HC Deb 18 July 1949 vol 467 cc1103-20

No person who is employed by either of the Corporations at the time of the transfer of the rights, obligations and liabilities of the British South American Airways Corporation to the British Overseas Airways Corporation, shall be dismissed solely by virtue of any redundancy of employees which may exist after such transfer without prior consultation by the British Overseas Airways Corporation with such organisations as appear to the Corporation to represent a substantial proportion of the persons in the employment of each of the Corporations at the time of the said transfer.—[Mr. Lennox-Boyd.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

10.2 p.m.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd (Mid-Bedford)

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

May I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether you propose to call the other new Clause which stands in my name and the name of my hon. Friend relating to "Terms and conditions of employment of staff."

Mr. Speaker

Certainly not; the second new Clause is clearly out of Order. The first one is the only one to be called.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Realising that you do not propose to call the second Clause, and naturally bowing to your Ruling, I shall move this first Clause as briefly as I can, though in considering that Clause I think one or two points arising out of the second Clause would be relevant.

The purpose of the new Clause at this stage of the Bill is to ensure that employees of the new Corporation, which hon. Members may remember is a merger of B.O.A.C. and B.S.A.A., should not be dismissed on account of redundancy, without some reference being made to organisations that appear to the Corporation to represent a substantial proportion of the persons in their employment. It is unfortunate for the people working in the Corporation that this highly important matter affecting their interests should come on late at night and after a great Debate on our economic situation. I hope I am in Order in reminding the House that although the great economic Debate affects all our citizens generally, this particular merger also affects quite a number of our citizens personally, and we must give some consideration to the consequences to these people of this merger.

Some of the things which have been said by the Parliamentary Secretary in previous Debates have given us cause for alarm as to whether the people in the old Corporation, B.S.A.A., who are now being merged with B.O.A.C., will have their interests properly safeguarded. The Parliamentary Secretary will forgive me if I say that there has been an indication from time to time that he might look on these matters more in his capacity as a loyal trade unionist affiliated to the Trades Union Congress than in the impartial capacity which he ought to exercise as Parliamentary Secretary in a Government department.

We propose in this new Clause to introduce almost exactly the same words which were in the original Bill which set up these three Corporations. I am sorry to keep the House at this hour, but it is important that I should remind hon. Members of a little of the past history of this business. When the Civil Aviation Bill was first introduced in 1946, it provided in Clause 19 that it should be the duty of the three Corporations then set up to seek consultation on terms and conditions of employment with any organisation which appeared to the Corporations to represent a substantial proportion of the persons in the employment of the Corporations, or of any class of such persons. That was clearly laid down in the original Bill.

This would have meant that the three Corporations would have had to negotiate with the Aeronautical Engineers' Association, which at that time had an undisputed majority of members in B.O.A.C., in the B.E.A. branch of B.O.A.C. and also in British South American Airways. Shortly before the passing of that Bill they sent in a petition signed by over 50 per cent. of the hourly-rated engineers in B.O.A.C.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation (Mr. Lindgren)

I think the hon. Gentleman meant B.S.A.A.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

No. I meant B.O.A.C. The proportion was even higher in B.S.A.A. If the hon. Gentleman corrects me I might bow to his correction, but I think I am right.

A few weeks later, in May, 1946, the A.E.U., which hon. Members realise is a very powerful trade union, wrote to the Trades Union Congress complaining about this Clause. For all I am about to say, I am indebted to the 78th Report of the Trades Union Congress which was published in 1946. Page 218 of that report tells the story of this transaction. In May, 1946, the Amalgamated Engineers' Union wrote to the T.U.C. complaining of a Clause in a Bill brought before the House of Commons. A few days later, on 6th June, 1946, the Trades Union Congress Finance and General Purposes Committee met with the various unions represented in the National Joint Council in civil aviation from which, incidentally, the A.E.A. has been continuously kept out. They said that this Clause was unsatisfactory and that the Trades Union Congress should approach the Government and ask them to withdraw it.

The then Lord Privy Seal of this Government—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Arthur Greenwood)—and the Minister of Labour went down to Bournemouth and met the Finance and General Purposes Committee of the Trades Union Congress. In response to what this body told them, the Clause was redrafted; but even then it was not regarded as satisfactory. I understand that the Lord Privy Seal told the Trades Union Congress that he was not prepared to alter the Clause again, whereupon they wrote to the Prime Minister. Once more, I am indebted to the annual report of the T.U.C. After they had written to the Prime Minister, the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal introduced an Amendment during the Committee stage of this Bill on 19th June, 1946.

This Amendment provided that it should be the duty of the Corporations to consult with bodies of workpeople, as in the words I have already used, except in so far as the Corporations were satisfied that adequate machinery existed for achieving the purposes of the subsection. The right hon. Gentleman said that this was done for greater flexibility, but I think that in the light of our recent experience, there can be no doubt that it was done to secure that the Aeronautical Engineering Association, which had a majority of the members in at least one of the Corporations, should not be consulted on the terms and conditions of employment.

It is more than ever important for a Government constituted as the present Government is constituted to see that there is impartiality between one union and another. Many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have twin loyalties—loyalty to their country and this House, and a quite proper loyalty to their own particular trade union. It appears to me to be more than ever essential that if there should be any suggestion that a union which they do not like is being unfairly treated, the Government should be impartial and should not weigh down heavily in favour of one of the unions.

In the recent Debates which we have had on the subject of this air merger, with the merits of which I am not at this moment concerned, the Parliamentary Secretary has called the A.E.A. a number of derogatory names, and it appears highly unlikely that he can apply to this body the fair and disinterested consideration which a Minister of the Crown should apply. The hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo), who is himself an active member of another trade union, has also attacked this particular body. If Parliament, and above all the Government, are to retain a reputation for impartiality and standing outside this sort of internecine conflict, it is particularly important that they should consult with that body of employees which the employees themselves choose, and should not attempt to impose upon them a particular form of organisation with which alone the Government are prepared to negotiate.

The purpose of our new Clause, therefore, is to ensure that the Corporation shall consult with that body which appears to them to represent a substantial proportion of the persons in the employment of each of the Corporations at the time of the transfer. If there is any doubt as to which body does represent these people, it should be put up to the free and unfettered vote of the men and women in the industry, and if they decide on one particular body, that ought to be the body with which the Government should negotiate. If the hon. Gentleman repeats the kind of unflattering phrases which he used about the body which many people believe still commands the majority in B.S.A.A., he will be abdicating from that position of impartiality which we are entitled to expect from a Minister of the Crown.

Air-Commodore Harvey (Macclesfield)

I beg to second the Motion.

There is no doubt that, when we were discussing the B.S.A.A. and B.O.A.C. amalgamation last week, the Parliamentary Secretary was most unfair to the engineering side of B.S.A.A. They were recruited at the end of the war by the shipping companies, and they were mostly ex-Service men, ex-R.A.F. men, who at that time had little experience of civil aircraft engineering. The Parliamentary Secretary was anything but fair and not his usual self in the way in whch he referred to the Aeronautical Engineers' Association. Be that as it may, that Corporation, in its first two years of operation, did operate at a profit, though not a large profit. In comparison with other Corporations, it operated efficiently in spite of having indifferent equipment.

These men now expect to be fairly treated when they go to B.O.A.C. who are the most numerous, probably at the rate of five to one, and, in any redundancy which takes place, the numbers in each Corporation ought to be taken into account. Up to 1946 most of the engineers of even B.O.A.C. belonged to the Aeronautical Engineers' Association. I think I am right in saying that 80 or 90 per cent. belonged to that particular union. Furthermore, in air services like the charter company now operated by British Railways and subsidised by the taxpayer—about which we do not know how they stand financially, or whether they are making a profit or a loss—I am told that 100 per cent. of their engineers are also members of the Aeronautical Engineers' Association.

10.15 p.m.

It appears that because this body of men are not recognised by the Trades Union Council they are to be excluded. I suppose that if the accurate figures were taken of all three Corporations we should find that probably something like 60 to 80 per cent. of the men were members of this particular association. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary, who is usually very fair in these matters, to go into the position with the leaders of that organisation to find out how many men actually belong to that particular union. If he does, I think he will find that something like 70 or 80 per cent. are members of it. If that is the case, then they should have some form of recognition, and I think that the sooner the Parliamentary Secretary recognises that fact, and gives this body the recognition it deserves, the better.

Mr. Ivor Thomas (Keighley)

There is no danger that the amalgamation of B.O.A.C. and B.S.A.A. will lead to any general redundancy. As B.O.A.C. employ, on the average, about three times the number of men employed by B.S.A.A. for a four-engined aircraft—

Air-Commodore Harvey

Five times.

Mr. Thomas

My hon. and gallant Friend says five times; that would strengthen my argument, but I am content with three times. It depends upon one's calculation of the number of aircraft in the fleet, on which there is some room for difference. As I was saying, on the average B.O.A.C. employ about three times the number of men employed by B.S.A.A. for a four-engined aircraft, and it is quite clear, therefore, that the merging of the two Corporations is almost certainly bound to lead to an increase in the total staff employed. There is, however, some reason to fear that advantage may be taken of the merging of B.S.A.A. in B.O.A.C. to get rid of the existing engineers in the Aeronautical Engineers' Association. That is the point to which this Clause is addressed, a Clause so cogently moved and seconded, and which I am glad to support.

We are entitled tonight, I think, to have the most explicit assurance from the Parliamentary Secretary that the present merger will not be used for that purpose. I hope he can give us an assurance that if there should be any redundancy in one particular section of the merger, the question will not be decided by reason of membership or non-membership of the A.E.A. It would not be right for me to go into the matters so revealingly dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd), but I should like to take up a point made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) namely, that the membership of A.E.A. is largely recruited from ex-Service men.

The Parliamentary Secretary has used a phrase which I admit is unfamiliar to me—a "goose club"—about the A.E.A. If the suggestion is that it is a kind of breakaway union or scab union, then I am bound to say that within my recollection that is not the case. I bow to the superior knowledge of the Parliamentary Secretary in these matters, and as I was not expecting this Debate to come on tonight I have not armed myself with the facts, but my recollection is that the A.E.A. came into existence at a time when the A.E.U. and other unions of long standing were afraid that men who had learned their trade in the war would swamp them when normal conditions of peacetime returned. They were not willing to see absorbed into their ranks men who had become engineers in the course of the war and who might, they feared, be surplus to requirements in time of peace. If the average member of the A.E.A. had been allowed into the A.E.U. perhaps he would have joined, but there was a certain amount of suspicion in the ranks of the A.E.U. against men who had learnt their trade in the Services in time of war.

If that explanation is correct, I believe the House will tend to look sympathetically upon the membership of the A.E.A. In fact, our peacetime experience has shown that this danger of a dilution of the ranks of the skilled aeronautical engineers in this country has been exaggerated. There is room for the membership both of the A.E.U. and of the A.E.A. and therefore, suggest that the Parliamentary Secretary can without fear give us the most complete assurances which I sought—that there will, in fact, be no attempt to get rid of men simply because they are members of the A.E.A.

Mr. Oliver (Ilkeston)

Can the hon. Member say whether members of the A.E.A. are debarred from joining the A.E.U.?

Mr. Thomas

The point I am putting is that when the A.E.A. was formed there was a reluctance in the A.E.U. to admit men trained in the Service's into membership. I put this forward as no higher than my recollection. I think there was undoubtedly a fear of the sort I have mentioned. It is quite possible that now, after a matter of four or five years, if a member of the A.E.A. applied for membership of the A.E.U. things might be different, but I believe the reason I have given for the formation of the A.E.A. is historically the correct one.

Mr. Lindgren

Except that it was formed before the last war.

Mr. Thomas

I must accept what the Parliamentary Secretary says. I had not heard of it between the wars. At any rate, it came into prominence during the last war, and my argument is not affected.

Mr. Niall Macpherson (Dumfries)

We cannot let a gross mistake like that go past. The A.E.A. was founded in 1943 at Aldergrove aerodrome, with 200 members, not one of whom was a member of any other union.

Mr. Thomas

I am surrounded with such good advice that I hardly know which to take. I thought that the A.E.A. was, as I said, founded in the last war, and the Parliamentary Secretary must argue it out with my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson). What he said agrees with my own recollection, but it is sufficient for my argument that members of the A.E.U. were reluctant to take these Service-trained engineers into the ranks of the union, and that caused this struggle.

I am sure the House will sympathise with these men who have learned their training in the course of war service, and the best way to show that would be to accept the new Clause which, as has been said, is in the words which originally appeared in the Civil Aviation Bill but which were subsequently altered. If the Parliamentary Secretary is not prepared to accept the new Clause I ask him at least to give the most complete assurances.

Mr. Lindgren

I am afraid I cannot accept the Clause, but I can give some of the assurances which are required. May I first of all correct an impression, if I did give that impression—and, of course, I certainly did not intend to—that I was in any way disparaging during my speech either on Second Reading or on Committee, to the engineering side of B.S.A.A. The only remark which I made which could be taken as disparaging by some people—and I tried to temper it by saying that I did not want to be unkind in any way—was my reference to the A.E.A., as an organisation, as a goose club rather than a trade union. So far as the engineering side of B.S.A.A. is concerned, I want to make it quite clear that I had no intention and no desire to be disparaging.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Will the hon. Gentleman allow me? Surely he must recognise, as a very prominent and honourable trade unionist himself, who is now a Minister, that it is of outstanding importance that he should be impartial as between one trade union and another. No doubt, he has his own personal preferences, but surely he will agree that in his Parliamentary and Ministerial duties we should look to him not to call a union he may not like a "goose club."

Mr. Lindgren

Persons associated with the trade union movement would not have taken my remark about a goose club as offensive. I do not know if hon. Members opposite have to go to such clubs for their Christmas dinners, but amongst the working class—and perhaps they do not know this—

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Who votes for us, does the hon. Gentleman think?

Mr. Lindgren

Working class people have to save up a long while for their Christmas dinner, and the term "goose club" means that an organisation so called is a benefit society rather than a trade union.

However, this new Clause is not necessary, because under Section 19 of the Civil Aviation Act, 1946, the Corporations are obliged to consult the organisations appearing to them to be appropriate. They have done that, as required by Act of Parliament, and there is established the National Joint Council for Civil Air Transport. That covers 14 unions which cater for the employees of all grades in all the Corporations. An employer having to negotiate with trade unions has to take into account the desire of the majority of those unions that cater for the members of his staff.

It is not uncommon—in fact, it is the common practice—in a number of industries for a particular organisation to claim to represent certain grades of employees, not, perhaps, on the best of terms with other organisations. The employer then has to choose between one of several organisations in the light of the circumstances with which he has to deal.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman again, but would he arrange to use his influence with the new merged Corporation to carry out a confidential inquiry to make sure that members of the staff, including, the staff of B.S.A.A., may join which of the unions they want to represent them?

Mr. Lindgren

No, Sir. I wish the hon. Gentleman would see where he is trying to lead this Government and the Corporations. At the moment, the Corporations are not "closed shops." I am one of those trade unionists who do not believe in the "closed shop." I believe that a trade union is a voluntary movement, and that if a person does not come in voluntarily he is more nuisance than he is worth if he is forced to come in. It is a voluntary movement. We do not compel any member of the Corporations' staffs to be a member of a trade union. We let it be known, and the Corporations let it be known, that we desire that they all, men and women, should be members of their appropriate trade unions, but it is not the function of my Ministry or of the Corporations to go round inquiring of the staff of which unions they are members, or whether they are members of a union or not. It is for the individuals themselves to decide to which trade union they should belong.

Mr. Edgar Granville (Eye)

Can the hon. Gentleman tell us whether the A.E.A. were invited to joint the Joint Council?

Mr. Lindgren

They were not invited to join the Joint Council. They applied later to joint the Joint Council, and the 14 unions of the Joint Council refused to allow them to come in. That is nothing uncommon.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Call that democracy? There was 100 per cent. membership.

Mr. Lindgren

I wish the hon. Gentleman would get his facts right. The A.E.A. claims to cater for every worker in the Corporation, from pilots down to the sweepers in the shops. The staff of the two Corporations—I mean B.O.A.C. and B.S.A.A.—is 20,000—near enough. The highest membership, I think, that the association has had is 2,500. There is a substantial difference between 20,000 and 2,000. If we take the engineering staff—

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

It is not fair to talk like that.

10.30 p.m.

Mr. Lindgren

What would be fair would be to take the engineering staffs of both Corporations, which are just over 5,000. The highest membership ever claimed for the A.E.A. is 2,500. As the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) quite rightly stated, the major proportion of the employees of charter firms is organised in the A.E.A., and the majority of its membership is drawn from the charter companies. Let us take another instance.

Air-Commodore Harvey

The hon. Gentleman says that these employees are organised. May I ask what he means by "organised"? They are not organised at all. They happen to be the A.E.A.

Mr. Lindgren

I am using the technical language of the trade union movement. If a person is a member of a trade union we refer to him as organised. If he is not a member of a trade union, then we refer to him as being un-organised. Surely that is quite proper. The purpose of a trade union is to get a group of workers together in order that they can collectively negotiate with employers. We call that organisation. If employees are not in an organisation, they are unorganised.

Mr. Granville

I want to know the facts. The Parliamentary Secretary says that out of 20,000 the membership of A.E.A. is just over 2,000. Can he say whether all the others, the 18,000, are members of the other unions?

Mr. Lindgren

We do not know. We have not taken—and I hope that as a Ministry we shall never take—a census of the staff to see who are members of a trade union. We have not asked the Corporations to take such a census, and they have not done so. All we can take is the published figures, or the figures which are alleged.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Will the hon. Gentleman answer this? Will he agree or deny, that a majority of the organised workers on the engineering side in that Corporation with which we are concerned, namely B.S.A.A., belong to the A.E.A.?

Mr. Lindgren

My information is that that was so at one time, but it is not so today.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The hon. Gentleman has whittled it away.

Mr. Lindgren

So far as my information goes, there was at one time a majority of membership in the B.S.A.A., but after all, the engineering staff of B.S.A.A. is only a few hundred. It was at that time a very small staff. It is a little higher now because of expansion in the organisation. But I am informed that today that state of affairs no longer exists. Even if it did, surely it is not the function of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, or of any Government Department, to decree by Act of Parliament, or by an assurance in this House, with what trade union an employer shall, or shall not, negotiate. That, surely, is a free function for the employer and employee. Where I think the hon. Gentleman is on the safest ground is in claiming, and rightly so, that a person shall not suffer in an organisation because he is, or is not a member of a particular trade union. I think one is entitled to ask that that shall not be done. That certainly shall not be done.

If hon. Members opposite had taken the trouble to get a pamphlet issued to all members of the staffs, and which is signed by both sides of the National Joint Council for Civil Air Transport, they would have seen in black and white, the assurance to staff that, first of all, the fact whether a person is, or is not, a member of a trade union does not affect his right of making representations to a local panel, and of having his case dealt with by that local panel. Furthermore, the fact that they are, or are not, members of a particular trade union does not interfere with their normal rights as employees of free access to the management of the corporation. If that is not sufficient guarantee, I am quite prepared to discuss the point if any hon. Member rises to interject again.

In so far as redundancy is concerned, I agree that there is very little likelihood of there being redundancy, especially on the engineering side; and here I must disagree with the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas). The hon. Member said that B.O.A.C. engineering staff was three to one of B.S.A.A., but he did not deal with the point on the basis of dispersed bases throughout the length and breadth of the land, but on the basis that engineering staff was on the lean side, and redundancy would not exist. But I would remind hon. Members that if there was redundancy for one man, or 20 men, or even 200, that redundancy would be dealt with through the machinery agreed and negotiated well before the merger was thought of—machinery agreed through the National Joint Council and the men in the local shops.

If there is redundancy and a man has to go, he will be dealt with in general on the basis of "last in, first out," and any concessions made will take account of special domestic circumstances which can be dealt with and settled in the locality. By way of example, if the last man in was married with eight children, and the question of redundancy arose concerning that man and a single man of 30, then full consideration would be given to those special circumstances.

Mr. Granville

Otherwise the Corporations would be on the same footing?

Mr. Lindgren

Yes, and it is no function of the employer to discriminate in any way between one organisation and another. Here is machinery for dealing with wages and conditions of employment and we, as employers, must observe those conditions. That will be done faithfully by the Corporations; and there is always an appeal to this House if the arrangement is violated. I can give the assurance that, whether the man is a member of A.E.A. or A.E.U. or B.A.L.P.A. or any other union, he will have the matter dealt with through the normal negotiating machinery which is available to protect his rights. B.S.A.A. is in no difficulty in this matter, and no member of A.E.A., whether in B.O.A.C., or B.S.A.A. will in any way find that he is forgotten.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

They are still human beings.

Mr. Lindgren

Yes, they are human beings, and I should like to think that in every industry throughout the land, men and women are being dealt with on as human terms as they are now being dealt with in the nationalised air corporations.

Air-Commodore Harvey

The hon. Gentleman referred earlier to the fact that A.E.A. claim membership from top to bottom among aeronautical engineers. Can he elaborate that statement and say how many aircrew claimed membership of A.E.A.?

Mr. Lindgren

I do not know. In the trade union movement there are two groups of unions. One is the industrial trade union, which claims that every man in an industry should be a member of one single organisation. After all, in the industry with which I am associated—the railways—the N.U.R. claims that every railwayman, whether clerical, technical, professional or anything else, should be a member of the N.U.R.

There are other unions, which are craft unions, whose members are members by virtue of their trade or craft. The A.E.U. is a craft union; the A.E.A. claims to be an industrial union, with a right to secure membership in every grade throughout the airline corporations. What membership they have I do not know, but there again, hon. Members opposite would say I would be making remarks which were unworthy of me if I said that a pilot should be a member of B.A.L.P.A. rather than of A.E.A., though, quite frankly, in my personal opinion, a pilot should be a member of B.A.L.P.A.; an engineer should be a member of the A.E.U.; an electrician should be a member of the E.T.U., and so on.

Mr. N. Macpherson

I am sure the House will be very pleased to have received the assurances that the Parliamentary Secretary has given in his somewhat alphabetic speech. The House will have noted that his speech took two forms. First of all, there was the assurance to B.S.A.A. that there would be no discrimination against them as compared with B.O.A.C.; and secondly, he has given an assurance that there will be no discrimination against anybody because he belongs to a particular union or because he does not belong to any.

The House will be very satisfied to have that assurance, but the fact remains that that assurance would be still more valid and valuable if the original intention of the Civil Aviation Act were given force for the purposes of dealing with redundancy and if recognition was given to A.E.A.; because it is always true that if somebody who belongs to one organised body and goes to people who belong to other organised bodies, there is always the risk that if he does not come out on the side on which he expected to come out, he will feel he has been victimised. That risk could so easily have been overcome if only recognition had been given to the A.E.A. which could not have been withheld if the Civil Aviation Act had been passed as it was originally drafted.

This is really the crux of this whole amendment, and it was a thousand pities that that amendment was made which had the effect of causing the employers—that is, the Corporations—wilfully to shut their eyes to the organisation of the A.E.A. which, in some cases, had an undoubted majority and had a claim thereby to be recognised. Among highly rated engineers A.E.A. will have a majority, and that is true of certain other grades. The effect of this was that when the change was made on the Works Council at Langley, whereas there were nine A.E.A. members and one National Joint Council member, all were swept away in accordance with an instruction from above, of which instruction I have seen a copy. I have seen a copy of a letter saying that instructions were being received stating that they were no longer to deal with the A.E.A., and N.J.C. men were substituted instead. That, of course, was a great error and it could still be rectified in this particular case. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will see the force of the argument that justice must seem to be done as well as be done, and that he will either accept this new Clause or see that this matter is remedied in another place.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I can only speak again by leave of the House. We were all disappointed with the Parliamentary Secretary's reply. All we were trying to do here was to insert into the Bill the exact words which the Government had inserted into the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act and the Civil Aviation Act. In view of my reference to the way in which the original intention had been altered, after a conference between the T.U.C. and the Government, and in view of the grave disquiet among many people affected, I had hoped that the Government would take a different view and accept this new Clause. They have not done so, and they have the majority on their side. We must reserve our right in the fulness of time, which will not be long delayed, to look at the matter again from the Government benches.

Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and negatived.

Mr. Lindgren

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

I do not intend to delay the House on the Third Reading of the Bill, because the case was fairly fully made on Second Reading. There have been points raised, but all I would take time for now is to thank Members for the facility given to get this Bill through quickly, in order to facilitate the merger.

10.48 p.m.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The hon. Gentleman has just thanked all Members of the House for the facilities given to pass this Bill quickly into law. I would be wanting in my duty if I did not say that the speed with which, the Government have desired to pass this Bill is a little strange. Matters of this kind usually have longer discussion. The House has had little time to discuss the Bill. We do not in any way abate our view that no case has been made out for the merger, and we reserve our full freedom as a Conservative Party to alter this in the fulness of time. One of the reasons why this Bill has been rushed through may be that certain action has been taken already in anticipation of legislation, and it now seems naturally desirable for the Government to cover the action they have taken with the cloak of law.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Bowles)

I am sorry, but the hon. Gentleman must not refer to administrative action except on a Supply day.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

When the right Supply day comes, I shall draw attention to the many actions by the Executive in anticipation of legislation. Now I merely close by saying that we regard this Bill as not proven and reserve our full freedom to alter it.

10.49 p.m.

Air-Commodore Harvey

I should like to support what my hon. and gallant Friend has just said. It is less than three years since the Civil Aviation Bill was made an Act of Parliament. During that time the air Corporations have lost £40 million, and now have reached the stage where the Corporations are to be reduced from three to two because B. S. A. A. has had an unfortunate run of accidents, not through their own fault. They have put up a very good show from the point of view of efficiency, but we think there are other reasons for the Government trying to reduce the number of Corporations. The time is not long distant when we on this side of the House will have the matter dealt with in order that a loss may be turned to a profit and this may not be more than a few months ahead. We reserve the right to look after the interests of these men who, we feel, have had a very unfair deal.

10.50 p.m.

Mr. N. Macpherson

The effect, indeed possibly the purpose, of this Bill is to put an end to the British South American Airways as an entity. It would be churlish for this House to complete this Measure without saying that this Corporation has performed a great pioneering work, and that in putting an end to it we are doing something which we cannot be certain is right. We have not yet had sufficient experience to know what is the right size of the Corporation. It may be there should be smaller corporations. In the view of this side of the House, it would have been desirable to have kept alive a corporation of this particular size, even if it meant a certain degree of reorganisation in order to fit it with the aircraft requirements of the time.

The Corporation that is now passing away or being absorbed, really deserves applause before it finally goes, but if I may borrow the words of Shakespeare: The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in ourselves, But in our stars.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.