§ 3.53 p.m.
§ Sir Edward Brown (Bath)
I beg to move,That this House calls attention to the damage inflicted on the whole community and to public respect of trade unionism's role within industry and generally in our society by the attitudes and activities of a small minority of extremist, politically-motivated militants within the trade union movement.I apologise if my voice sounds a little strained. I have been somewhat queer—[Interruption.] I did not say anything about being queer. I said that I had been queer.
I am hoping that this debate will prove to be non-controversial in that the subject matter is such that there is a good deal of common ground between the two sides of the House. The people are sick, tired and thoroughly fed up with never knowing whose hands is on the switch, what is happening to public transport, who is holding up our exports and interfering with the publication of newspapers, such as we have experienced today. The people are looking to this House for guidance on how to cure these ills.
If any supporting evidence were needed in the shape of speeches in this House, I should need only to turn to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who not very long ago spoke of there being…powerful men determined to degrade and defeat the elected Government, Conservative or Labour, in order to smash the system and impose their own sort of society.
§ Sir E. Brown
I shall name them in a moment.
Recently the right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) said:I completely condemn people who try to use industrial relations as a means of wrecking society. What is needed in the trade union movement is much more participation by the majority of members so that a tiny minority don't have too much power.In the past four or five weeks we have been greatly indebted to the publication known as the News of the World, which has been running a series of articles on the very subject that this House refuses 928 to discuss at any time. Earlier today we had a move to adjourn the House under Standing Order No. 9. But a debate on who does what in the industrial society in which we live is a far more urgent matter.
Who are the people behind the militancy in the trade union movement? Let me start with one Alan Tattam, who is a member of the Communist Party and a full-time employment officer with the Construction and Allied Trades Union. In the building workers strike he often sided with extremists against his union's official leadership. He told one mob raiding a London site: "Right lads, look menacing". He claimed:We had to push the unions from below. They were reluctant to have the strike. Only the weight of feeling we uncovered forced the strike to escalate.Let me quote Lou Lewis. Do right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite know him? He is a carpenter—
§ Sir E. Brown
Yes, but he was on the other side. Lou Lewis is also a member of the Communist Party. This is the fellow who on 10th August at a strike meeting at Conway Hall, London, said:Remember this. This is a war. We are not mucking around and in this war we need a properly trained army to carry out military-style operations. The job we have to tackle covers 100 times the area Monty had to fight over at El Alamein.Mr. Lewis, a former member of the Communist Party Executive Committee, makes no bones about his contempt for official union leaders. He said during the building strike:We're acting independently of the unions. They don't really have much to do with it. If we left it to them everybody would be back at work before you could say Lenin.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. This is not an argument below the Gangway between the two sides of the House sitting there. This is a debate in the whole House.
§ Sir E. Brown
I accept your ruling Mr. Speaker. I speak in this debate with considerable qualifications. I have had 33 years in the trade union movement. I 929 began on a cycle at the age of 14 as a telegraph boy.
Let me get back to Mr. Lewis and his activities in the building unions. He has said:We've had to wrest control from the unions and we're going to make sure that the workers all come out, even if we have to physically pull them off the sites one by one.An investigator employed by the News of the World reported:Time and again I found it was Lou Lewis to whom pickets turned for advice.Lewis told the News of the World investigators:I am a political idealist and merely doing my bit on the great road to universal Socialism.If right hon. and hon. Members want even more on this subject, let me mention Bert Ramelson, the British Communist Party's National Industrial Organiser. He is Ukrainian by birth. He has said:One of my tasks is that wherever workers are involved in struggle, the Communist Party as such tries to organise and mobilise solidarity and support.This includes fostering strikes and strife. Since he took over the Communist industrial machine in 1966, he has encouraged men to strike against both Labour and Conservative industrial policies.
I can even quote the Leader of the Opposition in support of what I say. Commenting upon Communist activities in 1966, he said:No major strike occurs anywhere in this country in which that apparatus fails to concern itself.He was there referring to Mr. Ramelson's activities. I have them all—make no bones about that. A News of the World article of 5th November, 1972, says:A campaign urging miners to seize control of Britain's pits is being waged by Trotskyists who are so revolutionary that they shock even the Communists.They shock even the left-wing members of the Labour Party. The article continues:The militants are distributing a flood of militant literature which calls upon the miners to: grab the pits and run them to provide cheap or free coal to the people; institute workers' control of the mining industry and all ancillary trades without further compensation; combat any 'intimidation' during strikes and demonstrations by 'creating mobile defence teams with armed wings'…930 There have been some disgraceful scenes during recent picketing. The article says:Set up: if union branches block militancy. Though only a handful of people are involved at the moment—top Coal Board people regard them as 'insignificant'—there is concern among senior union officials that their numbers will increase.The article continues:The calls to action are among 12 programme and policy statements made in The Mineworker, described as the political organ of Mineworkers' Internationale. This is edited by 24-year-old Dave Douglass.He is known as "Dave the Ripp". He is a coal ripper in the Yorkshire mines. He wrote in his editorial column:The workers are determined, even with the knowledge that a sell out is likely, to go forward and wreak as much damage as possible on capitalism within the time available. For the pay claim is relatively unimportant.The House should know that. All too often we hear from the Opposition that industrial action is being taken in respect of pay claims, but it appears that pay claims are not important and that action is taken in an attempt to get British industry under the control of the workers. Neither side of the House would benefit from that.
I could go on to talk about communications, but I will merely read an article in the News of the World of 19th November which says:Workers in both TV and the Press should be allowed to participate in the selection of news and documentary material.That sounds awfully nice. But then we must consider the roots of the group. The article says:The group has its roots in commercial TV—roots that have spread to newspaper union 'chapels' (normal office trade union branches). Among its supporters are Neal Ascherson of The Observer, Roy Bull of the Scotsman, Gus Macdonald of Granada's World in Action and Bryn Jones, industrial writer to the Daily Mirror. Mr. Jones, then father (chairman) of the Daily Mirror chapel, was among the first of the new Fleet Street militants to arouse national newspaper journalists.A course of action which this House—[Interruption.] It is well worth reading. I could continue quoting example after example which the newspapers have given. I could quote Frank Chapple, who knows exactly what is happening within the electricity undertakings as well as other undertakings. Many hon. Members will know what communist infiltration does to the branches. I spent many 931 years as chairman of a branch. I was a victim of infiltration from the Communist Party.
The House must face the problem. Industrial democracy is under attack. The infiltrators seek small but powerful positions as shop stewards within our various unions and organisations.
What is the solution. Clearly it is for the union leaders to combat the menace within their own organisations. The Donovan Commission, although not dealing with this aspect of industrial relations, had a recommendation to make at pages 698 and 699. I will read it because it was touched upon this afternoon by the hon. Member for Tottenham who sought the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9. It says:The second condition is the revision of union rules on shop stewards. In many rule-books shop stewards, or their counterparts, are mentioned only because the union relies upon them to collect subscriptions. The representative functions of stewards are referred to with surprising infrequency. The rules of the Transport and General Workers' Union and of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, for example, say nothing about such functions. The rules of the Amalgamated Engineering Union leave it to the District Committees to define the powers of shop stewards with the Executive Council's approval 'subject to national agreements.'I could go on and on. The Commission recommends:There should be a clear statement as to the authority within the union to which the shop steward is finally responsible and which can in case of need suspend or dismiss him from office.The Commission recommends at paragraph 4:The rules should try to give more guidance than is now usual about the action which a steward may take on his own authority or as a result of a meeting of members. This means establishing the relationship between a meeting and the branch. It should be made clear that neither is entitled to take decisions which are at variance with those arising out of factory, company or industry-wide agreements to which the union is party.It concludes at paragraph 699:Such rules will make it reasonable to expect stewards (and their members) to act constitutionally, since they will at last be able to perform their functions within the compass of the rules. They will help to create a situation in which trade unions could properly be expected to discipline the small minority of shop stewards who at time abuse their position.932 The public are right to demand that these problems be solved eventually by the House if the trade union movement does not do so. The problems are reflected upon the millions of people who are members of the trade union movement. There are 23 million people working in this country and 10 million are registered with the TUC. If only they would attend their branch meetings and cast their vote to elect their officers they would not be landed with the officers they now have. Only 1 per cent. of the 10 million attend branch meetings, and less than 10 per cent. ever take part in any ballot.
§ Sir E. Brown
I will give way in a moment. Less than 10 per cent. of them take part in the electoral system within their union or organisation.
§ Mr. Skinner
In the miners' union, as distinct from some other unions, I agree, there have been many elections since the end of the war, and in almost half of those elections, on an almost universal sufferage, as many as 70 per cent. of the membership took part. Those elections resulted in some representative from Wales or Scotland being elected who was either a member of the Communist Party or a past member. Will the hon. Member consider that if there is a mood in the union membership at any time for such a person to be elected, whatever the participation level, the same thing will happen? It has nothing to do with the numbers of people taking part in the vote. There is plenty of evidence of this in the miners' union in particular but in many other unions as well.
§ Sir E. Brown
Applying that sort of logic to the House of Commons, one could conclude from what the hon. Gentleman said that elections, whatever the percentage polled, would result in a stalemate from one Government to another. That does not follow. My experience within the trade union movement has been that despite the membership in the factory or organisation—and I had had some 70 members—we never got more than 15 to a branch meeting, try as we might.
§ Sir E. Brown
That may be so. But it is a reflection of the general apathy 933 throughout the country. It is upon that basis that the test will have to come. If trade union members do not vote, they must not grumble if they get an "ism", either Communism or Fascism. In that case the freedom of the trade union movement is lost forever. If that became the situation we should have lost our freedom.
That is why I am bringing the matter to the House today, in the name of sanity, because it is now more serious. It must not go on. No voice is raised to bring it to the attention of Parliament. There is no controversy about it; we all know the truth about what is happening. There is no difference in knowledge between the two sides of the House. The only difference is that I have got to my feet and said it, whereas hon. Members opposite remain silent.
Let there be no mistake that, at the end of the day, the British public will judge by our attitudes and by what we do. People are thoroughly fed up with what is going on. We are all fed up. If hon. Members opposite have any courage, they will support the motion.
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)
I fail to understand what the speech of the hon. Member for Bath (Sir E. Brown) has been about. He has spoken about a deterioration in industrial relations and asked what the House should do about it. Those of us who took part in the debates on the Industrial Relations Bill in 1970 —we did not see the hon. Gentleman very often on those occasions—
§ Sir E. Brown
If the hon. Gentleman checks the Division records, he will see what my attendances in the House were. I was here all the way through.
§ Mr. Orme
Division records and actually playing a part in debate are two entirely different matters.
The deterioration in industrial relations, in my opinion and the opinion of many of my hon. Friends can be directly related to the Industrial Relations Act. The increase in strikes and industrial strife, and the matters which have now been brought before the Industrial Relations Court, would never before in our history have created major industrial trouble.
934 It is significant that the hon. Member for Bath did not refer to the dispute now taking place, the dispute which has led to there being no newspapers today and which will lead to industrial stoppages this week, namely, the dispute between the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers and the Industrial Relations Court. The court has told the AUEW that it cannot decide who its own members are, and one "odd bod", so to speak, by the name of Mr. Goad, can create unprecedented industrial unrest. In my opinion, he is out to create mischief in this country, and he has done it, but if the Act had not been on the Statute Book there would have been no chance of that case going to the point of creating such industrial trouble as is now developing.
§ Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)
If the union's case is so strong, why did it not argue that case before the judge, according to the law? If its case is so strong, it could well have won it.
§ Mr. Orme
I concede that, if the union had gone to the court, it could well have made an excellent case. Even newspapers such as the Daily Telegraph have said that Mr. Goad has probably not got a strong case. He has not exhausted the union procedure, a very democratic procedure of appeal, and he has never gone to the membership in that sense. But the union did not go to the court because, in its opinion, the issue is of such importance in its own affairs that it is not prepared to accept the ruling of a court which it does not recognise, a court which is not operating within the terms of normal British law as we have known it in the past but a special court created for industrial relations. One could well call it the court for worsening industrial relations, for that is what has happened.
My union says quite frankly to the House and to the country that while this interference is maintained, and while the endeavour continues to put the free trade union movement in shackles, it is not prepared to concede the point.
A great deal is made of what Mr. Scanlon should or should not do, and what his views are in this respect. I wish to put on record that the decision not to participate in the working of the 935 court, to adopt a policy of complete non-co-operation, was taken by an overwhelming majority of the 67 lay members of our policy-making body for the four trade unions concerned.
§ Mr. Orme
No. I am developing an argument. That decision, taken by those 67 members, is binding upon the executives of the four unions and on the general executive. The engineering section executive, of which Mr. Scanlon is the president, and of which there are seven members who reflect distinctive points of view on industrial relations matters on many occasions, has twice considered this issue and has reached the unanimous decision—I mean unanimous, seven votes to nil—that the union may not violate the decision of its rank-and-file policy making body. Mr. Scanlon was not even called upon to vote. That is democracy, is it not?
The hon. Member for Bath talked a lot about democracy and the way in which people get into important positions in the trade union movement, whether by large majorities, with large participation of the membership, or not. Anyone who has taken a keen interest in this matter knows that those of us on this side who have argued these matters before have always advocated the fullest participation by all trade union members in the running of their unions. In fact, there is far more interest and far more active participation than is often acknowledged.
If a union has reached a decision on non-participation, and if then a gentleman such as Mr. Goad makes trouble, should it then change its policy? Mr. Goad has taken a stand on so-called principle. I shall not go into his case. He has been in and out of the union, he worked during an official dispute, and we learned a short time ago that he is so principled that he will settle for £30,000 and leave the industry to get on with its own business. This is the gentleman who is this week causing disruption.
The other people who have created disruption and who are creating disruption still are the Government and, in particular, the former Solicitor-General, now the Minister for Trade and Consumer 936 Affairs. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is probably responsible for more industrial disputes since 1970 than any trade unionist could ever be said to be.
I address myself now to my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice). I do not think that it behoves him to criticise, or, indeed, to interfere in, the internal democracy of my union in the way he did this weekend, giving succour to the enemies of the trade union movement. My right hon. Friend need only look at some of the Press headlines, from which it would appear that my right hon. Friend supported those people who are now hampering the British trade union movement. I know that is not his intention. He has been put into that position by his statements and utterances. It is not consistent with the manner and policy of the Labour Party. Looking at conference decisions, I do not believe the Parliamentary Labour Party has even discussed this matter. Individual Members, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) and the hon. Member for East Ham, North say different things. Different people make policy statements on behalf of the Party. This subject is of major importance.
I say that in no form of personal animosity. I have never had a personal word with my right hon. Friend about this. His actions and statements on the BBC yesterday will have dismayed tens of thousands of members who were preparing to take action to defend the AEWU. My union's life is at stake. It is preparing to fight for that life. I support the actions of my union. I know there can be two points of view about this matter. There can be difficulties.
§ Mr. David Mitchell
On a point of order. The hon. Gentleman is making declarations in great detail about certain matters to which most hon. Members in this House are not privy. Could we be told what was said by the hon. Member which is now being attacked?
§ Mr. Orme
I am referring to the statement made by my right hon. Friend concerning the AEWU dispute on the "World at One" yesterday lunchtime. 937 Those of us who follow industrial affairs know what is going on. The hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. David Mitchell) obviously does not. This is a serious matter, about which we feel deeply concerned. We in this country are undergoing a traumatic experience with regard to industrial relations. Those of us who work for better industrial relations, and who argued the case throughout the consideration of the Industrial Relations Bill must pose the issues because they are of fundamental importance to the Labour and trade union movements.
§ Mr. Reg Prentice (East Ham, North)
I shall make some comment later on what the hon. Member said. But will he acknowledge one point? In my position as spokesman for the party on employment it would be inappropriate and cowardly if I made no public reference and refused to answer questions publicly on this matter.
Would my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Stanley Orme) further acknowledge, when he speaks of his union's fight, that his union is taking an attitude in this case in relation to the court which is different from that of most other unions and of the TUC? There is more than one direction in which trade union loyalty points on an issue on this kind.
§ Mr. Orme
I would not accuse my right hon. Friend of not having the courage to state his convictions. He has done that on a number of occasions. I hope he feels it justifiable for me to put the opposite point of view, though it be in public, because the matter is of such importance.
I recognise the second point made by the right hon. Member, namely the difference between the policy of my union and that of the TUC. That is a fair point to make. My union decided, without going to the TUC, to take this stand alone. They have supported other similar actions. They recognise that the subject of industrial relations in this country is serious. But there is a new feeling in the trade union movement of workers' participation. It is not a question of a trade union leader dictating policy to the trade union membership. The AEWU leadership has not instructed its membership. It has asked its membership what action it is prepared to take in this regard.
938 It is against that serious background of industrial relations that we have had unrest since 1970 and the doubling of strikes. Picketing was not even an issue in the industrial relations field before 1970. During the passage of the Bill we challenged the then Secretary of State for Employment, now the Home Secretary, to produce evidence of violence on the picket lines which could be used as evidence during that debate. The Minister was not able to produce it. The Bill makes every major issue a political one. The issues are no longer industrial but have become political.
The minor issue concerning Mr. Goad, which would otherwise have been dealt with in a manner satisfactory to the union and Mr. Goad, could have been resolved without effort. The issue concerning that gentleman has now caused the cessation of the publication of newspapers and has created trouble in the docks and in the engineering industry. By that sort of action an individual who wishes can create trouble.
The test of the situation is how major employers have been affected by the Industrial Relations Act. How many major employers have been to the Industrial Relations Court since the Act came into being? Nobody can name one. How often have we heard about the implementation of an agency shop?
§ Mr. Orme
That was a subsidiary company. No major employer in general industry has been to the Industrial Relations Court.
The AEWU has been able to reform the agreement with the engineering employers. That action has been taken by means of free collective bargaining. There is no other way.
In our society there is free collective bargaining, where the employers and trade unions can operate. The Industrial Relations Act is the cause of the trouble. When there is such an Act the trade unions are put into a legal strait-jacket. The situation will continue with cases such as those of the five Pentonville dockers and Mr. Goad. Nobody knows what will happen tomorrow. This does not help the country's economy. It does not assist the trade union movement. It 939 is changing the industrial relations atmosphere.
I accept that there is an important issue here. We live in a mixed economy where the profit motive operates but where a strong trade union movement is in a position to bargain and negotiate with the employers. That situation will continue. The Industrial Relations Act sets out to soften, divert, diminish the authority of the trade union movement. But it has not succeeded. It has shattered industrial relations which some trades unions have built up over a generation.
People such as Hugh Scanlon and Jack Jones are noted for their word. They keep to an agreement when it is made. Nobody can point to any agreement which Mr. Jones or Mr. Scanlon has ever advocated that their members should break. When members have broken agreements Mr. Scanlon and Mr. Jones have been the first to uphold them. That goes for most trade union leaders who live in a real industrial world, where one has to strike bargains by means of free collective bargaining. We heard claptrap in today's opening speech. If the best the hon. Member can do is to read extracts from the News of the World, words fail me. Yet the hon. Lady the Member for Keighley (Miss Joan Hall) said it was an excellent speech.
I should like to warn Parliament that unless something is done about the Industrial Relations Act the situation will worsen, not get better. The case of Mr. Goad has arisen almost by accident, not by design. This sort of situation will continue to develop, and it will bedevil industrial relations. It is for that reason that many of us on this side of the House oppose the motion and the hypocrisy with which it was moved.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Sir Frederick Bennett (Torquay)
Before coming to the substance of my speech, I want to comment on the speech made by the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme). He complained that the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Sir E. Brown) did not meet his favour and was a lot of claptrap, partly because my hon. Friend quoted a number of facts from a newspaper. That was an odd comment. As soon as my hon. Friend rose, he was challenged on the 940 basis, "Do not offer generalities—give names". My hon. Friend thereupon proceeded to give names and is now accused of having resorted to the authority he found for giving those names.
§ Sir F. Bennett
It would not be the first time that right hon. and hon. Members on both sides have used newspapers as the source of information they convey to the House—and that includes no less a person than the Leader of the Opposition, who is only too pleased to search through newspaper columns for anything which matches his mood of the moment.
One half of the speech of the hon. Member for Salford, West was about something that is a secret from the rest of us. I hope that the right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) will let us into the secret of what he is supposed to have done wrong. It is not necessarily the case that the fact that one misses a particular broadcast during a weekend shows that one is not interested in industrial relations. But I have sufficient confidence in the right hon. Gentleman—I hope that it will not cause him embarrassment—to know that what he said, whether the hon. Member for Salford, West agrees or not, would be based on commonsense.
I am not one of those who believe that it matters whether Mr. Goad is a brave or a pitiable man or any other sort of man. But it is important to refute what the hon. Member for Salford, West said —that it is because of Mr. Goad that we are seeing these strikes. We are seeing these strikes because leading trade unions have refused to go before the National Industrial Relations Court. They are taking that attitude, and have always done so, quite regardless of Goad or no Goad—a fine or brave man or anyone else. They are simply not prepared to submit to the jurisdiction of the court and it is because of that that we are having these strikes. To drag in Mr. Goad's name, good, bad or indifferent, is irrelevant.
The other half of the speech of the hon. Member for Salford, West was strong on the subject of motivation. I listened to it with great interest. But the motion deals with a trend which was developing in this country long before the 941 Industrial Relations Act came into force. There has been a challenge that one Member or another on this side of the House did not take a significant part in the proceedings of that Act. I frankly admit that I did not. I supported the Government, but I do not mind saying—I said this outside as well—that from the start I was doubtful whether the measures would succeed in what it was intended to achieve because I did not feel that there were sufficient reserve practical powers in the State to be able to deal with the exacerbation that the Act would cause amongst certain types of trade unionists. Yet to say that the Act has anything to do with today's motion is simply a diversion.
I wish to quote a number of statements relating to the central point of this motion to show, whether hon. Members opposite believe it or not, that it has nothing to do with an attack on trade unionism or trade unionists. I cannot imagine a modern community without trade unions playing a useful and effective role. What we are complaining about is not the existence of trade unions but the abuse of trade unionism by small minorities.
I will quote one or two comments to illustrate what is behind the motion. One is by my hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. He said:There are a few—not very many but a few—in industry today whose political ideologies require them to take such action as they can to impede and destroy our industrial progress, who take advantage of the well meaning, who disguise their motives by a pretence of loyalty to one or other section of the community, whose purpose is to create chaos so that our system of society should be changed. One should not be deceived by the smallness of their number. One should read one's history and find that a small number of determined people can accomplish a very great deal.My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said:There are active in our society small but virulent minorities who would like to see the whole present structure of our society destroyed and who believe that economic failure is the best way to bring it about.It is fair to say, following the speech of the hon. Member for Salford, West, that these two speeches were made subsequent to the Act.
As I have said, what we are dealing with is a trend which has been steadily 942 building up over the last 15 years or so. In June 1966, years before even the Labour alternative to the Industrial Relations Act was brought into the open, the then Prime Minister made statements which is is worth quoting and putting again on record because they were made by the Opposition when they had the responsibility of office. Before the passing of the Industrial Relations Act, which we are told now is the basis of the whole problem, the present Leader of the Opposition said:It is difficult for us to appreciate the pressures which are being put on men I know to be realistic and reasonable, not only in their executive capacity but in the highly organised strike committees in the individual ports, by this tightly knit group of politically motivated men who, as the last General Election showed, utterly failed to secure acceptance of their views by the British electorate, but who are now determined to exercise backstage pressures, forcing great hardship on the members of the union and their families, and endangering the security of the industry and the economic welfare of the nation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th June 1966; Vol. 730, c. 43.]When the right hon. Gentleman was challenged by outraged so-called supporters from his own side, he promised to come back a week later and give further details. He did so and said:The House will be aware 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 this country in any sector of industry in which that apparatus fails to concern itself."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th June 1966; Vol. 730, c. 1613.]He went on to give a number of names of individuals—I will not trouble the House with them unless requested—who were, he said, intimately concerned with determined militancy in the trade union movement in relation to the seamen's strike.
So far so good. That was back in June 1966. It is only a few weeks ago that the head chameleon of the Labour Party, when he was referring to the possibility of Communists in the trade unions having an effect on industrial relations, made a most bitter attack on my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Selwyn Gummer), who is currently one of the vice-chairmen of the Conservative Party and who had made a speech whose virulence and strength in regard to the effect of the Communist Party was 943 milk and water compared with what the Leader of the Opposition said in 1966.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
As well as quoting what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said in 1966, perhaps the hon. Gentleman would quote some of the speeches made by Labour Members at that time, including myself, in relation to the arguments put by my right hon. Friend, which were regarded then as being as silly as the arguments being used at the present moment.
§ Sir F. Bennett
I am grateful for the additional evidence that I have just received showing that the Leader of the Opposition had the guts to make the statement and had to come back to the House a week later with further details because of the outrage he had caused to what I call his so-called supporters. With grateful thanks I now include the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) in that group—to satisfy him.
Much as I should appreciate the opportunity, it is not my job to refer to speeches from every right hon. and hon. Gentleman opposite who has diverted from his party leadership during the past 10 years. If I did, I should still be speaking at least two and a half days from now.
I return to the quotations from not only Conservative but responsible trade union and Labour Party sources, any one of which would have supported the motion we are debating. For I do not believe that the hon. Member for Walton would go so far as to suggest that the Leader of the Opposition is anti-trade union. However, we have the case of Mr. Frank Chappell, a former Communist President of the Electrical Trade Union, who said:Working for the Communist Party is like being part of a ruthless industrial and political Kray Brothers organisation. It is like a religion run by gangsters. They work on a simple policy. Their task is to wriggle their way up from the shop floor to decision-making positions in key industries.That would be strong stuff even for a Member of the Monday Club, let alone a prominent Labour supporter.
I continue with a quotation from Mr. Ray Gunter—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] 944 If a groan is to greet every instance to which I refer when someone has varied from the official Labour Party policy on certain matters, there should be a fair number of further vacancies on the Opposition benches, including the hon. Member for Walton.
Only a few days ago Mr. Ray Gunter said:I think there is a very grave threat indeed. There are today many factions bent on destroying the free society we think is ours.
§ Sir F. Bennett
I do not know, but if I discover subsequently I will write to the hon. Gentleman.
I hope that there will be some extra groans ready because I am about to refer to the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley). Groans please? May we have some groans? The right hon. Gentleman said:The tragedy of recent events is that ordinary decent men have been encouraged to believe that the wreckers, a tiny proportion of the total union membership, speak for their interests in combating Government policy.No groans!
I now turn to Mr. Bob Dark, a former Communist, who said something very interesting:It is never necessary for the party to have overwhelming numbers in a factory to bring it into line. I know a factory where some 2,000 workers were employed. Of its 12 shop stewards, six were Communists and there was a fraction of 30 party members among the workers. The secret, of course, lay with the six shop stewards. The party only controlled one in every 60 of the workers, but controlled half of the shop stewards.Finally, in this category—not of Conservatives—of people who would have supported the motion were they here today, but including, if he were honest, the Leader of the Opposition in view of his comments which I have just read, I refer to the late Lord Carron, a very responsible and respected member of the Labour Party. I bring in this quotation because I expected one retort today would be that all this trouble came about because of the Industrial Relations Act. On the contrary, I have said that this trouble began at least as early as 1955. I will come to the history later. Long before anyone had thought about the 945 Industrial Relations Act, Lord Carron, then President of the AEU, said:Surely it does not require a genius to see the linkage between events divorced in geographical location but identical in nature and expression, The docks, building sites, and other spheres of activity all bear the same stamp and have the same origin.That was not bad from someone speaking 17 years ago, and it can hardly be attributed to the passing of the Industrial Relations Act.
The point of the motion is to indicate, I repeat, not an attack on the trade unions, but, on the contrary, an attempt to try to show to them and to their rank and file membership how they are being duped and in what dangerous paths they are being led.
So far as one can trace from reading post-war history regarding the Communist movement in this country, there is no doubt that in the first flush of our ending the war as allies of the Soviet Union there was a considerable feeling of sympathy for and kinship with our great Communist ally. This showed itself in the comparative success in parliamentary and municipal elections in a period when, for a very short time, it looked as though there was at least a chance that Communism would be able to gain some strength in this country through the ordinary use of the polls whether at national or municipal level.
The Soviet Union then began to show its true self. We had the ruthless occupation of the Baltic States and the inclusion by force of all the satellite states of Eastern and Central Europe within its empire. We then had the first real cold douche to Communist fellow traveller sympathisers in this country—the savagery of the rape of Hungary. At that moment, tracing the poll figures, we see that Communism through the ballot box rapidly started to lose its appeal, which in any case from the start had been only minimal.
If anything else were needed to make sure that Communism would never reach a significant situation in either this House or local councils, it came finally as recently as the events in Czechoslovakia.
§ Sir F. Bennett
There is no comparison. If the hon. Gentleman wants to 946 drag in Suez, I suggest that he puts his name down for the ballot, as I did, and trusts his luck to getting it drawn out as a subject for debate.
Continuing this theme, in the 1950s the Communists started to alter their whole technique in this country. They began to realise that there were two ways forward if they wanted to increase their influence here. One was by their support of bogus organisations and associations with high-sounding and high-falutin' names, more of which have been proscribed by the Labour Party.
The second and more significant was their realisation that the trade unions in this country offered a splendid area for the accretion of power for one very good reason which in many ways is a credit to our people. The average trade unionist in this country, when he has finished his day's work, wants to go home, listen to the radio, watch television, go to a football match, or anything else he fancies. The electorates, therefore, among such a body of men are nearly always limited—although there are exceptions—to small groups of politically motivated men who are prepared to manipulate the voting machine in a manner which would be unthinkable were they to try it at the ordinary polls.
Faced with the decline of the Communist Party in electoral terms, and before its full strength had been shown in the trade union movement, there were two occasions in the House that I can remember when Labour leaders of great distinction—first Lord Attlee and then Mr. Gaitskell—decided that the moment was ripe to cleanse their party of the infiltrators from the extreme left who were giving the Labour Party a bad name. There is not one hon. Gentleman opposite who does not know that what I am saying is true. One can remember as a result of the attempts by Lord Attlee, the disappearance from the House, because they failed to get support at elections as Labour Party candidates, of three or four members who, it was decided —by the Labour Party, not by us—were guilty of some form of subordination to Communist influences.
The second major cleansing operation was in 1961 under Mr. Gaitskell when a decision was taken that a further effort was needed to try to root out members of the Labour Party who, apart from any 947 other considerations, were damaging the Labour Party's electoral good name. It was found at that time—and I say this advisedly to show how far the rot had set in—that the chief press and publicity officer of the Labour Party as a whole—he had held that post for 16 years—was not only a Communist sympathiser but was a paid agent of the Soviet Union, and that over a period of four years had been receiving sums varying up to £120 at a time from one of the satellite states.
If hon. Gentlemen opposite want me to do so, I am prepared to give his name but I suspect that they may know enough about the person to whom I am referring not to press me to do so.
§ Sir F. Bennett
I am only too delighted to give his name—Mr. Arthur Bax.
It would be nice to know that while all those reverses were going on at the political level the Communists and their sympathisers within the trade union movement had suffered similar reverses, but unfortunately that is not true. The position today is that in the TUC itself, about whose wisdom and balance as a whole none of us would be foolish enough to argue or dispute, at least three members have strong present or past extreme left affiliations.
It is also the fact that today 25 of the 42 people on the National Executive of the Communist Party of Great Britain are active trade unionists, and 15 of them are leading ones. If I am again told to be brave it will take a long time to read out the names of the 15 or more people involved. Perhaps it might nevertheless be worth reading them so that when their names next crop up in the headlines connected with a strike not only we in this House but the duped workers themselves may recognise some of them.
Those concerned are: Mr. David Bellman, Mr. Les Burt, Mr. Richard Etheridge.
§ Mrs. Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)
I wonder whether my hon. Friend would give the names of the unions concerned. That might be of assistance.
§ Sir F. Bennett
Yes, certainly. They are: Mr. David Bowman, a member of 948 the National Union of Railwaymen; Mr. Les Burt, a member of the Electrical Trades Union, Mr. Richard Etheridge, a member of the Associated Engineering Union, a frequent AUEW delegate to the annual conference of USDAW and, incidentally, in another rôle, the political circulation organiser of the Daily Worker; Mr. Ramelson, a member of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, and the national industrial organiser of the Communist Party; the Birmingham city secretary, Mr. William Dunn, a member of the AUEW, the national election agent and member of the T & GWU, Mr. Reuben Felder; the Lancashire district secretary of the Associated Society of Woodworkers, Mr. Sidney Foster; the Yorkshire district secretary of the Clerical and Administrative Workers Union, Mr. Howard Hill; to show that the fair sex is not missing there is the national women's organiser Mrs. Margaret Annie Hunter, a member of ASTMS; Mrs. Nora Jeffrey who is still an active member of the Communist Party and a member of the Clerical and Administrative Workers Union; Mr. Frank Foley, the branch secretary of the Associated Society of Woodworkers; Mr. Jock Glenn, a member of the AUEW; Mr. James Hagan. a member of the National Union of Sheet Metal Workers and Coppersmiths; Mr. Daniel Lyons, a member of the T & GWU and a docker; Mr. Michael McKee, a miner and vice-president of the Scottish area of the NUM; Mr. Cyril Morden, a member of the AUEW; Mr. Page—not my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page), but Wilfred—the branch chairman of the National Union of Agricuitural and Allied Workers; Mrs. Irene Swann, a member of the National Union of Public Employees; another miner, Mr. Samuel Taylor, who is a member and official of the Yorkshire area of the NUM; Mr. Tocher of the AUEW, a full-time district secretary; Mr. Arthur Trew a member of the AUEW; and, finally, Mr. Hugh Wyper of the National Union of Sheet Metal Workers and Coppersmiths.
All those ladies and gentlemen have confessed to their Communist allegiance and are prominent members of trade unions. They are also members of the top executive of the Communist Party Executive of Great Britain.
§ Mr. Richard Buchanan (Glasgow, Springburn)
The first name which the hon. Gentleman read out was that of Mr. David Bellman who, he said, is a member of the NUR. If he is a member of the Communist Party he must have joined within the last 24 hours. As that was the first name read out by the hon. Gentleman I hope that the rest of his information is more accurate.
§ Sir F. Bennett
It is no use the hon. Gentleman saying "You have". If I have said that someone is a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain and he is not, I shall willingly write and apologise not only to him but to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Buchanan).
As I have said, out of the 42 Members of the National Executive of the Communist Party of Great Britain, 25 are members of trade unions, 15 at least of them being leading members. We have already heard about Mr. Lou Lewis, who played a notable part during the building strike. I ask Labour hon. Members who doubt the validity of what we say about this matter to read a book called "Violence and Intimidation", a dossier of examples of personal violence, injury, arson and damage during this year's building strike. [Interruption.] It was not compiled by the Economic League but by the National Federation of Building Trades Employers. Almost all the names given in it of those who stated that they suffered from intimidation are of workers or union officials, or the statements are by police or Press observers. The statements are in the main not employers' comments but those of people who suffered or witnessed the violence and intimidation. Grumbling Labour Members who read the book will find there statements by their so-called fellow workers.
It can fairly be said that if it is the wish of rank and file trade unionists to vote Labour, Conservative or Liberal at the polls, and to vote Communist or pro-Communist when they choose their trade union leaders, they have every right to 950 do so in a free society, odd though the choice may be. But what is not fair or reasonable is that men should be elected under false pretences to high office in the trade unions, many of them wielding far more influence than any individual hon. Member on either side does. Yet the constant claim of those with strong Communist affiliations who stand for high office in the trade unions do not declare themselves in the same way as when they stand openly supporting Communist aims. At Trade Union elections they say only that they are standing to support the workers' interests. If that is true, it must be a very odd electorate.
What would be said if it could be shown that any hon. Member had been elected on a 9.7 per cent. poll and yet claimed to be responsible for and to represent the whole body of a constituency? Such a person would be derided. In the case of Mr. Scanlon, to whom I am referring, one of the first things this democratic gentleman did when he was elected was to see that the rules were changed—
§ Sir F. Bennett
I shall give way if the Gentleman wishes.
When Mr. Scanlon, that democratic gentleman, had been elected on a 9.7 per cent. poll, one of the first things he did was to alter the rules so that he would not need to stand for election again. So far as I know, that is the only example of a life-president in this country, a position normally preserved for some of the more repressive areas of Africa. What wonderful company to keep—Hugh Scanlon, Kwame Nkrumah and the rest!
§ Mr. Orme
The hon. Gentleman is now revealing his true self. Moreover, he is falsifying the facts, which is a serious matter. Mr. Scanlon has been the elected president of the AUEW for 10 or 12 years. About two years ago the rules revision committee of the union, which comprises 52 rank and file members, altered the union's rules, not at Mr. Scanlon's behest, in a way that allowed people with only seven years' service left not to have to contest another election. That applied to Mr. Scanlon, Mr. Conway and other national officers.
951 The hon. Gentleman made a point about a 9.7 per cent. poll. Many of us have said that we want more members to vote in union elections. But there are some hon. Members who have been returned at by-elections on percentage polls of less than 40. Therefore, we must look at the general picture, and not just one incident.
§ Sir F. Bennett
Anyone who imagines that Mr. Scanlon had nothing to do with it, or that he was not consulted on a decision that led to his remaining in office for a great deal longer than any hon. Member could without an election, needs to have his head tested.
§ Sir F. Bennett
I withdraw nothing.
As regards the 9.7 per cent. poll, the most that the hon. Gentleman could do was to speak of Members who came here on a poll of under 40 per cent. It was precisely because 9.7 per cent. was so startling a figure compared with anything else that I raised the matter. I did not raise the election of Mr. Jack Jones in a 20 per cent. poll, which is still a great deal less than the 40 per cent. to which the hon. Gentleman referred. Therefore, I have nothing to change in my statement that Mr. Scanlon was elected to hold a position of power in a way that would have been totally unacceptable for any hon. Member on either side, and to wield very much more power.
We could adduce a great deal more evidence to show the way in which a small minority of ruthless men are trying to interfere with the industrial well-being of the country. Except for a handful of Labour Members who are too blind, do not want to see or have some other reason for not seeing, every Opposition Member knows that what I have said is absolutely true. If I am wrong and have made wrong statements, not one of those statements has been more severe than their own party leader made only a few short years ago.
§ Sir F. Bennett
I am not giving way. I am aware that some of the Leader of the Opposition's colleagues think that he was as wrong as they think I am, but that is a matter for them to deal with in their own internal battles. I find the difference of opinion rather odd, because a couple of days ago I read a speech by the Leader of the Opposition in which he said that he was happy to announce that the Labour Party was now totally united. Perhaps Labour Members had better have another meeting upstairs on Wednesday evening to resolve the matter. [Interruption.] I am glad to have more and more secrets given to me today.
In this country political sabotage and subversion by a small but evil minority of dedicated men who support the Communist Party and allied extreme Left parties are increasing, and promise to go on increasing unless checked. They are Communist or near-Communist dominated and controlled despite the variety of titles they adopt in pursuit of them. Their effect on the economy has passed beyond the serious stage.
In the result, the rôle of the trade unions—this at least should strike a chord with some Labour Members—has been reduced to a secondary one, as has their power to negotiate with employers. If Opposition Members think that I am wrong in that, I wish they could have listened to some of the private conversations I have had with leading trade unionists in the past few days, since my motion appeared on the Order Paper—[Interruption.]—I do not know why the hon. Gentleman keeps on talking about the Bahamas. [An HON. MEMBER: "Or Torquay."]—I do not spend all my time even there. I occasionally come to London. I am here today for this debate.
Even more important, whether hon. Members opposite like it or not, the rank and file worker on the site and in the factory is totally unaware of what is overtaking him. If he is aware, as was the case in the building dispute, he has been too afraid to do anything about it on his own for fear of reprisal.
These political subversionists are adequately financed and very well disciplined, 953 organised and co-ordinated. This, together with their fanatical ruthlessness, is where their real strength lies.
Faced with these facts, which no one can deny unless he has some strange reason for wanting to deny them, what can the House and the country do? The newspapers have given a lead. There is one specific thing the Government can do. After the appalling examples of the abuse of picketing which occurred in several disputes, I want the Government quickly to conclude their review of the law of picketing to ensure, first, that in future it is adequately and fully enforced, and if necessary it will have to be reinforced and the law will have to be strengthened.
In the last resort it lies in the hands of all of us how much we can get over to the country the message that a great movement is being perverted and subverted by this small minority of men to whom we have made repeated reference. A number of newspapers have already given a lead. It is up to the House and many others to follow that lead and to bring the truth home to all of us and not just some of us.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
There are about 800,000 workers unemployed. There are cities with great social problems where people are crying out for housing and children are still taught in out-of-date, backward schools. Yet, knowing of these immense problems which need to be tackled, the best that hon. Members opposite can do is to come up with this witch-hunting McCarthyite-type Motion That is my strongest condemnation of hon. Members opposite.
When I joined the trade union movement as an apprentice I was told by certain newspapers that all strikes, all industrial problems and all the issues about which workers were concerned, were in reality the fault of members of the Communist Party or of subversive elements who were only there to stir up trouble. Since the Russian Revolution, and even before it, there have been people in Britain who have had what I might call the conspiracy theory of trade unionism, as though all the issues that involve workers in industrial disputes were purely the responsibility of small groups of subversive people. It is not true. It never has been true.
§ Mr. Heffer
It never will be true. Industrial conflict in Britain, as in every other capitalist country, arises from the very nature of the system of society in which we live. Employers want to make the maximum amount of profit. Workers want to sell their labour for the highest amount of money they can get. Thus there is a conflict of interest between workers and employers. As long as that situation exists there will inevitably be conflict between the two groups.
I will tell hon. Members opposite something about the nature of the Communist Party. Hon. Members opposite are all experts on the Communist Party. They all know about its stirring up trouble. Immediately after the war the British Communist Party's line was, "We ought not to have a Labour Government. We should have a National Government to include progressive Tories like Mr. Winston Churchill and Mr. Eden." Part of the British Communist Party's argument was that we should export or die and therefore the workers should not become involved in industrial conflict.
Between 1945 and 1948, when the line was changed by the Cominform, Communist shop stewards tried to head off British workers from fighting for their rights in industry. When the workers in Liverpool went on strike in the shipping industry in 1947, the British Communist Party tried to stop the dispute.
The assertion that Communists are always trying to stir up trouble in industry is not borne out by the historical facts. I would not expect hon. Members opposite to know what those of us know who are based in the trade union movement and who understand its history. Hon. Members opposite get it only from the East-West Digest or from some other such document issued by Aims of Industry or the Economic League.
It has been suggested that the Communists are today the great revolutionary force. In fact, in the eyes of most young people of the Left the Communist Party is composed of the most old-fashioned bunch of fuddy-duddies one could find. There are organisations called the Socialist Labour League and the International Marxist Group. Hon. Members should read the multifarious documents 955 which are published. I cannot keep up with them. They spring up overnight.
Communist Party shop stewards tend nowadays to be the most conservative ones. Most of our lads in the Labour Party are much more to the Left in the industrial struggle. Hon. Members should get up to date and learn something about what goes on in industry.
I come to the question of why Communists are sometimes elected to trade union office. My union used to have a district secretary who was elected every year. Regrettably, we changed our system. In those days district officers and members of the management committee were elected annually. There was a man on Merseyside of Catholic origin known as Leo McGree. Leo was elected every year with the biggest vote. In the branch of which I was chairman I used to ask for nominations for district secretary every year and one man, a member of the Roman Catholic Church and a member of the Labour Party, would immediately nominate Leo McGree. I once went to this chap and I said, "I don't understand this. You are a Catholic, you are a member of the Labour Party. You always nominate Leo McGree. Why?" He replied, "Because he is the best trade union official I know." He got the votes in my union because he was considered to be the best trade union official.
When he stood in the General Election for the Communist Party it was possible to count on one hand the votes he received. Politically, the people did not want him, but he was certainly wanted as an industrial organiser in my union. Go to any building trade employer in Liverpool and he will tell you that when Leo McGree was the district secretary and when he gave his word about an agreement, that agreement was never broken. Let us get this matter into a proper perspective.
Hon. Members opposite are trying to create a McCarthyite witch-hunt atmosphere. That is something we do not want in this country. It is designed to deflect us as a people from what is causing industrial unrest. The basic reason why we have a dispute in the newspapers, why whole sections of industry are closed down over wage deals, is the stupidity of the Government in introducing the Indus- 956 trial Relations Act. The Government cannot say they were not warned. We warned them every day when the Act was going through this House. We said it would not make any contribution towards solving industrial relations problems. In an atmosphere like this, Left-wing groups will always be ready to pounce and become involved. A person in a factory might have been saying, "We ought to go on strike" for years, but no one will take the slightest notice of him until this sort of atmosphere arises.
§ Sir F. Bennett
If what the hon. Gentleman is saying is correct, will he spend a minute or two telling us why his own party leaders spent so much of their energies condemning, in almost the same terms that I have used, the activities of the Communist Party among trade unions —long before the passing of the Industrial Relations Act?
§ Mr. Heffer
I refer the hon. Gentleman to the speeches which I and my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) made in the House during that period. We are not saying anything different now. A number of trade union leaders have been quoted. My right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) made some comments yesterday. If anyone does not know what he said he ought to get a copy of the Glasgow Herald. It is clearly set out there. Jim Conway is known to be on the right wing of our movement. He is the General Secretary of the AUEW. I want to quote what he wrote in this month's editorial of the AUEW Journal. He said:I have made mention that sooner or later we would find ourselves in practical opposition to the NIRC. The time has now come. Our policy as determined by National Conference and National Committee is quite clear. We are opposed to the Industrial Relations Act and all the legalistic adjuncts of that Act. It has been determined by National Conference that our opposition will be expressed in non-recognition and non-co-operation. This is not the individual choice of officers; it is the collective decision of the membership and as such will be obeyed.Our firm and unequivocal stand will result in our being criticised but much of the criticism will come from those who oppose our very existence and it is unlikely to give rise to much concern amongst members. Our opposition to the Act is based on considered judgment and not on short-term expediency … We must fight and express our opposition to the Act at all levels. To say that we have a duty to 957 obey a vicious piece of legislation when it becomes law is to take all reasoning away from the belief of democracy and law itself.I hope that my right hon. Friend will take note of that speech.
We ought not even to be giving the impression that any workers involved in fighting this law are wrong. What we should be doing is what I attempted to do on Friday—to spell out the alternatives, to say that we will not only repeal the Act but that we will deal with a number of things which need action.
§ Mr. Heffer
When the hon. Lady knows something about industrial relations I will give way. I am not being charitable just because the hon. Lady is a lady. I will not give way.
§ Mr. Heffer
If the hon. Lady sits down I will continue my speech. I said on Friday that the time has come to repeal the Industrial Relations Act. The Government should withdraw the Act and reverse their policy as they have reversed it on just about everything else, as they have reversed their policy on issue after issue. If they have any sense they will reverse their policy on this Act.
We have to set out the alternatives. I said on Friday that we would support the idea of a conciliation service that would be non-governmental, along the lines of the TUC-CBI agreement reached in August. We would introduce legislation to restore to trade unions the rights destroyed after the passing of the Act. We could then introduced a number of short Bills restoring the Commission on Industrial Relations to its rôle as an investigatory body making joint references and recommendations to both sides of industry.
We would introduce a Bill to improve safety and welfare and create an industrial health service. The recommendations in the Robens Report which proposed new legislation on safety should be adopted and improved. I believe that every shipyard and factory should have an elected safety committee with a safety officer whose task it would be to ensure that the safety laws were strictly adhered to. Shop stewards should be protected 958 by law and trade unions should be recognised by law. That is the sort of thing we should be doing with industrial relations.
These are the issues, the essence of industrial relations, not the rubbish and banter we have heard from Conservative Members. If hon. Gentlemen want to play their part in diminishing class conflict in industry, let them carry through most of the proposals in Donovan, which are the very opposite to what is contained in the Industrial Relations Act. They should put them into operation. On that basis hon. Members opposite would be making a genuine contribution to good industrial relations instead of uttering the rubbish we have heard this afternoon.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. David Mitchell (Basingstoke)
Perhaps we may remind ourselves that the motion we are debating condemnsa small minority of extremist, politically-motivated militants within the trade union movement".As I sat listening to the historical meanderings which the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) made through the history of the trade union movement in Liverpool it seemed to me that they bore little resemblance to the motion.
I came to this Chamber today expecting to find hon. Members opposite supporting the motion. I had expected many of them to be supporting it with enthusiasm. This is a curious time for the Opposition, when they find themselves having lost their deposit at Sutton and Cheam, when they find themselves having been unable to capture Uxbridge at the byelection as everybody expected them to do, when they find that they have lost one of their own seats to the Liberal Party. It is an almost unheard thing for an Opposition midway through a Parliament to fail in this way. Everybody knows that the main reason why this is so is the guilt by association from which hon Members in the Labour Party and candidates of the Labour Party suffer because of the extremist minority within the trade union movement. I can well understand the embarrassing position in which the right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice), for whom I have considerable respect, finds himself.
The lion. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) just now referred to the 959 present industrial dispute and the strike which is taking place, and told us that the decision—which is a decision to ignore the law—was taken by 67 lay delegates, and that far more people take part than many other people give credit for in the decision-making of the AEF. What also ought to be recorded is that under 10 per cent. of the membership of his union took part in the vote when Hugh Scanlon was elected president, and that considerably fewer took part in the vote which put into office the present Communist extremist group who dominate the executive of that union.
I want to stress that we are concerned with a minority. We are not concerned with the majority of good, sound, sensible trade unionists in the country who are as disgusted by the behaviour of this minority as, I am sure, is the right hon. Member for East Ham, North, whose broadcast on the subject has been referred to.
§ Mr. Mitchell
No. I am sorry, but I am under considerable pressure of time, and some of the speeches have been rather long, and I am anxious that mine should be rather shorter.
I am going to make three points as briefly as I can. I want to look at three types of extremist active in the country at present. Firstly those who choose to ignore the law of the land. Secondly there are those involved in assault and similar criminal activities. Third, there are those who egg them on and give them moral support.
Today there are trade union leaders who refuse to recognise the Industrial Relations Court. They think that they are continuing the fight against the Industrial Relations Bill, but, as every hon. Member of the House knows, it is no longer a Bill but the law of the land, and, as such, all of us are bound to obey it, whether we like it or not. This was very well summed up in the cartoon in the Sunday Express yesterday. It put it very forcefully. It shows Mr. Scanlon coming out of a meeting to find that somebody is driving away his car, and somebody says to him, "The gentleman is not stealing your car, Sir. He just doesn't agree 960 with a law—the law of property—and is staging a political strike against it."
There are in my constituency many people who do not like the income tax laws. There are many who do not like the capital gains tax laws. There are many who do not like the corporation tax laws. Many people do not like paying train fares. However, it is the law of the land that they should pay them, and the Industrial Relations laws are also laws of the land. Why should a particular trade union believe it is above the law and separate from the controls which operate throughout the land for the rest of us.
Indeed, it is worth pausing for a moment to recognise that in a civilised society it is only respect for the law and observance of the law which enables us to live in freedom in a civilised manner. Without that we would have the law of the jungle, and that is what inadvertently I hope, hon. Members have been sustaining this afternoon.
The Transport and General Workers' Union at one time decided that it would ignore the court, and we had the tragic situation in that it had a perfectly good defence which it could have taken to the court and by which it could have defended itself, and would not have had to pay away £50,000 of its members' money. It chose to ignore the court, and we know what happened. Now the engineering union is doing the same thing, tragically pouring away wholly unnecessarily the funds of its members, the weekly subscriptions provided by ordinary trade unionists up and down the country being manipulated and misused by their executive committee elected by less than 10 per cent. of the members.
I am glad that in this debate hon. Members have been honest enough to say that the strikes we are suffering this week are nothing to do with Mr. Goad, that they are to do with the Industrial Relations Court and whether the law of this land should be observed. I want the Minister, when he winds up, to tell us whether the leadership of this union is liable for inciting people to break their contract by the circular they have sent out which has been responsible for the start of this series of strikes which is to take place this week. I hope he will 961 let us know what, if any, redress can be sought in the courts of law.
I turn to the second group, those involved in assault and similar crimes. Like other hon. Members on both sides of the House I have read the statements reported in the News of the World and other reports about what has been happening. I do not propose to go through them all but there was the case of two coachloads of pickets who closed a site at Sheffield by abusing and threatening 12 men at work. Two coachloads to stop 12 men from working! The National Federation of Building Trades Employers, reported by the News of the World, said that on 11th AugustMilitants with pick handles chased men off a site at Rotherham. Next day three huts and an excavator caught fire at Sheffield after men ignored a picket call to stop work.These are examples of behaviour which has been going on recently and which has resulted in injury and damage.
The Federation sent its report to the Home Secretary, and I should like the Minister to tell us what the Home Secretary is doing about that report and whether we can expect some prosecutions to follow. I hope I do not embarrass the right hon. Member for East Ham, North when I say that I thoroughly concur in his remarks on these matters, which appeared in the News of the World, in which he said:I completely condemn people who try to use industrial relations as a means of wrecking society.How right he is. I would also like my hon. Friend to tell us whether the police have power to intervene to prevent these breaches of the peace. In other words, are they able to turn back a mass of pickets moving on to a site in such large numbers that by their very numbers they are intimidatory? We should know the answer to that question. Many trade unionists on both sides—the extremists and the rest—would like to know whether a breach of law is occasioned by the use of a large number of pickets, just by reason of the large number.
I turn from the assault brigade to the third group I mentioned, those who egg on and give moral support to extremists and militants. I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite to search their consciences—
§ Mr. Mitchell
The hon. Gentleman who should be searching his conscience says that I should not be so cheeky—
§ Mr. Mitchell
I must tell the hon. Gentleman that the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) last summer took part in a radio broadcast with me. I have given a warning to the hon. Gentleman that I shall raise this matter and I am sorry that he is not in his place. He probably would be embarrassed by being reminded of what he said. Following his broadcast I received a letter from someone who heard what he said in the following terms:The gist of Mr. Atkinson's remarks was however that people should quite deliberately break the law when they did not agree with it. Coming from a Member of Parliament I regard this as being a definite incitement to lawbreaking showing an almost criminal degree of irresponsibility.I believe that it is irresponsible, and that hon. Members who accidentally, intentionally, or in the heat of the moment may have allowed themselves to make such remarks inciting people to break the law should think seriously about it before going any further.
§ Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrew, West)
On a point of order. A reference was made to my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson), the purport of which was that his remarks were to be quoted. What followed was a quotation from someone else, a commentator—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
From what the hon. Gentleman is saying, it must be clear to him that it may be a matter of debate but it is not a point of order for the Chair.
§ Mr. Buchan
Further to that point of order. The point is that the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. David Mitchell) attributed to my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham remarks in a letter. With respect, if we are not to be respected by the Chair, the hon. Gentleman might obey the etiquette of the House and correct what he said.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I hope the hon. Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Buchan) will accept what the Chair has already said. It is not a point of order.
§ Mr. Mitchell
In case there should be any misunderstanding, I confirm that my understanding of the remarks made in that broadcast by the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) was precisely and exactly the interpretation placed upon them by the person who wrote to me.
§ Mr. Hughes
On a point of order. The hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. David Mitchell) made specific reference to the content of a broadcast discussion between himself and the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) and said that he had warned my hon. Friend that this matter would be raised. He has done nothing of the sort but has raised merely an opinionated reaction to those remarks.
§ Mr. Mitchell
I repeat that the gist of the remarks of the hon. Member for Tottenham was that people should deliberately break the law when they did not agree with it. We have this afternoon heard other hon. Members who have in effect said the same thing— Mr. Buchan: On a point of order. Do not the rules of the House govern the etiquette and good manners of the House on which, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you might give us some guidance? What the hon. Gentleman is saying is compounding the lack of etiquette already displayed.
§ Mr. Mitchell
I am aware that my remarks are coming rather close to the conscience of certain hon. Gentlemen opposite—
§ Mr. Mitchell
I will turn to my final point. I should be loth to find that the 964 measurement of my time today includes the time taken by interruptions. As everyone knows, a freeze has been imposed on wage deals. I understand that many hon. Gentlemen opposite are not in favour—
§ Mr. Mitchell
I, too, view such proposals with some misgiving. Many trade unionists do not want to see a permanent statutory control over wages. The vast majority of bargains which have been made have been reasonable but there has been an abuse by the militant minority—those whom I have already mentioned—who, by securing such extreme increases in wages have set at risk the whole concept of free wage bargaining. Hon. Members who have consciences on this subject, should think carefully about this.
§ Mr. Mitchell
Hon. Members who have taken part in this debate have been among those who, every time a dispute has been reported to the House, have been on their feet to egg on the extremists and the most militant in their extreme wage demands.
§ Mr. Mitchell
Hon. Members will be aware of the way in which the fraternal delegate from the Labour Party has gone round union conferences during the summer egging them on to the most extreme wage demands which have been largely responsible for putting at risk the right of free, open wage negotiations which the trade union movement regards as a most precious right.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Reg Prentice (East Ham, North)
On a debate on a Private Member's motion it is customary to congratulate the mover of the motion on his success in the ballot, on his choice of subject and on the speech which he has made. I follow that tradition in speaking of the subject, because I believe that we should have more frequent debates on industrial relations. My difficulty in pursuing this congratulatory technique is that the speeches we have heard from the hon. Members for Bath (Sir E. Brown) and Torquay (Sir F. Bennett)—coupled with that of the hon. Member for Rutland 965 and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) 10 days ago on a similar subject—have made it clear that hon. Gentlemen on the Government side are on the familiar and boring course of trying to identify and smear the trade union movement as a scapegoat for their own failures.
The past year, 1972, has been a record year for inflation, unemployment and industrial unrest. If any fraction of this trouble had occurred under a Labour Government the attack of Conservative Members would have been on the Government. As this has occurred under a Conservative Government, the technique is to find a scapegoat, a whipping boy, and that is the technique we have seen in operation this afternoon.
§ Mr. Prentice
Very clumsily done, with all the familiar techniques of exaggerated language, quotations taken out of context, generalisations from one or two bad examples and rather obscure muckraking. The nadir was that part of the speech of the hon. Member for Torquay in which he said that he had discovered 28 prominent members of the Communist Party and then put a trawl through British industry to find out what influence they had on it. He discovered a branch chairman here, a delegate there and someone he could only describe as an active trade unionist somewhere else. This is supposed to represent the Communist infiltration into British industry. All this is very silly indeed.
As for the speech made by the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. David Mitchell) who referred to violence in picketing and so on, I think that there have been a few highly publicised deplorable incidents but that it would be better if Conservative Members would recognise that the trade unions have joined in condemning these incidents and have given guidance to their members about peaceful and legal picketing. Indeed the Secretary of State for Employment, in a recent radio broadcast, paid tribute to Vic Feather and other trade union leaders on their attitude.
The hon. Gentleman quoted from a dossier by the National Federation of Building Trades Employers. That document should have been discussed between the employers' organisations and the construction industry unions. The employers 966 would have found the unions glad to discuss these matters and to co-operate in seeing that so far as practicable those who offend against the law in this way can be identified and dissociated from union office.
One of the difficulties about speaking on a motion of this kind is that one is put almost too much on the defensive. I do not want to be on the defensive this afternoon. Of course, there are in the trade union movement many failings, as one would expect in a massive organisation containing 10 million people. I include in those failings the undue degree of influence of small political minorities here and there—certain pockets of influence within certain trade unions, and often only temporary. If we are to talk about this problem at all, if it is a big enough problem to be worth debating in this House, let us see it against the whole perspective of what the trade union movement is doing.
Let us begin with the acknowledgment that trade unionism in Britain has done more than any other social force in this century to raise the status and dignity of the average man and woman at work. It has done this job in the vast majority of cases peacefully, moderately and without recourse to industrial action or threats of industrial action. Hundreds of difficult and complicated situations are solved every day by the efforts of trade unionists in consultation with management.
Let us further recognise that this success is due to the devoted work of a small band of full-time officers, overworked and in the main under-paid. They are supported by a much larger number of people who undertake voluntary work as shop stewards, branch officials or district committee members. Any debate on the problems of the trade union movement and industrial relations should acknowledge the debt that is owed by society to the vast majority of those who play an active role in the trade union movement. It is a debt which should be clearly acknowledged on both sides of the House.
As for the political views of the 10 million trade unionists, it is quite natural that they cover a wide spectrum. What on earth do we expect? Most active members of the trade union movement are good, sensible, social democrats, and I rejoice in that fact. But there are 967 variations to the Left and to the Right and there are lunatic fringes on both sides of the spectrum. On the one hand, there is Mr. Bernie Steer and on the other hand the hon. Member for Bath (Sir E. Brown) who at one time, I understand, was a delegate to the London Trades Council. I am against both because they are my political opponents and adopt political principles that are different from my own. Therefore, I oppose the influence of the Conservative trade union movement—a movement which the Conservative Central Office has tried hard, without much success, to make a major force over the years—and I oppose the various groupings of the extreme Left. These movements by and large are condemned by the majority of trade unionists.
The essential point to be remembered about the Communist Party or other extreme Left groups is that they have failed almost completely over many years to gain control of any major union, or a major part of a major union. They have been contained by the moderate elements in those unions, who have rejected their philosophy. That certain individuals have been elected to office has in most cases been due to their excellence as trade union officials. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) gave the interesting example of Mr. Leo McGree. Another example that comes to mind was the choice of Arthur Horner and Will Paynter as successive general secretaries of the National Union of Mineworkers. They were prominent members of the Communist Party, but they did a first-class job as general secretary and enjoyed the confidence of their executive committees, the majority of whom had a different political outlook. There are —and should be—individuals of this kind, be they Communist or Conservative, who are not representative of the general political philosophy of the main body of trade unionists but who are elected into office on their merits.
Is there a problem that within certain parts of the trade union movement there is too much influence by groups on the extreme Left? I would say yes, here and there, but nothing like on the scale which has been suggested in this debate. And if it occurs, we can ask why. It can occur in some industries because a management's policy in a particular 968 industry has been so bad that nothing short of an extreme response seems to be tolerable to the workers. This has been true of the docks industry over many years. The undue influence—at least I would say that it has been undue influence —from certain militant shop stewards in the dock industry has been made possible only by the tactics of dock employers over the years. It has been a rotten industry with rotten industrial relations, for which the employers have been mainly responsible.
One matter on which we all appear to agree is that more trade unionists should participate in their trade unions, taking part in branch work, elections and all the rest.
§ Mr. Skinner
As I tried to explain in an earlier intervention—and I hope that my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) was listening—there is little credence in the argument that if more people participate by taking part in the elections and in other ways the same kind of people will not come to the top. My right hon. Friend referred to Arthur Homer and Will Paynter. He must remember that they were elected general secretaries on a 70 per cent. turnout at every pit-head in the British Isles. The same thing applies in all these questions. Furthermore, my right hon. Friend should also remember how all three sections of the railway industry declared themselves on the subject of the Industrial Relations Act on a very high poll.
§ Mr. Prentice
My hon. Friend made the same sort of point, albeit a little more briefly, in an earlier intervention. I do not agree that what he said applies in all cases. I believe that in some cases a large vote would lead to the same result as a small vote but that in other cases it would not. We have to look at each case individually.
Whatever we say about the rôle of management or about the rôle of unions in all this, the central and most important question for this House clearly is to consider the role of the Government and of the Industrial Relations Act in the problems that we are discussing. If right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are serious in putting to the House the view that they want to encourage moderation in the unions, to encourage the election 969 of moderate officers, and to encourage the pursuit of moderate policies, the first conclusion that they have to come to is to get rid of the Industrial Relations Act, which makes the rôle of moderates very much more difficult and sets the scene for the extremist in a way that he could not have bettered if he had set it for himself.
§ Mr. Peter Rost (Derbyshire, South-East)
Does the right hon. Gentleman support those hon. Members behind him who said earlier that the law of the land need not be obeyed?
§ Mr. Prentice
Of course I wish to make some reference to this, because two of my lion. Friends referred to my remarks yesterday. But I make it clear now, as I did yesterday in my broadcast, and always have, that the main culprit in this is the Government and their persistence with the Act. The way that trade unionists should react to it is important, but the most important question for this House to consider is the kind of legislation that we have on the Statute Book. We should not be diverted away from the central political question which we have to face—
§ Mr. Prentice
The Government were warned in the summer. The dock strike took place at a time when the real issues in dispute between the employers and the dock workers had practically been settled within the framework of the recommendations of the Jones-Aldington Committee. It was an unnecessary strike. It would not have occurred if the Industrial Relations Act had not been on the Statute Book and if the procedures of the Industrial Relations Act had not been used by Midland Cold Storage Limited. I do not exonerate Midland Cold Storage from its share of the blame. Nor do I exonerate the five dockers who went to gaol. I think that they were wrong, and I said so at the time. But the main culprit was the Government in putting and keeping on the Statute Book a framework of legislation within which foolish employers and dedicated militants on the union side between them could contribute to a course of events which led to the dock strike.
At the time, we said in this House that situations of that kind would occur 970 again and again. Now it has ocurred again in the dispute over Mr. Goad. Let me put this to right hon. and hon. Members opposite. Are they satisfied with a law which has the effect of taking an issue which concerns whether one individual should be accepted as a member of a trade union and escalates it into a crisis which brings large numbers of people out on strike?
§ Mr. David Mitchell
Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that several of his hon. Friends said that this was not the issue which caused the strike—that it concerned the industrial Relations Act and not Mr. Goad? It is the observance of the law.
§ Mr. Prentice
I have given way twice to hon. Members opposite. I am not sure whether it was altogether wise to do so. I know what my hon. Friends said, and I want to deal with it in a moment. At present I am still trying to put this matter in the context of the Act itself. I do not want right hon. and hon. Members opposite to get away with the suggestion that this matter is the subject of an argument between right hon. and hon. Members on the Opposition benches.
There are differences between right hon. and hon. Members on this side of the House, just as there are between trade unionists about the National Industrial Relations Court. They are important differences, and no one seeks to paper over them. But we on this side of the House are united in saying that the Act is wrong and that it should go. We believe that the Act has contributed to 1972 being the worst year for industrial stoppages since 1926, and that 1973 may be worse again unless the Government see sense and repeal or amend the Act.
I have taken the view for many months—I did so as early as March or April, soon after the Act came into force—that the unions should recognise the existence of the Court. Certainly they ought not to initiate cases before the Court. They should not co-operate with it to that extent. But I have always thought it right that if they are brought before the Court by an employer or an individual they ought to defend themselves in the Court. This view has been accepted by the executives of the major unions one by one. The rail unions accepted it at the time of their dispute. The Transport and 971 General Workers' Union accepted it and has operated it in a series of cases in which it has been brought before the Court. The TUC annual conference in September rejected the AUEW resolution asking the unions not to go to the Court.
My view is in line with that taken by the majority of the trade union movement. I think that it is correct, on two basic grounds. First it is a matter of principle that the law of the land should be obeyed. If it is bad law, it should be changed by democratic argument, democratic election and the processes of Parliament. Meanwhile, it is the law of the land and should be obeyed as such. The second ground is one of tactics. It is not intelligent tactics to pursue a course which leads to a union's funds being depleted by unnecessary fines and to thousands of workers losing a day's pay just before Christmas in a strike which serves no purpose. Certainly it will not do anything to get the Act amended. If it has an effect on the situation, it will be a marginal effect the other way in confirming the views of those who believe that such an Act is necessary.
§ Mr. Heffer
I am sure that I am spelling out something which my right hon. Friend and every other right hon. and hon. Member on this side of the House knows. During the period of the Combination Acts, to start with print workers working for The Times were imprisoned for nine months for going on strike. They broke the law. All that they were trying to do was to improve their wages and conditions. They spent nine months in prison. That is only one example of the history of our movement. It has been a history of struggle against unjust class laws directed against the workers—
§ Mr. Heffer
I am not talking to the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Rost). I am talking to my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice). Does not my right hon. Friend agree that there are occasions, with unjust class laws such as this one is, when it is perfectly understandable that workers should make a stand and, as Vic Feather said in a speech earlier this year, refuse to recognise such an unjust law?
§ Mr. Prentice
It is not reasonable to compare the two situations. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) talked about the Combination Acts. He is talking about a period when trade unionism had no legal status and when working men had no votes. He is not talking about a free society. The long struggle since then has had two main features. The first has been the extension of the franchise stage by stage until every person over the age of 18 is able to take part in the choice of a Government and can vote to turn out a Government that lie does not like. Side by side with that has been the growth of the trade union movement and its establishment, until today when it is called, quite reasonably, one of the estates of the realm.
We are not discussing a situation in which men were faced with the necessity to break laws in order to take the first steps towards trade unionism. I support the memory of those men and of the Tolpuddle martyrs. I hope that I would have had the courage to join them if I had lived in that period. But there is no historical parallel between them and what is happening today.
The battle against the Industrial Relations Act was lost on 18th June 1970. If the trade union movement had co-operated in pulling out the votes of trade unionists and the families in the way that they should have done, we would have had neither a Conservative Government nor the Industrial Relations Act. What I want to ensure—and I am talking purely in practical terms now—is that the stance we take as a movement now and in the period ahead will help us get rid of this Government at the earliest possible moment and therefore of the Industrial Relations Act.
§ Mr. Orme
This is the point to which some of us have been trying to address ourselves. If we say that the fault lies with those workers who did not vote for the Labour Government in 1970, and thereby we should wait until the next election, when everything will be put right, the argument inside the Labour movement is that unless a fight is put up—and the AUEW is putting up a fight—against this most unjust law and the unjust National Industrial Relations 973 Court, we shall not have a Labour Government to change the law.
§ Mr. Prentice
Of course a fight must be put up. But I think that the way to conduct it is by the normal processes of democracy—by meetings, by debates in this House, by persuading people on the doorstep of the need for political change. That is the way to fight the Act. That is the way that we shall get rid of it. One of the arguments I have used against the AUEW in this situation is that it is not putting up an effective fight against the Act. I do not want to rub it in, but the news today is that 100,000 people are out on strike, and that is only about one-tenth of the engineering section of the union. Of course the trade union leaders have their problems. But if one is to try to beat the Act by industrial action, one needs a long general strike and nothing else, I do not believe in that in principle, but if I did I would want it to have some chance of succeeding. I would not want it to be ineffectual, because that simply gives the worst of both worlds.
The House should see the situation in perspective. Frankly, hon. Members opposite give the impression that they do not understand the agonising doubt which this sort of situation creates among trade unionists. They should try to understand it better. They are the main culprits. Not just the Government but all those who voted to enact this legislation are guilty. The Goad case will not be the last. There will be others next year and the year after that if this Act goes on.
§ Mr. Tom King (Bridgwater)
The right hon. Gentleman has made an interesting comment and now seems to be reversing his previous position. He is talking again about getting rid of the Act, but he allowed in an earlier comment that the possibility otherwise was substantially to amend it. No one is talking about the repeal of such features as extended periods of notice and right of appeal against unfair dismissal. So we are talking about amending certain sections which right hon. and hon. Members opposite say are causing and aggravating industrial relations problems. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has offered to discuss amendments of the Act. Would it not be more helpful to future developments if 974 we stopped talking about repeal and concentrated on areas of the Act causing concern?
§ Mr. Prentice
Our policy is to repeal the Act. In replacing it by up-to-date legislation, of course we shall provide for appeal against unfair dismissal. Indeed, we were first in the field with such provisions. They were in the Bill which the Labour Government produced and which was before Parliament when the 1970 General Election was called.
I return finally to the motion. As I have said, I think it is a pity that we should debate trade unionism only in terms of the failings or alleged failings, or of the bad examples or alleged bad examples, of the trade union movement. I would like to see trade unions debated in this House and discussed in the country in terms of all the positive and useful things which have been done through the medium of the movement. I think that a challenge should be issued here. The union leaders themselves should take up the challenge. They should recognise the need to involve themselves in a positive public relations offensive. They should tell their own story to the general public—and in the general public I include the many millions of trade unionists who simply pay their subscriptions and then read about their union in the Daily Express or the Daily Mirror.
The public should know about the hundreds of productivity agreements reached every year, very often on trade union initiative. They should know the story of the electricity supply industry and the great contribution made to its productivity by trade unionists in the last few years—even to the extent that management officials have been to the union's own college in order to learn about the techniques of such productivity agreements.
The public should know about the coal industry in recent years, and its struggle in very difficult circumstances, with a rundown in the labour force and with great co-operation between the unions and the management. The public should know about the legal aid services provided by the unions. They should know about the education schemes, including scholarships and the rest. They should know about the convalescent homes for sick members. 975 They should know about the 101 different ways in which the trade union movement is contributing to the welfare of its members and the health of British industry.
It will be an uphill task, because the media are not necessarily responsive. But the trade unions should try harder to get their story across, so that there is a sense of purpose in the study of trade unionism in Britain. The motion uses the word "militants". It has become a derogatory term. Hon. Members on both sides have used it, and I expect that I have used it. We tend to do so, however, in a way which implies an unreasonable attitude, a refusal to compromise, bloodymindedness. But what we need in the trade union movement is militancy in the sense of hard, dedicated work for the reasonable objectives of the movement. I would like to see a revival of militancy and participation by much larger numbers of people in increasing membership, in improving organisation, in union meetings. [Interruption.] I wish that some of my hon. Friends would keep quiet and allow me to proceed. There are certain courtesies in this House.
I would like to see a revival of some of the values which have always been part of the historical traditions of the movement, in the sense that members are prepared to work not only for their own wage claims or their immediate demands but for each other. There are many issues in modern industry which require that approach. I would like to see greater militancy, including greater militancy by the well-paid on behalf of the low-paid. I would like to see greater militancy on the part of the men on behalf of the women for equal pay and greater opportunity. I would like to see greater militancy on behalf of the young workers, particularly for training and further education opportunities. I would like to see greater militancy on the part of white workers for equal status for coloured workers—and the current strike in Loughborough must be taken very seriously indeed by both sides of industry when the inquiry is complete.
In other words, we are faced in modern industry with a great many problems that require militancy and the right kind of application of the traditional values of brotherhood and solidarity in the trade 976 union movement if we are to deal with them in the 1970s.
§ 6.18 p.m.
The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Mr. Robin Chick ester-Clark)
I wonder at the fact that a few not perhaps casual but preprandial remarks made by the right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) this weekend should have got him into such dire trouble this afternoon. I had difficulty in following his speech at one point because he was having to weave and dodge about so much in order to escape the brickbats which came from his own side of the House.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
The right hon. Gentleman made a brave speech, and the popularity which he may lose in his own party he will make up in respect from the country. I shall not follow him in detail into the customary inveighings against the Act but I join him in the tribute that he paid to the achievements of the trade union movement over the years.
I am not in disagreement with my hon. Friends because their motion pays tribute to the work of the trade union movement. My hon. Friends are concerned that a small minority should undermine the respect in which the trade union movement is held. [Interruption.] Before I deal with the motion, I hope that the hon. Member for Feltham (Mr. Russell Kerr) will keep quiet. He has been mumbling all afternoon. I shall have a few special words for him at the end of my remarks. Perhaps he will contain his impatience until that time.
Before I deal with the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Sir E. Brown) I will mention some of the remarks which were made by the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) in a curious intervention. He said that violent picketing had apparently begun only since the Act came into force. He seems to have forgotten—and I have not—about what occurred at the Barbican site in 1968, and the many arrests which were made during the Pilkington affair in 1970. Perhaps he will cast his mind back to those affairs and decide whether his remarks about picketing were so justified as he seemed to believe.
977 The hon. Gentleman also said that few major industrialists had gone to the Industrial Relations Court. He wondered why that was so, and seemed to be urging them to do so. But the Government have always made it clear that that was a course of last resort. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman wishes to see it employed more often. However, it seemed a curious remark to come from him. Few industrialists have gone to the court, but one example is that of C. A. Parsons, which took a recognition dispute to the court. The dispute ended in a CIR recommendation in favour of the hon. Gentleman's union—the AUEW. It seems that the remarks which he made this afternoon were somewhat misplaced.
I shall not refer to the arrogance which was shown by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) to some of my hon. Friends earlier today. However, I shall refer to one of the hon. Gentleman's remarks. In calling for the repeal of the Act the hon. Gentleman sometimes suggests that he has some ideas to put in its place. To say he made the rather curious suggestion that we might have an industrial health service. What a new and very good idea. Or it would have been had it been propagated some time ago. The truth is that the employment medical advisory service begins operating next month, so the hon. Gentleman is out of touch with that matter and a little behind. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will support it in every way that he can.
§ Mr. Buchan
The speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) was linked with industrial safety. It was the hon. Gentleman's Government who last year destroyed a Private Member's Bill to introduce industrial safety in relation to industrial safety committees. The Government and the Government Whips destroyed it.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
As the hon. Gentleman knows, there are many measures coming forward on this matter which he will have the opportunity to discuss. I hope that he will do so. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman will be unable to say anything about the record of the Government in that direction.
I make no complaint that by a strange coincidence the motions which my hon. Friends the Members for Bath and Tor- 978 quay (Sir F. Bennett) have introduced are in exactly the same terms. [Interruption.] They are accepting and reflecting a concern which is felt by many people about the future of British industry. It is the concern of anyone who has the future of British industry at heart, no matter what are his political sympathies. That is something with which the right hon. Member for East Ham, North, would not dissent. My hon. Friends the Members for Bath and Torquay touched upon a chord of disquiet in the hearts of many people. [Interruption.] Perhaps, like the right hon. Gentleman, I might ask that there be a little courtesy in the House. The right hon. Gentleman rounded on his hon. Friends, and I do likewise.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
My hon. Friends were both specific. The House will not deny that. They both made it clear what they meant by subversion and politically-motivated militance.
The House will accept that it is important to make a distinction between subversion and militancy. I describe militancy as a readiness to threaten, and, if necessary, to use strikes and other forms of industrial action. That is not in itself subversive. That is what the right hon. Gentleman was saying. We can each deplore particular instances of militancy of which we ourselves disapprove for various reasons, but no one in this House will deny the freedom of trade unions to pursue the interests of their members in industrial activity in disputes with employers. That is accepted, I think, by both sides of the House. I have not heard it denied in any speech. It is regarded as one of the basic freedoms in this country, and it is one which we mean to maintain. But when it is used to threaten the safety of the nation or to undermine parliamentary democracy by industrial or violent means, it becomes subversion. At least, that is my definition.
That is something which I hope we shall always be prepared to stand out against. Those who push militancy to the extreme of an absolute refusal to accept any compromise solution, however fair, must learn that the Government—and finally the people of this country—will not allow small minorities to hold the country to ransom.
979 We must always recognise that there are those who want to continue strikes after both sides have accepted a settlement. We must recognise—my hon. Friends dealt with this matter and names were mentioned, but I shall not mention them—that there are political groups whose aims are to subvert the national life of this country and overthrow the system of democracy. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Feltham has something to say, let him get up and say it.
§ Mr. Russell Kerr
Will the Minister confirm that there are always nuts on the fringe of any movement, either left or right, who stoop to this childish nonsense?
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
The hon. Gentleman gives me the strongest confirmation that there are nuts on the fringe of any movement. We must accept that there are political groups whose aims are to subvert our national life and to overthrow our parliamentary system of democracy. They never cease to work for the establishment of power through infiltration tactics. The Communist Party itself does not primarily urge the use of violent methods. [Interruption.] Is the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton seeking to intervene?
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
The Communist Party wants to take over at least the outward structure of a political system. We probably all accept that. That is where it differs from the Trotskyists and Maoists to its left. We can easily find them indeed, evidence has been read this afternoon that we can find them criticising the Communist Party for what they see as its excessive moderation. They frequently urge violence with a view to revolution. It is worth noting that the Communist Party, speaking about the TUC, says:The right wing still controls the machinery of the TUC, not to mention the Labour Party and the Parliamentary Party, and the left will need to organise its forces, sharpen its steel and deepen its political analysis and understanding if it is to make real deep inroads into the right wing hold on the movement in the coming stage of the struggle.That may be of some interest to some hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
I will give way in a moment. A resolution at the Communist Party Conference in November 1971 was quoted in a speech of which, I understand, the right hon. Gentleman disapproved. I refer to a truncated speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) about 10 days ago. The resolution's aims were "to increase industrial activity" that means strikes and disturbances—and it urged the winning over of the majority of unions and the ending of the right wing domination of the TUC council.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
The hon. Gentleman says that it is big news. He should witch hunt. I do not know whether he wants to indulge in one. Needless to say the Communist Party does not always pursue its aims in an open manner or, indeed, under its own name. Like many other subversive organisations it uses front organisations.
I welcome one fact. The Labour Party is very good at listing a number of subversive or proscribed organisations. I withdraw the word "subversive" and substitute the word "proscribed". There is a very good list of proscribed organisations available for hon. Gentlemen opposite so that they know where they are going. Such organisations are not illegal, nor would anyone in the House wish them to be so. Watching them carefully is a price we have to pay.
I mentioned earlier the use by trade unionists of industrial action in the interests of their members. No one quarrels with that. I had in mind then the kinds of strikes which so often occur over pay disputes, conditions of work and sometimes demarcation or recognition. We know that legitimate industrial interests of the obvious kind are sometimes exploited by political minorities. Strikes for political purposes are another matter. Let there be no doubt about that. We have seen all too many of them in recent years. There has been far too much of that sort of industrial action against the Industrial Relations Act, against the fair rents provisions of the Housing Finance Act and several others. That has been gravely emphasised by certain right hon. Gentlemen opposite. The place for action on such matters is 981 not the shop floor, not the streets, but the House of Commons, through the duly and democratically elected Members of this Parliament.
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is now trying to have a further dispute. Why does he not look up what his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said when appearing on "Panorama"?
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
The hon. Gentleman says that the guillotine was used on both Bills. The guillotine is a device used by both sides of Parliament. The hon. Member knows that the law was passed by this Parliament. He knows it is a law of the land. Let him now give some encouragement to those who seek to obey the law and who wish to see it obeyed.
Referring to the rôle of trade unionists, most trade unionists in this country are anxious that the movement should confine itself to the defence of the interests of its members; subversion is no part of any of its wishes. Many people would welcome the forthright statement of the right hon. Member for East Ham, North reported in the News of the World on 29th October:I completely condemn people who try to use industrial relations as a means of wrecking society. What is needed in the trade union movement is much more participation by the majority of members so that a tiny minority don't have too much power.I endorse that. I am sure all my hon. Friends endorse that. I hope that most hon. Members opposite also endorse it.
Apathy cannot be overcome by legislation. During the course of the Industrial Relations Act we tried to help, so far as possible, with rights, to make sure that individual trade unionists are not deprived of their voice in the union government. Those provisions could well be helpful if they are properly used.
My hon. Friends the Members for Torquay and Basingstoke (Mr. David Mitchell) were rightly concerned about the trade unionists' part in voting and in participation. It is true that some unions have always had a very good record of participation in elections. For the president of one railway union recently there was a 77 per cent. poll. There are very wide disparities. I noticed that when 982 interviewed on television not long ago the president of one of the largest unions in this country did not deny it when the interviewer told him he had been elected by only 6 per cent. of his membership. He did not deny that. It is encouraging that more unions are now using postal ballots. The percentage of members voting in elections has recently been higher. For the post of general secretary of the National Union of General and Municipal Workers 85 per cent. of members voted. It is not surprising that that trend is probably a cause of concern to extremist members of some unions who have traditionally benefited from low polls and small turnouts.
§ Mr. Russell Kerr
On a point of order, I am sure the hon. Gentleman would not wish to mislead the House concerning the point about 85 per cent. having voted in the NUG and MW elections for the general secretary. That is not a fact. I understand the branches' votes were aggregated. The individual votes of members of that union were not taken into account.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
The hon. Gentleman can pursue his investigations into that matter. I have given him the best information I have.
I should like to mention the subject of picketing—a matter of particular concern to my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke and many other hon. Members. I tried earlier to make some distinction between militancy and subversion. It is undoubtedly true that the word "militancy" has taken on a new meaning in recent months. It has been equated in a good many minds with violence, and 983 particularly violence in picket lines. One thing ought to be made clear—the right to be militant is not the right to use violence. The law permits picketing provided it is peaceful and does not involve threats, intimidation or any form of compulsion of any kind. When picketing ceases to be peaceful it is a criminal offence. Pickets have no immunity against charges for offences under the general law such as assault or obstructing a police officer in the execution of his duty. Most charges arising out of picketing incidents are for offences of the kind I have mentioned. There were 350 arrests in the coal and docks strikes.
While the right to picket peacefully is permitted under the law, and is protected, those who wish to continue working despite the efforts of the pickets must be free to do so. That is the cardinal principle in this whole matter.
A great deal has been said about the rights of those who wish to strike. Equally, everyone has a right to work. What society cannot tolerate is violence on the part of the criminal or violence used as a means to achieve political ends.
The courts have also held that an excessive number of pickets can amount to intimidation. I draw the attention of my hon. Friends who are particularly interested in the subject, which is very much in the minds of some of their constituents, to some of the results which have flowed from strikes during this year. In the miner's and docker's strikes earlier this year, there were, as I have said, 350 arrests, leading to the imposition of what were, in fact, substantial fines. In one incident, fines totalling £125 were imposed on one individual—which is not exactly chicken-feed. During incidents in August at the Trent and Humber Ports, 60 pickets were arrested and 31 were dealt with by the courts, when the majority were fined about £40. I think that the figure of 31 should, in fact, be higher. I shall check it and let my hon. Friend know.
It would, therefore, be entirely wrong to imply that the courts do not enforce the law or that the level of penalties is inadequate. The penalty in each case, of course, is a matter for the courts. But I reiterate that the right to conduct peaceful picketing exists and, since it exists, so also must the right exist of those who 984 wish to work, without hindrance or intimidation.
As the House knows—this has been made plain over and over again in the country—the Government do not direct the police. However, it is true that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has recently met the chief officers of police to discuss the whole range of problems involved in picketing, including manpower reinforcements between police forces and other forms of co-operation, and he has stressed the importance which the Government attach to the preservation of the right to work. He has assured the police that they will have the fullest support of the Government in enforcing the law, and I am sure that I can add that they will have the fullest support of the House also in doing that.
I began by trying to define the difference between militancy and subversion. It is not easy to define that difference, as everyone recognises. On the other hand, the whole House recognises—I know that my hon. Friends do, and, in particular, I am certain that this is well appreciated by my hon. Friend the Member for Bath, who has been chided for his absence but who has been here the whole time within the hearing of the House—the difficult problems which trade unionists face in our society in deciding just how far legitimate militancy can be taken without serving the subversive elements whose aim is to take advantage of disputes, without being used by what has already been described as the efficient and disciplined industrial apparatus controlled by Communist party headquarters.
We have already been reminded of these words of the Leader of the Opposition:No major strike occurs anywhere in this country in any sector of industry in which that apparatus fails to concern itself".[Laughter.] The hon. Member for Feltham may laugh. Let him take it up with his leader, and not waste the time of the House now.
That sort of situation reflects the measure of the dilemma which trade unionists face when they enter upon a dispute which is very properly concerned only with the welfare of trade union members. It is not an enviable position, but it is a position which the public at large should understand. It represents in quite 985 specific form the whole dilemma of democracy.
I leave this quotation with the House—it should appeal to the hon. Member for Feltham—The fight is on to keep an independent trade union movement in the face of attacks by the Government"—by the Labour Government, be it noted, according to the Communist Party document which I am there quoting. So we have something in common. Between both sides of the House we enjoy, or endure, one thing in common, a deliberately created misunderstanding of our various positions and the outright opposition of the Communist Party to will any form of order into our industrial relations.
We on the Government side want to work with the unions. A great deal has been done to demonstrate that. We know—my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Sir F. Bennett), in a powerful speech, made this very clear—that the majority of trade unionists recoil at the thought of threats to the fabric of our society. However, whether such threats come from over-stretched militancy—if I may use that expression—or whether they come from subversion, if a threat is made to our democratic institutions, to our electoral processes or, indeed, to the will of the electorate, it must be met, for no Government can afford to be left simply with the trappings of office, as some have been, when real power lies elsewhere. Governments are elected to govern, and we are determined that the reins of government shall not pass to anyone who is not elected by the British people.
I said that I would offer a little advice, in the humblest possible way, to some of those who are noisiest below the Gangway opposite. This is what I say to them:The Communist does not look upon a Socialist as an ally in a common cause. He looks upon him as a dupe, as a temporary convenience, and as something to be thrust ruthlessly to one side when he has served his purpose.Those are not my words.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
They are the words of the late Aneurin Bevan, and I strongly commend them to certain hon. 986 Members opposite, some of whom, I agree, will have great difficulty in not showing themselves to be dupes.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Heffer
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Tebbit) said that I was a Communist. He had better withdraw that now. I am not a Communist. As a very young man, I was once in the Communist Party, and I was expelled. I have been involved in many struggles against the Communists over the years, and I want—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I do not think that it would be disorderly to make such a suggestion. Whether it be accurate or not is another matter, but no question of order arises.
§ Mr. Norman Tebbit (Epping)
May I try to help the House, Mr. Speaker? The motion of my hand was not particularly pointed at the hon. Member, although he leapt to his feet. If he feels that it was so addressed, I unreservedly withdraw any imputation.
§ Mr. Buchan
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. With respect, may I ask you to reconsider your last ruling? I am sorry to delay the House, but the suggestion now made is that it was a general comment upon hon. Members on these benches. You ruled, Sir, that it was not a matter of order. I submit that it is a matter reflecting upon the honour of every Member referred to. It suggests, for example, that we are here under false pretences, that the way in which we presented ourselves to our electorate was a false pretence. If that does not reflect upon the honour of hon. Members, I do not know what does. I hope that you will instruct the hon. Member to withdraw completely and to apologise directly to the House.
§ Mr. Speaker
I think that the hon. Gentleman is being too sensitive. I have been a Member at a time when there were two Communist Members of Parliament. To call an hon. Member a Communist or a Conservative or a Socialist is to 987 apply a political description. It is not disorderly.
§ Mr. Buchan
I am sorry to persist, Mr. Speaker, but it was not in the nature of a political description. It was an attempt to smear and to impugn the honour of those of us who have sat openly under our own party-political banners and presented ourselves in that way to the electorate. That is very different, I submit, from calling you, Sir—if I may apply it to you, with respect—a Communist or an anarchist, and I hope that your ruling will show it.
§ Mr. Speaker
Unfortunately, the hon. Member cannot call me anything now because, so soon as one becomes Speaker, one becomes a political neuter. I have no party. But I shall consider the point and, if necessary, rule upon it.
§ Mr. Atkinson
If it has done nothing else, the debate has shown how important it is that we do not allow television into the Chamber. The difficulty in a debate of this kind, on a union bashing motion from the Government back benches which has no serious base whatever but is merely for propaganda purposes, is that we on this side have to decide whether to participate and try to present some serious argument. However, certain charges have been made, and I think it necessary that a legitimate point of view should be put in answer from these benches, and I wish to take up three of the points which the hon. Gentleman made.
In the middle of his speech, the hon. Gentleman dealt with the influence of members of the Communist Party in the trade union movement. He will have to alter his attitude towards the Communist Party if we are to go into Europe, for he will find there that industrial discussion is much more broadly based than it is in this country now. His present attitude towards the Communist Party in this country could not be applied to Communist Party activities in Europe, where the situation is very different.
The hon. Gentleman made certain observations about the trade union leadership. Does he suggest that, if the TUC-CBI talks at Downing Street were subject to political examination and it was found that the trade union leaders representing 988 the TUC were members of the Communist Party, the Prime Minister would refuse to meet them? That is what the hon. Gentleman implied. He implied that such people would not be legitimate leaders of the trade unions and therefore should not be allowed to participate in the Downing Street talks.
If the hon. Gentleman believes that those people were honourable and were members of the Communist Party, the Prime Minister should welcome them in the Downing Street talks and he should make that clear and not imply that people taking part in such talks should be subject to political examination.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
The hon. Gentleman is looking very hard at me, but I do not know whether he is directing his remarks at me. I am not sure whether he heard all of my speech, but I do not think that he could draw any implication of the kind that he is making from what I said. I went out of my way to point out that the Communist Party was not illegal.
§ Mr. Atkinson
I thought that the hon. Gentleman was making the case that most of the Communist Party was not honourable people and therefore should not be allowed to participate in the Downing Street talks because their motives were ulterior.
§ Mr. Alex Eadie (Midlothian)
I speak as a moderate. Does my hon. Friend agree that the hon. Gentleman became confused because he tried to make out that there was something peculiar about "left" and "right", as though the "left" was a product of some predatory organisation, whereas in fact it emanates from Parliament because people in opposition sit to the left of Mr. Speaker and people in government sit to the right of Mr. Speaker. There is nothing predatory about these phrases. Does my hon. Friend agree that the hon. Gentleman's use of the phrases "left" and "right" was predatory in itself?
§ Mr. Atkinson
I accept what my hon. Friend says. There is nothing sinister in the word "left" in this context, except that it denotes a minority in a democracy. Nothing more is implied.
I understand that the debate finishes at seven o'clock—
§ Mr. Atkinson
—and therefore I have only a few minutes in which to make my points.
My argument that the Industrial Relations Court is a political court and gives effect to political judgments is demonstrated by some of the remarks made today. An agreement on an effective £2 increase in wages right across the board could have come out of the Downing Street talks between the TUC and the CBI and it would then have been the responsibility of the TUC and the CBI to honour that agreement made with the Government and to implement whatever was decided. But it could be the job of the Industrial Relations Court to ensure that that agreement was fixed and that it was not possible for any section of the trade union movement to find a way round it.
Therefore, the court would essentially be part of a political apparatus for carrying out an agreement made at Downing Street which might have been made without the total agreement of the trade union movement. Not all the unions might be parties to an agreement of that kind. The court could well be a political instrument in that sense.
I want to put right my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) who referred to the position of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers. He said that the position of the AUEW was contrary to the decision of the TUC. That is not so. The decision of the TUC about participating in the court or a union defending itself in the court was that each union should have the choice. The TUC did not advocate that unions should go to the court to defend themselves. It said that because of the position taken at Croydon a long time ago boycotting the whole apparatus of the court and industrial law there was need for amendment, and the amendment was that each union should decide for itself whether it should defend itself and participate in the court. In that sense, therefore, the AUEW is as much in line with TUC policy as is the Transport and General Workers Union, which defended itself in the court.
The other choice facing trade unions which bears on this debate is whether a union should register. That is the crux 990 of the problem regarding the Goad case and the industrial strife taking place this week which will continue. The difficulty for a non-registered union is whether its rule book continues to have validity in law. There have been precedents created in the High Court that the rule book should govern the behaviour of the leaders of unions who are bound to accept the rules in each union's constitution.
That is the position concerning the AUEW's Sudbury branch, which is at the centre of the controversy and which refused to accept Mr. Goad into membership of the branch. Incidentally, Mr. Goad is known, in trade union language, as a "boat race member". He has been a member of the AUEW on three separate occasions and expelled, and he has been a member of the Transport and General Workers' Union and been expelled. He is "in out, in out". That is the sort of fellow that we are dealing with. Therefore, the chairman of the Sudbury branch says that within the rules of the union this man cannot he admitted.
§ Mr. Atkinson
It may go to another court and say exactly that and that court must uphold the rule book. The branch says that it is under no obligation to accept Mr. Goad into membership, and it has every right to do that.
If the law or the court says that all people in industry have the right to join the trade union of their choice, that must mean that no union has the right of expulsion. But that is not so. The right of expulsion has been upheld in the High Court just as clearly as the Industrial Relations Court has upheld the right of the individual to become a member of the union of his choice. In that sense alone there is a direct collision between the interpretation of a trade union rule book and the Industrial Relations Act. If Mr. Goad was admitted to the branch, the trade union concerned would be immediately exposed to the rigours of the High Court because members of the AUEW could sue or proceed through that court, seeking some sort of correction and prohibiting the officers of the branch from accepting that person into membership.
Whichever way one looks at this matter, there is a conflict between the 991 precedents established by the High Court relative to union rules and the decisions being given by the Industrial Relations Court. Therefore, the time has come for the court to be suspended so that the trade union movement or the Government can come to a serious conclusion on whether it is legitimate or allow the existence of non-registered unions and also to try to define what is the legal status—
§ It being Seven o'clock, the Proceedings on the Motion lapsed, pursuant to Standing Order No. 6 (Precedence of Government Business).