§ Mr. Atkinson
I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,The need to suspend the working of the National Industrial Relations Court to enable Parliament to reconsider certain effects on industry of the Industrial Relations Act 1971.I raise this matter because of the critical situation in the engineering industry—a situation which will increase in intensity and which will engender more strikes as time passes.
The present engineering dispute is between the National Industrial Relations Court and the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers. The first thing to recognise about the dispute is that it cannot be solved either by strike action or by the National Industrial Relations Court—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I must remind the hon. Member that in making an application of this kind he is not entitled to make the sort of speech that he would be allowed to make if he were to succeed in his application. He must confine himself to the Standing Order No. 9 aspect.
§ Mr. Atkinson
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I was merely making the point that the dispute cannot be cured by industrial action or by the National Industrial Relations Court. It is only in Parliament that we can see a solution to the problem. I am making this application so that we can debate a possible parliamentary solution. Therefore I am arguing that the NIRC should be suspended for a period so that we can seek a solution to the dispute.
The point is often made by Conservative Members that trade unions must obey the law—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] But which law? Is it the law made by the Industrial Relations Court, or the law created by precedent in the High Court? There is a contradiction between trade union rule books which have now been upheld by the High Court and the latest NIRC decision about the union membership of a certain Mr. Goad.
I suggest that the problem is registration and the fact that Parliament has never yet discussed the position of non-registered trade unions. I believe that it is now an urgent necessity for Parliament to debate the position of non-registered trade unions and the legal validity of their rule books.
In this situation, we need an authoritative statement from the Minister responsible. It will not be possible for the debate on the motion to be moved later today by the hon. Member for Bath (Sir E. Brown) to be used for this purpose. We are obliged to seek a special debate in the course of which these problems can be laid before the House. I believe that it is the view of many right hon. and hon. Members on this side of the House that the validity of trade union rule books is in doubt as a result of decisions of the National Industrial Relations Court, and tremendous problems have arisen.
Right hon. and hon. Members opposite say that the unions should use the National Industrial Relations Court. However, that in itself will not solve the problem, which is the origin of the dispute from which the engineering industry is suffering at the moment.
I seek to move the Adjournment of the House for the specific purpose of debating the position of the non-registered trade unions and the validity of non-registered rule books, especially from the 925 standpoint of whether trade union executives should be bound by their rule books or should seek some other way of achieving the good government of their trade unions in the absence of further legal decisions. Such is the ambiguity of the law and the contradictory nature of the present situation created by the Industrial Relations Court that many hon. Members now believe that it is necessary to suspend that count in order to debate these matters fully and thereby determine the position in law of non-registered trade unions.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) was courteous enough to send me in writing the terms of his application, and he supported it with a letter setting out his reasons. I have studied it carefully. I have also considered carefully what he has said today. These are important matters. However, all that I have to decide is the procedural matter. If the hon. Gentleman studies Standing Order No. 9, I think he will realise that his application has not a chance of success. I am afraid that I must reject it.