§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Consideration of amendments on Report resumed.
§ [Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 not moved.]1074
§ Clause 2 [Requirements to be satisfied in relation to elections]:
§ The Earl of Gowrie moved Amendment No. 6:
Page 3, line 31, leave out subsection (6) and insert—
("(6) Every person who is entitled to vote at the election must—
(6A) So far as is reasonably practicable, every person who is entitled to vote at the election must—
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I should like to take with it Amendments Nos. 7 and 9 through to 14, 16 and 19 through to 22.
§ Amendment No. 7: After Clause 2 insert the following new clause—
§ ("Modification of section 2 requirements.
§ .—(1) Where a trade union proposes to hold an election and is satisfied that there are no reasonable grounds for believing that the requirements of section 2 of this Act would not be satisfied in relation to that election if subsection (6A) of that section were to apply as modified by this section, it may proceed as if for paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (6A) there were substituted—
- "(a) have made available to him—
- (i) immediately before, immediately after, or during, his working hours: and
- (ii) at his place of work or at a place which is more convenient for him';
- (b) be given—
- (i) a convenient opportunity to vote by post (but no other opportunity to vote);
- (ii) an opportunity to vote immediately before, immediately after, or during, his working hours and at his place of work or at a place which is more convenient for him (but no other opportunity); or
- (iii) as alternatives, both of those opportunities (hut no other opportunity).").
§ Amendment No. 9: After Clause 2, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Register of members' names and addresses
§ .—(1) It shall be the duty of every trade union—
- (a) to compile and maintain a register of the names and proper addresses of its members; and
- (b) to secure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the entries in the register are accurate and are kept up-to-date.
§ (2) The register may be kept by means of a computer.
§ (3) Any duty falling upon a branch under this section by reason of its being a trade union shall be treated as having been discharged to the extent to which the union of which it is a branch has discharged that duty instead of the branch.").
§ Amendment No. 10: Clause 3, page 4, line 32, after ("the") insert ("Certification Officer or to the").
§ Amendment No. 11: Page 5, line I, after ("the") insert ("Certification Officer or, as the case may be, the").
Amendment No. 12: Page 5, line 19, at end insert—
("(7A) In making an enforcement order which requires the union to hold a fresh election, in any case where the application relates to an election which has been held, the court shall (unless it considers that it would he inappropriate to do so in the particular circumstances of the case) require the fresh election to be conducted—
§ Amendment No. 13: Page 5, line 23, leave out from ("of") to end of line 26 and insert ("such period as the court considers appropriate").1075
§ Amendment No. 14: After Clause 3, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Proceedings before Certification Officer: supplementary provisions.
§ .—(1) Where the Certification Officer makes a declaration under section 3 of this Act and is satisfied that—
- (a) steps have been taken by the union with a view to remedying the declared failure or securing that a failure of the same, or any similar, kind as that of the declared failure does not arise on the part of the union; or
- (b) the union has agreed to take such steps;
§ (2) On an application to him under section 3, the Certification Officer (whether or not he makes a declaration) shall give reasons for his decision in writing; and any such reasons may be accompanied by written observations on any matter arising from, or connected with, the proceedings.
§ (3) The making of an application to the Certification Officer under section 3 shall not be taken to prevent the applicant, or any other person, from making a subsequent application to the court under that section in respect of the same matter.
§ (4) Where such a subsequent application is made, the court shall have due regard to any declaration, reasons or observations of the Certification Officer in the proceedings before him which are brought to the notice of the court in the proceedings before it.
§ (5) On an application made to him under section 3, the Certification Officer shall—
- (a) make such enquiries as he thinks fit; and
- (b) where he considers it appropriate, give the applicant and the trade union an opportunity to be heard.
§ (6) The Certification Officer may regulate the procedure to be followed on applications to him under section 3.").
Amendment No. 19: Page 8, line 12, at end insert—
("'post' means a postal service which—
Amendment No. 20: Page 8, line 14, at end insert—
("`proper address', in relation to any member of a trade union, means his home address or any other address which he has requested the union in writing to treat as his postal address;").
§ Amendment No. 21: Page 8, line 28, leave out ("and").
Amendment No. 22: Page 8, line 30, at end insert—
'working hours', in relation to an employee, means any time when, in accordance with his contract of employment, he is required to be at work.").
§ Taken together, these amendments represent the Government's response to your Lordships' debate on 19th June and the Committee's very clear verdict on the issue of postal ballots. I first express my congratulations to my noble friends Lord Beloff and Lord Renton, who moved and spoke to the earlier amendments in Committee, and my gratitude to them for adding their names to mine in respect of the Government's response.
§ These amendments are extensive and they make major changes to this Bill. I make no apology on either account because these amendments indicate how seriously we took the decision of the Committee on 19th June. They also reflect the Government's determination that all the provisions in this Bill should be coherent and workable. That is an objective which I know is fully shared by my noble friend Lord Beloff and by the other movers of the original amendment.1076
§ My noble friend acknowledged that his amendment was intended to establish a principle and that it was not a fully worked-out legislative vehicle for implementing that principle.
A word about this principle. When my noble friend moved his amendment, he said that:
direct postal ballots should be the norm and departures from this norm should have to be justified".—[Official Report, 19/6/84; col. 257.]
That is precisely what these amendments are designed to achieve. The amendments encompass four major changes to the Bill. In the first place, the basic provisions governing voting in union elections have been recast so that there is a clear presumption that ballots will be postal except in those cases where a workplace ballot is—perhaps because of the circumstances of a particular union or of a particular election—equally or more likely to meet all the requirements of the legislation as to secrecy, convenience of voting, and freedom from interference or constraint. I remind the House that these are the basic requirements of the legislation. That is the effect of Amendments Nos. 6 and 7.
§ Secondly, there is an entirely new statutory duty on all trade unions to compile and maintain an accurate and up-to-date register of their members' names and addresses. Thirdly, the High Court is given a duty—not a discretion but a duty—in cases where a workplace ballot is manifestly in breach of the legislation to order an election to be conducted by postal ballot. Finally, there is an entirely new and additional right of complaint to the certification officer in the case of any breach of the requirements of Part I of the Bill.
§ Before I turn to each of these amendments in more detail, I must remind your Lordships that most unions have not even got as far as the workplace ballot: the majority of unions still elect their leaders at branch meetings held outside working hours in union offices or other places well away from any of their members' places of work. Theirs is the democracy of the activist. The price of actually casting a vote is to give up a whole evening and travel miles at the voter's own expense. And that is only part of the story in many instances: voting is often by show of hands and the actual pattern of voting is distorted by what I have always felt to be the Ruritanian device of the block vote. This Bill gets rid of all that.
§ The Bill will force unions to abandon these discredited practices. But, more than that, it will oblige any union which is not prepared simply to adopt postal balloting to consider whether a workplace ballot—the only alternative the legislation will allow—can possibly meet all the very stringent democratic safeguards that the Bill provides. Can a workplace ballot be secret? Can the union guarantee that none of its members will be at risk of intimidation or any other constraint on the voter's freedom to vote for the candidate of his or her choice? Can a workplace ballot be free of malpractice or manipulation? Perhaps above all, will a workplace ballot give members the opportunity to vote at a time and place which is convenient to them? Only if all these requirements are satisfied will it be safe for a union to depart from the requirements of Clause 2 and opt for a workplace ballot.1077
§ Furthermore, let no one think that this is a decision any union can afford to take lightly or without the most careful consideration. That is true even of those comparatively few unions which have always conducted their elections by workplace ballot. A decision to opt for workplace ballots will be subject to challenge by the members of the union concerned in the High Court at every stage; even, as I shall explain, before the first election due after the Bill comes into effect.
§ It is not the case, as even some commentators friendly to the amendments have stated, that the union is judge and jury in its own case. At every stage trade unions will be answerable to their own members and, through them, to the courts. That is the remedy throughout this Bill. It is and always has been the Government's view that it is far better for the enforcement of this Bill to be in the hands of union members themselves and not of some external, Government-sponsored institution. It is the rights of ordinary trade union members that the Bill sets out to guarantee. It must be for those members themselves—and not some third party—to decide when and how to use those rights.
§ Turning now to the detail of what we propose, Amendment No. 6—which is the amendment immediately before us—provides quite simply that anyone who is entitled to vote in a union election must be sent a voting paper at his home address, or whatever other address he chooses to give, and must be allowed to return his completed voting paper by post at no direct cost to himself. With this amendment, Clause 2 of the Bill—which contains all the Bill's basic voting provisions—establishes a clear presumption that union elections will be conducted by postal ballot.
§ In moving his original amendment, my noble friend Lord Beloff recognised that there are some circumstances in which postal ballots are impractical or undesirable and where workplace ballots—provided that there are proper democratic safeguards—can be a necessary and valid way of conducting elections. That was a great relief to me because it has always been my profound belief that we should not, as it were, outlaw the ballot at the place of work.
§ The purpose of Amendment No. 7, which takes the form of a new clause to follow the present Clause 2, is to put flesh on my noble friend's recognition of that factor. It is in effect an exemption clause but not one which provides a detailed list of exceptions or for case-by-case exemption at the hands of an external agency. Again, it has been a very strong view of mine that this whole legislation could be at risk if we are too stringent in the requirements we put on any external agency.
§ In essence, this new clause requires any union which is contemplating holding an election by workplace rather than postal ballot to satisfy itself that in the circumstances of that union and of that election a workplace ballot will meet all the Bill's requirements as regards secrecy, convenience of voting, and freedom from interference or constraint. If a union opts for a workplace ballot and has manifestly made the wrong decision, it will be subject to challenge in the courts by its members even before the election is held. That is the significance of the words "reasonable grounds" at 1078 the beginning of the new clause. If the members believe that their union has made the wrong decision, they can seek an injunction in the High Court to force the union to change its mind.
§ Also, this new clause has to be read in conjunction with Amendment No. 9, which imposes an entirely new statutory duty on all trade unions to compile and maintain an accurate and up-to-date register of their members' names and addresses. Without such a register, no union can operate a fully postal ballot, so this is a giant step forward. Indeed, it was and remains part of the Government's case that without registers of union members' addresses an immediate and universal requirement for postal ballots would be quite ineffective. But the obverse is equally true: once unions are place under a duty to maintain a register they will be denied the argument that it is simply impractical for them to operate postal ballots. They will not be able to use that argument either to the courts or, even more importantly, to their own members.
§ That brings me to the second amendment which bears directly on workplace ballots, and that is Amendment No. 12. This provides a further check on any union which holds a workplace rather than a postal ballot. If it is not challenged by its members before the election but it is subsequently found that the actual conduct of the election has fallen short of the legislation's requirements—for example, that there has been intimidation or some other malpractice—the High Court has a duty (and not, as previously, a discretion) to order any re-run of the election to be conducted by post unless that is plainly inappropriate. In other words, any union which opts for a workplace ballot will know that, however plausible that choice may seem before the event, if it proves to be mistaken in practice the union will face having to hold the election all over again by postal ballot. We have sought to sharpen the impact of this remedy by removing altogether the built-in delay of six months before a court order under this part of the Bill becomes enforceable. That is the effect of Amendment No. 13.
§ I believe the cumulative message of these amendments to the trade unions is clear and unmistakable. Postal balloting is and should be the norm. A union should adopt workplace balloting only if it is confident that it can justify its decision to its members before the election and that there will be no risk of breaches of the legislation occurring during the election. If the union gets it wrong on either count, it will get no second chance.
§ I turn now to the last amendment in this group, and that is Amendment No. 14. This provides a right of complaint to the certification officer about a breach of any provision in Part I of the Bill. This is additional to the right of complaint directly to the High Court which is already provided in the Bill. Its advantage is clearly informality, flexibility and lack of cost. Any union member will be able to bring any breach of Part I of the Bill to the certification officer's attention at the cost of a postage stamp. The certification officer will be under a specific duty to investigate any complaint, and if he decides it is well-founded he will make a legal declaration to that effect and publish his reasons. If that does not prove sufficient to secure a remedy of the breach, the members can go to the High Court to seek an enforceable order. The High Court will be required 1079 to take account of the certification officer's declaration and of the reasons he has given for making it.
§ I hope I have said enough to show that we have thought very long and very hard about the whole issue of postal ballots since we debated it in your Lordships' Committee. I believe the Bill is better for these amendments. The gap between my noble friends who moved the original amendment and the Government has never been, as I argued at an earlier stage, a wide one. It has always been a matter of means and not ends. I trust that with these amendments we have bridged that gap, and, as I said, I greatly welcome the fact that my noble friends have felt able to add their names to mine.
§ This Bill does what we promised to do in our manifesto. It has the support of the overwhelming majority of ordinary trade union members. They voted for it at the last general election when for the first time in our history a clear majority of trade union members deserted the Labour Party. They want the rights that this Bill will give them. They want an effective, democratic voice in the running of their own unions.
The Earl of Gowrie
We owe it to them to ensure that the Bill gives as many trade unionists as possible a practical opportunity to cast their votes in union elections.
The Earl of Gowrie
That is perfectly clear in the manifesto, and it is perfectly clear what this legisation is about; it is about the actual casting of votes, and we owe it to the trade unionists of this country to give them the full protection of the law against intimidation and malpractice. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Lord Rochester
My Lords, I think it may be for the convenience of the House if I now speak to Amendment No. 8 so that we may have a general debate, although I understand that technically I cannot move Amendment No. 8 until Amendment No. 7 has been moved.Amendinem No. 8: As an amendment to Amendment No. 7, after Clause 2, line 2, leave out ("is satisfied that") and insert ("satisfies the Certification Officer that—At Second Reading of the Bill I said that the practical difficulties associated with the establishment of statutory machinery needed to make more extensive use of postal ballots should not be underestimated. During the debate in Committee on whether Clause 2 should stand part of the Bill I reaffirmed that, in having voted for the amendment 1080 moved earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, I had not departed from that position. Speaking on behalf of my noble friends, I added that we should be pleased to join in consultations aimed at producing before Report stage amendments designed to uphold in a realistic way the principle that had been agreed by the Committee, and aimed also at securing the widest possible support within the House.
- (i) the requirements of subsection (6A) of section 2 are inappropriate in the particular circumstances of the case; and
- (ii) ").
Against that background, I should like first gladly to acknowledge that the Government's new amendments which the noble Earl the Minister has just spoken to, go a long way to meeting the views expressed in the memorable debate that we had in Committee on the whole question of postal ballots. That applies particularly to the statutory duty which will now be placed on trade unions to compile and keep up to date a register of their members' names and addresses. In addition, I very much welcome the proposed amendment to Section 1 of the Employment Act 1980 under which payments may be made to trade unions towards expenditure incurred in respect of ballots held under Clause 2 of this Bill.
However, the Government's amendments do not, in our view, go far enough in upholding the principle which noble Lords accepted in Committee. As I understood it, the principle was not simply that postal ballots should be a statutory norm, but implicit in that principle was the recognition that the Bill should not place responsibility for challenging dubious electoral procedures on individual trade unionists. If I may put it more positively, the interests to be protected were to be those of trade union members and not those of trade union officials. My noble friends and I considered this principle to be of such importance that we have made its establishment the purpose of an amendment which I hope to move later.
Under the Government's new Amendment No. 7, a trade union can still hold a workplace ballot if it is satisfied—as the noble Earl has just told us—that there are no reasonable grounds for believing that this would be contrary to the basic purpose of the Bill of ensuring that elections reflect the majority view of union members. But that, as The Times put it in a powerful leading article yesterday, still leaves a union as judge and jury in its own cause. In contrast, under our amendment it would be necessary for the union to satisfy an independent person (the certification officer) that a postal ballot to be held under the conditions set out in subsection (6)(a) of Section 2 of the Bill would be, in the precise words of Clause 3,inappropriate in the particular circumstances of the case".It was this very principle, that the onus should be placed clearly on the trade union from the beginning rather than subsequently on the individual—or indeed at any time on the individual, I think I should add in the light of one of the points made by the noble Earl—that enabled me to vote with conviction at the Committee stage for the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Beloff.
It has been said that if our amendment were enacted this might contravene ILO Convention No. 87. That stipulates, among other things, that workers' organisations should have the right to draw up their constitution and rules, and to elect their representatives in full freedom. It lays down also that the public 1081 authorities should refrain from any interference which would restrict this right or impede the lawful exercise thereof. I do not see how what is proposed in our amendment can reasonably be held to deny workers' organisations the right to elect their representatives in full freedom. Rather, it would seem that acceptance by Parliament of our amendment would enlarge that freedom. In any case, if the Government were to judge that acceptance of our agreement would involve interference on their part, which would restrict the right to which I have referred, how much more do all the new Government amendments appear to suffer from the same defect!
There is a further point which I should make here. The Government's four pages of new amendments to Part I were tabled only three days ago; yet in fairness to the House in general we felt obliged to table our amendment in response within 24 hours. My noble friends and I are an impecunious lot. Your Lordships will hear more about that when we discuss Part III. We do not have the services of experienced parliamentary counsel and draftsman. It is therefore possible that there are technical flaws in Amendment No. 8 in relation to the provisions of Part I as the Government are now seeking to amend it. But even if that should prove to be the case, I hope that our amendment will be debated at this stage as a matter of principle; for any but the most technical defects could surely, with goodwill, be put right at Third Reading.
Like the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, I am glad that branch ballots are, as I understand it, now to be outlawed. I do not deny that turnout at union elections is of great importance, nor that workplace ballots tend to produce more votes than do postal ballots. The question nevertheless remains whether the quantity of votes recorded is of greater importance than the quality as measured by the degree of assurance voters have that there is freedom from potential interference in the ballot.
There may be some noble Lords who think that we have not gone far enough in opposing the Government's proposals. Indeed, instead of tabling this amendment we could simply have opposed the Government amendments, and for all I know have defeated the Government in a Division. I say that because, for reasons entirely different from our own, most noble Lords on the Labour Benches may be expected to vote against the Government amendments. However, we have taken the view that to adopt such a course would amount to no more than crude political opportunism on our part, and we are not in that game.
I meant what I said in Committee on behalf of my noble friends in the debate on whether Clause 2 should stand part of the Bill that our desire was not to hinder but to help the Government solve this problem. Your Lordships should therefore feel entirely free to consider our amendment on its merits. Indeed, I suggest that the House would be failing to fulfil its primary function if it did not give the closest scrutiny to the Government's new proposals and to our suggested extension of them. Accordingly, our amendment will stand or fall according to the view the House takes of it. If it fails, we shall not then vote against the Government's amendment because, apart from what I have just said, that might have the effect 1082 of leaving in the Bill subsection (6) of Clause 2 as it now stands. I fancy that the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, would be the first to agree that that subsection is not at present in a suitable form to be returned to another place.
§ Lord Broxbourne
My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to add just one explanatory sentence. I have been following his most interesting argument with great attention and respect. He referred to the position under ILO Convention No. 87, and he pronounced the very clear opinion that there would be no breach. But would it not be rather more complex than that? If a trade union made a complaint under Article 24 of the ILO constitution, the governing body of the ILO would then refer it either to a committee of inquiry or to the International Court of Justice itself, and according to what they find there is some provision for sanctions under Article 33 of that constitution. Of course, the noble Lord may be right, but there are these procedures and remedies. Therefore, are Ministers not at least prudent to have regard to the possibility of them being invoked?
§ Lord Rochester
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Broxbourne, for his intervention and I acknowledge readily that I am not so well versed in these matters as I feel sure he is. I can only express the opinion of a layman in these matters, for what it is worth, and no doubt this will form part of the debate which I hope will now take place.
There is one further point that I should like to make as briefly as I can before I conclude. From the Labour Benches it may be said that even more than in the case of the Government's proposals our amendment seeks to make an invidious distinction between trade unions and other institutions in imposing special statutory constraints on unions in the election of members of their principal executive committees. To that I would say that trade unions enjoy special legal immunities and, as is today all too evident, they wield enormous monopolistic power; more particularly where, in the public sector, there are closed shops. My father was one of the Liberal Members of another place who, in 1906, gave the trade unions those immunities. He would be horrified if he were allowed now to see how, in the form of flying pickets and other such manifestations, the power provided by those immunities has been, and is continuing to be, abused.
I suggest that our amendment gives expression in a realistic, equitable and more accurate way than the first of the Government's proposed new clauses which your Lordships will find under Amendment No. 7. I suggest that our amendment gives better expression in those respects to the principle concerning postal ballots which the Committee agreed to. For that reason I trust that it will commend itself to noble Lords opposite, to noble Lords on the Cross-Benches and even to some Labour Peers. It is in that constructive spirit that I have sought to speak, and it is in that same spirit that I hope later formally to move the amendment.
§ 6 p.m.
§ Lord McCarthy
My Lords, the noble Earl has made it clear that he is moving, as it were, as part of a general debate a whole series of amendments, but we have made it clear through the usual channels, and it has I think been accepted, that we do not quite agree that all these things go together in one universal package. We see why the Government say that, but we consider that in particular Amendments Nos. 10, 11 and 14, dealing, as they do, with the position of the certification officer, and bringing the certification officer into the debate and into the Bill in a way that he has not been there before, raise separate questions, and we would want to debate them separately when Amendment No. 10 is called.
I have to deal first, and quickly, with the amendment spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, because he has brought the certification officer in in another way. I am bound to say that I was not clear (maybe it is my fault) from his speech whether he was offering the certification officer in his sense—bringing him in at his point in the Bill; and if the Government accept that, then the certification officer goes out in every other respect—or whether indeed that role for the certification officer as the person who is to decide whether someone can go forward on a workplace ballot (that is really what he is saying) is something in addition to be added to all the other roles of the certification officer in this clause. I take it from the way that the noble Lord is nodding that he is going to add it to the general role of the certification officer. That is one of the things that we find objectionable.
What we feel about that proposal is that it transfers the say-so as to whether a workplace ballot can get through the fine mesh of Clause 2 of the Bill from the member or the union executive to an administrative officer of the state. We think that that is rather corporatist and surprising coming from the party that the noble Lord represents. Indeed, we feel that it would also give the certification officer in the context of the whole of the Bill a very unfortunate mix of roles. He would be the person who would be deciding whether a person could go forward to a workplace ballot. If he said that he could, and some member subsequently thought that his rights had been infringed under Clause 2, he could come in as someone to say whether there had been an infringement. He would then make a report, and his report might very well be brought in front of a member of the High Court, if that is the way that the union members wanted to play it. We believe that that would be an involvement of the certification officer in a way that would seriously undermine his general role.
We feel—and this is what we shall be arguing subsequently when we come to Amendment No. 10—that the Government are in very grave danger, even without the amendment advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, of doing to the certification officer what they did to the old registrar.
The 1970 Conservative Government, by the Industrial Relations Act 1971, dragged a respectable, long-standing institution of the trade union registrar into the height of political controversy. As a result, there was a boycott of the registrar and all his works, and it was necessary to create another office with 1084 another name (called the certification officer) and not to have the same kind of thing but to produce it in other means and to call it a list. We feel that it is very dangerous, if the Government want to do these things, to drag into this exercise an institution which is now as respected as the certification office and which performs a wide range of functions, including, for example, overseeing amalgamations. For all those reasons we would be against the amendment.
We also feel that it is against the ILO Charter. We would quote on that the report of the Committee of Experts in 1983 at paragraph 172 when it said that it considered:that the legislation which regulates in detail the internal election procedures of trade unions"—and we think that this would do so—is incompatible with the rights of trade unions recognised by Convention 87".That is what we have to say about the noble Lord's amendment.
I should like now to focus on the Government amendments and to ask what they do, comment on what I believe that they do and look at their justifications. The first point to make is that the amendments provide trade union members with the right to vote without interference and constraint but not a right to vote without interference and constraint in the way in which that offer was made when this Bill went through the other place, because the Government have taken out a particular implication as it existed when the Bill went through another place; and they have done it by the novel means of actually taking out words. What the amendment before the House now says is that there will be no interference,imposed by, the union or any of its members, officials or employees".In other words, the protection against interference is protection against interference by the union and the union's officials. No other form of interference is envisaged or protection offered. But after the Bill had gone through the other place subsection (6) of the draft which came from the Commons said:Every person who is entitled to vote at the election shall … be allowed to vote without interference or constraint … and … shall so far as-is reasonably practicable",and so on.
It is, "without interference or constraint". There is no mention of the union or its members, and therefore it would have been possible to argue—and this was a debate which we had with the noble Earl in Committee—that this part of the Bill might be used to protect a union against interference from an employer in its election processes or by a third party in its election processes, even if he was writing articles in the Sunday Times. But that has been taken out. The only form of protection that we have now is protection against the union.
In that connection, I must remind the noble Earl of what he said at col. 644 on 25th June when I asked him on an old amendment what was going to come of Clause 2. In reply to our amendment he said:One of the Government amendments withdrawn from the Marshalled List because of the amendment accepted in the name of my noble friend Lord Beloff would have made it absolutely clear that a trade union would not be liable for interference or constraint on the part of the employer".1085 I repeat that:on the part of the employer".I asked him at col. 645:Would the noble Earl tell me which amendment it was which did what he has said".Subsequently he said that it was Amendment No. 22. I said that I was sorry; I was afraid that that was not the case. That amendment had been changed—and it has been changed now it has come back as this amendment to take out the general protection and to limit protection against interference by a trade union and to do nothing for the trade union against interference from an employer.
In the light of what the noble Earl said when we discussed that in Committee, I should like, first of all, to ask him whether he will accept an amendment, say, on Third Reading, which would put that back, or indeed whether he will subsequently be accepting our Amendment No. 25 which tries to put that back in respect of Clause 8. That is the first major thing that is in this amendment.
The second thing which is in the amendment, of course, is a new draft of subsection (6) which we debated last time, which is intended to give us workplace ballots if the union is prepared to take the risk. That is essentially what is there. My question to the noble Earl then is, if that is the case, and there it is sitting there, what becomes of some of the objections which he put forward with such eloquence when we discussed this in Committee?
One of the major objections which he advanced was that he said that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, would provide that there would be a real risk that legislation would come to a dead letter because the leaders of the trade unions, who are implacably opposed to it, would simply not allow it to work because they would attack and boycott a vast new quango which would be forced to be created in order to make postal ballots the norm. That was his argument. In Hansard at col. 280 he said:Clearly no existing organisation could possibly take this on. It would be well beyond the capacity of, for example, the Electorial Reform Society".He said that therefore one of the reasons for opposing this amendment was that the Government did not want to create a monster quango.
Where is the monster quango? If the Government now say that you do not need a monster quango what became of the argument that the noble Earl was giving us at the time? How does it come about that first of all the monster quango was needed and that is why you could not have the amendment, and now that the Government are forced to accept the amendment the monster quango has disappeared—unless of course the certification officer is the seeds of the monster quango? The noble Earl the Minister shakes his head. I am glad to hear it. So where is the monster quango?
The second argument the noble Earl used was about high turnout. He said it was more important still to think about high turnout. In col. 278 of Hansard he said:The issue between my noble friend Lord Beloff and myself is simply this. Are postal ballots or workplace ballots more likely to maximise the number of votes cast? Should the one, so to say, cancel 1086 out the other? I believe that even leaving aside the perhaps rather special case of the miners' union, with its turnout of 80 per cent. or more … or the CPSA"—he gave an example of that—then he said:That is substantially higher than the average turnout in postal ballots".That is of course true. All the evidence from Undy and Martin is that workplace ballots at least double the turnout on postal ballots. That was one of the reasons given by the Government in Committee for not accepting this amendment. My question therefore is, once again, why have the Government changed their minds?
I can think of only one reason. It must be that they have been convinced by the advocacy of those who spoke in favour of the amendment at the time. It cannot be for any other reason. Therefore, I have very carefully re-read the debate and the arguments used by those who favoured the amendment at a time when the noble Earl opposed it. I was looking for examples of intentional malpractice, corruption, intimidation, impersonation or failure to issue papers, or of stuffing ballot boxes or false counting: all kinds of intentional malpractice as against unintentional negligence which we do not deny. As I tried to say on Committee, all voluntary associations are pray to unintentional negligence, but I am talking about intentional malpractice.
I stress to the House that I am trying to be fair. I have read with very great attention once again the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Beloff. At col. 255 of Hansard he referred to a Member of the House who in 1872 alleged that working men were fearful of their officials. At column 256 of Hansard he recalled the experiences of Mr. Frank Chapple and Mr. Eric Hammond in the ETU scandal some 25 years or so ago. At column 257 he referred to a union—and it is not clear in the context whether the union is NALGO or NUPE—who supports the Morning Star. At column 258 he referred to a sub judice internal inquiry into alleged malpractice in the Transport and General Workers' Union, Bristol branch. At column 259 he referred to the fact that the CPSA had a lower turnout in recent workshop place ballots. In column 259 again he referred to the allegations of malpractice which are now being followed in the courts in relation to the election of the general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers.
That is the sum total of the concrete examples that we had. They are allegations of cases going through the courts. They are statements about things which are, frankly, neither here nor there and there is one concrete scandal, 25 years ago. Yet the astonishing thing is that he noble Lord, Lord Beloff, did far better than anybody else who from this narrow vision contributed to the debate. Because I have read the debate with great care, and I cannot find a single noble Lord who gave an example which the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, had not already given. There are no other examples. I am glad to see that the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, is in his place. He gave no specific examples that had not been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff. The noble Lord, Lord Marsh, said:Do not tell me that political parties and trade unions do not indulge in a little gentle massaging and manipulation of ballots. That is a degree of naivety that I will accept from some noble Lords—".1087 He said:Ballot rigging has been widespread for generations in trade unions, and all sides have been involved in it".—(Official Report, 19/6/84; cols. 261–262.)He gave no examples except the examples of the noble Lord, Lord Beloff.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, said, in conclusion, at col. 271:What about intimidation, which we all know perfectly well takes place in a number of trade unions?He gave no details.What sort of pressure can be brought to bear on honourable men of this character when they suspect that grossly improper practices are taking place?He gave no details.
I find it astonishing that we should have had this debate and that the noble Earl—and I say this with no disrespect—after making one of his more persuasive and eloquent speeches, and not convincing his colleagues, can himself be convinced and come to this House and produce this amendment on arguments of this kind. Therefore, we shall be opposing this amendment or this series of amendments.
I should like to ask the noble Earl, in conclusion, a number of questions. Going back to what I said at the beginning, my first question is: what is the case for not restoring the wording of the first version of subsection (6) as it went through another place? Why not protect against employer interference as well, especially since the noble Earl told us that in fact he was going to do so?
Secondly, what point can there be in creating a situation where the trade union is told: you can go for a workshop place ballot if you want to but all the time you are at risk. You are at risk from the certification officer; you are at risk even after the election from a member who argues that in some unspecified way you have not acted reasonably?
I must say I thought that if the noble Earl was going to come before us with what he thought was a workable version of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, he would have spelt out a bit what those exceptional circumstances were. He might have said that they were where the union has a particular diffused membership or a high level of turnover, or something of that kind—something objective. But no; we have gone back to the old friend reasonableness and the trade unions have to take the risk.
Finally, I should like to say something about unions in the public sector. If I may take the noble Lord at his word, when he was speaking on the Committee stage he was saying that he believed that workshop based ballots were perfectly good things which could be run correctly by proper unions, and, if they were run correctly, because they produced a higher rate of turnover in a sense they were preferable. No way! The Government have an opportunity. Whether a trade union can run a workshop based ballot in any event depends upon the help which they get from the employer. Above all, to get the register correct, to get the facilities, to get the boxes out, to get the returns back, depends upon the employer. Where trade unions effectively use workshop based ballots they have got good relations with the employer.
1088 What about the public sector unions? What about the Civil Service unions? What about the unions directly under the control of the Government? The CPSA now operates a workshop based ballot. Will the Government be encouraging it to do so? Will they be encouraging people throughout the public sector? Will they be granting the necessary facilities, which will be difficult to grant, so that trade unions in the public sector, if they so wish, can still continue to operate workshop based ballots? Or is the presumption in favour of postal ballots to be taken to the point where those facilities will not be given?
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Lord Marsh
My Lords, this is a rare occasion for me because the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, are certainly arguments that I could not take issue with. The noble Lord made a devastating attack upon the Government. There is great truth in what he says. The burden of his case, which cannot be challenged by the Government, is that many of the arguments that have been placed in support of these amemdments are very different from the case that the Government made on previous occasions.
The only issue on which I disagree with the noble Lord is that I think the Government are to be congratulated on the extent to which they have moved away from the case which they were arguing previously. The amendments in the list before us are fundamental amendments. Everyone can make arguments that there should be some changes in them. But they are amendments that are fundamental, that change the whole aspect of this section of the Bill and change it to the good. The argument has been made again, and it will go on being made, of the enormous difficulties of postal ballots. In 1945, the country decided that it was going to hold a general election. It balloted the British Armed Forces from the jungles of Burma to the deserts of North Africa and thoughout a devastated Europe. And 1,034,069 postal ballots were delivered to this country in 1945. It is an absurdity to say that in 1984 with the modern aids that exist it is not possible to ballot a trade union.
One of the interesting things—one of the enjoyable things—about this place is that actually governments up here seem to listen to the arguments, and one does not know what is going to happen. That is what makes it fun to attend. Sometimes, the Leader of the House and the Whips have a different sense of humour and fail to see the joke. I had certainly not expected that the Government would have been defeated as decisively as they were. Neither had I believed that they would move in terms of compromise so far as they have moved on this issue. There are still problems that exist.
I have had sent to me since the last debate one of the envelopes provided by one union that ballots its members by post. They send the members a brown paper envelope in which they put the ballot paper so that it is impossible to see what is on the ballot paper. On the front, it says that the ballot paper must be enclosed in the envelope immediately and delivered to the branch secretary immediately, not open. There is no chance of the branch secretary seeing through that. The next line says that ballot papers sent direct to head office will be disqualified. So it has to go to the local branch secretary, the chap in the workplace. But it is sealed.
1089 It also says that the name, card number and branch must be inserted by the member. A space is given for the name of the man voting, his union card number and his branch number. As we said on a previous occasion, a local branch secretary, seeing the actual name of the man on the ballot paper, does not have to open the ballot paper to find what is inside. He knows in many cases which way people would have voted. So there is this sort of abuse that exists, and I believe it is wrong.
The noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, has made his case. He takes objection to the fact that the Government have changed their mind on the matter. I believe that many of us will express appreciation for it and congratulate the Government on having the courage so to do.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, I understand that there may be a desire on both sides of your Lordships' House to reach a decision before 7 o'clock. I shall therefore be brief. I, too, should like to congratulate the Government on these well-conceived and workable proposals and particularly to express to my noble friend Lord Gowrie my apprecication of the part that he played in reaching them. I believe sincerely that these proposals will be a big step towards real democracy in our trade unions. Whatever may be felt by some of their leaders and by the Front Bench opposite about them, their members, I am confident, will welcome these proposals when they see the opportunities that they give.
The only specific point that I wish to make is in reply to the interesting speech of the noble Lord, Lord Rochester. The part that he and his noble friends played in helping us to reach a decision on the matter of principle was, indeed, a valuable part. As to his amendment that brings in the certification officer at an earlier stage and makes it necessary for the union to satisfy him before holding a workplace ballot, I would simply say this. I think it is better that we should give the union first a chance to get it right on its own responsibility. As my noble friend Lord Broxbourne pointed out, that would seem to be more consistent with the declaration of the ILO. It is surely better to hold the certification officer in reserve in case anything goes wrong instead of making it a condition precedent for him to exercise his authority.
§ Lord Molloy
My Lords, the House will I think take full cognisance of what the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, had to say, with his great background of experience as a trade union officer. I knew him as a trade union officer when he certainly did not hold the views that has expounded today. That was when he was a fully paid official of a trade union. The noble Lord has of course every right, as he progresses through life, to change his mind, for better or for worse, and obviously in this case for better—financially better. One would think that it is not impossible—we all know that it is possible—for the votes of anyone in a general election to be checked. Everyone has a number. That number is stamped on every ballot paper. If necessary, in some grave emergency of a swindle, that could be examined.
As the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, said, there were millions of people overseas in 1945 who used their ballot vote. There were also I suppose millions who 1090 used the vote by proxy. I hope that we are not confusing them. But nothing can equal what the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, said in a previous debate. Of all those millions who voted either by proxy or by ballot paper—I ask your Lordships to consider this—no one knew how they voted. Indeed, in the last general election, the Conservative Party won handsomely and had more votes than the other parties, although the other parties between them had more votes than the Conservative Party. The probability is that Jews, Catholics, non-religious people, Anglicans, businessmen and trade unionists—proportions of them—voted for the Conservative Party.
What cannot be ascertained—I hope that it will be withdrawn—is that some machinery was secretly used in the last election to decide that most trade unionists voted for the Conservative Party. That was either an extraordinarily serious thing to have said or, as I hope, an extremely foolish thing to have said. No one can say how Baptists, Catholics, trade unionists or anyone else voted in the last election in this country. I think now that it might have been said as a smart political point but there can be no proof unless there existed some machinery to enable the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, to make that claim. He should either say that he meant it as a party political point or that what he said was not true.
§ Baroness Cox
My Lords, I stand here today feeling deeply ambivalent. On the one hand, I greatly appreciate the concessions that have been made in the direction of postal ballots. On the other, I am concerned about a number of omissions that I know worry many moderate trade unionists. I welcome the fact that the amendments proposed by my noble friends shift the centre of gravity of the Bill towards the presumption that postal ballots should be the normal way of conducting elections in keeping with the amendment which was moved so effectively in Committee by my noble friend Lord Beloff. I also welcome warmly the requirement that trade unions should compile and maintain up-to-date registers of their members, and I appreciate greatly the provisions that enable individual trade unionists to take complaints to the certification officer rather than having to go directly to the courts.
So far, so good. But it is what is missing that is causing deep disappointment to many moderate trade unionists, especially the fact that the presumption for postal ballots is so weak that it can easily be ignored, and the fact that there is no requirement whatever for any form of independent scrutiny to forestall potential malpractice. These omissions highlight perhaps the basic characteristic of both the Bill and the Government amendments—that they provide for constructive change on a premise of goodwill and good faith, but they fail to give adequate safeguards for situations where these do not pertain. Indeed, these omissions are so serious that one experienced trade unionist has commented, "The wheelers and dealers and bully boys will be laughing".
Therefore, I should like to ask my noble friend the Minister if he will consider the following suggestions as constructive and helpful ways of allaying the anxieties of trade unionists who have to face the problems of the real world. Naturally, I do not expect an answer this 1091 evening, but I hope that some consideration might be given to these points before Third Reading or in another place.
First, whether, in accordance with Section 3 of the 1980 Employment Act, the Secretary of State might consider issuing a code of practice containing guidelines on procedures for issuing and counting ballot papers, and whether failure of a union to meet the requirements of such a code of practice could give union members the right to complain to the certification officer; secondly, that provision might be made for candidates to choose their own scrutineers to monitor all stages of an election; thirdly, that in the case of workplace ballots advance notice should be given of an election, and that failure to do so might render that ballot invalid; and also that the results for each local workplace ballot should be published at the workplace so that voters would have some idea of the extent to which published results reflect their voting, fourthly, that a date be given on which the regulations in this part of the Bill are to come into effect; fifthly and finally, that on a longer time scale some indication be given of a date by which there will be some assessment of the extent to which the Government's intentions that postal ballots should become the norm will have been achieved.
In conclusion, may I say that I hope I do not sound churlish with regard to the very real concessions which the Government have made in the form of the amendments before us, which I welcome most warmly. However, I must also be prepared to consider with an open mind the amendment in the name of the noble Lords, Lord Rochester and Lord Aylestone; to consider the extent to which it might help to strengthen the likelihood of more unions adopting postal ballots. Should that amendment be unsuccessful, naturally I will support those in the names of my noble friends. I hope that some of the suggestions I have put forward on behalf of moderate trade unionists will be considered sympathetically here or in another place.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
My Lords, on 19th June I did not speak on the amendment, though I voted for it. This afternoon we are in the same position as we were in then. Your Lordships' House seems to be anxious to hurry to a point of registering a vote on matters which in my opinion have not yet been considered fully and which are gravely mistaken. I fear that we are on the way to another fiasco in trade union legislation. I voted for the amendment last time, not because I thought that a postal ballot was free of difficulties—in fact, I emphasised them on another occasion, probably earlier in the same debate—but because it was the best scheme on offer which fulfilled the principles which I think we must stick to when dealing with electoral law.
If a form of election is imposed by law upon a body like the trade union movement, in the interests of its members the system of election should be laid down as clearly and definitely as in the Representation of the People Act. This is electoral law. There are more people going to vote in elections for trade union executive committees than will vote for the whole of 1092 the parish councils in Britain. There will be 10 million members, and members of their families, who will be voting in organisations which they have either joined voluntarily or have had to join, which wield power in the land and have almost absolute power over their working conditions and many matters affecting their lives and their livelihood.
This is no small matter, and we are discussing this in an air of complete unreality. We have not the cooperation of those who are affected most by what we are proposing to do. In your Lordships' House this afternoon we have no voice of the practising trade union movement. We are legislating in a vacuum. However, I understand that the Secretary of State saw representatives of the TUC after our vote on 19th June, to ascertain their views upon, I assume, the practicability of fulfilling the intentions of the House at that time. I understand he was told that it was almost impracticable and that if this went forward as the House decided on 19th June there would be widespread default on the law; and that there was nothing they could do about it and the law would have to take its course if that was going to be it.
How can we legislate under these conditions? How can we introduce a scheme of electoral law that is going to be unspecific in many respects and is going to leave all sorts of problems inside the unions themselves? I believe that if we are not prepared to regard this as an important exercise in electoral law we had better leave it alone. There should be a standard electoral system throughout organisations of this kind and it should not be regarded as wholly discriminatory against the trade union movement itself.
I know that noble Lords opposite will say, "But this means that we can't get on with this part of the Bill". This is the tragedy. There are too many people in the land, in your Lordships' House and in the other place, who feel that we must do something; however unwise it may be, we must do something. But without co-operation, with a hostile trade union movement, at any rate in the leadership, then it is going to be extremely difficult to get any constructive approach to the requirements of this law. If we had a standard system of electoral law for bodies, not only those in the trade union movement but probably some others as well, then those bodies should be given time and help to prepare for it.
I believe that this halfway house opens up all sorts of problems for whoever is going to be responsible for seeing that the law is observed. If we do not regard what we are doing in the trade union movement as of sufficient importance to establish a standardised national electoral law, outside the public election system, then why are we playing about with it at all in legislation? The provisions for a union to decide, on a double negative, that the alternative it has to a postal ballot could be regarded as satisfying the conditions of the postal ballot open up room for argument.
The amendment itself says:Where a trade union proposes to hold an election and is satisfied that there are no reasonable grounds for believing that the requirement of section 2 of this Act would not be satisfied in relation to that election,then it can do something different. The words, "reasonably practicable" and "reasonable grounds" 1093 are littered in this legislation. Somebody has to decide what those reasonable grounds may be. We are opening up a course of litigation which will be gravely harmful to the peace and the constructive approach of trade unions to their obligations in the field of industrial relations.
Quite frankly, I do not see how this can be remedied by the amendment that is being proposed. It seems to me that if we are to subject the trade union movement to the discipline of the law as regards an electoral system, then we must satisfy the members in whose interests we are doing it that the system we are imposing upon their union is fiddle-proof, free of serious abuse, and is fair and efficient. If those conditions are not satisfied then it is a betrayal of the members. It is a betrayal of the members to subject them to a statutory system of election which has flaws and faults and room in it for abuse and inefficiency and then to say, "The law is protecting you. The law is bestowing democracy upon you", when in fact it is not doing anything of the sort, or at least may not be doing anything of the sort.
Cannot your Lordships see that this will not fill the bill, because you are not sufficiently definite about the system you want and you are allowing too much room for other activities and alternatives to the electoral system which is purporting to be the standard and foolproof scheme? It seems to me that in these circumstances, if one cannot make a proper job of it, then it should not be in legislation in this form at all: it should be in the form of requiring the rules of unions to satisfy certain conditions in this field of elections in the same way as the rules of trade unions have to satisfy other legislation in other respects as regards the administration of their affairs. Then it should be left to the normal course of certification to ensure that the rules provide for one of the properly authenticated systems of election which Parliament will set out for the unions' consideration. However, I cannot feel that this is taking us where we want to go. There could be nothing worse than another Conservative Trade Union Bill which is totally unsatisfactory, widely ignored and probably in some cases openly defied.
Look at the conditions at present. The legislation that we have already passed regarding the actions of trade unions is in scraps of paper all over the land. The trade union law at the moment is being defied all over the place. Civil rights of recovery of compensation are not being utilised because people are afraid to use the powers that Parliament has given to them to recover damages for unlawful acts. It is a shambles and we are regarding these as suitable conditions, in the absence of an authoritative voice from the trade union movement as proper counsel, for what we are doing today. My Lords, I deeply regret this. We are making a grave mistake.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, although I follow the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, I cannot, with respect, follow his argument because it was wholly negative and largely beside the mark. I should have thought that Her Majesty's Government were greatly to be congratulated on what is, after all, a 1094 useful, constructive and workable compromise which has been achieved. And as a middle way between what were apparent irreconcilables, these amendments surely serve the interests of all members of trade unions irrespective of any political affiliation or none.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, I speak following two addresses, one by the noble Baroness opposite and the other by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, I have a high regard for both but, unhappily, this afternoon I agree with only one, and that is the noble Baroness, Lady Cox. I am bound to say to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, for whom, I repeat, I have a warm regard, that I find the argument about whether the trade unions are graciously going to obey the law, unacceptable in a democratic society. As I understood it, the suggestion that he made a few moments ago was that some delegation of members of the TUC General Council had told the Secretary of State that there was a risk that if the amendment which was carried during the Committee stage was carried through on to the statute book, there would be—and I think that this was his phrase—widespread default of the law. The implication of that is that there is not widespread default of the law already.
What is going on in the National Union of Mineworkers at present? Following a clear decision by the Vice-Chancellor, Sir Robert Megarry, an injunction was granted not on the basis of the 1980 Act or the 1982 Act, but on the basis of the rules of the National Union of Mineworkers. What happened? Mr. Scargill ensured yesterday that that decision by Sir Robert Megarry was defied by the union conference. Worse, we had an abusive attack by the Communist vice-president of the National Union of Mineworkers on the Vice-Chancellor himself. In my judgment this type of thing is entirely unacceptable in a democratic society. Trade unions have to observe the full range of democratic responsibilities.
We have to accept that this debate today is taking place at a moment of high crisis in industrial relations. We have a major dock strike. We have a strike by a large section of the National Union of Mineworkers and there is no sign of it ending. Sterling remains under heavy pressure despite a rise of 2¾ per cent. in interest rates in a period of only seven days. Our debate on these amendments today is taking place in that context and I believe that it is right for the House to recognise that, because the general industrial situation is highly relevant to the debate which we are having this evening. We have the dispute which has been caused by the Transport and General Workers Union at the docks in order to support Mr. Scargill. Mr. Scargill has, of course, decided to have his strike without the ballot that is required by the rules of the National Union of Mineworkers.
It is right for us also to recognise that what we have been witnessing night after night on television of the violence and the intimidation that has been taking place in the Nottinghamshire coalfield, in the Derbyshire coalfield, in Lancashire and in Scotland, demonstrates all too clearly to what lengths the militant leaders of one major trade union in this 1095 country are prepared to go in order to suppress democratic rights within their own organisation.
The amendments moved by the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, on the more limited question to which we are addressing ourselves at the moment do, I recognise at the outset, represent an improvement to the Bill as it arrived in this House. I can say that as one of the sponsors of the amendment which was passed on that occasion. However, it is true that under Amendment No. 9, which is an important amendment, unions will be required to maintain a register of names and addresses of members of the union. That is a most important improvement to the Bill and it is right that we should say so today without any form of qualification whatever.
But of course there is still—and this is the point which the noble Baroness made a few moments ago—no absolute requirement that a secret postal ballot shall take place. Indeed, Amendment No. 7 allows the union to decide whether or not there shall be such a secret postal ballot. Worse, there is still no requirement that secret ballots shall be supervised by an independent agency with the responsibility for ensuring that such ballots are fairly and honestly organised. This is despite the clear evidence—and I hope I shall not give too much pain to the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, for having returned to it—in the series of allegations that Mr. Heathfield, to take just one example, may not have been properly elected General Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers, and also despite the evidence that there has been a series of highly questionable practices in the recent election for the post of General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union.
I think we should deal with this fundamental question. I unreservedly welcome the improvements which have been made to the Bill by the series of amendments which have been tabled today by the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie. But I return to the point made by my noble friend Lord Rochester a few moments ago, that it must be for the certification officer to decide, and not for the union, whether, in the final analysis, a union should be compelled or otherwise to have secret postal ballots. In my view it is quite wrong to allow the union to decide this, particularly when there has been a series of the gravest allegations of impropriety in trade union elections.
The Earl of Gowrie
My Lords, we have had a very considerable debate on this issue on two occasions, in Committee and on Report, and my sense of the feeling of your Lordships' House, though I am very much in the hands of the House, is that your Lordships would now like to proceed towards a conclusion. I have to say that I do not think I have ever taken part in a series of debates which has been so interesting in this particular field of industrial relations law. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton (who is one of the Members of your Lordships' House who, through my listening to him, has taught me most about this field) is a little too gloomy. He says that the trade union movement is hostile to this legislation and so it may not stick, but he added his own qualification when he said, "at least so far as the leadership is concerned".
1096 As we know, one of the difficulties of industrial relations in Great Britain is that for historical reasons trade unions are automatically catapaulted directly into the party political debate through a formal connection with one of the great political parties of the state—a connection which is not very greatly borne out in any evidence that we have in terms of the affiliation or loyalties of their membership, which tends to float or to follow other considerations in deciding the party to vote for, but which for historical reasons we understand. It seems to me that, although it is quite fair for the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, to tease me and to quote back at me some of the cautionary arguments that I used (and to which I still hold) in respect of my noble friend's points of view—because this is an area which is fraught with difficulty—nevertheless he did me less than justice if he assumed that I would not listen to the wishes of the House. These wishes were not expressed by a small part of even one particular section of your Lordships' House; they were very widely felt. At that stage, at least, they were even supported by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, himself. Therefore, we came to the view that we should bow to the wishes of the House, but in the context of making the proposal workable. I argued that I believe we now have it workable at an earlier point in this Report stage.
At this stage the only point I would add is the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, in his amendment to my amendment. If we were to require the unions to satisfy the certification officer before holding a workplace ballot, I suggest that we would alter the very essence of the Bill's approach, and it is this approach that I particularly recommend to the attention not only of the noble Lord but also of his noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich and of my noble friend Lady Cox.
Far from the duty in the new clause being a duty owed by a union to its own members, I have no doubt that the unions would be able to present it as a gross external interference by the state itself in their internal affairs. Equally, I have no doubt—and here I must be very blunt with your Lordships—as to what the result would be. It would be a golden gift to that small section of the union membership, but which nevertheless is its high command, in their resistance to these changes. Most, if not all, of our major unions under their present leaderships would be urged not to go within a mile of the certification officer. We would be risking a classic boycott situation for little gain, because I have no doubt that, if workplace ballots do not work, both the certification officer and the High Court will be used, not least by those who have an interest in standing in those workplace ballots.
As I have said, we have had a good run over the course, and I think it is now time that we came to a conclusion. The Government have listened very carefully; they have moved in the direction which your Lordships want. I shall, of course, listen to the further representations that have been made to me by my noble friend Lady Cox and others in respect of a code of practice. I think that we now have it about right, and that we should establish it in legislation and let it settle down. I have no doubt whatever that it will be widely welcomed and widely used. I beg to move.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 6) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 142; Not-Contents, 44.1098
|DIVISION NO. 2|
|Airedale, L.||Kinnaird, L.|
|Airey of Abingdon, B.||Kirkwood, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Kissin, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Lane-Fox, B.|
|Attlee, E.||Lindsey and Abingdon, E.|
|Auckland, L.||Lloyd of Hampstead, L.|
|Avon, E.||Long, V.|
|Aylestone, L.||McAlpine of West Green, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||McFadzean, L.|
|Bauer, L.||Macleod of Borve, B.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Mancroft, L.|
|Beloff, L.||Margadale, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Marley, L.|
|Birdwood, L.||Marsh, L.|
|Boardman, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Boothby, L.||Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L.|
|Broadbridge, L.||Mayhew, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Broxbourne, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Bruce-Gardyne, L.||Middleton, L.|
|Burton of Coventry, B.||Monson, L.|
|Caithness, E.||Mottistone, L.|
|Cameron of Lochbroom, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Munster, E.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Chelwood, L.||Newall, L.|
|Cockfield, L.||Northchurch, B.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Colwyn, L.||Ogmore, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||O'Neill of the Maine, L.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Onslow, E.|
|Cox, B.||Orkney, E.|
|Craigton, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Croft, L.||Pender, L.|
|Daventrv, V.||Perth, E.|
|De La Warr, E.||Polwarth, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Portland, D.|
|Diamond, L.||Quinton, L.|
|Digby, L.||Rathcreedan, L.|
|Dilhorne, V.||Reigate, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Renton, L.|
|Duncan-Sandys, L.||Renwick, L.|
|Eccles, V.||Roberthall, L.|
|Ellenborough, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Ryder of Warsaw, B.|
|Elton, L.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Falkland, V.||St. Davids, V.|
|Ferrier, L.||Saltoun, Ly.|
|Feversham, L.||Seear, B.|
|Gainford, L.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Gardner of Parkes, B.||Simon, V.|
|Gladwyn, L.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Glanusk, L.||Somers, L.|
|Gormanston, V.||Spens, L.|
|Gowrie, E.||Stedman, B.|
|Greenway, L.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Grey, E.||Suffield, L.|
|Gridley, L.||Swinfen, L.|
|Halsbury, E.||Swinton, E. [Teller.]|
|Hampton, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Hankey, L.||Thomas of Swynnerton, L.|
|Hardinge of Penshurst, L.||Thorneycroft, L.|
|Harris of Greenwich, L.||Tordoff, L.|
|Henley, L.||Trenchard, V.|
|Home of the Hirsel, L.||Ullswater, V.|
|Hooson, L.||Waldegrave, E.|
|Hylton-Foster, B.||Whitelaw, V.|
|Inglewood, L.||Wigoder, L.|
|Ingrow, L.||Wilson of Langside, L.|
|Ironside, L.||Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.|
|Ardwick, L.||Lovell-Davis, L.|
|Balogh, L.||McCarthy, L.|
|Bernstein, L.||McIntosh of Haringey, L.|
|Birk, B.||Milner of Leeds, L.|
|Boston of Faversham, L.||Molloy, L.|
|Bottomley, L.||Nicol, B.|
|Brockway, L.||Oram, L.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Collison, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]|
|Dean of Beswick, L.||Ross of Marnock, L.|
|Ennals, L.||Scanlon, L.|
|Gallacher, L.||Stewart of Alvechurch, B.|
|Gosford, E.||Stewart of Fulham, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.]||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Hatch of Lusby, L.||Underhill, L.|
|Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Irving of Dartford, L.||Wedderburn of Charlton, L.|
|Jacques, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Jeger, B.||Willis, L.|
|Jenkins of Putney, L.||Winterbottom, L.|
|John-Mackie, L.||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ The Earl of Gowrie moved Amendment No. 7:
§ [Printed earlier: col. 1074.]
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, I have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.
§ Lord Rochester moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 7, Amendment No. 8:
§ [Printed earlier: col. 1079.]
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I think that the principle of this amendment to the Government's amendment is abundantly plain to your Lordships. The debate has been such as to cause me to feel that it would be appropriate for me to put that principle to the test, and without more ado or more words on my part I beg to move this amendment.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment to the amendment (No. 8) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 39; Not-Contents, 134.1099
|DIVISION NO. 3|
|Airedale, L.||Kissin, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Mais, L.|
|Attlee, E.||Marsh, L.|
|Aylestone, L.||Mayhew, L.|
|Bauer, L.||Monson, L.|
|Burton of Coventry, B.||Munster, E.|
|Cox, B.||Ogmore, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Rathcreedan, L.|
|Diamond, L.||Roberthall, L.|
|Feversham, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Gladwyn, L.||Seear, B.|
|Grey, E.||Simon, V.|
|Halsbury, E.||Spens, L.|
|Hampton, L.||Stedman, B. [Teller.]|
|Hankey, L.||Tordoff, L.|
|Harris of Greenwich, L.||Wigoder, L. [Teller.]|
|Hooson, L.||Wilson of Langside, L.|
|Howie of Troon, L.||Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.|
|Kirkwood, L.||Winterbottom, L.|
|Airey of Abingdon, B.||Lindsey and Abingdon, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Long, V.|
|Auckland, L.||Lovell-Davis, L.|
|Avon, E.||McAlpine of West Green, L|
|Bathurst, E.||McCarthy, L.|
|Bellwin, L.||McFadzean, L.|
|Belstead, L.||McIntosh of Haringey, L.|
|Birdwood, L.||Macleod of Borve, B.|
|Birk, B.||Mancroft, L.|
|Boardman, L.||Margadale, L.|
|Boothby, L.||Marley, L.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Broadbridge, L.||Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.|
|Broxbourne, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Bruce-Gardyne, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Caithness, E.||Middleton, L.|
|Cameron of Lochbroom, L.||Milner of Leeds, L.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Molloy, L.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Mottistone, L.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Chelwood, L.||Newall, L.|
|Cockfield, L.||Nicol, B.|
|Collison, L.||Northchurch, B,|
|Colwyn, L.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Onslow, E.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Oram, L.|
|Craigton, L.||Orkney, E.|
|Cranbrook, E.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Croft, L.||Pender, L.|
|Daventry, V.||Perth, E.|
|David, B,||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Dean of Beswick, L.||Polwarth, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Digby, L.||Portland, D.|
|Dilhorne, V.||Quinton, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Reigate, L.|
|Duncan-Sandys, L.||Renwick, L.|
|Eccles, V.||Ross of Marnock, L.|
|Ellenborough, L.||Ryder of Warsaw, B.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Elton, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Ennals, L.||Saltoun, Ly.|
|Ferrier, L.||Scanlon, L.|
|Gainford, L.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Gallacher, L.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Gardner of Parkes, B.||Somers, L.|
|Glanusk, L.||Stallard, L.|
|Gosford, E.||Stewart of Alvechurch, B.|
|Gowrie, E.||Stewart of Fulham, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Greenway, L.||Stone, L.|
|Gridley, L.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Hardinge of Penshurst, L.||Suffield, L.|
|Hatch of Lusby, L.||Swinfen, L.|
|Henley, L.||Swinton, E. [Teller.]|
|Home of the Hirsel, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Homsby-Smith, B.||Thomas of Swynnerton, L.|
|Hylton-Foster, B.||Thorneycroft, L.|
|Inglewood, L.||Trenchard, V.|
|Ingrow, L.||Ullswater, V.|
|Ironside, L.||Underhill, L.|
|Irving of Dartford, L.||Waldegrave, E.|
|Jacques, L.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Jenkins of Putney, L.||Wedderburn of Charlton, L.|
|John-Mackie, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Kinnaird, L.||Whitelaw, V.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment to the amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 7.17 p.m.
§ On Question, Amendment No. 7 agreed to.
§ The Earl of Gowrie moved Amendment No. 9:
§ [Printed earlier: col. 1074]1100
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
My Lords, may I ask a question? If a statutory duty is imposed on the unions, is any statutory duty imposed on the members? Is there anything in this which requires or can compel a member of a union to supply his private address to his union? Does this have to be in the rules? Some members may take the view that they do not want their union to know their private address in case the pickets get hold of it. This seems to be an extraordinary duty to impose on trade unions when there is no means of fulfilling it.
The Earl of Gowrie
My Lords, we have not imposed this duty. It can be any address supplied by the member, including the address of the place of work.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ The Earl of Gowrie rose to move Amendment No, 10:
§ [Printed earlier: col. 1074.]
§ The nobe Earl said: My Lords, I have already spoken to this amendment.
§ Lord Wedderburn of Charlton
My Lords, I had understood, and this puts us in considerable difficulty, that it had been agreed that there would be a separate debate on Amendment No. 10 and those amendments that go with it.
The Earl of Gowrie
My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord. My original brief said "Amendments Nos. 9 to 14 inclusive", but I see that I have put in my bad handwriting beside it that there should be a separate debate on Amendment No. 10. It might be for the convenience of the House, if we are to have a debate on Amendment No. 10, that the House should now adjourn for supper. I therefore beg to move that further consideration of the Bill on Report be adjourned for three-quarters of an hour.
Moved accordingly and, on Question, Motion agreed to.