HC Deb 08 March 1933 vol 275 cc1175-8

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. This Bill has been introduced several times in past Sessions. It is intended as a contribution to the more effective functioning of our constitutional machinery. I think it is generally felt that some new centralised machinery for the complicated situation of the present day is required, as the present machinery is inadequate, in view of the fact that we are no longer living under the easy-going conditions that used to exist in the past. In the year 1919, just after the War, a national industrial council was summoned and was very widely representative of both employers and employed. At that conference a remarkable amount of agreement was reached between both sides but, owing to the slump which supervened, it was not found possible then to carry any of those measures into effect. At a later stage, during the last few years, the Mond-Turner negotiations took place, and one of the results of those negotiations was a recommendation that a national industrial council on the lines suggested in this Bill should be set up. Unfortunately, nothing has as yet eventuated, although it was recommended both by the representatives of the employers and the employed. Various distinguished Members of this House have also from time to time put forward suggestions on the lines of the proposals of this Measure.

At the present time there is an Industrial Council in existence in Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, South Africa, Spain and the United States. Shortly, the object is to set up what is in the nature of an industrial parliament. It would, of course, he wholly subordinate and subject to this Parliament and would act in an advisory capacity to it. It would, I believe, save a great deal of time in regard to the Measures brought before Parliament, by eliminating many causes of controversy and enabling our work to be carried through in a more effective way and with a shorter use of time. It is proposed that there should be 300 members of the council—40 Members of this House, 20 Members of the other House, 100 representatives of employers, 100 representatives of employés and 40 ex-officio members. There would be also a smaller body elected by it, a sort of executive council, which would meet once a month. The object of the council would be, first of all, to act as the normal channel of communication between the Government, the Minister of Labour and organised labour on both sides in this country. Whenever the Minister wanted to make any intimation to industry, or to ask for advice, he would go as a matter of course to this highly representative body.

Secondly, such a council would save the time of this House to a very considerable degree. What is contemplated is, that when any Measure dealing with industry was introduced into this House it would be submitted to the National Industrial Council for detailed consideration, where it could be dealt with in a much more practical manner than it can be in this House. Many controversial points would, of course, remain, but they would be isolated from the others. A good deal of the non-controversial matter in the Bill could be put into very good technical form, in an agreed form, and when the Measure came to this House we should have left a number of points of principle which were controversial and which we should have no difficulty in deciding. The other matters where there was agreement could be put before us in a. form acceptable to those who would be most affected by any legislation. I might suggest, for example, such a Bill as the Factories Bill or the Unemployment Insurance Bill. The latter Bill will, no doubt, be very controversial, but even in that Bill there must be a considerable amount of matter.

In the third place, the council would have the duty of acting as a conciliation body when disputes were breaking out or were likely to break out. The Trades Union Council to-day, through its committee, is doing and has done a great deal of useful work in mediating in disputes, but excellent as that work is it is hampered by the fact that only one side is represented. If you had employers as well as employés coming as a mediation body to intervene at the right moment in disputes, still more effective results could be obtained, and it would be less necessary than now to call on the Minister of Labour to intervene in what is, after all, the concern of industry in the first place and not that of the Government. I hope the House will feel that at a time when we are realising more every day the necessity for national planning in all spheres of activity this project, which I have only been able briefly to outline, is well worthy of their detailed consideration.

It may be asked, why cannot this body be set up on a voluntary basis? I agree, and recommendations to that effect have been made. If the effect of the introduction of this Bill results in stimulating interest once more and in bringing about the voluntary setting up of such a body, it would be far preferable, and I should feel that I had not intervened in vain. Certainly, this Bill would not interfere with that project, but it might help towards it, and then a Statute would become unnecessary. If we had such a body we should know that in future when we acted in this House in industrial matters we were acting with the full knowledge of the considered opinion of those best fitted in industry to give it and, from the technical point of view, best able to give us their advice. Moreover, by having a Measure of this kind we should be taking a real step forward in maintaining industrial peace throughout all the industries of this land.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Mander, Sir Robert Aske, Mr. Bernays, Mr. Richard Evans, Mr. Dingle Foot, Sir Percy Harris, Mr. Granville, Mr. Kingsley Griffith, Major Lloyd George, and Major Nathan.