HC Deb 10 March 1931 vol 249 cc991-4

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to establish a National Industrial Council; and for other purposes connected therewith. I move this Motion with the desire to make a contribution towards the new machinery for conciliation and co-operation in industry which I think we all feel to be essential if we are to regain our old-time prosperity. I think we all feel the necessity for harmony in industry. There was in 1919 a National Industrial Conference, very much on the lines of the body proposed in this Bill. That was a conference at which representatives of the employers and the employed came to agreement on a large number of important points. The agreement was not carried into effect owing to the slump which arrived at that time and the depression which, in many directions, supervened. Later on, during what are known as the Mond-Turner discussions, an agreement was come to that a National Industrial Council should be set up and one finds among members of all parties, the desire for a body of that kind in one form or another. I may mention that National Industrial Councils have been set up in the following countries: Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, South Africa, Spain and the United States of America.

4.0 p.m.

The proposal in this Bill is that there should be set up a body in the nature of an industrial Parliament. It would not interfere in any way with Parliament. I believe it would assist to a considerable extent the work of Parliament and relieve it of a good deal of the detailed business which it does at present, and thus prevent waste of time and energy. There would be 300 members, consisting of 40 representatives of the House of Commons, 20 of the House of Lords, 100 members chosen by representative bodies of employers, 100 chosen by trade unions and workers representatives and 40 ex officio members. There would also be a smaller body which would meet once a month to consider various matters to be brought before the council. The objects of this National Industrial Council would be mainly three. First of all, it would be a normal channel of communication between organised industry on both sides and the Minister of Labour of the day, and, therefore, through him, or through her, to this House. Secondly, I believe that it would do a great deal to save the time of this House, and to enable better and more effective Measures to be brought forward. Probably, as a result of the discussion in the National Council, agreement would be arrived at on a great number of points, so that when a Bill actually arrived in this House, there would be only a limited number of trivial points to be discussed and agreed upon or divided upon in this House. I have in mind such Bills as the Factories Bill, Unemployment Insurance and other Bills of that kind. Every Measure, whether Government or private, affecting industry, would go through, as it were, a sifting process in the National Industrial Council, and would come here, probably, to find a much readier access to the Statute Book than is possible at the present time. In that way, time would be made available for other Measures which Members are continually asking to be brought forward.

The third way in which, I believe, a council of this nature would assist the country, would be in dealing with possible stoppages, whether lock-outs or strikes. A great deal of excellent work in this direction is done, we know, by the Trades Union Congress at the present time as a mediatory body when a dispute breaks out, but, I think, such work would be much more effectively done if you had a body representing both sides of the industry, and ever looking ahead and preventing friction from actually arising. I believe that a body of this kind might render very great service to the nation. I well recognise that a Bill of this kind is not likely at the present stage, or in the circumstances of the moment, to reach the Statute Book at a very rapid pace. I realise that it is a matter which requires to be considered a great deal, but I do ask the House to allow the Bill to receive a First Reading now, in order that it may be printed, and its provisions, which, of course, I have not been able to describe in any detail, may be carefully considered by all those in this country who are closely interested in matters of this kind. I hope the result may be that it will do something to assist the work of Parliament, and to promote the great cause of industrial peace in this country.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Mander, Sir Robert Aske, Mr. Granville, Mr. Gray, Mr. Kingsley Griffith, Mr. Harris, Mr. Hore-Belisha, Mr. Philip Oliver, and Mr. Graham White.