§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Michael Foot)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
In moving the Second Reading of this Bill for the second or third time—I have rather lost count how many times I have done so in one form or another—perhaps I might first refer to the novel procedure under which the House will be operating on the Second Reading and subsequent stages of the Bill. There is a motion on the Order Paper which will be discussed later when I shall elaborate more fully on the reasons why the Government are proceeding in such a manner. We are not seeking to suppress, injure or impair the way in which the House is to debate the matter. One of the many virtues of this House is that it decides for itself how to conduct debates under your benign and practised surveillance, Mr. Speaker. It can conduct its affairs in almost any way and the matters that can be discussed on this Second Reading go very wide indeed. I have no powers to limit the debate.
However, we have already discussed this Bill, in one form or another, for about 100 hours. We are faced with the novelty of the House of Lords having exercised its powers to prevent the Bill from reaching the statute book in the last Session. I am not seeking to limit the debate and anyway I cannot do so, but as the House of Lords sent back the Bill and it has had to be revived in order that the will of the House of Commons should become the law of the land, it would be desirable, not necessarily on legal or even constitutional grounds, but rather on political grounds, if most of the debate could be confined to those matters on which the House of Lords in the end signified its disagreement with this House. I have made all the qualifications in advance and will understand if hon. Members opposite wish to carry the debate wider. I just want to indicate why I hold the 242 view which some of them apparently regard as curious.
My main reason for finding the conduct of the House of Lords offensive to proper democratic procedures in this instance, as in many others, is that the House of Lords invokes this final power only when Labour or Liberal Governments are in power. It never does so when Conservative Governments are in power, and that gives a strange list to the whole constitution.
We have some recent examples that I can cite. The Industrial Relations Act 1971 was a highly controversial measure and one might have thought that, if the House of Lords had a claim to existence on the grounds of asking this House to have second thoughts, it would have done so in the case of that Act, particularly as it was passed through this House under a severe guillotine. Yet the House of Lords did not seek to revoke a single controversial amendment included in that Act and certainly none was carried to the point to which the Lordships are carrying their opposition to one section of this Bill. This is one example of a major controversial measure passed by a Conservative Government when their Lordships did not take any action to ask this House to think again.
§ Mr. Foot
My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) cites another flagrant example of the same kind of conduct. If ever there was a measure passed through this House which required consideration by the House of Lords to see whether it conformed to the will of this House or the country as a whole, it was the European Communities Act. This was also passed through this House under a guillotine without a single amendment. It went to another place and was passed there without a single amendment, yet it was a constitutional measure of prime importance to the whole country.
These two prime examples illustrate how much the weight in the House of Lords lists to the Conservative side—and that is the argument I am seeking to illustrate.
There is only one example, so far as I know, in British history—not a modern 243 one—when the House of Lords by a majority interfered with the Tory majority in the House of Commons. It happened in the reign of Queen Anne in the year 1711 when there was a Whig majority in the House of Lords that sought to interfere with the then Tory Government in the House of Commons. It was, incidentally, a highly nefarious Tory Government. I am now quoting a royal precedent since it involves Queen Anne. When the House of Lords sought to interfere with the business of the Tory House of Commons, Queen Anne intervened by appointing 12 peers. When the 12 peers went to the House of Lords, so much was it thought that they were appointed directly to overturn the Whig majority that the 12 peers were asked whether they were voting separately or whether their foreman would speak for them. It was a very good precedent.
I am sure that the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition will treat that precedent with great respect. If that kind of conduct were to be repeated by the House of Lords on frequent occasions—I do not make any insistence on the number of offences the House of Lords might have to commit to invite a remedy—there is a prompt remedy open to us, and a remedy that can be invoked. As I have pointed out, it has a most respectable precedent and I hope that another place will take that into account.
§ Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)
Might it not be that the House of Lords in the last Parliament understood something which the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends did not then understand and still do not understand—namely, that there was a strong feeling among most of the people that trade union law was out of date, that the unions had become too powerful and that the then Conservative Government were still in their rights in trying to rectify that position?
§ Mr. John Lee (Birmingham, Handsworth)
My right hon. Friend the Secretary 244 of State for Employment puts the case rather jocularly based on a distant precedent in Queen Anne's reign, but is not that the point? Why cannot he persuade the Prime Minister to create enough life peers to cover the situation? I have already written to the Prime Minister suggesting that very course. Judging by some of the people who have already gone to the other place, the qualifications are not very demanding.
§ Mr. Foot
I understand that my hon. Friend is not standing at the next election. If the appointments were within my prerogative, I should be happy to consider his application. However, I would ask my hon. Friend to bear in mind that, although I was making a joke, I was also taking the point seriously. I believe that the House of Lords must be extremely careful about the way in which it exercises its powers, particularly when it exercises those powers only against Labour or Liberal Governments.
§ Mr. James Prior (Lowestoft)
Perhaps I may help the right hon. Gentleman. Perhaps he would suggest to his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that he should make life peers of the whole of the Government Front Bench so that we could have by-elections. We would be most happy to abide by that suggestion.
§ Mr. Foot
I thought that the possibility that I would be assisted by the right hon. Gentleman was a very wild one, and that supposition has been borne out by his intervention.
The Bill now reintroduced is substantially the same as that given a Second Reading a year ago, on 3rd December 1974. The measure contains some significant improvements in the definition of a "union membership agreement"—improvements made partly to meet Opposition criticisms. These changes, when enacted, will enable employers and unions which decide to draw up closed shop agreements to do so on a more flexible basis than the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act allows.
The Bill contains nothing on the Press, which has been such a prominent feature of the discussions on the Bill on earlier occasions, because if it is to fall within the bounds laid down by the Parliament Acts it may not do so.
245 The Government have made clear their intentions about the inclusion of a clause providing for a charter on Press freedom—in almost exactly the same terms as the previous charter in the Bill which left the House—by tabling a resolution for debate at a subsequent stage of the Bill. The Opposition have done likewise, as has the Liberal Party, and those amendments and suggestions will be debated according to the arrangements originally laid down under the Parliament Act by a Liberal Government. Notwithstanding Press resolutions, however, the Bill is primarily about industrial relations.
The principal purpose of the Bill is to repeal or amend, where appropriate, provisions inserted by the Opposition in the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act which preserve, either in letter or in spirit, provisions of the Industrial Relations Act 1971 which proved at best unworkable and more often counterproductive in practice.
While the amendment Bill is kept from the statute book, the Industrial Relations Act remains unrepealed and the law remains in a state of potentially troublesome uncertainty. The Government are committed by two manifestos to the repeal of the Industrial Relations Act 1971 and in our most recent manifesto to the repeal of Opposition amendments moved on our earlier Bill.
I wish to turn to a subject which figured prominently in our debates, namely, the safeguarding provisions. The Bill repeals Section 5 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act, which repeats in substance a provision of the Industrial Relations Act 1971 by providing a statutory right of complaint, enforceable through the courts, against a union alleged to have arbitrarily or unreasonably expelled or excluded somebody from membership.
The Government are not against safeguards for the individual against unreasonable action by a union. We have repeatedly made clear that there should he such safeguards, but that they should be workable and effective. We considered the problems with the greatest care and discussed them with those who would be primarily involved in making any safeguards work. We concluded that statutory safeguards of the kind included in 246 the Industrial Relations Act would not help the individual and that, if anything, they might act against his best interests.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether, if the proposal to revoke Section 5 is carried, the Ferrybridge six will not be able to have their case heard by an industrial tribunal? Does he regard that as an enhanced or a decreased right?
§ Mr. Thorpe
On that point will the right hon. Gentleman now say whether, if that amendment is enacted, the Ferry-bridge six will be unable to take their case to an industrial tribunal?
§ Mr. Foot
The right hon. Gentleman is mixing up two statutes which are quite different, as I shall seek to explain. I shall not seek to evade the issue and I shall come to it in a moment. Section 5 is in any case full of many legal pitfalls. It is defective. It has legal side effects which have nothing to do with exclusions or expulsions from a union and which interfere with long-established immunities in respect of restraint of trade. It provides for resort to the High Court and injunction proceedings, which is a proven irritant to stable industrial relations. It does not take account of existing union and TUC procedures which have been so much developed and improved in recent years. But, above all, it guarantees nothing of value to the aggrieved individual.
The equivalent right under the Industrial Relations Act was not effective. It created ill will and hostility towards the individual rather than remedies for his grievances. Understandably, individuals were reluctant to use it. Where they did, often bypassing internal procedures which could have resolved their difficulties, they won Pyrrhic victories only. One cannot expect a man to love his neighbour if the neighbour has set the dogs on him. That is one of the facts that the Conservatives should learn about the situation.
Why, then, do the Opposition want to preserve so-called remedies of a kind 247 which have previously failed? Why should they work now? The Government have sought alternative, genuine remedies. The non-statutory machinery which the TUC will set up, once Section 5 is repealed, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Chairman of the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, can build upon and complement the machinery already available in the trade union movement. It can proceed by conciliation and rely on co-operation from the unions which will have to carry out its recommendations.
Common law remedies will still be available to anyone who is expelled from a union. Perhaps I should emphasise that point in view of the kind of misconceptions which have been spread in some quarters. As long ago as 3rd December 1974 I made clear in the debate that nothing we were proposing interfered in any way with common law rights and the right of appeal against alleged breaches of natural justice. This has sometimes been questioned, and there has been argument about whether a reference to common law rights was required.
From the earliest stages of this controversy in May 1974, following the introduction of the first repeal Bill, right up to today there has never at any stage been any proposal or any suggested formulation in any clause or amendment, or in any other kind of provision put forward by the Government, which would in any way whatsoever have weakened common law rights as they previously existed. That is the case in relation to expulsion from trade unions generally and in relation to the clause relating to the Press. Clear words would be needed to restrict or breach common law rights.
If Opposition Members say that I must not make any repudiation on these matters, I can only say that these accusations have been repeated. They were repeated in an article in the Observer on Sunday by Nora Beloff. Hon. Members may say that, if Nora Beloff says it positively and with assurance, one can be absolutely sure that the opposite is almost certain to be true. Since she has suggested once again that in some way or other we are interfering with common law rights, I wish to make it clear that that is not the case, Hon. Members who have witnessed 248 the discussions that we have had on this subject throughout the period will confirm what I say.
§ Mr. Thorpe
I am not rising to reiterate my earlier point which the right hon. Gentleman gave an undertaking to deal with later. May I ask him another question? What does the suggested new clause purport to mean in Section 1(10) if it is not to exclude from any legal proceedings those who, having agreed certain principles in the suggested charter, then proceed to break them? It is no good saying that this is a repetition of the Tory Act, because that was devised for a totally different situation. If the right hon. Gentleman is not excluding the courts from the provisions of the schedule when its principles are breached by the parties, what does he mean should be done? We must have a clear answer on this point.
§ Mr. Foot
The Part of the Bill which the right hon. Gentleman quoted referred to the Press provisions, and I understand that, but it does not in any way interfere with existing common law rights. It is no use the right hon. Gentleman making assertions as though they were facts. He is not aware of the facts. What I have said is the truth of the matter and is accepted by the highest legal advisers in the country, and, therefore, I urge the right hon. Gentleman to accept what I say.
§ Mr. Prior
Will the right hon. Gentleman clear up one small point? When Section 6 concerning the provision of rules was discussed in the House of Lords, Lord Justice Salmon said that union rules could be amended to allow a union executive to do what it liked, irrespective of the rules of natural justice. He then said:The Common Law … would be entirely powerless to protect the working people … against oppression."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 10th March 1975; Vol. 358, c. 28–29.]What is the right hon. Gentleman's reaction to that?
§ Mr. Leon Brittan (Cleveland and Whitby)
Is not the point that the Law Lord was making in the House of Lords valid? Was it not that common law protection is inadequate and that unless it is buttressed in some way it will not give protection to the individual?
§ Mr. Foot
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman made that point because he has underlined what I was saying. I am not saying that common law rights are by themselves sufficient. It is for that reason that we have sought to introduce other protections which we hope will be effective. I reiterate that the common law rights are not being interfered with by what we are proposing.
I have referred to the proposals which the General Council of the TUC has made, which we believe can assist. There are further provisions in the alteration of the definition of union membership agreements which we believe can also assist, and we believe that these measures are much more likely to protect individuals than would be the kind of measures which were incorporated in the 1971 Act which are repealed but which are in a bowdlerised form in Section 5 of the 1974 Act and which we are proposing to remove. There is no question, therefore, of interference.
§ Mr. Barney Hayhoe (Brentford and Isleworth)
The right hon. Gentleman is saying that there is no direct dimunition of common law rights by the changes in the Bill. He is, however, standing by and permitting other people to reduce those rights, and he appears wholly unconcerned about that and unable to give any legal guarantee that that will not happen.
§ Mr. Foot
I understand the hon. Member's argument, although I do not agree with him. I was seeking to establish, and I have now established since this part of my speech has been unanimously accepted, so far as I can see, that we are not in any way diminshing 250 common law rights. There is, however, an argument as to what further steps should be taken. I believe that every hon. Member understands that. I believe that the House has unanimously repudiated what Miss Nora Beloff wrote on Sunday.
§ Mr. Hayhoe
As ever, the right hon. Gentleman is misrepresenting the point. Perhaps the Bill will not directly diminish the common law rights of individuals, but those rights will be diminished if the right hon. Gentleman gets his way.
§ Mr. Foot
On the last occasion when this matter was presented to the House of Commons, the House voted according to the Government's wishes and contrary to the view of the Opposition. The Bill which was sent to the other place incorporated the view I am now expressing, and I am therefore entitled to say that the House of Commons upheld the Government's view on that occasion. There is, therefore, no question of interference with the common law.
By repealing Section 5, however, we avoid the rancour which attaches to special law specially framed to provide new causes of action against unions, additional to those already existing at common law, based on the way in which they conduct their internal affairs. It is possible to dream up developments which could go wrong with the non-statutory machinery, which we believe is a better way of doing it; but to criticise it because it does not have the same features as the unsuccessful remedies had is an unconstructive approach to the problem.
Its importance lies in its being a new remedy, additional to anything which has previously existed alongside the lawful 251 closed shop. There was a lawful closed shop situation prior to 1971, but it did not have this additional protection which we are providing under our proposals. To deny the opportunity to see whether our proposals work better than did the Conservative proposals—which were unworkable—is a negative approach.
The Government have made clear that, if this non-statutory approach is not effective, alternatives will be considered. Our approach is perhaps experimental—we have always said that; but if one experiment has been tried and has failed, we do not want to repeat that old experiment. We want to change it. That is why we seek to repeal Section 5 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act—not because we want to deny individuals their essential safeguards.
§ Mr. Ian Percival (Southport)
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that but for Section 5 the Ferrybridge workers would not be able to pursue the remedy which they are pursuing? What remedy do the Government propose for people in that situation if Section 5 is repealed?
§ Mr. Foot
The hon. and learned Gentleman has often contributed to our discussions on this matter, but on this occasion I do not think he is correct. The Ferrybridge six are taking action on grounds of unfair dismissal, not on grounds of exclusion or expulsion from the union. Therefore, they are not covered by the matter raised by the hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ Mr. Norman Tebbit (Chingford)
If the right hon. Gentleman would tell us whether his legal advisers have advised that there is an inalienable natural right of justice in common law that a man should not be excluded from work by an act of a trade union, it would help us all. If the advice is that that right is alienable, we could take a different view towards the Bill, but, if not, we shall take the view which we have taken so far that it encroaches on a man's natural right.
§ Mr. Foot
The common law rights deal only with expulsion, not with exclusion. I know that the common law does not deal with the whole picture. That is why we have sought to add other protections which we think will be effective beyond 252 the area where the common law prevails. I agree that the common law does not cover the whole picture, and we have never sought to pretend that it did. What I contest, and have every right to contest, is the completely false suggestion throughout the whole controversy that we seek to interfere with the common law rights as far as they prevail.
§ Mr. Percival
Is it not right that if the Bill had been law the Ferrybridge workers would have neither the right to claim compensation for unfair dismissal nor the right to complain about having been refused admission by a union? Anyone in a similar position after the Bill becomes law will be deprived of both those rights. What rights will they have in lieu?
§ Mr. Foot
I have said on many occasions what are the new rights. The Conservatives wrote into the 1971 Act, and into Section 5 of the Act which passed in the last House of Commons, provisions which they thought would be satisfactory for protecting individuals in those circumstances. We have claimed throughout—and experience has justified that claim from direct experience under the 1971 Act and since—that proper protections were not provided. If our proposal—the proposal agreed to by the General Council of the TUC—operates as we think it will operate, it will have a much better chance of protecting the individual. The individual trade unionist will have a much better chance of reinstatement under that procedure than he would have had under the unworkable Conservative procedures.
§ Mr. Kenneth Baker (St. Marylebone)
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman not to play with words? No one in the House, least of all hon. Gentlemen on the Labour Benches behind him, agrees with what he is saying. There is no doubt that the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act and the previous Labour Government Acts reduced the rights of individuals, and that in the case of the Ferrybridge six the rights of individuals are being trampled on by the rights of the unions.
§ Mr. Hayhoe
The right hon. Gentleman has referred many times to the remedies under the 1971 Act having been tried and having failed. He is never specific. Let him be specific and say how many individuals were sacked without compensation and without the right to unemployment benefit while that Act and those remedies were in being.
§ Mr. Foot
I shall come in a moment to unemployment benefit. The hon. Gentleman should remember that in previous debates I quoted the highest authority, none other than Sir John Donaldson. In the Langston case he said that the provisions of the 1971 Act could not be carried into effect. It was largely because of that kind of experience that the Conservatives accepted that the closed shop could not be operated under the 1971 provisions. We therefore had to try to devise some protections. I agree—I have always agreed—that in a closed shop situation some protections must be devised. If we try to devise protections under the procedures of the 1971 Act or under Section 5, the provisions will be as unworkable in future as they have been in the past. Let us try to find a method of protection which has a chance of working.
I turn now to the question of unemployment benefit and the Ferry-bridge power station workers. I do not diminish the importance of that matter. The hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe), in a letter which he wrote to me a day or two ago, suggested that I should state categorically whether the men dismissed from Ferrybridge should or should not be paid unemployment benefit and that I should state whether the Government were prepared to introduce legislation to amend the law to ensure that persons dismissed in similar circumstances were entitled to it.
The main purpose of my letter to Mr. Nicholson which led to these questions being raised was to help him to understand the procedures involved in the determination of cases where eligibility for unemployment benefit was in question, and the separate process of hearing 254 a complaint of unfair dismissal. I made plain—this was the primary purpose of the letter—that neither I nor other Ministers had any power to intervene.
The position is that the independent adjudicating authorities still have under consideration the question of the payment of unemployment benefit. It is not uncommon for benefit for the initial period of unemployment to be withheld if a decision cannot be given immediately because the relevant facts are still being collected. That has happened in this case. Of course, any of the men involved who experience financial difficulties in the meantime can, under the normal procedure, ask for help from the Supplementary Benefits Commission.
In these circumstances, it would be wrong for me to do now what I have been criticised for appearing to do earlier—although I did not—and give my view on what the decision of the adjudicating authorities ought to be, or to go further and hold out the prospect of legislation to reverse a decision of such adjudicating authorities if benefit is not allowed.
I listened carefully to the exchange at Question Time. Some hon. Members have asked that I should indicate that legislation would be announced if and when such a decision was made. I am almost being invited to perpetrate the offence that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, at Question Time, was falsely alleged to have perpetrated, and I cannot follow that course. It would be wrong in principle for me to do so. An independent adjudication has to ignore comment and pressure from Ministers and Parliament during the period in which the case is being decided, and it is clearly much better if Ministers and Parliament refrain from such comment and pressure in a matter for which independent authorities are responsible.
It would also be wrong for me to take that course in practice, because complicated legal questions are involved, governed by the Social Security Act 1975 and the relevant Regulations, for which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services is responsible. There are no clear precedents by way of previous decisions by the National Insurance Commissioners.
There are many other aspects of the matter, also, which it would be difficult to 255 single out for special treatment—such as the closed shop aspect, and collective agreements—without raising problems in relation to other conditions of employment incorporated in new contracts as a result of collective agreements or even imposed unilaterally by the employer. However, I mention this only to point out that the issues are by no means clear and are certainly more complicated than is allowed. The right course, therefore, is to let the adjudicating authorities take their decision, and when we know that decision we will study the matter with the greatest care.
The hon. Member for Cornwall, North wrote to me on the subject. I have no complaint about his letter, but I am entitled to complain about what he said on the radio on the programme PM". He said:What Mr. Foot has said is that, because they have been dismissed for this reason, they have voluntarily declared themselves dismissed and therefore they are not entitled to unemployment pay.I said nothing of the sort. If I had, it would have been most improper. I have never said anything of the sort. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman will understand that what he said was completely misleading.
I think that is the best place where the House of Commons can leave these matters. I know that some other people have carried them further, and that the Editor of The Times has made some comments on the question. The Editor of The Times always seems to be rebuking us for crimes which he commits himself. He abjures me for favouring some kind of corporate State. I am bitterly opposed to any such idea, but I think that those who supported the 1971 Act were very much nearer to it.
Then, of course, The Times feels that this is no time for undermining democracy, but nothing would undermine it so much as the kind of consensus politics that it preaches. The Editor of The Times throws his stone from a glasshouse of Crystal Palace proportions. He denounces profligacy and upholds the purity of competition in the columns of a newspaper that is more heavily subsidised than any other newspaper in history. He might be described as the lamest duck ever to waddle down Fleet Street, or—perhaps more accurately—to 256 quack in search of provender all the way from Printing House Square to Gray's Inn Road. I do not think that we need take too much notice of the Editor of The Times.
§ Mr. Lawson
I was going to ask the right hon. Gentleman, now that he has finished his favourite practice of attacking the Press, to answer the substantive point about the Ferrybridge six. This question goes far beyond the matter of unemployment pay. If the Bill is enacted in its present form, will it make any difference whatever to the rights of these six men, whether in terms of their right of appeal to an industrial tribunal or in any other way?
§ Mr. Foot
If I were to answer the question, state fully what has occurred under the Industrial Relations Act and recall all that had passed in these circumstances, I have no doubt that other hon. Members would protest that I was doing exactly what I had said I would not do—comment on a case while the matter is still being judged. Instead of flinging around epithets of the kind used by the Editor of The Times and others, it is much better to leave the question to be decided by the authorities there to decide it, and when they have decided it no doubt the House and others will wish to draw conclusions, and we shall consider what further should be done. That is the best way to proceed—
§ Mr. Thorpe
No one is expecting the right hon. Gentleman to prejudge their case. God help us if anyone asked him to do so and he did. If the amendments 257 that the right hon. Gentleman has in mind are carried, is he suggesting that these men would have the same rights and same recourse to the industrial tribunal and to the common law? What alternatives is he putting forward? Is he suggesting that these proposals are better than their existing rights? These questions have nothing to do with the case as it is before the adjudicating authorities, and he cannot get out of it by saying that it is sub judice. The question of the rights involved is not sub judice.
§ Mr. Foot
The right hon. Gentleman must not be so aggrieved. I have answered the question put to me by the hon. Member for Cornwall, North about unemployment benefit. That is certainly relevant to the debate, and the right hon. Gentleman must not say that it is not. I shall come to his question. I have said that I thought it would be unwise for me to comment on a certain part of the case.
The hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) has referred to common law rights. There is no interference with common law rights, as has been explained. As far as some other rights are concerned, again I am not prepared to comment on all of them, because some of them raise questions that arose at an earlier period, two or three years ago, and might be thought to affect some of these matters, because the status of the union to which the Ferrybridge six claimed to belong was raised before. Therefore, that aspect raises other questions. On the question of reinstatement—
§ Mr. Foot
The only thing the hon. Gentleman wants, apparently, is compensation. I say—and we have argued throughout—that it is very much better, in order to preserve individual rights, that people should have the chance of reinstatement. The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, as though these men do not worry about reinstatement. Most people with any experience of the trade union movement would say that men want their jobs back more than anything else. It is because of their loss of jobs that they have a grievance. The hon. Gentleman is still not facing the 258 issue, but we have argued this over and over again.
Under the provisions that we put forward there is a much better chance of the individual being protected than under the law or under provisions which have not worked at all. The hon. Gentleman must face the fact that the Conservative Government's system failed and, therefore, we must be given the chance to try a system which has a chance of success.
§ Mr. Percival
If the Bill had become an Act in the last Parliament, people in the position of the Ferrybridge workers would have had neither the right to compensation for unfair dismissal or to reinstatement, nor the right to complain that they had been excluded from a union. They would not have had any of those rights, never mind how things turn out in the proceedings. They would not have had even the right to claim. If this Bill becomes law, anybody in the position of the Ferrybridge workers will have none of those rights. Will the right hon. Gentleman say what rights it is proposed to give them in place of those other rights?
§ Mr. Foot
There are many respects in the Bill in which we have altered the law. One of the purposes in altering it is to substitute our better provisions, as we believe them to be, for dealing with the situation. It is also the fact that our provisions alter one of the Lever amendments, as they were called, that were made when we did not have quite the massive majority in the House that we have at the present time. There were two Lever amendments. Those Lever amendments, we believe, also left the law in a great state of confusion and uncertainty, and there is no certainty in the suggested—
§ Mr. Brittan
is not the position that, irrespective of whether or not the right hon. Gentleman thinks that the provisions giving protection in the Bill as we passed 259 it in the last Parliament are adequate, he is suggesting that there should be no statutory protection whatsoever in what he is proposing?
§ Mr. Foot
—that the protections for workers that the Conservatives wrote into the 1971 Act, and which they sought in a much more muddled form to re-write into Section 5, did not prove to be protections for people in trade unions. The hon. Gentleman may think that they proved to be protections but in the Langston case they did not prove to be protections nor did they prove to be protections in many other cases, primarily because they did not succeed in reconciling quarrels which occurred in trade unions. They had no success, therefore, in ensuring reinstatement, which was what people wanted in such cases.
I know that hon. Gentlemen opposite hanker after the 1971 provisions in one form or another. That is what they want. We say that our system provides a series of safeguards in different ways dealing with different aspects of the matter. There are safeguards for individuals excluded or expelled from a union in a closed shop. We have ensured that a new piece of statutory machinery is added to the common law remedies already available. [Interruption.] I do not know whether hon. Gentlemen really think that they are showing any interest in trying to overcome these problems in the trade unions.
The General Council of the TUC agreed to a proposal which goes far beyond anything it has accepted before. It is not that each union should be judge and jury in its own cause but that there should be an independent tribunal, presided over by a legal authority appointed by it but in consultation with the Secretary of State for Employment and the Chairman of ACAS.
The proposal is that that body should be established to deal with the whole of the unions covered by the TUC and that those unions, when disputes of this kind occur, will have the chance to discuss 260 them and try to judge and repair the situation.
Not only is that an additional safeguard over and above anything that existed in this country before 1971, but we also believe that the fact of its existence can itself play a most fruitful part in trying to ensure that the individual unions pay regard to these questions and seek to avoid disputes of this kind. That is one safeguard that we have sought to provide, and I suggest to Opposition Members that they would be very much wiser to greet it with some enthusiasm than to damn it from the start.
On the right to resign from a union, we have a new clause. We have ensured that a legal remedy is available to the individual based on contract law.
On the closed shop, we have ensured that the law is neutral and flexible. It neither compels nor prohibits but permits exception to be agreed on a very wide basis. We have provided specific safeguards for the religious objector.
We have also ensured that an independent minority union, whose position is not recognised in a closed shop agreement, can seek from ACAS a recommendation for recognition. While it does so and subsequently if it is recommended for recognition, its members are protected against dismissal without compensation.
On the question of Press freedom, we have accepted that there should be a charter, which should be given parliamentary backing and evidential status in legal proceedings.
I know that hon. Gentlemen opposite deride these provisions, because they have said in numerous interruptions that it must be done on a statutory and legal basis. Some of the provisions which we have made are on a legal basis; our measures provide a framework of law. It is a matter of which form of framework it is to be. Although some of our measures provide legal arrangements, many of them, I fully agree, are based on a voluntary system—and a voluntary system which is working successfully.
We believe that, if those arrangements can be made to work, not only will the atmosphere in industrial relations generally be improved but the rights of individuals within the unions can better be protected in that way.
261 I know that some hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House—particularly, maybe, in the Liberal Party—say that we cannot have a voluntary system and that we must have the whole legal machinery, otherwise it will not work. This argument is very familiar to me. I remember all the debates we had on the incomes policy when it was going through at the end of July. We were told then that we could not rely on any voluntary system, that there was no possibility of having any agreements by consent, and that it must all be done by the reserve powers.
§ Mr. John Pardoe (Cornwall, North)
Will the right hon. Gentleman recognise that there are reserve powers? There are 1,250,000 reserve powers. They are the unemployed, and it is the threat of unemployment which is forcing the trade unions to accept the Bill. With statutory limitations of the kind that we Liberals requested, the Secretary of State would not have to preside over the present level of unemployment.
§ Mr. Foot
The hon. Gentleman cannot run away with it in that fashion. We in the Labour Party believe in the processes of consent. We believe that it can be best done by establishing a general framework in which people can exercise their tolerance. We believe that the method of seeking to bind and restrict the trade unions, as was done under the 1971 Act, is one of the reasons why our society has been poisoned. We want to remove the poison. Those who wish to assist us in that process will vote for the Bill, and the sooner that the House of Lords puts it on the statute book the better it will be for good industrial relations.
§ 4.51 p.m.
§ Mr. James Prior (Lowestoft)
There were only two occasions during the right hon. Gentlemans speech when he came to life. The first was when he was busy hurling insults at Mr. William Rees-Mogg and at the House of Lords, which he does frequently. The second was when he got 262 into the groove at the end of his remarks on the subject of the Industrial Relations Act. We have heard a good deal of that from him over the past few years.
The right hon. Gentleman has taken great credit for sweeping away the powers of the Industrial Relations Act. It was surprising, therefore, that when he was asked specifically about rights to compensation, rights to reinstatement and rights of exclusion, he became rather coy. He did not want to give the true answer, which is that he is sweeping away those powers and putting nothing in their place. I think that it is important to get that on the record.
We should also get on the record that we are grateful, and the country should be, that the House of Lords threw out the Bill in the way that it did. In the last few weeks, many of the difficulties into which the amended Trade Union and Labour Relations Act of 1974 would yet have come to light. This explains to me and to my right hon. and hon. Friends only too well why the right hon. Gentleman was in such indecent haste to get this Bill on the statute book. With it he could come here as the problems arose and say "This is what Parliament has decreed. There is nothing I can do about it", and wash his hands accordingly.
However, the Ferrybridge six, the Vauxhall workers, the railway employees and many others will not go away. Such cases will keep coming up from time to time. They are the people who will go on making their protests, and they are right to do so when their freedoms and rights have been taken away.
There will be no easy passage for this Bill. It is not just a case of one recommended amendment for the other House to consider. There are many amendments of great concern on grounds of personal liberty which right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House will now want to look at afresh in the light of the right hon. Gentleman's speech today and in the light of what has happened in the past few weeks outside the House. I cannot believe that there are not a number of Government supporters who are not seriously worried about the turn of events which has followed the decisions of the railway workers, of the Ferrybridge six and of others. I hope very much that 263 they will find it in their hearts to support the Opposition's amendments.
The problem is that the State passes legislation which can affect the livelihood of the individual worker and, indeed, his chance of any livelihood. As we all know, if anyone is once expelled or excluded from a trade union, he does not just lose his job in that works: he may lose his job for ever and be totally unemployed. That is one thing that the State has done in passing this legislation.
The next thing that the State can do is that, because it is such a large employer, it can insist on closed shop agreements in those categories of workers it employs. So it has done that as well.
Again, the State is the authority responsible for paying or refusing to pay unemployment benefit. It is a transfer of rights from the individual to the State made at the behest of the TUC General Council. The further that we get away from the trade union official to the rank and file, the less support the Bill gets. The more that we move away from reality and from the robust, dignified, normal worker to the jaded, cynical, irresponsible trade union official, the more support the Bill gets.
That is no exaggeration. I say that this Bill is the enfranchisement of the corporate society and the disfranchisement of the individual. It gives status to the organised body, and it destroys the status of the individual citizen. It elevates the irresponsible trade union official—[Laughter.] I use the word "irresponsible" in the constitutional sense. The trade union official is irresponsible. He is not subject to election, as we are. He is not exposed to pressure, as we are.
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman recognises those words. With the exception of the word "Bill" which I have substituted for the word "regulation", they are the words used by Aneurin Bevan in the House when defending a situation towards the end of the war, and they are taken directly from a book written by the Secretary of State. I hope, therefore, that he will bear in mind that the circumstances are very similar to those about which Aneurin Bevan was speaking. So, when Government supporters laugh at the language that I have used, 264 perhaps they will understand that it is the language of Aneurin Bevan.
§ Mr. Prior
I hope that the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Corbett) will look carefully at the context.
I turn now to one of the main arguments of the Secretary of State about Section 5 of the 1974 Act dealing with exclusion or expulsion from a trade union. Let us examine this proposal for a TUC committee, which the right hon. Gentleman calls "workable and effective" safeguards for the person excluded or expelled.
The committee would be appointed by the TUC. The TUC would consult the Secretary of State and the Chairman of the ACAS. But that does not necessarily mean that that makes it a legal committee. It is not a legal committee, because the right hon. Gentleman has made it plain that that is not his wish.
The individual who takes a case to the committee has to go through all the internal union procedures before the committee is set up. We know how long that can take. It can take a very long time. In another place, Lord George-Brown said that he thought that it could take up to a couple of years. What happens to the individual whilst he is waiting for those procedures to be gone through? He loses his job, or he is sent home and paid by his employer. I do not think that that is a very satisfactory procedure for anyone to undergo.
What is the right to reinstatement? It may be true that the committee and the TUC will do all that they can to get reinstatement if the committee rules that way. But there is no legal right to reinstatement. It is just a hope. It can be no more than a hope. There can be no enforcement, and no reinstatement.
Parliament has no say in the setting-up of this committee. The committee can work only in a closed shop situation. Moreover, it applies only to TUC unions. Can we be satisfied in matters which involve a man's livelihood and work that the TUC in its quasi-judicial capacity is properly equipped for doing this? The 265 right hon. Gentleman referred to the television licence matter, and I mention in passing that it was good that the TV licence holders had a judge to go to. If they had had to rely on anyone else, they would not have got very far.
I shall refer to what Mr. Eric Jacobs of the Sunday Times had to say about the TUC quasi-judicial procedures. He said:The TUC's procedures turned out to be less than fair, its rules were not clear guides to action; and it attempted even to make its own decisions take precedence over the law of the land.Later he pointed out:For instance, it was by no means clear that the TUC disputes committee ever had a fair account of the facts"—he was referring to the Saga Apex case—Rothwell was not allowed to attend the committee hearing and the judge was moved to issue a mild rebuke to ASTMS for apparently inflating the figures for its GA membership, thus perhaps influencing the committee's view on its appropriateness as the right union for the company's staff.But essentially the case was a test of the TUC's law-making abilities, and the TUC lost heavily on a number of counts".We are here to protect the rights of the individual citizen. Is it right that we should allow a man's livelihood to be taken away from him without a proper right of appeal to the High Court? I do not believe that even the right hon. Gentleman can believe what he is saying.
§ The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Mr. Albert Booth)
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whose livelihood was at stake in the case to which he has referred? In that case the Bridlington Committee was seeking to decide which was the appropriate union to organise in a particular situation.
§ Mr. Prior
The hon. Gentleman has missed the point. The hon. Gentleman is arguing that the TUC is a fit and proper body to undertake the duties of a court of appeal. We are saying that there is nothing that convinces us that the TUC is the right body. Indeed, there is evidence available—for example, the case I have just mentioned—to prove that the TUC's rules and procedures are not suitable for exercising a responsibility 266 of this nature. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman's reference to the Bridlington rules has anything to do with the matter.
I turn to the changes in paragraph 6(5) of Schedule 1 and Section 30 of the 1971 Act which deal with the unfair dismissal clause and under what grounds one can be excluded from a union. It is clear that under the new Bill management and unions may conclude an agreement requiring employees to belong to a specified union, or, where they are not members of a specified union, have it accepted as one. If they refuse, they can be fairly dismissed except, of course, on religious grounds, albeit that they are people who have worked for many years for an employer and are members of another union, in or out of the TUC, and have deeply held personal convictions about joining any or a specified union, or have applied and have been turned down.
That is what will happen under the new Bill. We do not contend that closed shops are wrong, or that individual freedom cannot be maintained within such arrangements. We maintain that the right hon. Gentleman's arrangements are totally unsatisfactory for this purpose. We know that employers and employees welcome the orderly arrangements which can come from such agreements. Neither side is usually disturbed much by the odd person who refuses to join.
However, we are deeply concerned about the safeguards. The right hon. Gentleman has argued that he is doing no more than return to the pre-1971 position. Indeed, he has put forward that argument time and time again. Lord Donovan found that to be unsatisfactory, and even the right hon. Gentleman's own Department, the Department of Employment at the time when the right hon. Lady was Secretary of State, gave evidence accordingly. Lord Donovan clearly stated that although trade unions must retain ultimate discretion about when to admit and when not to admit, he recognised that this meant that trade union rules should be clarified and that there should be an independent body beneath the courts to whom an appeal should be made. Therefore, the position before 1971 was unclear, inconsistent and certainly unsatisfactory.
267 If the amended Bill becomes law, the position will be quite different from pre-1971. For the first time closed shops are specifically encouraged by the defining of "union membership agreement". Moreover, appeals on exclusion and so on are to be made only to the TUC body. There are only religious reasons for not belonging. Indeed, most trade unions and closed shops up until now have always accepted other conditions such as reasons of conscience, and so on, for not joining.
It will be fair to dismiss. There was, of course, no unfair dismissal procedure before the 1971 Act. Time and time again, through his statements in the House and outside, the right hon. Gentleman has given the official imprimatur of the Government and protection of the law and by doing so has made it clear that he is seeking the setting up of closed shops.
Finally, the unions will be completely free, if the Bill goes through, to draw up their own rules. I should like to quote a short passage from the Observer which says:In thus tilting power towards the trade union, Mr. Foot's short Bill is denying it not to the employer but to the individual worker. Trade unions are as capable of being tyrannical as any other human institution; and the individual needs proper protection against them.On those grounds we rest our case that the amendment Bill is totally inadequate and should be drastically and radically amended.
We are glad that the issue of the closed shop has become much wider in the eyes of the public than the narrow Press issue on which attention was concentrated in the last Session. However, it is out of the closed shop provisions that the Press freedom issue arose. The issue was that a closed shop—negotiated in the Press by the National Union of Journalists—could deny access to the Press by individual outside contributors and thus undermine editorial freedom.
That fear was added to by certain events which, first, prevented outside contributors from taking part, and, secondly, changed the rules of membership for editors. I do not think that this point has been brought out enough, because again the right hon. Gentleman has said that all he is doing is returning to the 268 pre-1971 position. That is not so. According to the Press, editors were always allowed to have associate membership up until about two years ago, but now they have to become full members.
If they had to become full members, they would be placed completely at the mercy of the closed shop, perhaps when the union decided to come out on strike. The editor would then have to choose whether to try to produce his paper. If he did, he could be thrown out of the union and lose his livelihood. That is the point on which a number of editors or would-be editors feel very strongly.
§ Mr. Corbett
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that even when editors with the power of hire and fire were in associate membership they were still bound by the decisions of the national executive council and to that extent, under the rules, could be called out on strike—although in practice they were not?
§ Mr. Prior
My understanding is that they never had to attend union meetings and that those conditions were never enforced. But it is the fact that they now have to be full members of the NUJ in a closed shop which causes concern to editors, as expressed to me in recent days.
The whole issue of Press freedom is far too important to be left to chance. That is why we strongly supported the amendments which Lord Goodman wrote into the previous Bill in another place. We were not entitled to write in those amendments, because they were not covered by the Long Title of the Bill, but they were written in in another place. We believe that they represent the very minimum that requires to be done.
But I go further. I believe that we need a proper examination of the whole issue of freedom of the Press, which must go much wider than just the subject of journalists. There are more and more cases in which other unions can exert such pressure on an editor as to prevent the publication of news or advertisements which that editor in the ordinary course of events would wish to put into the paper.
I quote two examples. First, the News of the World was printing an article by Lord George-Brown as the main story on Sunday 22nd June. The News of the World was told that if it went ahead with 269 publication, the paper could not be printed. It was not until two-thirds of the copies had been lost that the printers changed their minds and agreed to print.
The second case is even more tragic, in a way. The Director wished to carry an advertisement which the unions refused to print. It was, of course, an advertisement in which Mr. Ross McWhirter was playing a leading part. They refused to print it. It says:The Case of the Missing Ad".These are infringements of freedom which no hon. Member should countenance, a freedom for which people have been prepared to give their lives. We need a much wider review of the whole apparatus of the closed shop as it affects the freedom of the Press. I hope that the Government will pay close attention to what I have said.
§ Mr. Prior
Again, the right hon. Gentleman knows the point only too well. Such a proposal is totally unenforceable. All that we were trying to do the whole way along in the passage of the previous Bill was to give at least some right of redress to anyone who lost his job as a result of refusing to join a union or, if he were thrown out in some way, to give him a right of appeal to the High Court. The right hon. Gentleman knows only too well that without those assurances written into the Bill, it would be completely meaningless.
What I am asking him now to do is proceed with the Goodman amendments. Incidentally, Lord Goodman went out of his way to try to get agreement on this. The stories that we have had from the right hon. Gentleman about what happened on that famous night were very dissimilar from those we have heard from nearly every other source with actual knowledge of what happened that night. Agreement could have been reached. I understand from my sources that a number of the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues were under the impression that an 270 agreement was going to be reached and that it was not until he got to his office the next morning that the whole thing went wrong again. So we know that there is no great act of principle here to stop the Government from reaching a sensible decision.
§ Mr. Foot
I do not know where the right hon. Gentleman picks up these rumours, but his account of the proceedings of that night and that morning is completely wrong. In fact, the final proposal which was turned down, which was one which had been agreed on by the Cabinet, was turned down by Lord Goodman. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman has not given any accurate account of the facts. Of course, I understand that the right hon. Gentleman may have been misled by a statement in The Times on the subject, a statement which was equally false and which said that we had made a proposal which had been withdrawn. That also was not the case. The fact is that the discussions broke down on the same point on which they had broken down over previous months—that is, that Lord Goodman wanted to make the whole business legally enforceable and we did not accept that view.
§ Mr. Prior
What I find a little disingenuous about the right hon. Gentleman's answer is why on earth, since he knew that Lord Goodman would be bound to want to give any proposal some proper authority, he bothered at all that evening to send his officials along, or they bothered to go—if he and the Cabinet were not prepared to give any undertaking along these lines.
It looks perfectly clear to me from reading the Lords Hansard that what happened was that Lord Goodman met officials, they agreed to everything except one minor point, and Lord Goodman then went to bed in the happy expectation that all would be all right the next day, only to find that when the Secretary of State got to his office he had turned the whole thing down.
§ Mr. Prior
I certainly hope that Lord Goodman will publish everything that happened on that eventful night. That would be by far the best way. That would be open government. I dare say that, if the right hon. Gentleman wishes Lord Goodman to publish, he will certainly do so.
I end by coming back again to the need to protect the rights of the individual. The Government have contended all the way through that the law has no part to play in industrial relations legislation. But they have not got rid of it. The 1971 Act recognised the power of the unions and sought to ensure that their proceedings were orderly and, above all, that the rights of the individual were protected. The present Government are using the law to extend the power of the unions in a way which negates individual freedom and jeopardises fairness in uniop rules.
But the law is there: they have not got rid of it. I believe that they risk a fundamental clash with the courts over the interpretation of common law rights. Is it of no concern to Labour Members that so many eminent lawyers and others have spoken up on this subject?
§ Sir Edward Brown (Bath)
Is it not a fact that, if the Bill becomes law, the House of Commons will virtually have passed 23 million workers into the hands of the trade union leadership, good Jr ill?
§ Mr. Prior
Certainly they will make it much more difficult for an individual worker to exercise his rights to decide whether he wishes to belong to a union and in matters of conscience, religion and in other ways.
This problem cannot be left where it is. It will not be forgotten and will not go away. Case after case will come up. 272 That is why, Parliament, with the help of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Percival)—
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
The right hon. Gentleman will recall that he was present through most of the debates on this subject under different Administrations. A few months ago, before Prorogation, I thought I heard him say that if there was one thing he had learned, it was that in this difficult sphere nothing could be done effectively and permanently except with the consent of those who worked in industry and who were part and parcel of the trade union movement.
In making this wide and exaggerated peroration now, is he not in danger of overthrowing what he said he had learned? Is not it much more a matter of having consent, a limited application of the law, which he has said is always present, and of reaching the kind of careful agreement towards which the Minister has been working? Is not the right hon. Gentleman denouncing what he said he had learned over the past year by making the kind of peroration that might please his ignorant and hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Sir E. Brown) and betraying that he has learned nothing during the years he was in office?
§ Mr. Prior
As the hon. Gentleman has said, the fact is that the law is here now. It is weighted differently now. It is now weighted against the individual. The law will not go away. It is not as if there was no law. The Government have made a fundamental mistake in that they have swung the law from one end to the other. Other sections of society will complain about the operation of the law.
In the amendments that we tabled in the summer of 1974 we tried to set out a number of sections in the law which protected the rights of the individual and which meant that all hon. Members could leave the law on industrial relations alone and allow it to develop. That would have met the points raised by the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends, and it would have met our difficulties over individual freedom. I regret that that has not happened. It would have taken industrial relations out of the party political sphere. On that occasion the majority of hon. Members agreed with us.
273 It is only a combination of arrogance and capitulation that has produced the Bill today. The Bill will not succeed in defeating the spirit and will of a free and independent people. It is a disgrace to the Mother of Parliaments, and we reject it.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Mr. John Pardoe (Cornwall, North)
The Secretary of State for Employment made a speech of which in retrospect he will be ashamed. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman has a long retirement—he deserves it—in which to write his memoirs and to cogitate upon the difference between the speeches of his youth and those we have come to expect from him of late. They are very different. There are many definitions of hell and I suggest that the definition applicable to the right hon. Gentleman is that he will have to try to align the speeches that he made in earlier days with those he has made more recently. He will find that today's speech was one of the most shameful speeches that he has made from that or any other Bench in this House.
I take up the point which the right hon. Gentleman made strongly at the outset of his speech about the House of Lords. I take no more pleasure than he does in the defeat of this House at the hands of the present House of Lords. I accept that the House of Lords, with the one exception that the right hon. Gentleman cited—and that was a long time back—has always been weighted towards the Conservative cause.
I am not in favour of the present House of Lords having the power to override a decision of this House, but not because I believe that this House should be omnipotent. This House is unrepresentative and because it is unrepresentative it should not be able to take final decisions.
§ Mr. Pardoe
This House is unrepresentative if a majority in this House can do what it likes when it has a mandate from only 38 per cent. of those who voted and only 28 per cent. of those entitled to vote. I warn the right hon. Gentleman that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. It takes only two people in every 100 to put him and his hon. Friends on this side of the 274 House and to put the right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) on the Government Front Bench. That is too unstable a situation in which to allow this House to exercise an overriding omnipotence over any decision of this sort. Therefore, there is a need—
§ Mr. John Mendelson
Is it now the policy of the Liberal Party—and the leader of the party is sitting next to the hon. Gentleman—and the accepted constitutional doctrine of that party that the General Election and the majority in this House are not determined any more by the allocation of seats in the House of Commons?
§ Mr. Pardoe
The hon. Gentleman should realise—I hope that he does now—that we are trying to change that situation. However, it may not have become immediately apparent to him.
There is a need for some institution to control what this House does. The reform of the House of Lords might be one way in which to go about it. However, who was mainly responsible for ensuring that the House of Lords is such a Gilbert and Sullivan body that no one believes it has any democratic authority: It was a monstrous, unholy alliance of the heavenly twins—the right hon. Members for Down South (Mr. Powell) and Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot). This country probably needs a written constitution to ensure that this House cannot, with a mandate of 38 per cent. of the electorate do whatever it likes.
Therefore, although I do not dissent from the right hon. Gentleman's views about the House of Lords, because I do not like its having the power to tell us what to do any more than he does. I should like to have an institution which could do that. This Bill above all others in recent years shows how necessary it is that the House has some institution to control its activities.
The right hon. Gentleman does not seem to understand the deep underlying principle at stake in the Bill. In particular, he does not understand why he has been called a Fascist. I am not quite sure why he does not understand that, because it seems fairly obvious to me.
§ Mr. Pardoe
It is not me who has called the right hon. Gentleman a Fascist. This is set out in a fairly detailed argument in an article that was published in The Times, following an Opposition Member who said it first.
I put to the right hon. Gentleman some words which sum up this view fairly clearly. I make no apologies for quoting this week's edition of The Economist. The right hon. Gentleman may have read the article. It says:Tell a man to join a union. Then refuse his application. Then remove his pay packet. Then deny him unemployment benefit. And where then—the psychiatric hospital? The labour camp for parasites?That sums up the case against the Bill. I ask the right hon. Gentleman what he thinks Cassius would have said about that. I do not mean the lean and hungry Roman: I mean the Cassius, the M. M. Foot, who wrote the "Trial of Mussolini". I wonder what he would have thought in his youth of that statement and this Bill?
The right hon. Gentleman has said that the Industrial Relations Act was a piece of corporate Statism. I believe that this Bill is a piece of corporate Statism. It is necessary briefly to spell out the history of how we got into this situation.
The last Labour Government established the Donovan Commission. That Commission recommended a series of extremely helpful and constructive proposals for the reform of the trade unions and labour relations generally. My right hon. and hon. Friends and I endorsed the great majority of the findings of that Commission, including its findings on the closed shop. I want to make that quite clear at this stage, because the Donovan Commission found in favour of a closed shop. Alas, and disastrously, the Labour Government set aside the Donovan Commission and established in place thereof a document called "In Place of Strife". That was a tragedy of lost opportunity.
When the Conservative Government introduced the Industrial Relations Act, we supported the need to bring the law up to date, particularly bearing in mind the huge shift in the balance of power in our society as between the trade unions and the rest of society since previous legislation at the end of the last century and in the early years of this. However, 276 in our view the Tory Bill tried to do that in the wrong direction and by the wrong means. The Tories accepted that there had been a shift of power from the trade union leaderships in the days of Arthur Deakin to the shop floor. They tried to reverse that shift of power.
That was entirely the wrong way of dealing with the monopoly power of trade unions. The Conservative Government ought to have recognised that the shift had taken place and should have created properly constituted democratic institutions to wield power where it was—namely, on the shop floor. That would have brought about an industrial democracy, which is what we wish to create now.
Unfortunately, the present Government have come forward with this proposal. They are trying to do very much the same thing as the Tories did, by forcing monopoly membership on individuals so that they have to join a particular union even though they do not wish to do so. Therefore, both Governments are in some senses guilty of trying to create the corporate State.
The Trade Union and Labour Relations Act was discussed in May, June and July of last year—in between the last two General Elections, when, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, he did not have the majority that he has now. Much of the argument revolved around the closed shop and the protection of individual freedom within trade unions. I and my right hon. and hon. Friends voted for the Second Reading of that Trade Union and Labour Relations Bill. We had voted for the Second Reading of the Industrial Relations Act 1971 on the ground that we believed that there should be an attempt to reform the law. We stated quite clearly at the time that there should be major amendments to it on the lines that I have already indicated. On Second Reading we said quite clearly that if those amendments were not accepted by the Government at the time, we would oppose the Bill on Third Reading, and we did so. Therefore, it seems to me that this is a perfectly honourable and rational position to have adopted throughout.
On Second Reading of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act, my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Mr. 277 Smith) emphasised that we were concerned with the protection of the individual within the closed shop situation. He stated then that although we were voting for the Second Reading of the Bill, we looked to the Government to take positive measures and to bring forward positive amendments in order to ensure the position of the individual, nevertheless stating that we accepted, as did the Donovan Commission—against the position adopted in the 1971 Act—that the closed shop must in principle be allowed to exist.
In Committee, as the right hon. Gentleman will accept, we introduced amendments relating to exclusion from and expulsion from trade unions; for instance, the extension of the right not to join for reasons of reasonable conscience. The aim of those amendments was to allow people to extend the conscience clause beyond religion to reasonable conscientious objection to membership of a particular trade union. Unhappily, those amendments were not carried in Cornmittee, so the Bill emerged in a form which we did not like at all.
On Report we tabled similar amendments. My hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale again spoke in that debate. He explained our position on the closed shop. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State was present at the time, I think, and heard those arguments. I have no doubt that he is familiar with them. However, we were willing to accept the existence of the closed shop in principle. In this sense, as I have said, we accepted the recommendation of the Donovan Commission, and we attacked the Conservative position at the time because the Conservatives had stated that the closed shop was null and void, and clearly that was an impossible position to accept.
We have not received any view from the Government that shows that they are prepared to accept those criticisms that we have made of the main Act. Now we are faced with an extension of an unsatisfactory situation by this Bill.
Along with the Conservative Opposition, we tabled certain amendments at an earlier stage. The Government are now trying to overthrow the results of those efforts. I have to say to the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, that there 278 is really only one question that we want answered—what about conscience? Where does he put "conscience" in relation to a refusal to join a trade union?
I should like to refer the right hon. Gentleman to a document which he has seen and which his Minister of State has seen. It is a document which has emanated from a group of employees of British Rail's Southern Region. It goes in great detail into what might or might not be the grounds upon which an individual who had no religious beliefs at all or, indeed, any sort of religious belief, could nevertheless take a firm and fundamental view in principle and on conscience grounds against being a member of a particular union, or of any union. It is interesting to note the letter, which was written by the Archbishop of Westminster very shortly before he died, to Miss Jane Morgan. The Archbishop said:I have seen in the Press that you are not alone in protesting against the ruling that only religious objections to joining unions are acceptable. I agree that one does not have to belong to a specific religious sect to have rights of conscience. Obviously there are many excellent unbelievers with a very active conscience.Is that the right hon. Gentleman's position? If it is, on what ground of conscience is one allowed to dissent?
Perhaps I may put to the right hon. Gentleman a somewhat analogous argument. It is one which cropped up at the time of debates about conscientious objection in America with regard to the Vietnam war. The debate then was as follows. The American Government said "There are grounds for religious and conscientious objection, but you cannot conscientiously object or object on religious grounds to a particular war. You may object only to all wars. You may be only a total, outright, general pacifist. You cannot say 'I disagree with this war and will not fight it'."
It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman then would have taken the view of the dissenting nonconformist minority in America—I certainly did, and I believe that he would have done so—that one should be able to object in relation to a particular war and that that would be grounds for declaring oneself a conscientious objector. Did the right hon. Gentleman take that view, and does he take it now?
279 Does it not apply to this situation? Albeit it must be amended considerably to bring it into line, nevertheless the principle is there. We want to know whether the right hon. Gentleman believes that one can be a conscientious objector, in the trade union context or in the con- text of war, if one has only conscientious grounds.
§ Mr. Corbett
I am trying to follow the hon. Gentleman on the point about conscientious objection. Would it in- clude a conscientious objection to being a member of a firm's pension fund, to which one had to contribute, so that one could pick and choose whether one was a member of it?
§ Mr. Pardoe
I see no reason why an individual employee should not be able to opt out. There are, however, very good reasons why a Government should be able to declare minimum standards up to which an individual must insure him- self, because if some minimum standard is not set, the rest of the taxpayers will have to pay out benefits to him in his old age. It would be a cost on others. We have had great arguments about whether firms may opt out of pension schemes fairly recently in the House. I believe that one should be able to object on the ground of conscience or, indeed, on other grounds, to this sort of corpra- tism or collectivism.
I do not suppose that we shall ever get a satisfactory answer from the Secretary of State, because he has put forward a whole series of specious arguments today in order to defend an indefensible case. He has walked into the trade union bag, lock, stock and barrel. It is all sewn up, with him inside. He is being carried along on a collectivist tide en- tirely foreign to his nature and his politi- cal principles, and particularly to the political traditions of his family.
There is a statue of Oliver Cromwell not far from this House. The right hon. Gentleman's father never passed it with- out doffing his hat. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman should know something about the Puritan revolution. He may have read Richard Hoggart's definition of puritanism in the Lady Chatterley trial. He will remember his description of a puritan as a man who has an intense sense of responsibility for his conscience. If 280 that really is the definition of a puritan, does the right hon. Gentleman believe that a puritan in that sense should be able on grounds of conscientious objection not to join a trade union?
§ Mr. Foot
The hon. Gentleman should argue the matter without bringing my family into it. Oliver Cromwell—I am looking at the Mace as I speak—used to exercise considerable authoritarian powers in some circumstances because he thought that they were justified. I agree with my father about most things, but I disagreed with him about Oliver Cromwell. I was always on the side of the Levellers. I thought that they had a better case.
The hon. Gentleman was asking me about conscience. We have argued that matter in great detail. That argument has gone. However questions of conscience are debated, we do not believe that they can be set down in a statute of this nature.
I gathered that the hon. Gentleman was near the end of his speech. I asked him at the beginning to make a correction, and I hope that he will make it, particularly as he is adopting such a high moral tone. He accused me of being a Fascist, on the ground that I had said that because the Ferrybridge six had been dismissed for this reason, they had voluntarily declared themselves dismissed and were therefore not entitled to unemployment pay. I hope that the hon. Gentleman now understands that I never said anything of the sort. It was on that accusation that he based the charges that he has renewed in his speech. I hope that if there is any conscience left in him he will conclude his speech with an apology.
§ Mr. Pardoe
The right hon. Gentleman is correct in saying that I was about to conclude my speech. I was about to do so by referring back to my letter to him of 3rd December, which he has taken the opportunity to answer this afternoon. What I asked him in that letter was where he had made any suggestion in his letter to Mr. Paul Nicholson that in his view those people were entitled to unemployment pay, or should be entitled to it. That was the implication he made in his answers at Question Time. I said—and I met the right hon. Gentleman's point:I recognise the difficulties of legal interpretation in a case of this sort, and I would have 281 thought that it would have been better to leave it at this stage to the independent adjudicating authorities to decide the question. Unfortunately, your letter of 27th November appeared to state your own decision before theirs had been reached.That remains the case. There is still a clear implication throughout that letter that the right hon. Gentleman believes that that kind of action amounts to industrial misconduct. If he does not believe that, will he categorically now say that he hopes that they will be adjudged eligible for unemployment benefit? If not, he is not prepared to meet my point.
§ Mr. Foot
I answered the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question in the remarks I made before. I do not believe that any Minister of any Government dealing with such a situation would alter that answer in any way—that is, that the Minister should leave the decision to the adjudicating authority and perhaps make any comment afterwards.
I entirely repudiate the suggestion that I earlier made any such imputation about the matter as the hon. Gentleman says. Therefore, what the hon. Gentleman quoted on the radio was a falsification, and I ask him once again to apologise for having spread that falsehood throughout the country.
§ Mr. Pardoe
It is the right hon. Gentleman who must apologise. He must apologise for the letter he wrote on 27th November to Mr. Paul Nicholson. It would indeed have been much better if he had said
§ "Dear Mr. Nicholson,
§ I believe that this is a matter which should he left to the adjudicating authorities.
§ Yours sincerely,".
He did not. He went on to try to justify his case. In the final paragraph on the first page he said:
A person who declines to fall in with new conditions of employment which result from a collective agreement may well be considered to have brought about his dismissal.
§ That clearly implies, in the context of that letter, that the Secretary of State personally thought that that was true. Is he saying that he does not subscribe to that view?
§ Mr. Foot
I repudiate the suggestion and implication that the hon. Gentleman is putting on the words. The hon. Gentleman is reading in a false imputation. If 282 he reads the whole letter he will see the difference. I hope that he will not pursue that line any more. He may have differences with me about anything under the sun, but I hope that he will understand that I am making no such imputation, and that he will accept my word on the matter. I do not ask him to apologise, if he does not want to do so, but he is misreading the letter, and I hope that he will not do so again.
§ Mr. Pardoe
I am delighted that at last the right hon. Gentleman has cleared up that letter. He has said that he did not intend that implication, and has thus ensured that the letter is now universally understood. I believe that it was universally misunderstood. I could find hardly anyone who would have interpreted it as the right hon. Gentleman did. In the light of what the hon. Gentleman has now said, I of course withdraw any suggestion that he implied what he did not imply. We now know what he implied. We have it on the record, and I am very grateful to him for clearing up this matter.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Mr. John Stonehouse (Walsall, North)
In the debate on the Queen's Speech I expressed the view that too many Bills were being introduced this Session. This Bill is one that we could do without. It is conceived in error and wrong in principle. Its genesis is not a cool, calm analysis of what is required in industrial relations. It has been drafted, introduced and reintroduced, and is now being pushed through a reluctant Parliament, merely to satisfy a deal—some would say a squalid deal—done outside the House.
The Bill is a recognition of the power of non-parliamentary forces which are determined to carve out for themselves a powerful fiefdom which will have the full power of the law to sustain it and the full authority of the Establishment to crush any individuals who do not wish to conform. The law has already gone too far in disregarding the rights of the individual. The case of the Ferrybridge six has proved that.
It is right that the House should refer to that case today. Six power station workers resigned from their union and joined another to which at one time 316 men out of 534 at the power station belonged. Therefore, it was not a case of a small group in the works. The majority 283 of men there had belonged to that union, but because of the closed shop agreement between the electricity supply industry and the TUC-affiliated union, the men were given an ultimatum to join their old union again or be dismissed. The six men held firm on a point of principle, and were dismissed. Not only did they lose their jobs, but, as we have heard again today, their unemployment pay is at risk. They are still awaiting the result of their appeal.
What are we coming to when such conformity is the order of the day, when workers are not only forbidden to join the associations of their choice, but are victimised and persecuted and forced to cope with tedious, long-winded hearings in tribunals and the courts to protect a simple principle? The dangers of these trends are immense. The basic right to work is being removed, the right to free association is being destroyed, and more power is being given to the powerful to impose their ideas on the rest. It does not matter that this policy is against the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. Those concepts of individual freedom, including the right of every man not to be forced into an association against his will, are now apparently stale and unimportant in this new era of conformity which is being ushered in under the spurious cloak of progress.
It is a crowning tragedy that the task of pushing this process still further has been thrust on a man who was once a great Parliamentarian and a noble libertarian. The thought control has gone a long way when that can happen, but we must remember that 1984 is only eight years and three weeks away. What we are organising and creating is a system of society which combines the worst aspects of authoritarianism and the worst aspects of syndicalism. It is a most dangerous mixture which squeezes out individual initiative and sucks the energies of the most active and productive in our society.
The cult of conformity which Ministers now worship is to be strengthened still further by the effect of the Bill on the freedom of the Press. As the House knows, I have had many troubles with the Press, some of which I have brought on myself by irrational conduct. Although I condemn certain sections of 284 the Press for their excesses, I do not want them to be forced into the cult of mediocrity and conformity. I want the Press to be able to report and mirror events and opinions fairly without fear.
That hope and possibility will be made much less likely if the Bill is enacted. It will impose a closed shop on all journalists, including those in managerial control of papers. It will make it difficult for outside contributors to gain access to the media. It will give enormous potential power to the National Union of Journalists, not only as it is constituted today, but how it may be constituted within five or 10 years. The NUJ will be able to decide what appears in the newspapers, because it will have the ultimate power. That is a form of syndicalism which could spell the end of free expression for the rest of the community.
There is already to much specialisation. Too many people are locked in narrow, compartmentalised lives. The Bill will add to that specialisation, or ossification as I prefer to call it. We shall have much less flexibility than we need. The cult of conformity, of which the Bill is another demonstration, will make it very much more difficult to achieve the flexibility that we need if we are to survive as a free country, if we are to have a free, progressive and dynamic economy in future.
I believe that these measures are irrelevant to the deep economic problems now facing us and a distraction from the positive steps which should be taken to deal with them. Instead of wasting his time in this way, the Secretary of State should be examining ways of dealing with unofficial strikes, which are crippling our capacity to pay our way Only the other day the Secretary of State for Industry confirmed that £200 million of taxpayers' money—that is approximately £10 for each employed person—has already been put into Britsh Leyland. However, because of internal disputes in that company, its viability is being destroyed. What is the point of pouring public money into a company when the workers are sabotaging production? Endless disputes will destroy British Leyland just as they have destroyed Chrysler.
What is the Secretary of State for Employment doing about the industrial 285 situation? The answer is that he is doing nothing. He does nothing to tackle the problem of inter-union disputes, which undermine productivity. He does nothing to encourage those who want to abolish overmanning and restrictive practices. On the contrary, he is actively encouraging them. Instead of positive actions from the Secretary of State, we have this Bill, a measure which has been brought in at the behest of the TUC, the same body which, despite its undoubted power, has lamentably failed in the past 15 years to tackle the malaise in British industry.
The TUC has been revealed as a vested interest that seeks to protect the vested interests of its affiliates. This is not the time to give these sections within our community still more power at the expense of the individual. That is why I shall be joining those who will vote against the Bill tonight.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Mr. David Madel (Bedfordshire, South)
The right hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Stonehouse) began by referring to the Government's order of priorities. I think that a few words should be said about the priorities of the Department of Employment.
I am sure that the Minister of State will be aware that there are two pressing matters which should now occupy the time of the House rather than again this Bill. The first of those matters is the overall unemployment situation. We desperately need a debate on unemployment.
The second matter is the Chrysler situation. One piles amazement upon amazement when one sees our programme for the next 10 days. Today we return to a Bill which is not necessary, and on Monday we are to debate the Second Reading of the Dock Work Regulation Bill. I do not deny for one moment that the Government said in the Gracious Speech that these matters would be brought forward in this Session, but as the Session has only just begun, and as there are the difficult problems of unemployment and Chrysler before us, it is very regrettable to say the least that we should today and on Monday be discussing matters which are largely irrelevant.
Another matter which must be mentioned when discussing industrial relations is the incredible time that the Government 286 have taken to set up the inquiry into industrial democracy and participation. Last Session, in Standing Committee C, the Minister of State told us that the Government were eager, anxious and raring to go. He said that they wanted the Committee to be set up so as to change the existing company structure and existing industrial relations structure. I regret to say that the Government have moved terribly slowly. Only recently have we heard the names of the members of the Committee. That is an inauspicious start to the new Session by the Department.
It is only just over a year ago that much of the argument on this Bill was taken up with the issue of Press freedom, whether we should have a charter or whether we needed something stronger. The Secretary of State should remember the words that he used on 3rd December 1974:I think that the unrestrained exercise of trade union power in the newspaper industry could strangle that industry. That would be a tragedy, not only for the people who would lose their jobs but also for the community at large."—[Official Report, 3rd December 1974; Vol. 882, c. 1380.]It is our anxiety that that which the Government propose as a safeguard is not near enough adequate. We do not say that the Trades Union Congress or the rules of the charter would not try to alleviate matters. What we say is that something stronger is needed. That is why the argument has continued for 12 months on the Goodman amendments and on the need to have stronger safeguards for the Press. I hope that the Government will reconsider those words that the right hon. Gentleman used last year and ask themselves whether what they propose squares with the anxiety that was expressed.
I wish to refer to Clause 1(d) which will repeal a part of Section 29(3) of the original Act. When this matter first came before the House a year ago the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars), who is not in his place today, waxed eloquent about strikes in relation to what was happening overseas. He said on 3rd December 1974 that the minority Labour Government's Bill would have allowed trade unioniststo take international action when faced by international capital … If the Act is amended according to the Bill, we can properly take 287 action to strengthen the hand of Californian grape pickers.He said that international trade unionism might have to take strike action and strikepenetratingly and deeply at the multinational companies …"—[Official Report, 3rd December 1974; Vol. 882, c. 1441.]In view of what has happened in the past year on the industrial scene, and because of the difficult situation faced by the Government in respect of Chrysler, the House will want to know from the Government and the TUC what constructive discussions have taken place between British trade unions and trade unions in Europe and elsewhere. We should like to know what guidelines have been agreed and what the Government and the TUC think can be done about the problem of multinational companies, particularly in the motor car industry where market conditions are difficult. We should like to have heard more about co-operation and discussions between unions in this country and those in Europe now that we are full members of the EEC rather then about plans to amend the 1974 Act.
I also wish to refer to the provisions contained in Clause 1(e). My right hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) mentioned the Vauxhall situation where workers have been excluded or have resigned from the union on grounds other than religious belief. The situation at Vauxhall is sad. The Luton Evening Post referred to this matter in detail last Saturday. One of the men concerned, Mr. Tom Clarke, on joining Vauxhall became a member of the union and said that he was in favour of it. After a couple of years things became bad and there were disputes and walk-outs. Mr. Clarke decided to leave the union in protest. Mr. Clarke said that some shop stewards had accused people who did not join the union of being too mean to do so. Mr. Clarke said that that statement was rubbish and that he personally was willing to pay his subscription to a charity, but the union refused to allow him to do so.
Why did Mr. Clarke leave the union, and what lessons can we learn from that situation? That man left the union on grounds of conscience because he did not agree with the policy of the AUEW. 288 We must remember that the situation at Vauxhall has been at boiling point not just because certain employees have chosen not to belong to the union. One of the shop stewards interviewed by the Press said that for years there had been a hard core of non-union members and that there had always been a lot of ill feeling. I do not believe that to be the case. I certainly believe that the present legislation is no way to get out of the situation. When dealing with the subject of industrial relations we should recognise that an individual who resigns from a union because he disagrees with its policy might in future re-apply to join the union when in due course its policy changes. I repeat that the present Bill will not help to alleviate the situation.
We often hear Labour Members say that the trade unions prefer the rules to be loose and flexible and not laid down in a rigid fashion. But surely it is a rigid legal rule that has caused Mr. Clarke to give up his employment at Vauxhall. We should pause and try to learn some lessons from that case. One lesson we must learn is that this Bill is unnecessary and will have no effect in improving industrial relations in that organisation.
We should now be legislating to ensure that people play a greater part in the conduct of companies. Given the present structure involving management and unions and embracing the present industrial relations set-up, I do not believe that we shall ever achieve that aim. We must seek to give the individual in the company greater status and a greater chance to play a wider part in company policy. I have heard the process referred to as "tripartism". But whatever it is called, I believe that this Bill will perpetuate the tug-of-war between unions and management. The situation must be changed and we must replace the system by a form of participation and industrial democracy—a concept which the Government say they favour but which they are extremely slow to bring about.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)
I welcome the Government's determination, in face of grave difficulties put in their way by the House of Lords, to reintroduce the Bill. I also welcome the fact that they are seeking to ensure that the last vestiges of the Industrial Relations Act 1971. 289 introduced by the Conservatives, are swept aside.
In showing determination on this matter, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment has been subjected to the most vicious and unscrupulous attacks from a number of sources. It is to his credit that that has happened, because Labour Ministers in carrying out their tasks should not expect pats on the back from the Establishment. The Labour Government are not in power to curry favour with the Establishment, and indeed I had a slight altercation with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on this score earlier today. The Labour Government are in power to challenge that Establishment. If a radical, reforming party is to change society and reflect the views of the working people, it is inevitable that the entrenched views of the Establishment should seek and good motives.
The editorial in The Times on this matter on 2nd December was a gross and unfair attack on the Secretary of State. Far from representing a development of "corporate Statism" as The Times editorial suggests, the amending Bill removes State control over the operation of trade unions. Yet that fact is nowhere mentioned in the editorial.
The editorial fails to point out that Sections 5 and 6 of the principal Act are being removed by the Bill and that those sections govern the operation of trade unions to an uncomfortable degree. The Bill also limits the powers of the Registrar to exercise supervisory jurisdiction. Since the Registrar will be appointed by the State, it could be argued that the Bill, far from extending and maintaining State control, diminishes it. Therefore, the charge that my right hon. Friend is extending corporate Statism is effectively refuted.
§ Mr. Tebbit
The hon. Gentleman may have inadvertently referred to the charge that the Bill extends State control. That is not so. The charge is that the legislation extends the boundaries of corporate Statism, the partnership between State and trade unions—a relationship in which at present the State is the junior partner.
§ Mr. Cryer
That intervention was inaccurate. The editorial refers to a corporatist system of government. That 290 system is what we are talking about in this debate in dealing with the present legislation. The point I am making is that by the Bill Government interference with trade unions is reduced. When I hear tepid criticisms about co-operation between Government and trade unions, the question I ask is "What is wrong with it?"
Surely the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Madel) was seeking some sort of co-operation between the two sides of industry. Co-operation between the trade union movement and the Government is one way of ensuring that some of the battles—not all the battles by any means, because of the inbuilt differences within our society—take place through discussion rather that confrontation. Nobody knows better than Opposition Members the methods of Governments in confrontation. That is why the Opposition are on the other side of the House and we are on this side. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) persists in making interruptions from a sedentary position. If you wish to intervene, stand up and I shall gave way. Otherwise, you should stop intervening from a sedentary position.
§ Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)
The hon. member talks as if the only confrontations to take place between Governments and trade unions come from this side, but the present Government are involved in a very glaring case of confrontation with the junior doctors and there has never been a more intransigent Minister than the Secretary of State for Social Services.
§ Mr. Cryer
I do not accept that view. The junior hospital doctors do not have the same sort of support in the trade union movement as there has been in previous movement as there has been in previous disputes. The junior doctors would be well advised to accept the advice of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and go back to work pending the 291 independent audit which she has promised. The Government can hardly be blamed for the failure of the junior doctors' own organisation to represent their views adequately in previously negotiations.
If the hon. Member for Gillingham wishes to talk about the possibility of other confrontations, I would say that there seems to be a confrontation developing between the Government and the consultants. I regret that, but I regard it as a matter of the interests of the consultants, wishing to get their greedy hands on the golden tonsils of private patients, against the interests of the community rather than a confrontation between working people and a Government seeking to crush the right of working people to combine and organise to improve their position.
The Bill narrows the ground for objection to membership of trade unions, excluding "any reasonable grounds" and basing objection on religious grounds only. We have had arguments on this point in some detail before. That is presumably why the House is so empty tonight. There is a fear that organisations of an unscrupulous nature would use wide terms of reference not in any genuine sense but to exploit the opportunities provided thereby to break up the collective strength of trade union members.
The Establishment will always represent half a dozen people in some obscure, quasi trade union as being pillars of individual veracity and honesty. It is significant that the whole weight of the Establishment, including papers like The Times, come out time and again for these tiny groups. That indicates the nature of the situation. These people, far from having the interests of the trade union movement at heart, are seeking to damage or wreck it by breaking the collective unity of working people.
The notion that people in this situation are isolated and fighting alone is far from the truth. They represent that section of society which seeks to break down the collective strength of the organised trade union movement. It is not a question of a tiny group of individuals. It is a question of the owners of capital often using poor, unwitting individuals and pushing them into a position of prominence where they are persuaded by the media to accept the role of Davids against the Goliaths of 292 the trade union movement. In reality, they are allied to the resources of the private ownership of capital which dominates the economy of this country. We still have a small minority of public ownership in this country. We have a mixed economy, but the mix is loaded in favour of the owners of private capital.
In the case of the Electricity Supply Union, it comes as no surprise that the General Secretary is a former Labour councillor who has stood in opposition to Labour candidates.
§ Mr. Cryer
It may not be wicked, but it indicates that his motives are not in line with those of the Labour Party, and those who say that his motives and those of his union are of the highest and are designed to promote the interests of working people can see that this is unlikely to be the case. Whether hon. Members opposite, who are currently disporting themselves in merriment, know and like it or not—and they do not, which is why they are on the opposite side—the Labour Party has the good wishes and support of the working class. People who work against the Labour Party tend to be working against working people in this country.
§ Mr. Patrick Mayhew (Royal Tunbridge Wells)
The hon. Member has explained how the Electricity Supply Union was set up, apparently with the clandestine support of what he describes as the Establishment. Perhaps he could also explain how it is that four of the Ferry-bridge six have had their applications to join the AUEW refused.
§ Mr. Cryer
I cannot comment on individual cases. It could well be that there is some sort of agreement or qualification which excludes them from membership. If people worked actively in an organisation which sought to bring about a lessening of the power of a particular trade union, it is hardly likely that they would endear themselves to that union and it is likely that their application to join the union would he viewed with a certain amount of suspicion. I cannot comment beyond that on the individual cases. A person cannot join any group of lawyers without qualifications. It would be interesting 293 to know whether the hon. and learned Member for Royal Tunbridge Wells (Mr. Mayhew) would permit a wide range of people to undertake the work of a solicitor.
§ Mr. Mayhew
Does not the hon. Member realise that the AUEW is one of the four unions which the 1969 CEGB agreement requires its employees to join? There is no question of any particular qualification.
§ Mr. Cryer
The AUEW is not the sole monopoly union in the CEGB. It is largely a craft union and it is not wide open to any member of the public to join, just as no group of lawyers is open for the public to join. Just as solicitors went to court a few months ago to stop, in a most ruthless manner, a perfectly legitimate housing co-operative from engaging in conveyancing work, so might a trade union exercise a certain amount of discretion. However, unions do not go to the courts and get the law on their side to fine people several hundred pounds, as happened in the recent case, to stop those people doing their work.
We must remember that a lot of Opposition hon. Members who talk about closed shop practices do so in the comfortable knowledge that they are members of one of the tightest and best organised closed shops in the world, and it does not behove those lawyers to start lecturing us about what closed shops might or might not lead to.
The Bill has been brought into question over the issue of Press freedom, a matter I have dealt with on previous occasions. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has made worthwhile efforts to refute the myth which has grown up that somehow the ownership of the vast majority of the media by a tiny group of people is compatible with freedom. It is not. Even if it were the case that the NUJ took over a newspaper completely and required the editor to be a member and also decided the general policy of that paper, that would be a more democratic system than operates at present whereby two or three people, or however many constitute the board of directors, determine a newspaper's policies.
We should not, however, be occupied with the spectre which Conservative Members raise that in some way the NUJ 294 members are terribly wicked and would influence the editor. There might be as many as 100 or 120 NUJ members on a large paper and Conservatives fear that they might have some influence. They would certainly have more influence than they have at the moment, and that influence would probably be open and not clandestine. To that extent such a development would provide more, not less, democracy.
We are, however, dealing with the situation in which the owners of the Press are frightened lest their monopoly or oligopoly might in some way be corrected or remedied in a particular situation. They have enjoyed a good run for their money so far, and they do not want that interfered with. They want to retain their influence over people. They want to be able to push forward candidates at trade union elections.
The sudden partiality of Conservative Members for trade union elections by ballot is not because they are interested in trade union democracy but because they want to see their sort of "moderate" people elected, and because they know that their friends in the media are in an influential position with postal ballots to achieve that result. I welcome postal ballots provided that the media are under some sort of control—
§ Mr. Cryer
They are already controlled by a group of people who associate themselves with the owners of capital, and they want to retain that situation.
Nevertheless, Parliament controls the BBC and the IBA through charters. Why not have a Press charter to control expressions of opinion and the amount of space allocated to trade union elections? It would be fair if the same amount of space were to be allocated to each candidate in a trade union election. Why do not the Opposition, supporting the notion of postal ballots for trade unionists, concede that the situation is fraught with danger because it is conceivable—just—that the Press might be biased and, therefore, that the Press should be controlled to ensure fairness?
The situation is not fair at the moment. I do not think anyone would argue that in the recent non-readoption of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for 295 Overseas Development Mr. Tony Kelly was treated with the degree of fairness he should have had. I do not suppose anyone would deny that probably criminal offences were committed by a number of newspapers in that respect. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] A Press charter would therefore ensure that the influence of the ownership of the Press was reconciled with the employees of the Press.
It would be an important step forward to ensure not that the Press was stifled but that it was more open than it is at the moment. We have only to recall our experiences of the last few years. The situation may be different for the Conservatives, but every Labour Member has had difficulty in getting matter into the newspapers. It need not be tendentious or controversial matter but simply related to something which a newspaper has put forward and been committed to in support of the Conservative Party or some similar institution. The charter would ensure that Press freedom was maintained and not diminished.
For the other place to attempt to interfere with the Bill yet again would not be an advance of freedom but would be simply an example of their Lordships coming down, as they traditionally do, in favour of the ownership of the Press. My remarks about the interference of the owners with editorial freedom—the right to hire and fire an editor, which often decides the policy of the paper—applies particularly to the daily Press, but it applies to a lesser extent to the provincial Press as well.
Any Labour Member could give examples of glaring unfairness where editors have been sacked because they have not toed the ownership's line. There are examples where Labour Members have made exceptional speeches on special occasions—perhaps where an hon. Member is picked out to open the debate on the Queen's Speech, which is something of a cachet—and yet the local newspaper in the hon. Member's constituency does not even mention the speech because it was delivered by a Labour MP. It is all very well for the hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) to laugh, but for Labour Members this is the daily routine of bias. It is not experienced by Conservative Members because 99 per cent. 296 of the Press is owned by Conservative Party sympathisers.
§ Mr. Cryer
There is the odd exception which guarantees the authenticity of my statement.
I welcome the Bill and I trust that it will get a Second Reading as it deserves I notice that one of my right hon. Friends gave a morality lecture. My right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Stonehouse) is the last person in this place who should comment on the morality of the Press or of anyone else. I believe that the majority of my hon. Friends will vote enthusiastically for the Bill tonight. We support my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to the hilt in seeing the Bill through the legislature, ensuring a greater ability for working people to combine, as has been their traditional right for over 100 years, and ensuring that the freedom of the Press is improved and in no way diminished.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Ray Mawby (Totnes)
It must be very simple for the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer)—I am sorry to see that he is leaving the Chamber—to make a speech by referring to the Establishment, on the one hand—I do not know how often he used that word—and to the workers, on the other hand. It was interesting that in some way the junior hospital doctors and the consultants did not appear to him to be workers and they therefore came into an entirely different category.
All the hon. Member's principles of trade union brotherhood and sympathy were forgotten the moment he talked about this different group of workers. I reject the suggestion that junior hospital doctors are not workers in the true sense of the word. The hon. Member made a great deal about the whole question of the Establishment and the fact that newspapers take a biased view because most of them are run and organised by people who own a great deal of capital.
I should declare a slight interest in that I am a director of a newspaper group, for which I receive a small fee, as will be seen from the register of Members' interests. I do not have large sums of money at my disposal. I am one of those 297 involved in the management of newspapers who does not have two halfpennies to rub together.
The hon. Member for Keighley argued that editors had been sacked by their employers because they did not conform to the policy laid down by their newspaper proprietors or boards of directors. Like everyone else, an editor is subject to dismissal, but when an editor is sacked by his boss he still has the right at common law to claim damages for unfair dismissal, whereas if the Bill becomes law he will not have that right if he is sacked because the union requires his employer to sack him. There is a considerable difference between an editor who is sacked by the proporitor or board of directors and an editor who is sacked because the union says that he will not become a member of the union or will not follow the diktats of the union chapel.
§ Mr. Corbett
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that far more editors have been fired by their bosses than have been fired through the action of any union, including the NUJ, although closed shops have existed in many local, evening and weekly papers for donkey's years?
§ Mr. Mawby
That may be so. That was the position before NUJ chapels began to take action. We are talking not about bogy men but about direct action designed to censor newspaper editorials, cartoons and specialist writers. Sometimes those pressures are successful. Editorials have been changed and cartoons have been withdrawn just because the chapel insisted that its members would not print the newspaper in that form.
§ Mr. Mawby
It has happened.
Under the present law the editor has a reasonable choice. He can say "The pressure put upon me is intolerable. My conscience will not allow me to change the format, so I shall refuse to do so and, as a result, I shall be fired and have no right to claim unfair dismissal." It appears that the Ferrybridge six cannot claim unemployment benefit either, but I do not wish to go into that because it has to be decided.
The editor of a newspaper will be put into an impossible position by the Bill because pressures can be brought to bear upon him which he will find difficult 298 to resist. For a relatively young man with children of school age, the pressures may be so great that he will be prepared to give way rather than take the terrible risk of losing his job as editor and being banned altogether from the newspaper world in Great Britain.
Throughout most of this year we have concentrated on one aspect—how the Press will be affected. But a much wider group of people will be affected. I am surprised to see that we were discussing this matter a year ago in Committee. I understand what the Secretary of State meant when he pointed out the number of speeches he had to listen to and to make during the passage of the Bill. This matter cannot be cleared up merely by producing a charter for the Press, although I welcome any action which will improve the position.
In Committee a year ago I mentioned several organisations, one of which was the Association of Local Government Engineers and Surveyors. A local authority engineer who faces a strike by sewerage workers or dust cart drivers has a duty to protect public health. But he may be put in the same position as anyone else. He may be told by the union "We are out on strike, brother, and so are you". In that event the people in his area will not be assured that their health will not suffer, because no one with any knowledge will be allowed to operate the minimum services required in the interests of public safety and public health.
It was pointed out in Committee that under membership agreements special attention was paid to an employee of an identifiable class. I suggested that, while I understood the principles of the Bridlington Agreement and the desirability of not allowing too great a proliferation of unions, in certain areas there was general acceptance that there was one union—or several unions—for the manual workers and another one for salaried staff, supervisors and so on. That applies in the electricity supply industry and on the railways.
No doubt the Minister will plough ahead with the Bill and we shall bang our heads against a brick wall in asking him to change his attitude. Therefore, we have to go to work in another way and ask him to put pressure upon the TUC to consider each industry and 299 decide whether it is proper to recognise organisations which appear to cater for a clearly identifiable class. In the newspaper world that raises difficulties of demarcation. There is the editor, but when one gets to the sub-editors it is difficult to find a demarcation line. However, where there are men of good will a way may be found. A way should also be found for other organisations covering people who work in a supervisory capacity so that a person of that kind is not forced to make a decision which he knows in his heart he should not make.
We have had an assurance on a number of occasions from the Secretary of State and NUJ spokesmen that the fears we have expressed will not come to anything, and that there is no intention, for example, of preventing any part-time people, such as specialist writers, from working for a newspaper. While I make no allegations against either the right hon. Gentleman or the present holders of office in the Government, Ministers change from time to time, as do the members of union executives. We so often hear, particularly from hon. Members on the Government side, and rightly so, "The Minister gives us his assurance, but he should write it into the Bill so that we can be certain that it will continue as long as the legislation remains in being."
§ Mr. Mawby
I am talking not about the CBI but about the vestiges of some sort of reasonable control in the interests of the minority, which is basically what the Bill is about. The Bill attempts to take away rights that the minority have at the moment. The right hon. Gentleman said that the minority do not need them because there are all sorts of voluntary arrangements, already made or in the pipeline.
§ Mr. Ron Thomas (Bristol, North-West)
I know that the hon. Gentleman is a member of a union. Would he not agree that the NUJ has a legitimate right to have a policy and be concerned about the number of part-time ghost writers 300 and the rest employed by a newspaper? Secondly, will he refer to the trade union membership agreement, which clearly states that the matter shall be between the employer and employees? These part-time writers are not employees in the accepted sense.
§ Mr. Mawby
The hon. Gentleman asked me the same question last December in Standing Committee. I give him now the same answer I gave then. I believe that where a craft is in operation it is right and proper that its representatives should see that it is properly used and not debased by people of a lower craft being allowed to come in ad lib.
In a number of provincial and even national newspapers, however, we get specialists whom the public seem to want. For example, the public seem to like their football articles supposedly written by someone who plays football. I say "supposedly" because in many cases these articles are ghosted by NUJ members. I presume that the hon. Gentleman would be reasonably happy about that.
§ Mr. Mawby
Then the reason for the objection is probably that the NUJ man gets union rates while the footballer or whoever it may be gets a fee greatly in excess of the union rate. The important thing is that there should be moderation in this matter.
Many regional and local papers cannot afford to employ a full-time gardener, for example, to give gardening hints. They cannot afford to keep in full-time work at union rates a woman who gives hints on cookery. Yet these and other articles regularly appear in our local papers and are the reason why we buy them. Without such people many newspapers would not be able to remain in being, because the public would buy something else or nothing at all. The editor has to consider seriously the tastes of his readers. Moderation, yes, but even as a craftsman myself I would object to a straightforward ban across the board on anyone putting in copy who was not a member of the union.
§ Mr. Mawby
The hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Thomas) put a question which I am trying to answer. 301 If the membership agreement is to be between employees and employer, in no terms can specialist writers be considered to be employees. Certainly they would not be able to obtain membership of the union, because they would not be deriving their main income from journalism. I would hate to think that the Government were writing into the Bill a tight arrangement whereby, unless a person was earning the main part of his income from journalism, none of his items could appear in any paper.
We think that there are important protections which must be given to minorities—not only those who are not members of the union but those who are members and who may decide to keep quiet on a certain matter because of the danger of losing their union membership. Many people may say that they are wrong to have such a fear, but that does not prevent them from having it.
The Secretary of State has said that there is no change in common law rights under the Bill. I shall not argue about that because I am not a lawyer, but over the years successive Governments and Parliaments have decided that the common law should be backed by certain statutory rights. When a particular problem has arisen, we have made the necessary change. I think that the last occasion was after the Rookes v. Barnard case, in which it was decided by the courts that the plaintiff had a case against the two members of the union concerned and he was allowed damages. The then Labour Government introduced legislation to make it impossible for that sort of thing to happen again. That is an example of how Governments and Parliaments have adapted themselves to circumstances in which, whereas we believed that a certain situation existed, the courts decided otherwise. We took steps to ensure that the matter was put right.
The Bill takes away virtually the whole of statute law in this case, leaving in its place only the common law. The right hon. Gentleman has called this an experiment. He knows that there are considerable risks attached to any experiment. One can go through all the theory, work it all out and get the best legal advice, as the Secretary of State says he has had, and I have no doubt that it is the best he can get. But the Home Secretary came here earlier today also to 302 mention that he did something on the best legal advice in his Department, and the courts have decided otherwise. Therefore, there are risks attached to any experiment and it is important that where risks are involved one should always lean on the side of the right of the individual.
While all the big battalions can normally look after themselves, the poor little individual, who finds himself in difficulties for one reason or another, must be aware of adequate ways of expressing his point of view. This is where we ought to direct any ideas of change in the law.
We have argued the matter of the Ferrybridge six across the Floor of the House, and it is still my view, as it is the view of a number of my colleagues, that when this Bill becomes law a similar situation cannot occur in the future, and that we shall be reducing anyway the rights of six people, however misguided any of us may feel them to be. The important thing is that their rights will be reduced.
One hopes, quite naturally, that the right hon. Gentleman, together with the TUC, will be able to find alternative voluntary ways and means of dealing with this problem, but it is a little worrying when one reads certain things in the newspaper. I agree with the hon. Member for Keighley that we cannot believe everything we read in the newspapers. Nevertheless an impression was given that four of these men were refused membership of the AUEW. Again, the point was made that the AUEW was mainly a craft union. I agree, but it has semiskilled, unskilled and women's sections. If a union is not satisfied that a man is fully apprenticed, there are other sections in which he can be placed, thereby overcoming the objections to his remaining in employment at a particular power station.
If there is any co-operation existing between the unions involved, I should have thought that, if the AUEW felt that it could not take people into membership, it would be possible for it to tell them that either the Electrical, Electronic and Telecommunication and Plumbing Union or the Transport and General Workers' Union was more appropriate for them to join and that the 303 AUEW would do its best to help them to do so.
Where we are, as the right hon. Gentleman says, to rely in the future upon voluntary arrangements and upon charters with no statutory backing, it is important that we should make sure that as far as possible the full intent and good will of those charters will be fully implemented.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Robin Corbett (Hemel Hempstead)
I have a sickening feeling that the longer we spend in this place talking about industrial relations and the human relations bit which is the real core of it, the more difficult we make it for men and women at all levels of industry sensibly to work out ways of getting on with their lives five days a week.
We are, I suppose, renowned—I say this with some diffidence having been here for only a year—for believing that debate in this House, and particularly on a subject of this sort, can shed much light on problems down on the shop floor which are faced day in and day out by people at all levels of industry.
I intervene with the impediment of some experience. I was for five years a member of the national executive council of the National Union of Journalists, and I am still a member of that body. Before I get the question, I shall make the comment that I do not know whether I was a moderate or a militant, because I do not seem to remember that the labels had been invented in those days. I was also, during the years of the Industrial Relations Act, employed as a senior labour adviser by a large firm in the publishing industry, and I had some experience of the operation of that measure on the ground.
It is all very well standing up here and talking about defence of the rights of the individual, but I hope I shall be forgiven the comment that when I invited this support on another measure on 26th November—against the practice of people being thrown out of this country at 48 hours' notice, without even seeing the evidence against them—Opposition Members who have spoken in this debate in such high-minded tones did not choose to stand up for individual freedom. No 304 doubt that was simply a single small, though important, lapse on their part.
In listening to the various debates on this matter over the past year, I had thought there was common agreement among all of us here, irrespective of party labels, that what we want is an active trade union movement, and that we want people to belong to, and take an active part in the affairs of unions and not simply to stand with their hands on the fruit machine waiting for the next pay claim to go out. Surely the best defence of an individual at work is precisely that—to take an active part in the running of his or her trade union.
The right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) raised this matter in the context of trade union rules. He painted the spectre—he is very good at this—of all sorts of monstrous things being done by trade unions, but I remind him that it is the individual members of trade unions who make those rules.
Every individual member of every trade union in this country has the right to take part in that process, and many, if not most, unions have the most complicated and laborious procedures for either altering rules or introducing new ones. The AUEW seems constantly to be having rules revision at conference. I state that not as a criticism but simply to show the care which is taken on this matter.
A point was also made about the involvement in ballots for the election of trade union officials. This is an important end of the trade union process, but it is not the most important end, is it? I like to think that it is not. I believe that trade unions, like any other organisations, succeed to the extent that their members feel that they can be involved and are encouraged to be involved, so that they can shape their trade union or other organisation in the manner in which they wish to see it.
In listening to the debate I felt that the right hon. Member for Lowestoft and hon. Members around him learnt very little from experience. Sadly, it is perhaps the right hon. Gentleman who learns less than most. He must know well from his experience the great damage that was done through the operation of the Industrial Relations Act.
I am willing to accept that the Conservative Party set out on that road with 305 good intent. I shall give it the benefit of that doubt. The right hon. Gentleman knows from his experience—not of men on the shop floor with whom he has had contact but from contact with management—that there was not one major employer in this country who used the provisions of that legislation in the manner in which the Government intended. I was employed in a major company at the time and my brief was to stay out of trouble while the Industrial Relations Act was on the statute book.
I should like to make two points concerning the National Union of Journalists. First, I want to make this absolutely clear because I am not sure that hon. Gentlemen understood it. Even though there has been the change in the rule whereby, for reasons best known to itself, the annual delegate conference of the NUJ did away with associate membership and required people holding these positions to become full members, it did not alter the position in practice one jot or tittle. Even when the associate membership category was in force—at one time I was myself an associate member—in an industrial dispute the associate, like the probationary or temporary member, was still subject to the rules and discipline of the union and to the decision of the national executive council at the end of the argument, though in practice associate members who had "hire and fire" status were never to my knowledge called out in industrial disputes.
I say in answer to the hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) that it is not now, nor has it been, nor have I any reason to suppose that it ever will be, the policy of the NUJ to try to force into the ranks of the union everyone who attempts to write for a newspaper. That is not the position, and it is unfair and monstrous to suggest that it is.
In this debate we have perhaps concentrated too much on the Press issue, although it is important. We started on 22nd February last year with an attempt to get agreement between all people working in the newspaper industry—daily newspapers, weekly newspapers, the evenings and the bodies representing the editors and journalists. There was an attempt to get them round the table to see whether there could not be agreement on a charter for Press freedom.
306 I have refrained from saying this before but I say it now. On that occasion the editors of the national daily newspapers attended the meeting. They were horrified at the prospect of a charter getting anywhere, and they fast backed away from it, much to the disgust of the then Editor of The Guardian, Mr. Hetherington, who was making a valuable attempt to assist with the charter and produce a most useful draft, and later much to the disgust of Mr. Charles Winter, the Editor of the Evening Standard. So let us have no hypocrisy or cant about it. That was what happened. The editors of the daily newspapers in Fleet Street did not like the idea of the charter. To that extent they have encouraged the Conservative Party in all its opposition to this Bill.
It may be that I am being too Machiavellian, but I thought it significant that the right hon. Member for Lowestoft spent very little time on this matter today. He made very few comments about it. He may say that it has all been said before and that we all realise where we stand. But it is interesting to note that following a discussion on the national executive council of the NUJ in November as a result of a ballot which put the position back to where it was and which was more acceptable—I say no more about it than that—it was agreed that the union should again take the initiative in trying to set up a meeting of all the bodies involved to see whether they could not make another attempt at reaching agreement on a charter for Press freedom.
The response was extraordinary. The spokesman for the Fleet Street editors, giving a personal view, though no doubt he consulted his colleagues, replied that it seemed to him to be premature and that we should wait and see what happened in this House. The President of the Guild of British Newspaper Editors was consulted and gave it as his considered view that it would be premature. The words have a familiar ring.
The Newspaper Society, which has a large interest in this matter, did not use the word "premature" but said that if the result of the deliberations of this House and along the corridor was that there should be an obligation imposed to have such a charter, it would reconsider its position. That is a very generous, responsible and responsive reply.
307 The Institute of Journalists, which has a great stake in this matter and feels that it is being either sat upon or threatened with extinction by the NUJ, although it is not true, might have been expected to be the first to rush round the table to see whether it could not sort out the matter sensibly. However, broadly speaking it adopted the position of the Conservative Party by saying that it would talk only if certain matters were excluded and decided in this place to underpin the position because it took the view that agreement on this matter was impossible.
It seems to me appalling if the message goes out from one side of this House to workers at all levels in national, regional and local newspapers and in the magazine industry "We do not trust you. We do not think that you are grown up enough to agree this matter between yourselves. We are the Opposition who believe in less government and in less legislation but who on this occasion believe that we should decide what is best for you. We shall fill in the dots and the commas." If that is not arrogance—and I suspect that it is—it is a very destructive view.
I end on the note with which I began. It is people down on the ground especially and people at all levels throughout the various bits of this industry who are best able to agree a Press charter, because then they will feel that it belongs to them and they will then all be committed to seeing that it is a success. This House cannot compel consent and agreement. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, it is better left to the men and women employed in the industry. I am confident that, given the encouragement of this place, for a change, they will do it and make a good job of it.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Leon Brittan (Cleveland and Whitby)
This is the third attempt that the Government have made to get this legislation through the House. I cannot help thinking that the shape of our discussions is rather like a musical composition in rondo form. The first movement that we debated in our consideration of this legislation was largely the question of the closed shop generally in industry. On the second time round we found ourselves concerned almost 308 exclusively with the problems of the newspaper industry. Today, the third time round, we are back again to a general consideration of the problem of the closed shop, largely as a result of the dispute at Ferrybridge.
Unlike some hon. Members, however, I do not feel that our time has been wasted or that valuable time has been lost. As time has passed, the aspects of the matter which have come up for consideration have assisted us in looking at the Bill more objectively and more fully and have led us to the conclusion that the longer that we look at the Bill, the more undesirable it becomes.
Almost a year ago to the day during the Second Reading debate of the Bill when I had the temerity to point out the possible dangers of an unlimited closed shop and the need for protection for the individual, a Government supporter who is not present today asked me to produce examples and suggested that they were theoretical worries. At that time the hon. Gentleman's intervention had some cogency. I do not think that any hon. Member today would seek to make an intervention in that sense, because in the passage of a year we have seen examples like the one at Ferrybridge showing that the fears which we expressed about unrestrained closed shops without limitations to protect the individual were not unreal and were not theoretical.
Indeed, I believe that there are three reasons why the legislation put forward today is even less desirable now than it was on the previous two occasions we considered it. First, the examples of the evils of the unrestrained closed shop, such as Ferrybridge, have become more apparent and clear than they were last year. Secondly, the defects of the procedures adopted by the Trades Union Congress to adjudicate on disputes between its own members have been highlighted. Therefore, the House should face with even less confidence than on previous occasions the prospect of the TUC setting up a body which will be the sole determinant of the rights of individuals who are aggrieved by what they regard as unfair exclusion or expulsion. Thirdly, the implications concerning unemployment benefit have become apparent during consideration of this matter.
I should like to reinforce my first proposition that the examples of the evils 309 of the closed shop have become more apparent than before. I should like to cite one example which has come to my attention, an example which is in no way unique but which vividly illustrates the type of problems which can exist. Mr. George Ryan of Guisborough, in my constituency, is the supervisor at Middlesbrough station. He was not only a member of the National Union of Railwaymen; he was chairman of the Cleveland branch. Last June he found himself in fundamental disagreement with a decision of the executive committee of the union to call a strike. He believed that that decision flagrantly ignored the views of 200 branch secretaries whom he regarded as being closer than the executive committee to the grass roots of the union membership.
I am not in any way concerned with the rights and wrongs of that particular disagreement. What is important is that Mr. Ryan felt so strongly about his disagreement that he wrote to the branch secretary resigning not only from the branch chairmanship but also from the union itself. Accordingly, he filled in the appropriate form and ceased his contributions.
Mr. Ryan is not hostile to trade unionism, and indeed that it what one would expect from a branch chairman. On 9th June he applied for membership of an organisation which he was qualified to join—the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association, which is another perfectly respectable trade union. However, five days later, on 14th July, he received a visit from an official of the NUR asking him to reconsider his position and his resignation.
It is at this point that the story becomes a little more unattractive. The representative of the NUR told Mr. Ryan that from October 1975 membership of the trade union would again be compulsory and he, the representative, would see to it that Mr. Ryan's application to join the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association would be opposed, which would mean that he would be thrown out of work. Happily, the union official's assessment of what the House would do last Sesssion proved mercifully inaccurate and the threat which he made to Mr. Ryan's livelihood proved to be unavailing.
It is our task to ensure that Mr. Ryan is given not merely a temporary respite 310 but a proper rescue from an intolerable threat and an absolutely intolerable situation.
§ Mr. Brittan
There is one other matter which I should like to mention, not because it is directly relevant but because it gives flavour to the sort of threats to which that man was subjected. The representative of the NUR, seeking to coerce my constituent to return to membership of that union, added that he, the representative, was an International Socialist and that as far as he was concerned those serving in the British Army in Northern Ireland were paid murderers. The relevance of that and the effect it had on Mr. Ryan can perhaps be better understood when I add that Mr. Ryan happens to have a son who is currently serving in the Army. Hon. Members can imagine that the union representative was adding insult to injury.
I stress that Mr. Ryan was not a free rider or somebody seeking to obtain the benefits of trade union membership without joining the union. He was not someone hostile to trade unionism. He did not seek a public dispute. He was merely seeking quietly to resign from one union and join another. For his pains he was threatened that if the Bill became law he would lose his job.
§ Mr. Brittan
I shall conclude the story and then give way. On 27th November Mr. Ryan received a letter from the financial secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association quoting its head office, which said:I … have re-examined the papers in connection with this application and feel I should say as frankly as possible that the chances of successfully arranging the transfer in this instance are slight.Therefore, it would seem that the threat conveyed to Mr. Ryan was all too real.
I have received from Mr. Ryan a letter which I am sure echoes the thoughts of thousands of decent trade unionists. Mr. Ryan writes:I believe I have a right to be a member of a trade union of my choice and should not be blackmailed into continuing membership of a union I no longer have faith in.I respectfully ask you to put it to the likes of Mr. Wilson, the Prime Minister, and Mr. 311 Foot, both of whom by some of their statements disagreed also with the policy of the NUR, if they intend to let me be put out of work because I also shared their views.That is what the Bill is about.
§ Mr. Flannery
I should like some clarity about the hon. Gentleman's interpretation of democracy. In a trade union it is a fact that there are rules which are democratically and painstakingly arrived at. If the national executive of a union decides to call a strike, the members of that union are expected to abide by its democratic decision. If the hon. Gentleman's interpretation of democracy allows a group to decide to go against the elected leadership and do the opposite, I am at a loss to understand him.
§ Mr. Brittan
I shall explain exactly my interpretation of democracy, but it is not directly relevant to what I have been saying. If the NUR wants to have a strike and decides through its procedures to have one, it is right that that should be the declared policy of the union. However, my concept of democracy is also that if an individual who is a member of that union does not go along with that view, he should have the right to resign from the union and to join another which he is qualified to join. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh., no."] I find it horrifying that hon. Gentlemen should regard that as cause for scorn.
I should regard the matter as less serious if, under the Bill, some provisions were made for an independent adjudication of disputes about membership between a member and his union. Then the Secretary of State's contentions, which are expressed so vocally even, if illogically, could be put to the test before an objective body. However, that is not what the Bill proposes and that is why we object to it. All that the Bill proposes could be written on an empty piece of paper.
The right hon. Gentleman is proposing that a disputes procedure should be operated by the trade union movement, with the trade union movement appointing a legally qualified chairman. That is what the Government are proposing now, when the inadequacies and unfair ness of that approach have been pointed out time and time again to the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues.
312 Does the right hon. Gentleman really believe that an individual who is aggrieved at unfair exclusion or expulsion will be satisfied if he is dealt with by a body appointed by the parent body against which he is appealing? Of course no one will be satisfied with that. It is as if someone with a complaint about unfair dismissal were told to go not to an industrial tribunal but to a review body appointed by the President of the CBI. That is a precise analogy and one which would be regarded as totally intolerable if put into legislative effect or even produced informally by hon. Members on this side.
We do not believe in that approach. We think that there should be a genuinely independent body and that the means proposed by the right hon. Gentleman are inadequate also because the trade union body would have no means of enforcing its decision. The individual would be left without redress. This point was made by Lord Salmon in the debate in another place and it has not been answered. He said that, although the majority of trade unions would undoubtedly abide by the decision of the appeal body, some might fall into the hands of those who were not inclined to do so. The individual would be left with no redress.
As my right hon. Friend has said, the whole of the withering judgment in the General Accident case recently before the courts showed that the trade union movement, with great respect, cannot be left to set up adequate procedures. That court judgment, against which there appears to be no appeal, showed that the Bridlington procedure was riddled with defects and objectionable features and it horrified a High Court judge.
Is there any reason to believe that the procedure proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, which in the last Session he would not even allow to be reviewed by the Council on Tribunals, would be even better than that which the trade union movement offers under Bridlington? There is none whatever. Yet the right hon. Gentleman asks us to write out of the statutes of this country the protection of the individual and to rely totally on the body that the TUC is to set up. He cannot responsibly regard himself as in any way concerned with the rights of the individual when he is asking the House to do that.
313 The third reason why the Bill is more objectionable than it was last year relates to social security. The right hon. Gentleman, in his more objective moments, I think, would agree that, whether or not his letter to Mr. Nicholson has been misinterpreted, it was certainly capable of misinterpretation, and that to write in those terms was a grave error of judgment at the very least. But I do not seek to pick on the right hon. Gentleman's letter to Mr. Nicholson in support of this matter.
The position plainly is that, on any view, it is a possibility that someone who was thrown out of work because he was not complying with a closed shop will now find that he does not get unemployment benefit either. The right hon. Gentleman cannot hide behind sub judice rules, which he applies to his own taste, to get away from his refusal in any way to state that this is something of which he disapproves.
Indeed, as he sought in his lengthy letter to The Times to justify his position, it seemed to me, and I hope that it will seem so to the House, that his self-justification was based upon an illogicality. He said:The industrial tribunal has to determine the complaints by the six workers at Ferry-bridge under the current relevant provisions of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act itself, but whether a case of that type is decided under that Act, or under the law in the form proposed in the Amendment Bill now before Parliament, will not affect the interpretation of the Social Security Act by its own adjudicating authorities.It will not affect the interpretation of the Social Security Act, but what it will mean is that more cases will come before the social security authorities since more people will be sacked because the closed shop will be more prevalent and there will be fewer exceptions to it. Therefore, it is right and relevant to say that more people will risk losing unemployment benefit as well as their jobs.
Those three reasons seem to be cogent ones for regarding the Bill in the last Session as an abortion and in the present Session as an abomination.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Henderson (Aberdeenshire, East)
If a man from Mars were to visit us today to listen to this debate, I doubt whether he would learn much about the state of industrial relations in 314 the United Kingdom, but he would form a poor impression of the way in which we discuss them. We have heard arguments today many of which we have heard over and over again. I should have thought that that man from Mars might have expected from all of us some humility on what has been obviously a complex area. Instead, we have heard incredible certainty on both sides—a great deal of optimism on the Government side and considerable pessimism on the Conservative side—about the effects of the Bill if it becomes law.
Not only our man from Mars but the vast bulk of hundreds of thousands of people on the shop floor would find it difficult to relate what has been said here today to their experience in their everyday lives. They would feel that we were discussing an area—important, but only an area—of the factors which affect their earning their livelihood.
I am amazed, for example, that when we talk about disputes, it all seems to come down to a consideration of whether the trade unions do good things or bad things in relation to their members. We do not talk about other factors that affect people's lives and the way in which some disputes can arise. We do not talk, for example, about the impact of technology on many ordinary working people, the way in which it has made many skills redundant and stripped people of their pride in their job, their livelihood and their training. We do not talk about how it has increased their sense of boredom, which is one of the most serious industrial relations problems that we have to face in this country and every other country with an advanced technology.
We should not be surprised, therefore, that in these circumstances defensive practices are often adopted. Of course there are, when people have gone through apprenticeships for five years and suddenly find that someone else can be taken on to the job with six months' training and their skills become of no account. We do not give nearly enough attention to that aspect of industrial relations and the way in which people are used in industry. We do not talk enough about people working "with us" instead of "for us". People today on the shop floor are much better educated and, quite rightly, have much higher expectations than a generation ago.
315 Nor do we talk about the fear of unemployment which many people have, which again can be a cause of disputes and difficulties. It is the exaggeration, the exaggerated statements and hyperbole that we have heard in this debate which have depressed me most. I wrote some of them down and was tempted to quote them, but when one sees them in cold print, they seem so futile and ridiculous that I will not take up the time of the House with them—[HON. MEMBERS: "Tell us."] I have no doubt that hon. Members who follow me will use them and perhaps even add some of their own.
The only aspect of the Bill on which we have some concern is that of the Press. It is recognised throughout the House that this is not an easy matter, but it is something on which it is difficult to get the right form of words. My hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Reid) in a previous debate said:Many of us who are moderates and have had some experience of the newspaper industry look at the Lords' amendments and the Secretary of State's amendments as a hopeless Hobson's choice. Is there no middle way which recognises the unique role of editors while at the same time allowing for a strong NU.1?"—[Official Report, 6th November 1975; Vol. 899, c. 677.]That is a perfectly fair statement of the position. I and my hon. Friends are not satisfied that we have yet found that position.
§ Mr. Foot
I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman has said. The NUJ seeks exactly what he has described—namely, a recognition of the unique position of the editor. That is one of the propositions that it has put forward in its charter, but that does not undermine its negotiating and industrial position. On that basis we could seek agreement. The Bill, in the outcome of which the hon. Gentleman and I have some interest, does not deal with the Press. That will be dealt with after the Christmas Recess. The Bill as it stands is exactly the Bill for which he and his hon. Friends have given us support in the past.
§ Mr. Henderson
I will not follow the Secretary of State along the lines of that intervention. However, I want to say something about the position of the 316 Press, One or two other aspects should be taken into account. There is also the subject of the editor in relation to the proprietors. In Scotland we are concerned that five out of 11 Scottish produced dailies are now not within Scottish control and several of them are deeply involved with property and oil developments. We wonder whether the character of the newspapers and their control is changing and whether we should examine that aspect more deeply.
There is a further aspect which I deeply regret having to raise. Last Friday the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind)—I gave him notice that I intended to raise this matter—speaking in Stirling, apparently wanted a Conservative closed shop in the Press. He said that he was not opposed to a closed shop so long as it was a Conservative one. He criticised the Scotsman, the Scottish Daily Express and the Daily Record. He went on to criticise theabysmal lack of proper editorial controlin certain Scottish newspapers. He said that in one a Scottish National Party candidate was allowed to write the editorials. Good heavens, how revolutionary!
§ Mr. Henderson
He said that in several SNP members or sympathisers controlled the feature articles and news reporting.
The Daily Record, one of the papers to which he referred and which certainly has not supported the SNP at any time in the past, said in its editorial:The Tory hierarchy sadly endorses Mr. Rifkind"—because—the text of last night's speech was sent to Scottish newspapers … by the Scottish Tory Central Office.Here there is a desire for a political closed shop in the Scottish Press.
The Scotsman commented fairly:We have no political closed shop.It said that it did not intend to have one. It described the comment as:outrageous even for one whose party are not above stooping to smear tactics.Perhaps I might conclude on the valuable advice which the Scotsman gave to 317 the hon. Member for Pentlands when it said:The Tories are doing badly in Scotland; self-criticism would do them more good than whining that they are the victims of newspaper bias and malice.I never thought to see the day when that would happen.
The question of individual freedom, which has been raised sometimes fairly and sometimes unfairly by hon. Members, is part of the much wider problem of individual freedom generally. There is the question of the rights of people in relation to bureaucratic organisations. That is a serious area with which we should all be concerned. Perhaps at the end of the day we shall be talking of a written guarantee, possibly in the form of a Bill of Rights, which will guarantee people's freedom and ensure that people's rights are properly justified.
I recommend to my hon. Friends that they support the Government tonight.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
I should like to comment on the remarks of the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson), whose speech I much enjoyed—if he does not mind my saying so and if that will do him no harm in his constituency work. I regret that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pent-lands (Mr. Rifkind), whom he has just executed, has arrived a little late for his execution. It would have been more interesting and enjoyable if the hon. Gentleman had arrived a few minutes earlier.
I want to address my remarks to the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan), who just now had his back to me but who is now facing me, as I am sure he would want when he is about to be criticised. The hon. Gentleman has let his Front Bench down very badly. He has done no service to the right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior). The right hon. Gentleman has transferred his bonhomie from the farming and agricultural industry, where for many years he used to exude much friendliness and understanding, to the industrial sphere. Gradually he has developed a skill with which he tries to persuade us that he learns as he goes along, is beginning to understand trade unionists and trade unions and hopes to operate with them. The hon. Member for Cleveland 318 and Whitby has now made an early nineteenth century anti-trade union speech. He is blind to all the facts of the situation and has displayed the dismal ignorance that most Tory lawyers normally display when they talk about trade unions, and he has not adopted the tactics of the right hon. Member for Lowestoft.
We have heard a lot of nonsense and special pleading from the hon. Member for Cleveland and Witby and he has even dragged into his remarks the despicable irrelevance of the tragic situation in Northern Ireland, which has nothing whatever to do with the alleged case that he quoted. He referred to Northern Ireland in order to create additional prejudice. The hon. Gentleman should be ashamed of himself. There is a time and a place for every debate and he deliberately dragged in Northern Ireland because that is his style and the level of debating in which he engages.
§ Mr. Mendelson
His case was fraudulent to a degree in relation to the example he quoted, because all the time the language he used referred to wrongful dismissal. He said that he would give us an illustration which had come to hand, but which had not been available when he last spoke in a similar debate. What was this illustration of wrongful dismissal? A man who wanted to break a strike and who engaged in strike breaking resigned from his organisation. He was dismissed, and that is what the hon. Gentleman calls wrongful dismissal.
§ Mr. Mendelson
I will finish what I have to say and give way in my own good time.
The hon. Gentleman in the end did not give us an illustration of wrongful dismissal. We never heard that Mr. Ryan had been dismissed by British Rail. He will have a chance to tell us later whether Mr. Ryan has ever been dismissed by British Rail. He told us of a member of the National Union of Railwaymen who disagreed with a decision of that union. This man did not wish to take part in a strike and so left his organisation because he disagreed with its decisions and joined another trade union. Apparently this other trade union, under 319 what used to be the Bridlington Agreement, investigated the case and, quite properly, said that it was rather doubtful whether it would be right and proper for it to accept the man in the circumstances. That case is as far removed from wrongful dismissal as any illustration could be.
§ Mr. Brittan
The hon. Gentleman has certainly shown himself to be an expert in fraudulent representation, for the simple reason that behind all that abuse there is a fundamental misconception—namely, that I did not say a word about this being an example of wrongful dismissal.
If the hon. Gentleman would listen for one moment, he would realise that what I said was totally inconsistent with such a suggestion. He will recall that in the case I cited the man was threatened that that would happen if the Bill were passed.
§ Mr. Brittan
If the hon. Gentleman will listen patiently for one moment, he will appreciate that that plainly could not be a case of wrongful dismissal. It was a case of a man being threatened that having resigned from one union, he would not be admitted to another and that if this legislation were passed, the inevitable consequence would be wrongful dismissal. I need no lessons from the hon. Gentleman as to accuracy.
§ Mr. Mendelson
The hon. Gentleman is a member of the legal profession and he knows very well how far the sort of evidence he has just produced would get him in court. He deliberately produced an illustration that had nothing to do with wrongful dismissal and then spoke all the time about wrongful dismissal.
The hon. Gentleman was equally fraudulent—I am choosing my words carefully—when he then proceeded to attack my right hon. Friend about the famous letter. The hon. Gentleman was quite unable to prove—and he knew that he was unable to prove—that that had anything to do with the decision about paying unemployment benefit, or any other kind of benefit. The hon. Gentleman had to use another door—a back 320 door—to prove in a roundabout way to his own satisfaction, though not to anyone else's satisfaction, that it could not directly affect the issue but that, as there would be some dismissals if this legislation were passed, obviously there would be more instances of people not receiving unemployment benefit. If that is a relationship that may be regarded as evidence, Heaven help the hon. Gentleman's clients.
The origin of this debate has, happily, nothing to do with the hon. Gentleman. It has to do with something much more serious. That is that the Government side of the House was pledged to the country in two General Elections to put right a grave injustice and to eradicate a nonsense from the statute book—the Tory Industrial Relations Act. The Government proceeded to do it and invited Par liament to pass the legislation.
My first point, and my main reason for intervening in the debate, concerns the role of the other Chamber in this affair. I can well understand why the Government are not making too much of it at present. I generally support them in this attitude. The country is going through a very difficult period. We have many grave economic problems ahead of us over the next two years. We have our hands full. I do not believe that I would want to advocate a major constitutional crisis. However, it is quite clear that if the other Chamber were to continue deliberately and advisedly to destroy major legislation endorsed by the electorate at a General Election and then enacted by the House of Commons, there would be enough Members of this House who would not be prepared to accept it for any length of time and would, therefore, insist that legislative action be taken to change the legislative situation.
I support the method that the Government have chosen on this occasion, for the reasons that I have indicated, and I am quite satisfied that it is the right method. However, it is completely out of keeping with the spirit of the times for the other Chamber to set itself up as a body which arrogates to itself constitutional powers which it has not got and was not meant to have when in 1911 the Liberal Party clipped its wings.
I mention in passing the peculiar attitude adopted by the Liberal and Conservative Parties this afternoon. We saw the 321 strange spectacle of a Liberal spokesman speaking on behalf of his party—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where are the Liberals?" We are not missing them; they have said their piece, and we can do without them. However, the official spokesman of the Liberal Party, with his party leader sitting next to him—let us remember that he is the spokesman of the party which introduced that great reforming Act of 1911—said that because of a certain constellation in our allocation of constituencies at a General Election, the House of Lords has now acquired the right to destroy legislation passed in the House of Commons. That novel doctrine ought to be put on record as the new Liberal view of the other Chamber.
Then we had the official spokesman of the Conservative Party welcoming with delight the rôle of the other Chamber in this affair. That also ought to be remarked upon. It ought to be regarded as particularly significant, because the right hon. Member for Lowestoft did not contest the idea that it is against legislation put forward only by a Labour Government, or perhaps, by a Liberal Government, that the House of Lords acts in this way.
It is, therefore, only natural that all democrats in the Chamber tonight ought on principle, if on no other ground, to reject this position and reject the view of the House of Lords.
§ Mr. Donald Stewart (Western Isles)
I do not dispute the general tenor of the hon. Gentleman's argument. However, if the House of Lords would automatically agree to legislation passed by a Labour Government, would the hon. Gentleman attack it as being purely a rubber stamp?
§ Mr. Mendelson
No, I would not. My views about two-chamber government are very straightforward and are the same as those expressed by the Abbé Siéyès, one of the statesman of the French Revolution. He said "A second chamber, if it agrees with what the first chamber says, is superfluous; and if it disagrees with them it is a damned nuisance". That is my view about a second Chamber. It is my answer to the hon. Gentleman. I have never changed my view on this matter. However, that is not where we are at now. Hence my comment and the way in which I made it.
322 To come to the Bill, apart from the rôle of the other Chamber in this important matter of legislation, I believe that the Opposition are doing something rather dangerous and shortsighted in turning this into such a propaganda campaign. Whatever view one takes about industrial relations in this country in the last six or seven years, there can be only general regret about the time that was wasted by mistaken legislation that was not acceptable to those most directly concerned.
All the talk that we have heard this afternoon from the hon. Member from Cleveland and Whitby and other hon. Members, including the right hon. Member from Lowestoft, has been so much nonsense. They really ought to know better by now. All this talk about the tyranny of the trade unions and the great power that they have accumulated is far removed from the reality of our industrial life. I say this partly in reply to the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East who charged us with not concentrating enough, perhaps, on the more important subjects.
Although I would plead guilty to some of the charges, I certainly would not accept that we have ignored the factor of unemployment. That the hon. Gentleman cannot justify. I for one have not let a week pass without referring to unemployment and demanding special debates on unemployment and referring to the influence of the tragic factor of unemployment on our industrial relations situation.
§ Mr. Henderson
I am grateful for having given the hon. Gentleman the opportunity of clarifying his position, but will he say when we last debated unemployment?
§ Mr. Mendelson
We had a debate on economic affairs in which prominent Ministers dealing with employment and the provision of employment opportunities took a leading part. We could have had the debate on unemployment that I had demanded a week earlier, but the Government have adopted the reasonable position—I emphasise the word "reasonable"—that they do not want it to be an academic debate. They want to go into such a debate able to announce a number of the measures that they are taking at the same time and on the day 323 when the debate is taking place. That is a reasonable attitude and I approve of it, because my purpose in pressing for the debate was to hurry the Government along to take these measures and not merely to enable us to wring our hands and to say how terrible it was that there were so many people unemployed. Therefore, there is nothing lost in having the debate a fortnight later if we get the announcement of practical measures at the same time—if we get that announcement.
What is wrong and dangerous in the attitude of the Opposition is that they ought to have learned from the experience of recent years that there is no point in these propaganda speeches. Even if the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby does not know any better, his Front Bench ought to know better, because in industrial relations one can do nothing without the support of the people directly concerned.
Although I believe that it would be misguided, I could understand a Government, of my party or any other party, saying "All right. The trade unions do not agree with the Government's policy on Vietnam or South-East Asia. That is their point of view, but we ignore it. We as a Government know better, and we shall go ahead with our policy on Vietnam". The Government can go ahead with such a policy opposed by the trade union movement, but that attitude is impossible when it comes to industrial relations, because no Government can have an industrial relations policy that does not have the day-to-day consent of people in industry.
The country turned against the previous Conservative Government on precisely those grounds. Long before polling day, many practically minded people, who were not at all doctrinaire, would ask Members "What has happened? What these people are doing does not seem to make sense, because people in industry do not know what they are asked to do. We do not know where this lot are going, so we shall not vote for them." That is the history of the two General Elections in 1974.
That brings me to my third point, that it is therefore nonsense for a Conservative Opposition to mount this propaganda campaign against the Bill, which is based 324 upon the principle of consent and agreement with those who work in industry. That is a cardinal principle. It is possible to disagree about details. The Government have never claimed that they are all-knowing and that some aspects of the Bill might not be improved later. But the Opposition are wrong to mount a campaign as if the Government were selling the past and betraying our heritage of freedom. The Government that I support also had industrial policies between 1964 and 1970 that did not have the day-to-day support of the trade union movement, and accordingly came to grief. Therefore, I am not making a party point when I say that for the first time in many years we have a Government who work with the trade union movement.
There is a good hope, though no certainty, that this industrial legislation will work. It gives a great deal of freedom to the initiative of those concerned. I know many employers who wish the Bill well. There is no vast number of employers in my part of the country lining up to march on London to protest against the Bill. They would think that one was not right-minded if one suggested such a thing to them. They do not have sleepless nights over the Bill, and they know a great deal about what is going on in industry. The Opposition's campaign is wholly misguided. There is no reason for it.
My fourth point concerns the Press. A number of my hon. Friends who have been active in journalism have discussed with my right hon. Friend in public and in private the importance of the clauses dealing with the Press. I have referred to the right hon. Member for Lowestoft, who has now returned to the Chamber. He will be able to read in the Official Report what I have said. I make no criticism of his absence. He has been here for most of the debate, and he cannot be here every minute. He is never discourteous. If he has to miss a speech, he might as well miss mine.
Press freedom is very important. I have not taken part in this aspect of the debate so far, but I have followed with great interest what some of my hon. Friends have said. I absolutely agree with all those who have said that here we are not dealing with an ordinary commodity. The product of a factory is important, but producing it is not like 325 writing an article or producing a book. That is common ground. Therefore, there are special reasons for giving special consideration to this problem.
But I found it a little peculiar and ironic that the leader of the Newspaper Proprietors Association should regard himself as the man more concerned than anyone else with the freedom of the Press. Many hon. Members have a good record in the fight for the freedom of the Press. I do not count newspaper proprietors as among the heroes in the struggle.
The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East told us of a Conservative Member who was hotly critical of the fact that members of the Scottish National Party wrote leading articles for the Scotsman. I have no bias in the matter of who writes leading articles for the Scotsman. although I regularly read that newspaper. I know that, whoever writes the leading articles, it will not be a Socialist. Therefore, I am not in the competition.
However, I believe that we all stand together in regarding it as unacceptable that there should be a growing tendency to assume that there can be dictation as to who might have the right to take part in writing and having his material published. That is the supreme interest that we all have in the Miltonian principle of the freedom of publication. That must be safeguarded at all costs.
I cannot understand why it should be regarded as possible to achieve that only by a legal enactment. It has never been achieved by legal enactment in this country. All that has been achieved by legal enactment in the history of Press freedom in this country is the opposite. It is the people who have wanted to suppress freedom of publication who have resorted to legislation. Those who have favoured freedom of publication have always regarded the absence of legal enactment as the best guarantee of such freedom. I am open to challenge on that, but I do not believe that a challenge can easily be made.
§ Mr. Tebbit
I agree with a great deal of what the hon. Gentleman says, but what the Press is concerned about is that legislation is being passed through the House which will lead to censorship of the Press, and it is saying to the House "If you wish to do that, in God's name give us at least 326 some protection in law from the censorship you are about to pass."
§ Mr. Mendelson
If the hon. Gentleman goes with me part of the way, which in this House is normally the essential beginning of any attempt to argue ourselves together, I would say to him that the best way to protect those who write, those who edit, those who publish, those who are in Parliament and the public at large, including small groups throughout the country, is to say today that we shall work with the good will of those who make up the majority of all those people.
That is the point that has been emphasised time and time again. There can be no doubt that our best allies are the majority of journalists. To mount a major campaign to put them in a particular category of distrust is the worst possible thing to do. There can be no doubt—and the hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) must know as well as many journalists as myself—that that is the view of many of the most experienced journalists. They would fight and go to the stake on that principle if they would not fight on anything else.
§ Mr. Jonathan Aitken (Thanet, East)
I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman's theme, but I must put forward an example which contradicts it. Let us suppose that there is a militant chapel which seeks to black copy or to censor the Press in some way. In that situation is it not a good thing that there should be a Press charter with legally enforceable safeguards, to which it might well be the majority of workers in the newspaper concerned whose copy was being blacked by the militant group in the chapel would have recourse, and recourse backed by the sanction of law if necessary?
§ Mr. Mendelson
In all seriousness, I was about to move to that point. I welcome the hon. Gentleman's intervention, but I would say that the opposite is true. I believe that such recourse would not help. In a critical situation in which there was strong feeling such as the hon. Gentleman described, a small group might make such a decision. Those people would not care tuppence about any paragraph in a statute: they would act regardless of any legal sanction. They would immediately attract the solidarity and support of dockers, railwaymen and others 327 it punitive measures were taken against them under a paragraph in the law. That would mean that what had been an isolated dispute would grow much larger.
I would say that wisdom is not on the side of the hon. Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken). To adopt the course that he advocates would not be to strengthen the hand of those who would be involved in dealing with such matters. If we study the few disputes of this nature that have occurred we will find that they have been resolved by discussion and reasoning on the part of other journalists and printers. Sometimes they have come from an outside chapel. I am utterly convinced that that is the way in which we should continue to settle these affairs. In this argument my right hon. Friend is attempting to maintain that position.
I have not liked the drawing in of personalities in this discussion. The matter is far too serious to warrant bringing in personalities. I do not charge the hon. Member for Thanet, East with having done so. The matter is too serious to warrant trying to twist the Minister's tail, as it were. Surely it can be common ground that there are people on both sides of the argument who have spent a lifetime as adherents of the principle of freedom of publication. They regard that principle as at least as important as any other principle to which they have ever been wedded. It helps no one to treat as light propaganda material a lifetime of service to that principle.
My last point concerns the way in which I think this matter should be resolved. As I said at the beginning, in spite of my profound disturbance about the attitude of the other Chamber, I would not be in favour of mounting a major constitutional crisis in the immediate future. I think that Members of the House of Commons on both sides should have a silent agreement among themselves not to encourage the other Chamber in what it has been doing in the past few weeks.
I think that we should act as House of Commons men and women. I hope that we shall reject the suggestion that the other Chamber has some superior and mystical right derived from nowhere to overturn the decisions of the elected legislature. I believe that we should 328 accept this legislation in the form in which it now exists and give it a try. We should then consider our decision as a House of Commons. We should not make this a propaganda issue. Industrial relations are too serious to treat in that way.
By allowing a greater amount of freedom to those who are directly involved in the Press on both sides and by proceeding with the good will of the trade unions and the good will of the employers, a better success may be made of this legislation than of other types of legislaintroduced in recent years by Governments from both major parties in the House.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Tebbit (Chingford)
I must say that the distaste which I normally hold for the views of the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) is in no way lessened by having heard him make a plea for a period of calm, a period in which we see how this legislation is received. The hon. Gentleman urges us to give it a fair trial, adding that it was in the Labour Party's manifesto. If he and his colleagues had taken that same view five years ago when the Conservative Party was in Government and when the Industrial Relations Act was introduced, there might have been a different story.
There was no question of giving that Act a fair chance. There was no question of the Labour Opposition saying "Let's see how it goes". From the start there was bitter opposition, and amongst a good many an egging-on of trade unionists to go as close to the brink of the law as they could. It ill becomes the hon. Gentleman to say that it is our duty to give this legislation an easy ride in the name of comradeship and good industrial relations.
We have heard little about industrial relations today, and that is probably because the Bill is not about industrial relations. Instead we have had some interesting meanderings. The hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Corbett) told us how he was a good NUJ man and how he moonlighted as an industrial relations consultant. I hope that the hon. Gentleman had the appropriate card. We had an imitation from the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) which even 329 surprised me, familiar as I am with the way in which Mike Yarwood imitates the Prime Minister every Tuesday and Thursday. Even I was taken aback by the hon. Gentleman when he imitated the prosecution in a Solzhenitsyn-style trial concerning the rights of unfortunate minority groups. The hon. Gentleman appeared to ask "Who are these fellows who set themselves up against the majority?" He continued "Let us have control of the Press to ensure that nothing mischievous is printed." That is the sort of thing with which we are becoming more familiar day by day.
This has been a surprising debate all in all. I never thought that I would feel sorry for the Secretary of State for Employment for his performance at the Dispatch Box. Clearly the right hon. Gentleman was taken apart by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior), the Leader of the Liberal Party, my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) and others. They all put questions to him which he either could not or would not answer. I do not know which it was, and it is for him to say.
Let us have one thing plain. I did not come to the House, and I do not speak now, as a man who is opposed to trade unions. I have spent most of my life as a member of a trade union. I have been a trade union official. I have had the job of saying to the chaps, when I thought it right, that they should withdraw their labour.
That was not in a closed shop situation. That was in a union which had sufficient support from its members to enable it not to think it necessary to have pickets to stop anyone crossing a picket line. That is because it had the support of its membership. When I and some of my colleagues disagreed with the union on another occasion and refused to go along with the union in withdrawing our labour, we were respected by our colleagues and it was understood that we had that right.
I have no objections to unions seeking 100 per cent. membership. It is right and reasonable that they should do so. However, I believe that there is an obligation upon them to understand that there are those who may disagree with their views. The importance of liberty is infinitely 330 greater than the importance of 100 per cent. membership.
As for free riders, I do not like them in any place. I would welcome any arrangement under which those who did not wish to belong to a union still paid subscriptions to the union—not even to a charity—for the work the union carried out on behalf of its members and others. But the right of conscience if a man does not wish to join a union is an absolute right embodied in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
Today's debate could not have been given a better start this afternoon. It was preceded by a statement made by the Home Secretary. That right hon. Gentleman is not a member of a tribunal somewhere but is a Minister of the Crown. He was found by the Master of the Rolls to have a cynical approach to the law and to have contravened the Bill of Rights, to have misused his discretion under Acts of Parliament and to have made an attempt to levy charges without the authority of Parliament.
§ Mr. Tebbit
I would not go as far as that, but he does not deserve to be a Minister of the Crown when he behaves in that manner. We should bear in mind that if a Minister of the Crown can behave in that way and be brought to book only by the courts of the land, and if our citizens can be protected only by the courts against the misuse of power, we would be unwise to assume that the trade union movement as a whole, or any individual union, would always behave in a better way than the Home Secretary behaved on this occasion.
The Bill with which we are now dealing is a nasty little Bill. Events have moved on since it was first introduced. Indeed, its nastiness is becoming clearer as time passes.
The narrow point of Press censorship has been discussed almost ad nauseam, but it is an important narrow point. I hope that hon. Members will have noticed what happened in Australia. Journalists struck because they did not like the contents of the newspapers there. They felt that the newspapers were biased against the Labour Party. I have not read the Australian newspapers and I do not know whether that is true, but the journalists 331 took it on themselves to try to silence the Press in Australia. They felt that they knew whether it was biased.
Fortunately, although Australians have endured a great deal, they have not had to face laws such as those now being proposed in this Bill. It was possible for newspapers in Australia still to be published. Under the present proposals, if in a future General Election the NUJ decides that the Press is biased against one side or the other, it can take certain action. Indeed it might be encouraged to do so, because already the Prime Minister has said that the BBC is biased and also that the Press employed hordes of journalists to go round the country looking for anything discreditable about the Prime Minister.
One does not have to employ hordes of journalists or to spend much money to do that. That, however, was the accusation, and that was the way in which the Prime Minister tried to stir up people against the media. If he achieved his aim, and if the Bill allowed a journalist to say "That is it. Shut the Press", we could find ourselves in the middle of a General Election with no Press, television or radio. What happens to freedom then? [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Penistone shouts "shocking".
§ Mr. Tebbit
I hope that the hon. Gentleman would regard such a prospect as shocking even if he did not actually use that word.
§ Mr. Tebbit
I shall not take the matter any further as to what the hon. Member for Penistone had in mind about possible future events.
We have some idea how things may go. Early this year we had the Sharman Press dispute in which NUJ members were fined sums ranging from
§ Mr. Tebbit
I shall not take the matter any further as to what the hon. Member for Penistone had in mind about possible future events.
We have some idea how things may go. Early this year we had the Sharman Press dispute in which NUJ members were fined sums ranging from £15 to £20 for working. I repeat that they were fined for working. However, in future it will not be necessary to fine them. They will be expelled. In that way, inconvenient people who do not find themselves in the majority will be got rid 332 of. They comprise the minority, people about whom this House seems to have very little care. But freedom, like the law, is indivisible. It will not be just the Press or the intellectuals who will suffer once the whip is on.
We have heard a good deal in this debate about the Ferrybridge six. I believe that the Ferrybridge six will be remembered for at least as long as the Shrewsbury two or three or whatever they are. Who will it be tomorrow?
Will it be the Vauxhall workers? I do not know the answer to that question, but the next in line might not be the awkward squad but others. The Ferry-bridge six are men with principles and ideas of conscience not easily bent. They will be the first to suffer, but who will be next? It will be the man who falls out somehow or other with the unions. It may not happen over an issue of principle, and perhaps not even at work.
We know that in the past a man who fell out with the foreman could find himself fired from his job. In future the same will be true of the man who falls out with the shop stewards. He will be told that the remedy lies not, as in the old days, with the employer but with the trade union and, indeed, with his own shop stewards. Is not that a laughable concept?
My remarks about the Ferrybridge six led to the editorial in The Times. That newspaper picked up the comment:If this is indeed so, it is an example of pure undilated Fascism.Perhaps the cruellest part of The Times first leader was the following:Mr. Tebbit is therefore using fascism as a legitimate descriptive sense when he accuses Mr. Foot of it".The last line contains the real bite:The question is not therefore: is Mr. Foot a fascist?' but 'does Mr. Foot know he is a fascist?'. To that at least we can give a charitable answer.I agree that we can give a charitable answer to that last question. I think the Secretary of State has deluded himself; he has misdirected and confused himself; he has allowed himself to become captive of the leaders of the trade union movement.
What the Secretary of State is saying in effect tonight is that, because a law has been opposed by a great vested 333 interest, the protection in the law for the individual should be ended and that instead there should be substituted the great new protection of the tribunal. What sort of tribunal? How will it conduct its business?
§ Mr. Foot
The hon. Gentleman has repeated words that he knows are highly offensive. Those words were taken up by The Times. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman was here when he heard the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) withdraw those words because he agreed that he had misunderstood the situation. I hope that the hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) also will have the courtesy to withdraw those words and I hope that, following his example and that of the hon. Member for Cornwall, North the editor of The Times might even be persuaded to render to me the same courtesy.
§ Mr. Tebbit
There is nothing for me to withdraw. My words were correctly quoted in The Time's first leader. "If that is so, it is an example of pure unadulterated Fascism." I repeat the phrase "If that is so". The "if" hinged upon the letter written by the Secretary of State for Employment and the outcome of that letter.
Let us deal with this once and for all. There are two parts to this matter. The first is what one thinks of a man who believes it is right that men and women should be deprived of the right to work because they belong to the wrong union or to no union. It is no good the Secretary of State shaking his head. One must believe either that it is right or that it is wrong. I shall gladly give way if the right hon. Gentleman wants to say it is wrong to deny men and women that right to work. He has taken the first step down the road to being a fully-paid-up member of that group of corporate state men colloquially called Fascists.
The next step along the road is whether, having denied a man his job and his right to work in a particular job, one then denies him unemployment pay. The wording of the Secretary of State's letter of 27th November, which was written in reply to a telegram of 31st October and a follow-up letter of 4th November, leaves a great deal to be desired. Whether or not it was designed to put into the mind 334 of tribunal members a certain attitude and give them the impression that they were being told by the Secretary of State that dismissal for not being a member of the right union was fair dismissal, it certainly gave that idea not only to me but to as distinguished a journalist as Mr. Rees-Mogg and to as distinguished a former colleague of the Secretary of State as Lord George-Brown.
§ Mr. Foot
The hon. Member has got it wrong again. The idea was put into the mind of the editor of The Times, apparently, after he had read only one or two sentences torn from my letter. If the whole letter had been available in the office, The Times would presumably have published it at the same time as the attack on me. Presumably it had only part of it. It has been shown to have made a complete misreading of the situation. The hon. Member for Cornwall, North also misread the situation and went on radio and made a false statement on the basis of that. He has had the honour to withdraw. Will the hon. Member show himself to be honourable as well?
§ Mr. Tebbit
There are some people from whom I would take remarks of that sort and some from whom I would not. The hon. Member had best behave himself or get out—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Oscar Murton)
Order. That is a matter for the Chair. We must do away with words of heat.
§ Mr. Tebbit
The Secretary of State stated flatly that the editor of The Times had not seen his letter. I do not know whether the editor has told him that. If not, the right hon. Gentleman has no way of knowing it and is unwise to assert it. After the letter was published in The Times, the editor still stood by what he had said and I stand by what I said. I see no reason to withdraw a word of it.
§ Mr. Foot
If the hon. Gentleman is saying that the editor of The Times published this article with the highly 335 offensive accusation against me while my letter was in his possession and that it was not published in the newspaper when the attack was made, he is making an even greater slur on the editor of The Times. It may be that the editor deserves it. The only honourable course for the hon. Member, if he wishes to retain that title, is to withdraw as did the hon. Member for Cornwall, North instead of snivelling on and making dishonourable action even worse.
§ Mr. Tebbit
I am not responsible for what the editor of The Times writes and I do not know what letters he had in his possession when he wrote the article. The right hon. Gentleman appears to claim to know. I have said nothing which requires me to withdraw and I have seen nothing in The Times which requires the editor to withdraw. On that point I leave the matter and go on to the point I was making when I started this interchange with the Secretary of State.
The Secretary of State proposes that in place of courts of law there should be tribunals. We are entitled to ask what sort of tribunals. Will the procedures be approved by anyone independently? Who will appoint the tribunals? Will the Press have a right to be present when the tribunals are hearing cases or will they have the right to operate in secret? Will plaintiffs have the right to be represented, legally or by friends? Will a plaintiff be able to secure aid to make legal submissions? The system is like saying that at a time of war conscientious objectors should have to appear before a tribunal made up of Army officers with an independent chairman appointed by the Secretary of State for Defence and the Chief of the Defence Staff in consultation. That is how fair it will be.
The editor of The Times and I fear that there has been a shift of power in this country from this place and the courts to small groups within the trade union movement and that we have moved from the law of courts to the law of tribunals. This is the basis of my charge and The Times' charge against the Secretary of State. The only question which remains to be answered is whether it is Willie Rees-Mogg who has changed in recent years or the Secretary of State.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I think that the hon. Member has laboured this 336 matter. In all honour, he should not use the word to which the Minister has objected. He has made his point and it would be honourable if he were not to use that expression. It is not a word properly used in this House in a personal sense.
§ Mr. Tebbit
I shall not use that word, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
There has been a shift of power away from this place. We all know it, and that is why on many days there is hardly anybody in this Chamber. We know that there has been a shift of power away from the courts of the land because there are some who blatantly defy the courts. This Bill is part of the shift from the democratic society which we knew towards a society in which some groups are above the law and have powers which are denied to the ordinary man and woman. That is the basis of any corporate State.
§ 8.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Ron Thomas (Bristol, North-West)
I do not wish to comment in great detail on the speech by the hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit). If the kind of scurrilous editorial which appeared in the Sunday Times is to be the end result of Press freedom as we have been debating it, quite frankly we need to take another very careful look at this whole matter. When a newspaper like the Sunday Times can make such a scurrilous attack on my right hon. Friend those who insist that we in this country have a free Press which is worth preserving, must realise that all their talk about a free Press is so much hogwash. How frequently during the time of the Industrial Relations Act, when dockers were put in prison, were Conservative Members attacked by the Sunday Times or any of its stable companions?
Mr. Esmond Balmer (Kidderminster)
It was not the Sunday Times. Get your facts right.
§ Mr. Thomas
The Industrial Relations Act would have provided that anyone who told the truth about an industrial dispute could have been regarded as committing an unfair industrial practice and be put in prison.
§ Mr. Percival
Will the hon. Member explain the process by which he believes that that situation could arise, because unless he can, he should withdraw what he has said.
§ Mr. Thomas
Sections 96 and 97 of the Industrial Relations Act refer to the giving of financial or any other support to a group of workers committing an unfair industrial practice. The newspaper or individual concerned could end up before a tribunal and, ultimately, in contempt of court and in prison.
I wish to draw attention to the technical schizophrenia which is displayed by the Conservatives on trade union and industrial relations matters. In their legislation and their White Papers they talk about the need for strong and effective trade unions, but if we are to judge by their speeches, particularly that by the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan), all they really want is trade unions to be racked by dissension. The hon. Member insisted that an individual should have the right to choose whether to join a trade union and to choose which trade union to join. Having joined it, he should then have the right, if he disagreed with a democratic decision by the union, to rip up his card and join another union. He could go through the whole process again in the new union if he so wished.
At the time that the Industrial Relations Act was passing through the House I spoke to the manager of a large engineering firm. He said that an individual should have the right to join the trade union of his choice, but then I suggested that perhaps one of his workers would want to join the National Union of Seamen. He said to me "We do not want that; we have enough blasted trade unions in this place already."
Our Liberal Friends are even more schizophrenic. One of them said during the Committee stage of the Bill that an individual should have the right to join the trade union of his choice. I asked for confirmation that Liberal philosophy sought one trade union for each industry. He confirmed that this was so. The logic of being able to hold both views escapes me.
We have seen plenty of crocodile tears shed by the Conservatives for that group of workers who are being denied unemployment pay. For years queues of working people have been waiting to appear 338 before tribunals either to establish their right to unemployment pay or social security benefits. The situation of that group of workers is not unusual, yet since I came to this House 12 months ago I have heard nothing from the Conservatives about the plight of all the other workers. Employers create the situation in which all an employee can do is leave, or else a worker is sacked for industrial misconduct and then has to apply for social security benefit or unemployment pay. Whenever there are strikes or redundancies thousands of workers face those problems.
The main part of the Bill concerns arbitrary or unreasonable exclusion or expulsion from trade unions. During the currency of the Industrial Relations Act—whatever Conservative Members say, we should continue to refer to that Act because it gave us our first experience of authoritarian legislation—it was said that trade unions, shop stewards and national officials could not do certain things and that the law must be brought in. In the well known Langston case it was argued that a work group should be forced to work with an individual because that was what the legislation said.
We know that that legislation failed completely. It was never applied to arbitrary or unreasonable exclusion or expulsion from a trade union. I do not know how one can proceed in those terms. It is not within the philosophy of the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby, because he thinks that an individual should be allowed to join a different trade union each week if it suits him.
Tied up with this is the whole question of unfair industrial practices, trade union rule books, and so on. To determine whether a person has been arbitrarily or unreasonably excluded from a trade union it is necessary to examine in detail the rule book of the trade union, the bargaining unit in which the individual operates and the whole collective bargaining machinery within that industry. That takes one right back to the Industrial Relations Act and Schedule 4.
I hope that we have learned our lessons from the Industrial Relations Act. One major lesson we have learned is that it is far better for workers and management 339 to resolve these difficulties between themselves. The Bridlington Agreement outshines anything achieved by the Industrial Relations Act. I agree with the Secretary of State that the trade unions can develop machinery to deal with these problems. Nothing in the Bill takes away from the individual his common law rights. Opposition Members do not appreciate that within a trade union there is usually a final appeal court of elected members who can make a decision binding on the national executive and every other body within the union.
§ Mr. Brittan
In view of the hon. Gentleman's satisfaction with trade union disputes procedures, is he saying that there is no need for an independent trade union appeal body? If he does not say that and accepts the need for a trade union appeal body, surely he accepts that it will have to operate in as clear cut a way as any other non-trade union body. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will also note that I do not accept the fantastic theories which he has ascribed to me. Nothing I have ever said supports his ascription of them to me.
§ Mr. Thomas
I remind the hon. Gentleman that he read a letter from a constituent advocating that he should be allowed to join a union of his choice. At any rate, that was the theme which came across to me. My judgment is that the trade unions can set up machinery to deal with this problem which, if it works as effectively as the Bridlington Agreement, will be fairer and more effective than any tribunal or industrial relations court or any other legal regulation which the hon. Gentleman might suggest.
As far as closed shops and union membership agreements are concerned, the Government have done no more than neutralise the position. They do not advocate them, but, on the other hand, unlike the Conservative Government, they do not ban them altogether. If there is a spectrum, the Government come down in the middle. The unions and the employers have to sit down and negotiate these agreements. The Secretary of State will not be there.
In my judgment, the definition of a union membership agreement fully covers the position of editors or any other group which the parties to an agreement wish 340 to leave out. It makes clear that it refers to employees of an identifiable class, and ipso facto refers to those outside the agreement.
The cries about Press freedom draw an enormous red herring. In the present monopoly control of the Press, it is nonsense to talk about Press freedom. I felt that my right hon. Friend was wrong to go so far along the road plotted for him by certain people in the House of Lords. He has gone too far already in setting up the charter. I believe it wrong to isolate a group of workers, as in the case of the NUJ, and say "We are going to have legislation which will go right across British industry, but we shall isolate you from it because of a special reason."
If there are problems of freedom of the Press, they should not have been tackled in this Bill but in different legislation, because they have prevailed over a long period, during which the Opposition have not said anything. The NUJ has every right to be concerned about part-time writers who are taking away craftsmen's jobs. It has every right to be concerned about developments in its own industry.
Why stop with the Press? What about the whole range of publishing? What about Equity and the theatre? Is it not possible that Equity could be captured by Maoists who would insist on the injection of social realism into Hamlet? What about universities and all the different areas of education? Imagine the Maoists taking over the Association of University Teachers and making them teach nothing but the thoughts of Chairman Mao! Is not that a possibility? I do not know where we draw the line in this regard.
I was very disturbed when the Secretary of State started along the road to isolate the NUJ in this way. I know he did it from the best of motives, but people in the other Chamber took advantage of those motives. We should not be sitting here now if those unelected individuals in the other Chamber had not taken advantage of the good will of the Secretary of State, who, if I may say so, bent over backwards to try to meet their objections.
I think that it was the present Prime Minister who once said that when the House of Lords agreed with the Commons it was superfluous, and when it 341 disagreed it was obnoxious. I should like to know how obnoxious it has to be before we get rid of it.
§ 8.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Mayhew (Royal Tunbridge Wells)
I should like to follow the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Thomas) straight away in the reference he made to the Bridlington Agreement and to its successful operation, because it is by reference to the provisions of the Bridlington Agreement that the AUEW justifies its rejection of the applications of four out of the six Ferrybridge workmen who have applied to join that union.
The provisions of the Bridlington Agreement that are relied upon are apparently those which prevent a trade union from accepting an application for membership from a former member of another union or a member of another union under discipline or in arrears. That is the ground upon which the rejection of these four of the Ferrybridge six is sought to be justified—not the ground put forward by the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) earlier in this debate that for some reason or other they did not comply with the craft qualifications or requirements.
I am glad that the hon. Member for Keighley is in his place, because he sought to draw an analogy with the trade union of the Bar, saying that barristers took care to achieve for themselves as close a closed shop as it would be possible to imagine. He could not have made a more telling point against himself. Indeed, the General Council of the Bar is my trade union, but it does not insist that I should belong to the General Council of the Bar if I seek to practise before the courts. It so happens that I belong to it, but I would be permitted to practise before the courts if I were not a member of the General Council of the Bar because of a religious objection or some reasonable objection of a secular kind.
That is the freedom that the law provides for those who are its professional members, and the law does not display the double standards that we have long associated with so many of those who support the Secretary of State but which we have only recently, alas, come to ascribe to the right hon. Gentleman himself.
342 It is the policy of the Government, as I understand it, to encourage all workers to join a trade union. I agree with that policy, but I agree with no more than that. The Government encourage so long as they advocate, so long as they urge, so long as they persuade and so long as they advise, but when they provide for dismissal without compensation as the price that a workman must pay for refusing to join a trade union they have passed beyond encouragement and resorted to blackmail.
§ Mr. Mayhew
The General Council of the Bar has urged members to join. The General Council of the Bar has it within its power to adopt any restrictive practice that it chooses, but it has not done so. The hon. Gentleman should perhaps know that a recent suggestion that sanctions should be imposed upon members of the Bar met with decisive disapproval at the general meeting.
The Bill is designed to make blackmail lawful. As it stands at the moment, the Act says that it shall be lawful to dismiss a worker for refusing to become a member of a specific trade union. But the Bill removes the saving clause which protects a worker who genuinely objects on any reasonable grounds to joining that union, and we now know from Ferry-bridge that there exist in real life workers who say "We are not against joining any trade union. We are against joining or remaining in this one." Alas, we also know what can happen to them if they are dismissed.
In the weeks to come, I believe that many more instances will come to light. There are many employees of British Rail who find themselves in just that category. Under the Act as it stands, they can claim that they have an objection based on reasonable grounds and also on the ground of religious belief to joining the union which British Rail now requires them to join. That claim will be tried by an independent statutory tribunal. If the claim succeeds, they will be entitled to compensation for dismissal. If it should fail, at least they have no grievance that their claim has not had a fair trial.
343 I ask the Secretary of State why, if he is prepared to make a concession for those with religious beliefs, he will not retain the concession in favour of those who have objections based upon reasonable grounds. Surely the only reason for giving a concession to those whose objections are based upon religious belief is that it is thought right that one should defer to another man's culture. But why should it be supposed that it is only those with religious beliefs who have cultures? Why should not an agnostic be entitled to the same respect for that which he believes morally and socially binding upon him which the Bill confers on thosc with religious beliefs whom the Government are prepared to continue so to favour?
I ask the right hon. Gentleman how in these circumstances he can claim, as he did today, that these measures are much more likely to protect individuals than are the provisions of the Act as it stands. The Bill provides no measures as an alternative to what it takes away in respect of unfair dismissal.
I want to consider briefly the kind of people whom we have in mind. In many instances they are employees who have given the greater part of their working lives, and in some instances the whole of their working lives, to a single employer. They now find that their contracts of service are changed. They are obliged to join a trade union. They are among those who are described by a phrase of which I approve completely and which is often used by the Minister of State. They are those who have invested their lives, as distinct from their capital, in the businesses which they serve. They are now to find themselves out, with no compensation, if they are unable to justify on reasonable grounds their refusal to join a trade union.
Having considered the type of people whom we are discussing, I go on to consider one or two of the possible grounds on which they may rely. It is not absurd to suppose that there are many who feel that it is wrong that innocent third parties should be made to suffer hardship by virtue of trade union industrial action. They may not wish to belong to a union for those reasons. There may be many who 344 believe that one man's pay rise is another man's price rise and that the specified union they are required to join is hostile to the Government's policy set out in the document "The Attack on Inflation".
It is not fanciful to suppose that some people may heed the wise advice that it is the duty of every trade union member to attend his branch meetings and play his part in union democracy. Some people may say that they are physically unable to do so, or they do not have the time and so on, and therefore they do not think they should be members. Those are serious and reasonable objections which not all of us would share but which none of us can possibly deride. I accept that those people may now properly be told to join a specific trade union. However, that they should be excluded from redundancy payments if they refuse, and be shut out from unemployment pay, is to subject them to a degree of injustice and oppression that has hitherto been reserved for those who have the misfortune to live in countries behind the Iron Curton. Nor can I possibly accept that they should be deprived of the right, conferred upon them by Section 5 of the Act,not to be—(a) excluded from membership, (b) expelled from membership, of a trade union or a branch or section of a trade union by way of arbitrary or unreasonable discrimination.It was sickening to hear the Secretary of State pay lip service to the principles of natural justice this afternoon. What does he seek to establish in compensation for the removal of the rights conferred by Section 5? He proposes to set up a body which is not even a statutory body, and that itself is an affront to the principles of natural justice. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) referred to that matter.
One of the principles of natural justice is that one's case will be tried by an impartial tribunal and not by a tribunal which is in part or in whole judge in its own cause. The Trades Union Congress will have as an affiliated member the very union which is a party to the case. No doubt it will receive affiliation fees. It will thus have an interest. In these circumstances, how can it be said that a workman can possibly feel that he has had his case determined in accordance with the principles of natural justice? It 345 is to defeat that as well as the provisions concerning unfair dismissal that I oppose the Bill.
The Act as it stands does not bring industrial relations within the purview of the courts. It gives the only effective means of protection that there is for minorities against the Establishment—to use the phrase of the hon. Member for Keighley—of the trade union movement. For the first time in our modern history we are discussing a Bill which seeks to write into the statute book a blackmailer's threat to deprive the subject of a basic freedom, and as such it should be utterly condemned.
§ Mr. Small
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have had an opportunity of consulting "Erskine May". This evening the word "Fascist" has been trotted out in the Chamber. According to "Erskine May", an hon. Member is not allowed to use unparliamentary terms by the device of putting them into somebody else's mouth, as was done by the hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit). Therefore, the quotation of that word from The Times was unparliamentary.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The Chair has dealt with this point. "Fascist" is not one of the specified unparliamentary expressions. However, it was drawn to the attention of the hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) that "Fascist" was an improper expression to use. Towards the end of his speech the hon. Member for Chingford withdrew it.
§ Mr. Tebbit
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I trust that in your ruling you will make it clear that there is nothing in "Erskine May" to prevent an hon. Member from reading an extract from The Times, even if it is not to the liking of other hon. Members.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
An hon. Member may not in making a quotation from a newspaper article use that device to say something unparliamentary concerning another hon. Member during the course of a debate.
§ Mr. Ted Fletcher
As the hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) endorsed the suggestion in The Times, may Government Members ask that he be called upon to withdraw the word?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I think that the hon. Gentleman now understands the position. It is the belief of the Chair that the hon. Member for Chingford has accepted the ruling of the Chair. We should now proceed with the debate.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Barney Hayhoe (Brentford and Isleworth)
Much has happened since our debate on the Second Reading of the Trade Unions and Labour Relations (Amendment) Bill in December 1974. The dangers we foresaw are coming to pass. The complacency of the Secretary of State and of Government supporters has been exposed, for this is a bad, a divisive, and an unnecessary Bill.
The Bill seeks to extend the privilege and power of trade unions by taking from the weak to give to the strong. It will widen immunities and protection for those engaged in strikes and industrial action in furtherance of industrial disputes in this country or abroad, whether or not those taking the strike action have any direct connection with such disputes at home and abroad.
In other words, the Bill would provide an immunity, as indeed an hon. Member opposite thought it right that it should, if people in this country with no connection with the soft fruit industry wanted to strike in favour of the grape pickers of California with whom they had not even the remotest connection. The Bill would provide the full protection and immunity which would be given to a strike of the more normal nature which we recognise and in respect of which in the past Parliament sought to legislate some protection for those taking part.
The Bill will also demolish safeguards for individuals in the closed shop situation. Not only does it put people's jobs at risk. It may also put their entitlement to unemployment benefit at risk. This is a new element which is coming in—the fact that the Bill can have that very damaging side effect.
The Bill restricts the grounds for objection to membership of a trade union very narrowly indeed. It stipulates that such an objection must be based on a religious objection to membership of trade unions. This is an exceptionally narrow provision which has been universally condemned by people of all parties and of none.
347 The Bill also eliminates perfectly reasonable and fundamental requirements concerning union rules which were proposed by the Donovan Commission. Why should the provisions of Section 6 of the 1974 Act be eliminated?
The present Government seek, wrongly, to make the unions the only channel for workers' representation, the only way in which their voices may be heard. We saw this with the Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act, when they insisted that the safety committees should be staffed or worked by union representatives. We saw it in the highly-loaded terms of reference given to the committee of inquiry about industrial democracy.
That is part of the reason why it took them four months to get a group of people to sit on that committee. The Government said that they would announce the names "very shortly". Heaven knows what would have happened if they had said they would announce them only "shortly ": we should be waiting until well into the next decade. If the Government see this enhanced and monopolistic role for trade unions, why not accept the minimal reasonable requirements for their rules recommended by Donovan?
The right hon. Gentleman began his speech—what a pathetic speech it was—with a foray into constitutional history. I shall not go back to Queen Anne, but I would remind the House that the action of the House of Lords last Session was perfectly constitutional and was based upon powers confirmed by the Attlee Government in 1949. Criticism of its action is based upon misconceptions if it is not recognised that the other place behaved quite legally. It set an example to many others in society by abiding strictly by the rule of law. I wish that many more would do the same.
The right hon. Gentleman is misusing this House by seeking to impose the tyranny of a minority. The amendments which the Bill seeks to eliminate were made with the support of hon. Members of parties which had been accorded 18 million votes at the February 1974 election and opposed by Members of parties with only 13 million. So the electorate was certainly on the side of the amendments. Now the right hon. Gentleman is 348 seeking to remove these amendments when those voting with him in the last Session represented 12½ million votes and those who opposed him represented 16½ million. So this democrat is seeking to use his parliamentary majority to impose the tyranny of the minority.
It is worse than that. I am certain that if this individual issue could be put to many who voted for the Labour and Scottish National Parties—the latter, in their curious role, have sustained the Government on this issue throughout—
§ Mr. Hayhoe
No, I will not give way at this moment. The Scottish National Member and those who served on the Committee—
§ Mr. Hayhoe
No, I will finish my point. The Scottish National Member on the Committee dealing with these matters was hardly ever there and when he did come all that he was prepared to do on nearly every issue was to support the Government.
§ Mr. Donald Stewart
I shall not deal with the ridiculous comment about the Scottish National Party: I got to my feet before the hon. Gentleman made it. As for having a mandate, do I understand from the hon. Gentleman's arithmetic that the Conservative Party is now in favour of proportional representation? If not, this whole approach is hypocritical.
§ Mr. Hayhoe
The supporters of those who vote in favour of the elimination of these amendments are a minority. The supporters of those who are behind the parliamentary majority which the Secretary of State can cobble together are a minority of the voters in this country. It is a perfectly proper point to make because the coalition that has come about between the Labour and Nationalist Parties in support of the Bill, even on a voting basis, has less legitimacy than any previous Government in my lifetime, and in voting terms it has less support from the electorate than any major Opposition party has ever had since 1945.
Let us not have much talk from the right hon. Gentleman about the constitutional issues. The House of Lords was entirely justified in its action. The right hon. Gentleman has also said that the 349 Bill does not do very much—it just restores.
§ Mr. Tebbit
Does not my hon Friend agree that the number of people represented by those on both sides of this controversy is a matter which their Lordships should properly take into account when deciding whether to use their powers? He has probably observed that on this occasion, when there is one defection from the Government ranks and it is possible that the Government could be defeated tonight, the Scottish nationalists will bail them out.
§ Mr. Hayhoe
It is of interest to note that when these matters have been discussed in another place and taken to a Division, support for the view in the House of Lords has come not only from the Conservatives, the Liberals and cross-bench opinion, but from senior figures in the Labour Party whom Labour Members in this House were only too willing to cheer when sitting behind them in years gone by. Now they are only too willing to denigrate them when they disagree with their view.
The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State has said that the Bill restores the pre-1971 position. I have always rejected this view. If we are merely going back to that previous decision, let the Minister of State tell us how many people were sacked, given no compensation and denied unemployment benefit before 1971 because they were unwilling to join a specified union in a closed shop agreement. If the hon. Gentleman cannot point to people who were denied unemployment benefit in those circumstances, changes have occurred and we are not taking a backward step.
Certainly there is no justification for the right hon. Gentleman's repeated assertion that he is not doing anything very important. He also used to claim great urgency for this measure. A year ago he said.The Bill is urgent because as long as the Act remains unamended"—that is the 1971 Act—it can give rise to highly explosive and dangerous industrial situations."—[Official Report, 3rd Dec. 1974; Vol. 882, c. 1398.]What extravagant and irresponsible language when we think of what has happened in the past 12 months! It would 350 have been bad enough if that language had been used by one of the Left-wing extremist agitators who, the Prime Minister tells us, are infiltrating the constituency Labour parties. However, when it is used by one of Her Majesty's principal Secretaries of State, it deserves censure. Let us contrast that with what the right hon. Gentleman said today. He said nothing abouthighly explosive and industrial situations".Today he has reduced it to "potential troublesome uncertainty". That from the master of the English language.
The right hon. Gentleman also made heavy weather of his assertion that common law rights and the rule of natural justice for the individual would not be harmed by the Bill. The technical legal jargon that he was using and, indeed, the rather flat, dull tone of his voice as he was reading from the official brief were I think, designed to conceal the reality of the situation, because this Bill will permit—perhaps its passage will encourage—erosion of these individual rights.
That is not merely my conclusion. It was the conclusion of Lord Salmon, a most distinguished legal authority, when he spoke so impressively in another place. He concluded that the common law would be entirely powerless to protect the working people of this country against oppression if Sections 5 and 6 of the 1974 Act were eliminated, as this Bill seeks to eliminate them.
That is an immensely serious point. It has not been answered by the right hon. Gentleman. I doubt whether it will be answered by the Minister of State. Why? They know that it can happen. Why do they not seek to do something to prevent this erosion of human rights? Or is the real answer the answer that they cannot give, yet what most of us suspect to be true—that the trade union leaders have vetoed any action of this kind, and the right hon. Gentleman with his tail between his legs, does their bidding?
The right hon. Gentleman certainly has not been able to deny that the safeguards for individuals are being demolished He has sought earlier today, as he has done so often previously, to hide behind some blanket condemnation of the 1971 Act, of remedies which have been tried and failed. When I asked him 351 about this and about how many individuals were sacked without compensation and without an entitlement to unemployment benefit during the period when the 1971 Act was in force, no answer came, except a reference to the Langston case.
But the Langston case was such tha' the individual concerned did get compensation. He was not denied unemployment benefit. As far as I know, he remained in employment and then, when his employment was terminated, he was given compensation. Compensation was awarded to him and his individual rights were protected.
Where the right hon. Gentleman has got it wrong was that the judgment given in the Langston case had within it words which he has quoted previously, words about the ineffectiveness of the law in seeking to outlaw closed shops. I should not have thought that this was a matter of great difference between us now. If, however, the right hon. Gentleman wants to refer to the Langston case, let him recall that section of the judgment which commented upon the AUEW's attitude, when the judge said that the AUEW had adopted a policy with regard to the Act such as had not been seen for centuries; it had denied Parliament's authority to legislate without first securing its approval; it had denied the authority of industrial tribunals and the court to administer the Act even for the benefit of its own members; it had denied the democratic rights of the community to make laws binding everyone.
Which of the hon. Members sitting on the Government Front Bench gave the greatest support to the AUEW at that time but the right hon. Gentleman himself? In those circumstances, therefore, I think that he should remain quiet about the Langston case. If it means anything at all, it is a great criticism of the sort of attitude that he supported.
Perhaps in passing one may comment on what a difference there might have been if the elections which took place only a short time ago in the AUEW had taken place two years ago. I am certain that the union would then not have been adopting the attitude which it adopted towards the National Industrial Relations Court.
352 The right hon. Gentleman also likes to try to re-write the history of the Industrial Relations Act and to perpetuate the myth that it caused great industrial unrest. He was concentrating on that today. He has previously tried to describe the 24 million days lost in 1972 as being caused by the workings of the 1971 Act, whereas his own Department's statistics give the figure as being under 400,000—in other words, less than 2 per cent. of the total.
Then, after the other place had taken its view of the Bill, there was a statement from the TUC. Under the headingTUC hints at union disruption",we read in The Times:The TUC said yesterday that strikes of the kind that prevented the functioning of the Conservatives' Industrial Relations Act might follow the constitutional clash between the Lords and the Commons over the Government's Bill to legitimise the closed shop.It reported Mr. Len Murray as saying:This could create the same sort of industrial disturbances as were caused in 1972 and 1973 by the Conservative Government's Industrial Relations Act.It is worth looking at what actually happened in 1972 and 1973. The question was answered by the Minister of State on 3rd May last year when he said, as reported at column 567 of the Official Report, that the number of strikes caused by the Industrial Relations Act 1971 in 1972 were three—three out of a total of about 2,500. He added that in 1973 there were 10, out of nearly 3,000. That shows that the industrial disruption that flowed from that Act was very small. What caused the industrial disruption of those years was major unions seeking to break the Government's pay policy. Strikes of that kind accounted for the vast majority of the days lost.
Now valuable parliamentary time is being wasted on this Bill. The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) seemed to agree that valuable time was being wasted in going over this ground. I thought that he was complaining that we were debating the pro visions of the Bill rather than dealing with other matters, but now that the Bill is before us we must debate it.
No one wants the Bill, except the trade union bosses, and they are often out of touch with, and misrepresent, their members. Many of them have very little 353 electoral legitimacy on the basis of the number of members who voted for them when they were elected. In addition to the trade union leaders there are the docile Government back benchers. The Manifesto Group Members will be going shoulder to shoulder with their Tribune comrades through the Lobby tonight in favour of a Bill which damages individual freedom. We have unemployment at record high levels, but the Government give priority to the Bill.
Why do we not have a Bill to give the Secretary of State power to defray the costs of postal balloting if unions want that sort of help? Why do we not have provision for voting at the work place or even within working hours? We hear a great deal of talk from the Government about industrial democracy. I want to see industrial democracy and democracy in the unions. The higher the poll in union elections, the better pleased I am. I am happy to accept the result, whatever it is, provided there is a reasonable turn-out of the members concerned.
I agree with what the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Corbett) said about union members playing a full and active part in their union. I go further. I would recommend all those who are eligible to join unions to join them and play an active part. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit), I was a member of the appropriate trade union when I was working in a drawing office and in a factory. I believe in 100 per cent. trade union membership, as he does, and, like him, I believe that it should be achieved voluntarily. Voluntary 100 per cent. membership is something worth achieving. Compulsory 100 per cent. membership can be justified only if there are reasonable safeguards.
The issue of the closed shop, of trade union monopoly powers, is central to the issue of Press freedom. I have not said much about that tonight, because we shall return to it at a later stage, but the last few times I spoke on the Bill's predecessor my speeches were concerned mainly with Press freedom. The fact that I say little about it tonight does not mean that I underrate its importance. I wish to stress the wider implications of the Bill.
354 One of the great problems of a free society is to achieve a proper balance between the rights of groups and the rights of individuals, between the interests of majorities and the interests of minorities. The conflict of interest is perhaps nowhere quite as sharp as that which results between trade union membership and human freedom, individual liberty and the closed shop. I freely admit that we did not get the balance right in our 1971 Act. If the right hon. Gentleman has his way, the balance will become even more wrong.
Parliament should be seeking to achieve a proper balance between these conflicting rights and interests. It did that in the previous Parliament by amending the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1974. That was not the perfect solution, but the amended Act was much better than what the Government now propose.
A year ago, on 3rd December, I said that this was a mean and tatty little measure. I was too kind. In 12 months we have had much debate and we have the Ferrybridge affair, so clearly illuminated by my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford. We are now having people sacked from the Vauxhall works merely because they will not conform, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Madel) explained. We have had the example of Mr. Ryan, as referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan). These incidents, and there are many more that will follow if the right hon. Gentleman gets his way, demonstrate that this is a nasty, vicious piece of sectarian legislation. It will damage individual liberty and it will make it easier for unrepresentative minorities to gain control of unions.
This measure will put at risk the freedom of the Press. Only a Minister totally besotted and overborne by the leaders of the TUC could pursue so single-mindedly such a disastrous policy for so long. The right hon. Gentleman has done enough damage. Why cannot he now offer some service to the cause of freedom in the national interest and perhaps salvage something of his crumbling reputation by withdrawing the Bill and resigning from office? It is time that he was gone.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Mr. Albert Booth)
As my right hon. Friend made clear at the outset of the debate, the purpose of the Bill is to repeal or amend the provisions inserted into the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1974 by the Opposition which preserve in letter or in spirit the parts of the Industrial Relations Act which proved unworkable and counterproductive. It is a Bill to remove impediments to the improvement of industrial relations.
Although the Bill is substantially the same as the Bill which was introduced on 3rd December 1974—and I very much hope that this will not become an annual event—this measure contains improvements in the definition of a union membership agreement. Some of the improvements were made to meet certain Opposition criticisms that have been voiced, but this does not appear to have been acknowledged by the Opposition in today's debate. The amendments which the Bill contains will enable employers and unions to draw up union membership agreements on a more flexible basis.
The Bill amends the definition of union membership agreements in Section 30 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act in two ways. First, it removes one of the Lever amendments which purported to allow an employee to belong to an appropriate union of his choosing but which did not achieve that objective and left the law in an ambiguous state.
Secondly, and possibly more important, it makes clear that once the Bill is passed the closed shop agreement will be valid for the purpose of the legislation even if it exempts employees or classes of employees on any ground not connected with their terms and conditions of employment. It would be valid if it exempted them on grounds of age or existing union membership. Surely the Opposition should welcome these matters.
The Bill will make clear that a union membership agreement will not be regarded as having lapsed if it is not enforced against all who do not belong to a union, as apparently they are required to do by the agreement. It will make plain that a union and employees can agree that membership of a minority union which is not a party to the closed 356 shop agreement can satisfy the requirements of the agreement. This will not only enable closed shop agreements to be more flexible than appeared necessary to meet the unfair dismissal provisions of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act. It will bring the law into greater accord with the normal practice in industry and enable minority views to be more effectively accommodated.
It is worth reminding the House, in view of some of the statements made in this debate, that the only reason why it was necessary to define a union membership agreement in the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act was that we continued and extended the unfair dismissal provisions of the Industrial Relations Act 1971. That is the only purpose for which we have to define a union membership agreement. Our aim is to enable employers and unions to determine whether a closed shop should be established without either encouraging them to do so or deterring them from doing so.
The Opposition have not opposed the principle of the closed shop. They have tried to create a deterrent to the employer by rendering him liable to unfair dismissal compensation. They have never suggested that any other breach of terms and conditions by an employee should be treated in quite the same way. Apparently other breaches of terms and conditions by employees should enable employers to sack employees without conferring on them the benefit of unfair dismissal compensation. For this specific purpose, however, the Opposition want to create a specific deterrent to the employer to enter into a union membership agreement.
However, there is one way in which the rights of employees in respect of unfair dismissal have been changed since we last debated the Bill on Second Reading in December 1974. Since then the House has enacted the Employment Protection Act in which there is provision for a union to refer a claim for recognition to the ACAS and to ensure that while such a claim is being considered its members will be regarded as if they are covered by union membership for the purposes of unfair dismissal and that this protection will continue if the ACAS recommends recognition.
357 Questions have been asked about the effect of the Bill on the Ferrybridge six. First, the effect of passing the Bill, and in particular of removing Section 5 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act, will be to bring about the creation by the TUC of a trade union tribunal that will consider all cases, or certainly undertake to consider them, where exclusion or expulsion from a union would result in an employee losing his or her job. That is the first effect.
I am answering the question about the Ferrybridge six in the widest possible terms because I take it that hon. Members will want to know the effect on people in similar circumstances in future if the Bill is passed. That would be the effect. If anybody in that position were to hold that he had lost his job in those circumstances as a result of exclusion from one of the National Joint Industrial Council unions in the electricity supply industry, one of the signatories to the membership agreement to that industry, he would have the right to go to the TUC tribunal on the grounds that he was losing his job as the result of exclusion.
§ Mr. Hayhoe
What will be the possibility of a person going to an industrial tribunal and claiming compensation for unfair dismissal? Will the Minister answer the following question? Before the passage of the 1971 Act, could anybody be denied unemployment benefit as a result of being discharged because he would not join a union in a closed shop situation?
§ Mr. Booth
I shall come later to the question of the Ferrybridge situation and the claim of unfair dismissal.
The basic test of entitlement for unemployment benefit has not changed. The test is whether somebody left employment voluntarily or was sacked as a result of misconduct. That is the test which will be applied first by the national insurance officer, on appeal by the national insurance tribunal and then on further appeal by the commissioner. It is not possible to give figures from before 1971 of people being dismissed as a result of not complying with the conditions of closed shop agreements, but there is no doubt that closed shops operated in this country before 1971, and, by defining a union membership agreement more closely in accord with actual industrial 358 practice we must be creating a situation very close to that which existed then.
As a result of the passing of the Bill, the Ferrybridge six will not have the right to use Section 5 to go to the courts with exclusion or expulsion claims. However, I pose the question of how many people have regained reinstatement in jobs in the industries and services of this country as a result of using Section 5 of the 1974 Act. If we are talking about the practical effects, as I hope we are, this matter must be considered. The Bill amends Section 30(1) of the 1974 Act which defines a union membership agreement to make it clear that the reference to an "appropriate union" means an appropriate union specified by the parties to the union membership agreement, and I think that this would probably narrow the chances of people in a Ferrybridge six type of case securing unfair dismissal compensation.
However, the other change made by the Bill to the definition of union membership agreements will improve people's chances of winning compensation and improve their chances of not being dismissed in the first place. We have evidence that recent union membership agreements have been made with very close regard to the definition of an agreement contained in the 1974 Act. If the greater flexibility that the law provides for in the Bill results in great flexibility and tolerance, and in union membership agreements that are more nearly in accord with normal industrial practice before 1971, which is still practised where people consider themselves free to make these agreements, this will help the situation.
There is another effect of changes in the law which are not the direct result of the passing of this Bill. A legal change has taken place in the last 12 months which is most important for small unions seeking membership in situations which might be thought analogous with that at Ferrybridge. Under the Employment Protection Act, when the appropriate sections are brought into force by the commencement order a union will be able to apply to the ACAS for recognition, and while the ACAS is considering the claim, the union's members will be protected from unfair dismissal as if they were covered by a union membership agreement. Of course, if the ACAS recommends that 359 the union should be recognised, irrespective of any subsequent change in the membership agreement, its members will continue to have that protection.
§ Mr. Percival
I have tried to follow what the Minister of State said, but it is very complicated. Is not there a simple point? It is proposed in the Bill to amend paragraph 6(5) of Schedule I. Would not the effect of that amendment be that by definition a dismissal of people in the circumstances of the Ferrybridge case would be fair and that, therefore, they would have no right to claim damages? May I suggest that the point is as simple as that and that it would radically change the rights of persons in the Ferrybridge situation?
§ Mr. Booth
I take the hon. and learned Member's point, but I am trying to answer the question as widely and fully as I can. I have made clear in dealing with the specific instance of the Ferry-bridge case as it now stands that one of the two amendments to the definition of a union membership agreement would in my opinion—and I am not a trained lawyer—probably reduce their chances of securing unfair dismissal compensation.
We must consider the other amendment in the light of its practical effect, the future and the way in which the Bill will operate if it becomes law. Many of the speeches tonight have suggested great horrors which will flow from the consequences of the Bill. We must consider how people make membership agreements, respecting the rights of minorities and fitting their membership agreements to the situation in their own workplace. Even given the Opposition's position on the matter of safeguards against unfair dismissal and on closed shop agreements, I should have thought they would welcome the second amendment to the definition.
On Ferrybridge, the CEGB and the unions with which it negotiates consider that it should be a requirement that all employees should belong to one of the recognised unions so that they are properly represented in collective bargaining. It is believed to be in the interests of good industrial relations that they should be free to impose such a requirement; it should not be forbidden or 360 encouraged, but the parties must be left free to make their own decision.
There are circumstances in which arrangements such as those made by the CEGB and by the unions may be logically concluded by an employer with a few strong and effective unions rather than attempting to deal with numerous small and weak unions. The Opposition claim to support stable collective bargaining arrangements based on having a few strong unions. I remember, in the debates on the 1971 Act, the right hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Carr), the then Secretary of State for Employment, spoke in terms which indicated very clearly that he wanted good and effective negotiating agreements. He wanted strong unions which could negotiate on behalf of their members. He did not indicate to the House that he wanted small minority unions challenging recognition by others and creating fragmentation.
It is relevant to consider—without prejudice to the future consideration by the ACAS of an application from the ESU—that the National Industrial Relations Court considered the request from the ESU that the CIR should be asked to examine its claim for recognition at Ferrybridge as the bargaining agent for power station workers. The NIRC considered that the case against interfering with the established collective bargaining procedure was so overwhelming and that the ESU was so patently ill equipped to act effectively as the union in negotiation with the employer that the case was not worth referring to the CIR. The ESU will be able to refer the recognition claim to the ACAS as soon as the relevant provisions of the Employment Protection Act come into effect if it considers that it has a case for recognition.
I recognise that the previous consideration of this case by the NIRC took place in a different situation from that which exists today, and that the law in respect of that court is not the same as that which applies under the Employment Protection Act. I say that without prejudice to any future consideration of that case or the case of any other small union.
The men involved in the Ferrybridge six case previously belonged to a different recognised union from that which they are apparently willing to join now. Under normal Bridlington procedures worked out 361 by the TUC and its members for the avoidance of membership disputes, a union cannot take into membership someone who has previously been a member of another TUC union without inquiries first being made. Under the terms of the closed shop agreement, the men had the opportunity to appeal against the closed shop requirements on the grounds that they had been refused membership of one of the specified unions, but they chose not to do so.
The right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) and the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) expressed the view that because the Bridlington Agreement did not resolve one particular problem the House could not rely upon the TUC to be able to set up an effective tribunal to consider individual cases of exclusion and expulsion. It ill behoves the Opposition to attack union efforts to resolve difficulties which could lead to industrial disputes. It is generally agreed that the application of the Bridlington principles to questions of who should belong to which union has been extremely valuable in avoiding difficulties. In the recent court case involving TUC procedures which was quoted, what was at stake was union mergers, not which union an individual should join. In any case, the usefulness of the Bridlington principles was not questioned.
§ Mr. Brittan
The point at issue is not whether the Bridlington procedures are useful—we accept that those procedures are not directly analogous to what is involved now—but rather whether a procedure that the TUC had set up to consider disputes operated properly. The Opposition were pointing out that the court found that the procedure was gravely deficient in a number of important respects. That leads one to be doubtful whether a TUC-appointed body is an appropriate one to consider appeals by individuals against unfair exclusion or expulsion.
§ Mr. Booth
The hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby should recognise that that was a peculiar case. It involved one union taking another union to court to resolve a matter which was said not to have been satisfactorily dealt with under the Bridlington procedures. Cases of that type do not come to the courts every day. That is a rare case—in my 362 experience, unique—and not a good basis on which to judge whether another form of tribunal set up by the TUC dealing with another type of problem will or will not be effective.
§ Mr. Brittan
The objection is taken not to the case but to the procedure. Even in a sector where it is operating comparatively smoothly, the TUC has not been able to produce a satisfactory procedure on which an individual would wish to rely.
§ Mr. Booth
I accept that the court took the view that the procedure in that case was not satisfactory. One of the trade unions involved took the view that the result was not satisfactory. What I am saying is that it does not follow, because of the views expressed in court as to the unsatisfactoriness of the procedure in a rather peculiar case, that the TUC's way of conducting appeals against expulsion or exclusion will involve an unsatisfactory procedure. That does not automatically follow from what the hon. Gentleman has said.
The hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Mr. Hayhoe) complains of the amendment of Section 29 to bring the law on overseas trade disputes into line with reality by removing the words providing that industrial action in support of a trade dispute overseas is given the relevant immunities only if that dispute directly affects the workers on strike in this country. That proviso merely plays with words so as to introduce great uncertainty into the law. How can one properly judge in every case whether British workers' interests are affected by an overseas strike? In any case, why should not British workers act in the interests of international trade union solidarity? The increasingly international organisation of trade and industry demands as much.
§ Mr. Hayhoe
Is the hon. Gentleman, with the authority of a Minister, encouraging trade unionists in this country to strike in support of any old dispute anywhere in the world with which they have no direct connection? If not, why did he use those words?
§ Mr. Booth
I realise that the hon. Gentleman did not perhaps have time carefully to consider his words before making that intervention, but what he said is insulting to trade unionists if he 363 thinks that on any old issue—to use his words—anywhere in the world they would go on strike. That is not what I have just said. What I said was that, where a group of trade unionists in this country determine that they should go on strike and have an industrial dispute in support of workers overseas, it is the Government's view that such a dispute should carry with it the same immunities as if they were having a dispute in this country, or a dispute relating to an action overseas which had a bearing on their terms and conditions in this country.
§ Mr. Booth
We are finding out facts. We have examined developments which have taken place in multinational companies and in international trade unionism and the number of instances—they are not a great many—in which workers in this country have taken action in support of workers overseas. These are cases where we believe that it is not right that the law of this country should discriminate, in the indemnities it provides in an industrial dispute, between strikes which take place in the interests of the terms and conditions of the British workers involved and those which affect the wider trade union interest. We believe that the development of multinational companies and their corporate actions, affecting the terms and conditions of employees all over the world, show that such a provision is apt at this time, if not overdue.
§ Mr. Tebbit
Before the Minister sits down, will he tell us something more about these tribunals? Will they be held in public? Will the Press be present? Will legal representation be allowed? Will there be financial aid to aggrieved persons to be represented legally?
§ Mr. Booth
I do not intend to discuss further the position of the TUC tribunals. I hope I shall be acquitted of any discourtesy to the hon. Gentleman, but there are a few points with which I must deal before sitting down.
First, there is the question of the application of the Bill to journalists. I agree with the right hon. Member for 364 Lowestoft in one of his comments. This is an Industrial Relations Bill, and neither the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act nor the original amendment Bill contained any reference at all to the Press. This has not prevented reference in the media to this Bill as a Press freedom Bill. Many more words have been printed in newspapers on this subject than on the contents of the original Bill. In the final analysis it was this issue of the application of the Bill to journalists and to newspaper offices which prevented the Bill being passed into law last Session.
The Government are responding to the expressed views of many Members of the House by proposing the addition of clauses providing for a charter on Press freedom. In my view, however, this does not mean that the Government believe that freedom of the Press can be guaranteed by restricting the rights of journalists to organise and to bargain on their terms and conditions of employment.
Opponents of the Bill have shown that they can be very selective in their criticisms of trade union activity, but I should have thought that those who can respect the right of junior hospital doctors to take industrial action, conscious of the effect that that action has on patients of the National Health Service, should also be able to respect the right of journalists to take industrial action, conscious of the effect of their action on newspaper readers.
The Opposition have attacked the Bill as an elevation of collectivist principles at the expense of individual liberty. Leaving aside the sense in which that can be said to be true of most Acts of Parliament, there is a weakness in its analysis and an inconsistency in its approach. This is not a conflict between collective and individual rights that we are considering but the balance that must be struck between individual rights which are in conflict—the balance of rights between shareholders and workers, between management and unions, between the member of a union and his union, and between unions and unions. It is a matter of the balance of rights.
In matters such as the closed shop, of course, we appreciate that if the Opposition were now the Government the line would be drawn in a different place, but 365 we think that the viewpoint held by the majority of individuals should prevail over the viewpoint held by the minority of individuals. That is particularly true where there is a conflict on terms and conditions of negotiating. Such a balance is normally held to be democracy. In The Times of 2nd December it was described as Fascism.
I think that there are sufficient fair-minded Members in this Chamber to ensure that the resentment which that editorial caused is not confined to one party or to one side of the House. The editor of The Times, I suggest, should consider the position taken by that paper at a time when Hitler was destroying the leaders of the German trade union movement and taking from German trade unionists the right to organise. He
§ should also consider the view which that paper took when Mussolini destroyed democracy in Italy.
§ I hope that such a consideration will bring a realisation that my right hon. Friend has fought Fascism longer and more consistently than those who now use an editorial chair to make such unjust and unwarranted attacks on his aims and his motives.
§ The Bill is a genuine attempt to improve our industrial relations law. It recognises the rights of those who invest their working lives in industry. As such I commend it to the House.
§ Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 306, Noes 276.369
|Division No. 11.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Crawford, Douglas||Gourlay, Harry|
|Allaun, Frank||Crawshaw, Richard||Graham, Ted|
|Anderson, Donald||Cronin, John||Grant, George (Morpeth)|
|Archer, Peter||Crosland, Rt Hon Anthony||Grant, John (Islington C)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Cryer, Bob||Grocott, Bruce|
|Ashley, Jack||Cunningham, G. (Islington S)||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)|
|Ashton, Joe||Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)||Hardy, Peter|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Davidson, Arthur||Harper, Joseph|
|Atkinson, Norman||Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)||Hart, Rt Hon Judith|
|Bain, Mrs Margaret||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Hatton, Frank|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Hayman, Mrs Helene|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Deakins, Eric||Healey, Rt Hon Denis|
|Bates, Alf||Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Bean, R. E.||Delargy, Hugh||Henderson, Douglas|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Dell, Rt Hon Edmund||Hooley, Frank|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Dempsey, James||Horam, John|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Doig, Peter||Howell, Denis (B'ham, Sm H)|
|Bishop, E. S.||Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Duffy, A. E. P.||Huckfield, Les|
|Boardman, H.||Dunn, James A.||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)|
|Booth, Albert||Dunnett, Jack||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur||Eadie, Alex||Hughes, Roy (Newport)|
|Boyden, James (Bish Auck)||Edge, Geoff||Hunter, Adam|
|Bradley, Tom||Edwards, Robert (Woiv SE)||Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||English, Michael||Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Ennals, David||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)|
|Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)||Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Janner, Greville|
|Buchan, Norman||Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Buchanan, Richard||Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Jeger, Mrs Lena|
|Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)||Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)||Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray)||Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Stechford)|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Faulds, Andrew||John, Brynmor|
|Campbell, Ian||Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Johnson, James (Hull West)|
|Canavan, Dennis||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Johnson, Walter (Derby S)|
|Cant, R. B.||Flit, Gerard (Belfast W)||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Flannery, Martin||Jones, Barry (East Flint)|
|Carter, Ray||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Judd, Frank|
|Cartwright, John||Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Kaufman, Gerald|
|Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Ford, Ben||Kelley, Richard|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Forrester, John||Kerr, Russell|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)||Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)||Kilroy-Silk, Robert|
|Cohen, Stanley||Freeson, Reginald||Kinnock, Neil|
|Coleman, Donald||Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Lambie, David|
|Colquhoun, Mrs Maureen||Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)||Lamborn, Harry|
|Conlan, Bernard||George, Bruce||Lamond, James|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Gilbert, Dr John||Latham, Arthur (Paddington)|
|Corbett, Robin||Ginsburg, David||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Golding, John||Lee, John|
|Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill)||Gould, Bryan||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)|
|Lever, Rt Hon Harold||Ovenden, John||Strang, Gavin|
|Lewis, Arthur (Newham N)||Owen, Dr David||Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Padley, Walter||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Lipton, Marcus||Palmer, Arthur||Swain, Thomas|
|Litterick, Tom||Park, George||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|Loyden, Eddie||Parker, John||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Luard, Evan||Parry, Robert||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Lyon, Alexander (York)||Pavitt, Laurie||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)||Peart, Rt Hon Fred||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Mabon, Dr J. Dickson||Pendry, Tom||Thompson, George|
|McCartney, Hugh||Perry, Ernest||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|MacCormick, Iain||Phipps, Dr Colin||Tierney, Sydney|
|McElhone, Frank||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Tinn, James|
|MacFarquhar, Roderick||Price, C. (Lewisham W)||Tomlinson, John|
|McGuire, Michael (Ince)||Price, William (Rugby)||Tomney, Frank|
|Mackenzie, Gregor||Radice, Giles||Torney, Tom|
|Mackintosh, John P.||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)||Tuck, Raphael|
|Maclennan, Robert||Reid, George||Urwin, T. W.|
|McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)||Richardson, Miss Jo||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|McNamara, Kevin||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Madden, Max||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)||Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)|
|Magee, Bryan||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Maguire, Frank (Fermanagh)||Roderick, Caerwyn||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Mahon, Simon||Rodgers, George (Chorley)||Ward, Michael|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Rodgers, William (Stockton)||Watkins, David|
|Marks, Kenneth||Rooker, J. W.||Watkinson, John|
|Marquand, David||Roper, John||Watt, Hamish|
|Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Rose, Paul B.||Weetch, Ken|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Maynard, Miss Joan||Rowlands, Ted||Welsh, Andrew|
|Meacher, Michael||Sandelson, Neville||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||Sedgemore, Brian||White, James (Pollok)|
|Mendelson, John||Selby, Harry||Whitlock, William|
|Mikardo, Ian||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Millan, Bruce||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)||Shore, Rt Hon Peter||Williams, Alan (Swansea W)|
|Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)||Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)|
|Moonman, Eric||Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)||Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)|
|Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Sillars, James||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)|
|Moyle, Roland||Silverman, Julius||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick||Skinner, Dennis||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King||Small, William||Woodall, Alec|
|Newens, Stanley||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)||Woof, Robert|
|Noble, Mike||Spearing, Nigel||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Oakes, Gordon||Spriggs, Leslie||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Ogden, Eric||Stallard, A. W.|
|O'Halloran, Michael||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|O'Malley, Rt Hon Brian||Stoddart, David||Mr. J. D. Dormand and|
|Orbach, Maurice||Stott, Roger||Mr. Peter Snape.|
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Adley, Robert||Bryan, Sir Paul||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Drayson, Burnaby|
|Alison, Michael||Buck, Antony||du Cann, Rt Hon Edward|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Budgen, Nick||Dunlop, John|
|Arnold, Tom||Bulmer, Esmond||Durant, Tony|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Burden, F. A.||Eden, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Awdry, Daniel||Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)|
|Baker, Kenneth||Carlisle, Mark||Elliott, Sir William|
|Banks, Robert||Carr, Rt Hon Robert||Emery, Peter|
|Beith, A. J.||Carson, John||Eyre, Reginald|
|Bell, Ronald||Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Fairbairn, Nicholas|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)||Channon, Paul||Fairgrieve, Russell|
|Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)||Churchill, W. S.||Farr, John|
|Benyon, W.||Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Fell, Anthony|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Clark, William (Croydon S)||Finsberg, Geoffrey|
|Biffen, John||Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Fisher, Sir Nigel|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Clegg, Walter||Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N)|
|Blaker, Peter||Cockcroft, John||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles|
|Body, Richard||Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Fookes, Miss Janet|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Cope, John||Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)|
|Bottomley, Peter||Cordie, John H.||Fox, Marcus|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)||Cormack, Patrick||Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)||Costain, A. P.||Freud, Clement|
|Bradford, Rev Robert||Critchley, Julian||Fry, Peter|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Crouch, David||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.|
|Brittan, Leon||Crowder, F. P.||Gardiner, George (Reigate)|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, C.||Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford)||Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)|
|Brotherton, Michael||Dean, Paul (N Somerset)||Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham)|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Dodsworth, Geoffrey||Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey|
|Godber, Rt Hon Joseph||Lloyd, Ian||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)|
|Goodhart, Philip||Loveridge, John||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Goodhew, Victor||Luce, Richard||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Goodlad, Alastair||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Gorst, John||McCrindle, Robert||Ross, William (Londonderry)|
|Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||McCusker, H.||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)||Macfarlane, Neil||Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)|
|Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C)||MacGregor, John||Royle, Sir Anthony|
|Gray, Hamish||Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Sainsbury, Tim|
|Grieve, Percy||McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)||Scott, Nicholas|
|Griffiths, Eldon||McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Grimond, Rt Hon J.||Madel, David||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Grist, Ian||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Shepherd, Colin|
|Grylls, Michael||Marten, Neil||Shersby, Michael|
|Hall, Sir John||Mates, Michael||Sims, Roger|
|Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Mather, Carol||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Maude, Angus||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Hannam, John||Mawby, Ray||Smith, Dudley (Warwick)|
|Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye)||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Speed, Keith|
|Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss||Mayhew, Patrick||Spence, John|
|Havers, Sir Michael||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)|
|Hawkins, Paul||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)||Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)|
|Hayhoe, Barney||Miscampbell, Norman||Sproat, Iain|
|Heath, Rt Hon Edward||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Stainton, Keith|
|Heseltine, Michael||Moate, Roger||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Hicks, Robert||Molyneaux, James||Stanley, John|
|Higgins, Terence L.||Monro, Hector||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Holland, Philip||Montgomery, Fergus||Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)|
|Hooson, Emlyn||Moore, John (Croydon C)||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Hordern, Peter||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Stokes, John|
|Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Morris, Michael (Northampton S)||Storehouse, Rt Hon John|
|Howell, David (Guildford)||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Stradling Thomas J.|
|Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)||Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)||Taylor, R (Croydon NW)|
|Hunt, John||Mudd, David||Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)|
|Hurd, Douglas||Neave, Airey||Tebbit, Norman|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Nelson, Anthony||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Neubert, Michael||Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret|
|Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)||Newton, Tony||Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)|
|James, David||Nott, John||Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)|
|Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd)||Onslow, Cranley||Townsend, Cyril D.|
|Jessel, Toby||Oppenheim, Mrs Sally||Trotter, Neville|
|Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Pardoe, John||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Jones, Arthur (Daventry)||Pattie, Geoffrey||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Jopling, Michael||Penhaligon, David||Viggers, Peter|
|Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Percival, Ian||Wakeham, John|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Peyton, Rt Hon John||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Kershaw, Anthony||Pink, R. Bonner||Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)|
|Kilfedder, James||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch||Wall, Patrick|
|Kimball, Marcus||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Walters, Dennis|
|King, Evelyn (South Dorset)||Prior, Rt Hon James||Warren, Kenneth|
|King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Pym, Rt Hon Francis||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Kitson, Sir Timothy||Raison, Timothy||Wells, John|
|Knight, Mrs Jill||Rathbone, Tim||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Knox, David||Rawllnson, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Lamont, Norman||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Lane, David||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Wood, Rt Hon Richard|
|Langford-Holt, Sir John||Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunt*)||Nicholas Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)|
|Latham, Michael (Melton)||Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)||Younger, Hon George|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Ridley, Hon Nicholas||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Lawson, Nigel||Ridsdale, Julian||Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and|
|Lestor, Jim (Beeston)||Rifkind, Malcolm||Mr. Cecil Parkinson|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time.370
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole house.—[Mr. Pavitt.]
§ Committee tomorrow.