§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Tomlinson)
I beg to move, in page 4, line 28, to leave out "twenty-five," and to insert "fifty."
We promised to give consideration to the question of the fines to be imposed in the event of conviction, and this Amendment is the result of the consideration.
§ Mr. Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
When the Clause was being considered in Committee an Amendment was moved. Subsequently there was a discussion on the subject on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." I take it that those discussions have led the Minister to put down the Amendment which has just been moved. The intention of those discussions, and of this Amendment I take it, is to secure that it shall not be more profitable for an employer to pay the penalty than to comply with the award of the tribunal. For that purpose, it is now proposed to raise the 1606 maximum penalty from £25 to £50, both for the offence and for the continuing penalty, if failure to comply continues. In the discussions it was suggested that it might be possible to secure compliance with the award more effectively than by the imposition of a penalty. As every body pointed out, it was easy to conceive circumstances in which even the penalty now proposed would be cheaper than failure to comply with the Order, and that thereby the intention of the Clause, the Bill and of the present Amendment would be defeated. Everybody recognised, too, that to devise machinery for making the award operative, as it were, of itself, might be so difficult as to be impossible. My hon. Friend assured me that attention had been given to the matter and that, unfortunately, no such machinery had been devised. I want to make a practical suggestion to my hon. Friend. Probably he cannot carry it out here, but there will be time before the Bill becomes law to consider whether he thinks the suggestion practicable, and I hope that he will give it sympathetic consideration.
We are setting up a tribunal by the Bill. It is not a normal court of law but a tribunal with power to hear two sides, or more, if there are more than two, and to come to a decision and make an award. That award may entitle the worker to the payment of a sum of money. Clause 4 provides that any sum due by virtue of such an award can be recovered by summary proceedings. The award may not be concerned only with the payment of a sum of money, because Clause 5 (3,b) provides that the award shall state precisely what steps are to be taken by the employer in order to discharge such obligation in relation to a trade practice. Suppose an award states precisely certain steps which an employer, or any other person under the control of an employer, ought to take, and suppose that those steps are not taken; Clause 5 provides certain penalties. The Amendment re defines what those penalties are to be. If the tribunal were any other kind of court it could enforce its own award. It could make certain that its behests were obeyed. If the award were a sum of money, there is the process of execution. If it were an award ordaining that a certain deed shall be performed and if the person adjudged liable to do the deed of take the steps did not obey, that person would be guilty 1607 of contempt of court. It would not be that he had committed an offence which needed to be proved again and which would attract new penalties. He would be in contempt, and the court could secure that its award was made operative by an order of the judge, putting in prison the person who is in default.
§ Mr. Austin Hopkinson (Mossley)
That is, of course, what happens to a lot of people. Under the Act which was passed at the end of the last war, it was perfectly clear that I should go to prison, and that would have happened if action had not been taken which enabled the withdrawal of the second writ. If the hon. Member wants to send employers to prison for employing workers at higher wages, he will be making an end of this Act of Parliament in the same way as the previous Act was ended.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am not concerned with the issue of any writs and I have no more desire than has any other Member of the House to see the hon. Member go to prison. I am not concerned to prevent people paying high wages to workers, and the Bill is not concerned with cases of individual employers or individual workers. It is concerned with anyone, a Member of this House or anyone else, who takes a specious course of action which, on the face of it, looks generous, but is designed, not so much to secure a benefit to a few individuals as to undermine the whole organisation by which organised labour retains its position in a competitive economic world. I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that if a tribunal is to make awards, it is in the interest of every body that those awards should be effective. The hon. Member would agree, whether he approves of the law or not, that it is his duty as a citizen to obey it, and that it is in the public interest that if a tribunal exists it shall not be abortive but shall have the same power as any other tribunal to make its decisions work. If that leads to injustice or to consequences which anyone thinks anti-social, he has his remedy in the House by seeking to get the law amended.
That however has nothing to do with my point, which is that so long as the tribunal exists and has the power to make awards the awards should be effective and not abortive. The simple way of doing that is not by imposing penalties, but by 1608 treating a man who is in default under such an award precisely as we treat a per son who is in default under the judgment of any other court. We ought not to need a summons or summary conviction or any thing of that kind. In any other court of which a person is in contempt, the court has power to put him in prison and to keep him there until he purges his contempt. The only way in which he can do that is by ceasing his defiance of the law and complying with the judgment. There is no reason in principle for not applying that view of the matter to this tribunal, and there would be no difficulty in practice.
I suggest that in that way two results would be secured. One is that it would no longer be more profitable for anybody to continue in defiance of the award than to comply with it. The other is that a multiplicity of proceedings would be avoided. Under this Clause a new proceeding, a new summons, a new trial and a new penalty would be needed every time there was an individual failure to comply with an award. That ought not to be necessary. The failure to comply with an award ought to be a contempt of court and treated as such, and the award of the tribunal ought to be made operative as is the judgment of any other court. I considered whether there was any way of moving an Amendment, but that would not have given the Department a fair opportunity to come to a decision. I put the suggestion forward, therefore, for my hon. Friend's consideration. I am sure that he will not doubt my friendliness to the Bill. All I am doing is to recommend to the Government what I am convinced would be an improvement in the principle of the Bill and the machinery whereby it will be enforced.
§ Mr. Hopkinson
The House ought to consider the real meaning of what we have just heard from the hon. Member. It is highly improbable that a case will be brought under this Bill except a case similar to that which destroyed the last pre-war practices Act, because I under stand that no other employer in the country except myself will defy this Bill, as I propose to defy it, if the circumstances arise. The hon. Member wants to impose imprisonment on an employer for employing a man disabled in the war under conditions which are distinctly better than those which the trade unions set up. 1609 Instead of throwing on the street and on to charity a man who has lost both legs, he trains him carefully in a trade. That is the sort of case which in all probability will arise if this Bill becomes an Act.
§ Mr. Silverman
Will the hon. Gentle man consider the other kind of case? He naturally chooses one that recommends itself to the sentiment of the House.
§ Mr. Silverman
That was after the last war, but we are considering the future. There might be a case of a recalcitrant employer who says that it does not pay him to comply with the law, that he can make a lot more money by not complying with it, even by paying the penalty. Therefore, penalty or no penalty, he decides to continue in defiance of the law and of the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Hopkinson
If the hon. Member knows anything about industry, he knows perfectly well that no employer will do that. Nobody did after the last war except me.
§ Mr. Naylor (Southwark, South-East)
On a point of Order. In view of the fact that the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) has expressed his defiance of the House of Commons and declared his intention of not carrying out the provisions of what may shortly become an Act of Parliament, is not that sufficient justification for you, Sir, to order his removal to the Clock Tower?
§ Mr. Hopkinson
I am sure Mr. Speaker is not taking the responsibility for a decision of that sort. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) says that the tribunal should have the right to send a man to gaol. What will the tribunal consist of? On the precedent of the last tribunal, it will consist of a chairman, presumably unbiased, of a trade union official, who is the prosecutor in the case in question, and a member of the Employers' Federation who, in the tease of a person like me, who will have nothing to do with the Employers' Federation, will be prejudiced from the start against the unfortunate defendant. That court in my own case took evidence. Evidence was given which I can only describe as a cold, calculated lie, because it was perfectly known to everybody 1610 engaged in our industry in Lancashire that what was said was not true. It was stated that no man could work a planing machine in an engineering shop in Lancashire unless he had served seven years' apprenticeship to the trade. Every engineer knows that was not true, and I was convicted on a deliberate lie by a court of which two of the three members at least were prejudiced and one was actually the prosecutor in the case.
§ Mr. Hopkinson
I am not revengeful. I believe in retribution, but not revenge. I ask the House to consider whether we are not making the law a farce if we do this sort of thing. We set up a prejudiced tribunal and then it is proposed to give it the right to imprison a man for the appalling crime which I have related.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
I will look at the suggestion which my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) has made. What I am afraid of is that what we are seeking to avoid may become the first principle in the Bill, namely, that the court should have the powers of summary jurisdiction. We are hoping that the need to call a court of summary jurisdiction will arise on very few occasions. With regard to the argument of the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson), what he was suggesting is not a proposal that is laid down in the Bill. Even people who seek to act in defiance of the law find themselves up against the law itself. If there is defiance of the law, of course the law will have to take its course. It is perfectly obvious that when you are legislating you are not legislating for individuals but for the community, and you have to deal with it in that sense.
§ Mr. Hopkinson
My hon. Friend says he is going to consider this matter. Will he consider the possibility of applying Regulation 18B to this, and then he would not need a court at all?
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendment made: In page 4, line 32, leave out "twenty-five," and insert "fifty."—[Mr. Tomlinson.]1611
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke)
On behalf of my hon. Friends of the organisations which will be affected by this Bill, I desire to express their appreciation at its introduction. The Bill has been improved as a result of its passage through this House, and I would like to place on record our appreciation of the way it has been handled by the Minister and of the way it has been received by the whole House. The spirit which has prevailed has been very good, and I hope that the same spirit will prevail when the Measure is being administered after the war. I hope we shall avoid a repetition of the spirit which found expression in the observations made by my hon. Friend who spoke earlier. After the war we shall be in a very difficult situation in this country, and it is most important that the good relations which were built up in industry before the war, and which have been improved during the war, should be maintained. They will not be maintained unless the spirit that has found expression during the deliberations of the House on this Bill finds expression also in its administration. Therefore, my hon. Friends and I welcome the Bill, and I trust that the few observations I have made will be noted by all persons concerned.
§ Mr. Hopkinson
I rise not to oppose the Third Reading, but to ask the House to kick the silly thing forward as quickly as possible, and get on with it.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies (Westhoughton)
I should not have risen to speak at all had it not been for the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman). I hope and believe that at the end of this war there will not be as much trouble in restoring trade practices as has been suggested. There are obviously some practices which will lapse of their own accord, but I want to ask the hon. Gentleman to bear in mind one point and that is about the administration of the law. The mere fact that we pass an Act of Parliament means nothing, unless some machinery exists to implement it, and I suppose it will rest with the trade unions, if their trade practices are not restored, to take up the cudgels on behalf of their members. The real point which I want to make is this. It has 1612 been borne upon my mind on many occasions in connection with the administration of the Shops Act—I mean the question of fines. Some years ago violations of the Shops Act by opening shops on Sunday became an absolute scandal. Shopkeepers were being fined 2s. 6d. or 5s. for each offence of opening on Sunday, and it paid them to open and pay the very small fines imposed by the courts. I do not presume for a moment that that will apply under this Bill when it becomes law, but let us remember that when we put in a £50 fine it is a maximum and not a minimum, and I would not be a bit surprised if in Lancashire, for instance, very small fines were imposed under this Measure. I have taken some interest in the annual reports of factory inspectors from time to time, and it has appalled me to find on occasions that people sitting on magisterial benches, if they are employers in the same line of business as the defendant and one of their number is brought before the court for violating the Factory Acts, impose fines as low as 2S. 6d. or 5s.
§ Mr. Wootton-Davies (Heywood and Radcliffe)
Has the hon. Gentleman any evidence that magistrates differentiate between people in that way? Can he pro duce any evidence?
§ Mr. Davies
Fines have been imposed of the amounts I have stated, and they are on record. I wish I could believe that human nature has elevated itself to such a high level that a group of employers will not feel kindly disposed to one of their number. I believe that this Bill will be welcomed in industry on all sides, and I sincerely trust the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) will not be so foolish as to challenge the House of Commons, otherwise I am afraid he will find that the House of Commons will de feat him.
§ Mr. Hopkinson
Unfortunately the fine will have to be paid by the trade unionists that I employ. The trouble is this. I do not get a penny out of my business and all the profits go to the men concerned, and they may find that it will be a charge upon the business which will be payable by them.
§ Mr. Davies
The answer to that is a simple one, namely, that all wealth comes out of employment of some kind. There 1613 is no wealth unless it is produced by some body's labour. The hon. Gentleman uses his brain in his business, but the work-people he employs—and I understand he is a very good employer—surely produce the wealth which he handles.
§ Mr. Silverman
I do not think that the very contemptuous attitude of the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) ought to go quite unrebuked by this House. He is entirely entitled to any opinion he may hold, and to voice it, but he is not entitled to treat with such complete contempt the opinion of every other Member of the House. He is in a minority of one. I have observed through out the discussions on this Measure that most employers want this Bill to become law, and it is certainly true that all the Labour organisations want it to become law; I do not say that that should lead him to alter his opinion, but surely the hon. Member might at any rate show this courtesy to the opinion of other people: that when the combined opinion of both sides is so overwhelmingly unanimous in opposition to the view which he himself puts forward, he should not try to cover the paucity of support which he gets by an extension of his attitude of contempt and defiance towards the opinion of everybody here. He said that he was able, on the last occasion, by going to court and paying the fine, to set at nought the law which this House had laid down. What we are concerned with is to see that this law shall not be defied as the last one was, and that is why I made the suggestion which I made earlier and which the Minister is going to consider. It seems that we are getting into a very strange position when a man can get up in this House and say not merely that he does not agree with it, but also use phrases like "kick it along," "get on with it," "it will not matter," and "I propose to defy it." I belong to Lancashire, as does the hon. Gentleman. Lancashire likes an independent mind and attitude. I am not always accused myself of lack of independence, particularly where the Government is concerned.
§ Mr. Silverman
All I wish to say to the hon. Gentleman is that Lancashire itself 1614 has suffered a great deal from the extent to which independence has become anarchy.
§ Mr. Silverman
The purpose of this Bill is to prevent, when the war is over, and when trade practices are resumed, anarchy in organised labour, to prevent lawlessness as between employer and employed, to prevent the old law of the economic jungle as between people with only their labour to sell and others who have a good deal of power to exploit that labour. I hope that the Bill will be passed, not in any spirit of contempt, but with a determination to see that its pro visions are enforced.
§ Mr. Henry Strauss (Norwich)
This Bill provides, for the benefit of trade unionists, a compulsory return to pre-war practices. I support that Bill on the grounds which I explained to the House on Second Reading, but I think that the Howe should not ignore the implications of the Bill. If it is considered eminently proper that trade unionists should have guaranteed to them a return to pre-war practices, it will be most ungenerous of them if, on some future occasion, they represent it as monstrous that anyone other than a trade unionist should wish to have some return to the conditions which he or she enjoyed before the war, even though such return might be in the interests of the country and a return to something that was worthy and good. It seems to me quite intolerable that trade unionists should say—not many do say it but it is sometimes said on their behalf—that the old order, every thing we enjoyed before the war, is properly dead, but that thy make an exception of everything that they as trade unionists enjoyed. I welcome this Bill; I think the trade unionists are entitled to the fulfilment of a pledge. Therefore, this Bill is right, but it is not right to claim privileges for trade unionists as though they were the only class of the community that has made sacrifices for this war. There are other classes who have made greater sacrifices and with no guarantee that what they enjoyed before the war will ever be restored. They have done that willingly and rightly, but it should not be represented in this House or out- 1615 side it that, if it is right for trade unionists to hope to return to the position before the war, it is entirely improper for anyone not a trade unionist to do the same thing.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)
Though I was interested in what the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. H. Strauss) has just said, and though there may be a great deal in the line of argument he used in supporting the Bill, I would like to support it from a rather different point of view. It is sometimes assumed by those with little knowledge of the different branches or arteries of industry that there is a perpetual form of warfare between employers and trade unionists. Such an assumption cuts right across the truth and spreads the seed of future trouble most dangerous to all those engaged in industry and to the very State itself. I support this Bill, though I recognise it puts both trade unionists and employers into a particular position vis-a-vis their neighbours in the community. I support the Bill because I think it is in the best tradition of the best type of trade union history. It is, after all, a Bill which in effect—so it appears to me—gives some thing in the nature of compulsory arbitration on a number of difficult points, Assuming that is so, I think we can fairly say it gives something in the nature of a pool within which discussion can take place under post-war conditions to see how far pre-war conditions can be amended to meet a new situation. With out that pool or protected area or zone at the time when the war is ended the chaos that would ensue would be similar to that which ensued after the last war.
§ Mr. Hopkinson
The hon. Member refers to the chaos after the last war. He has forgotten there was a similar Act in force then.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I have not forgotten the date of that Act. I think the point is that we are making quite clear now that the points of difficulty will be open to discussion, and arbitration, and settlement, in a fair manner.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
We are endeavouring to protect ourselves against the dangers of an unknown situation as far as we possibly can. That is the value of the Bill. It is in accordance with the best traditions of trade union history in this country which, in fact, is not what it is assumed to be so often, even on the other side of the Atlantic; it is not a matter of the employer picking up a bludgeon and trying to beat down the worker and the worker picking up a bludgeon and trying to beat down the employer. The majority of this structure of trade union history and the history of industry of this country has been built up on sound, steady, what might be termed, research, conversation, discussion, between those engaged in industry. Because of that I believe the Bill is fully worthy of the support of the House.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
There is very little I wish to say, but I would like to express thanks for the way in which the House has received the Bill, and particularly to thank the hon. Member for Weston-super Mare (Mr. Orr-Ewing), who has just spoken for saying what I wanted to say in so much better language than I could have employed.
§ Question, "That the Bill be now read the Third time," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read the Third time, and passed.