civil debt. One cannot prevent people from going to prison if they are determined to go there.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I must point out that I have a very long list of right hon. and hon. Members who wish to take part in the debate. The more interruptions there are, the fewer speakers I can call.
§ Mr. Gower
I want to refer to strikes in sympathy with those who are on strike in industrial troubles. Not unnaturally, members of the public generally feel a good deal of sympathy with those who are taking industrial action for reasons of sympathy. But we need to inquire just how much this sympathetic action is as 415 admirable as it may appear. For example, last week the newspaper workers seem to have paid small regard to the kind of employers they have or to the terrible damage they might do to their employers, whether those individual employers are good or bad. In the process of sympathetic action, it seems that a good employer fares no better than a bad one. That is the danger in sympathetic action. In such circumstances employers could be forced into bankruptcy or liquidation. That is the perilous road which the newspaper industry in particular may be taking. I find it ominous that during the dispute the only newspaper which appeared was the Morning Star to inform the country about these issues. That is a peculiar commentary on the state of affairs.
I subscribe to the view of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins) who said on 24th June:The mere slogan of repeal will not be enough.I agree also with the sage advice of the New Statesman on 23rd June, which said:It is not enough for the Labour Party simply to give vein to ritual cries for the abolition of the Act.The Act after all provides a framework on which we may gradually create a superstructure of practice when we have had experience of it. As my right hon. Friend the present Home Secretary said when introducing the Measure last Session, the sanctions were never intended to be anything but a last resort. We do not believe in bashing the trade unions. We do not seek to weaken them. Indeed, we want them stronger, better and with greater resources. We want them to make the maximum contribution to the welfare of their members as well as to the welfare of the country.
At the annual conference of the Clerical and Administrative Workers' Union on 16th April, Mr. Feather said:We"—the unions—are not only the representatives of the public interest, we are the public interest.That is nonsense. It is a grossly excessive claim. No section however large is solely the public interest.
416 At this time in our history, Britain as never before needs the united efforts of all sections of the community. In this context. I reiterate what I said earlier. It may be said that only as one nation can we hope to succeed or, perhaps, fail. It is only as one nation that we can strive to sustain ourselves in this highly competitive world.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ Mr. John Prescott (Kingston upon Hull, East)
A lot has been said about the obligation to obey the law and the problems arising out of the Industrial Relations Act in that context, and I wish to say a few words about that aspect before coming to what I regard as the central issue, namely, the question of the ports policy.
The Government claim that they are standing aside as workers fight among themselves for jobs, and they say that technology is coming along at such a rate that there is little they can do about it. In fact, there is a great deal that the Government can do, and I shall show in a minute or two that the problem we have today is the direct result of some of their actions or failure to take action.
At the outset it should be made clear that we on this side have not contended that the problems facing us are directly created by the Industrial Relations Act, although it is plain enough that the Act has given rise to many troubles and has denied a number of important rights which the trade unions have enjoyed for years. These things have not happened by accident. The rights now denied condition the right in many cases to continue the struggle to improve working conditions. The purpose behind the Act is to weaken the trade union movement. That was the sole purpose, as so many of us contended during the long hours we spent in fighting the Bill during its passage through the House.
However, whether it is right or wrong, we have to look at the consequences of the Act. One consequence is that there is even greater confrontation on the industrial scene now and far greater bitterness. We cannot ignore the fact that men went to gaol, whether for contempt of court or not. It is true that the law governing contempt of court existed before the Industrial Relations Act, but it 417 is equally true that employers never pursued workers through the courts. They felt that it was not worth pursuing issues of this kind through the courts, and I should have said that the events of the last few weeks have proved the rightness of that view.
On the other hand, we have seen proof of the conviction which many of us felt that the new Act would allow reactionary employers to enforce their will upon trade unionists who were contesting the desire of an employer to weaken their position. The Industrial Relations Act has been seen as available for that purpose, and it has been used.
We hear a lot about rights and obligations, but there is an awful lot to be said for the right to work, a fundamental right now denied to over 1 million people in our country. What is at issue in the docks now is the right to work, the right to decent wages and a fair standard of living. This is the crucial matter now.
It is said that men should obey the law. Anyone who has studied the history of the trade union movement knows that trade unions have constantly had to fight against the law and through the courts. This is plain from the judgments passed by various courts at different points in our history—under the Trade Disputes Act, 1906, for example. As in the recent docks case, the first court would find against the trade union, the appeal court would usually find for the union and then the reactionary House of Lords would always find against the trade union again, conditioning trade union law against the interests of the trade union movement and to the disadvantage of its members. That was so in earlier years, and reversed what was intended by Parliament in the 1906 Act.
I do not find it particularly astounding, therefore, that some law Lords who are considered to be impartial and objective come rather hurriedly to a decision against the trade unions and in the process create an apparent conflict in the law. This has often been so in trade union history.
I think that there can be justifications for breaking the law, but I shall not pursue that point now because I wish to direct attention to what I regard as the Government's abdication of responsibility in ducking behind the issue and saying 418 that the problem arises because of advancing technology in the industry and because worker is fighting worker. The Government could do a good deal to help but they have abdicated responsibility.
No one denies that technology has advanced. My industry, shipping, has seen a great deal of evidence of that. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Portsmouth, Langstone (Mr. Ian Lloyd) is not in the Chamber at the moment, because he is interested in a shipping company which has made many of my union's members redundant by the efficiency policies which he thinks should be followed and has then employed foreign labour instead of United Kingdom nationals.
We cannot just stand aside and allow these trends to continue without regard for their consequences. It is not our job to accept them simply because management considers them to be the most efficient. It is the duty of trade unionists to condition technological change and to exercise their essential function of fighting for a decent wage and a good standard of living.
The problems within the docks have been developing over many years. I welcome the proposal of my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) for more opportunities to debate these issues. I have tried to get it debated for a long time but, as any hon. Member who has tried to raise a matter in the House knows, there is never enough time because there is always more legislation to be discussed. So we drift on and debate the issue only when there is a crisis, when attitudes have hardened, when the lines are set and when there are demands for justice on both sides. But then, of course, it is extremely difficult to reach a solution.
No one need tell me about the transport revolution. I have seen enough of it in shipping, with the greater size of ships, the different ways of handling cargo, containerisation and other alternative forms of transport. All this has brought great changes not only for dockers but for bargemen, transport drivers and the rest. The whole industry is going through great changes in Britain now following on the process which began in America some time earlier.
419 It is to the great credit of the Labour Government that they recognised what was happening and set up the Devlin Commission to go into the docks problem. I do not believe that there is a docker who would deny that Lord Devlin went to the core of the problem, which he saw as the sense of insecurity, with workers having to fight one another to get a job. The casual labour system was a terrible sore which we had allowed to persist but had done nothing about. Lord Devlin promised one thing that really mattered. He said that if the dockers would accept his recommendations, if they would stop what they regarded as some of their necessary restrictive practices, they would be guaranteed full employment and a good wage. That was the cardinal agreement given to the dockers, but everyone now seems to be trying to backtrack on it, including the British Transport Docks Board in Hull.
All sorts of employers in the shipping industry and the docks are talking about a surplus of labour, wanting to create what is known as the temporarily unattached register, which is essentially the same as the old system before decasualisation which dock workers were promised would never come again.
If it is said that people must be prepared to adjust to change in their industry and that the dockers have not been willing to do so, I reply that the dock labour force has fallen in the last five years by over one-third. The problem is not just the advance of technology. It must be firmly understood that the real issue is insecurity.
The first recommendation of the Aldington-Jones Report correctly pointed to the question of decasualisation and the rise of the temporarily unattached register, a development peculiar to London and Hull, where there are over 1,650 men on that register. These men on the so-called temporarily unattached register are not drawing the £40 or £50 a week so often talked about. They are on the fall-back wage of £20 a week, and when stoppages come off that it is little different from unemployment money. Therefore, even though they are there for dock work and they might get it if more are wanted on one day, they are living on a wage considerably less than anything they would 420 enjoy as employed dock workers. What we are seeing is the recreation of a reserve pool of labour which the employer can draw from when he wants it and put off when he does not.
That is what is being rejected by the dockers today. They did not accept it before and they will not accept it now. If there is any move to go back on the Devlin agreement, the country will find that they will in no circumstances accept it. They will see it as a betrayal, and there will be constant problems with all its consequent disruptions.
What concerns me is the way the Government are ducking their responsibilities. Why has there been an increase in the TUR? This is not just a question of technology, of the use of containers, about which, we hear such a lot. One of the problems which the Jones-Aldington inquiry was asked to solve was the problem of the temporarily unattached register as well as the problem of containerisation.
What is happening now is not solely the result of action by politically-motivated men—I probably have more interest than most in saying that, remembering the 1966 seamens' strike—and it is not simply a fight between worker and worker. I react with some cynicism when I hear Tories talking about their concern for lorry drivers who might be put out of work if dockers continued their fight. There are lots of people put out of work in these circumstances, and I do not hear the same consideration expressed for them. The lorry drivers have a genuine problem, as I well know. I faced over 200 of them in Hull on Sunday, and I can tell the House that that was quite a contentious meeting to say the least. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) and I met 50 lorry drivers in a Committee room upstairs the other day. We understand these problems.
It is no good trying to solve the problem by dealing with symptoms, by claiming that it is all a fight between worker and worker. That is to deny the cause. The cause is the ports policy as a whole and the market philosophy which underlies it—the market philosophy as opposed to a controlled rational policy. Some people may call it a Socialist policy against a capitalist policy. The Prime Minister said that we wanted a 421 rational solution to the problem. The market philosophy within the context of the ports system is not the rational solution we can expect. It certainly will not solve the problem.
I have attended two or three debates on this issue and this aspect has not been debated. When employers leave one area for another, whether it be Chobham Farm, the East Midlands or other areas, they do not go because of better conditions or the availability of more land they go because labour is cheaper and more controllable. It is the old issue of cheaper labour. In some areas they may pay the same wages, but the labour is more amenable to control.
When considering whether we should accept or reject the Aldington-Jones proposals, preference should be given to the dock worker. The dock worker uses his guarantee of the right to employment under the dock labour system. He is asked to give up that right which has been fought for and won over a very long time. That is a privilege not enjoyed by many workers. I should like to see it enjoyed by many other workers. We must solve the problem of the right to some form of work. Even the Aidington-Jones Committee will have to address itself to giving a more permanent guarantee in that regard.
The issue in my area concerns low wages and the problem is brought out by the ports policy. Consider the Chobham Farm and the East Midlands disputes. The traditional stevedoring shipping companies, which have been based on the ports for many years, have left their facilities on the docks to get outside the dock gates—in some cases to go only 100 yards away. The Government have some responsibility. The Labour Government set up the Bristow Committee to consider extending the definition of the dock work area for which people should be answerable. That committee made a recommendation that the dock work area should extend at least five miles. The Bristow Committee looked at the problem and made proposals, but the Government did not implement them. They chose to do nothing about the committee's recommendations. They hid behind the excuse "It is technology and worker fighting worker".
The port of Hull is unique in that it has the real problem of the developing un- 422 attached register pool. That is so with London for similar reasons. The employers are leaving the traditional dock area and going to other places. In London they tend to go to areas just outside the dock gates. This is happening to some extent in Hull. However, because Hull is based on an estuary, ships are bypassing the port of Hull and going down the estuary to the Trent and the Ouse.
Over 21 wharves have been built in the last two to three years in this area. Between 2 million and 3 million tons of traffic are going past the port of Hull. That traffic is the equivalent of £1½ million revenue to the port of Hull and is equivalent in tonnage to 500 jobs. This is equivalent to the number of men who are being put on the temporary unattached register. Therefore, when people talk to dockers about containerisation and not about the problem of what our ports policy should or will do in effecting changes to prevent that kind of development, and the dockers think that nothing will be done about it, they are not prepared to co-operate.
The Government's policy was stated in simple terms by the Minister for Transport Industries, who said:The crucial test by which a port's future will he determined is the service it offers to shipowners and users. A shipowner is not nowadays tied to a particular port; he is, like a housewife, choosing the shop which gives the best value, free to go to the port which suits him best.The Minister confirmed that in debate. That is the ultimate market philosophy. The Minister says that if it is cheaper to go to one of these wharves in the Humber estuary, it is justifiable to do so and this must be accepted.
What are the consequences of accepting that? First, the Minister says that it is competition. It costs 65p to unload a ton of grain in Hull. To unload a ton of grain at the wharves in the estuary costs 17p a ton. Why should there be that great difference? It is not because of wages. I divorce these costs from wages. I have separated them. For a 1,000-ton coaster to come into Hull the labour charge is £360. To go to one of the wharves would cost £50. Obviously on that basis it is both economic and profitable to do that.
I understand that it costs about £70,000 to build a wharf. I have some figures. 423 We give subsidies towards the building of a wharf. The subsidies come about indirectly. They come from the river board, which says "We must give something to build the bank". The local authorities say that it will bring jobs into the area, so they provide money. Therefore, a £70,000 wharf will cost the owners perhaps only £33,000. The employers pay a mere pittance to their workers who work in most unsafe conditions. Seamen have to swing on to and off the ships by rope because gangways cannot be put up to them. Farmers are applying to build wharves because it is profitable to do so. The cost to the community is that places like Hull will have to close down.
Lord Rochdale said that if we were to have a m[...]dernised port system we must build container cranes and roll-on, roll-off berths. This is the modern era; we must have these facilities. It is always the very large ships which need these facilities. A simple lesson of economics not recognised by the Government is that if the bread and butter traffic goes down the river instead of going into the port of Hull, the port will have to increase its charges. The Government say that the ports must make a profit. If the port of Hull is continually losing its traffic, it must increase charges to make a profit—and its charges have increased by over 50 per cent. in 12 months to meet heavy interest charges of over £1 million this year on investment. Of course, all the time more traffic goes down the river to the wharves.
When I and my hon. Friends the Members for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) and Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson) have challenged the Government on this point, time and again the reply we get is: "It is profitable; it is efficient; it is the proper way; it is competition". One of the major docks in Hull has been closed because the traffic is going away. Hundreds of redundancies have been created. However, my concern is about redundancies not only among dockers but among train drivers who take the traffic all over the country, the bargemen who take a lot of traffic down the river and the lorry drivers who also carry a lot of traffic to different parts of the country from Hull.
424 We are dissipating our ports all over the region. That cannot be a sane and rational policy, apart from what it is doing to the port of Hull. The Government's policy is wrong, and we have called their attention to these problems time and again.
The Select Committee on the Nationalised Industries has called on the Government to revise their 15 per cent. return requirement on capital for the ports. We shall close down our modern complex docks system and have a lot of small privateer wharves which will make a lot of money from it at the expense of cheap labour and the community if the Government do not do something about the situation. The Government must not duck behind the issue. They must not say that it is due to technology or worker fighting worker.
The National Ports Council cannot handle the problem like the National Ports Authority under the Labour Government's nationalised ports policy would have proposed to deal with it. Whatever my criticism about that, at least it would have been a central authority to deal with this kind of problem. According to the National Ports Council, there will be 500 more dockers made redundant in the port of Hull by 1975 if the cargo continues to be discharged at wharves in the estuary. There is nothing that the National Ports Council can do about it. It has to accept the Government's policy. It cannot fight the Government. In my area, where dockers have been reduced in numbers from 4,600 in 1966 to 2,500 now, 500 more will have to accept redundancy because the Government believe in this insane policy which cannot be justified by any kind of rational economic criteria, quite apart from social economic cost considerations. The consequence of further redundancies due to the refusal by the Government to act only further incenses dockers to fight to protect their jobs. I have been on the picket line with the dockers and I shall join them again and fight this move, because it is an insane policy which is affecting the whole of Hull. If the Government do not recognise that fact, they are heading for more trouble.
The Jones-Aldington Committee will be given an impossible task. I was somewhat critical of the committee to begin with but I accept its main points. If all 425 the workers are put back on to full employment and the temporary unattached pool is got rid of, the Government will not continue to subsidise employers or even to have cross-subsidisation through the industry. It is only a temporary measure to create further redundancies.
If one of my dockers is told that he will be paid £4,000 for becoming redundant, his reply will be that that represents only two years' money, that he is talking about the right to work for the rest of his life, and that he is not interested in a lump sum. If the Government cannot get the dockers to accept the redundancy money, and if they do not continue to subsidise the employers, they will not solve the problem. They will merely start the war again, because the men are not prepared to have a ports policy which means the loss of 500 jobs.
The Government can do more to help solve the problem. The consequence of their present policy is the dissipation of traffic over our estuary, the closure of docks and the creation of more unemployment in all sorts of ancillary industries. The Government could alter the financial obligations on the port industry. They could recommend the introduction of the Bristow proposals which at present operate only in London. They could close the small ports. If the Government are concerned about how to do that, let me tell them how it can be done.
The Customs and Excise authorities have to license these ports, and they are licensed until 1972 or 1973. There is no obligation to guarantee them licence to trade after then. The Treasury and the Government could finish these ports overnight by giving them notice that they will not get any more Customs clearance after the present licences expire. The small ports would have to close, and we could then get round to having some sort of co-ordinated policy.
I hope that I have addressed myself to the real issue, which is not that of changing technology but the Government's policy for the ports. Their basic policy has been found wanting in the shipyards, where they insist on operating a market philosophy and talking about profit being the main criterion. Their policy has been found wanting in the 426 basic engineering industries. It has been found wanting and hence their own Industry Bill. That is why we are debating the philosophy behind the Act. It has also been found wanting in their efforts to provide full employment.
Why should we not continue to reject the Government's view that the market philosophy provides the best means of dealing with the problems in the ports? The Government should introduce a sane ports policy which contains a commitment to ensure that certain ports survive and certain ports do not. If that happens, there will be sane industrial relations which will enable us to have a modern complex in the docks and to get on with the job of improving things in industry generally, and the port communities such as Hull which depend so much upon it.
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom King (Bridgwater)
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) has taken us in some depth into what is perhaps the central problem that we are discussing in the wider frame of the industrial situation. He has discussed and set out the problems. Whether we accept all his solutions is another matter.
Some of my colleagues may know that I am one of the authors of a pamphlet entitled "Prospects for Employment" which dealt with many problems similar to those mentioned by the hon. Gentleman—in fact, we specifically cited the docks—and the impact of containerisation. I think, therefore, that I can perhaps defend myself against the hon. Gentleman's charge that these matters are discussed only on the Floor of the House when a crisis is upon us. Certain of my colleagues and I discussed some of these problems all through last winter, because it is clear that we have to face this problem not only in the docks, where it is particularly acute, but in many other areas too.
The hon. Gentleman cited the unregistered ports and the special wharves that are springing up. He knows too much about the problem not to know that when he refers to 500 dockers being faced with the loss of their jobs, and to talk about getting rid of unregistered ports as the solution, developments that are taking place in cargo handling and in the docks generally which present a 427 threat to a number of those jobs in any case. The docks crisis has brought most forcefully to the attention of the House a problem that it will increasingly be facing. That is why the Aldington-Jones solution is of such great significance. If we start on this course it is important that we start on it the right way, because we may face this situation in other industries.
Many hon. Members were somewhat surprised at what they considered the generosity of the terms offered and the unrealistic nature of them. I have made some effort to study this problem, and I realise the real difficulties faced by closely-knit communities when employment disappears and there is no immediate prospect of alternative work.
What solutions can be put forward by the Government, by employers and by unions as well in this situation? I am not an expert, but I have real reservations about the background to the Aldington-Jones proposals. On the face of it, merely abolishing the TUR and reallocating men to employers seems like a doctrine of economic lunacy. We are assured that this is a wise and profound proposal. The right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) said so today, and so did my right hon. Friend who described this as stage one. But it gives me some concern when I ask myself whether this proposal can be realistic. I hope that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East will not try to build a wall around the docks and say that there shall be no change, that for ever this shall be the system under which all goods come into this country and this shall be the perfect and preserved enclave in which these communities will live and work. That is a doctrine of disaster.
The hon. Gentleman left out one significant fact. I have some knowledge of importing. For companies which import it is not just the cost of importing and the dock charges that matter. What matters most is reliability, because if agents are faced with the problem of ships held up the costs are out of all proportion to the extra costs of handling and dock charges.
When my right hon. Friend made his statement on Friday I intervened to say that the tragedy of the present situation was that dockers were doing just the 428 thing that would aggravate the problem and that by stopping work they were yet again encouraging those elements which are trying to sidetrack the work from the established docks and find alternative, more reliable methods to ensure that goods are delivered on time.
I see the Aldington-Jones Committee as a possible forerunner to plans which may have to be made in other industries where the advent of technical change causes acute employment difficulties in the short term. The attitude to such matters as pensions, compensation payments and retraining could set the pattern. Given that this is a critical situation, and given also that there are great pressures on my right hon. Friends and all those involved to try to reach a settlement. I hope that thought will be given to the implications for settlements which may be necessary in the future in other industries.
I do not wish to talk at length about the docks situation. I should like to say more about the general situation. I have great concern about the present situation. I am concerned about the dialogue of the deaf that has taken up too much of our debates on industrial relations.
In one of his election broadcasts the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe), who is not present in the Chamber, remarked that on driving down a road in North Devon he saw a notice "Danger—blasting ahead", and he contrasted the paths of the then Government and Opposition and what they would be doing during the election. We are in danger of committing, and already have for too long committed, the sin of too much blasting and not enough constructive discussion.
My hon. Friend the Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. Hayhoe) said fairly that it is not a valid point to attack the Government side of the House over the Industrial Relations Act and the number of days lost. Perhaps we have had enough of the cross-bench discussion about who has had the most strikes or the largest number of days lost. We know that the majority of days lost has had nothing to do with industrial relations and with what happens in factories and plants. The majority of strikes have been politically motivated.
§ Mr. King
My hon. Friend the Member for Heston and Isleworth dealt with the point about the miners' strike and quoted the Committee's report on that point, which satisfactorily established that 10 million of the 14 million days lost was attributable to the miners' strike and the committee found that the main cause of the miners' strike was the pent-up hostility and their falling position in the wages structure in the years 1965 to 1970. [Interruption.] The right hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) is provoking me into exactly what I did not intend, which is to get involved in traditional blasts and counter-blasts.
Right hon. and hon. Members on the Opposition side may feel jolly today and think that things are going fairly well for them. But I am reminded of what Mayor John Lindsay said after a garbage strike in New York. He was asked who had won and he said "No one conies out of a garbage strike smelling like a rose." That would be true in the present situation and in the problems we face.
We have on the Statute Book an Industrial Relations Act. It has been the subject of what I consider unjustified criticism, a considerable amount of which is based on ignorance. It has been a great complaint of the Opposition that it was unthinkable that any union should register under the Act. Therefore, I take some pleasure in speaking immediately after a member of a union which has registered. As far as I know, that union has not as yet suffered acutely under the Act.
§ Mr. Prescott
Personally, I disagree with my union's policy and the action it pursued. I want that to be clearly put on record.
§ Mr. King
The hon. Gentleman is entitled to his opinion. I should merely like to know—this would contribute more to the quality of the discussion—how much the hon. Gentleman's union has suffered by being registered. I always thought that it was unreal fear rather than one of substance.
I refer now to the present situation and the three areas in which there is a degree of unrealism which will not help in the 430 serious national situation. Undoubtedly the very strength of the opposition of right hon. and hon. Members in the Labour Party to the Act—and as I was present fairly continuously during the debates I know how strenuously they fought it—has contributed to the problem. It has heightened the hopes and fears in this country about what the Act would do. It has heightened the hopes of many of the supporters of my hon. Friends that the Act was capable of achieving a lot more than those who are familiar with industrial matters would say was realistic. It has heightened the fears of many of the supporters of right hon. and hon. Members opposite that perhaps it was a more dreaded weapon than they realised and that it contained very much more fearful penalties than could ever have been justified. Their campaign has not helped towards a serious understanding of the Bill.
The second area concerns the Government. Here we have moved from a situation which originally might have been described as the "cannot deliver" mood, in which it was recognised that there was a problem in the unions' structure and that in talking to the union leadership there was a problem for them in delivery if any negotiations were taking place. We have moved from the "cannot deliver" period but I trust that we are not moving now to the "must deliver" period. Neither of these is a realistic attitude. There seems to be a feeling that so far from previously doubting the ability of the union leaders to deliver their side of any agreement, which is unrealistic, we are now arriving at a situation requiring them to deliver, which is no more realistic.
I and many of my hon. Friends have had problems of this sort at factory floor level. It is the old problem that when there is a dispute the branch secretary says "It is not me; it is the chaps". But when one gets hold of the chaps they say "It is not us; it is the branch". It is like trying to nail a blancmange to the wall. One can never pin it down. Perhaps right hon. and hon. Members opposite will say that that is the magic and mystery of democracy in a trade union movement. But this is a serious problem with which to negotiate, if one is an industry, and with which to deal if one is 431 the Government. I hope that the Government will assess realistically, as I am confident they are now doing, this dilemma in negotiations with trade unions.
I turn now to the situation of the unions. The TUC is in an impossible position at present over the Act. Mr. Victor Feather has been writing and saying "Please repeal the Act" when he knows—he understands the position—that it is simply not realistic to ask the Government to repeal the Act. We have a situation in which the unions, in their posture of refusing to register, are suffering financially. Union members are suffering because when they appear before tribunals there is no balancing union represntative present who might be more sympathetic or more understanding of the problems and able to hear their case when they appear.
And the unions are stuck with one serious problem which they have to justify to the country—that is, that they have given the impression to many people that they are not prepared to accept any reform whatsoever and that they are not prepared to accept any legislation, least of all from a Conservative Government. That is part of the problem that the unions face in their low level of popularity which, according to the opinion polls, is current today. These are the hooks and the problems, the hooks on which certain groups are hung and the problems with which other groups are faced.
In the present situation it is time to say "Enough is enough." It is time we made a fresh start. Right hon. and hon. Members on the Opposition side must come clean on the Industrial Relations Act. They must recognise that it bears many similarities to much of the legislation they were proposing. The right hon. Member for East Ham, North said that we must repeal the Act and then we must bring in a Bill with certain things in it. As far as I could count, every single provision he mentioned is at present in the Industrial Relations Act. What the right hon. Gentleman left out were the duties and obligations.
The Labour Party must stand up for what it believes is necessary and must not look over its shoulder. It must not look up to the Gallery, as the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur 432 Lewis) is doing, which contains the sort of elements which will not help it.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is there not a rule that we are the Chamber and that there is no one present but the Chamber? The hon. Gentleman should know there is no such thing as a Gallery. However, if I did look up there I am proud to have done so.
§ Sir Elwyn Jones (West Ham, South)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is not the offence of the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Tom King) worse when he sees fit to attack persons in the Gallery? Is not that grossly unparliamentary?
§ Mr. King
I do not see how I can attack what does not exist. If the word "elements" is construed as being an attack, I withdraw it. The hon. Member for West Ham, North, who has been very vociferous, must take this from me, because he has been at it much longer than I have and he can dish it out and he will have to take it from me and from others. He must accept it from me that I am attacking him for his behaviour in the House earlier when he seemed to be conducting a charade for the benefit of certain people who "do not exist". When certain people who do not exist withdrew, the hon. Gentleman withdrew and my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, Langstone (Mr. Ian Lloyd) was able to continue his speech.
The hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) called for an attitude of consensus. I hope that that cry will come tonight from the Opposition Front Bench, but as the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), whom I hardly regard as the high priest of consensus, is to wind up for the Opposition I do not think there will be much endorsement of this view.
The Government should consider reasonable amendments to the Act. As an example, there has been much discussion of the need to place the onus on employers more clearly in appeals against unfair dismissal. This was the Government's intention, but it is clear 433 that it is not working as the Government intended. The unions should recognise their responsibilities under the Act and should work the Act. The unions should once again be represented on NIRC as well as on the tribunals so that the interests of their members can be properly protected, because the derogation of union members' rights in this regard has been one of the least attractive features of union withdrawal.
There has been much reference to one nation, but I believe that we are two industrial nations. One industrial nation is much torn by strife, is frequently in the news and is the source of many of cur problems of inflation. We have another industrial nation where things are much quieter, which is not much in the news and which represents the bulk of manufacturing industry which is getting on with the job.
It is the duty of the Government, the Opposition, the unions and the public to recognise the need to establish a consensus in which industrial relations can become more harmonious and human relations can develop in the best possible climate.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The last speech lasted 21 minutes and the one before that lasted 24 minutes. I beg right hon. and hon. Members to be as brief as possible.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ Mr. William Molloy (Ealing, North)
It will be a long time before hon. Members will be able to claim that they listened to the House at its best and at its worst in consecutive speeches. When my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) was speaking the House listened with rapt attention, because it was listening to a man who understood his subject. The intervention by the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Tom King) was a classic example of a person contributing to a dangerous situation about which he knew very little. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] I remind hon. Members that we are discussing industrial relations, not what is between their ears.
The debate cannot be viewed in isolation from the situation in the docks. Unless something is done to alleviate the present serious situation, we shall be talking, not just about the dockers being on 434 strike, but possibly about the miners, the electricians and the whole work force. We must acknowledge what a serious situation has developed in industrial relations over the last 12 months.
Right hon. and hon. Members opposite should drop the notion that when there is a dispute involving British coal miners, railwaymen or dockers these people are no longer part of the community. If right hon. and hon. Members opposite think that such an attitude is not noticed by the dockers, the miners, the railwaymen and the electricians they make grave error. It is an absurd attitude like this which contributes to the present sourness in industrial relations.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
Will my hon. Friend add to that the fact that it was these very dockers who were bombed out not once but five or six times because they remained loyally in the docks bringing the food in during the war? These are the people who are being attacked.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I have to leave the Chamber very shortly. Before I do so, may I remind the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) that he promised me to speak for only eight minutes.
§ Mr. Molloy
I acknowledge that, Mr. Speaker. As that great Member of the House of Commons, Aneurin Bevan, used to say, the trouble with the Tories was that when the British workman was wanted in times of trouble he was a great fellow who could be called on to make sacrifices and to stand up against any form of totalitarianism, but when in peacetime the British workman decides that he wants a better standard of living in the new world, a better education system for his children, a better house to live in instead of the slum that he had before, he suddenly becomes intolerant and revolutionary.
It is time for the Tory Party to realise that what was demonstrated during the past few weeks was the real meaning of working-class solidarity. When the dockers were gaoled there was no great philosophical conference in South Wales, Hull and the other areas to decide whether the five men should be supported. What sprang up was that same spirit and feeling that has always existed amongst the working-class people who made such 435 a magnificent contribution during the last war. That spirit of solidarity will endure.
The Tories are making the greatest mistake of their lives if they believe that they can smash the British trade union movement by attacking it piecemeal, attacking the miners one month, the dockers the next, the railwaymen the next. Some proposals which have emanated from the Front Bench opposite and from the back benches opposite suggest that that lies behind the whole idea. If this is so, not only will the Tories destroy their own party, but they will cause much greater havoc than already exists in industrial relations.
Over the past 18 months more than ever before workers by hand and brain have come to class the Conservative Party as the party of the bosses. The hon. Member for Bridgwater challenged the right of hon. Members to debate the Act when it was a Bill. What a foul thing for an Opposition to do in a free society, to oppose a Bill! We know what the alternative is. We know the sort of society we would create if that sort of thing happened. These debates are examined by working men and women and they get apprehensive when they read speeches like that. They read that it is bad for the people and for the trade unions to contribute to the Labour Party, because that is political activity. But if anybody contributes a couple of million pounds to the Tory Party they read that the Government think that is all right, because the donor has nothing else to do with it.
Industrial relations are moving to a very serious situation and it is not only an issue of what is happening in industry. When a docker, a miner or a railwayman goes home from the picket lines he talks things over with the family. They know the grave risks that they will be running. They know from personal experience the meaning of industrial action in financial terms. But they do these things for the principle of justice. The Government must realise that this massive solidarity exists among the men and women in our great industries. They will ignore the threats of any Government if they believe they are getting a raw and unjust deal.
There is one canard which is offered by the Conservatives whenever there is 436 an application for a wage increase. It is said that the workers do not think of the old age pensioners or those on fixed incomes, and that they are greedy. But I have never heard that argument applied to speculators, land profiteers and some of the commercial racketeers. They are never charged with disregarding old age pensioners. That is the sort of thing which is discussed in working-class Britain and the Conservatives would do well to appreciate it.
If the Conservatives say that the working man is greedy and that he does not consider the old age pensioner they must remember that the overwhelming majority of old-age pensioners are of working-class origin. They have had to fight hard for a decent pension. They had to live through the 1930s when, far from being able to save, they were lucky to have a job. There was no chance of putting away something for retirement then. The reality of industrial relations is that the younger man in industry today does not want to end up in the same situation as today's old age pensioners.
This afternoon we heard the first hint that the Government will amend the Industrial Relations Act. We heard it from the Prime Minister and from the Secretary of State for Employment. I hope that it is true and that they have used the debate to prepare the way for a climb down. I hope they have the courage to do so because there is nothing to be ashamed of in admitting that they were wrong and that now is the time to change the Act. If they do not amend the Act industrial relations will get more and more sour, there will be greater unity between working men and women and we shall move towards the possibility of a general strike. When the Tories talk about the Opposition welcoming industrial disputes they are talking nonsense. We identify ourselves with justice for the working class in its aspirations for a higher standard of living.
If the Government have the courage to admit that the Industrial Relations Act might make a contribution to the situation if it were amended, the country could be on the verge of creating a different atmosphere in industrial relations. Such a move would win the support of the TUC, the CBI and most people in industry. In that atmosphere, we could move forward to a situation of fair play, 437 justice and sanity in industrial relations not for the benefit of any particular party, but for the benefit of the nation.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Fry (Wellingborough)
I found the language of the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) as exaggerated as his idea of an eight-minute speech. I have listened to by far the greater part of the debate but I have not heard the point of view of the public as a whole put forward very often. Speaking to constituents one cannot but be impressed with the concern many of them have about what is happening and their fears about where events are leading. No doubt colourful reporting of the dispute and, not least, actual quotations from certain dock workers have helped to induce a sense of concern and even fear of a possible descent into anarchy. I do not believe that that theory is entirely justified, but it is growing and it is being fed and the Government and the Opposititon have responsibilities for this matter.
I turn first to the Opposition. In spite of what is said in the Chamber, many moderate members of the Labour Party and the trade union movement are worried about the swing to extremism on their side of the political fence. This has meant that many reasonable men are forced to use immoderate language to preserve their position. But on the Industrial Relations Act they are stuck with their attitudes, because by protesting too much and by playing on the fears of those who know very little even now about its workings, they put themselves in a position where to be seen to collaborate with the Act in any way is to be guilty of treason to their own cause.
The result has been, especially in the last week or so, that speeches have been made giving encouragement to people who are engaged in defying the law. They include the various utterances of the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn), the speech in the Chamber last week of the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) and the almost hysterical outburst on television on Sunday by Mr. Vic Feather at Great Yarmouth, no matter how he may try to wriggle out of it later. All of this has helped to create the impression that the Industrial Rela- 438 tions Act is not part of the law of the land and should be defied.
No wonder there is a considerable degree of industrial unrest and no wonder we find supporters of the supposedly alternative Government and the General Secretary of the TUC using language that arouses violent emotions. That attitude does a disservice not only to the future of the Labour movement but to any future Labour Government and to the cause of parliamentary democracy. That is why the Opposition have a responsibility in the matter. It is no good their blaming the situation in the docks or anywhere else where there is industrial unrest on the Government and the Industrial Relations Act alone.
The Labour Party has actively stirred up discontent against the Act. Why does it not mention the many hundreds of individual workers who successfully claim compensation for unjust dismissal as a result of the Act? Why does it keep crying, "Repeal" and not say, "Amend"? Why does it keep giving the impression that the Act is totally wrong, when many parts of it are similar to those the Opposition suggested when they were the Government? Until the Opposition face up to their responsibilities in the matter they will not allay the fears of the general public of possible anarchy and they undermine their own position. They are entitled to oppose the Act, to threaten to repeal it or amend it. But when they have fought a piece of legislation in this Chamber they should realise that once it is on the Statute Book they should constitutionally uphold the law of the land and see that the Act is obeyed.
I turn briefly to the Government. The public have a natural reliance on the Government of the day, whatever its political colour, and believe that the Government's job is to preserve law and order. Therefore, whilst I agree that the Government must be moderate and must be anxious to co-operate, it would be fatal if they were seen to retreat on a properly enacted piece of legislation for which they had a mandate at the last General Election. If they retreat in the present climate they will endanger not only some of their support on these benches but also their support in the country. What is perhaps worse, they will strengthen the feelings of some that 439 Parliament is no longer the supreme authority in the land. This will not allay public fears about future parliamentary democracy.
The Government have a greater responsibility in this respect than the Opposition. Although I agree that the public fears are exaggerated, there is a feeling abroad there will sooner or later have to be a confrontation or showdown. I hope that this will never happen, but if we are to avoid it both sides will have to accept their responsibility. Otherwise, more politically-motivated extremists will cause greater industrial unrest on the one hand, and on the other we shall cause greater disillusion with, even rejection of, our system of parliamentary Government.
§ 7.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Gwynoro Jones (Carmarthen)
The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) said that the Opposition have a clear duty and responsibility for many of the things happening in society today, since they were happening during our term in Government. Certainly, industrial unrest was taking place and jobs were being lost in major industries under the previous Government, but people were working and living in a far healthier atmosphere. Miners accepted their loss of jobs. The dockers have been losing their jobs for many years by the thousands. But the atmosphere then was far different from the present atmosphere. We do not say that all that is happening today is as a result of the Tory Government, but certainly many problems have been caused and created by the Government. The hon. Gentleman said that conflict was being courted by some people and that the showdown must come. That is rubbish. Indeed the idea of conflict and confrontation was courted by the Government themselves with many of their policies on coming into office, with people being asked to stand on their own two feet, and the "lame duck" policy.
Before 1970 the Prime Minister throughout the country, and particularly in Croydon in 1969, promised a new era of industrial peace if he were to win the General Election. He said that he had a plan to reduce the number of man-days lost through industrial stoppages. Great play was made during the election campaign of the mammoth increase in man-days lost during the period of the 440 Labour Government. It was a considerable figure—24 million in five years and eight months. Yet within a period of 18 months we have now seen 37 million man days lost, an increase of 54 per cent.
The hon. Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. Hayhoe) said, "Yes, but there have been fewer strikes than under a Labour Government." If it is a case of the bigger the strike the better, God help the Government and their back benchers.
The pledge before June, 1970, was to reduce the number of man-days lost through industrial unrest, yet immediately on the Government's coming to office they began a policy of conflict in every aspect of Government policy which has severed industrial and social life. We can cite the Housing Finance Bill, the October, 1970, Budget and the health and welfare charges. It was a deliberate policy of creating conflict within society. We had divisive policies pursued by a Government led by an abrasive Prime Minister. Many Conservative Members are beginning to question whether such leadership is desirable or in the best interests even of their party. We have in our industrial situation an atmosphere of conflict and far too many people troubled by and hit directly by Tory policies.
The hon. Member for Wellingborough spoke about the public interest as though every conflict the Government have created in the past 18 months did not involve people. There was the dockers' dispute in the early months of their Government, the postmen, the electricians, the miners, the railwaymen and now the deckers yet again. The hon. Gentleman spoke as if those involved and their families are not part of society and part of the public interest that the hon. Gentleman talks about. They are not the "greedy people" of society, as the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary described them recently, because they dare to ask for an increase of a few pounds a week to earn an average manufacturing wage of £27 to £28 a week—even less in many instances.
I trust that the Government will have learned, albeit very slowly, that it is their duty to govern the whole nation and not constantly speak glibly of one nation and the need to unify the country, and yet 441 make statements and allow their backbenchers to rage rampant up and down the country condemning ordinary working-class people for being "greedy" in having the "audacity" to want a decent wage. The miners' strike taught the Government a lesson, though it was too late.
We on this side are not saying that the Industrial Relations Act itself is the only cause of our present situation. I do not think it is the only cause. There are many others. One is the fear of ordinary people when they see the industrial and employment situation, the million unemployed that we had a few months ago, the 400,000 people made redundant in the past two years, the declining number of jobs in prospect in the regions. It is only natural that people are very afraid of what will happen to their own job, their own industry, their own area, their own region. They see massive decline. In Wales, for example, 34,000 people have been made redundant in the past two years and only 8,000 new jobs have been created. The jobs gap is widening.
People are naturally fearful about what is to happen to them. There are many pressures on ordinary people in modern society and it is time that the Government realised that they have to deal with these people in an understanding and sensible way rather than dismiss them as people seeking to undermine the situation, as greedy people, selfishly motivated. These people have a basic right to defend their own interests—their livelihood; they have a right to be concerned. It is a tragedy that we only turn to the problems of people such as the dock workers when there is a crisis upon us. We are not constantly mindful of what is happening in the industrial situation, with technological change taking place, and of the structural impact of those changes in the traditional industries. Hon. Members opposite say that working people must co-operate to implement this structural change. I shudder to think where they have been living for the past 10 years.
About 40,000 miners lost their jobs in Wales over six or seven years. They co-operated with the Government and the Coal Board. In the docks there has been a 30 per cent. to 40 per cent. decrease in the number of people employed. They 442 are co-operating in the changes which Governments are asking to be made. It is clearly time that the Government stopped creating this divisive force, portraying ordinary people as "wreckers".
I now turn to the question of law and order and to the maintenance and implementation of the law. There is no question but that the duty of law is to strengthen and not destroy the sense of national consensus. Unfortunately, far too often over the last two years, laws have been passed which have made people wonder whether this was the aim of the Government. Let me make my position quite clear. There is only one place where laws can be changed and that is here. It is our duty as an Opposition and as the next Government to state that clearly. We are also in a responsible position as Members of Parliament because while we are able to make laws, we should be making laws which command the wide support of the people.
§ Mr. Fry
Would the hon. Gentleman like to comment on the fact that every opinion poll seems to show that the Industrial Relations Act still has the overwhelming support of the people?
§ Mr. Jones
As one who was employed in market research for a few years before coming to this place, and as the experience of the last General Election has taught people to think twice about opinion polls, if the hon. Member still supports opinion polls it is probably time he either packed all of this up or began reading his textbooks a second time. I am not sure whether majority opinion in this country always supports the Industrial Relations Act.
It is our duty to enact laws which command wide support. As I have said, we are in this privileged position and therefore must be careful about the sort of laws we enact. We cannot ride roughshod over the opinions and views of millions of people as if they do not matter, turning to them for support only once every five years and, having got it, moving away from them regardless of what they are trying to tell us. This is one of the tragedies of modern politics—we have lost communication with the ordinary people. Governments do not listen to what people are trying to tell them. The sooner we return to the situation when Governments do listen. 443 the sooner that this Government accepts that the people of this country are trying to tell them something now, the better the industrial relations scene will be.
§ Mr. F. P. Crowder (Ruislip, Northwood)
How would the hon. Gentleman amend the Industrial Relations Act?
§ Mr. Jones
I was about to come to that question. Before doing so I want to supplement what I was saying about laws commanding wide support. Law must also be respected. The upholding of the law is important and to do this laws must be consistently implemented. If we look at what has happened over the past few weeks in industrial relations we find that consistency is the last thing that has been evident. The five dockers were imprisoned on Thursday and released on Monday. Upon their release, they carried on the same activities as before yet the same law did not treat them as it has earlier treated them. There was also the question of the sympathy strike. What about those who came out in support of the dockers? The Act was designed to deal with them. If we want the law to be respected we must be careful to ensure that we have laws which can be implemented and consistently applied.
§ Mr. Jones
My hon. Friend is quite right, and I suggest that the law has been brought into disrepute not by workers who are questioning the Industrial Relations Act but by the lawyers, the Solicitor General and by the Courts. Indeed, the three railway unions carried out the Industrial Relations Act provisions to the "nth" degree. Everything that was asked of them they did and yet at the end of the day the Industrial Relations Act failed to do what the Prime Minister thought it would do in one of his mad moments—and he seems to have had many of these over the last two years—and that was to solve disputes.
I come to the question of conciliation. On coming into power, the Government abandoned the important rôle of the conciliation officers in the Department of Employment. The thing to do was to stand up to every wage claim, they said. 444 Of course the Government had every right to do that, but the fact is that they brought themselves into disrepute when finally the other side stood up to them and the Government ran away, as happened with the miners.
In full fury there was the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Employment telling the nation how they would deal with these people and yet they had to give in and say that the miners' case was a "special case". Of course it was, but it was not just a special case in January and February when the Government succumbed. It was a special case in November 1971.
The Government have lost their way. They set out in 1970 to dismantle the machinery and impose their own individual stamp on the country. We now begin to see a retreat on every policy. Today we hear talk of an amendment to the Industrial Relations Act. This is nothing to hon. Members opposite and here I congratulate them upon their loyalty to the leadership, which is immense. I do not believe that I will ever see such loyalty anywhere else in the world. People who were elected on one platform in 1970, pledged to abolish grants, are now eager to implement them through the Industry Bill. If hon. Members can take that sort of thing I am sure that they can take the repeal or amendment of the Industrial Relations Act with equanimity. They need not worry a bit about that. The Government have a serious responsibility and it is time that they accepted that the claims of people in every sector merit consideration—the low wage earners, those fearful of the continuance of their jobs, those facing redundancy and people in insecure employment. It is time that the Government stopped reacting in the way that they have for far too long. They say that people must stand on their two feet. That is all well and good. But if people are asked to do that they have the right to say, "Give us the means for it. Give us the money, conditions and environment in which we are able to live happily".
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Andrew Bowden (Brighton, Kemptown)
It is to the great credit of the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr Gwynoro Jones) that he clearly said that only this House can change the law and 445 that the law must be upheld. I wish that that was the view which had been expressed by some of his colleagues. At least two hon. Members have expressed the view that not all the laws must be obeyed.
Last week, during the debate on industrial relations, the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) said:My right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North does not represent the views of all Opposition Members, or the majority of views throughout the British Labour movement, when he says that at all times all laws must be obeyed and all courts must be obeyed."—[OFFICIALREPORT, 25th July, 1972: Vol. 841, c. 1587.]That statement is nothing short of a recipe for civil war, and it is certainly not supported by the vast majority of the people of this country. Whether the law be good or bad, 99 per cent. of the people believe that it should be upheld until it is changed by this democratically elected Parliament. If the view were to prevail that the law should be flouted and deliberately disobeyed because certain groups did not like it, not only would Parliament be undermined but we should be on the road to destroying democracy completely.
Those who preach defiance of the law—and, regrettably, there are far too many of them on the benches opposite—are creating a sense of insecurity and fear among many people, particularly the elderly and retired, the disabled and the weak and, I have no doubt, among millions of workers and trade unionists. The hon. Member for Tottenham is wrong when he claims that a large number of people do not support the rule of law.
Let me illustrate that by referring to something which happened in my town of Brighton in the last few days. In the middle of last week the officers of the Brighton Trades Council—invariably men holding the most extreme political Left-wing views who, frankly, are much more interested in further political ends rather than the interests of the trade unionists in Brighton—called upon Brighton trade unionists to strike yesterday. They called for a strike which would stop Brighton's transport, bring her services to a halt and disrupt her industry. A number of people in Brighton, including myself, asked trade unionists in the area to think very carefully before they supported such an irresponsible strike. The strike was to 446 be called in protest against the Industrial Relations Act.
How many Brighton trade unionists came out in support of that strike? One might have thought that a response from 1,000, 2,000 or even 5,000 would not have been surprising. In fact the number was exactly 150, led by a Communist councillor, who was recently a member of the Brighton Labour Party, and other extreme Left-Wing militants in the student element. The result was a victory for common sense and a humiliating defeat for the political extremists in Brighton. I hope that the more moderate and sensible Members opposite will be glad that the extremisits received such a crushing defeat.
§ Mr. Gwynoro Jones
Was the hon. Member disappointed that only 150 turned out, or would he have welcomed 1,000?
§ Mr. Bowden
The object of quoting that example was to show that the vast majority of trade unionists, and certainly the people of this country, are not against the Industrial Relations Act and that the strike was deliberately called as a political strike to protest against the Act and it proved to be a most monumental flop.
I have no doubt that there exists in this country a somewhat loose alliance, but an alliance, of extremist elements, coming under a broad range of names—Communists, Marxists, Maoists, anarchists or whatever one likes to call them—who wish to create a situation which would lead to bloodshed and violence. When hon. and indeed right hon. Members opposite deliberately encourage sections of the community or individuals to flout the rule of law, they are paving the way to a situation which could lead to bloodshed on the streets of this country.
What could be more disgraceful than the weekend speech by the General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress, Mr. Vic Feather, in which he said that the Industrial Act was not part of the law of this country. Notwithstanding his substantial withdrawal of that statement yesterday, that sort of remark by a man holding a key position in the trade union movement, industrial life and economy of the country sows the most frightful seeds which could, but I pray will not, lead to civil war. I have no doubt that the wrath of the British people will fall upon any 447 group or person who attempts to undermine the rule of law.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Judd (Portsmouth, West)
The hon. Member for Brighton, Kemp-town (Mr. Bowden) will do well to analyse his speech in the context of the remarks which he made about ludicrous extremism. We have heard some extraordinary observations during this debate; the hon. Member's observations almost beat the lot. We have also heard some very worrying and profoundly disturbing observations in the wider context of the debate which has been going on in the country during the past week or ten days.
I am a little disturbed that we have not subjected to a good deal more analysis the remark which I distinctly heard the Secretary of State make in a radio discussion that the rule of law was more profoundly important or fundamental in our society than perhaps even parliamentary democracy. That remark would be endorsed by Mr. Vorster in South Africa and by almost every totalitarian leader the world has seen. It would have been endorsed by Stalin. I am a fervent believer in our democratic parliamentary system, but it is a dangerous over-simplification to suggest that one can possibly subscribe to the thesis that in all circumstances the rule of law must take precedence over everything else. We must be able to examine dispassionately the quality and morality of the laws we are being asked to obey.
If I have a major indictment of our parliamentary system, it is, as this debate again illustrates, that we are frequently unable to think ahead and we are often preoccupied with reacting to events which have already overtaken us.
No one will underestimate the significance of the industrial dispute which primarily concerns us tonight, but even as we discuss it there are in the wings other industrial problems which are not grasping our attention. There is, for example, the tragic situation of those with little bargaining power, direct employees of the Government, who are suffering basic wage rates of as little as £17 a week or hardly more and who are in no position to make us in the House of Commons respond to their immediate human crisis 448 or need. There are those in the professional classes who are unable to bring pressure to bear but to whom we should pay attention if we are concerned about tile quality of our society. There are the senior citizens, the pensioners, who have virtually no opportunity to compel us to give them the priority they deserve.
Another thesis which has come out in the debate and which worries me deeply is the tendency of some hon. Members to play softly the significance of the docks issue. It would be wrong for us to minimise the significance of this industrial problem because it is symptomatic of a much more profound problem within our society which hon. Members on both sides of the House should be prepared to analyse. I am certain beyond doubt that there is genuine anxiety, bewilderment and a sense of disillusion amongst a wide cross-section of the British population. Unless we can at least for a time forsake political point-scoring and get down to the job of examining the structural weaknesses in our community, we shall not rehabilitate public confidence in the parliamentary democratic system. There is now more questioning of the parliamentary democratic system of British society, its adequacy and relevance than there has been for decades.
In analysing the structural weaknesses of our society, the first which should attract our attention is the slogan used by the Conservative Party at the last General Election. It used the immoral and fatuous argument that it would build the future of British society on the basis that people would be encouraged to stand on their own two feet. Every industrial and economic crisis with which we have been confronted since the Government came to office has manifestly demonstrated that if there is one thing true of our society it is that none of us is able to stand on his own two feet. Our society is essentially interdependent. Unless we recognise that interdependence we shall never be able even to start correcting the basic faults which are worrying us this evening.
Another issue we have to examine which is essentially relevant to the immediate issue concerns the accountability of economic power. We talk about tile need for trade unionists individually and collectively to co-operate in the national interest. When I see a constant 449 accumulation of greater and greater amounts of economic power within the hands of people who are in no way accountable to the democratic system, I ask myself how we can in any rational sense expect self-respecting men who have struggled to establish their rights in society to forgo their hard-won privileges in the cause of co-operation for the sake of the interests of the wider community if as a result of restraining their actions they see a strengthening and still greater enhancement of irresponsible economic power in the community.
With all the earnestness I can muster I say to the Conservatives that if they expect full-hearted co-operation from the community as a whole they must be able to establish that that co-operation will genuinely result in significant and qualitative improvements for the community as a whole and not just for those who have the economic power.
We also have to examine the technological revolution. To some extent we have been enslaved by worshipping gross national product and economic growth through the technological revolution as an end in itself. I am sorry if I seem rather naïve in this respect, but I always ask myself one fundamental question about any form of economic or industrial organisation. That is, how does it qualitatively improve the lives of the people? We in the House in recent years have failed to subject the forms of technological change to the scrutiny which they demand. The whole system is becoming increasingly impersonal both in the private and the public sector. It has a dehumanising effect and results in workers becoming mere extensions of the machines which they operate.
Those who have suggested that we are faced with a crisis simply because of the dedication of a minority group of militants are deceiving themselves. If there are militants at work, they can only get a grasp because of the general widespread feeling of unease, dissatisfaction and fear. Unless we can come to grips with this in human terms, we are just playing with the problem. The overriding challenge to our society is how to break down the system into manageable proportions.
People talk about the need for a responsible society, but how can we have 450 a responsible society, by definition, unless people see and feel their personal responsibility within the system? I agree with what was said on the Liberal benches earlier, that we should use the public sector of our economic system for experimentation in how to bring precisely this form of organisation about.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Dudley Smith)
I am following the hon. Gentleman's thesis with interest and I have a certain amount of sympathy with some of his points. But will he not at least acknowledge that the Government's code of industrial relations practice, which is part and parcel of the Industrial Relations Act, is an attempt to try to go some way towards the philosophy he is expounding?
§ Mr. Judd
I know that the Minister sincerely tries to examine the problems with which we are confronted, but with great respect I do not agree. The code is trying to iron out some of the problems which have resulted from a social structure which is no longer adequate to meet the challenges which confront the nation. Unless we get a redistribution of power in our society with far more ability for people in a host of different ways to come to grips with controlling their destiny in units that make sense we shall continue to stagger from crisis to crisis.
I have sometimes been accused of being too melodramatic in making this point, but I want to make it again because it is basic to my whole political philosophy. We are preoccupied tonight with one major symptom of the basic faults in our society; next month we shall no doubt be preoccupied with another. We never step aside to look at our historical position against the background of what has happened to every other civilisation in human history. I do not believe it is a coincidence that every other civilisation in history has declined or been destroyed. We have to ask ourselves what are the common origins of this fate of humanity in the past.
One common origin has been an over-centralisation, an over-remoteness of administration, a failure in communication—ever extended lines of communication and responsibility. If our society is to avoid the fate of every other 451 civilisation in history, it is to this problem that we must address ourselves. It is no longer an elitist intellectual argument, it is an immediate political reality. How do we re-distribute power and break down society into manageable units in which people have personal responsibility and see their personal responsibility? What we have to do is for a moment to break out of our immediate preoccupations, to see them in perspective and to see the real challenge to Parliament which confronts us.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Ralph Howell (Norfolk, North)
I believe it is generally accepted, not only in this House but in the country at large, that the Industrial Relations Act is necessary and must be made to work. We have suffered great disruption through strikes and many people are becoming disillusioned by the fact that we continually have to put up with so much inconvenience in our daily lives.
The hon. Member for Portsmouth, West (Mr. Judd) mentioned pensioners and I, too, want to talk about such people and low wage earners, many of whom I have in my constituency. These are the people who suffer and lose out on every occasion. It is worth looking at the figures to see how many people are engaged in strike action. Last year only 4 per cent. of the working population were actually engaged in industrial disputes—only 1.1 million out of the 25 million working force. It is probably true that no more than 10 per cent. of the working population have ever been engaged in an industrial dispute.
It is the other 90 per cent. who are becoming so disillusioned at what is happening. They feel that they lose out on every occasion and pay three times over. They pay first for the inconvenience caused by the strike; secondly, they pay the higher prices which follow a settlement—and often the settlements are not at all fair; and, thirdly, they pay for the benefits paid to strikers while they have voluntarily stopped work. I believe that people in the country generally have become fed up with this state of affairs since they cannot understand the sense of it.
We have now launched the Industrial Relations Act, a Measure which both 452 sides of the House recognise as necessary and essential. Although the Labour Government were unable to get it on to the Statute Book, the present Government have courageously enacted it. Unfortunately, they made one drastic mistake. They launched the Act into an impossible climate—a climate in which every strike must succeed and in which unions and their members had nothing to lose. The union funds are not at risk and in one way and another, with tax refunds reductions and benefits paid to dependants, the strikers themselves have little to lose. I am sure that this state of affairs must be changed if we are to expect this Act to succeed and to achieve sound and reasonable industrial relations.
I recently asked my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services to investigate what happens to strikers in other countries in terms of benefits. In Germany, Sweden, Holland and Belgium the situation is characterised by a low incidence of strikes, high levels of union strike pay and a recognition by unions and public that strikers should not turn to the State for relief. In France and Italy there is virtually no help from the State at all. Again, in the United States the unions generally support the strikers. None of the countries surveyed provides payment of social assistance from public funds to strikers' families comparable to the payment of supplementary benefits in Great Britain.
§ Mr. Howell
No, I cannot give way. Since our record is as bad as that of any other industrialised country, I believe that there is some relationship between the fact that we are so lenient to strikers by giving benefits from the public purse and the fact that we allow the unions to create a strike without risking union funds.
There are two things we must do immediately. The first is to reform the PAYE system. I believe that the Government have already grasped this point and that the new tax credit system, which we hope will come into operation in three or four years' time, will probably solve the problem. However, I am not satisfied that we can afford to wait that long and to operate the present silly system, which provides for an immediate repayment of 453 tax of as much as £6 a week as soon as a person stops work. This is one of the prime causes of our troubles. As soon as a strike develops, the first thing that happens is that the Department of Health and Social Security rushes along, and sets up establishments to pay benefits to strikers' families. This is absolute nonsense and should stop. I believe the great majority of people recognise that this is a foolish practice and the sooner something is done about the situation the better.
I do not believe the idea of paying benefit to strikers stands up at all. Many people think that this is a hard attitude to take and have tried to put forward other ideas by which the money could he reclaimed or the unions compelled to make up what has been paid out by the State. I do not believe any of these things would work because they would cause far more trouble than they were worth.
I cannot understand why the State should have such a conscience about strikers. If a man is absent from work for any length of time and receives no pay from his employers, the State could not care less about what happens to his wife or children, there is no provision for any help to be given to somebody who absents himself from work. Furthermore, if a person is at work and receives his pay, the State does not care what happens to that money; the person concerned can squander it on the way home and his wife and children can be left in very desperate straits. Why should the State decide that as soon as organised labour elects to stop work, immediate provision must be made to look after the dependants of strikers? I do not think that it is a policy which stands up to examination, and I hope that the Government will think seriously about it since the future of the Industrial Relations Act is in jeopardy so long as we try to run it in today's climate.
I believe that the country is crying out for strong, firm government—
§ Mr. Howell
It recognises that it will not get strong, firm government from right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. A General Election will solve nothing. 454 The reason why right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are in opposition today is that they could not provide that sort of government when they were in office.
I think that we should recognise [...]ow popular it would be if we returned to the firm government that we were providing during our first 18 months in office. We must cease to be afraid of the high unemployment figure, a great deal of which is fictitious. We must cease to be afraid of the possibility of disorder. We must cease to prop up industries such as UCS merely because we fear disorder in that part of the county. We should cease to give away benefits to strikers merely because we are afraid of the adverse publicity which would pour out from the Press if we attempted to alter the system—
§ Mr. George Wallace (Norwich, North)
Are we to conclude from the hon. Gentleman's remarks that he advocates the introduction of martial law into Britain in order to get the sort of government he wants to see?
§ Mr. Howell
That remark was quite unworthy of the hon. Gentleman. All that I ask for is reasonable conditions such as those that exist in other countries. I believe that the great majority of people in this country are heartily fed up with the way in which the State intervenes in every strike on the side of the striker by means of benefits. This policy was an embarrassment to the Labour Government. It is an embarrassment to this Government. I trust that we shall get the firm government that the country deserves.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald King Murray (Edinburgh, Leith)
I want to make one short specific point and then some general observations. The short specific point is to correct an impression given by right hon. and hon. Members opposite both today and in a previous debate on industrial relations. On each occasion I sought to intervene to correct the impression, but I was unable to do so. I take this opportunity to correct it.
It has been said repeatedly by right hon. and hon. Members opposite that there is no provision in the Industrial Relations Act dealing with contempt. 455 That is quite inaccurate. Contempt is dealt with specifically in Section 154 of the Act and it is mentioned again in paragraph 27(2) of the Third Schedule.
What right hon. and hon. Members opposite intended to convey was the fact that there was no mention of imprisonment for contempt, and that is probably the most useful message to go out to the country from this debate. Though I have no doubt that imprisonment was in the background of the Government's minds when they pushed the Bill through this House, surely the message which ought to go out from this debate is that had the Bill specifically excluded imprisonment for contempt our industrial atmosphere today would be that much happier.
There is no provision in any Act of Parliament which compels any court to send a person to prison for contempt. If the National Industrial Relations Court never again committed any worker for contempt, would anyone in the country say that our industrial relations would be the worse for it?
The courts have a function which is different from the legislative function. The function of the Executive is another function. I hope that my specific observation will fall on ears which are not deaf—
Before the hon. and learned Gentleman leaves that valuable point, which I think is quite correct, it should be made plain for the record that it is clear from the Industrial Relations Act that what was aimed at was the corporations, namely, organisations of workers and the trade unions. It is impossible to imprison a trade union. The Law Lords have made it plain that if the representatives, the shop stewards, are the authoritative body of the organisation of workers, whether or not they are registered, the Act will operate against the trade union. Therefore there can be no question of imprisonment for contempt, but merely a fine. That was a correct conclusion on the part of Sir John Donaldson, and it has been upheld.
§ Mr. Murray
I accept that helpful intervention. However I leave the point of contempt where I sought to leave it originally. I do not accept every point which the hon. Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) made. He 456 indicated that the House of Lords decision last week solved the problem. I do not accept that. There are many difficulties left, and individual workers can still be imprisoned for contempt.
The hon. Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Ralph Howell) was in error in confusing the problem of trade union administration and trade union relations in industry with the problem of law and order. The problems are separate, and no useful purpose is served by suggesting that the industrial relations problem, as it faces us in the economy and in society today, is anything to do with the general problem of law and order. Obviously when people are pressed to the limit in the case of legislation which they do not like, questions of law and order will arise. I do not maintain that such questions are not relevant, but to identify the problem of industrial relations with the problem of law and order is less than useful.
I endorse what my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) said in an earlier contribution. There are various ways in which laws can be bad. For example, laws can be bad because they go against the wishes of an important section of the community. One cannot effectively pass and enforce a law which requires Moslems to eat pork or Hindus to eat beef.
I appreciate that industrial relations is a different matter, but equally, one cannot have an effective, enforceable law which seeks to discriminate or isolate a section of the community and treat them in a different way from the rest of the population. In that sense the accusation of bad law which is attributed to the Industrial Relations Act is fairer because there is an attempt, on any view, to legislate for the trade unions as a body. In so legislating, unless one is going to carry everybody with one by general consent—and one cannot expect to carry everybody in the trade union movement in any legislation—or to achieve a general consensus within the trade union movement, then one has bad law in that sense. If there is legislation for a group which does not have a degree of consensus, there will be bad law.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Dudley Smith)
The hon. and learned Gentleman must know above all people—he played a prominent part in the passing of the Act—that the Act does 457 not apply to trade unions only but also to employers in the whole sphere of industrial relations.
§ Mr. Murray
I accept that at once, but it does not alter the point which I was making. For example, if we get legislation dealing with the fishing industry, the kind of fish which can be caught, that greatly affects individual fishermen and employers. Basically one is legislating there for groups which have to some extent a common interest. In so far as one is dealing with working conditions, however, one has a different situation where the workers' interest is in many respects different from the employers' interest.
While I accept that the Act applies to employers and employees, no fairminded person would doubt for a moment that its impact, its main cutting edge, is against the trade unions and therefore against the workers. It is for that reason that one has to be realistic. If one legislates for a particular group in society and does not carry a general consensus, that law will be bad law and one will have to take the consequences.
I follow those observations with another point in the same vein. If one uses such legislation to try to affect the economic balance in society, the more one is going to make bad law. One will generate all kinds of antipathies that may not be related to the legal structure one is trying to alter. There cannot be the slightest doubt on looking at the Industrial Relations Act that it is intended to alter the economic and social balance of the trade unions in our society. Indeed, that was presented as a virtue by hon. Members opposite during our long-drawn out debates.
Time prevents me from elaborating the argument. I conclude, therefore, by pointing out that the dialogue between the trade unions and the law in this country has been a very sorry one for many generations and that the time has come for change in that if in nothing else. It is nothing less than tragic that for generations, if not for hundreds of years, the trade unions were outlawed by the law. By their own efforts, they brought about the sense of order and constitutionality which permeates the trade unions today. Let no one under-estimate that sense of order and constitutionality. Hearing hon. 458 Members opposite talking about the trade unions, one realises how little they know of the reality. One should take them to trade union meetings. They would be astonished to find all the orderly, constitutionally-minded people there. They would bring away a picture of the ideal citizen. That is the reality of trade unionism. The trade unions have not fought to disown or escape the law. They have sought to be accepted by the law all through these years. Yet all they get from Tory Governments time and again is a slap in the face—and the latest slap is the miserable Industrial Relations Act.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Gardner (South Fylde)
I acknowledge the moderation which the right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) has shown in all his comments on these very difficult matters of industrial relations, but I was sorry that he marred his speech by questioning the quality of the judgment of the House of Lords on the ground, apparently, that their Lordships had rushed into a judgment. I do not know who put him up to that, but it was a thoroughly bad point.
The right hon. Gentleman challenged hon. Members on this side to answer a question, and I would like to try and answer it because as far as I am aware—although I have been out of the Chamber for moments at a time—it has not yet been answered. He asked why the dockers were sent to prison. It is fundamental and it is a fact that they were sent to prison not because of any offence against the Industrial Relations Act but because of an offence against the court.
§ Mr. Gardner
The High Court of Justice. The Industrial Relations Court is part of the Hight Court of Justice. Make no mistake about that. It is a fundamental fact and it would be a monstrous misrepresentation for anyone to try to persuade the unions or anyone else to the contrary.
I want to refer in particular to the Official Solicitor. I am sorry that he has the title of Official Solicitor.
§ Mr. Gardner
I am not sure that it is. It is a Victorian title which can be misleading. The Official Solicitor is an officer of the Supreme Court of Justice. He acts, he can act, he does act and he did act in the case of the dockers with complete impartiality. He has no connection with the Government; the Government have no control over what he does. He did what he did on his own initiative. I would like to see—I think it is a reasonable suggestion—the Official Solicitor given another and more realistic title, something like "public advocate" or "public protector".
Obviously the Industrial Relations Act is not perfect. I doubt whether any Act is. It may be that time will show that it will stand in need of amendment, but it is not sensible to argue that the Act has failed because some people have been sent to prison for contempt of the court which had the duty of administering the Act. It is no more sensible to rely on that argument than it would be to say that our matrimonial laws have failed because a party in a matrimonial dispute has been sent to prison for contempt of court.
The Industrial Relations Act was never expected to put an end to industrial disputes any more than the matrimonial laws could be expected to put an end to matrimonial disputes. The Act was intended to fulfil, and I believe that it does fulfil, one of the main purposes by providing parties to an industrial dispute with an orderly and lawful means of settling such disputes. That intention of the Act has not been defeated, and that kind of service from our courts of law is just as essential to the future of trade unionism as it is to the future of the country.
§ Mr. Crowder
My hon. and learned Friend has rightly pointed out that the National Industrial Relations Court is part of the High Court. Why on earth do we call him Sir John Donaldson? He is Mr. Justice Donaldson. And why are not counsel robed, and why is not the whole apparatus of the High Court put into effect?
§ Mr. Gardner
I thought he was called the president of the National Industrial Relations Court. But be that as it may. Time is pressing, and I wish not to detain the House much longer.
460 In my view, a view shared I think by many people who have great anxiety about the working of the Industrial Relations Act and the Court which administers it, the Act provides, so to speak, the Queensberry Rules by which industrial disputes, we hope, may be settled in the future.
§ Mr. Gardner
The referee is a High Court judge, in this case the president of the court.
We all understand the fear which arises when a person or a group of persons are in danger of losing their jobs, but I believe, and many people in this country believe, that in the present dispute that fear is being played upon and inflated by others who are more interested in the political aspects of the dispute than the purely trade union interests in it. Communism is like a cancer—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] People do not like to talk about it. It is an uncomfortable subject. But I remind the House again, as it was reminded some years ago, that…the Communist Party, unlike the major political parties, has at its disposal an efficient and disciplined industrial apparatus controlled from Communist Party headquarters. No major strike occurs anywhere in the country in any sector of industry in which that apparatus fails to concern itself."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th June, 1966; Vol. 730, c. 1613.]Those were the words of the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. Harold Wilson), the Leader of the Opposition.
This strike has political elements in it—
§ Mr. Gardner
No, I will not, because time presses on. I am about to finish. This strike has political undertones and overtones. It is being led by Communist leaders.
§ Mr. James Hamilton (Bothwell)
The hon. and learned Member is slandering Members on this side, but he will not give way.
§ Mr. Gardner
Who has inspired and instructed these Communist leaders? It is not without interest that in the spring 461 of this year nine members of the Soviet Communist Party, led by Mr. I. V. Kapitinov, the secretary of the Soviet Central Committee, were over here with the declared purpose of conferring with some members of trade unions and reorganising the Communist Party in Great Britain.
These facts ought to be known and recognised. The sooner they are brought to the attention of the country the better.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Clinton Davis (Hackney, Central)
Recently I said that the Secretary of State seemed to be suffering from hallucinations, but they are nothing compared with the degree of suffering which the hon. and learned Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner) must be experiencing. It seems that the key to the solution of all our industrial problems, according to the hon. and learned Gentleman, in conjunction with the hon. and learned Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Crowder)—an unholy legal duet—is the robing of lawyers who appear before the Industrial Relations Court and a change of nomenclature of the judge and the Official Solicitor. I wish that matters could be resolved quite as easily as that.
The hon. and learned Member for South Fylde also mentioned contempt. The view of Lord Devlin, a very powerful advocate of the majesty of the law, was that contempt and imprisonment for contempt had no place in what is essentially a political function of the Industrial Relations Court.
I wish right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite had read the inaugural address of President Grant who, in 1869, said:I know of no method to secure the repeal of bad or obnoxious laws so effective as their stringent execution.We have an obnoxious law here which has been stringently executed. It has gravely endangered industrial relations, probably for a long time, and has itself brought the law into contempt. That is a matter which, as a lawyer, I regret a great deal.
The burden of what I wish to say must be related to a case within my constituency which illustrates the hopelessness of this law. I refer to Midland Cold Storage. This company was the subject of certain unfortunate observations by the Prime Minister. The right 462 hon. Gentleman spoke of "unprovoked bullying" by the dockers, of their having "picked out" Midland Cold Storage "quite arbitrarily", and in terms of what was called this pathetic little company which was facing this obnoxious attack by the dockers.
We ought to look at the facts of the matter. I am not suggesting that this has to be viewed in terms of absolutes, because I do not share the view expressed by many hon. Members on the Government side. However, some recognition of the dockers' case should be made if we are to begin to understand the matter and to resolve the problems that it creates.
First, the Vestey family, which has the controlling interest in Midland Cold Storage, in its industrial activities has been responsible for considerable redundancy in London docks. Contemporaneously with the opening of Midland Cold Storage it closed the Union International Wharf—it made no secret of the fact that it was embarking upon this provocative course of conduct and that it sought to recruit cheaper labour—nd, just as it closed down wharves, at the same time it was indulging in substantial property speculation. Vast profits are made in this way, and this goes unrecognised by the Government. But what are the dockers to think about this? Does not this create a difficult climate within dockland?
Then we had the quite deliberate and calculated attempts to hide the connection with Midland Cold Storage, because the Ulster Bank of Belfast holds virtually all the shares. This was disclosed in the company register. There was no mention of the fact, which is required by law that it was holding the shares as nominee and I wonder whether the Government will take any action about that. If they are so mindful of the majesty of the law, let them not be so selective about it.
Was it really a clerical error which caused this? Was it a clerical error when we are concerned with 99,998 shares worth a considerable sum of money? Is that to be the excuse? Was not this checked? An hon. Member says that he read about it in the Sunday Times. It is a pity he did not address his mind to this most important matter. We were not told by the Prime Minister about 463 this, because he rides off with a shield of innocence by saying that he knew nothing about it. If he knew nothing about it, the fact that he made no inquiry is of itself a condemnation of his activities.
We were not told that this organisation undertook dock work. We were not told by the Prime Minister about those days, not long ao, when, despite the difficulties which had arisen between the two sets of workers USDAW and the dockers, they stood side by side outside the dock gates in protest at the imprisonment of the five dock workers. We were not told today by the Prime Minister about the withdrawal of the action by Midland Cold Storage which literally causes the law to be seen to be utterly ridiculous.
There is a case for the dockers' viewpoint, and perhaps they may be forgiven if they recall a short verse:
The dockers see vast profits being made by this company which has behaved irresponsibly and, in my view, unlawfully. These things cannot be viewed in isolation from the general scene. They must be viewed against the background of the injustice which is being done within our society, the unemployment, the insecurity, the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynoro Jones) in an eloquent speech, the growth in the disparities of wealth and the distinction in treatment between the wealthy and the poor. None of these things is ignored by the dockers or by other industrial workers.
- "The law doth punish man or woman
- That steals the goose from off the common
- But lets the greater felon loose
- That steals the common from the goose."
It is hardly conducive to a proper, sensible approach to hear the speeches of the hon. Members for Portsmouth, Langstone (Mr. Ian Lloyd), Norfolk, North (Mr. Ralph Howell), who is not here, and Bridgwater (Mr. Tom King). They are opposed to conciliation. They have no solutions to offer. Langstone is a constituency which I fought in 1955. It was then regarded as hopeless but, judging by the contributions of the hon. Member, it will obviously soon be a safe Labour seat. The hon. Member for Langstone rejects the Jones-Aldington proposals. I believe that in a healthier 464 atmosphere those proposals would have commanded the support of the dockers.
Let us hope that when Members can abjure all this jingoistic distortion of the facts, when they can reason about this matter and see that the law cannot be viewed in absolute terms, that the Government have a rôle and responsibility to produce a consensus, an atmosphere in which people can talk and reason together, they will be able not simply to pay lip-service to democracy but to play an active rôle in its preservation.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
My hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Clinton Davis) has just supplied to the House many of the details of the background of this dispute which should have been presented to the House by the Prime Minister when he purported to present the background in the debate a few days ago. I wish to return to that aspect of the matter shortly.
I should like to start with—and, indeed, to direct the whole of my remarks to it in one sense—the question which has run through the debate and which has, even more perhaps, run through the discussion which has preceded it in the newspapers and in the country: the question of the rule of law and how the Industrial Relations Act and its operation touches upon the rule of law and the rule of Parliament.
From different points of view, all of us believe that there are clashes in society that somehow have to be resolved. Those of us who are Socialists think that there are clashes which arise from the distribution of wealth, the ownership of property, and the class struggle. We believe that the clashes that arise from those matters have to be settled somehow, and many other clashes have to be settled between different sections of the community, and sometimes between different industries where interests may conflict.
I have always believed, and still believe—I believe it is the view of everyone on the Opposition side of the House—that those clashes have to be resolved by consent, if possible, and by debate and argument. We believe that those clashes must be settled finally in the House of Commons or, at any rate, that the conditions for settlement must be 465 laid down in the House of Commons, which is responsible to the people through election. I am advancing a proposition which I hope commands the support of everyone in the House. Certainly we do not dissent from it.
But throughout the debate hon. Members on the Government benches have been transforming the doctrine—which we do not abandon in any sense; indeed, we insist upon it—and translating it into the crudest possible terms, which cannot be accepted. That is what I want to underline. Hon. Members on the Government benches seem to say "We have the mandate. We have won the election. We have gote the vote. We have got the Act on the Statute Book. The Act must be obeyed. It cannot be selectively accepted or applied. That is the Act and that is the rule of law. That is the end of the question." But the world is not as simple as that. I imagine that none of us believes that the rules of a complex society such as ours can be discussed in that fashion alone.
Some laws command much more assent than others. The laws which state that we should drive on the left hand side of the road command almost universal assent—even if there are deviations in practice. But at the other extreme, there are laws which do not command universal assent. Perhaps the most classic example that could be taken was the law passed in the United States which prohibited the sale or consumption of alcohol. That was a law which did not command universal assent, and eventually it had to be removed from the statutes of the United States on that account; but not before it had corrupted for decades afterwards, as many people believe, the whole legal system of the United States.
The contention of many of us in this controversy is that the Industrial Relations Act comes much nearer to the prohibition law in the United States which could not be enforced and which had to be repudiated by the nation as a whole than it does to laws which command universal assent. This is a very important illustration, because I believe that the maintenance of respect of the rule of law is one of the pillars that sustains a decent society.
The first reason why I say that this law does not conform with that require- 466 ment and why it comes nearer to the prohibition law than to the others I have referred to is what we on this side tried to explain to the Government during all the discussions on the Industrial Relations Bill. It was not merely that we said that the Bill was ill-advised and wrong-headed. A much more serious argument of ours was that the Bill was unworkable in the sense that it would not achieve the objectives that the Government said that they were seeking to achieve and unworkable in the sense that it was much more likely to produce industrial chaos than industrial peace.
We said that the Bill was unworkable in that sense because this law offends so profoundly against the spirit of trade unionism. We argued that eventually, if such a law were to be introduced, either the spirit of trade unionism would have to be rooted out or the Act would have to be abandoned.
I will give one illustration of these events which, though hon. Members opposite may dislike it, happens to be the fact. We are discussing the experience of the past months from which we have learned something. If the five dockers had not been released, a general strike in defiance of the Act would have been called on Monday by the General Council of the Trades Union Congress. Pretty well the whole of the working population would have defied the Act. I imagine that the Government would not have taken any steps to deal with it.
If the Government wish to learn anything from these events, they must understand what the feeling in the country was about the imprisonment of the five dockers. If the Government wish to understand the kind of country that they aspire to rule, they must understand why there were miners from South Wales, engineers from the Midlands and many others outside Pentonville Prison to receive the dockers when they were released. It was a question of honour. If hon. Members opposite do not understand that, they do not understand anything about the trade union spirit which they are trying to quell by this Act.
§ Mr. Adam Butler (Bosworth)
I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to a column by the former Member for Bosworth in the Daily Mirror of Friday last in which he points out that an Opinion 467 Research Centre poll showed that 67 per cent. of the public were against sympathetic strikes on behalf of the five dockers.
§ Mr. Foot
I do not accept Gallup polls on many other matters, nor do I accept it on this. Nor would I accept the previous Member for Bosworth as the final authority on trade unionism. It is impossible for the Conservatives to contend that everything is settled merely by saying that people must adopt and abide by the rule of law, because they do not do that themselves. A general strike was called by the General Council of the TUC, but no one would have taken action against the General Council, even though it was offending against the Act. What about the printers who went on strike last week? I read leading articles in the Daily Telegraph, the Sunday Times, the Daily Mirror and many other journals denouncing people who went on strike and stressing the necessity for the Act to be invoked. But I did not notice Lord Thompson, Sir Max Aitken or Mr. Hugh Cudlip going along to the Industrial Relations Court to invoke it. They were very wise not to go because in that sense the Act is unworkable and they know it, even if the Conservative Party does not.
My right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) said at the beginning of the debate that in many respects the most important aspect of the matter was that the Act is unworkable because it presented trade union leaders with an intolerable dilemma. That was underlined by the decision in the House of Lords last week. In many respects the most hopeful event that occurred last week was the publication of the Jones-Aldington Report. I do not say it is final in every form by any means. I listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) who spelled out the arguments that many dockers will put forward about the proposals. I do not believe it is the final word on the matter, and Jack Jones does not make any such claim. But it was most hopeful that the report was produced by intelligent discussion and conciliation between gent and leaders of the trade union concerned in spite of the serious events which occurred last week.
468 But just as that was the most hopeful event, the most hopeless event, the most despairing and discouraging event, was the decision in the House of Lords confirming the original view of what is in the Act. That decision presents trade union leaders with a dilemma. Either they must reject the Act, in which case they will run the risk of their finances being sequestrated, or they must abide by the Act, in which case they will have to take steps, as many of them believe, to disrupt their unions. They will have to act as policemen in their own unions. [Interruption.] They will have to apply discipline—
§ Mr. Foot
I know that is what the Prime Minister described as putting their house in order, but it means that the trade union leaders will have to take action against their members, either expelling them from the union, or taking action which might lead to the fragmentation of the union or to the establishment of many other unions. Indeed, so much has the Act encouraged breakaway militancy that the Prime Minister is regarded in dockland as an undercover, fully paid-up member of the Socialist Labour League. He is Gerry Heeley's secret weapon, his first lieutenant. This is the reality of what is happening.
What will occur in many of the great trade unions, particularly the Transport and General Workers' Union? Some of us remember the history of these matters. Some of us greatly respect the exertions made by Frank Cousins, Jack Jones and others greatly to democratise their trade union, to make individual members more responsible, because they can exercise greater powers, greater powers against the executive very often, greater powers of expressing their opinion through the machinery of the trade union. Under the Act they will be deprived of the power to continue with that work.
That is the major reason why I say that the most serious aspect of the whole Act is what it proposes that trade union leaders must do to comply with it. We are telling the trade unions under the Act to go back to the time of the Taff Vale judgment of the House of Lords. It is not so surprising that the House of Lords should be the place where the final 469 edict is handed down, although, of course, it is apparently interpreting what was in the Act. That does not alter the fact that we are turning back the clock to before 1906. Liabilities are being put upon the trade unions which have not existed since the Taff Vale judgment before 1906. That is well understood throughout the trade union movement.
If that course is to be followed, not in the conditions of 50 years ago but in present-day conditions, when the democratic power of those in the unions is greater, and democracy is more active and militant throughout the whole of our society, if the Government try to enforce the power of the union executives, insisting that the unions shall carry out the instructions of the court, the unions will be disrupted. That is why the unions are not prepared to follow that course. The end of that course, of making the executives of the unions the agents of the court, and—as many people in dockland, the steel industry, the coal mines and so on would regard them—as the agents of the Government, is the corporate State—and we are not prepared to have that. That is the situation implied in the Act.
We say, therefore, that the Act must be repealed. I know that some say that it can be reformed. I should very much like to see it reformed. It is against the Government's own interests not to make many proposals for reforming it, but it is very difficult to see how it can be reformed. It would certainly be necessary to deal with the question about contempt, and to do away with the Clauses that cropped up in the railwaymen's dispute, laying down the terms of service that the railwaymen had to abide by. Even more, it would be necessary to root out of the Act the decision the House of Lords reached last week, and to root out that is to root out the heart.
With the Industrial Relations Act, the Government have a tiger by the tail. It is no use saying "In the light of experience we will cut some of its claws". It is better to kill the whole beast. We say that this is probably the only way in which the reform of the Industrial Relations Act can be carried through.
What does the Prime Minister propose?
§ Mr. Foot
I have just made that proposition, if the hon. Gentleman had been listening, although I dare say he will hear it again in days to come. I was arguing, particularly because of the central feature of the Act which the House of Lords has now confirmed, which means that actions can be taken direct against the funds of the unions, that the unions are presented with this dilemma. Although it would be very wise for the Government to come forward with amendments, I do not believe there can be an amendment which does not deal with the central feature of the Bill.
What do the Government propose? After all they have some responsibility. I know that every time we ask "What are the Government going to do" they say "No, you have to tell us what you are going to do." But they happen to be the Government for a time. I know that we all get a bit irritable in the summer but the Prime Minister's form of delusion seems to be that everyone is responsible for the government of the country except himself. Indeed the Prime Minister is so confident about everything he says that he is absolutely assured that he is travelling on the right course, never to be deflected. He shows a degree of self-righteousness that would be out of place in the Archangel Gabriel.
The Prime Minister told us about this a few days before we started on the episode, when he made a speech before Conservative lawyers at Gray's Inn, a very appropriate place. This was on 21st June when we were beginning all the episodes which have led to the national dock strike and imprisonment of the dockers—all the events we have seen in the last few weeks. This was what the Prime Minister said, with his finger on the pulse of the nation, aware of what the Act meant:But I think it both necessary and desirable to place on record the fact—it is a fact, not an opinion—that the Industrial Relations Act is fulfilling its function of creating the pressure for a different and more orderly system of handling industrial disputes.He went on to say:What the courts have made plain—and this is not in dispute "—although it happened to be the matter that was just going to the Court of Appeal—is that the trade unions do have a responsibility for actions which are carried out with 471 their authority and which are unfair practices as the Act defines them.
§ Mr. Foot
It is nothing new for right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the Government side to reveal to us that this is what they believe. We know that they voted for it on a number of occasions last year. The Prime Minister said that that was a matter not in dispute. That is the matter that is in dispute between a Government which command so little confidence and the nation.
Part of these difficulties derives from what the Prime Minister likes to call his style of government. The Prime Minister's style of government is very often to get a partial grip on some aspect of the problem and then enunciate it as if it is the secret of the universe. He started off by telling us for several weeks on end that high wages were the only cause of unemployment and he went on repeating that slogan until the change of his own policies destroyed the analysis. Then he tells us that the consent of Parliament is exactly the same thing as the consent of the people in connection with the Common Market Bill. Even though he may have convinced himself, he has convinced no one else. Now he tells us that the only issue at stake in this controversy is the rule of law.
It is not the only issue at stake. One cannot rule a great and subtle people like the British with such bovine half truths as that. They understand these things much better. They see reality in a much more rounded way. They can see the two sides of a question. They understand that some of the laws have been established by people who fought for and against the established power.
When the Prime Minister tells us that he has recited all the facts to the people about these disputes, and when we have such evidence Presented to the House as that presented by my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, Central, which the Prime Minister should have reported to us, these are the backgrounds to our disputes. It is the fear of unemployment which drives men to these measures. The Prime Minister, in his speech last week, found it easy to throw abuse at other people. He can attack the dockers as 472 much as he likes; no doubt they regard it as a tribute. But last week he said:They have been resolved to take advantage of the problem, not in order to improve the livelihood of their fellow workers but in order to damage it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th July, 1972; Vol. 841, c. 1560.]What nonsense! What right has a Prime Minister to say that dockers take such action in order to damage the interests of their fellow workers? Of course they do not. They take such action to try to Protect their own lobs, communities and rights. That is what they are fighting for, and that is why they say that they will not tolerate the Act.
I say to hon. Members opposite, who seem so reluctant to understand these things, that we on this side of the House regard respect for the law as one of the most precious assets which a civilised country has. But they are the people who have been bringing it into disrepute. We have a Prime Minister who has little understanding of the people he rules. It is because of this that he is the worst national disaster since Neville Chamberlain. Eventually the House of Commons had to deal with Neville Chamberlain. Eventually this House and the British people had to deal with a Prime Minister whose own obstinacy was so great that he would not listen to the country, to the trade unions or to the House of Commons.
Eventually Tory Prime Ministers are taught by the House of Commons that if they will not learn here they will have to learn at the polls. That is where the Prime Minister should go. He said on television—and it was the least surprising announcement of the year—that he was not going to have an election in the near future. Nobody need be surprised about that. He was not prepared to have an election about the Common Market. Apparently he is not prepared to have an election about the rule of law. But let him have an election. That is the right place for the British people to decide—to clear out Heath as they once cleared out Neville Chamberlain.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ The Solicitor-General (Sir Geoffrey Howe)
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) has invited my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to appeal to the country for the verdict of the people. The Government, and my 473 right hon. Friend as their leader, already have the verdict of the people in their favour. [HON. MEMBERS: "Then have an election."] We shall in due course, and we shall prevail. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale suggested that the House should know that one cannot seek to rule the British people with subtle half-truths. He should know; he has never had the opportunity of trying to govern the British people.
He attacked my right hon. Friend for his presentation last week of the facts underlying the dispute at Midland Cold Storage. The facts that remain unassailable are these. The workers who were seeking to procure blacking were doing so while negotiations about their jobs were going on under the authority of a properly established committee. They were seeking to procure blacking in defiance of their union's policy and, in defiance of their union, they were seeking to do it in defiance of a ruling that was designed to do no more than maintain a truce, to maintain the peace, to preserve the jobs which were being threatened by the men who used that action, and they were doing it to imperil the jobs of other people instead of waiting for the properly-established procedures.
No one on this side of the House is unaware of the social problems underlying technological and economic change.—[Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen may wave their hands about, but they have not listened to some of the speeches made by my hon. Friends underlying this very point. Having fought in my home town in South Wales two successive elections, having represented a constituency on Merseyside confronted by the problems of the docks, and having seen over many years the social problems of London's dockland—[Interruption.]—hon. Members may not like listening to this, but they must understand that the Opposition have no monopoly of social conscience.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Tom King) pointed out that what was taking place in the docks was symptomatic of wider, deeper and bigger social change with which we all have to cope and with which successive Governments perhaps have done too little to cope. He underlined, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower), the extent to which we must appreciate the fears aroused by economic 474 change. The same points were well illustrated by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) and my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, Langstone (Mr. Ian Lloyd), each of whom proposed different approaches to the difficult underlying problems.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lang-stone, in a thoughtful speech about the dock labour scheme, stressed the need for efficiency and competitiveness and in this he is undoubtedly right. Whatever the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East may say, we cannot, however much we may wish to do so, contract out of a world-wide market that is changing on a world-wide scale.
My hon. Friends also pointed out the need to take account of the impact on human lives and human individuals and to do so not at the expense of a single industry but as part of a wider approach to the problem. There are important factors here underlying the consideration now being given by my right hon. Friend to the structure of redundancy payments. The point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater about the conclusion of employment and whether the balance of the burden of proof of unfair dismissal is right or wrong is certainly something to be looked at. It would be wrong to conclude that that is not correctly presented at the moment.
All I can say is that when the time comes for all these threads to be drawn together, for the problems of redundancy and unfair dismissal and the problems associated with those understudied by the Jones-Aldington Committee, I hope that the House will be prepared to consider them rationally and as a package introduced for the benefit of the work people of the country as a whole.
Underlying all the social problems, and ignored to a large extent by hon. Members opposite during this debate, has been the long-term problem of industrial relations and the long-term decline in our pattern of industrial relations to which a long-term solution is needed. The breakdown of the unwritten rules which had formerly sustained our industrial relations is a matter with which successive Governments have come face to face.
The original concept of trade unionism as a means whereby the weak should band together, which is still a more than 475 legitimate objective, has been fashioned by some people, in circumstances where they ought not to be free to do so, into a blunt instrument of industrial force; into a philosophy of "Us out—you in!"; into a philosophy of people who approach these matters politically motivated. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It has been done in a spirit not of rescuing employment but of wrecking employment for their colleagues as well as for themselves.
What is more important is that all this time great corporations—which is what the trade unions are and have long been recognised to be—powerful corporations—have been wielding growing power with no pattern of responsibility or accountability to the nation as a whole. [Interruption.] This is not a novel doctrine just discovered. Mr. Andrew Shonfield, when he analysed this matter as a member of the Donovan Commission, said this, and no one can gainsay it:If organisations are powerful enough to act the bully then very special grounds are necessary to justify the decision not to subject their behaviour to legal rules … it would be highly anomalous if the legal prejudices of an earlier generation were to … permit their actions to escape the public regulation which has come to be accepted as the common lot of corporate bodies wielding economic power.The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues changed their position and appointed the Donovan Commission. The Conservative Party over a period of years undertook a review of this problem. The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues went beyond what Donovan had said and published their proposals in "In place of Strife". They were proposals which the right hon. Gentleman advocated as essential and which he abandoned only in face of an undertaking given on 18th June, 1969. Since the time the right hon. Gentleman got his "solemn and binding" undertaking, the position right up to the last General Election got worse not better.
As my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council said when he introduced the Industrial Relations Bill, liberty in too many places can turn to licence. Many people in the nightly vigil watching their television screens have seen the situation turn even worse, and they have been deeply anxious at what they have seen.
476 In face of this situation the former Member for Southwark after the Industrial Relations Bill was first published said—[HON. MEMBERS: "Who?"] I am referring to the former Member for Southwark, Mr. Ray Gunter, who was a former Minister of Labour in the Labour Government. He then said:I don't like hypocrisy. It's not so very long ago that the Labour Party leaders were saying to the country that legislation of some sort … was an absolute necessity. Why now they should say that any legislation—before even it has been debated—is the work of the devil is an act of hypocrisy that I don't understand.Of course, it has been acknowledged by everyone who has considered the problem that the law has a rôle to play. I shall analyse it in a moment. No one suggested that the law could represent a magic cure of industrial relations problems. That is what was asked by the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel). No one suggested that it would effect a cure overnight. But the law enacted by the House is the chosen instrument of social change throughout our society, and in any democratic society the law is the foundation not just of authority, as some like to suggest, but of social justice. In the last resort it is the foundation of freedom itself. It is the bulwark of the weak against the strong. It serves as the defence of society as a whole against those who would seek to destroy it.
§ Mr. Bidwell
As the hon. and learned Gentleman knows I was not exactly a passenger all through our debates on the Industrial Relations Bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman foresaw a great deal in the course of those debates. Did he foresee the possibility of five dockers being sent to prison as a result of the activities of his National Industrial Relations Court?
§ The Solicitor-General
Yes, indeed. My right hon. Friend the Lord President and everyone else who discussed this matter throughout our debates made it clear that when a court was established with the ordinary powers to enforce its orders,Anybody, whether he be a trade unionist or any other sort of citizen in this country, who persistently and flagrantly flouts an order of a British court of justice can in the last resort … find himself in prison. That is 477 no different under the Bill from what it is today, and he certainly cannot find himself there for failing to pay compensation …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th March, 1971; Vol. 814, c. 556.]Right hon. and hon. Members opposite seem astonished by that. It was apparent, as my right hon. Friend stressed time and time again, that it was impossible in the last resort to prevent someone fighting his way into prison if that was his determined objective.
It is legitimate to use the law to uphold society and freedom. It is legitimate and regarded as uncontroversial in limited areas to use the law to protect consumers against manufacturers or financiers. It is legitimate to use the law, as the last Government did, to protect racial minorities against those who discriminate against them. It is admissible to use the law to protect tenants against landlords. All these matters bring the law into personal, emotionally sensitive relationships. In all of them the law is admissible, accepted, long-established and respected. Yet alone apparently in industrial relations right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite seek to argue that it cannot be so used.
Even the argument that the law cannot be used in industrial relations is not completely accepted by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. Last week they produced their interim policy statement. It includes a range of proposals for applying and extending the law throughout industrial relations, but law designed apparently to help one side of the bargaining from beginning to end.
Certainly it does not sustain the argument that the law has no place in industrial relations. Nor does it sustain the argument advanced by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale that the law in industrial relations is unworkable. The hon. Gentleman sought to argue that we should conclude at this stage that the law in industrial relations is unworkable and therefore that it should not be accepted or applied at all.
Is it being presented as unworkable because it is not accepted and not acceptable, or is it being presented as unworkable because some people are determined to make it so? The latter argument is one that is wholly inadmissible in a democratic society, and the former argument is not one that can be sustained.
§ Mr. Heffer
Is it not clear that, throughout the course of the Industrial Relations Bill, we on this side of the House warned that in the event of any workpeople being put in gaol as a result of contempt of the Industrial Relations Court there would inevitably be a strike of the magnitude which we saw last week? Is it not clear that we warned the Government that they were running into serious trouble because of the nature of the Act? Yet they chose to ignore the advice we gave.
§ The Solicitor-General
The Government chose to do no such thing. I shall deal with the hon. Gentleman's points in a moment, but now I shall continue to make my speech. The Act, as we now have it, was hammered out and prepared after years of consideration, analysis and comparative study of everything put forward by the Opposition and the Donovan Report. It is an Act—the Opposition are always unwilling to acknowledge this—which confers massive rights as well as responsibilities on trade unions and their members. It is an Act intended to be applied and it is now being applied, like any other law, by a court wholly independent—[Interruption.]It is a court as independent in every respect as the Restrictive Practices Court which the Opposition never sought to challenge. It is a court where seats are provided for representatives of the trade unions. The court will gain enormously once trade unionists are prepared to come forward and make the law work for the benefit of the country.
Moreover, the court has been designed to operate with special rules which were widely welcomed at the time, although I know my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Crowder) made a comment about it earlier this evening. Those special rules were welcomed at the time and since as making the Act sensitive to the realities of industrial relations.
Unsung and unpublicised, the court has been achieving real results. Disputes which would otherwise have gone to industrial action are now being settled because people have sought their remedies before the court. Long-standing recognition conflicts, whether within the Post Office or in the Parsons dispute, which were not created by the court, which have 479 always been there, are undergoing peaceful analysis with the threat of industrial action withdrawn because of applications to the court. Unfair dismissal claims, now well beyond 2,000, are being processed to the advantage of many work people. Many of those claims would have been a potential source of industrial conflict had the machinery not been available.
The right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) and the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale drew attention to some aspects of the Heaton decision in the House of Lords which they thought created difficulty. It is not the decision of the House of Lords which creates the difficulty, nor the Act. The difficulties which they tried to analyse, the difficulties for trade union leaders of reconciling the need to maintain cohesion of the organisation and the need to maintain discipline within it, were always underlying the surface. The dilemma has always existed and is there, law or no law.
The judgment given by the House of Lords does not seek to resolve it definitively, decisively or authoritarianly in any single way for any union. It makes a decision which applies to the rule book of the Transport and General Workers' Union. It makes it clear, whether through rule books or otherwise, what authority is vested in union officials to take strike or other industrial action. It is still for unions to decide what policies they pursue regarding the delegation of functions to their shop stewards. The House of Lords decision does not require unions to follow any particular policy, but unions must decide firmly and make their policy clear. They cannot invest their local officials with considerable powers and hope to avoid responsibility by so doing. It seeks to make the responsibility plain and clear, which is what is necessary in this situation.
Hon. Members at various stages have suggested proposals for the amendment of the Act. As my right hon. Friend the Lord President made clear when he spoke on Second Reading on 14th December:I am not vain or stupid enough to believe dogmatically that adventuring, as we are, in this new and complicated sphere, we have got the balance precisely right, even for the moment, let alone for the next 10 or 20 years."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th December, 1970; Vol. 808, c. 963.]480 My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made clear more than once, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment made clear today, the extent to which and the timing with which the Government are prepared to consider the possibility of amendments to the Act. But it would be wholly unreasonable for such consideration to be undertaken when the print upon the Statute is barely dry, when it is scarcely possible to make a balanced assessment, when, as everyone has acknowledged, fundamental change is taking place and time is needed for everyone concerned to understand, apprehend and appreciate the problems. What is more, it would be intolerable for any group to expect still less to attempt consultation on changes of this kind under a continuing threat that they will continue to defy and disregard the law.
Among the detailed proposals put forward is that supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. Hayhoe) and by the hon. Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Clinton Davis) that we should consider again the abolition of committal. The hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles suggested that one might consider interposing another body, perhaps similar to the Race Relations Board, while others have suggested transferring jurisdiction back to the ordinary courts. All these matters are not matters of surprise or novelty. They were canvassed in debate long before the Industrial Relations Act was even published as a Bill. They are matters on which it is possible to argue both ways. But they cannot in the end remove the necessity for securing in one way or another respect for and observance of the law as enacted in this House. It is that indeed which we are entitled to expect.
No Statute in modern times was more plainly heralded in any party's manifesto than the Industrial Relations Act. It was enacted wholly in line with the constitutional thoughts which the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale has sought to uphold for many months in the Common Market debates—the authority and sovereignty of this House in this Parliament to pass laws on behalf of the people of this country, to make laws for the people of this country. Indeed, it is also in line, remarkably enough, with the most recent 481 version of the constitutional theories of the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East, (Mr. Benn) because in his letter to The Times yesterday he said that people… are beginning to demand that everyone with power should be accountable for the use they make of it—whether these people are industrialists, trade union leaders, or members of Parliament, especially as they want their reforms carried through by parliamentary means.That is exactly how this reform has been carried out. The right hon. Gentleman went on:This is how our nation has traditionally advanced. The only people who are resisting these changes are those whose privileges depend upon the denial of these rights.That is true in this case as well.
The question is what should be the attitude of the House as we consider the continued working of the Act. Parliament is the source of the law of the land. Sometimes also it is a scene for clash and confrontation. The people look to this House for something beyond that, however. They look to it for its capacity to remember the interests of the nation as a whole, for its capacity to reason together, however difficult that may sometimes seem, for its capacity in the last resort to represent the people—in this context, to represent the people of the country in their overwhelming desire to establish an accepted and workable framework of law for industrial relations which all of them in their hearts know to he needed. That is the approach shared by the hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. Garrett) in his speech outlining the cool approach he was commending for the resolution of this disagreement.
Certainly no one would be happier than the Government to be able at the right time to undertake all kinds of analyses around the table with everyone who wishes to join. But such analysis and consideration of reforms must be on the right terms. We are entitled to ask for the right terms from the trade union movement and, indeed, from the Opposition. And by the right terms I mean terms that are right when considered by the country as a whole.
First, there must be a degree of candour and open dealing about these matters from the trade union movement and the Opposition alike. There must be a public recognition, as already there 482 is in private from trade unionists as well as from members of the Labour Party, of the need for legislation along something like these lines. There must be some kind of recognition of the extent to which, for example, the decision of the House of Lords in the Heaton case was welcomed by people within the trade union movement, in contrast with that arrived at by the Court of Appeal.
There must be a recognition in public of the extent to which it is vain and empty to talk of repealing the Act without replacing it by something very similar. There must be an acceptance also by leaders of the trade union movement, as indeed there is among many of their rank and file supporters, that the laws of the land in matters of this kind are not made at Congress House. Laws about these matters are made here, in the Palace of Westminster, by the House of Commons, and no individual, no group, no corporation, however powerful, is entitled to set them aside or to ignore them.
Yet if we examine the attitude adopted, unhappily, in public by leaders of the trade union movement, we see so far no cause for hope. The leaders of the trade union movement have got to learn to live with democracy. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] They have got to learn to live with parliamentary democracy. In what they have said over the past five years about this matter they have made their attitude clear. In 1970 they declared their opposition to any legislation which would restrict the freedom of the trade union movement. Within a week of publication of our proposals for the Bill, Mr. Scanlon made clear that his objective was to make the Bill unworkable. Even this week, unhappily—no one can deny it, for we all saw it with our own eyes—Mr. Feather said:We do not accept that this Act is the law of the land or part of it".Yet this is the man who accuses the Government of seeking confrontation. What nonsense it is for that kind of challenge to be laid before us from that quarter.
And what nonsense is the approach of the Opposition to all these matters. Their attitude can be summed up in a few words.The impression which the Opposition have succeeded in creating is one of converting a 483 great national issue, a matter concerning the most fundamental human relationships, a matter involving the interests and well being of every member of our community, into a political football; and, having done so, they retreated from the field of play on to the terraces. Their behaviour today I indict as cynical political opportunism, compounded by cowardice. When many of the things said here today have been forgotten, long will linger the memory of their retreat from responsibility."—[OFFICIALREPORT, 3rd March. 1969; Vol. 779, c. 164.]Those are not my words. They are the words of the hon. Member for Doncaster
§ (Mr. Harold Walker) in winding up the debate in which the majority of hon. Members on the Opposition side approved the proposals in "In Place of Strife". They are a condemnation of the totally irresponsible attitude of the Opposition now.
§ Question put, That this House do now adjourn:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 262, Noes 292.487
|Division No. 332.||AYES||[10 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.)|
|Albu, Austen||Driberg, Tom||Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)|
|Allaun. Frank (Saltord, E.)||Duffy, A. E. P.||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)|
|Allen, Scholefield||Dunn, James A.||Judd, Frank|
|Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis)||Eadie, Alex||Kaufman, Gerald|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Edelman, Maurice||Kelley, Richard|
|Ashley, Jack||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Kerr, Russell|
|Ashton, Joe||Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Kinnock, Neil|
|Atkinson, Norman||Ellis, Tom||Lambie, David|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||English, Michael||Lamond, James|
|Barnes, Michael||Evans, Fred||Latham, Arthur|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Ewing, Harry||Lawson, George|
|Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton)||Faulds, Andrew||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Baxter, William||Fisher,Mrs.Doris (B'ham,Ledy[...]ood)||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Leonard, Dick|
|Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Lestor, Miss Joan|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold|
|Bishop, E. S.||Foley, Maurice||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Foot, Michael||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Ford, Ben||Lipton, Marcus|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Forrester, John||Lomas, Kenneth|
|Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland)||Fraser, John (Norwood)||Loughlin, Charles|
|Bradley, Tom||Freeson, Reginald||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||Galpern, Sir Myer||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.)||Garrett, W. E.||McBride, Neil|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Gilbert, Dr. John||McCartney, Hugh|
|Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury)||McElhone, Frank|
|Buchan, Norman||Golding, John||McGuire Michael|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Mackenzie, Gregor|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Gourlay, Harry||Mackie, John|
|Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.)||Grant, George (Morpeth)||Maclennan Robert|
|Cant, R. B.||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||McNamara, J. Kevin|
|Carter, Ray (Birmingh m, Northfield)||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Hamling, William||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)|
|Clark, David (Colne Valley)||Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)||Malialieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)|
|Cock's Michael (Bristol S.)||Hardy, Peter||Marks, Kenneth|
|Cohen, Stanley||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Marquand, David|
|Coleman, Donald||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Marsden, F.|
|Concannon, J. D.||Hattersley, Roy||Marshall, Dr. Edmun|
|Conlan, Bernard||Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy|
|Corbel, Mrs. Freda||Heifer, Eric S.||Mayhew, Christopher|
|Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.)||Hilton, W. S.||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Horam, John||Mendelson, John|
|Cronin, John||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Mikardo, Ian|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Millan, Bruce|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Huckfield, Leslie||Miller, Dr. M. S.|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington, S.W.)||Hughes, Rt. He. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Milne, Edward|
|Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven)||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.)||Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Molloy, William|
|Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Hunter, Adam||Morgan, Elysian (Cardiganshire)|
|Davidson, Arthur||Irvine,Rt.Hn.SirArthur(Edge Hill)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelly)||Janner, Greville||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Jay, Rt. He. Douglas||Morris, Rt. Fin. John (Aberavon)|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)||Jeger, Mrs. Lena||Moyle, Roland|
|Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Deakins, Eric||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Murray, Ronald King|
|de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||John, Brynmor||Oakes, Gordon|
|Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Ogden, Eric|
|Dempsey, James||Johnson, James (K'slon-on-Hull, W.)||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Doig, Peter||Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)||O'Malley, Brian|
|Dormand, J. D.||Jones, Barry (Flint, E.)||Orem, Bert|
|Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Orbach, Maurice|
|Orme, Stanley||Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Br'c'n&R'dnor)||Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.)|
|Oswald, Thomas||Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)||Tinn, James|
|Owen, Or. David (Plymouth, Sutton)||Rose, Paul B.||Tomney, Frank|
|Padley, Walter||Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)||Torney, Tom|
|Paget, R. T.||Rowlands, Ted||Tuck, Raphael|
|Palmer, Arthur||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Shore. Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)||Varley, Eric G.|
|Parker, John (Dagenham)||Short,Rt.Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)||Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)|
|Pavitt, Laurie||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Sillars, James||Wallace, George|
|Pendry Tom||Silverman, Julius||Watkins, David|
|Pentland, Norman||Skinner, Dennis||Weitzman, David|
|Perry, Ernest G.||Small, William||Wellbeloved, James|
|Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.||Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Prescott, John||Spearing, Nigel||White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)|
|Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Spriggs, Leslie||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Stallard, A. W.||Whitlock, William|
|Price, William (Rugby)||Steel, David||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Probert, Arthur||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Reed, D. (Sedgefield)||Stoddart, David (Swindon)||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, E.)||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Rhodes, Geoffrey||Strang, Gavin|
|Richard, Ivor||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Thomas,Rt.Hn.George (Cardiff,W.)||Mr. Joseph Harper and|
|Roberts,Rt.Hn.Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)||Mr. James Hamilton.|
|Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Adley, Robert||Critchley, Julian||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Crouch, David||Hannam, John (Exeter)|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Crowder, F. P.||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford)||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)|
|Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Atkins, Humphrey||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid,Maj.-Gen.James||Havers, Michael|
|Awdry, Daniel||Dean, Paul||Hawkins, Paul|
|Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)||Deedes, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Hayhoe, Barney|
|Balniel, Rt. Hn. Lord||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Dixon, Piers||Heseltine, Michael|
|Batsford, Brian||Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Hicks, Robert|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||Higgins, Terence L.|
|Bell, Ronald||Drayson, G. B.||Hiley, Joseph|
|Bennett, Sir Frederick (Torquay)||du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.)|
|Benyon, W.||Dykes, Hugh||Hill, James (Southampton, Test)|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Eden, Sir John||Holland, Philip|
|Biffen, John||Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Holt, Miss Mary|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Hordern, Peter|
|Blaker, Peter||Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)||Hornby, Richard|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Emery, Peter||Hornsby-Smith,Rt.Hn.Dame Pa[...]cia|
|Body, Richard||Eyre, Reginald||Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)|
|Boscawen, Robert||Farr, John||Howell, David (Guildford)|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Fell, Anthony||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)|
|Bowden, Andrew||Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Hunt, John|
|Braine, Bernard||Fidler, Michael||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Bray, Ronald||Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Brewis, John||Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||James, David|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||Fookes, Miss Janet||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Fortescue, Tim||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Fowler, Norman||Jessel, Toby|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Fox, Marcus||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus,N&M)||Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh(St'fford & Stone)||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)|
|Buck, Antony||Fry, Peter||Jopling, Michael|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith|
|Burden, F. A.||Gardner, Edward||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine|
|Campbell, Rt.Hn.G.(Moray&Nairn)||Glyn, Dr. Alan||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Carlisle, Mark||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B||Kilfedder, James|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Goodhart, Philip||Kimball, Marcus|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Goodhew, Victor||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)|
|Chapman, Sydney||Gorst, John||King, Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher||Gower, Raymond||Kinsey, J. R.|
|Ch[...]chester-Clark, R.||Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)||Kirk, Peter|
|Churchill, W. S.||Gray, Hamish||Kitson, Timothy|
|Clark, William (Surrey, E.)||Green, Alan||Knight, Mrs. Jill|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Grieve, Percy||Knox, David|
|Cockeram, Eric||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Lambton, Lord|
|Cooke, Robert||Grylls, Michael||Lamont, Norman|
|Cooper, A. E.||Gummer, Selwyn||Lane, David|
|Corfield, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Gurden, Harold||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Cormack, Patrick||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Costain, A. P.||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Le Merchant, Spencer|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Lloyd,Rt.Hn.Geoffrey(Sut'nC'dfield)||Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby)||Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)|
|Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Longden, Sir Gilbert||Parkinson, Cecil||Stokes, John|
|Loveridge, John||Peel, John||Stuttaford, Dr. Tom|
|Luce, R. N.||Percival, Ian||Sutcliffe, John|
|MacArthur, Ian||Peyton, Rt. Hn. John||Tapsell, Peter|
|McCr[...]ndle, R. A.||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|McLaren, Martin||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Taylor,Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)|
|Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|McMaster, Stanley||Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.||Tebbit, Norman|
|Macmillan,Rt.Hn.Maurice (Farnham)||Proudfoot, Wilfred||Temple, John M.|
|McNair-Wilson, Michael||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis||Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret|
|McNair-Wilson, Patrick (NewForest)||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)|
|Maddan, Martin||Raison, Timothy||Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)|
|Madel, David||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest||Redmond, Robert||Tilney, John|
|Marten, Neil||Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)||Trafford, Dr. Anthony|
|Mather, Carol||Rees, Peter (Dover)||Trew, Peter|
|Maude, Angus||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Ridsdale, Julian||Waddington, David|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey||Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)|
|Mitchell,Lt.-Col.C.(Aberdeenshire,W)||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Wall, Patrick|
|Moate, Roger||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)||Walters, Dennis|
|Molyneaux, James||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Money, Ernie||Rost, Peter||Warren, Kenneth|
|Monks, Mrs. Connie||Russell, Sir Ronald||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Monro, Hector||St. John-Stevas, Norman||White, Roger (Gravesend)|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.||Wiggin, Jerry|
|More, Jasper||Scott, Nicholas||Wilkinson, John|
|Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.||Scott-Hopkins, James||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Morrison, Charles||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Mudd, David||Shelton, William (Clapham)||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Neave, Airey||Simeons, Charles||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher|
|Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Sinclair, Sir George||Wood[...]utt, Mark|
|Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Skeet, T. H. H.||Worsley, Marcus|
|Normanton, Tom||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)||Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.|
|Nott, John||Soref, Harold||Younger, Hn. George|
|Onslow, Cranley||Speed, Keith|
|Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally||Sproat, Iain||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Stainton, Keith||Mr. Walter Clegg and|
|Osborn, John||Mr. Bernard Weatherill.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.