HC Deb 25 June 1947 vol 439 cc457-68
Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)

I beg to move, in page 57, line 6, at the end, to insert: (2) In carrying out their duties under the last preceding Subsection, the Central Authority shall not refuse to consult with any organisation appearing to represent an appreciable proportion of persons employed by Electricity Boards, or of any class of such persons. This Amendment seeks to add a new Subsection to Clause 47, which deals generally with the relations between the electricity authorities and their staffs. As the Bill stands, it is laid down, in Subsection (1), that it shall be the duty of the Central Authority to seek consultation with any organisation appearing to them to be appropriate with a view to the conclusion between the Authority and that organisation of such agreements as appear to the parties to be desirable. That is extraordinarily little, because unless an organisation appears to the Central Authority to be appropriate, there is no obligation of any kind upon the Authority to enter into negotiations with them. This Amendment seeks to provide that where an appreciable proportion of persons employed by the boards, or an appreciable proportion of a class of persons employed by the boards, are organised in any particular organisation, it shall be the duty of the Central Authority to discuss and negotiate with them on wages and conditions, and so forth. This is considered desirable because of the situations which have developed in other nationalised and semi-nationalised industries. The hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo), the day before yesterday, took the line, on an Amendment moved from this side of the House, that it was unnecessary because it sought to deal with a danger which had not yet arisen. That cannot be urged against this Amendment, because this Amendment is designed to prevent the Central Electricity Authority following the example of the Coal Board, by refusing to negotiate with organisations among its employees.

In the case of the Coal Board, as the right hon. Gentleman is only too well aware, he has had, until this morning, a strike on his hands, solely by reason of the refusal of the Coal Board to recognise and discuss conditions with the Administrative and Clerical Workers' Union. The right hon. Gentleman is also well aware of the potentially dangerous situation which is developing by reason of the Coal Board's refusal to recognise and negotiate with the British Association of Colliery Officials and Staff. It is precisely to prevent that same sort of situation developing in this industry that this Amendment has been brought forward. Not only has this situation arisen in the coal industry, but the potentialities of it arising in the electricity industry are even greater.

Mr. Hobson

Can the hon. Member name one organisation of workers or tech- nicians that has not been recognised by the conciliation machinery which already exists in the electricity undertakings?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The hon. Member is dealing with the present position when the industry is under private enterprise. This Amendment is not designed to deal with that situation, which this Bill seeks to bring to an end. I am inclined to agree with the hon. Member that the situation has not become so bad under private enterprise to warrant this precaution being taken. The object of this Amendment is to deal with the situation when the Central Electricity Authority and its satellite boards are set up. A fair standard to apply is not that of private enterprise, but that of the public monopolies, and, in particular, the public monopoly which comes directly under the responsibilities of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Fuel and Power.

I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman proposes to follow what he did in the case of the coal industry, by putting on this authority representatives associated with the major unions. If he does, he will appreciate that, with the best will in the world, a man who has spent the whole of his life in building up a particular union is not likely to regard the claims of another union very sympathetically. That has certainly been the experience of those unions which are rivals to the National Union of Mine-workers, when having to deal with Mr. Ebby Edwards of the National Coal Board. If it is the intention of the Minister to direct the Central Electricity Authority to continue the happy state of affairs which has existed in the industry under private enterprise, he can have no conceivable objection to accepting this Amendment, because it will only write into the Bill what are precisely his intentions. It is only if that state of affairs, which the hon. Member for North Wembley (Mr. Hobson) has so rightly praised, is brought to an end, that the provisions of this Amendment will take effect. If the hon. Member wants this state of affairs to continue, he can safeguard that by supporting this Amendment.

This Amendment seeks to prevent what is unfortunately happening in the coal industry. It is not a case of any vague or general apprehensions, but a case of very precise apprehensions, based on what has happened in a neighbouring industry. In the case of electricity, it is even more important to provide this safeguard, owing to the wide variety of unions involved. For example, this Bill provides for the taking over of local authority undertakings. As the hon. Member for North Wembley knows perfectly well, many of the staffs of the local authority undertakings are members of a union connected with local government, rather than of a union connected with the industry. This includes members of the National Association of Local Government Officers, who are very apprehensive about their position in the industry. It lies within the power of the right hon. Gentleman to quieten these apprehensions by accepting this Amendment, and it lies within his power to start off this great experiment in an atmosphere of suspicion and intrigue by refusing to accept it, in which case he will leave us in the unfortunate position of having a repetition of the coal scandal.

Major Peter Roberts (Sheffield, Ecclesall)

I beg to second the Amendment.

Hon. Members who keep harking back to the labour relations as they have been., should remember that an entirely new principle of nationalisation is being introduced. This is a State monopoly of labour, and where there is a State monopoly of labour the position is entirely different and it is the duty of this House to safeguard all sections. We remember that during the coal Debate this same point was put to the Minister on two or three occasions, but he steadfastly refused to meet us. We are now seeing some of the consequences in other industries. If he persists in his attitude, it will only lead to troubles arising in this industry as in the coal industry.

4.30 p.m.

Mr. Shinwell

If the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) knew anything about the subject of trade union organisation he would never have made a speech to which we have just listened. But, as we know, A little learning is a dangerous thing. and that is well illustrated by the hon. Gentleman's speech. The fact is that there is a recognised practice for the purpose of negotiation in the electricity supply industry. What is more, it works very well.

Sir A. Gridley

It works very well today.

Mr. Shinwell

The hon. Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley), whose knowledge of electricity supply exceeds by far that possessed by the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames, has just said that it works very well today. Well, if that is so, why disturb it by allowing the creation of a large number of splinter organisations, some of which may be promoted by malicious persons with sinister designs on the new electricity dispensation? The hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames said that he was a little surprised—not for the first time, I should imagine—by the words in the Clause, "appear to them," meaning to the Central Authority. I do not know to whom else it would appear, but the body responsible for conducting negotiations on one side. Certainly, it would be highly improper to leave the matter with whom the Central Authority should negotiate to an outside body. That would make confusion worse confounded. What is proposed in the Amendment? It is that we should follow the line laid down in the Coal Industry (Nationalisation) Act, with the exception of the insertion of the word "appreciable" in place of "substantial." That makes a world of difference. I would like someone to define for me what is meant by "appreciable." It might represent a company organisation, or half a dozen persons employed in the industry who decided suddenly, out of the void, for a reason that could not be explained, to create an organisation and then present an ultimatum to the Central Authority. We could not have sabotage of that kind operating under nationalisation, and I do not intend that it should.

Let me summarise the nature of the organisations which prevail in the industry. About 95 per cent. of the technical and manual workers are covered by the following trade unions, which are representative bodies. There is the Electrical Power Engineers' Association, a body which represents the technicians, and rightly so. Their point of view must be considered. There is the Electrical Trades Union. What is wrong with that? It is a recognised organisation. Then there are the Amalgamated Engineering Union, the National Union of Enginemen and Firemen, the National Union of General and Municipal Workers, and the Transport and General Workers Union. All these are well known and representative trade union organisations. Is it necessary to promote any other kind of organisation than these representative bodies, which are operating on behalf of employees in the industry? I think not. There is, of course, the position of the clerical workers, and that will have to be the subject of negotiation between the parties concerned, including N.A.L.G.O. I would not exclude representations from a representative body of that kind, which is, indeed, a bona fide organisation. That makes a substantial difference.

Reference was made by the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames to little difficulties which have developed in the mining industry. These are no new difficulties. They have existed as long back as I can remember. Groups of persons came together, promoted an organisation, and then sought recognition. While I agree that the minority interest cannot be ignored, either in industry or elsewhere—and to prevent any misunderstanding I say that we have done that by making concessions in this Bill— yet, at the same time, a body which is responsible, for the administration of a great industry or service must have regard to the existence of the largest organisations in the industry which can lay greater claim to speak on behalf of employees than little splinter, infinitesimal, and maybe pettifogging organisations. If difficulties should emerge, and some may from time to time, I leave them to the good sense and high intelligence of the persons I shall appoint after consultation with representative bodies of the organisations in the industry. I have a feeling that they will make a far better job of it than the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames would do if we entrusted the task to him. I ask the House to reject the Amendment.

Mr. R. S. Hudson

The right hon. Gentleman made an appeal earlier today for us to co-operate in expediting procedure on this Bill. He will not expedite procedure if he continues to make speeches of the type he has just made.

Mr. Tiffany (Peterborough)

The right hon. Gentleman's side wants to make them all, but take none from this side.

Mr. Hudson

If the Minister trails his coat as he did just now he will get it trodden on, and more time will be taken up in discussing Amendments. The right hon. Gentleman's speech is a typical example of the way in which his mind works. He professes respect for democracy and for the rights of minorities, yet he clearly shows that his idea of free speech is free speech for the majority and prevention of the minority for making its view heard, excepting in so far as he chooses to allow it. The right hon. Gentleman talked about the way in which the Government had respected the rights of minorities in this House. We have had last week and this week, quite apart from the proceedings on other Bills, an example of the way in which he translates that into practice. The Leader of the House admitted, in his absence, that the way the Minister treated this House over the Report stage of this Bill, through his delay in putting down Clauses, was a gross discourtesy not only to the Opposition, but to the House itself, and to you, Mr. Speaker.

I take the strongest exception to the right hon. Gentleman getting up in the middle of a discussion on an Amendment which was being argued reasonably from these benches, and talking in the way he did. Why should the right hon. Gentleman arrogate to himself the right to say, in respect of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) that A little learning is a dangerous thing? During the proceedings on this Bill, both here and upstairs, who has displayed an absence of knowledge of these matters more than the right hon. Gentleman? Look at the number of mistakes in the Bill as originally presented which, as a result of scrutiny by us, with our limited resources, the right hon. Gentleman has had to come to the House to put right. More are to be discussed today. The right hon. Gentleman has Clauses on the Order Paper, which we are to discuss later, which show that he had not the foggiest idea of the complications and problems which would arise when this Bill was originally presented. It is not going to expedite proceedings when the right hon. Gentleman talks in this way, and I would recommend him to mend his ways and exercise a little more courtesy.

Mr. Harold Roberts (Birmingham, Handsworth)

I listened with great interest to the speech of the Minister. I think that for the purposes of our discussion one may assume that in his knowledge of these matters he is intellectually superior to the hon. Members who have addressed the House. One may even assume a kind of apostolic succession by means of which those whom he is to call into being—those whom he says "I shall appoint "—will have the same preeminent intellectual powers and knowledge that he has. But the matter really goes rather deeper than the Minister would lead us to think. My knowledge of these matters would not in any way approach that of the Minister, but it was my privilege for several years to be chairman of a joint industrial council in the West Midlands. The trade union side was pretty well represented, but one had the problem that a number of employees desired to be represented by another union. There was a great deal of ill-feeling. That compelled me to think the matter out, and to realise that joint boards, like everything else in human life, may become rigid and ossified.

4.45 p.m.

I came to two conclusions: First that the fundamental right of negotiation on the part of man and his master carries with it the corollary that men must be free to choose their own representatives. Secondly, I came to the conclusion that not without grave impertinence on the part of the employers could they dictate to the other side who should represent them on the J.I.C. Thirdly, I urged the employees' side of the council to enlarge their representation, so that it might fully represent all the employees. I am pleased to say that they met the matter in that broadminded way. It meant criticism and ill-feeling between different unions, but the smaller unions obtained representation, and have gone along very happily since. It is all very well to speak about unions being promoted for sinister reasons—petty little unions, and so forth. That is always the language of the large concerns—the vested interest; the language of the large unions against the small ones. I have heard it many times. When I find an Amendment moved which is designed to ensure that the employing authority shall negotiate with all the people who can have any reasonable claims to negotiate, I deny that it should be dealt with in the manner in which the Minister is attempting to deal with it this afternoon

Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)

I should like to remind the Minister of another analogy, which I think he might not unreasonably take into account. The difficulties and mischief which are feared on this side of the House are not something hypothetical or something that has never happened before. They do occur where you get Governmental influence or control over all or most of a particular kind of activity; it does occur—and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman who is in charge of the Ministry of Education will confirm mc on consultation that it does occur there—that for want of representation of some associations there are discontents and that arises from a machinery necessarily exclusive where excessive deference is paid to the administrative convenience of dealing, if possible, with

one organisation only or at any rate, with a few large organisations; the mischief arises particularly when it comes to matters of fixing salary and remuneration as in the Burnham Committees, and so forth. Considerable harm does result, and very great harm is felt to result; we are very often told from the other side when things of this sort are discussed, that it all boils down in the end to the human problem, the problem of human relations; and if they really want this kind of legislation to be a success they really must not take what seems to be at first sight the simple easy administrative line because the doubts and frictions thus set up will ruin their pet projects in a not very long run.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted"

The House divided: Ayes, 112; Noes, 271

Division No. 284.] AYES [4.45 p.m.
Amory, D. Heathcoat Grimston, R. V. Noble, Comdr A. H. P
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley) Csborne, C
Baldwin, A. E Hare, Hon J H (Woodbridge) Peto, Brig C. H. M.
Barlow, Sir J Haughton, S. G Pickthorn, K.
Baxter, A. B. Head, Brig A. H Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Beechman, N. A Headlam, Lieut.-Col Rt. Hon. Sir C Price-White, Lt.-Col D.
Bennett, Sir P Hollis, M. C Raikes, H V
Boles, Lt.-Col, D. C. (Wells) Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S (Southport) Ramsay, Maj. S
Bossom, A. C Hurd, A. Reed, Sir S (Aylesbury)
Bower, N Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh W.) Reid, Rt Hon. J S. C. (Hillhead)
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Jarvis, Sir G Roberts, H (Handsworth)
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G. Jeffreys, General Sir G Roberts, Maj. P G (Ecclesalt)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col W Keeling, EH Robinson, Wing-Comdr Roland
Buchan-Hepburn, P G T Lancaster, Col. C. G Ropner, Col L
Bullock, Capt M LaW, Rt Hon R K Ross, Sir R D. (Londonderry)
Butcher, H W Legge-Bourke, Maj E. A. H Savory, Prof. D L.
Clarke, Col. R. S Lindsay, M (Solihull) Scott, Loro W.
Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G Low, Brig A. R. W Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W
Cooper-Key, E M MacAndrew, Col. Sir C Smith, E P (Ashford)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O E McCallum, Maj. D Smithers Sir W
Crowder, Capt. John E Macdonald, Sir P (I of Wight) Spearman, A. C M
Cuthbert, W. N Mackeson, Brig. H. R. Spence, H R.
Davidson, Viscountes McKie, J H. (Galloway) Stanley, Rt Hon. O
Digby, S. W Maclay, Hon J. S Stewart, J Henderson (Fife, E.)
Dodds-Parker, A. D. MacLeod, J Stoddart-Scott, Col M
Donner Sqn.-Ldr. P W Macpherson, N (Dumfries) Studholme, H G
Sucliffe, H
Drayson, G. B Maitland, Comdr. J. W. Taylor C. S (Eastbourne)
Drewe, C. Manningham-Buller, R. E Taylor Vice-Adm E A. (P'dd't'n, S.)
Duncan, Rt. Hn Sir A (City of Lond) Marlowe, A A H Thornton-Kemslev C. N
Eccles, D. M. Marshall, D (Bodmin) Tcuche, G. C
Eden, Rt Hon. A. Marshall, S. H (Sutton) Wakefield, Sir W. W
Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter Medlicott, F Ward, Hon. G. R
Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr, E L Mellor, Sir J Webbe, Sir H (Abbey)
Fraser, H C. P (Stone) Morris-Jones, Sir H Winterton, Rt Hon Earl
Galbraith, Cmdr T. D Morrison, Rt Hon. W S. (Cirencester) York, C
George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G Lloyd (P'ke) Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.
Grant, Lady Neven-Spence, Sir B TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Gridley, Sir A Nield, B. (Chester) Major Conant and
Lieut.-Coroner Thorp.
Adams, Richard (Batham) Ayles, W. H. Barton, C.
Adams, W T. (Hammersmith, South) Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B Battley, J. R.
Alpass, J. H Bacon, Miss A Bechervaise. A E.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Balfour, A. Benson, G.
Austin, H. Lewis Barnes, Rt Hon A. J Berry, H.
Awbery, S S. Barstow, P. G. Beswick, F
Blyton, W. R. Holman, P Proctor, W. T
Bottomley, A. G. Holmes, H E. (Hemsworth) Pryde, D J
Bowles, F. G (Nuneaton) Hoy, J. Pursey, Cmdr. H.
Braddock, Mrs E M. (L'pl. Exch'ge) Hubbard, I Randall, H E
Braddock, T. (Mitcham) Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.) Ranger, J.
Brook, D. (Halifax) Hughes., Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Rees-Williams, D. k
Brooks, T J. (Rothwell) Hughes, H. J (Wolverhampton, W.) Reeves, J.
Brown, T. J. (Ince) Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.) Reid T (Swindon)
Bruce, Maj. D. W T. Janner, B. Rhodes, H
Buchanan, G. Jay, D. P T Ridealgh, Mrs. M.
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S) Jeger, G (Winchester) Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)
Callaghan, James Jeger, Dr. S. W (St. Pancras, S.E.) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Carmichael, James John, W Robertson, J. J (Berwick)
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Jones, Rt. Hon. A. C. (Shipley) Rogers, G. H. R
Chamberlain, R. A Jones, D T. (Hartlepools) Ross, William (Kilmarnock)
Champion, A J. Jones, P Asterley (Hitchin) Royle, C.
Chetwynd, G. R. Keenan, W. Sargood, R.
Cluse, W. S. Kendall, W. D. Scollan, T.
Cobb, F. A. King, E M. Scott-Elliot, W.
Cocks, F. S. Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E. Segal, Dr S.
Shackleton, E. A. A
Collindridge, F. Kinley, J.
Sharp, Granville
Collins, V. J. Kirby, B V.
Shinwell Rt Hon. E
Colman, Miss G. M Kirkwood. D. Shurmer, P.
Comyns, Dr. L. Lavers, S sImmons, C. J.
Corlett, Dr. J. Lee, F. (Hulme) Skeffington, A. M.
Cove, W. G. Lee, Miss J (Cannock) Skeffington-Lodge, T. C
Crawley, A. Leslie, J R. Skinnard, F. W
Daggar, G. Levy, B. W Smith, C. (Colchester)
Davies, Edward (Burslem) Lewis, A. W J. (Upton) Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)
Da vies Ernest (Enfield) Lipson, D. L Smith, S. H. (Hull S.W.)
Davies, Harold (Leek) Lipton. Lt Col. M
Snow, Capt. J W
Davies, Hadyn (St Pancras, S.W.) Logan, D G Solley, L. J
Davies, R. J (Westhoughton) Longden, F. Sorensen, R. W
Davies, S. O (Merthyr) Lyne, A W Soskice, Maj. Sir F
Deer, G. McAdam, W. Sparks, J. A.
de Freitas, Geoffrey McEntee, V. La T. Stamford, W.
Delargy, H. J. McGhee, H. G Stephen, C.
Dodds, N N. Mack, J D. Stokes, R. R,
Driberg, T E. N. McKay, J (Wallsend) Stross, Dr. B.
Dugdale, J (W. Bromwich) Mackay. R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.) Stubbs, A. E.
Dumpleton, C W. McKinlay, A. S. Summerskill, Dr. Edith
Edelman, M. Maclean, N (Govan) Swingler, S.
Edwards, Rt Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty) McLeavy, F Sylvester, G. O.
Evans, E. (Lowestoft) McNeil, Rt Hon. H Symonds A. L.
Evans, John (Ogmore) Macpherson, T. (Romford) Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury) Mainwaring, W H Taylor, R, J (Morpeth)
Ewart, R. Mallalieu, J. P. W. Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)
Fairhurst, F. Mann, Mrs. J. Thomas, D. E (Aberdare)
Farthing, W. J. Manning, C (Camberwell, N.) Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)
Fernyhough, E. Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping) Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Foot, M M Mathers, G Thomson, Rt. Hon. G R. (Ed'b'gh, E.)
Forman, J. C. Medland, H M Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Fraser, T (Hamilton) Mellish, R. J. T hurtle, Ernest
Freeman, Peter (Newport) Middleton, Mrs. L Tiffany, S.
Gaitskell, H. T. N Mitchison, G. R. Timmons, J.
Gallacher, W. Monslow, W. Titterington. M. F
Ganley, Mrs C. S Morgan, Dr. H. B. Tolley, L.
Glbbins, J. Morley, R. Vernon, Maj. W F
Gibson, C. W Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C) Walkden, E,
Gitzean, A. Morris, P (Swansea, W.) Walker, G. H
Glanville, J E. (Consett) Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen) Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Goodrich, H. E. Morrison, Rt. Hon. H (Lewisham, E.) Wallace, H W. (Walthamstow, E.)
Gordon-Walker, P. C. Moyle, A. Warbey, W. N.
Grenfell, D. R. Mulvey, A. Watkins, T. E.
Grey, C. F. Murray, J. D. Watson, W. M.
Grierson, E Nally, W. Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)
Griffiths, D (Rother Valley) Neal, H. (Claycross) Wells P. L. (Faversham)
Griffiths, W D (Moss Side) Nichol Mrs M. E (Bradford. N.) West, D. G.
Gtuffydd, Prof. W J Nicholls, H R. (Stratford) White, H. (Derbyshire N.E.)
Guest, Dr L. Haden Noel-Baker. Capt. F. E (Brentford) Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Gunter, R. J Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon P J. (Derby) Wigg, Col. G E.
Guy, W. H Noel-Buxton, Lady Wilkes, L.
Haire, John E. (Wycombe) Oldfield, W H Wilkins, W A
Hale, Leslie Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury) Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
Hall, W. G Palmer, A. M. F. Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R. Parker, J. Williams, W R. (Heston)
Hannan, W (Maryhill) Parkin, B. T Willis, E.
Hardy, E. A. Paton, J. (Norwich) Wills, Mrs E. A
Harrison, J Pearson, A. Wise, Major F, J
Hasings, Dr. Somerville Peart, Thomas F. Woodburn, A.
Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick) Piratin, P Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Herbison, Miss M. Poole, Major Cecil (Lichfield) Younger, Hon. Kennet
Hewitson, Capt. M Popplewell, E.
Hicks, O Porter, G. (Leeds) TELLERS SOB THE NOES:
Hobson, C. R. Price, M. Philips Mr. Michael Stewart and
Mr. Daines.