§ Mr. Strang
I beg to move amendment No. 2, in page 4, line 40, leave out clauses 3 to 5.
We are now coming to the heart of the Bill. As we have made clear throughout our deliberations, the Bill is an outrage. It is an extreme measure designed to weaken and undermine the role of trade unions in our society. This part of the Bill will deny unions the legal right to discipline members who fail to comply with action advocated by the union. That is especially outrageous, and has been the focus of much critical comment from a whole range of organisations, most of which are usually aligned with the Government on political matters.
It was interesting last week to hear leading figures in industry interviewed on the Government's legislation, against a background of industrial disputes, arguing that the Government had tipped the balance too far in the direction of employers. Of course, we have been arguing that ever since the Government introduced their first Bill against the trade unions. It is significant that last week Sir John Harvey-Jones, the recently retired chairman of ICI, said, when interviewed on the BBC, that the Government had tipped the scales too far against the trade unions. He went so far as to suggest that some of the industrial disruption that we are now experiencing was a backlash reaction to such legislation.
79 The basis of the Government's justification for the legislation is that—to use the Ministers' phrase—they are giving the trade unions back to their members. Part of the argument is that trade unions are responsible for industrial disputes, and strikes can somehow be solved by preventing trade union leaders, officials or elected officers urging workers to come out on strike. If there was ever a time when that argument can be shown to be utterly fallacious, it is now.
Is it seriously being suggested that the disruption in the National Health Service is a consequence of trade unions urging their members to come out on strike against their will? Far from it. The role of the trade unions in the Health Service is to persuade Health Service workers that no one's life should be put at risk by their action. The role of the trade union officials in the industrial action in the Health Service is that of seeking to minimise the hardship arising from the action, while recognising and supporting the strength of feeling of workers—of nurses and ancilliary workers alike.
Is it seriously suggested that those in the seamen's dispute are taking action because they have been urged to do so by militant trade union officials? The opposite is true. The national and local leaders of the union have been pleading with those workers to resume working, and the fact that some ferries are still not sailing is a measure of the strength of feeling of the union members, despite exhortations from the National Union of Seamen to resume working. In that dispute as well as the Health Service dispute, we have a clear demonstration that the idea that, it is the trade union leaders who are pulling people out on strike and causing disruption against the will of the members, is nonsense.
The Ford dispute has been the subject of comment during the debate. Is it seriously suggested that in the strike the trade union leadership and officials are urging the Ford workers to take action against their better judgment? Far from it. In fact, the strike reflects the strength of feeling in the Ford work force against the final amended offer. As I think the Secretary of State himself said in the exchanges earlier this afternoon, in that dispute the trade union negotiators recommended the amended offer to the work force.
Therefore, the idea that somehow we need the legislation because the trade unions are causing disruption is nonsense. As we said repeatedly in Committee, trade union officials spend 90 per cent. of their time avoiding and settling disputes. When there is industrial action, almost invariably it reflects the strength of feeling of the workers. After all, it is the workers, not the trade union officials, nor the owners or managers of the company, who suffer and lose their earnings in an industrial dispute. So I take it that we shall hear no more of the nonsense that somehow it has been necessary to introduce the legislation to give the trade unions back to their members because trade unions are not representative of their members.
The measure is extreme. It is a reflection of how extreme it is that so many organisations came out against it during consultation on the Green Paper. Let me remind the House of some of the comments by those 80 organisations. The Industrial Society, referring to what has loosely and rather inaccurately been called the right to go to work despite a strike call, stated:We are very concerned that if the individual union member has a legal right to circumvent a properly taken majority decision and thus may be held to have no responsibility towards his/her union, there will be no reason why anyone should take the balloting process seriously. The likely consequence is that the value of the beneficial measures already introduced will be lost.The Institute of Personnel Management states:The Green Paper appears not to accept that a trade union (when properly run) is a body, which, no less than a commercial organisation, disciplines people behind a legitimate purpose. The use of the law to deny such a body any opportunity to discipline members when they infringe rules which go to the heart of the contract between the union and its members, is coming close to denying the body any legal standing. This is a far cry from action to ensure that trade unions are democratically-run.Finally—there has been frequent reference to this—even the Confederation of British Industry has come out against elements of clauses 3, 4 and 5. It states:The principal argument against the proposal is that it could undermine the balloting process itself, so productively encouraged by the 1984 Trade Union Act insofar as it was seen to provide a form of statutory protection for those refusing to be bound by the results of such a ballot. It is a measure of the importance that employers attach to the proper pursuit of balloting procedures that the CBI believes it would be right, for the time being at least, to take this proposal no further.The proposal is patently unjust. How far can one seek to undermine the role of the trade unions? How far can one tip the scale against them? When there is a proper ballot on industrial action and an overwhelming majority vote for it, the trade union calls its members out on strike or to take some form of industrial action, such as an overtime ban. If some members of the trade union refuse to comply with that call, it is fundamental that those individuals should be subject to the discipline of the trade union. As the organisations that I quoted have argued, it undermines the democratic process and weakens the principle of balloting to which the Government are so attached to say that, even when there is a ballot, that ballot will not give the trade union the authority to discipline its members for breaching the call for industrial action. Therefore, we submit, as do the Freedom Association and a range of organisations, that the proposal is fundamentally antidemocratic.
It is important to understand that we cannot legislate on how trade unions and their members feel during an industrial dispute. Let us take the Ford dispute as an example. Of course, we all hope that it will be settled soon because of the damaging consequences to our economy if it continues. But is anyone suggesting that in a dispute, when individuals breach an official decision which has been properly reached to call a strike, that that will not cause resentment on the part of the vast majority of workers who are complying with the strike decision? Of course, it will provoke tremendous strength of feeling, and tremendous anger and bitterness can be generated. It is understandable, especially if there is a prolonged strike and trade unionists and families are suffering in the struggle, and see their efforts being undermined by individual trade union members, who will eventually benefit from any settlement that the trade union achieves. Those individuals might help to prolong the strike unnecessarily.
81 Of course, trade unionists are outraged in such a situation. The benefit of the right of the trade union to discipline its members is that in those circumstances the workers can say to themselves, "At least we know that when the strike is over those individuals who are members of our trade union and have failed to comply with our collective action will be called to book." That has a positive effect. It means that people are less likely to take the law into their own hands. That is one of the reasons why industrial disputes in this country are, in general, conducted on a much more orderly and disciplined basis than in many countries — not only Europe, but, on occasions, the United States. It is because there is that discipline, and because the trade union can, in the main, control its members. It is because, when the decision is taken, the members know that if people undermine the collective decision of the trade union there is a proper, orderly procedure whereby those individuals will eventually be disciplined. The removal of that sanction will, in many cases, encourage individuals, wrongly, to take the law into their own hands. It will create more anarchy, disruption and, dare I say it, possibly more violence on the picket lines when there is a prolonged industrial dispute.
One must also consider the authority of the trade union movement. I quoted the CBI. It goes without saying that the TUC and the trade unions are against the proposals. That is why we seek in the amendment to delete them from the Bill. Hon. Members must ponder this question: why are so many of the employers' organisations against this proposal? I have already given one of the arguments. Another was probably put best by the Engineering Employers Federation, which said:It is thus possible that the respect and importance now accorded to the pre-strike ballot will be diminished by this proposal.That is the point that I made earlier. The federation continues:There are also grounds for believing that another consequence could be generally to undermine the authority of officials of unions whose responsibility it is to secure the compliance of their members with the provisions of collective agreements. This would be particularly disadvantageous in certain industries (for example, Engineering Construction) where the authority of full-time union officials may quite commonly need to be exercised in order to prevent unconstitutional action on sites where employees of many different employers, in membership of several different unions, are working closely together.That makes the point very effectively.
Whatever regret we may have about the current dispute at Ford, I should have thought that hon. Members would want the dispute to be conducted in a disciplined and orderly manner. We want the dispute settled as soon as possible. I should have thought that an orderly dispute ending with a settlement between trade unions and their members would be in the interests of all concerned.
The problem with the Government's proposal for employers—and our opposition to it goes much wider than this—is that the prospect of conducting disputes in an orderly manner, for a range of industries, will be undermined by this extreme and excessive element of the legislation.
There is no question but that, in the main, trade unions and their officials work to avoid disputes. When disputes arise, it is their role to settle them. Inevitably, there is conflict between capital and labour. In those circumstances, there are occasions when it is necessary for 82 workers to act collectively and to withdraw their labour to secure a fair outcome in relation to the profits and wealth that their efforts create for the company.
In a case such as Ford, workers and management have a common interest in the firm succeeding, making a profit, investing, providing employment and making its contribution to the local economy. The role of the trade unions is to ensure that their members receive a fair deal, and to sustain and encourage the development of the industry so that it will continue to maintain employment and raise the living standards of their workers in the future.
This is an extreme and obnoxious measure in an extreme and obnoxious Bill. We debated it at length in Committee — we make no apology for that — and the Government have tabled some amendments, which we shall deal with later. The purpose of the new clause is to put on record our complete opposition to this part of the legislation and to appeal to the Government, at this stage of their deliberations, to think again about this outrageous measure, to recognise how indefensible their position is against the background of the current industrial action and to withdraw their clauses.
§ Mr. Foot
I am sorry if I interrupted the Secretary of State as he was about to withdraw his proposals. If that was his intention, I shall happily give way.
I should like to make one or two points to the Secretary of State, as he is in charge of the Department of Employment. One of the worst aspects of the legislation that the right hon. Gentleman is introducing is the further injury that it causes to the reputation of the Department of Employment in the industrial world.
The Department of Employment used to be withdrawn, to some degree, from some of the other aspects of Government action. In the old days, the Ministry of Labour sought to keep the powers of arbitration and conciliation separate from other Government action. In some respects, it was regarded as a body removed from Government pressure and influence. It did not always take the Government view in these matters. For a considerable period, the Ministry of Labour and the old Department of Employment had power to arbitrate in and deal with industrial disputes.
This part of the Bill is the most offensive of the measures that the Government have taken. The previous measures that they took have gradually reduced any claim that the Department of Employment can approach these matters in an impartial or objective spirit.
Some parts of the old Department of Employment were rightly taken away and given to ACAS and other institutions; different forms of institutions were established to take over the functions of the Ministry of Labour. As I was responsible for some of these transfers, I think that it was a perfectly proper course to take. It was highly desirable that the Department of Employment retained the ability to intervene in disputes. However, if the Department was to be successful in that it had to be intervention that would be considered as the Government intervening not in their own interests but to achieve industrial peace.
83 That reputation has been cast aside by the Government. This measure is the final act. It has shown the violent prejudice in the Department against retaining its old reputation.
It is ironic that this miserable measure has been brought before the House on the day of the Ford strike. It underlines the absurdity of the way in which the Government have gone about these matters. I shall consider later how the Ford strike would be affected if this legislation were in operation. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) has already raised that important matter, which will affect strikes in the future. The consequences of the Government's proposals are very serious.
The Government are faced with an industrial dispute of major proportions. The loss to Ford is reckoned to be about £17 million a day. If the dispute continues, it will be a serious matter not only for Ford and its workers but for our industrial position. It will have consequences for Britain's trade, and all those matters will develop in the next two or three weeks if the dispute continues. The last strike at Ford went on for nine weeks and was an immensely costly affair.
At the beginning of the proceedings, the Secretary of State said that the strike was nothing to do with him. He said that the Department of Employment has no interest in the matter, and that it had nothing to propose to avoid the catastrophe of the strike going ahead.
If the Bill were in operation, it would be even more difficult for the Department to say that it would not intervene. It is a scandal for the Government to talk in such terms to the House. But we have only to remember the way in which Ministers spoke to the House during the coal strike. They claimed that the Department of Employment would not intervene in any of the negotiations, in what was happening on the picket lines or on the allegations of violence. The Prime Minister made the same claim that the Government's new method of dealing with industrial disputes was not to intervene at all, but the truth tumbled out during the general election campaign when she boasted on television about how long and skilfully the Government had fought the miners.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)
Order. I hesitate to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but his remarks are very wide of the amendment.
§ Mr. Foot
If you will allow me just a moment or two more, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I will clinch the matter for all concerned. My point is entirely relevant to the way in which industrial disputes will be still further exacerbated if this measure goes through. I believe that the Bill will lead to the breakdown of industrial discipline, as I shall illustrate directly.
I was comparing what the Minister is proposing here with what he said earlier about the industrial dispute that is currently in all our minds. The Minister claims that the Department has nothing to do with such disputes and would not think of intervening. That is a policy of abdication, but I do not believe that his statement is true. The Minister has undoubtedly discussed the matter in his committees and with the Prime Minister and others in exactly the same way as happened during the miners' strike; all the Government's claims about nonintervention were utterly disproved just a few months 84 later. I believe that their current claims will be disproved later today. It was especially ill advised of the Minister to claim that he had no role to play in the Ford dispute when he intended later the same day to try to carry through the proposals before us.
Let us consider what would be the position at Ford's if the proposal were already in operation. Suppose the union had gone through all the ballots and legal procedures prescribed by the Government and come out on strike. If a few members decided to break the strike and return to work, under the present law the union would have power to seek to persuade those members to back their colleagues and sustain the strike. Under the Government's proposal, although the strike was backed by a ballot, any form of discipline by the union would be undermined. Presumably that is the Government's aim. It would be a travesty of everything that we have ever learnt about how to conduct industrial relations if, when a union has taken every legal precaution to ensure that the action has full backing and has followed all the Government's prescribed balloting procedures, the Government seek to introduce a further measure to incite a few members to render the whole action nugatory. That is a recipe for hopeless anarchy. It is the more disgraceful that such a proposition should come from the Department of Employment, which should have at its fingertips and in its records all the evidence to show how monstrous would be the consequences of such a measure.
The evidence of the Industrial Society has already been quoted from the Opposition Front Bench. No one could claim that that body is arguing the case in some obstreperous way. The TUC disagrees with many of its views. Nevertheless, the Industrial Society has a long record of seeking to achieve a sensible outcome in industrial relations. The society's view of the Government's action is as relevant now as it was when the Green Paper was published. At that time, the Industrial Society said:The most significant proposal, however, in the entire Green Paper, concerns the right for an individual to work after a majority balloted decision to strike.That brings us back to the current Ford strike. The society continues:Whatever the Government's own motivation, this will undoubtedly be interpreted by trade unions as prejudicing their basic role, which is to negotiate acceptable terms and conditions on behalf of all their members. This does involve, from time to time, sanctions on the employer. We are very concerned that if the individual union member has a legal right to circumvent a properly taken majority decision and thus may be held to have no responsibility towards his/her union, there will be no reason why anyone should take the balloting process seriously. The likely consequence is that the value of the beneficial measures already introduced will be lost.Some of us disagree about the so-called beneficial aspects of previous legislation, but the Industrial Society supported the Government in some of those measures. The logic of its argument in relation to this measure, however, is overwhelming. If the Government force this proposal through, they will injure the whole balloting process and undermine its authority.
What would happen in a case such as the Ford dispute if the Government's proposals were implemented? The union having balloted strongly for a strike, a tiny minority would be able to say that they have the Government on their side in undermining the whole process. The result will be anarchy from the outset. The Government clearly wish 85 to undermine all forms of effective trade unionism, but the result will he to create chaos in industrial relations throughout the country. That is not just the view of the Opposition. It is shared by almost all the bodies that have studied the Government's proposals, including the Industrial Society, the Confederation of British Industry and originally even the Conservative Trade Unionists, if such a laughable group still exists. The message from all of them was, "It is madness—for heaven's sake don't do it."
It is especially regrettable and deplorable—they are mild words in the circumstances—that the Department of Employment should throw away its authority in this way. We should be re-establishing the authority of conciliation and arbitration and the idea that there are impartial people to whom one can appeal. Most industrial disputes are a clash not between right and wrong but between two rights or the result of the kind of arguments that have occurred at Ford's, between the bulk of the membership and union leaders whom the Government, through previous legislation, have deprived of the right to negotiate effectively. The Government now seek to carry the process still further.
Any Minister at the Department of Employment who seeks to push a measure of this nature against all the recommendations of every sector of industry does not deserve the power to intervene in any future dispute. The Minister said that he had no interest in intervening in the Ford dispute, but if the action continues and the country loses thousands of millions of pounds there will have to be some intervention.
It is shameful and shocking that, almost for the first time in history, a Minister at the Department of Employment will have thrown away any authority whatever to intervene in such matters, and to try to restore industrial peace. I hope that even at this thirteenth hour the Minister will think again and withdraw these wretched proposals.
§ 8 pm
§ Mr. Fowler
My hon. Friend the Minister for Employment will wind up the debate, but I wish to respond directly to what the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) said, particularly about the tradition of the Ministry of Labour and the Department of Employment. I do not believe that any law can eliminate disputes, but it is worth pointing out that the last three years have seen fewer strikes than at any stage since the war, and fewer days have been lost through strikes in the past two or three years than at any stage in the past 20 years. Before the right hon. Gentleman talks about traditions, it is worth remembering the record of the past few years.
However distinguished a predecessor of mine the right hon. Gentleman may have been, I am not inclined to take lectures about this from him, particularly given his prominent part in a Government who presided over the worst industrial anarchy we have seen, in 1978. No one is claiming that the industrial relations position has been transformed by trade union law alone, but little would have been achieved without that reform, and the Government have tackled that issue. Over the past few years we have seen the success of that approach and we have seen the basic support for it given by the British people, with the exception of a few Labour Members.
§ Mr. Cryer
Have not the Government statistics for loss of working days as a result of industrial disputes been slightly changed? For example, in the Silentnight strike in Yorkshire, when the strikers were sacked after a few weeks, they no longer appeared in the statistics for strike action, even though their strike lasted a further 12 months. They would not have appeared in the statistics even if their jobs had been returned.
§ Mr. Fowler
The hon. Gentleman is clutching at straws. Any objective observer with whom the hon. Gentleman would like to get in touch—for example, the Industrial Society — will tell him that strikes have markedly decreased, not just compared with the past few years but in the period since the war, and days lost have gone down as well. The public will not be much impressed by what the hon. Gentleman has said because they remember the position from which we have recovered, and what the position has been over the past year.
Clause 3 establishes a right for union members not to be unjustifiably disciplined by the union, and specifies the conduct for which discipline is unjustifiable. Clause 4 establishes procedures in which union members may present complaints to tribunals that they have been unjustifiably disciplined and empowers the tribunal to make a declaration where it finds a complaint well founded. Clause 5 sets out procedures under which a union member whose complaint of unjustifiable discipline to an industrial tribunal has been declared well founded may apply for a reward or compensation.
In resisting the amendment moved by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang), who quite fairly said that this was debated at great length in Committee, I make one fundamental point. The proposal was set out fully in the Green Paper published last February. It then became a specific election pledge and was contained in our election manifesto. There was no question of keeping this proposal hidden. We set it out to the public. In paragraph 2.10 of the Green Paper we said clearly:The right of the individual to choose to go to work despite a call to take industrial action is an essential freedom.In 2.13, we said:Unions have not been slow to enforce their powers over dissenting minorities.We went on to give examples of that. We have been clear and explicit on our intentions. We set them out clearly in our election manifesto to the British public and Labour Members know the result of that election.
§ Mr. Allen
Is the Minister telling us that he has been clear and open about this matter? I cannot remember the exact words of the manifesto, but as I recall it referred only to strikes. It did not refer to industrial action. The scope of clause 3 is virtually unlimited. The Secretary of State may be able to massage unemployment figures, but he should not massage his party's manifesto.
§ Mr. Fowler
I agree that clause 3 does not apply only to industrial action. However, in essence it applies to industrial action, and the manifesto explicitly said:We will introduce legislation to … protect individual members from disciplinary action if they refuse to join a strike they disagree with".As I understood the first two speeches made about the amendment, precisely that point is being opposed. I make no complaint about that, but we should not confuse ourselves by saying that that is not the essence of the debate.
87 Although unions are in general protected against the legal consequences of inducing employees to break their contracts to the employer, the individual trade union member has no such protection. The union member then has a number of obligations. He has an obligation to his trade union—no one disputes that—but he also has an obligation to his employer under his contract of employment and wider obligations to the community and, more particularly, to his family. These separate duties and obligations can pull an individual in different directions. Our view is that he should not be influenced in coming to a decision by fear of disciplinary action taken against him by the trade union.
We are not talking just about the beginning of a strike. An individual trade union member may have gone along with a majority decision and gone out on strike. Suppose that the strike goes on for two or three weeks, or even longer, and the employer makes a new offer. The union executive, for reasons of its own, may decide to continue the dispute. The individual member, and perhaps some others, may decide that the offer is fair and reasonable. The Opposition are suggesting that in those circumstances those union members who vote with their feet and go back to work should be subject to the discipline of the trade union. In Committee, we rejected that proposition.
One reason for that rejection has been the willingness of unions to take disciplinary action. We are not talking about a theoretical danger. The Green Paper listed a number of examples of large-scale disciplinary action by unions — for example, the National Union of Railwaymen disciplined some 12,000 members, and the National Communications Union is reported to have expelled 1,000 members and to be considering disciplinary action against others. There was also disciplinary action after the miners' strike. There are long and well-documented cases of disciplinary action being taken.
To take up the complaint of the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen), it is true that this clause is designed to protect those who seek to expose wrong doing by their unions. Once again, I can easily cite cases. In May 1984, four members of SOGAT wrote to their union's general secretary-elect alleging serious financial and administrative irregularities at their local branch. They were told to make their complaints through the usual channels. Their correspondence was forwarded to their branch secretary, despite the fact that he was the subject of their allegations. An investigation was held at branch level, which resulted in two of those members being immediately demoted and, subsequently, all four were dismissed.
Despite an appeal and considerable local support, including a petition with more than 2,000 signatures, the national executive committee confirmed the dismissals. At least one of the members involved had been a trade unionist for 30 years. The clause does, indeed, go beyond strike action and is intended to meet the case that I have just cited.
Throughout the Committee stage Opposition Members consistently said that a member who found himself in such circumstances should leave the union—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, certainly that was one of the arguments deployed in Committee. It is a surprising argument that union members who find themselves just once in disagreement with their unions should voluntarily 88 withdraw. Even if unions could withstand such a voluntary outflow, it would not justify forcibly expelling members who disagreed with them. That would leave the union movement manned either by yes men or by those too scared to stand up for their views.
We would all agree that the small minority of members who consistently find themselves opposed to the majority view have no long-term future in their unions. However, it is strange to argue that a union should make an issue of every disagreement, even when an individual member has a long history of loyal and active service to the union. Nevertheless, that has been the thrust of the cases that I have cited.
§ Mr. Allen
The right hon. Gentleman said that in Committee the Opposition said that union members had the option to leave their unions, and that they should do that. To my knowledge, no one said that—other than Conservative Members who tried to claim that we had said it, which we consistently denied. Will the Minister now correct himself?
§ Mr. Fowler
I shall not correct myself, but rather I shall ask my hon. Friend the Minister to quote the relevant lines from Hansard when he replies to the debate. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will then realise that his hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher), who led the Opposition in Committee, adduced precisely that argument.
It cannot be right for participation in industrial action to be an obligation enforceable by a union. Some unions resolve not to strike, and many do not strike. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East mentioned international comparisons, but in many—probably most—countries, unions operate quite effectively without forcing their members to strike.
§ Mr. Ron Leighton (Newham, North-East)
This is an important point. Do the Government think that unions should be coherent and disciplined bodies? Let us consider the current dispute of the National Union of Seamen. Mr. McCluskie has given certain undertakings to the court. The judge said something like, "You must ensure that those undertakings are carried out, because if you do not, when you come back to court on Tuesday, watch out". The judge was telling Mr. McCluskie to exercise discipline in his union. He told him to get his men back to work, or the whole might of the judiciary would fall upon him and the union's funds would be sequestrated. The judge was effectively saying, "There must be discipline in your union or else."
What do the Government want? Do they want the unions to be coherent and disciplined, or are they saying, "It doesn't matter — whatever the vote, do what you like"? The union official may say one thing, but the members can do something else. Do the Government want coherence and discipline or do they want laissez-faire?
§ Mr. Fowler
The hon. Gentleman knows the answer to that question. I will not discuss the detail of the NUS case because it is still before the court—[Interruption.] Now hang on, just hang on. The case is before the court, because, for example, one point at issue is that there was no secret ballot. When the hon. Gentleman talks about discipline, he should also deal with the problem of unions 89 not seeking to meet the conditions laid down in law. For him to talk about discipline in that light is somewhat fanciful.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that unions are coherent and important organisations. Indeed, throughout our long debates we have maintained that to compare trade unions with social or golf clubs is nonsensical. Trade unions are powerful institutions which have a powerful impact and effect on the working lives of their members. That is why the clause is justified. In the end, it comes down to a fundamental issue of belief. As our manifesto made clear, we place the highest priority on the freedom of the individual to decide for himself.
Opposition Members have said more than once that a ballot before industrial action resolves the conflict of loyalities and obligations that individuals may face. The Government reject the proposition that when the majority put their pay claim above the survival of a firm, the interests of patients or the welfare of families, the individual member is obliged to do the same. Trade union members are free adults and we intend that they be treated as such.
The Bill fulfils our promises and extends the freedom of the individual. That is why we reject the proposition of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East.
§ Mr. Winnick
My right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) opened his remarks by saying that he thought that the Secretary of State was going to withdraw this part of the Bill. My right hon. Friend has a far more optimistic view of human nature than I have. The Secretary of State may not believe in this measure, but he knows that he is a member of a Cabinet dominated by someone who is a malicious opponent of trade unionism. If we wanted any evidence of that, we have only to consider the case of GCHQ to see how the Government took away the democratic rights of people working there to belong to a trade union. That illustrates only too well what the Government would like to see elsewhere, but, fortunately, they have not had the courage to put forward such proposals.
This part of the Bill is very offensive. It is intended to do away with the right of a trade union to take any kind of disciplinary action when an industrial dispute has occurred and where a ballot has decided that such a dispute should take place. To justify this, the Secretary of State gave us an example in which a dispute had been going on for a few weeks, or a couple of months, and the executive had decided to keep that dispute going. The workers, the trade union members, decided to go back and vote with their feet. However, the Secretary of State's example did not deal with the case which my hon. Friends have developed and with which I want to deal, where there is no dispute to start with, a ballot takes place, there is a clear majority in favour of industrial action and a dispute then begins. Is the Secretary of State telling the House that, in that situation, the union has no responsibility and no role to play in taking action against those who decide to work, regardless of the ballot?
That is why Opposition Members consider this measure to be so offensive. It is difficult to imagine any professional organisation, whether of lawyers or solicitors, not having some kind of disciplinary code. Every professional organisation has some kind of code to protect itself and its membership. Why should trade unions be denied this basic right?
90 We can only conclude that the Government have a malicious intent against trade unions. They say that they do not like strikes, but industrial disputes occur. One of the differences between a dictatorship and a free society is that in the latter working people can take strike action. As we know, people do not take strike action lightly They do so after they have concluded that there is no other way of settling matters. As a democrat and someone who believes in the right of working people to take such action, I believe that it is far better that working people can do this in a free society rather than have to live under a dictatorship, whether Communist or not.
I am a national officer of my trade union. At a recent meeting of my executive we had to decide what action should be taken against a few members who decided to go into work when, after a ballot, there had been a majority vote for industrial action. My union does not need any lectures from the Government about ballots. We have taken the view that members should be balloted before industrial action takes place. This is how the union decided to proceed democratically at its annual policy-making conference long before I became involved. The executive council did not initiate the action against those who happened to work during that industrial dispute. It arose because those taking industrial action, and as a result won their case, felt very bitterly towards the few individuals who worked. They wrote to the official, who wrote to the executive council, requesting that action be taken.
The Secretary of State said today that the executive of my union should have no role to play in such cases. I find that very difficult to understand or to justify. I also take the view that, if this measure remains in the Bill, it will undoubtedly cause immense bitterness in the work force.
I can visualise a situation in which an industrial dispute has taken place and ended. When the large majority of people who have not worked during the dispute return, they will feel very bitter towards those who have worked. They will feel even more bitter if, as a result of strike action, they have won the point, whether it concerns conditions or pay.
Whether we are discussing the Ford dispute, or any other dispute in the future, no legislation can take away the feeling of bitterness and hostility that undoubtedly arises when a strike has ended and the people concerned decide that some action should be taken against those who blacklegged during the strike. Therefore, it is perfectly understandable that there should be such a feeling of opposition and hostility to these proposals.
Despite the Secretary of State's comments about the rights of working people, when the Governments took office nine years ago they decided that they would do what they could, by legislation, to undermine the rights of trade unions. As in the case of GCHQ, they took away the right of people to belong to a trade union — something unheard of in a democracy. Although the Government would like to take such action in the public services, for example, they have decided not to do so, at least for the moment. They have undoubtedly undermined and eroded the rights of the trade unions. Whatever success the Government may have as a result of their majority in the House, when a different Administration come into office, all these offensive powers and obnoxious actions that have been taken against trade unions will be removed.
When I was away from the House during the 1970s, I well remember being told that the changes brought in at that time by the Government led by the right hon. Member 91 for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) would be permanent features on the statute book. We were told that no future Government would ever change that. Yet what happened? When my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent became Secretary of State for Employment, it all changed. I assure the Secretary of State that, however much Conservative Members may state that Conservative legislation will remain a permanent feature on the statute book, it will change.
Whenever action has been taken against trade unions, not only in the 1970s, but many years before the beginning of this century, the trade unions have won the point. They will do so again. The right of working people to belong to trade unions and of those unions to regulate their affairs without undue state interference will remain. People will not be denied the right to take action against those who have defied the majority in a ballot. If the Bill is enacted, that right will be taken away. I look forward to the day when there will be a different Government and different legislation will be proposed.
§ Mrs. Llin Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
These clauses have been drafted by interferers who know little about trade unions and care little about democracy. They have been drafted by people who wish to interfere in the running of trade unions, when it makes sense to anyone who knows anything about unions that the rules governing members of trade unions should be left to the union members.
Why should trade unions have such laws imposed upon them by the Tory Government? Do the Goverment have any proposals to bring in laws to control the professions? In which professions is the right to expel controlled by laws such as are proposed in the Bill? Is that right controlled in the medical profession, the legal profession or in the City? The Government's answer to controlling fraud in the City has not been the type of control and restriction that will be imposed by the Bill. Did they bring in a Bill to introduce rules and regulations to control the stock exchange? No, they did not. They produced the Criminal Justice Bill to prosecute those who carry out illegal practices, not to prevent them.
The Government say that unions are too powerful. What about the stock exchange? It has enormous powers, but it is not controlled in such a way. We do not need to ask why it is not to be controlled. What about political parties' powers? The Tory party is not prevented by law from expelling people. Its members are not controlled by such laws. Yet the Tory party has enormous powers. Its members are allowed to decide what to do with regard to internal discipline. How can anyone run an organisation without its members having the democratic right to decide rules governing membership?
The clauses will not give the Government what they want. If members do not have to face up to the problems and the sacrifices that they will have to make if they vote for a strike, are they not more likely to vote to strike or even to abstain? Whichever way they vote, they will not have to take responsibility for their actions. They can vote to strike and then go to work. How does that make any sense to anyone? What use is that to an employer? It can be an embarrassment to the employer if a few members return to work after a ballot for a strike.
92 Recent strikes have destroyed the myth that trade union officers cause strikes. It is the members who decide to strike when they do not like what is on offer. If a union cannot control discipline, its members will take the law into their own hands.
Does the Minister not recognise the bitterness that is felt by union members who democratically strike and, after weeks of sacrifice, go back to work and see other union members who have not gone on strike but who have picked up money and enjoyed improved conditions? Where is the democracy and fairness in that?
If members are told that the results of ballots do not count, those who do not want to return to work will use that argument, and a return to work will be jeopardised. Union members should be disciplined by the rules and procedures of their unions. Such rules and regulations should be democratically decided within a union. Union members should not be disciplined by unjust and unnecessary laws. The Government should accept that fact and withdraw the clauses.
§ Mr. Allen
The amendment has a far wider significance than its effect merely on the Employment Bill. Without overstating the case one iota, we are seeing a fundamental attack upon democracy. A central tenet of our democracy has always been that, whatever one's own view, if a majority freely accept a certain course of action, we should all follow such a course. In all parties throughout all societies, that has been a fundamental rule of democracy. [Interruption.] As Conservative Members say from a sedentary position, it may not apply to the Conservative party or particularly to the Cabinet, but, none the less, the matter overrides even the petty party politics of the Conservative party.
Rev. William McCrae (Mid-Ulster)
The hon. Gentleman's argument seems strange. He is in support of a majority view, irrespective of whether one agrees with it. Hon. Members from Ulster have been pleading with the House to do that for a long time, yet the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have always voted against it. That is sheer hypocrisy.
§ Mr. Allen
I am grateful for that intervention. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will make his own contribution a little later.
The clause represents the lowest water-mark of democracy in the eight years of the Government. Short of the abolition of elections, I fail to see how much further they could possibly sink.
The Secretary of State referred to two key ways in which the amendment can be justified. His first point was that it appeared in the Conservative party's manifesto. I corrected him at the time, and I correct him again. The proposal which was referred to in the Conservative party manifesto applied only to situations in which strikes take place. It did not refer to the wide-ranging extension to industrial action as a whole which, on occasions, can amount to trivial matters rather than major industrial disputes and strikes to which the Conservative party manifesto alluded. I hope that the Secretary of State will forgive me for correcting him about the contents of his party's manifesto, which I would have thought that he would know better than I do.
The second major plank of the Secretary of State's approach related to consultations. I am glad that the Secretary of State raised the matter. He will have a hard 93 job to find more than a handful of organisations, secret societies or individuals who have come out above the parapet to support the clauses. On the contrary, if we weigh the evidence, we shall find masses of organisations — some peculiar, some hardly about to bring in the Socialist millenium — such as the Freedom Association and other organisations that have consistently supported our view about various clauses in the Bill, and clause 3 in particular.
This has quite rightly been dubbed the scabs' charter because of its basic anti-democratic nature and the way in which it has been put forward in Committee and the House. I am sure you will correct me if I stray from the topic, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but the names of those Conservative Members who voted for the clause, without even listening to the debate and without even being present for much of the debate, will live on the record for a long time. They have voted away a fundamental tenet of our social democracy—with a small "S" and a small "D", I hasten to add—and our trade union democracy. The people will bear a heavy burden.
Another aspect that surprised me, particularly as a new hon. Member, was the Government's reluctance even to entertain the arguments. As someone who had watched the proceedings of the House from outside, I assumed that, in Committee, the Government would not, of course, accept major fundamental changes to their Bill but would listen to arguments and would change aspects of the Bill in regard to which serious problems were pointed out by the Opposition. Not in the least. Above all, the clause demonstrates the way in which the steamroller pushed the Bill through Committee. It is a poor day for us. The attack on the fundamental principle of democracy was well summed up by the TUC in its guide to the Employment Bill. It states:When people are part of a voluntary association like unions there must be an obligation on them to accept and act on majority decisions.Clause 3 institutes the contracting-out of democracy. That is novel and not to be welcomed.
Above all, we shall see that the clause, as well as being philosophically anti-democratic, produces many significant local effects. We shall see a breakdown in local industrial relations of the sort that gave rise to Donovan and others back in the 1960s. An employer can pay a strike-breaker and that strike-breaker cannot be disciplined, whatever action he may take against his colleagues at work. That is an absolute incitement to certain of the new brave wave of entrepreneurs created by the Government to break the law as well as breaking a few skulls along the way.
Another thing that emerged in Committee was that the Government are not in touch. They lack connection with the way in which the shop floor really works. A number of my hon. Friends attempted to bring Conservative Members back into touch with industrial relations as they are really practised. I shall quote again from industrial officers of the major trade unions. In Committee, I quoted from Mr. Keith Moore, an officer of GMB. He is by no means a revolutionary. He wants to get his work done. He goes to work every day and spends most of his time settling disputes. He does not really live up to the mythical picture that the Government paint of a man who spends 90 per cent. of his time creating disputes and discord. He said:Basically, I believe that this Bill will be a charter for anarchy as far as industrial relations are concerned and many employers must indeed be wringing their hands in despair at 94 what is being proposed. In the main, there has been discipline within the trade union ranks in industry. This Bill will destroy such discipline. It's ridiculous and defies democracy that, where there's been a ballot for industrial action and the majority of those participating have voted in favour then to give the people in the minority the legal right to protection is ludicrous and does nothing for industrial relations.That is the voice of someone who deals with industrial relations every single day of his working life. However, the Government would not listen to that or to other arguments advanced by Opposition Members.
The Bill goes even further than that. We have heard about the sanctity of the contract with an employer. What about the contract with the trade union, which has been freely entered into? The Bill overrides that contract. As well as re-writing the rule books of trade unions, the Bill overrides the contract of association that trade unions have with their members. It is overridden not just by another contract but by something of a lesser status—an agreement. As we discovered when we pressed the Government on this in Committee, an agreement need not even be what we term a binding agreement. It may be something that two people reach over a drink in the pub. That shows how serious the change is.
The Government have allegedly fought hard to introduce secret ballots where they did not exist before. However, unfortunately it seems that the clause throws away the idea of secret ballots on the ground of political expediency. The Government are not only moving the goal posts; they are starting to play a different game.
The Secretary of State referred to all the cases of people who have been disciplined. In Committee, we tried hard to get the cases listed. We left it for a week and came back after the weekend and asked, "Where are the cases?" At least the Minister has come up with a case tonight and I would celebrate that with my hon. Friends. We have got the case, lads. We have done it. It has taken us three months, but we should be very grateful that the Secretary of State has come up with one case. All the thousands of cases, of which we have been able to find only one, are intended to replace and undermine the current disciplinary procedures of trade unions. It is important to place on record what those disciplinary procedures are.
In modern trade unionism, discipline and expulsion are governed by the rule book. They do not drop out of thin air or arise from an Act suddenly appearing on the statute book. They are worked at, honed and polished within the trade union's rules. Year by year in annual conferences, and month by month at meetings of union executives, those rules are polished to meet the members' needs. If Conservative Members feel that that is not enough, there is always recourse to natural justice and law. The rules always state the penalties to be applied, although under the Bill the right to appeal has been changed so that members will have only six months to submit their appeal in certain cases. Trade union members have recourse through their own organisations. As many of my hon. Friends and I said in Committee, we do not need lectures on democracy from a Government whose predecessors denied the vote to working people for 100 years. We are only now celebrating the 70th anniversary of women over 30 having the vote. The Government are not in a strong position to start lecturing the labour movement on who should have the vote, when and how.
There are clear motives behind the Bill, which has little to do with improving industrial relations. One obvious 95 motive is to try to confuse and muddy the legal processes so that all members of trade unions feel insecure. They will always feel that a legal threat may be brought down upon their heads. The Government have fundamentally misunderstood the situation if they believe that such a threat will fatally undermine the trade union movement. Conservative Members do not understand how trade unions work. Conservative Members' view is based on individual rights—many of which they freely enjoy—as opposed to collective rights, which are the fundamental pillars of supporting trade unionism.
The Bill is not about the average trade unionist. It is not about the person who needs to organise to protect himself at work, to improve his conditions and wages and to make a better life for himself and his family. Clauses 3, 4 and 5 are about one thing alone. They are intended to assist that small minority of trade unionists—0.1 per cent. or 0.01 per cent.—who wish to take action—often vexatious action — against their trade union. It is not about the 99.9 per cent. of trade unionists who work within their trade union and develop it. It is merely for those who would thwart the democratic wish of their colleagues and organise a return to work which would otherwise be unlikely. The Bill substitutes the rule of the very small minority for the genuinely agreed democratic decision reached after a secret ballot.
In Committee, we had a long argument about the contract between employer and employee and the contract between a trade union member and his trade union. That argument needs to be aired again. When there is a conflict between the contracts, it can be resolved under the trade union's own rules, through the process of a ballot. The reconciliation that takes place at a ballot means that there is legitimacy in sinking the differences that existed prior to the ballot. Everyone then becomes united behind that ballot. I hope that my hon. Friends will take that argument up tonight.
Another case mentioned in Committee related to the National Union of Railwaymen. I know that some of my hon. Friends want to refer to it later. All that I would say is that it raised a great problem involving, according to the Green Paper, 120,000 railwaymen. As I understand it, a magnification of 10 times occurred in that Green Paper. It was, of course, a minor error that put just another 100,000 railwaymen into the equation. However, we should not let the facts get in the way of a good story and it certainly did not inhibit Conservative Members in Committee.
Another aspect that needs to be touched on is the question of intimidation. We are told of many people who have been intimidated to return to work and to do this, that and the other by the trade unions. However, the real intimidation and the coercion in our society is practised not by the unions on their members, but by capital on individual trade unionists and their families, and on individual trade unions. People are put into a position such that they cannot exercise the rights that they have at present because of fear that they and their families will suffer. As an active trade unionist such a person may be sacked and have next to no chance of getting his job back and being reinstated. Time and time again in Committee, the Government were pressed to include provisions in the 96 Bill that would bring into force some sort of justice for reinstatement at industrial tribunals. Of course, that was quickly passed over.
The other myth that was blown around in Committee was the sacrosanct nature of the ballot—the jewel in the trade union reform crown that has been put forward by this Conservative Government. Although we need no lectures from Conservative Members, the Conservative party would do well to look to itself before starting to tell other people how to conduct their affairs in view of the lack of democracy in that party.
The great problem about ballots for the Government is that ballots were the be-all and end-all which would allegedly give the trade unions back to their members. However, with the ballots the trade unions and trade unionists have defeated the Government. I give just one example of the political fund ballots. Forty trade unions held compulsory national ballots and 40 separate national ballots each recorded a victory for the trade union concerned and its members in retaining the political funds. Indeed, another seven or eight trade unions have now established political funds.
It may well be that the Government's reason for undermining that concept of democracy is because it simply has not delivered for the Government. In their ruthless way, if something has not delivered they chuck it out and try something else. If the Government cannot get a majority they say, "Let us break it down even further and wheedle away at the trade unions through individuals." They do so through a few dissident members and through a few people funded by the likes of David Hart and the Freedom Association. That is another way in which the Government attack the trade union movement.
The more law, routine and regulation that exists, the more we get what my hon. Friend the Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Clelland) referred to as "the Gulliver syndrome". Every little rope may not be as much in itself but it is "salami tactics" under another name. However, it may well tie down the sleeping giant. In my view, the rope that they have tied on this occasion has been tied round a vital organ of Gulliver and the tears will come to the eyes of the trade union movement, but that does not mean that the sleeping giant cannot rise.
§ Mr. Allen
I would need at least another 20 years in this place before I could find the oratorical brilliance even to answer my hon. Friend's clear question, but perhaps the Secretary of State will pick up that point with his usual aplomb.
Another aspect that needs to be brought out is the support that there has been for this "abolition of democracy" clause within the trade union movement. Some peculiar people with whom, perhaps, I would not have associated the word "democracy" have attempted to pressure the Government to see sense on this issue and to get them to ditch their dogma in favour of something more workable. I said earlier that I would quote another trade union officer and I should add that I do not include Fred Childs who works for the GMB in Hull in that description 97 of "peculiar". He is a man who could hardly be described as a militant Socialist. He earns his daily bread at the coal face of industrial relations. He wrote to me, stating:Individual strike breakers given the right of protection if they disobey a democratic decision of the members after a secret ballot makes a complete mockery of the need to hold such a ballot.He underlined the word "need", and continued:It will lead to even worse industrial relations on the shop floor and I can see an increase in unofficial industrial action taking place.Those are similar terms to the words I quoted earlier from one of his colleagues. From their independent and different geographical standpoints, both can see the effect of the legislation. Those men are mainstream, sensible practitioners of industrial relations.
However, some weird people support the case against the clause, notably David Shiels, the vice-chairman of the Conservative Trade Unionists. I do not know how many votes he received; he might have won by a considerable margin. It was probably three votes to one or something like that. However, the best of luck to him because he had a nice job as vice-chairman of the CTU. He has said that if the Government made trade unions alone among voluntary bodies incapable of disciplining their members, they would look "decidedly silly". It may be too late to prevent the Government looking silly on this issue. However, I hope that even they will listen to their cohorts in the Conservative Trade Unionists, if they will not listen to anyone else.
Another surprising ally in this came in Mr. Murdoch's latest edition of The Sunday Times, which made its position clear in an editorial. I shall wash my mouth out with soap and water after quoting from it. It stated:We are also unimpressed with the government's case for legislation to prohibit trade unions from taking disciplinary action against members who refuse to abide by the majority decision in a secret ballot. Minority groups of union members must never be denied the right to cross the picket lines in defiance of a majority strike decision; that is their choice, and they should be free to do so. But they must be prepared to take the consequences so far as their union membership is concerned, either by being fined or expelled. We cannot have democracy 'up to a point' in the workplace. Mr. Norman Fowler's new employment bill will insist on secret ballots, which is right. It must also respect the right of unions to act in defence of those ballots. To argue otherwise is perverse and self-defeating.That is the successor to Labour Weekly, The Sunday Times.9 pm
I will finish my list of quotations with another great socialist radical of the generation, Peregrine Worsthorne. He said that the Government will be wrong-footedif it presses on with the clause in its new Employment Bill which stops unions expelling members who blackleg even if after a ballot has found in favour of a strike. In the old days trade unions had too much power over their members, and were free to act like tyrants. But if the Government's new bill goes through, they will have been emasculated. Of course, it was right to liberate trade union members from the obligation to strike when no ballot had been called. But to liberate them from that obligation even when a ballot has been called is plainly wrong and will be seen to be wrong by all but bigots.That was Peregrine Worsthorne. I would hardly choose him as one of the most ardent supporters of Opposition Members or necessarily of the concept of democracy.
My final point relates to the way in which the clause would affect not merely those who were previous targets such as senior trade unionists, general secretaries and national officers. It could unwittingly affect ordinary 98 members of trade unions. I refer in particular to clause 3 in which no discipline is allowed for those who are involved in mischievous actions.
A member can actually put forward that another member was "proposing to contravene" the rules of the union — not "contravening" the rules, but simply proposing to do so. That charge could be made against an officer of the union, or against an ordinary member of that trade union. In other words, the clause will apply to the volunteer, the person on whom the trade union movement was built. The trades union movement is not Ron Todd, John Edmonds or Rodney Bickerstaffe; it is the individual members, the people who have of their own volition put time aside without pay to make the union work, to defend their colleagues at work and to develop a sense of solidarity and to confront the management which often has the power to reduce the earning ability of those individuals and make life hard for them. Those volunteers will suffer, not the trade union officers or the full-time trade union officials. I would not wish such sanctions to apply to trade union officers and full-time officials. None the less, if they have to be applied, it is better than they should be applied to them rather than purely to the volunteers.
The provisions will be able to apply to individual trade union members and volunteers whose connection with the trade unions may be tenuous. It may be that Charlie joins the trade union and after a couple of weeks, because he seems to be keen, he is pushed forward and made a representative because nobody else wants the job. He is a young lad who wants to get on in the trade union, so they put him up in the firing line. He knows nothing about the way it may work or about the consequences of possible action taken against him. Such people may he shop stewards, branch secretaries or branch officers, they may only make up the numbers on a local committee, but they will be hit by the full force of clause 3(3)(c) as if they were general secretaries wth 40 years' experience in the movement. That is not the way we should go about things.
The crime can often be no more than "proposing to contravene the rules"—not actually contravening them. I would be very surprised if all hon. Members here tonight have not proposed contravening a number of issues in the Tea Room or the Corridor. People could be chatting over a cup of tea in the works canteen, and say that they would like to do something to someone. As I said in Committee, that would certainly apply to those Conservative Members who say that they would like to get their hands around the neck of the Prime Minister. That is where it should rest.
§ Mr. Allen
I ask my hon. Friend not to encourage hon. Members to intervene. For three months in Committee they had great difficulty in standing up and I should hate a maiden speech to be made on the Floor of the House. If Conservative Members wish to intervene, I should be more than happy to give way. In Committee the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) was present for only one speech, but it lasted longer than the sum total of Back Bench speeches from Conservative Members.
99 The Law Society has made its view on this clause clear. It stated:we are concerned that serious problems of evidence may arise on either or both sides in any dispute. We particularly have this in mind in clause 3(3)(c).It is appropriate for the Law Society to point that out to Conservative Members.
Of all the clauses this one has the most fundamental effect on our democracy. It robs democracy of the idea that a decision by the majority after a proper series of discussions and a secret ballot should be adhered to. This is a charter for those who wish to break the trade union movement, for those who lose in ballots and employers who will not abide by democratically agreed decisions. I hope that the House will vote against it tonight and that throughout the country it will be exposed for its fundamental attack on our democracy.
§ Mr. Heffer
These three clauses are nothing but the essence of a scabs' charter. Those of us who have spent our lives in the trade union movement know that workers do not go on strike at the drop of a hat, but think long and hard about it. They have lengthy debates and discussions, and even when they go on strike they are unhappy because they lose money, find tensions developing in their families and experience all sorts of pressures.
The Government's idea that workers are always willing to walk out at any moment so legislation is needed to prevent that is wrong. That was the basis of their argument for legislation. They said, "We must stop the growth of unofficial disputes. Before a strike there must be a secret ballot in which all workers vote. Then we shall find that the mass of workers will not want to go on strike."
§ Mr. Skinner
Has my hon. Friend ever considered during our debates on industrial relations and employment matters the double standard on secret ballots? At the end of this debate we shall vote in what I call the Longbridge fashion. One lot will go into one side and the other into the other — the Aye side and the No side. Instead of having shop stewards on the doorways, we have Government Whips and Opposition Whips. There is no secret ballot for Members of Parliament in this House or the other place. We have strong-arm men and a few women twisting our arms. Hon. Members ask, "Where shall we vote?" and the Whips say, "Vote in that Lobby." Imagine if some Tory Member decided to baulk the Whips tonight and the House applied clauses 3 to 5 to them, all hell would be let loose.
§ Mr. Heffer
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I do not think that anybody could put it better or more succinctly.
The reason why the Government do not want a Longbridge vote for the ordinary worker on the shop floor is that they have the nonsensical idea that if only workers had a secret ballot, the majority of them would never vote for strike action. Of course, they have been proved wrong, not once, but on a number of occasions. At the present time they have been proved wrong by the vote at Ford. The workers had a secret ballot and decided, by an overwhelming majority, that they were prepared to go on strike. There have also been secret ballots by other sections of workers that have proved the Government wrong. As a result, the Government have been forced to say, "It is not working. It is going to our disadvantage because, by majority, the workers have said that they are going to 100 make a stand. Therefore, we will change the rules again." When the Government get into difficulty about any issue they constantly move the goalposts and change the rules. Now the Government believe that they must defend the rights of those who do not want to go on strike or who are prepared to break a picket line.
The Government have said that if a union takes action under its rules to discipline members who have failed to take strike action, perhaps by imposing a mild fine, those members should be compensated. Listening to some Conservative Members one would imagine that such strike-breaking members are hung, drawn and quartered. Unions do nothing of the kind and, in my opinion, they are sometimes too gentle with people who break the rules. Conservative Members have double standards.
The working people's fight for better conditions, better wages, reduction in hours, decent holidays and so on has been hard and bitter. All the workers' achievements have been got by that struggle. I worked in the shipyards and on construction sites and I never met one employer who came along and said, "Don't worry. Don't do anything and don't have a mass meeting. Don't think in terms of strike action because next week, lads, as we have made so much profit, we are going to give you another shilling an hour, reduce your working hours, give you longer holidays and more days off with more pay." Workers have had to say to their employers, "If you do not do something to improve our conditions we will use the only right we have and refuse to work for you until you do." That is a fundamental right of working people and, step by step, the Government are taking that right away.
The Government would like to outlaw strikes altogether. They cannot do that at the moment — no doubt one day they will. In the meantime, the Government are seeking to make it as difficult as possible for the trade unions. The Government are faced with the situation where workers have, by an overwhelming majority, taken a decision for strike action. That is not in line with what the Government want, so they are now seeking to bring in legislation that will protect those who are prepared to go to work and to cross the picket lines. It is not just a question of police on the gates, because the Government are now seeking to take further action, even though there has been a secret ballot, to protect those people who scab. If the union takes action against them, there will be compensation for those workers. That is the scabs' charter. The Government are trying to defend people who would undermine the basis of the trade union movement.
§ Mr. Skinner
My hon. Friend has been a little too fair to the Government. This legislation will allow scabs to operate. It is about the fourth or fifth step that the Government have taken, but the serious step that they want to take has been outlined in the Carlton club document, which states, in relation to the National Health Service, that the Government want to get rid of all trade unions. They want to have a gigantic Royal College of Nursing across the entire trade union movement. They could have 22 Trevor Clays running each trade union. They want no strikes, and the Bill is just another step along that road.
§ Mr. Heffer
My hon. Friend is right. From the day they came to office, in employment legislation—that is a misnomer for a start—the Government have taken steps 101 to make the position of workers far worse even than that caused by the Industrial Relations Act 1971, which was introduced by the Administration of the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath). It was positively mild compared with what this Government have done.
There are not many Conservative Members present in the Chamber, but I pose this question to them: are they willing to accept the ending of democratic practices in the trade union movement? It is only one step away from ending all democratic practices in the country. The Government start by attacking the trade unions, but they will move into other sections of the community and eventually they will say, "We had better not have elections, secret or otherwise, because they are dangerous and they might put in a Government we do not want." I ask Conservative Members who have been or are members of trade unions—
§ Mr. Heffer
There are one or two. Do they agree with this further attack on the democratic rights of trade unionists and ordinary people?
This is a mockery of what the Government argued. How can they say that it is essential to have a secret ballot and, when the secret ballot goes against them, defend those who want to break the decision of the majority? They are being two-faced. The workers' struggle has been a sort of warfare for better conditions. Sometimes the country has to fight wars, and members of the armed forces who scab in time of war or who run away are disciplined. They must be. One cannot turn and flee in the face of the enemy. But Conservative Members are saying that trade unionists who are engaged in warfare for better conditions, or to defend their conditions, may defect from the ranks—and that is all right with them. The Government say that that is fine; they support such union members and urge them to defect.
I ask hon. Members to support the amendment, which would delete clauses 3, 4 and 5. That is essential, and if the House does not go along with us, it will be a further sign of the continuing movement towards authoritarian Government in this country.
§ Mr. Clelland
My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham. North (Mr. Allen) referred — it seems a long time ago now—to the Donovan report, the Royal Commission on trade unions and employers' associations which met between 1965 and 1968. I have a copy here. It may look a little dog-eared, but that is not because I have just taken it from the dusty shelves of the Library. I bought it when I was a shop steward in 1968. It is probably the most in-depth study of trade unions and employers' associations ever done. It took aconsiderable volume of written evidence … from Government Departments, the Trades Union Congress, the Confederation of British Industry, numerous trade unions and employers' associations, companies, nationalised industries, organisations connected with industrial relations, individuals having specialist knowledge of the subject, and members of the public. In all some 430 organisations, persons or groups of persons sent us written submissions.The commission sat on 58 days for the purpose of taking oral evidence. It conductedinterviews on the basis of a series of questionnaires with some 1,400 shop stewards, 200 full-time trade union officers, 500 workers belonging to trade unions, 400 non-union workers, 600 foremen, 300 works managers and 120 personnel officers.102 The commission also conducted research into many other subjects. There were a number of visits to industrial establishments, and the views of management and shop stewards were taken.Members also attended as observers a number of meetings of national joint negotiating bodies, including a Wages Council,and paid visits to Sweden, which I understand the Secretary of State recently visited, and the Federal Republic of Germany.
So a considerable amount of work was done by the Royal Commission, but it all seems to have fallen on deaf ears, to judge from this Bill, which goes against everything recommended in the report. In particular, clauses 3, 4 and 5 go against what the commission said. The Government pursue the myth that trade union members are some sort of sheep, which is an insult to many men and women who are members of trade unions. The Government think that those members are sheep being herded along by militant trade union officers for their own ends, despite what is happening with the National Union of Seamen, at Ford and in the National Health Service. In the face of all that, the Government still believe they cannot be wrong.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) asked the Secretary of State a question, which he failed to answer, about how clause 3 would affect a dispute such as the one at Ford. The Secretary of State has gone off for dinner now, and is doubtless enjoying brandy and cigars, so perhaps the Minister will reply to the question in his absence. How does the Minister imagine the clause would affect industrial relations in these work places especially in the Ford dispute? Does he not realise the bitterness that would be fuelled if, following a substantial majority in a balllot, some individuals decided to ignore the decision and go to work, no doubt escorted by the police under the powers given them by other legislation such as this? If Ministers cannot see that bitterness and recrimination on an immense scale would follow, they are divorced from reality and are ignoring the lessons of the past.
At present, the ability of unions to impose some sort of disciplinary action on those who ignore majority decisions is at least a way of stemming such a bitter reaction and taking the steam out of the situation. Following a dispute of that nature, the shop steward would smooth over the trouble. I have experienced that on many occasions. I have told members "Let us calm feelings. The union has invoked disciplinary procedures, and at the end of the day the matter will be resolved." The member would be called upon to explain his action and the others would be assured that some form of discipline could and would be initiated. Such a procedure can take the heat out of things and sometimes violent incidents can be avoided.
If that safety valve is removed, which is what is proposed in clauses 3 to 5, the Government will blow the lid off everything that has been done to promote good industrial relations over many years. As we have heard, no organisation of any note in industrial relations has a good word for the clauses. Anyone with any knowledge, and certainly any experience, of industrial relations knows the disastrous consequences of such a proposal and what will follow.
What is the proposal about? The Government have alleged that it is about reducing the number of working days lost through strikes — or so it seems from the Secretary of State's remarks. Apparently, the right hon. 103 Gentleman regards the Government's record on working days lost through strikes as good. The point has been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) that, like the unemployment figures, the figures for days lost through strikes have also been fiddled and no one can tell what the position is.
However, if days lost is the important aspect of industrial relations that the Government wish to address, they are responsible for far more days being lost through unemployment than under any other Government in history. Some 1 billion working days per year are lost as a result of unemployment. The Government have presided over many more days being lost through sickness and accidents at work than have ever been lost through strikes, yet what do they do about that? They have reduced the capacity of the safety inspectorate to deal with unsafe practices at work. Worst of all, they have deliberately and calculatedly tightened their icy grip around the National Health Service so that it has reached the crisis point that we are now witnessing. The Government are not interested in the number of days lost through strikes; they are interested in anarchy because they stupidly believe that the proposal will cripple the trade unions.
The Secretary of State said that the proposal is about essential freedoms, such as the essential freedom for people to go to work, regardless of a democratic decision to strike, in which he or she has freely participated. As my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) said, that essential freedom extends to all industrial action, whether it is an overtime ban or a work to rule. In a democratic society, complete freedom for every individual is a myth — it is impossible. We run our affairs through collective decision-making. Indeed, as we shall see again soon, the House runs on that very principle. The Government's supporters will troop through the Lobby to vote this squalid measure on to the statute book. That will be an act of the utmost hypocrisy, in that a decision taken in the House to encourage individuals to ignore a democratic majority decision will itself be taken by a majority vote in the House.
How can any reasonable person who supports this country's democratic traditions, and who supports the House of Commons and its democratic traditions, have any respect for a Government who use that very system to undermine democratic accountability in the work place? A Government who think that they can introduce such a measure and retain respect are doomed to die from an overdose of their own arrogance.
§ Mr. Leighton
I did not intend to participate in the debate, as I was not a member of the Committee but I was provoked by the Secretary of State. Out of courtesy one comes to listen to the Secretary of State and, although I am mild-mannered, I was provoked into making a brief intervention.
In introducing this fourth piece of legislation on industrial relations the Government have gone a Bill too far. In clause 3 they have gone a clause too far. I do not know of anyone who favours the clause. Can Conservative Members tell me of any reputable body of opinion or of any reputable organisation that is in favour of clause 3? I am anxious to give way to any hon. Member who can tell me of anyone who is in favour of the clause.
§ Mr. Leighton
My hon. Friend is guessing. He is normally expert on these matters.
Does any hon. Member know of anyone who is in favour of the clause? Are there any Conservative trade unionists who are in favour of it? Does the smiling Whip, the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South-East (Mr. Lightbown), or the other Whip, the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale (Mr. Lennox-Boyd), know of anyone who is in favour of the clause?
§ Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)
It would be a serious denial of the position of the listening party if Conservative Members were to pre-empt the many currents of opinion that are flowing from that well-known listening party.
§ Mr. Leighton
The hon. Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe), for whom I have great admiration, makes a brave effort. I am wondering how convincing he is, but I applaud him for trying to smooth over the fact that nobody is in favour of the clause, except, apparently, Ministers on the Front Bench.
The clause is misguided, because it undermines ballots. We in the Labour party are in favour of ballots. The trade union movement is in favour of ballots; it lives by ballots. Unlike parliamentarians, who have ballots once every five years, trade unionists have ballots every day on myriad issues.
Before I entered the House I was an active member of a trade union, in which I occupied a modest elected position. I was elected, as were all my colleagues in what we called the chapels, once every quarter. I and other officials had to be re-elected by a secret workplace ballot — not a postal ballot — every quarter. That was democracy run mad, because those officials had to be reelected before they had taken office and done anything. The unions are run by constant, interminable secret ballots.
I am in favour of ballots. Every reputable body of opinion—including, primarily, employers—is against the clause, because it undermines ballots.
It is said that if there is to be an industrial dispute there must be a ballot. If the vote goes against taking action, it must be abided by. If not, by penalty of law, the weight of the state will descend, funds could be sequestrated and one could even go to prison. According to the clause, if the vote goes in favour of industrial action it does not have to be abided by and everyone can do as they like. That surely undermines the principle of the ballot. Why have a ballot at all if no one has to take account of it? [Interruption.] The Government Whip, the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South-East, is a very jolly character. It is pleasant to see someone deriving pleasure from these squalid and gruesome proceedings.
I shall willingly give way if anyone can tell me of a body which does not work on the principle that I have described. As I understand it, in a democracy the minority have to abide by the majority vote. The majority prevail. That is certainly true in this place. I am sure that you, Mr. Speaker, would insist on that being so. The same applies to every cricket club, football club, university, company or other organisation. Only the trade unions, by the diktat of this authoritarian and dictatorial Government, are expected to do things differently.
105 The Government are becoming schizophrenic. That is worrying. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) referred to the Government's attitude to the Ford dispute. In 1979 they said that they were not in favour of an incomes policy and that the Government should not have a view about wage levels—everything should be decided by the free market and independent partners in that market. They said that the Government should keep out of such matters. Now, however, there are daily exhortations from the Secretary of State about wages being too high. The Government must make up their minds where they stand.
The Government are also becoming schizophrenic about whether trade unions should be coherent bodies. Do the Government want trade unions, operating in the labour market, dealing with industrial relations and negotiating with our great companies, to be coherent and disciplined organisations? Perhaps the Minister will answer that question when he replies to the debate. As I said in my intervention to the Secretary of State, when the general secretary of the National Union of Seamen appeared in the High Court recently he was asked to give an undertaking to call off the industrial action. The judge seemed to think that the undertaking given was not sincere and that the union would simply continue the dispute, so he was very severe on Mr. McCluskie, who was instructed to return to the court the following Tuesday and told that unless he used his best endeavours and exercised his discipline in the union to get the chaps back to work he had better "watch out". That union was expected to act in a disciplined and coherent way. The general secretary was told to enforce his discipline on the members or the union's funds would be taken away. Do the Government want unions to be disciplined and coherent?
Another example concerns the print unions at Wapping. When the unions were organising nightly demonstrations, the court gave instructions about those demonstrations. When it was felt that some union members were not abiding by those instructions, the court threatened to bankrupt the union. The national executive of the union, without having a ballot, exercised its authority under the rules—and the rules are the free contract between the union and its members, under which discipline is exercised — and obeyed the orders of the court and called off the strike. That is the way the trade union operated its discipline.
Do the Government want trade unions to have discipline and coherence, or not? They do not know. They are schizophrenic. They want it sometimes, but not at other times. If the discipline is to carry out a dispute, they do not want it. If it is to call off a strike, they insist on it, using the threat of huge penalties and swingeing fines. We should have the truth, and the Government should stop being schizophrenic, because that is not the way to make law. That is not the way to legislate for law that will stick and remain. Clause 3 will not remain. It will not endure, because it is not just and proper.
When I taxed the Secretary of State about this, he said that when a union calls a dispute a member has obligations to his union, but he also has obligations to other people, such as the employer, and to his contract. That is true, but those workers at Wapping who voted to take industrial action were sacked because they broke their contract. We have to ask whether we have the right to strike. If workers ballot to strike and take strike action but are then sacked and their contract of employment is revoked, we do not 106 have the right to strike. We do not have a right to strike set out in a constitution as they do in the continental countries. Britain is the only country in the Western world, as far as I know, that does not have the right to strike written into its law.
The way to end this conflict of obligations is for the Government to introduce legislation saying that if there is a strike the contract is suspended. That is what happens in the United States of America and every Western European country. The Secretary of State may say that that will encourage strikes, and the Government do not like strikes, but none of us like strikes. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) has great experience of strikes and knows that the people who suffer are the trade union members who go on strike. They lose their wages and suffer mental stress, and there is stress on their families. They do not take such action lightly, or very often. The majority of working people have been on strike at the most only once or twice.
The right to strike is a basic inalienable freedom in any free democratic society. Show me a country without the right to strike and I will point to a dictatorship. Under this Government, we are moving towards that. The Government have no consensus for this legislation and cannot produce a single witness in support of it. This is a clause too far and a Bill too far. It will not stick, and it is the result of a vendetta, vindictiveness and arrogance. It is wrong.
§ Ms. Clare Short
We raised this matter in Committee. We suggested to the Government that the Solidarity trade union movement in Poland would not be free to operate in the manner that it wished under British trade union law. The Government said twice that in an unfree society such as that in Poland trade unions are needed, but that in a society like ours, which the Government say is free, we do not need them.
§ Mr. Leighton
My hon. Friend has made an extremely good point about the Government's double standards. We should be in favour of free, independent trade unions in Poland — as, indeed, the Government are — but we should also be in favour of them in this country. Although the Government are in favour of free, independent trade unions in Poland, in this country they are taking away the rights of trade unions. We want free independent trade unions in every country, but above all in this country, where the trade union movement was born. The Government may think it an alien institution that was invented in Poland, but the Poles are only just beginning to learn about trade unions, and they are learning from us. We invented the trade unions. They are British institutions, native to this country. They will not be destroyed by this Government, and especially not by the Employment Front Bench team.
The Minister for Employment has some slight responsibility for training programmes. It is about time that Employment Ministers took part in a training programme on industrial relations and trade unions. It is all rather like a pendulum swinging from one extreme to the other. The Government are at the very limit of one extreme with this absurd, ludicrous legislation that no one supports. It is misguided and mistaken and, in the fullness of time, we will get rid of it.
§ Mr. Skinner
One or two hon. Members have asked what the Bill is all about, and some of my hon. Friends have made some very good arguments against it. I am waiting to hear one of the Tory Back Benchers have a go. I am sure that they must have something to say. I do not know whether they managed to say anything in Committee — [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That simply proves that, when the Government say they want to guillotine a Bill, there is no truth in their argument that the Opposition have taken up all the time in Committee. This Bill is not guillotined, but Conservative Members still did not say anything in Committee. It blows a hole in the Government's claim that the Opposition deliberately filibuster.
The Bill is about shifting the balance of power away from working-class people and their families towards the bosses. Since 1979, there have been several Acts dealing with employment issues, every single one of which had within it the idea that the Thatcher Government could say to the nation, "This is an another Act on the statute book that hammers the trade union leaders"—the emphasis is always on the leaders. For the past decade, it has been the classic Conservative belief that if they attacked a few trade union leaders that would gain a few percentage points in suburbia-land—the people with the filofaxes, and the pampas grass in their gardens. The Government tested their argument through MORI and Gallup, which asked, "What do you want?" Sadly, many people in the south of England in particular, but also in other parts to a lesser degree, replied, "Hammer the trade union leaders."
Most of those people—the yuppies now searching for their Porsches outside the pawnshops — never thought that trade unions were about trade unionists, about men and women belonging to trade unions, yet some of those yuppies perhaps come from working class families.
Those people bought this silly notion. The Prime Minister's crown princes will grovel at her feet and will probably do so again tomorrow when there is a vote on the televising of proceedings in this place. They will scamper into the Lobby after her. I bet the shop stewards will be on the door saying, "Get 'em in." They will be running, saying, "Where has she gone?" Let us suppose that one of them says, "I'm not going into that Lobby. I believe in televising Parliament. I'm going to invoke clauses 3 to 5 of the Employment Bill. I'm going to opt out." What chance has he or she of getting promotion? He or she will not even get a bag-carrier's job, let alone a post as an unpaid, grovelling parliamentary private secretary. That is the way they operate.
At the beginning of this Session, in the afterglow of victory, I have no doubt that, when it came to proposing legislation, the Prime Minister said, "We must have an Education Bill." The Secretary of State for Education probably said, "Oh, yes, we shall have to have one of those. I wasn't very happy about it during the election campaign, but I'll settle for it now that I've got the job. It may enable me to perform at the Dispatch Box and get a few votes when you've gone, Prime Minister." The Prime Minister probably said, "We shall have to have a poll tax Bill. You had better get that ready because it will give me £2,000 in my pocket. I want a poll tax Bill now. Get it on the statute book." Then somebody would say, "We must have an Employment Bill." Somebody new to the Cabinet may ask, "Why? Do we need one? We have the trade unions tied up," to which the reply would be, "It's good 108 propaganda to have a trade union bill, if not two, in every Session because it shows that we are attacking the workers and, particularly, trade union bosses. We want there to be a configuration in the minds of people who drift between the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) and the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel), who leads the party that dares not speak its name, as that might just swing the vote." Then someone in the Cabinet says, "What shall we put in the Bill? I've a good idea. What about making them have ballots?" Someone else will reply, "We've done that. Didn't you know?", to which the reply will be, "I went through the Lobby without thinking." Someone else will say, "We must have another one. It must have something to do with ballots because we are handing back the unions to the members."
The Ford workers have found that out in the last fortnight. Thirty-two thousand of them have had a taste of it and said, "Well, the Prime Minister said we've got to hand the unions back to the members. We've got'em and I'm not bothered about what Mick Murphy says." The Bill would tie Mick Murphy to the floor and release the members. This Bill is another attempt at being macho. This will show the yuppies that the Government are still in pursuit of the trade unions.
Clauses 3 to 5 make nonsense of democracy. On the "World at One" programme on the radio last week, I heard a discussion that I thought I would never hear in Thatcher-land. Three or four pundits were taking part, whom one would normally expect to agree with everything that the Tory Government want. One said, "This is an Employment Bill too many." I thought, "Well, has he switched? Has he been to one of our listening campaigns?" One never knows. There are all sorts going, so they tell me—the chamber of commerce and the Police Federation. They are writing the Labour manifesto. Others are now joining in. They are from establishment-type institutions. They have all the answers. They take them to "World at One". They throw in a Member of Parliament now and then just to liven it up, or to damp it down, as the case may be. Without exception, using long words, all have come to the same result and have said, "They have gone too far."
Of course, Governments can overreach themselves. This Government are doing it in many respects. They have done so with the Education Reform Bill, the poll tax Bill, and with this Bill. They are saying to the people, "Oh yes, we believe in democracy," but if two or three people do not accept the majority view, they will invoke the "David Owen" clause, the one whereby one does not accept the result of a ballot and one does as one likes.
Tory Members have jeered at the Liberals and the SDP over the course of the past few months. Of course they can jeer. They have not accepted the results of the ballot. Yet the same people will march through the Lobby tonight, following the Secretary of State for Employment and the rest of the Cabinet, to vote for clauses 3 to 5, which will license people to say, "The ballot? Get stuffed."
The Bill is part of the propaganda and machinery to dismantle Socialism. We cannot draw any other conclusion. Some time ago, the Prime Minister said that she wanted to see the end of Socialism. She actually believes that. It is nonsensical to say it. She is supposed to be bright, but she actually believes that she can dismantle a philosophy by passing Bills in the House of Commons. It is another step, she hopes—in my view, it will not 109 work—towards Victoriana, to impose a type of upstairs-downstairs mentality on anybody who works in the House of Commons. I refer to those who clock on and clock off. They know only too well about the upstairs-downstairs mentality in here. We saw recent evidence of cases in which that attitude was imposed upon workers in the building. I suppose that the Governent are trying it out, ready to impose it on many others.
I said earlier that the matter is all about shifting the balance of power towards bosses. We shall see more of that in the 15 March Budget. If the Bill is passed, it will result in many people outside realising at long last just how vicious and vindictive the Tory Government can be. Just imagine somebody going along to next Thursday morning's Cabinet meeting and saying, "I do not think that I like what you have just said. I am not going along with it." The Government will say. "We have just had a majority vote." They do not have votes, they have what is called a collection of voices. The Prime Minister will say, "What did you say?" He will say, "Well, I was just thinking that I do not quite like it." He would be sacked. The Government would do what they are telling trade unionists to do as a result of a ballot. It is the same principle. They want the jam, the cake, the bread and all the rest of it rolled into one.
Universities were mentioned earlier. It crossed my mind that they recently held a big ballot at Oxford. They all went up in those gowns and kinky clothes to vote. There was an ex-Prime Minister and Lord Jenkins—that bloke who tried to take my seat one day; I told him, "We've had a ballot for that seat and I have won." They had a vote at Oxford and Lord Jenkins won—
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.